In this article, I’m going to show you a worship keyboard setup that runs on Ableton Live. This setup works on Mac and PC, and I'll walk through everything you'll need including hardware, software, and Ableton templates. You'll also learn some advanced tips for automating patch changes in Ableton Live.
Ableton Live is an advanced and versatile digital audio workstation. I use it every week to run a click, tracks, and automate lyrics and lighting in worship. Did you know you can also use Ableton Live for your worship keyboard rig?
Whether you have Ableton Live Intro, Standard, or Suite, all three versions come with built-in instruments to play piano, pads, and synth. I’m a huge advocate that worship teams use software to generate keyboard sounds rather than buying an expensive workstation like a Nord.
The tools you need for the setup
Whether you are looking to build a new keyboard rig or you want to learn how to use Ableton, here is what you will need.
1. Laptop - Ableton can run on both a Mac or PC. You can check out the system requirements at Ableton.com. One of the advantages of Ableton is it is a CPU efficient software, so you do not need the most powerful computer on the market.
2. MIDI keyboard you can plug into the laptop via USB. Here I have an M-Audio Keystation 49es. It’s really up to you how many keys you have and whether or not they are weighted.
3. Gear for routing the laptop to your sound console. You have a couple of options for getting the sound from the computer to your sound system. You can use a 3.5mm to dual 1/4 inch cable into DI box, or you can use an audio interface. Audio interfaces are ideal because they help relieve the audio processing load from your computer running Ableton.
That’s a brief overview of the hardware, now let’s focus on optimizing Ableton Live for a worship keyboard rig.
The Sunday Keys for Ableton template
I am not a keyboard rig enthusiast or expert. I’m a worship leader who knows what sounds appropriate for a worship context, but I don’t want to spend all day building patches in Ableton.
That’s why I’m using Sunday Keys for Ableton by sundaysounds.com. My friend David and his team at Sunday Sounds continue to impress me with their products for the worship keyboardist.
The Sunday Keys for Ableton template is available for Ableton Live 9 and10 in all three versions, Intro, Standard, and Suite.
Here I have two computers. The one on my left is running Ableton Live 10 Standard with the Sunday Keys project opened up. Here’s a brief overview of how the template works.
The template is in Session view, so you will trigger different piano, pad, and synth sounds by launching the various clips. At first, this looks a little intimidating, but here is the simple logic to the layout.
You have ten tracks total. The template organizes the patches across these ten tracks, and you can easily layer them.
The core of this template is the section containing the 13 piano patches, 13, pad patches, 13 synth patches, 13 auxiliary patches, and the tonic pad patches.
You can mix and match these patches however you would like to produce your desired sound.
Another way to organize your patches is to create a new scene and drop in different combinations of patches. The creators of this template already made some for you. You trigger them by launching the master scene for the preset.
If you want, you can easily customize the sounds of these patches. The Sunday Sounds team has a ton of tutorial videos that come with this template that will show you how.
I love how this template is done for you but has tremendous flexibility to design patches. While you don’t necessarily need a template to produce these sounds in Ableton Live, the team at Sunday Sounds has saved us a bunch of time by creating these patches and organizing them.
If you have the Korg NanoControl 2 and Sunday Keys Skin, you can make controlling this template easy, even if you don’t have a MIDI keyboard with a ton knobs and faders.
Now I want to unpack how I will be using this Sunday Keys template in my worship ministry.
While in theory, you can run tracks and these keyboard patches from one computer, it doesn’t work for my Ableton Workflow. Plus I like diversifying my computing power across these different pieces of software.
One this computer I have last Sunday’s setlist in Arrangement view. Ableton Live makes it easy to link two computers running the software so you can sync tempo and automate patch changes. Here’s how it works.
To link the computers, make sure they are on the same wifi network. In Ableton’s preferences, makes sure you have the view link toggle button enabled.
Now whichever computer has a tempo change in Ableton, will trigger that same tempo change on the other computer. In arrangement view, I use tempo clips to set the master tempo for different songs. I always use Ableton Live’s built-in click rather than using an audio click or midi click.
Another thing I like to do is automate patch changes with Ableton Live. I went and created a template of MIDI cues that match up with the Sunday Keys Template.
In the MIDI network settings on my Macs, I created a new session called, Ableton Keys Automation. Within that session, I connect the two laptops over wifi so now I can send midi commands from the Ableton laptop running my click, tracks, and automation cues over wife to my computer running my keyboard patches.
Automation is a game-changer when you want your keyboardist to be able to play the song without having to fiddle with the computer or a hardware midi control.
I covered a lot in this article, but it only scratches the surface of what you can do with these tools. Make sure you watch the video linked above on this page where you can see this all in action.
Let me know if you have any questions about this setup below.
You can learn more about the Sunday Keys for Ableton template here. Use the discount code Churchfront10 to receive 10% off!
If you are new to Ableton Live and you want to get started with implementing this powerful software in your worship ministry, sign up for my free Ableton Live training here.
If you have any questions about this keyboard setup or the template, let me know below in the comments!