When Apple revealed the latest redesign of their Macbook Pro line, it included a brand new feature that was met with some speculation as to whether it was a simple gimmick or major leap forward. After owning a new Macbook for some time now, I can report back to say the Touch Bar is no gimmick at all - everyday applications like Photoshop, Quicktime, & Premiere get a productivity boost with app-specific toolsets right at the top of your keyboard. Ableton Live has not yet received any official support for the Touch Bar, so we at pATCHES put together this collection of icons, shortcuts, & macros to take advantage of the adaptable portion of your keyboard.
When installed correctly, opening Live will automatically pull up the controls we've organized for you in the Touch Bar. Below you'll find an overview of some of the features we've included that offer both simpler shortcuts & brand new ways to interact with Live.
save new version
One of my favorite features of this Touch Bar preset is the very first one - the save button. More than a replacement for cmd + s, tapping this will initiate a macro that saves a new copy of your live set by adding a . (period) to the end of the current set. I'm a huge fan of versioning and while it's easy enough to do manually, doing so can easily escape your mind in the heat of production and is nowhere near as convenient as an override save. With the Touch Bar macro, you can build a flexible backlog of sets you can reference in case you want to backtrack or collect an old section.
It's easy to add a new track, of course, so this one is a bit more for vanity than the others. Yes, adding a new audio, midi, or return track is a bit faster with keyboard shortcuts, but this demonstrates the power of the Touch Bar's menu diving & macro's as it will snap back to the "main menu" after one of the options is selected.
The window sub-menu gives you access to show or hide all the elements of Live's GUI. You can fullscreen, show the info view, hide the browser, hide return tracks, etc. It's good to know the shortcuts for these (& I use them almost every session to give myself the most room to work) but since installing this Touch Bar preset this has been my go-to for quickly adjusting all of these options with a single tap.
Mac users have always had to struggle with the function keys being a little more "under the hood" than windows keyboards. With the Touch Bar replacing those keys altogether, accessing them has become even more unintuitive & will almost certainly require stretching or two hands. & that's a shame because the function keys are great for quickly muting tracks in your Live set. Now you have all of these mutes available with a single tap at the top of your keyboard.
The time controls are some of Live's most powerful editing tools. Like a lot of these Touch Bar controls, the main benefit to having these controls as single tappable buttons is that you can effortlessly trigger them with just one finger. This means you won't have to move away from your keyboard or controller to use two hands like you would with the complicated time editing shortcuts.
As someone who uses arrangement view almost exclusively in my production, I rely on the loop brace to develop the various sections of my song. Each of the buttons in this menu is a macro that runs through a series of keyboard presses that select the loop & makes an adjustment. The only potential hiccup here is that the loop brace must have been selected at some point in your live set. Strange, sure, but that's the only way I know how to "initiate" this feature.
Of course, the most important button at all could be the pATCHES logo floating on the right-hand side. Pressing this bring you to the web's #1 resource for Ableton Live tutorials and more! Just wanted to make sure you had this gateway to learning and inspiration at your fingertips at all times ;-)
It's simple enough to set up Touch Bar control for Live. You'll have to download the BetterTouchTool, a lightweight OS X app that will let you customize your Mac's system-wide inputs & gesture controls. This is a very handy tool to have & is very affordable, but if you're unsure of it you can test it out with a 45-day trial free of charge. You'll also need to download our preset file.
Once installed, launch the application. You can install our preset by clicking the Touch Bar in the black bar toward the top of the app, then click the Manage Presets button on the lefthand side. From here you can import the .json file you downloaded.
You'll want to make sure you enable Touch Bar support via the General Touch Bar Settings button in the upper righthand corner. Finally, right click "Live" in the applications list & under Touch Bar Behavior select Show BetterTouchTool Touch Bar, hide System Control Strip to maximize the space allotted to the preset in the Touch Bar.
& that's it. Enjoy this new way to customize your experience with Live! I would love to hear your feedback on how this works for you, improvements you would like to see, & any other ideas you have as you play around with this preset. Send any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.