6 Tips For More Efficient MIDI Note Editing

Here are a couple of tips and shortcuts you can use to make editing MIDI notes in Ableton Live more efficient.

Here are 6 tips to work more efficiently when editing MIDI Notes in Ableton Live’s Piano Roll view.

1. Double Click To Draw And Erase Notes

A few people overlook this one (including myself for awhile). In Live’s MIDI Editor instead of entering “Draw Mode”, double click to draw in notes in a desired area. Double click the note to erase it.

Double click to add and erase notes in Ableton’s MIDI editor.

2. Hold Shift+Up Or Down Arrow To Change Octaves

While your note(s) are selected, hold down the shift button and press the up or down arrow key will automatically shift an octave up (up arrow) or down (down arrow).

3. Select All Notes With Ctrl+A

Sometimes it can be hard to see note values if they are an octave or two higher. Rather than hunting every single down down, just hit Ctrl+A to select all the notes in Live’s MIDI editor. Use the above octave shifting tip in conjunction with this to change the octave of whole sequences.

Notes that aren’t even seen in the higher register are selected with Ctrl+A.

4. Use Ctrl+1 And Ctrl+2 For Grid Changes

If you’re set to a fixed grid, Ctrl+1 can shrink your Grid Snap all the way to the point of it being turned off. Live has the unbelievable ability to shrink the grid all the way to 16,384 notes per measure!

Use Ctrl+1 to shrink Your Grid lines. Check out the bottom right of the screen. 1/16,384 means 16,384 grid lines per measure.

Ctrl+2 will enlarge the Grid Snap to 512/1. Which is essentially one grid line every 512 measures. Once again, a ridiculous amount of grid control.

Ctrl+2 enlarges the amount of space between grid lines. The lowest it will go is 512/1 or 1 Grid Line every 512 measures.

5. Change Velocity By Holding Alt

Change the velocity of notes quickly by holding Alt while clicking on the note and either drag up or down with your mouse. This is a great way to quickly add a human feel to programmed MIDI notes.

Change MIDI Velocity data quickly by holding Alt, clicking and holding on the note and dragging up or down.

6. Quick Change To Triplet Mode With Ctrl+3

Great for changing your grid quickly back and forth between triplet and and standard grids. I like to program drums in fixed 1/16 or 1/8 grid mode, and mess with triplet options for some pretty interesting rhythmic patterns.

Have any tips you use to edit MIDI notes more efficiently in Ableton Live? Share them by leaving a comment below!

15 thoughts on “6 Tips For More Efficient MIDI Note Editing”

  1. here’s a questions: how can you draw in midi notes longer than the standard size? i’ve never been able to figure this out. it always draws a very short bar which i have to drag to size, but i’d like the standard size to be much longer. anyone have any ideas?

  2. @bio:

    it all depends on the grid size you’ve got displayed in the bottom right corner if the midi view. 16th notes will be much smaller than 1/4 notes or whole notes. If you adjust that value (you’ll notice the grid lines change as well), your notes will be drawn in according to the grid size.

    Let me know if that helps.

  3. @frank
    thanks for the reply. that’s what i want to avoid. If I have an 8 bar loop and drag my mouse across it’ll make midi notes that are set at that grid size and fill up that 8 bar loop – but in actuality, i want just one long sustained note, not multiple notes. i’m sure there’s a way.. i’ll figure it out!

  4. @bio,

    I think I get what you’re saying. In that case do this:

    draw your first note (regardless of the grid size). Then simply place your mouse at the very edge of the note. You’ll see your mouse change into a shape that resembles ]. Then just drag the mouse to the spot you want. This will create the sustained note.

    Let me know if that’s what you’re looking to do.

  5. if you hold ALT it will let you drag a note.. but then it doesn’t snap and you have to perfect the note size anyways. argh! so close.

  6. If you exit the Draw (Pencil) mode, you should be able to drag the edge of the note as far to the left/right as you’d like, allowing you to create the sustained note you’re looking for.

    Let me know if I’m not understanding what it is you’re trying to achieve.


  7. Hi Frank,
    Yeah, I don’t want to do what you’re saying (but that’s currently how I’m doing it). However, if you hold ALT while drawing in pencil mode it WILL draw the length you drag to and not the grid size note.. however it doesn’t snap and you have to fix it manually anyways. oh well!

  8. Hold ALT, click, let go of ALT, drag, then it’ll start snapping to grid.

  9. is there anyway to take clips from your arrangement view and put them into the session view if you originally make them in arrangement? this would help me very much.

  10. Hi,

    Thanks for the tips! I just started using Ableton Live, and these tips are very helpful.

  11. Is there anyway when a note is inserted in the editor and draged for a sustained note is there anyway to zoom in on the sustained note and add effects? Havent figured that out yet!

  12. in midi editor, wthout being in draw-mode:

    double-click to make a midi note BUT HOLD THE SECOND CLICK and you can drag length of note, snapping to current grid!

    ableton live just got awesomer (=


  13. hi,

    thanks for the tips.

    i am currently working on a classical piece with ableton. and trying to do the right gridding.
    I have used for a 3/4 piano piece triplet grid and said quantisize with current grid, but the init make all in the same line,w hich sounds totally digital and toooo tight, and the sounds in b/w dissappear. do you have any suggestion with quantisizeing and with 3/4 or 7/8 , 9/8 rithyms??

    thanks for help


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