Ableton’s Push controller is a great device for controlling Ableton Live. Tons of articles have been written and videos been produced. But did you know that you can make funny & colorful light effects with it, too? If you’ve asked yourself what this strange „User“ mode button is for you’ve come to the right place. Read on!
Entering user mode
If you put your Ableton Push into user mode by pressing the User key it’s getting dark on the controller and apparently all the keys don’t seem to have any function anymore. The secret is: your Push is listening to MIDI events now! And the most simple thing you can do is to send some MIDI note data to it – from Live (or any other MIDI sequencer).
But first, be sure your Push is properly set up in Live’s preferences. Here are my settings for the Push’s user mode (click to enlarge):Now you have to know that the MIDI note number (so essentially the pitch) corresponds to the Push’s 64 pads and the velocity gets translated into color. So all you need to do is to prepare a clip on a MIDI track that plays some notes with different velocities and sends the MIDI data to the Push user port. So be sure to select the „Ableton Push (User Port)“ device in the „Midi to“ drop down menu:
Create a MIDI clip
Or you create a clip of, let’s say, one bar of 16th notes for ALL the notes that correspond to pads (the bottom left pad is C1, the top right pad is D#6) at the same time and vary the velocity via a MIDI effect.
Use a MIDI effect
I used the Velocity MIDI effect and set the Mode to „Fixed“. The Out Hi knob now determines the velocity thus the color of the all pads. But all pads have are lit and have the same color. Duh!
That’s where the Random parameter comes in handy: set it to very low values to get very similar colors that build a nice color palette. Like so (Out Hi=57, Random=2):
By the way: the speed of the color flickering is controlled by your song tempo, of course. In the videos I was at default 120 bpm.
Here’s a sample for Out Hi=79, Random=3:
And a totally random example with Out Hi=64, Random=64:
One more thing …
If you enable MIDI Map Mode, click on the Out Hi knob and turn the Push’s first (leftmost) knob you can control this parameter from the Ableton Push itself, in user mode! Do the same thing for the Random parameter and the second Push knob (the ones above the display) and you can control your light show directly from the Push. Cool, eh?! 😉
Bonus #1: If one puts much more effort into programming Live and the Push one can achieve amazing things! Like this: