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Fans of Ableton Live love its no-fuss workflow aided by shortcuts.
What are the best Ableton Live keyboard shortcuts to use for recording and mixing?
These keyboard shortcuts will turbo-charge your productivity.
Ableton Live is one of the most popular DAWs for many reasons, but ask any longtime Live-head why they use it and there’s a good chance you’ll get an answer that mentions workflow, ease of use, and flexibility.
Keyboard shortcuts play a huge role in all these areas, and if you’re not up to speed on them it could be costing you (and your clients) hours in wasted time.
If music is your true passion, then you’re probably spending hours each week in front of your computer composing, recording, and mixing your tracks. This is time you won’t get back, and if you’re spending too much time doing things the long way, you just won’t get as much done.
While shortcuts may only save you a few seconds each time you use them, this will add up to hours and even days of saved time if you use them consistently.
So for this article we’ve rounded up all the best Ableton Live keyboard shortcuts you can use to help you stay productive and in the zone as you work.
Essential Ableton Live 11 Keyboard Shortcuts
Because there are so many to go through, we’ve broken them up into categories such as View, Browse, Playback, Record, and more. Throughout you might see Ctrl / ⌘ written, and this is because of the differences between Windows and Mac.
With these keyboard shortcuts you use Ctrl if you’re on Windows computers and Command ⌘ on Mac computers. Also, only press Shift if it says to do so otherwise leave it out – the capital letters in the shortcuts are just there so they are easier to read.
Top 15 Shortcuts
Before we start, here’s my personal list of the 15 most useful Ableton Live 11 shortcuts in no particular order.
Play / Stop (Space)
New Audio Track (Ctrl / ⌘ + T) and New MIDI Track (Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + T)
Group (Ctrl / ⌘ + G)
Consolidate (Ctrl / ⌘ + J)
Create MIDI Clip (Double click or Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + M)
Loop selection (Ctrl / ⌘ + L)
Duplicate (Ctrl / ⌘ + D)
Cut Time / Paste Time / Duplicate Time (Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + X, ..Shift + V and ..Shift + D)
Export / Render / Bounce (Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + R)
Save Live Set (Ctrl / ⌘ + S) and Save As (Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + S)
1. Switch Between Session And Arrangement View (Tab)
One of Live’s most distinguishing features is Session View. This is the ‘Live’ part where you can launch your clips on the fly in any order you want. By contrast, Arrangement View offers a more traditional ‘timeline’ view similar to other DAWs.
To switch between these two views, simply press the Tab key. Even if you don’t plan on using the ‘live’ features in Session View such as clip launching, it’s still useful for mixing as you have a much clearer view of the signal levels for each track as well as volume faders. So if you want to improve your mixing workflow, getting used to using Tab is a great first step.
2. Switch Between Device & Clip View (Shift + Tab)
In both Session and Arrangement views, at the bottom of the screen you’ll either see a piano roll (for a MIDI clip), a waveform (for an audio clip), or your plugins for that particular track. This entire section is called the ‘Detail View’.
Shift + Tab will alternate between showing you your plugin chain and the details for any selected MIDI or audio clips – such as MIDI notes or waveforms. As of Live 10, multiple MIDI clips can be displayed and edited at once, but only the Warp, Pitch and Volume settings can be changed for multiple selected audio clips.
3. Open Preferences (Ctrl / ⌘ + ,)
This shortcut is not often brought up but when something goes wrong, you don’t want to mess around and usually preferences is the first thing to check if your sound isn’t working or there’s some other problem like crackles.
4. Show / Hide Browser (Ctrl / ⌘ + Alt + B)
This one will hide the browser on the left hand side, or make it appear if it was already hidden.
Live has a few ‘collapsible’ panels that help you save space, and the next few shortcuts will deal with these.
5. Show / Hide Info View (Shift + /)
Info View is tucked away down in the bottom left, and provides helpful hints based on where the mouse is. For example, if you have Info View active and hover over the play button, you’ll see some tips on how the play button works as well as some associated shortcuts.
If you really want to learn Live inside out, checking out what pops up in Info View is a great start, and it’s very helpful for beginners as well. Of course you can also grab one of our Ableton Live Shortcuts mousepads to speed up the process.
If you need help remembering this one, just think of the ? key (as holding shift and pressing / will make a question mark).
6. Show / Hide Detail View (Ctrl / ⌘ + Alt + L)
Detail View is the panel that runs across the bottom of your project, showing you the device chain for the selected track or the piano roll / waveform depending on which sub-view you are on. If you like having a lot of tracks in your session, you might become very familiar with this shortcut.
7. Find In Browser (Ctrl / ⌘ + F)
Whenever you need to search for something in the browser, like a sample, plugin, or Effect Rack, simply hit Ctrl + F (Win) or ⌘ + F (Mac). No matter what view you are on, and even if the browser is hidden, it will select the search box and allow you to start typing immediately to find what you’re looking for.
8. Preview Selected Browser Item (Right Arrow)
To play whatever you’ve selected in the browser, simply hit the right arrow key. If a sound is already playing, hitting this key will restart it.
By default, whatever you select in the browser will play, but you may prefer to turn auto-preview off (the little headphone circle icon) and only use the arrow key instead.
9. Hot Swap (Q)
This is a somewhat overlooked feature that can really help with auditioning sounds. The idea of Hot Swap is simple – it will temporarily substitute an element in your song with the selected browser item. So if you want to audition different snare sounds in real-time as your track plays back, Hot Swap can help.
You can Hot Swap single sounds in a Sampler, or an entire device. The advantage of Hot Swap is that it does not interrupt your track as it plays – once the new sample or device has loaded in the background, the sound will update. The same cannot be said for a traditional drag-and-drop from the browser.
Playback And Record
10. Go To Track Start (Home)
Pressing the Home button while in Arrangement View will move the current selection marker to the start of the track. Pressing Home will not restart your track, it just moves the cursor.
If you hold Shift while pressing Home, you’ll create a selection range that goes all the way back to 0:00. So if you click right where you want your song to end and use this shortcut, you’ll have the perfect length for your render.
11. Go To Track End (End)
Similarly, pressing End will take you to the very end of your arrangement. Once again, you can hold shift to select everything between the current position and the end of the track.
In Session View, pressing Home and End will simply take you to the first and last track respectively – handy for those big sessions with many tracks and takes.
12. Play / Stop (Space)
Spacebar is the start / stop command for almost all DAWs and Live is no exception.
This is probably the shortcut you will use the most, and if you weren’t aware of it, welcome to the first day of the rest of your life!
13. Resume Playback (Shift + Space)
This will continue playback from wherever you last stopped. This means it is possible to ‘pause’ playback once you get the hang of it.
14. Play Selection (Ctrl / ⌘ + Space)
If you only want to play a small section of your arrangement and then stop, just hold Ctrl while you hit Space (⌘ + Space for Mac). Whatever is selected on the timeline will start playing and then stop once it reaches the end of the selection. If you have nothing selected, playback will just work as normal.
15. Follow Scroll (Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + F)
With this enabled, the playback head is fixed to the center of the screen as you play back your arrangement. This means all your clips will scroll from right to left as you listen back. This helps you keep a close eye on your composition, letting you spot any problematic bits right as they appear.
16. Record (F9)
If you’re big on recording, this is probably the most useful Ableton shortcut to know. Moving the mouse over the tiny record button for every take is tedious and you risk missing it if you’re in a hurry.
When you hit F9, recording will start for any armed tracks. If that’s too sudden for you, you can set a count-in of up to 4 bars in the dropdown menu next to the metronome.
17. Back To Arrangement (F10)
No matter what you’re doing in session view, this will revert everything you hear back to whatever is on the arrangement timeline.
18. Zoom In / Out (- and+)
If you need to take a closer look at what’s happening, + (the plus key) will zoom in on the Arrangement timeline, and – (minus) will zoom back out.
If you’re looking at the waveform of an audio clip or the piano roll, these controls will also zoom in and out on the action.
19. Zoom To Selected Time (Z)
If you select a region on the Arrangement timeline and hit Z, Live will automatically adjust the zoom to suit this selection. You can also use this shortcut for selections in the piano roll.
This is one of a handful of shortcuts that won’t work if you’re using your computer keyboard as a MIDI keyboard. So make sure you turn this off with M before using this shortcut.
Single Letter Commands
Ableton Live has a handful of keyboard shortcuts that are not executed by holding any modifiers (shift, control, etc) but are just single letters on the keyboard. They perform a variety of functions that are not so easy to categorize, so we’ve put them all here for you.
Once again, they are not case sensitive, but we’ve put them as upper case letters as that’s how they appear on most keyboards.
20. Toggle Draw Mode (B)
If you’re a fan of the mighty pencil, you can call upon it easily by pressing B. Draw mode allows for one-click creation of multiple notes and automation points.
We’re not sure why that’s the key (Brush??) but it works.
21. Reverse Audio Clips (R)
Any audio clips selected will be reversed when you hit R. Be careful here as it takes your computer a little bit of time to create new reversed clips.
On older versions of Live, you’ll only be able to reverse one clip at a time.
22. Automation View Toggle (A)
This enables Automation Mode, which will show you automation lanes on all tracks at once. If a clip has automation on top, you’ll only be able to move it by grabbing the title bar (the colored bit at the top) – any other clicks will edit the automation so be careful here.
23. Deactivate Selected Clip / Device (0)
This will enable / disable any selected tracks (by muting them), devices (bypassing them) or clips (deactivating them). For clarity, that’s the number 0, not the letter O. The numpad 0 will also work here, despite the fact that numpad and regular numbers are treated as separate keys elsewhere (which is useful for custom commands).
24. Toggle Computer MIDI Keyboard (M)
Here’s one for the lounge lizards (like myself…) – and something you’ll need to get used to if you want to take full advantage of Live’s shortcut commands. Hitting M will let you use your computer keyboard as a MIDI keyboard and also turn it off when needed.
You can switch octaves with Z and X, and change velocity with C and V.
As previously stated, when you use the computer keyboard for generating MIDI notes, you sacrifice the ability to use any of the ‘single letter’ commands in this category. So you’ll need to get used to toggling it on and off.
25. MIDI Map Mode (Ctrl / ⌘ + M)
This opens the MIDI Map menu and enables mapping from any controller you have connected to your computer. So if you want to get hands-on with your plugins, here’s a good place to start.
26. Key Map Mode (Ctrl / ⌘ + K)
Similarly, if you want to create your own keyboard shortcuts to switch things on and off or make a knob switch between two values, this shortcut will bring up the Key Map menu.
Custom Ableton Live keyboard shortcuts are very useful and you can save them into your default template. These ones work a bit differently to the other shortcuts here as you are assigning single keys rather than combinations.
Because keyboard mappings are case sensitive, you can use the shift key, but also caps lock will affect custom shortcuts unlike the other ones listed here.
So the shortcuts you can create in Key Map Mode do feel a bit different to other shortcuts, but there is still serious potential here to tweak Live to suit your own workflow all the same. You can also use key mapping to launch clips in Session View if you don’t have a Launchpad or Push.
If you’re building a song, you’re going to need tracks. Unless you work entirely with MIDI clips, using this shortcut to create a new audio track will save you time when you’re in the compositional stages of your song.
28. Insert New MIDI Track (Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + T)
For those looking to compose with MIDI, this shortcut will create a new MIDI Instrument track. By default it will be blank, meaning you have to add a synth or instrument plugin from the browser. But it is possible to set up a Sampler, Drum Rack, or any other MIDI instrument to be here instead.
29. Insert New Return Track (Ctrl / ⌘ + Alt + T)
If you’re a fiend for send FX, then this shortcut will create a new return channel in a pinch.
30. Create New MIDI Clip (Double Click or Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + M)
If you double click on any empty timeline space on a MIDI track, a new clip will be instantly created according to the grid size. You can also use Ctrl + Shift + M (⌘ + Shift + M for Mac) to do this.
With the keyboard shortcut, the clip will automatically fill the space of the selected region – a slight advantage over the double-click method which is limited by grid size.
31. Rename (Ctrl / ⌘ + R)
Live lets you name a lot of things and if you want to take advantage of this, learning this shortcut is so much better than having to right click and find it in the context menu every time.
32. Cut / Copy / Paste (Ctrl / ⌘ + X and Ctrl / ⌘ + C and Ctrl / ⌘ + V)
Sure, these are common commands we expect in all DAWs, but it’s worth pointing out how flexible Live is when it comes to these functions. For example, you can copy a whole chain of effects from one track and paste them onto another. Try these common shortcuts out on various parts of Live and you might just surprise yourself.
33. Duplicate (Ctrl / ⌘ + D)
If you need to quickly make a copy of a clip, device, track, note, automation settings and more, duplicate is much easier than copy and paste.
34. Capture MIDI (Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + C)
Ever played something cool but forgot to hit record? This command will rescue your performance from the abyss and place it into a clip. You can even use it if Live was stopped the entire time and it will guess the tempo for you.
35. Save Live Set As (Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + S)
When it’s time to save a new version of your track, this shortcut will quickly bring up the ‘save as’ dialog box for you. Remember that when you do ‘save as’ you are now working on a new .als file, meaning any subsequent saves will update this new file. This is not the case for ‘Save a Copy’ which will save off a copy but keep you in the same project file.
36. Undo / Redo (Ctrl / ⌘ + Z and Ctrl / ⌘ + Y)
Having the ability to undo and redo changes is one of the best parts about working in the box. It’s OK to make mistakes…and remake them if you choose.
37. Return To Default (Del or Double click parameter)
While the delete key will obviously remove any selected tracks or clips, if you’ve clicked on a parameter it will reset it to default. You can also double-click any parameters you’ve moved (like the track’s overall volume) and it will reset in a similar fashion. Double click is safer as you don’t run the risk of accidentally removing anything.
38. Move Selected Clips / Notes (Left and Right Arrows)
The left and right arrow keys will move any selected clips to the left or right according to the grid size. This also works for selected notes in the piano roll.
39. Nudge Selected Clips / Notes (Alt + Left and Right Arrows)
A ‘nudge’ is really just a very fine movement of a few milliseconds. So if you only need to adjust clips and notes just a touch, then hold Alt while pressing the arrow keys.
40. Finer Resolution / Ignore Grid (Hold Alt)
This shortcut will work differently depending on your grid settings. If the grid is active and you hold alt while dragging a clip, you will be able to move the clip freely off the grid to wherever you like. If the grid is off and you hold alt, the clip will snap to the grid when you move it. Like the above shortcuts, this also works with piano roll notes.
41. Stretch Audio Clip (Shift + Click + Drag)
Introduced in Live 10, this handy shortcut allows you to stretch and squish warped audio clips like putty.
This is extremely useful for experimentation, allowing you to manipulate warped audio on the fly without any menu diving. Simply hold shift while dragging the edges of an audio clip and you can stretch / squish it directly on the arrangement view.
Arrangement Timeline Editing
42. Delete Time (Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + Del)
Along with the other ‘Time’ commands, this is one of the most useful shortcuts to know. If you highlight an area on the timeline and hit Ctrl + Shift + Del, the highlighted area will disappear and the entire arrangement beyond this point will shift to the left to fill in the deleted space.
Simply put, if you want to delete an entire section of your song, this is the quickest way to do it.
This removes audio / MIDI for all tracks in the selected time range, so be careful. This means you don’t need to actually select all tracks with your mouse when using this shortcut, which is very handy. This logic is true for the other … Time commands which we’ll look at now.
43. Paste Time (Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + V)
If you want to insert some clips into your arrangement without simply pasting over what’s already there, this command will re-arrange the timeline to make room. Paste Time will move everything after your inserted clips to the right, so it’s a powerful command to learn if you want to insert a new section into the middle of your song.
For example, if you want to insert a breakdown between an existing chorus and verse, this is one easy way to do it.
44. Cut Time (Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + X)
This is similar to Delete Time, except everything that is removed gets copied to the clipboard first. Then you can do Paste Time to easily rearrange your song.
45. Duplicate Time (Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + D)
Here’s one that’s very handy for quickly building up your track’s structure. With this command, all clips on all tracks will be duplicated without pasting over any existing sections. Simply put, this lets you copy + paste an entire section of your song with one shortcut.
So if you have a 4 bar section that you want to make 8 bars without affecting the other parts of your track, Duplicate Time will get you there with ease.
46. Insert Silence (Ctrl / ⌘ + I)
If you just need to create some empty space in your track, this will insert a break of silence. If nothing is highlighted, Live will ask you how long the silence should be in bars and beats. If you highlight an area then hit Ctrl / ⌘ + I, Live will create a new block of silence equal to the length of the selected region.
Notice that’s an “i” and not a a lower case L.
47. Consolidate (Ctrl / ⌘ + J)
Consolidate will take multiple clips and join them into a new one. Simply highlight one or more contiguous audio or MIDI clips and Live will let you consolidate with this command.
You can also highlight regions of silence to include as part of the new consolidated clip. But you must have at least one clip selected for this to work.
If you’re joining together audio clips, you’ll need to stop playback first. But consolidating MIDI clips can be done ‘on the fly’ as your song plays back as it is a less intensive process.
48. Split Clip At Selection (Ctrl / ⌘ + E, also click + drag selection)
If you hit this command while clicking on an audio or MIDI clip on the timeline, a split will be made at that point, creating a new clip in the process. This is invaluable for quickly slicing and re-arranging audio and MIDI clips. It’s also easy to do this with the mouse alone – just highlight a part of a clip, then click + drag the selection you made.
This is the command that single-handedly won me over and made me a Live user for good. Coming from FL 9, working with audio in Live felt like a whole new world, and the ease at which Live could split and manipulate clips was a game changer for my workflow.
This will move the loop braces to any region you select (and enable looping). So if you need to focus on a specific part of a song, use the loop braces to keep the play head locked to that region.
50. Curve Automation (Hold Alt on automation segment)
When Automation Mode is enabled (A), you can hover over a line between two breakpoints, hold Alt, and then adjust the curve for that line. Automation curves are great for adding a more realistic and dynamic sense of movement to your tracks.
51. Delete Automation (Ctrl / ⌘ + Del)
If a control has automation attached to it that you want to remove, just select it and hit Ctrl / ⌘ + Del to delete all automation.
52. Freehand Automation (Hold Alt)
When selecting multiple automation points, you can shift them left and right simply by dragging the mouse. If you want to ignore the grid and shift them freely, you can hold Alt to ignore the grid. This also works with Draw Mode (try it!).
53. Create Group (Ctrl / ⌘ + G)
Groups are one of the best features in Ableton Live. Both tracks and devices can be made into a group – simply make a selection and press Ctrl / ⌘ + G.
Groups allow you to better organize your tracks and devices. Grouping tracks is similar to using a bus, with all tracks in the group running through the same processing before hitting the master channel. This means you can group your drum sounds and then control the volume of all of them with a single slider.
If you group devices, you’ll create a Rack. This can either be an Instrument Rack (which includes synths and effects) or an Audio Effect Rack (which includes audio effects only). Racks can be saved into your library for later use, meaning you can quickly call them up in a pinch whenever they’re needed rather than building them from scratch each time.
Using presets like this will supercharge your workflow. For more on this topic, make sure you read Is Using Presets Cheating?
54. Hide / Unhide Groups (- / +)
If you select a track group and hit + or -, you’ll automatically hide and expand the tracks inside the group. You can also select multiple groups while doing this.
Similarly, if you have any Instrument or Effect Racks selected, + and – will expand and compact them.
55. Quantize Notes (Ctrl / ⌘ + U)
If you need to tighten up a recording in a pinch, Ctrl / ⌘ + U will apply the current quantization settings to any selected notes, or all notes in the clip if none are selected.
56. Quantization Settings (Ctrl / ⌘ + Shift + U)
This command will open the quantization settings menu, letting you adjust how quantization is applied when you press Ctrl / ⌘ + U.
57. Move MIDI Notes (Arrow Keys)
In piano roll, you can use the arrow keys to move any selected notes. Left / right will shift them in time, and up / down will transpose the pitch.
58. Shift Octave (Shift + Up / Down Arrows)
You can move all selected notes up and down an octave by holding shift and pressing either the up or down arrows. This command will also work when adjusting the Transpose controls of audio clips and instruments – so holding shift here will jump up or down 12 semitones (one octave).
59. Nudge MIDI Notes (Alt + Left / Right Arrows)
Holding Alt will allow you to ‘nudge’ MIDI notes forward or backward in time in very small increments, but only if the grid is on.
If the grid is off, the notes will snap to the grid as if it were enabled.
60. Adjust Selected Note Length (Shift + Left / Right Arrows)
If you hold shift and use the left and right arrow keys, you’ll shorten or lengthen the duration of any selected MIDI notes. The size of the increments will depend on the grid.
You can ‘nudge’ note lengths as well by holding Alt with this shortcut.
Why Are Shortcuts So Important?
Simply put, shortcuts save you time, and if you are working in your DAW regularly, the time you spend doing things the ‘long’ way really adds up. A few seconds difference may not seem like much, but if you think about how many actions you perform as you work, shortcuts get you where you want to go quicker.
Minimizing the tedious parts of production helps with your creative workflow. You want to bring your ideas into reality in the easiest way possible with the least amount of compromises. Learning the right shortcuts will help keep you ‘in the zone’ as you produce, leaving you with more time to focus on your creative decisions.
Why Do Some Older Shortcuts No Longer Work?
Depending on how long you’ve been using Ableton Live, you may remember using some commands that no longer work. There are a few reasons why this might be the case.
Principally, as the wants and needs of producers change over time, so too do the features of Live. The command you remember may no longer exist as a feature in Live, or has been made redundant by a new feature. But in general, the most common and useful shortcuts will stay the same.
How To Learn Shortcuts?
The best way to learn the shortcuts is to actually use them! Eventually, they will become second nature and you won’t even have to consciously think about which keys to press.
To make things even easier, you can grab one of our stylish Ableton Live Shortcut Mousepads from our store. This way you’ll have all the most useful commands right in front of you whenever you’re producing.
While other DAWs might let you fully customize all the shortcuts, in Live they are mostly fixed. However, with key mapping (Ctrl / ⌘ + K), it is possible to create additional shortcuts for certain commands.
Keymapping is case-sensitive, meaning you can use Shift as a modifier for your own commands. One thing to be aware of here is that your custom key commands will be affected by the caps lock key, unlike regular shortcuts.