[Guide] Getting the most out of Maschine + Ableton Live (& Push!)

ShelLuser Member Posts: 240 Pro
edited May 2022 in Maschine

Hi gang!


This is a new version of a guide I once wrote on the old forum and one which I've been busy trying to re-write in Word so that I could share a PDF version. Unfortunately my old guide also contained a lot of excited rambling which was informative but at the same time I also think I overdid it a bit. Thing is: I'm passionate about (soft) synths and for me Push + Maschine go hand in hand, my whole home studio is focussed around it and yah, sometimes I can get carried away ;)

Alas... this thread is fully focussed around Live & Maschine so... not too sure if non-Live users will find a use for it, but even so: most of my tips and tricks will also apply to some other DAW's as well, so there's that.

Playing Maschine using Push

When you drag the Maschine VST onto Live it'll create a new track and from that moment on you'll be able to 'do' things behind the Maschine controller, fully "separated" from Live itself. It doesn't matter if you have another track selected on Push or if the Maschine track isn't even armed: as soon as you start playing stuff on your Maschine it'll be heard. So far, so good.

In my guide I'll be limiting myself to the standard Maschine library and for this example I've loaded the 808 kit, which is a personal favorite of mine.

My Push is sitting right next to my keyboard on my desk, so it's very accessible for me. My Maschine on the other hand is sitting on another table next to my desk. I can reach it if I bend over a bit, but it would be a lot easier if I could also play the Maschine using my Push controller, this would make it a lot easier to test things.

However... by default you will only be able to play the currently active pad as if it were in instrument mode. In other words: you'll play the same sound but using different pitches. That's obviously not what we want. But we can fix that!

From behind the Maschine controller

  • Press the "Channel / MIDI" button in the top left corner.
  • Then select 'Group' by pressing the 2nd white button above the left display.
  • Now enable the 'Input' section either by pressing the 4D controller left one time, or by using the white buttons above the right display (press "left" one time).

The option will now be visible on the left display:

Change this from "Off" into "Drumkit" by using the most left rotary underneath the left display.

Using the software

Of course you can also do this using your keyboard & mouse:

  • Open the 'routing' section by clicking on the round "dial icon" on the left of the middle control strip.
  • Select the group section and the option will become visible.

Now, so far so good, but we're not there yet. You see, your Push will still be in note mode which means that the notes which we need to play are fully spread out across all your 64 pads. That's no good!

So the first thing we're going to do is force the Push to go into its drumpad modus so that this will mimic our Maschine. It's easy: just add a drumrack to your track. I can hear you thinking: "But won't that replace the Maschine VST device as well?". Yups, so we need to use a trick:

While having the Maschine VST device selected either press Ctrl-G or right click and select the option from the popup menu as shown above. Now... display the chain list and then drag and drop a drumrack from the Live browser onto an empty space in the new instrument rack:

Also be sure to disable the drumrack by making sure the speaker icon isn't yellow. It doesn't have any noticeable effects, but it can save you from embarrising situations should you ever by accident drag & drop something onto the drumrack and then wonder why Maschine suddenly plays 2 sounds at once 😓

We're almost there. If you now start playing your Push you'll notice that only the top 4 buttons react: these correspond with the lower 4 buttons on the Maschine. So much for standards 😧

At first glimpse this may look like an easy fix: just transpose your drumrack using the Push touchstrip and you're done, right? Errr, no. See, the Live drumrack goes from C1 to D#2 whereas Maschine goes from C3 to ... C3?!? 😵 Actually... yes and no :) If you enable Pad mode on the Maschine you'll notice that C3 is the root note (or base key) for every pad you play. However, this only applies to outgoing data: Maschine doesn't rely on notes like Live does but uses MIDI channels. More on this later.

For incoming however... If only the top row of our Push drumpad matches the Maschine pad, then how is transposing the entire pad going to help us? It won't. This fooled me at first, and I happen to know that this confused others as well. Fortunately there is an easy solution: because we're 3x4=12 pads too high we simply need to transpose our MIDI signal.

So select the Maschine chain on our instrument rack and then add the "Scale" MIDI effect in front of the Maschine VST device. Next transpose your signal by 12 steps and you can now easily play Maschine while using your Push:

Pretty cool, right?

Now, I don't know about you, but I want more. How about...


  • ShelLuser
    ShelLuser Member Posts: 240 Pro

    Part II (apparently the maximum length of a post is rather short on this forum 😖)

    Playing Live using Maschine!?

    Before I had my Maschine I used an Akai MPD24 and although I can easily and honestly state that the pads on Maschine are so much better you will never hear a negative comment from me about the MPD24 because that thing was awesome in its own right as well.

    Back then I heavily relied on the combination of Live + Reason but Reason has fallen out of my grace a bit ever since they dropped ReWire.. in fact.. since this week I have a new #2 backup DAW, namely FL Studio which now officially complements my "power trio" of Live (+ Push), Maschine (+ Komplete UC) and FL Studio. Yah, I confess: I left that in on purpose in my previous screenshot 😎

    Thing is... for me Reason's Kong drum designer is still one heck of an instrument. And the combination of Maschine + Kong (through Live) honestly still excites me to this very day. And let's be honest here... Live's drumkits aren't that bad either...

    So how to set this up?

    Option 1: MIDI mode!

    I can already hear some of you cry out about blasphemy, please hold the pitchforks! Pretty please?! 😬

    You're right of course, we're now "ab"-using a E 600+ controller as if it's no more than a casual drumpad controller which you can buy for around E 100,-. Even so, you can't deny the fact that this fits Live like a charm... notice the right display? The range goes from C1 to D#2, now where have we seen that before? 🤔

    If you want a quick fix then ... sorry, this is it. And please, don't underestimate this mode? Notice the half lit display above the touchstrip? If I swipe the touchstrip then those leds respond. There's also a reason I marked the C key above: you can actually switch between ranges for the keypad itself using those blue buttons. MIDI mode on Maschine is by far comparable to that of a "dumb" MIDI controller. Fun fact: if you have the controller switched to MIDI mode then the software will still react to incoming data as well.

    And as could be expected, this fits Kong like a glove...

    Option 2: routing!

    Now I could well imagine that some of you are now wondering why we'd even want to bother with this part? I mean... I just demonstrated that MIDI mode works, so... And for those of you who are more familiar with NI's hardware you're probably familiar with their awesome Controller Editor too. Just make your own template to "fit" things and... done.


    Well... no. See, the philosophy behind Ableton Live is first and foremost that it should be usable when playing live, so basically as if the whole thing is an instrument in itself. When playing my 808 kit with my left hand, and doing other stuff on Push with my right hand... now I'd have to press Shift + MIDI on the Maschine only to play stuff in Live and then quickly try to switch back again?

    Trust me: that sucks, won't work because it takes way too much time. There's a good reason why I actually prefer Maschine's touchstrip over that of the Push, and it has nothing to do with one being vertical and the other horizontal. Heck, even size doesn't matter because if we go by size alone then Push blows Maschine out of the waters.

    You see... if I want to switch the touchstrip on my Push to go from pitch mode to modwheel I have to press 'Select' and while keeping that pressed I then need to touch/press the touchstrip. After a small delay the change is active. On Maschine I simply press one of the buttons above the touchstrip and the change is instantaneous.

    Trust me when I say that this makes a huge difference!

    Why would you want to press Shift+MIDI when you could achieve the exact same thing by simply changing groups?

  • darkwaves
    darkwaves Member Posts: 342 Guru

    Press "Pad mode" (the button above pad 13) and you'll notice on the left display (upper right corner) that the base key for this pad is C3. But as we've seen earlier Live starts its drumpads with C1. So... press "Octave-" two times so that this will match with our base key. You'll find this option at the top of the right display.

    Just use pad 1 in keyboard mode. No reason to use pad mode here unless you need to change the midi channels or something

    When I use maschine with my daw, I generally just keep group A1 as a midi out. Pad 1 in keyboard mode.

    It's really a shame we can't send midi out of plugins. I'd have a lot of fun setting up reaktor ensembles as custom midi controllers.

  • ShelLuser
    ShelLuser Member Posts: 240 Pro

    @darkwaves said:

    Just use pad 1 in keyboard mode. No reason to use pad mode here unless you need to change the midi channels or something

    Well, spotted, but keyboard mode works fine when you want to play an instrument like a synth or something, but that won't go well for things like the drumrack or other percussion devices which was my focus there.

    But you're right, this part got a bit lost in the process of cutting up the guide. I'll probably add that part later this week.

  • Matt_NI
    Matt_NI Administrator Posts: 1,108 admin

    Thanks for sharing @ShelLuser and +1 for a pdf version to download 😉

  • WernerR
    WernerR Member Posts: 3 Member

    Wow... ShelLuser, a very very complete piece of information, gratefull for the time you took to make this for us !

    SheBang for you #!

  • winihh
    winihh Member Posts: 22 Member

    I checked Ableton in Rosetta Mode with the new VST3 of Maschine and made a template...

    Unfortunately, the VST3 of Maschine only runs in Rosetta Mode. Would be nice to see it running without Rosetta soon.

    1. I achieved to set up a Drumrack with Maschine 2 on first pad and External Instruments on all following pads (...having . With this one I can choose and Mix any Drumset of Maschine an play it via Push 2. And I can directly record Midi within Ableton Clips and do a Mix in Ableton. I use Group 1 in Maschine for this Drumset.
    2. I set up a normal Drumrack within Ableton (using standard rack from library) and set up a pad-group like described above by @ShelLuser . Works. I can now play any drumset from Ableton via Maschine.
    3. Additionally it works to set up a third group in Key- or Pad-Mode to use with any track with normal Instrument within Ableton. You can use Maschine to play...

    Does not work:

    1. You have to arm or disarm the Drumrack or the Keyboard... otherwise they might get both the same Midi-Information. I do not know how to get two separate Groups (in Maschine) for two separate tracks in Ableton.
    2. You cannot spontaniously record Midi from Maschine. I always have to select the track in Ableton, then it will record.

    I tried to setup a simple scenario using Maschine only as an input device. Means 2 Groups with to Midichannels Out and one Track with Maschine within Ableton. I can then choose Maschine as an Input. But not as "two" Inputs... Meaning Choosing one group of Maschine for one Sound and the second group for another. That worked before (as far as I remember)... maybe I lost something here.

    Feedback and additional tipps are welcome...

  • Lmezh
    Lmezh Member Posts: 2 Member

    Cool guys.

    Now is it possible to send MIDI from Maschine in controller mode to Ableton?

    I have the Native Instruments sounds playing into Ext. Instrument tracks all good..

    But what if I wanted to play operator with Maschine's MIDI routed out and into Ableton?

    If this has been explained I apologize however I cannot seem to grasp a workflow that gets me this.

    Thanks all, glad to see fellow Maschines.

  • winihh
    winihh Member Posts: 22 Member

    I am happy about the recent update. Ableton is now running without Rosetta + Maschine as a VST3... and everything works fine. And I can forget about old VSTs now.

    As mentioned above I am using Maschine (Mk3) as a hardware-device for playing Midi into Ableton. That works fine!

    I am also using drumsets/Sounds of Maschine within Ableton using an Ableton Drumrack.


    I am still curious wether there is a way to use a Drumsound/Drumkit of Maschine within Ableton and play this drumkit AND record the Midi within Ableton ... all at the same time. At the moment I only achieved to record a Maschine-Kit via Push2. If I press the pads within Maschine I hear the Sound in Ableton... but it does not receive Midi via Maschine.

    Maybe I lost something here or maybe someone can confirm that it is not possible or maybe it will be possible.

    I even thought of using some second channel in Pad-Mode and feed that back into the drumrack. But that does not work.

    Maybe I have to use a second instance of Maschine? Could that be the clue?

  • winihh
    winihh Member Posts: 22 Member

    Just to answere my last question:

    In order to play a drumset of Maschine AND record Midi within Ableton with Maschine you have to setup one Drumrack with Maschine (as described above) AND a second Midi-Channel with a second instance of the Maschine VST (in Pad-Mode, 2 Octaves down). Then set the second channel as an input to the Drum-Rack-Channel and it will record Midi in Ableton playing drums from Maschine.

    You cannot setup several instruments... I guess. Maschine does not apply the Midi-Channels in Ableton.

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