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.

Installing ClyphX

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:

ClyphX Folder

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)

ClyphX Placement

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)

ClyphX Rectangle

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:

[ID] BPM 145 ; 1/SEL ; 1/SEL 3 ; 1/ARM ON (see below)

ClyphX Clip

Now let me break down the meaning of this command sequence:

[ID] – This tells Ableton that the clip contains a ClyphX script

; – You must separate ClyphX commands with a semi-colon

BPM 145 – This will instantly set Live’s Global Tempo to 145 BPM

1/SEL – The ‘1’ indicates the track to select. ‘SEL’ indicates that it should be selected

1/SEL 3 – Here the ‘1’ again indicates the track.  When we write ‘SEL 3’ it will actually select a clip slot within that track, in this case slot 3.

1/ARM ON – Again, ‘1’ indicates the track, ‘ARM ON’ means it will get the track prepared to record by turning on the Arm button on the track.

All of these commands can be found listed in the ClyphX PDF manual included with the download.

Now you can use Command-M or the MIDI button to map a MIDI controller to this clip and one button push will carry out these multiple commands.  It’s essentially like building a custom controller.  Here is what my live controller looks like.  Many of these buttons are assigned to ClyphX dummy clips which carry out multiple functions at once. (see below)


Notice I’m also a big fan of this guy.  I’d highly recommend one.


Tips for Setting Up a ClyphX Dummy Clip

  1. Go to the ‘Launch’ section of the clip which you open by selecting the ‘L’ in the yellow circle and set the Quantization to ‘None’.  That way the clip will fire off instantly – unless you want it to time to the entire set
  2. I find it easier to do the programming on a separate document and copy and paste it into the ‘Clip’ section of the clip.

Inside the Clip

Again, all of the the ClyphX commands can be found in the ClyphX Manual.pdf which comes with the download and there are so many incredibly useful commands that you can use.  Next week I’ll discuss other ways of programming ClyphX. Have fun!

Dan FreeMan (CØm1x) is an artist/producer/Ableton Certified Trainer based in Brooklyn, NY.  He’s the director of the Brooklyn Digital Conservatory, a platform that brings some of the best artist-instructors in the US to production schools globally.  He directs NYC’s largest Ableton User Group and is on the faculty of New York University’s Clive Davis Institute for Recorded Music.  He consults for artists and bands seeking to integrate laptops with live instruments and may be contacted here.