Tips for Creating a Master Setlist in Ableton Live

Creating a Master Setlist of all your songs in Ableton Live, isn’t for everyone. You’ve got to have a computer that can handle it and you need an easy way to navigate your setlist. But, if you find yourself in a situation where you need access to any song-at anytime, creating a master setlist might be the right approach for you.

There are some great tools and plug-ins that can help you manage your setlist, but you can also create and easily manage your master setlist using the IAC Driver and no additional plug-ins.

Why Create a Master Setlist?

Imagine standing on stage and having your music director call for a song that isn’t in your Ableton Set. What if the Worship Leader or artist you’re working with suddenly decides to start singing the chorus of a song you weren’t planning on?

As performers, many of us would benefit from being able to instantly play a song at any time on the stage. If you need to quickly and easily access any song, this article shares some tips on how to create a Master Setlist without any additional plug-ins.

Mind the Limits of your Computer

When building out your master setlist, be mindful of the amount of songs you want to use. It’s important to respect the limits of your computer power and play to its strengths. If your computer is dragging and slowing things down, make sure you don’t go above the number of songs it’s capable of handling without impacting performance.

Need some help getting your computer ready for the stage? Check out this tutorial.

Creating your Set

First, you’ll need to drag all your songs into a single Ableton Live session.

If you’re new to using tracks in Ableton Live, or building a set-list in Ableton Live, make sure to check out our courses on using Ableton Live for tracks.

You’ll want to use Arrangement View for tracks as it’s best suited for a “playback” environment.

It’s important to format all your songs the same (following the 3-part framework for using tracks) use a tempo track, create a markers track, warp your stems, and make sure you’ve done these 2 things before you drag in your stems.

Re-arrange your Set at the Press of a Button

With all your songs loaded into your set, add locators at the beginning of each song. I would name your locator with the song name, and not it’s current order in the set. I.e “Let’s Celebrate”, not “1-Let’s Celebrate”.

Using locators is essential to building your master setlist. You can place locators at the beginning of your songs, and map them using your keyboard or MIDI controller to quickly (and easily) re-order your set.

We then need to ensure they are easy to trigger with either of those devices. Using your computer keyboard, type Cmd + K (Mac) / Ctrl + K (Windows) to open Key map mode.

When in Key Map Mode, simply click a locator and press the corresponding key that you want to trigger that song. In this case, we’re using a simple chronological number sequence. That means that Track 1’s locator is assigned to the Number 1 on our keyboard. This is equally the same for mapping locators to your MIDI Controller buttons. 

Need to change the order of your songs? Don’t move your stems around. Simple re-map the locator to match the number of the song in your set.

You can also use your MIDI controller to trigger your songs and adjust order in a similar fashion.

The cool thing is that none of the structure of the master setlist changes when you do this. Everything is preserved, but you’ve just changed the order in which tracks are triggered.

An Even Better Approach

What we’ve outlined before is useful for simple mapping to your keyboard or MIDI controller. But there’s another way that is even easier on stage. This second approach allows us to go directly to a specific song using only MIDI clips. This allows for a completely hands-off approach and allows us to not look like we’re checking our email on stage.

It can even seamlessly transition to the next track if we see fit. There’s no buttons to press with this method (apart from play if we’ve added a stop clip).

Both the Basic and Advanced Arrangement templates use MIDI clips in this way to send information to Ableton about what to play next.

For this example, let’s assume our setlist opener is always the same song. All we have to do is figure out which song we’re going to play next. Through the simple use of MIDI clips that we can map to control parameters of Ableton, we can jump from one song to the next seamlessly. Need to re-arrange the pre-planned order of songs? Simply add another MIDI clip at the end of your current song, and you’ll be taken to the new song automatically. You can also pre-program Live to stop or stop and automatically select the next song.

In order to achieve this, you will need to use a virtual MIDI driver.

First, you’ll need to setup and enable a virtual MIDI driver.

Heres how to setup and use the IAC Driver on Mac.

Here’s how to setup Loopbe1 on a Windows PC.

BONUS:

Here’s how to use the IAC Driver to automatically stop at the end of a song.

Here’s how to use the IAC driver to automatically stop and select the next song (even if it’s not the next song loaded into your set).

Next, you’ll want to create MIDI clips for each song and MIDI map those to the locators for each song. Want to make this process a little easier? Check out the Advanced Tracks Template I’ve pre-mapped 20 locators to 20 MIDI clips.

With your MIDI clips pre-mapped to locators you can put these clips anywhere in your set at the end of any song, and you’ll automatically jump to that song.

Going Further

If you’ve never built a set in Ableton Live, or you’re currently spending too much time building sets, make sure to check out our step by step Ableton Live training that will show you how to format your songs, and build your sets in 5-minutes or less and with all the freedom and flexibility you’ll ever need.

Willing to invest in a plug-in to make this happen? Check out Setlist by Strange Electronic, our step by step Using Setlist with Ableton Live course, and the discount on Setlist-exclusively for From Studio to Stage students.

Related Articles

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!

Creating a pause and go to next track

Imagine if after a song, Live would automatically select your next song so all you need to do, is press play. In part 3 of our Using the IAC Driver with Ableton Live tutorial series, Ableton Live Certified Trainer Will Doggett shows you how to create a pause and go to next track using the IAC Driver. Navigate your entire set with only one button!

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