Of all the DAWs currently on the market, Ableton Live is arguably the best suited for live performance. This makes sense considering the ability to use it live is built into the DNA of the program (hence the “Live”) and it is also the only of the widely used programs created by performing musicians (Gerhard Behles and Robert Henke). Despite its incredible versatility, there is a way to massively increase its functionality and flexibility by adding a simple free script to the program – ClyphX designed by Stray from NativeKontrol. I’m going to do a series of blog posts on this remarkable addition to Ableton Live to introduce its functions and then go into advanced techniques for live performance.
What is ClyphX?
Every software has the possibility of being scripted and Ableton is no exception. Scripts essentially allow you to automate the execution of tasks that otherwise would have to be executed by a human with a mouse. Stray has created a language where many of Ableton’s functions can be reduced to single commands and written into a sequence of commands.
For example: I want to set Live’s Global Tempo to 145 BPM, select a track, select a clip slot that I’m going to record a sequence into and arm the track to record to take in MIDI notes. You can do all of this by using your mouse to first set the BPM, then select the track, then double click on the top of the track or press Option-Command L. Then you would have to click on the track’s ‘Record Arm’ button.
All this mousing and clicking around is fine for production and with the Ableton Push, it can be done even faster, but what if you could do all of these steps with the push of a single magic button on your controller? This is amazingly useful for live performance and ClyphX allows you to do this.
ClyphX is free (thanks Stray!) and the current version can be downloaded here. http://beatwise.proboards.com/thread/992/current-version-clyphx-live-8?page=1. Make sure you download ClyphX (there is also ClyphXT which I’ll also discuss later).
ClyphX is not not a plug-in, it is a script and therefore, you must install it with Live’s scripts. This is easily done. First download ClyphX and a folder will appear on your desktop. This is what it looks like when you open it:
Make sure you save the three manuals that come with ClyphX – they are incredibly useful and important. The Macrobat Racks are also awesome, but more on those later. Go to the Ableton icon in your applications folder. Rt-Click or Control-Click for you Mac users and select “Show Package Contents.” Open the ‘Contents’ folder. Once you do this, open the “App-Resources” folder and you will see a folder called “MIDI Remote Scripts.” Simply drag and drop the ClyphX folder into the ‘MIDI Remote Scripts’ folder. (see below)
Next, open up Ableton Live. In Live’s preferences, select the “Link/MIDI” tab or the “MIDI/Sync” tab for you users of versions older than 9.6. Where it says “Control Surface” select ClyphX, and leave the Input and Output boxes on “None.”(see below)
That’s it, you’re ready to rock and you know that you’ve done it right when a small colored window appears around a clip slot in Session View. (see below)
Basic ClyphX Programming
One of the great things about ClyphX is that it can be programmed right into clips in Ableton’s Session View. (In fact it can also be programmed in Arrangement View Locators and even a text document as well, but more about this later)
So back to my earlier example – I want to set the BPM to 145, select a track, select a clip slot that I’m going to record a sequence into, arm the track to record to take in MIDI notes, all with one button push.
In session view, for this example, I put an instrument onto a MIDI track that I renamed “Synth.” Notice that the number in the track activate button indicates that it is track 1. I also create another MIDI track which I renamed ClyphX. It has no instrument – it’s just for me to use dummy clips.(see below)
In the ClyphX track, I will then insert an empty MIDI Clip. In the MIDI Clip, you can use Command R to write text in the clip and write: