Albeton LIve 11 Control with Morningstar Engineering Controllers

I use the basic $99 version of Ableton Live to record and practice guitar. I wanted a program that is midi friendly that would permit me to use my MC8 to control recording, looping and tempo functions.

This is a posting for posterity, when some poor soul (like me) finds him/herself deperately searching for how to use their MC3/6/8 to control features in Ableton Live. Especially when Ableton Live doesn’t “map” as fluidly as initially presented.

Morningstar Engineering has a video on this, but after many hours of trial and error–including a brief detour into Remotify App scripts–I discovered that I was making things FAR, FAR too difficult when I stumbled into the Action “Press” Type “Keystroke” feature of MorningStar switchers. It is a brilliant midi workaround (okay, after finding a persistently elusive solution to a paralyzingly time-consuming problem, any solution is "brilliant). Essentially, your MC3/6/8 becomes a keyboard extension that permits you to emulate the bountiful number of keyboard shortcuts in Ableton Live. Just enter Ableton keyboard shortcuts into a search engine and voila!

This accomplished 99% of what I needed it to do. The remaining 1%, tempo, I used long press scroll, cc 127 to slow tempo and long press scroll, cc 1 to accelerate tempo. This works when the Ableton track is in warp.

Anyway, recorded for future reference. Yet another reason to love my MC8!


Crash, I’ve been considering this and I’m curious. I don’t know how you use it exactly, but I wonder. Does it work well when real-time looping? Any it glitchy? Any delay between the recording and playback, etc?

Hi, Bernard!

I use it to record my acoustic guitar. Record playback is immediate and I have all the looping functions listed in the looping section of Ableton’s keyboard shortcuts programmed into my MC8 with zero glitches. You just need to be sure the looping section is highlighted before activating the functions or other things get moved around. Truly smooth operation. I love this set up. It has made my practicing, recording and playing much more enjoyable and hassle free.



I have a Boss RC 500 Looper that I finally got working perfectly with my MC8, but now I’d consider using Ableton Live for live looping. More control. Both have their applications. As with everything, it’s what you’re use to!

Mmm, nice. Sounds good. I bought an MC8 with the idea of going for a laptop-based rig. I’m basically an acoustic player too, though I also use an archtop, and I’m looking into what program would be best to use, and Ableton is obviously an option.

Since I’m looking into finding a totally hand-free solution, when you write “… You just need to be sure the looping section is highlighted before activating the functions or other things get moved around,” that means that you have to interact with the computer, right? Wouldn’t there be a way to also have this happen, somehow, via a command?

“Wouldn’t there be a way to also have this happen, somehow, via a command?”

There is a command to begin looping a section, but there is NOT a command to select the looped section. You need to click on the bracketed area with your mouse to highlight it. Once that is done, then all functions work.

I plan to look for a script that will enable that function (I mentioned “Remotify” in my original posting. Their scripts are pre-fab, nearly cut and paste. But I don’t remember if “select loop” area is one of their options.

But we might be talking about two applications, For live performance you can set up your loops as “scenes” in Ableton and call them up independently with your MC8. My application above was for recording and tweaking loops. Once recorded and tweaked you can save as a scene. Much more visual and flexible than a looper pedal, unless you like to loop and play on the fly.

Seriously, I’m sort of suffering buyers remorse over pedal purchases now that I’m learning the capabilities of Ableton Live.

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And the scenes in which you record loops actuate immediately.

IMHO: No matter how many cables you attach to your looper pedal/station:
Ableton= digital looping
Looper pedal = analog looping

I’m just glad for the MC8 foot control

Oh, the other “not selectable” field is “tempo”. So I changed my tempo control from expression pedal to tap. That’s a keyboard/pedal command that’s immediate.

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OK. Thanks for taking the time to answer me.

So, let’s see if I get that right… The issue is only about wanting to have a specific section of a loop recorded played back? And that this issue is mute if one wants to loop on the fly? Or are saying that once a loop is recording, there’s no command to have it played back unless it’s first highlighted?

I’m interested in the ability to use “scenes” to play pre-recorded material, but I’m also interested in on-the-fly use. The only catch there might be to it—which is also a catch with an analog looper, which I have and use—is having the loop nicely synced, which means using a click for making it.

Ah. I just realized that it’s what you mean with the issue of tempo. So looks like you found a workaround for that too. Nice.

Have you been using the MC8 for a long time? And what about Ableton? I can’t help wondering what the learning curve will be to learn all this.

I went to Ableton about a month ago after frustration heaped upon frustration trying to get the MC8 to work with Reaper and to get Reaper to respond to simple midi commands. I read all the online reviews and watched enough videos to teach a course on Reaper at a community college (smile).

The reviews discussing the sundry pros and cons of each DAW are about as useful as those online chats parsing the tonal, playing, and durability qualities of various guitar strings. What’s the adage? “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure?” It doesn’t make any of us right or wrong, just different.

And you can’t overlook confirmation bias. I WANTED Reaper to be the best DAW because I paid for it and had so much time invested in it. I also WANTED Elixir stings to be the best stings because all my Taylor guitars came with them—so they must be the best, right? :slight_smile:

Anyway, after watching Paul Davids and Mary Spender and other online influencers extol the advantages of Ableton, and talking to acquaintances, my resistance subsided and I took the inexpensive $99 plunge. And wow! To quote Billy Ray Valentine in “Trading Places,” “I can see!”

As far as “learning curve,” honestly, the online videos and Ableton documentation are the best. I gleaned everything I needed in about two days. Yea, there is a learning curve, but it’s much more productive than frustrating—for me, at least. It’s straightforward. You can midi map—this gave me pains, but Morningstar has an online video, use keyboard shortcuts, or create your own keyboard shortcuts (and use your MC8).

And the $99 edition differs from the more expensive editions in that it doesn’t have as many native drums/plugins and there is a 16 scene limit for each live set. All way beyond my needs. Other than that, it’s locked and loaded.

For performances, I would pre-record loops as scenes. I’m really not that controlled to record all but very simple loops under pressure of time and critical-on-stage scrutiny.

For practice, I use the looping functions to watch/listen to/learn/refine the tunes I’m learning. With Ableton live I have to click on the space between the brackets, then I can use my MC 8 to nudge the loop section left or right, shorten or lengthen the looped area and move the entire loop area on loop length left or right. I can pause in the middle of the loop and resume where I left off or press play/stop to start from the beginning.

I’m on my 2nd MC8. I sold the first one before appreciating its power and bought a smaller MC6. But when I wanted to use a Beat Buddy with Boss RC500, I discovered I didn’t have enough ports to sync the clock correctly. So, I sold the MC6 and bought another MC 8. What a fool! LOL! Anyway, I love that thing. Amazing flexibility and Morningstar is the epitome of customer support.

Sorry for the long response, but I tend to get chatty about those things for which I have become passionate! (I also am pretty good at convoluting sentences to avoid ending them with prepositions—-argh!)

I hope it helps!


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No need to apologize, it’s wonderful to be passionate—the world needs more of that. And thanks for sharing your process. It’s helpful.

I’d like to go back to my last post and what I asked. You might’ve given me the answer already, but I want to be sure. I’ll copy and paste it, though I’ll edit it a bit…

So the issue with looping is only about wanting to have a specific section of a loop recorded played back? Then you have to highlight that? And that issue is mute if one wants to loop on the fly, then there’s no need to highlight anything and the loop can play back with a stop/play command? Or in other words, are saying that once a loop is recorded, there’s no way, no command to have it played back unless it’s first highlighted?

Confirmation bias. Yeah, we all have to deal with that. Because I’ve been using Logic as a DAW for years, I’d love Mainstage to be best software for a live rig, but I’m growing more and more aware that there are other softwares that might do a better job for that, like Ableton, while I’m also checking out Gig Performer,which some people use and really like.

So you had a MC6 before. Then obviously you’re quite familiar with programming those Morningstar devices. I might contact you when I’m ready to dive into that—I’m quite busy right now wrapping up a few projects, but learning that and putting together the live rig I have in mind is one of the next project I want to focus on.

Yes, sorry, I believe we are addressing two looping applications:

Here are two scenarios:

  1. I’m playing/listening to something I recorded on track one (something Ableton denotes as a “scene”). I decide that I want to loop a section of that recording to noodle around with. I would need to adjust the brackets to the specific timelines (simple with mouse) and then, if I plan to use keyboard / MC8 commands, also highlight the area between the brackets by clicking on it. Then all functions are activated.

  2. On track/scene 2, I record something that I want to use as a loop during or pre-performance —just like my looper pedal. When I stop that recording I can play that loop back without selecting a “loop area” as in scene one because the entire recording would be a loop. You can set up as many “scenes/tracks" as you want, each with a different loop, then select each scene or all scenes for immediate playback using your MC8 to select the scene and start playback—no need to touch your mouse or keyboard.

Make sense?

Yes it does. Thanks again.

Two questions. Are the number of pre-recorded scenes limited to 8 given the MC8 has switches, or there are ways or workarounds that make it possible to have more?

As for the second question… Your last comment leaves one scenario out, which I asked about. That is, what about live on-the-fly looping? Is it possible to do that with the MC8 and Ableton? Like one record/play command and the looping starts by itself when the recording is done, and then a command to stop it. Or if not, a record command and then one stop/play command. Or any such scenario.

While Ableton scenes’ capacity is something useful that I would certainly use, as I wrote I’m also interested in having a way to do live hand-free looping.

As an aside, do you happen to know if the MC8 can trigger/enable a track loaded with a virtual or software instrument, so that it can be played? I ask that because, for instance, I’ve used pads of strings playing behind the chords of an acoustic guitar piece with beautiful results. So this is something I’m also interested in, that the software I would use is able to receive MIDI commands to enable a software instrument track. Which I hope is somehow possible.

“Are the number of pre-recorded scenes limited to 8 given the MC8 has switches, or there are ways or workarounds”

“No.” I’m typing all this on my phone a long way from home otherwise I could send you screenshots and links. You can set up a switch to go to “next scene” or “back a scene, “ etc. the combinations are practically endless. The only limitation is the $99 version is limited to 16 scenes. Each song “Live Set” can have 16 scenes. (And I’m using my memory for that number because my current needs don’t approach that many). And by the way, the MC8 has two pages per bank so you have 16 switches, and each switch can perform multiple functions as needed.

“ Your last comment leaves one scenario out, ”

Actually, in scenario 2, that is exactly what I apparently failed to communicate. Yes, you can do that. See Paul David’s video. Notice the options for immediate play back and for controlling length of playback auto or manual. Everything he is doing on the pad you can do with MC8.

As for triggering virtual tracks or instruments, if it’s MIDI capable, MC 8 can do it. And the plug-ins for Ableton Live virtual instruments are limitless.

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Sorry, “No” you are not limited to 8

Sounds all good. I’ll check those links later. Thanks again, Crash, I really appreciate your input. Oh and sorry that I brought back scenario 2. Now, reading I see that it did answer the question I had.

Though this is still not clear, to me anyway: Is a record/play single command possible, or the record, play and stop commands are all separate commands?

All is possible but record/play is standard, as you’ll see in the Paul Davids’ video

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Greetings (with a midi controller gun pointed at my head).
Ableton 11 user. Just acquired MC8 for its features (keystrokes and multiple midi messages per action).


  1. 5 days left before I can send this unit back to Singapore with refund
  2. MC8 works fine with either online or downloaded app midi editor as long as Ableton Live 11 is not open and pinging the midi controller
  3. MC8 works fine with Ableton live 11 as long as MC8 midi editor is not open.
  4. Neither Ableton or Morningstar have discovered phone technical support.

Essentially I cannot edit the controller and test map it in Ableton at the same time. Dell i9 high end laptop and reproduced the exact same scenario on an i7 desktop.

MC8 plugged in directly to USB C (with an adaptor).
MIDI driver is generic Windows 11 USB driver (stock)

On phone with Dell today for 2 hours, short of wiping the laptop we did everything else.

Don’t make me send this unit back with brain material stuck on the foot switches… I really want this controller but I want it to work as advertised.

Appreciate you all

Keystrokes (up, down, left, right, or any other ableton recognized keystrokes) will work. Note that I don’t think they are recognized as actual midi events though… they midi flicker light in upper right doesn’t activate… but the cursor moves (I use mostly arrow commands to navigate to specific clips)

5 days left before I can send this unit back to Singapore with refund

I don’t know what else you are using the controller for, but I’ve owned three of these controllers and they have been amazing tools in a wide variety of applications, including, most recently, Ableton Live.

MC8 works fine with either online or downloaded app midi editor as long as Ableton Live 11 is not open and pinging the midi controller

Yes, in my experience, after making changes to my MC8 using the online MorningStar editor, I’ve had to disconnect my controller from the editor and restart it before midi mapping the changes to Ableton live. I also had to reboot Ableton LIve, and, often, my computer to ensure a clean mapping. This proved to be difficult and a pain, but it worked–eventually. If you noticed my other postings in this thread, I ultimately resorted, quite successfully, to using my MC8 as a keyboard shortcut controller. The MC products are full of options.

MC8 works fine with Ableton live 11 as long as MC8 midi editor is not open.
Yes, see response above.

Neither Ableton or Morningstar have discovered phone technical support.
Honestly, Morningstar Engineering online support has been so other-wordly phenomenal I’ve never even thought about calling Singapore. They rolled out a firmware update a few months ago and “James the Awesome” was online live responding to every concern and pushing out updates in real time. Who does that? And the forum help has outperformed any other forum in which I’ve participated in recent years. Time pressure is a b***h, but we’ve all been there. So hopefully we all can help relieve that pressure.

I don’t know what you are trying to do (have you seen the Morningstar video on controlling Ableton Live and other DAWS with the MC3/6/8?), but the quickest route for me was using the “Press” “Keystroke” options in my MC8 to activate the keyboard short cuts. You can also program keyboard shortcuts in Ableton Live that aren’t there. This went much, much, much faster and works flawlessly.

I absolutely LOVE the pairing of my MC8 and Ableton Live. It has made practicing, playing and recording guitar SO much easier. Truly effortless. (Okay, it hasn’t made playing guitar any easier, but you know what I mean…:-))

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Regarding the issue not being able to connect to both Ableton and the Morningstar Editor, it is due to a limitation in Windows, where if one application claims a MIDI port, another application cannot use it. This issue does not exist in MacOS.

Anyway, there is a solution! I have documented the steps here: