How to sync two Ableton machines

Do you run tracks and keys from Ableton Live? Imagine connecting both of your Macs with an ethernet cable and having your tracks and keys perfectly in sync. In this video Ableton Live Certified Trainer Will Doggett shows you how to use the Network MIDI settings built-in to every Mac to sync two Ableton sessions!

If you run tracks from a Mac, and use Ableton on another Mac for keys, you can easily sync up both machines using an Ethernet cable and a Network MIDI session between both machines. Check out this tutorial for a reminder on how to setup an RTP session using a Mac : Connecting two Macs via ethernet and Network MIDI. In case you’re interested in sending MIDI between a Mac and PC, check out this RTP MIDI solution for your PC RTPMIDI.

Now you’ll probably ask, “Why not use Link for this?” Well for 2 main reasons.

1-Link isn’t “location aware”. If I jump to the chorus or back to the intro, I want both machines to stay in sync. Link isn’t concerned with timeline sync.

2-Link allows anyone on the session to change tempo. While that’s an interesting feature for laptop musicians-especially when you’re performing in an Electronic Music ensemble, its an awful idea when you’re using this in a Playback Environment (tracks and keys for example).

So that leads up to using a MIDI session. You could use a 5 pin cable between two interfaces, but in this case, I’m using an Ethernet cable and the Network MIDI session.

Doing this allows you to:

1-Keep the timeline of both machines perfectly in sync using Ableton’s built-in clock.

2-Change your keys presets automatically using the Chain Selector (check out this tutorial for more info on how to make that happen:

3-Remotely trigger your other machine using MIDI. (Think-selecting scenes from a spot in your arrangement, or turning on/off a track, or adjusting an effect on your keys computer at the exact same moment every set)

4-Send MIDI between machines. Imagine being able to play sounds from your keys computer, from your tracks computer. Why?? Because it’s awesome !! :)

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