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Controlling Ableton with the Novation Launchkey 37 MIDI Controller

Author: SweetwaterTime: 2024-01-24 13:40:00

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Novation Launchkey 37 MIDI Keyboard Controller

The Novation Launchkey 37 is an excellent MIDI keyboard controller designed specifically for deep integration with Ableton Live. It comes bundled with Ableton Live 10 Lite, providing everything you need to start making music with Ableton right out of the box. The 37-key keyboard maps seamlessly to Ableton, allowing intuitive control of clips, scenes, transport functions, recording, and more. It also works well with other major DAWs like Logic Pro, Cubase, and Studio One.

A standout feature of the Launchkey 37 is the intelligent automatic chord generation based on the selected scale. This makes it easy to improvise and play in key without needing to know music theory. The keyboard also has 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads for launching clips and playing drums or percussion parts. An arpeggiator with multiple patterns and controls provides inspiration for melodic parts.

Overview of the Novation Launchkey 37 MIDI Controller

The Novation Launchkey 37 has 37 semi-weighted keys, making it a highly portable MIDI keyboard option. It feels nice to play and the keys respond accurately to velocity and aftertouch. In addition to the keys, the Launchkey 37 has 8 knobs, 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads, transport controls, and directional arrow buttons to navigate clips and scenes. The top panel labels clearly indicate the different modes and functions accessible via the pads and knobs. For example, you can switch pad mode to control session view, drums, scales & chords, or user chords. The knobs can control device parameters, track volumes, pans, sends, or arpeggiator settings depending on the selected mode.

Launchkey Integration with Ableton Live Software

What makes the Launchkey 37 special is the deep integration with Ableton Live. The keyboard seamlessly maps all controls to functions within Ableton, eliminating tedious MIDI mapping. The directional arrows automatically navigate between tracks and scenes. The Scene Launch buttons trigger entire scene playback instantly. The dedicated Record, Stop, Solo and Mute buttons control clip behaviors. Additional integration features include automatic remapping when changing pad modes, scale & chord detection, and user chord set saving directly within Ableton. Capture MIDI and quantization functions are also easily accessible, enabling you to capture performances and clean up timing quickly.

Triggering Clips and Scenes in Ableton Live

One of the most convenient features of the Novation Launchkey 37 is the ability to launch clips and scenes in Ableton Live's Session View. The RGB pads change color to clearly indicate the function currently assigned.

For example, a single tap on a green pad will launch that clip. Tapping a red pad will stop playback of that clip. Yellow pads mute or solo the associated track. This visual feedback makes it very intuitive to perform with clips and control behaviors.

The directional arrows allow you to easily navigate to other tracks and scenes. You can launch entire scenes together by hitting the dedicated Scene Launch buttons. This makes it simple to playback different parts of a song or trigger various combinations of clips.

Launching Scenes in Ableton

Scenes contain a combination of session clips mapped across multiple tracks. By hitting one of the Scene Launch arrow buttons, you can instantly trigger playback of the clips within a scene. This makes it easy to arrange songs and switch between different sections on the fly. The Novation Launchkey 37 Scene Launch buttons are located above the directional navigation arrows. There are 8 buttons allowing you to store and trigger 8 different Scenes in a project. The currently selected scene button will be lit up blue. Hitting an unlit scene button will launch that scene.

Starting and Stopping Individual Clips

In addition to launching entire scenes together, the Novation Launchkey 37 gives you precise control over starting and stopping individual clips. When the pads are in Session mode, each one maps to a clip slot within the Ableton session grid. Hitting a pad will start playback of that clip. Once a clip is playing, tapping the corresponding red Stop pad will end playback immediately and return the playhead to the beginning of the clip.

Recording New Clips

To record a new clip on the fly, make sure there is an empty clip slot available and tap the blinking red Record button at the top. Then tap one of the two red pads to arm recording specifically to that clip slot. The new content will be captured as you play. Hit the Record button again to stop recording and the clip will loop with the newly captured content. This makes it easy to improvise and add new musical ideas without interrupting the creative flow. The Clip Record pads eliminate the need to stop and configure recording settings within Ableton itself.

Transport Controls and Recording Functions

In addition to clip and scene behaviors, the Novation Launchkey 37 provides direct access to important transport controls and recording functions in Ableton Live.

Dedicated buttons allow quick access to loop on/off, undo, metronome click, record, stop, and play. The Quantize and Capture MIDI functions help clean up timing issues and recover lost musical ideas.

Loop, Undo, and Metronome Controls

Having direct access to the loop switch, undo, and metronome controls keeps your creative momentum going. You don't have to stop the music and tweak Ableton settings via the mouse and menus. Just reach over and toggle these important functions right on the keyboard. Turning loop on sets the end marker for cyclic playback. Undo removes the last recorded clip or action. The metronome provides a steady click reference while recording.

Recording, Playback, and Stop Controls

The transport controls for record, stop, and play are essential when working in Ableton Live. You can quickly start and stop the transport without taking your hands off the keyboard. The Record button arms a recording session. Stop halts playback project-wide. Play starts playback from the current session position. Having them readily available eliminates lag and keeps you focused on performing.

Quantization and MIDI Capture

Two advanced integration features provided on the Launchkey 37 are Quantize and Capture MIDI. These allow you to tighten up loose recordings and recover lost musical ideas. Hitting the Quantize button will snap the timing of the most recently recorded clip to the grid, correcting rhythmic inaccuracies automatically. Capture MIDI keeps a running buffer of the last notes played when enabled. Hitting Capture again saves that buffer to a clip slot, allowing you to retrieve improvised performances.

Keyboard Modes and Chord Functions

In addition to the seamless Ableton control, the Novation Launchkey 37 keyboard has some excellent features for melodic and harmonic playing. There are multiple keyboard modes including session mode, drum mode, scale mode, and several intelligent chord modes.

When scale mode is active, the keyboard ensures any notes played are in key. The chord modes offer advanced chord generation capabilities, allowing you to improvise over complex chord changes easily.

Session Mode

Session mode is the default state of the keyboard where notes played translate directly to MIDI note input without alteration. This works well for playing software instrument parts and recording MIDI data.

Drum Mode

Drum mode configures the keys for convenient playing of drum patterns and beats. When activated, the keyboard mapping optimizes the layout for drum triggering without feet velocity layers in the notes.

Scale and Chord Modes

One of the most useful modes for melodic playing is Scale and Chord mode. This leverages the automatic scale detection in Ableton to ensure any notes played on the keyboard conform to the set scale. For example, if you have a project in the key of E minor, enabling Scale mode will force all notes to the E natural minor scale. This makes it easy to improvise melodic ideas and solos without hitting any wrong notes.

User Chord Mode

In User chord mode, you can define your own chords to map across the keys. To set a user chord, hold the User Chord button while playing the desired chord on the keyboard. Then you can enable User mode to trigger that chord by playing any key. This allows you to set more complex chords than basic triads to use in your playing. User chords persist across Ableton sessions, being stored directly within the software.

Fixed Chord Mode

Similar to User Chord mode, Fixed Chord sets up a chord to be triggered from any key press. However, rather than storing chords long-term, Fixed Chord mode acts as a temporary single chord setting. Just like with User Chord, you hold the Fixed Chord button while playing a chord to define it. Then Fixed Chord mode maps that chord shape to the entire keyboard. Toggle off Fixed Chord to return to normal note input.

Controlling Ableton Mixer and Devices

The Novation Launchkey 37 provides flexible assignment of the 8 knobs and 16 pads to control parameters in Ableton session view, on instruments, or effect devices. Dedicated selection modes optimize the mappings.

For example, Device mode maps each knob to the first eight Smart Controls for the selected instrument or effect. Volume, pan and send modes map the knobs to those mixer parameters for each track. The pads can also enable arpeggiator control and latch settings for connected MIDI devices.

Device Control Mode

Device mode is useful for controlling the parameters of a software instrument or effect loaded in your Ableton project. When enabled, the eight knobs map to the first eight Smart Controls of the selected device chain in the mixer. You can switch between available devices in the current track by hitting the Device Select left/right arrows next to this mode button. This provides hands-on tweaking of synth, sampler, or effect parameters right from the Launchkey controls.

Volume, Pan, and Send Control

The volume, pan and send modes offer convenient control of mixer levels per track directly from the keyboard knobs. Volume mode assigns one knob per track, adjusting the track volume. Pan mode pans each track left/right. Send mode maps each knob to control the send level of the corresponding track to the first available FX device chain. Between device parameters, volumes, pans, and sends, the most important controls are available right at your fingertips without needing the mouse or on-screen mixer.

Arpeggiator Settings

The Novation Launchkey 37 has a built-in arpeggiator function to inspire melodic and harmonic ideas. When enabled, it automatically generates rhythmic note patterns from chords played on the keyboard. You can control the rate, rhythm, octave spread and latch behavior directly from the keyboard pads in Arp Edit mode. Shift+Pad toggles access additional settings like note order and variation. This allows you to fine tune the arpeggiator without any menu diving in Ableton.


With deep integration, intuitive control layouts, chord modes, an arpeggiator, and bundled software, the Novation Launchkey 37 delivers an extremely capable and inspiring package for music production with Ableton Live. It makes the software feel tactile, interactive and fun to play.

If you produce in Ableton or want tight integration to help supercharge your creative flow, the Launchkey 37 is easy to recommend. It comes in 25, 49 and 61 key versions as well for alternative price points and portability needs.


Q: What is the Novation Launchkey 37 MIDI controller?
A: The Novation Launchkey 37 is a 37-key USB MIDI keyboard controller designed to integrate tightly with Ableton Live software. It provides hands-on control of clips, scenes, instruments, effects and more in Ableton.

Q: What makes the Launchkey 37 good for Ableton Live?
A: The Launchkey 37 has dedicated buttons, pads and knobs mapped to key Ableton functions like launching clips, recording, transport controls, and device parameters. It makes production faster and more intuitive.

Q: Does the Launchkey 37 work with other DAWs?
A: Yes, besides deep integration with Ableton Live, the Launchkey 37 can also be used to control other DAWs like Logic Pro, Cubase, Studio One etc. However, some of the Ableton-specific functions may not work.

Q: What are the key features of the Launchkey 37?
A: Key features include 37 velocity-sensitive keys, 16 RGB backlit velocity-sensitive pads, dedicated Ableton control functions, transport buttons, assignable knobs, keyboard modes like scales and arpeggiator.

Q: How does the Launchkey 37 help with clip launching?
A: The velocity-sensitive RGB pads are used to launch clips and scenes in Ableton Live's session view. The pads light up to show what's playing and you can stop or solo clips on the fly.

Q: Can you record new clips with the Launchkey 37?
A: Yes, simply press the dedicated record button and then press any empty pad to instantly start recording a new clip on that track in Ableton Live.

Q: What keyboard modes are available?
A: Modes include Session, Drum, Scale, Chord, User Chord, and Fixed Chord. These modes adapt the keys for functions like drum playing, scales, chords, and arpeggiation.

Q: How do the knobs and pads control Ableton devices?
A: By default, the knobs control EQ and device parameters. The pads can switch control to volume, pan, send levels, and arpeggiator settings when in Device or ARP modes.

Q: Are there larger Launchkey models available?
A: Yes, the Launchkey lineup also includes 25, 49, and 61 key versions with additional controls. The 61 key model has 8 more knobs and faders for example.

Q: Does the Launchkey 37 come with Ableton Live software?
A: Most Launchkey 37 packages include Ableton Live Lite. This gives you a basic version of Ableton to get started with the Launchkey integration right away.