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Ableton Live: MIDI From Audio

Ableton Live Tips & Techniques By Len Sasso
Published June 2022

Screen 1: Bass, piano and drum MIDI clips (top Scene) are mixed to audio, which is then converted to new bass, piano and drum MIDI clips.Screen 1: Bass, piano and drum MIDI clips (top Scene) are mixed to audio, which is then converted to new bass, piano and drum MIDI clips.

We generate MIDI from audio, and look at what’s new in Live 11.1.

Live’s melody, harmony and drum audio‑to‑MIDI conversion algorithms are typically used to extract MIDI sequences from single‑part audio clips in order to either edit the parts or use different instruments to play them. You’ll find a detailed analysis of that process in the July 2013 Live column. Here we’ll look at a different use for conversion: deciphering individual parts in a multi‑part audio clip. We’ll also take a look at some of the new features in Live 11.1.

Extracting MIDI Parts From Audio Clips

This example starts with three MIDI clips, renders their mix to a single audio clip and then uses Live’s three conversion algorithms to extract melody, harmony and drum MIDI clips to compare to the original MIDI clips. The reason for starting with MIDI clips is to make clear the differences that can crop up when trying to analyse a complex audio clip (the usual starting point) using the conversion algorithms. Conversion does work best on single‑part audio clips of the appropriate type, but as we’ll see, it can be surprisingly useful for deciphering more complex audio material.

In Screen 1, I’ve started with bass (Funky Retro Bassline C Minor 145 bpm), piano (House 90s C Minor 128 bpm) and drum (Hip Hop Swing 105 bpm) MIDI clips from Live’s Core library. Each of the these MIDI clips comes with its own Live Instrument Rack, which is imported automatically when you insert the clip on an empty MIDI track. Rendering their mix creates a single audio clip, which I’ve inserted on a new audio track. You access Live’s three conversion algorithms for a selected audio clip either from Live’s Create menu or from the clip’s or clip editor’s context menu (right‑click/Control‑click). Applying one of the conversion algorithms to the audio mix results in a MIDI clip on a new MIDI track holding a default instrument specified in your User Library/Defaults/Audio to MIDI folder. In this example, the best comparisons result from moving the MIDI‑conversion clips back to the MIDI tracks holding the original MIDI clips so that they play their intended instruments.

The before‑and‑after comparison when playing all three clips is surprisingly listenable, but when you compare them one instrument at a time, the inaccuracies stand out. The converted bass has some wrong notes, which are mostly stolen from the piano part. The converted harmony is a bit more accurate, but has missed some notes and has also...

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