Most people who've been using Ableton Live for a while will have heard of Bome's at some point. But what is it and how easy is it to use? In this tutorial you'll learn different ways to carry out Ableton Menu and custom shortcut actions* in Live, such as opening Live's Browser, Mixer, Detail View etc, using your MIDI keyboard. And you still get to use the keyboard as normal!
"With Bome’s Midi Translator Pro, you can control your computer from MIDI devices or other devices. For example: you can control your favorite software with a MIDI control surface, use MIDI turntables with arbitrary DJ software, map MIDI messages to other MIDI messages, and much more." bomes.com
Bome's Midi Translator Pro is created by Florian Bomers at bome.com and is €59.
*some of the custom stuff will be mac only as far as my tutorials go.
Installation is straightforward so I'll skip that; it's in the manual. Press the MIDI plug symbol (looks like the app logo, with 5 pin holes) to get the window shown here, and scroll down to select Bome's Virtual output and the hardware device you want to use for input.
Open Live and look at the MIDI preferences; Bome's should already be showing and selected in the section at the bottom. You don't actually need a MIDI In port for Bome's for the first tutorial, but it should be ok to leave it on.
The GUI on a mac is slightly different to that shown in the manual. Next, press a few things on your hardware device - I'm using my Keyrig25 keyboard - and you should see a green light in the Midi Translator's Event Monitor where it says MIDI IN.
Note that once you have created some 'Translators' as these shortcuts are called, you don't necessarily have to open the Midi Translator before opening Live like with some software, it still works the other way round.
Creating a Translator: MIDI note opens Detail View
Click the + button to add a Translator Preset, name it and hit enter. Now the other + button, 'add Translator' is activated (lit up). Click on that to add a Translator. Again this is a bit different to the manual.
Unfold the Incoming section and tick Capture MIDI. Press a button on your hardware device. Try C-2 (first key, bottom octave). You should see a code appear for that. Uncheck the Capture MIDI box. Double-click the second line that ends in 00. The last two digits are velocity and this is the note being released obviously. When you double-click it, the numbers appear in the box above, and also where it says Incoming Trigger. Notice that Bomes calls this note C-1 by the way.
Fold the Incoming tab and below that you will see Rules; ignore that. Unfold Outgoing and select Key Stroke in Type. Type in cmd alt L which is the standard Ableton shortcut for Detail View.
Now, when you press the key C-2, Live's Detail View should open and close. You can see the possibilities here, especially for live use.
Using a button
Duplicate the Translator (cmd d) and untick the first one. Rename the new one Translator 2. Change the Incoming signal of the new Translator to a button on your keyboard using the same process as before. Don't forget to untick 'Capture Midi' and double click the code. Again, this should now open and close Detail View; you'll need to press it twice for each for now, as is often the case for this type of assignment. See the 'bigger picture' section below for a way around that though. So now you have two simple methods of assigning your hardware to carry out Menu actions in Ableton Live.
Try changing the assignment of Translator 1 to cmd alt B, reactivate it, and now you should have the Browser opening with C-2 and Detail View with the button you assigned.
Creating multiple events
If you change the trigger for Translator 2 to C-2 as well, so you have the same Incoming MIDI for both, pressing this key will open/close the Browser and Detail View at the same time, or more accurately one immediately after the other.
You should now be able to figure out how to swap them both to one button. When we just had one Translator, we had to press the button twice to show Detail View and twice to hide it. With any luck you'll end up with an interesting sequence this time – press once to show Detail View, press again to show the Browser as well as Detail, again to show just the Browser and close Detail, and finally again to close the Browser and return to showing none. Pretty cool, but remember this is just an introductory example. To get it to work like this you'll need to see the two triggers showing opposite velocities, ie 127 and 0. This should be easy enough, I did it the first time by pure luck. Now try doing it with them both as 0. This will change the sequence to two presses opens both views, and two more closes both. The velocity for a button seems to swap each time, so to change from 127 to 0 just record it again. Note that 127 shows up as 7F before you double click it.
Try a third and a fourth. You can alternate the velocities and cycle through all the views with one button if you want to try that. However first just try assigning Mixer to a third translator so the velocities alternate 127,0,127. This gives an interesting sequence. Starting with no views showing, one press reveals all 3, press again to show just the Bowser and the Mixer, again to show just Detail, and again to return to none. Now try and figure out why that sequence occurred. My guess is that it's Browser and Mixer at the same time because they are both the same velocity. I'm not quite sure why all 3 show on the second press, but it's pretty cool.
The bigger picture
Of course you can set up Translators for any menu action in Live now using this method. Not only that, but you can use iKey shortcuts as explained in Easy ways to control Live Part 3: A higher state of mouselessness. This means you can use custom shotcurts which also work on the computer keyboard directly, and you can trigger automated tasks, all of which are explained in that tutorial. For instance you can open a view such as the Browser in Session and Arrange at the same time, or drag the Note Editor window to full screen height at the press of a button.
I made one for the notoriously difficult-to-map Loop Brace selection, which I showed how to do in Easy ways part 3. Here's an example of problem solving. At first it was flicking over to Arrange, I don't know why. Rather than spend time trying to fathom out why, what I did was simply stick a tab key action at the start. Job done! I had this working via a key and then a button. To keep the button press to just one, record two Translators and select the Note on for the first one and the note off for the second.
I hope this brief intro has given you a taste for Bome's Midi Translator, and you'll explore it some more. I've only covered a tiny fraction of it of course. I'll revisit this tutorial from time to time and add more, and maybe eventually do a part 2, by which time hopefully you'll be way ahead of me!