Ready for more dynamic control of Ableton Live, on the cheap? My how-to on MIDI Remote Scripting in Ableton Live was just last week, but it has already inspired new scripts for hardware, this time on the Novation Nocturn. (My examples for the tutorial were the Korg nanoPAD and nanoKONTROL.) The Nocturn is also very easy to slip into a backpack or carry-on, and very affordable at US$100-130 street. It just happens to become more valuable with a little user hacking.

Why the Novation Nocturn? After all, Novation touts their own Automap technology for just this purpose. But Novation assumed you only want to use the Nocturn Automap with your plug-ins and not to control Live. Here’s the non-dynamic hack from Novation:

How to control Ableton Live with the Nocturn?

Musician NCKN (“Nicken”) of Aachen, Germany has a better solution. He uses MIDI Remote Scripting to create a downloadable file that will map the Nocturn’s eight knobs to your device racks automatically. If you did pony up for Automap PRO, it’s useful, too, as it allows mapping buttons to Live keystrokes. (Bome MIDI Translator would be another option.)

Complete instructions and a free download at NCKN’s site. Be sure to check out his music, too; there’s some wonderful stuff.

DIY: Automap in Ableton Live with Novation Nocturn

Beautiful ambient-ish tracks with field recordings and acoustic noises blended elegantly into an electronic production:

Back to the controller that has an Ableton logo tattooed on it, we’ve got still more APC40 hacking going on, too. Darren Cowley sends along his Live rig and a video:

APC40 Customization from Darren E Cowley on Vimeo.

The “short” film clocks in at nearly eighteen minutes, but here’s the basic ingredients:

Korg padKONTROL + the free Farmpad customization tool for Mac + Akai APC40 + the mighty, powerful Bome MIDI Translator for more control over events + the now-discontinued Lucifer VST (which I believe has now been replaced with the audio-recording-manipulating Live Sync Recorder.)

There are some really tasty hacks here. Scene launch buttons glitch the sound or impact launch quantization. Controls provide quick access to recording and playing audio loops. Effects are on summed tracks for DJ-style effects manipulation. There are clever tricks for using lights for additional feedback. It’s all proof that no two people really approach Live or even this fairly clearly-mapped hardware in the same way.

Side note: I received a comment from a gentleman who is color blind and therefore can’t see the red/green light feedback on the APC40. Anyone with tips? I don’t think you want to rip out the APC’s lights, for sure. It does really prove that one size can’t possibly fit all in hardware.

  • I'm colorblind too and was disappointed to find the APC40 virtually useless when I picked it up on day one. My problem was being unable to tell the difference between the orange and green colors. I did find a workaround that I'm really happy with, however.

    If the gent you mention can tell the different between any two color LEDs, he can basically remap the colors so that one color is not used. For example, in my case, I map the following.

    Formerly orange pads are changed to red (unplayed clips)

    Formerly red pads are changed to blinking red (recording)

    Formerly blinking red pads are changed to blinking orange (pre-record)

    I did the above mapping using the free app MidiPipe for Mac OS X. It's not the best tool for this, but I happen to use it for some other tasks and it's free. One could make a much more robust utility in Max or, I'm sure, Bourne's.

    If you follow my webpage link, I put my MidiPipe patch in a LiveAPC40 folder if anyone wants to take a look. This patch also does some other configuration that one will probably want to remove, but it's a start.

  • s

    Awesome DJ set up, very intuitive. do want.

  • Thanks man!

    Leave me a comment on the post at with your email address and i'll get a copy of the set and preset out to you nearer the end of the week…..



  • aaron should be renamed to

  • @Aaron: I'm actually inclined to agree (uh, even if you're just trolling). The problem is, we're clearly into live performance and we have a really limited set of choices, beyond the DIY options (making your own live set in SuperCollider, Max, Pd, Reaktor – though, incidentally, I do love that as a choice).

    I'm going to talk soon about integration with Apple's MainStage (from Logic Studio), which is one of the other commercial tools that really focuses on live performance, and via a very different approach than what you get from Ableton.

    I'm also looking into Renoise for configuration for live performance.

    I'm open to other suggestions, however. Of course, people keep sending me these tips and people keep enjoying them, so I'm not going to stop that…

  • shamburglar

    Don't forget about Numerology that program has amazing performance potential as well.

  • Kai O'Connell

    @dstroud: Hi there, thanks for posting your MIDIPipe, I happen to be said colorblind gent, was beginning to think the musician/ableton/apc/colorblind demographic was just 1 🙂 I've been trying to get MidiPipe to do that, but every time I try to hijack the midi stream to the apc, ableton does the "oh no, you might be trying to that propreitary data to monome or some other evil non apc device" thing where it takes away my red box, and it's basketball and goes home. When I tried using you pipe I got the same thing, how did you set your ports to get around that?

    It would be really nice if the folks over at ableton (please please please!) would give us an option in the preferences to allow us to simply choose which color/blink settings go with which clip states, wouldn't be that hard (it's just a velocity setting after all), and it would probably be nice for even the non-colorblind users too.

    Demand accessibility options (that aren't too hard to fix)! And power to the people! X-)

  • Danny

    Great setup you have designed. A question about the BOME midi translator…..

    I have made a great patch in Max to intercept and reformat all the control function messages of the APC40 with great success. I am curious to know more about what Bome is capable of.

    Here is an example:

    When the APC is not connected to Live, it functions in what I call "stale" mode, all the gird lights work as green triggers (on when holding down and off when let go) and the knobs with a single LED light to indicate position.

    I noticed that in the video you have managed to get the knob light circle to fully light up, does that mean Bome can change the button and knob functionality of the APC?.

    Another example would be this. Since the grid buttons only work as triggers, Everything I have made always flashes a quick green light, even if my patch enables a button to be lit up red. It is barely noticeable but still happens. Now, when the APC is first connected to Live, Live sends something to reformat the way the APC responds to touch, thus eliminating the green only trigger mode with the grid buttons.

    Thus far I have only built my setup inside Max, which all the controls set to my max patch and some sending Midi information to Live to control things such as track volume, solo, and send levels. I dont want the full functionality of the APC as a control surface and since I havent figured out how to block certain messages from getting to Ableton (to hack the grid buttons for example), this seems to be the only option to accomplish my goals by using only Max and Live.

    Any more info on the Bome midi software specifically used with the APC would be great. Sorry for the long post.

  • You definitely want Bomes then, your MAx patch sounds though it does a lot of converting but doesn't have the ability to block the original messages? I don't know how max works so can't really comment on it but i know with bomes you can swallow messages so that they never reach ableton…..

    You can also use Global Variables to switch presets, i have two running, one that does some pad lighting functions and the other does my translations, for example when i press shift and the clip/view button it shifts the bomes preset to take the standard output from the device function controls, allowing it through to control the blue handed rack and light up the APC, but then duplicates the messages to control the corresponding tracks individual filter by mapping a second control through the standard midi mapping function. I was able to acheive all this only through using a nanokontrol to do the mapping and then bomes to duplicate these messages as if they come from the APC….



  • @Kai: Sorry, I forgot to explain. My MidiPipe creates an input called 'APC40 Mapper' that hijacks the outgoing MIDI stream, but I continue to use the default incoming MIDI stream from the APC40 since messing with this will cause the handshake to fail.

    In your Live preferences, set the MIDI prefs as follows:

    Control Surfaces set to APC40

    Input set to Akai APC40

    Output set to APC40 Mapper

    In the portion of the window below, make sure that you don't have Track, Sync, or Remote selected for any of the APC40-related MIDI ports.

    I updated the MidiPipe to remove some of the extra junk and added a readme. Let me know if this works for you.

    Also, I created a thread on the Ableton forums if you search for 'Colorblind'. If you get a chance to make a note there, I hope this gets visibility with Ableton/Akai. I think a patch with Max For Live will work nicely, but this could have been avoided with some decent color LEDs instead of these dim SMD LEDs that combine red and green to make orange.

  • Danny

    ah so it seems all of my issues are embedded in the Sysex "handshake." Bome looks like a worthwhile program for this sort of thing, Im gonna test it out to see if its worth spending $80 on. I have already got my setup working great but Bome might just make things a little easier for me in the future.

  • We're told that everythign will be customizable with Max for Live but i'm more than happy with what Bomes can do…..



  • corduroy bill

    is it possible to do an in-depth on how to map out the akai mpd32 to ableton live?!?!? P L E A S E!!!

  • Wow, that came surprising 🙂 Thanks for featuring me, man!

    By the way, my artist name is just Nicken. had to leave out the vowels just for the domainname… anyway.

    thanks again for inspiring me to make that tutorial…


  • Just finished the template and Bomes preset and a readme of how it's all configured….

    I'll be doing a mass email of the links to the set tommorrow so if you've got an APC40 and want to get a little bit more out of it then pop over to and leave me your email address in the comments and it'll find it's way to you…..



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  • Guille

    I've programmed some scripts to control Live 8 with Novation Nocturn. More info here:

    If you speak spanish:

  • Brett

    I'm wondering –

    I am attempting to use the Akai pad in the non-Akai version of ableton. The LED Ring lights are not fully lit up as they would be with the Akai version.

    Is this fixable with Bomes or Max?

  • the track that kick in at 13:57 or so is freaking bad ass!

    cant wait to get the apc40 in my studio!

    cheers for such a great video

  • Dmitri


    Can you send me that template?

    Thanks in advance