Akai APC40 - Setting Up an Ableton Live DJ Template

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Ableton Live is both a powerful Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) and an excellent live electronic music performance tool. This article walks through how to set up an Ableton Live DJ template with cue capabilities using the Akai APC40.

 

Contents

 

Setting up the audio in Ableton Live 8

  1. Connect the Akai Pro APC40 to the computer with the provided USB cable.
     
  2. Install and open Ableton Live.
     
  3. Open the Preferences menu in Ableton Live.
     
  4. In the Audio tab, select the internal computer sound card as the default Audio Output Device.  Close the Preferences window.

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  5. On the right side of the main Ableton Live interface, locate the Master Track.
     
  6. In the Master Track, make sure the Show/Hide In/Out Section, Show/Hide Mixer Section, and Show/Hide Crossfader Section buttons are all highlighted in yellow.

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  7. Set the Cue Out drop down menu to Mono Channel 1 and the Master Out drop down menu to Mono Channel 2.

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  8. In the main Ableton menu bar, choose Create >Insert Audio Track.  Repeat to create another audio track.
     
  9. On both tracks, set the Audio To drop down menu to Ext. Out  and the Output Channel drop down menu to 1/2.

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  10. Near the bottom of the two tracks, locate the Crossfade Assign buttons.  Set the first audio track (1 Audio) to Fader Channel A and the second audio track (2 Audio) to Fader Channel B.

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  11. Plug a Stereo Breakout 3.5mm TRS to Dual 1/4" Female Y Cable into the headphone output of your computer. 
     
  12. Connect the cue headphones to the Left Channel 1/4" Input using a 3.5mm Female to Stereo 1/4" Cable Adaptor
     
  13. Connect a powered speaker to the Right Channel 1/4" Input. All audio output will be mono.
     
    • To run the Master Out to a powered PA system, use a 1/4" to Dual 1/4" Y Cable.
       
  14. This setup can also be used with an USB Audio Interface. Repeat Step 4, but select the audio interface (in this example the M-Audio M-Track) as the default Audio Output Device.

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  15. All other steps for setup are the same. Plug the cue headphones into the Main Left Output using a 3.5mm Female to Stereo 1/4" Cable Adaptor and plug a powered speaker into the Main Right Output.

Loading Tracks

  1. Drag and drop the songs for the set into the Audio Tracks.
     
  2. Ableton will automatically warp the tracks to the set BPM. 

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Effects Set Up

  1. Other effects can be used, but for the purposes of this guide drag and drop an EQ Three, Simple Delay, and Auto Filter from the Audio Effects folder in that order into each Audio Track.

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  2. In the Track View Selector of Audio Track 1, click the title bar of the EQ Three device, hold Shift, and then click the title bar of the Auto Filter device. All three effects are now highlighted.
     
  3. Right-click any of the audio effect title bars and select Group to create an Audio Effect Rack.

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  4. Enable the Macro Control of the Audio Effect Rack.

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  5. Right click the Effect's parameter you would like to control and assign it to the Macro Control of your choice.
  6. For the purposes of this guide, use the following Macro Controls:
     
    • EQ Three - GainLow to Macro 1
    • EQ Three - GainMid to Macro 2
    • EQ Three - GainHi to Macro 3
    • Simple Delay - Feedback to Macro 5
    • Simple Delay - Dry/Wet to Macro 6
    • Auto Filter - Cutoff to Macro 7
    • Auto Filter - Q to Macro 8
       
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    Repeat this process in Audio Track 2.

    These will be the DJ EQ & FX Racks that can controlled by the APC40.

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MIDI Mapping a Pitch Fader to the APC40

  1. Go into Ableton Live's Preferences menu (Options > Preferences (Windows), Live > Options (Mac)).
     
  2. In the MIDI Sync tab, set the Takeover Mode to Pickup, then choose the APC40 in the Control Surface, Input, and Output drop down menus.

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  3. In the MIDI Ports section, set the Track and Remote buttons to On.

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  4. The APC40 will automatically MIDI Map the Track Volumes, Crossfader, and the Macro Controls of the EQ & FX racks. However, BPM control is not automatically MIDI mapped.
     
  5. In the main Ableton menu bar, select Options > Edit MIDI Map.
     
  6. Click on the left side of the BPM. This way, MIDI control of the BPM will be in whole numbers rather than in hundredths.
     
  7. Move the fader on the APC40 that you want to MIDI Map as the BPM control. Set the Min to 70 and the Max to 180.

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    You can now change the tempo during your Live set.

Saving your Template

  1. Go to File.
     
  2. Click Save As.
     
  3. Name the file DJ_Default.

    Load this set to DJ wherever and whenever! Try different FX Groups and Macro Controls to make your set unique!

Performing

  1. Make sure that the Solo/Cue button in the Master Track is set to Cue. The button will be grey when Cue is selected.
     
  2. The blue knob with the picture of a headphone controls the cue channel volume.

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  3. Send audio to the Cue channel by arming the Headphone button in the Audio Track. The button will turn blue when armed.

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  4. By setting a track to Cue mode, the audio signal will be sent to the headphones no matter where the crossfader is set. 

    Now get ready and go play your next gig!

 

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