Ableton Live

How to build an Ableton Live worship keyboard rig

How to build an Ableton Live worship keyboard rig

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.

Should I learn how to use Ableton Live for worship?

Should I learn how to use Ableton Live for worship?

In this article, I share some tips to help you have the right expectations on what it take to implement this powerful software in your ministry. In a few minutes, you’ll know if Ableton is right for you. I’ll also tell you about a cool opportunity coming up to help you learn Ableton Live the quickest way possible.

Why your worship band needs a click track

Why your worship band needs a click track

Your worship band needs a click track. There are numerous benefits to implementing this tool in your ministry. In this article, you’ll learn all about these benefits as well as my #1 recommended software to start using a click or metronome with your worship band this weekend.

FAQ about leading worship with Ableton Live

I recently asked the Churchfront Community what questions they have about using Ableton Live in worship. Here are the 15 most frequently asked questions out of the hundreds I received. Do you have questions not listed here? Leave your question in the comments below!

How do I get started with Ableton on a budget (not spend a bunch of money on tracks)?

A lot of people assume they need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to get started using Ableton Live and backing tracks. If you are on a super tight budget but want to start using the full capability of Ableton Live, here’s what I recommend. Purchase the Intro version of Ableton Live for $99 and purchase Band Cues from for $5. Then download free worship pads at Using Ableton’s internal click, the band cues from Loop Community, and free pads from Churchfront, you can get up and running with Ableton Live for $104.

How do I control ProPresenter and lighting with Ableton Live?

You can control ProPresenter and lighting software with Ableton Live by sending MIDI cues over wifi. Since you are playing with a click track, your timing is always consistent as you play with Ableton Live. Therefore you can create MIDI cues at certain times in a song or set list to trigger actions in other production software. For example, at the start of the worship service I lead, when I press play for the first song in Ableton (using my foot controller), it immediately sends cues to ProPresenter to clear our pre-service countdown video and music, and it triggers the first slide of the first song. At the same time, it also triggers MyDMX 3.0 to change the house lights to a dim scene for worship and I it turns on whatever stage lights I want. All of this happens precisely at the right moments, so our slide changes and lighting cues are always perfectly timed. It sounds pretty complicated, but you can quickly learn how to do this in my upcoming training.

How do I control Ableton during worship services?

There are a few ways to control Ableton. First, you can control it directly from the laptop running the software. You can easily add keyboard commands to trigger different songs. For example, I would assign numbers 1 through 5 to the five songs in our worship set. Since it’s hard for a worship leader to control a laptop in the service, I would recommend having your drummer trigger the key commands on your computer.

Another way to control Ableton is by using a MIDI foot controller. I recommend Looptimus by As a worship leader, I use Looptimus to control Ableton with my feet.

Is it better to use session view or arrangement view?

I highly recommend using arrangement view. In my opinion, it’s way more flexible for creating transitions, programming flexibility in your set, and creating production automation cues.

How do I create smooth transitions?

Ableton Live arrangement view gives you the ultimate flexibility to crossfade songs. Sometimes I will create quick transitions that are seamless. But sometimes I like to add a bit of space between songs and I’ll through a pad sound between them if they are in the same key.

How much prep time does it take?

Prep time varies for everyone. When I’m building a new song library in a new worship ministry, it takes anywhere from 2-4 hours a week. There is a lot of grunt work to get done when you add a new song to your Ableton library. Once your list of Ableton songs is built up and your not creating five new song sets a week, then the weekly work becomes just dragging and dropping them into a set list. That usually takes me an hour or less.

Learn Ableton is like learning a new language. The more you practice and put up with the initial learning curve, the more fluent you become.

How do you build in flexibility for spontaneous worship?

Ableton makes it easy to program flexibility in your worship set for  spontaneous moments. At the end of songs, you can use MIDI cues to trigger a looping pad to keep playing in case if you want to pray or repeat a part of the song. I do this a lot. With a powerful foot controller like Looptimus, you can assign different sections of the song to different buttons on your controller. When you cue up a section, Ableton will wait to complete the measure it’s on before switching to the section you trigger. This is a bit of an art form in itself, but it IS possible. If you want to constantly change up the order of your songs during a worship set, it honestly may be too cumbersome to program into Ableton. Personally, I like just having a pad and click playing at the end of songs to give my band flexibility.

What version of Ableton should I buy?

If you are on a tight budget, purchase the Intro version of Ableton Live. If your church has the money, buy the standard version.

How hard is it to learn?

I was super intimidated and frustrated with Ableton when I first started to learn it. There are a bunch of tutorials online, but none of them did a great job taking me by the hand to prepare Ableton sets for worship. If I’m teaching you, Ableton Live only takes a few hours to learn and a few days to become an expert. If you try to teach yourself with Youtube videos, it’s going to take a long time.

How do you convince a worship team to use a click and tracks?

First, you need to know the software and equipment to get this functioning. Your band will quickly get fed up if you spend half of the rehearsal troubleshooting Ableton Live and in-ear monitoring.

Second, you need to cast a vision for them to see how much it will improve the sound and make them better musicians. Tell them ALL professional worship groups (Hillsong, Tomlin, etc.) use a click and tracks. You are less professional without them.

Third, tell them that using Ableton will give you the ability to automate lighting and lyrics, making your worship services more excellent and decreasing distractions during worship.

Can it work for other media programs?

Yes, it can work with other presentation software and lighting software that receive MIDI commands. It does not work with all media programs. My expertise is automating ProPresenter (lyrics) and MyDMX 3.0. If you want to make the most of my training on Ableton automation, I would recommend those programs which are great for any church context.

What is the equipment I need to get started?

You need a 3.5mm TRS to dual ¼” cable to plug your laptop running Ableton into a stereo DI box which then goes to your sound console. Make sure your console has two available channels for a click track and your backing tracks. You also need in-ear monitors for your click track. I have a much more extensive article on the gear you will need on my blog.

What do I do with volunteers if they are not running lights and slides?

Be creative and find other ways for them to contribute to your church’s ministry. I would recommend having someone still be present to look over lights and ProPresenter in the case of a malfunction. They could have more of a service producer role, helping make sure other elements of the service flow smoothly.

How do you organize content in Ableton?

I store all of my Ableton media on an external hard drive. In that hard drive, I have a master folder called Ableton. Inside that folder, I have a folder for every individual song session. I have another folder labeled “1. Sunday Set Lists” that contains all of the setlists I’ve assembled. My training gets much more in-depth, but in a nutshell, find what works for you and stick with it. I started building my library three years ago, and I’m so glad I went with my current system of organization.

How do I get started with Ableton Live?

Enroll in my free Ableton Live Masterclass for Worship Leaders. I strongly believe that Ableton Live will radically transform the quality of your church’s worship gatherings. But I know getting started with Ableton is super intimidating. It took me a full work week to program my first worship set list, and I still had it only barely figured out. It doesn’t have to be this way. I want to help you get up and running with Ableton as quickly as possible. This free masterclass is going to show you how to fully utilize the power of Ableton Live at your church.

The gear and software you will need to Lead Worship with Ableton

Before using Ableton Live to run a click, tracks, and lighting and lyrics automation in worship, you’re going to need some gear in place to utilize the power of this amazing software. The following is a list of hardware and software you will need. I will cover the following.

  1. Sound system requirements

  2. Recommended computer for running Ableton

  3. Media storage

  4. Which version of Ableton Live you should buy

  5. Gear and software for lyric automation ProPresenter

  6. Gear and software for lighting automation with myDMX 3.0

This may seem like a lot! If you are new to leading worship with Ableton, focus on acquiring the gear and software in steps 1-4. If you are willing to commit the time to learning Ableton for worship and you enroll in my upcoming training, you will learn everything you need to know in only a few hours and you'll become an Ableton ninja!

1. Sound System Requirements

Sound console. Have a sound console (digital or analog) with at least two available input channels for your click track and backing tracks.

In-ear monitoring. Your band members need to be able to hear the click track. You do not want to send the click track through floor wedges. At the very least, I recommend having in-ear monitoring for the drummer and worship leader. If your band does not have in-ear monitoring, do not despair. Check out this article on how to get them set up at your church even on a low budget.

How to connect your laptop (which runs Ableton) to your sound system. You’ll need a 3.5 mm TRS to Dual 1/4 inch TS Stereo Breakout Cable. The 3.5mm end goes into the headphone jack of your laptop. The dual ¼ inch end of the cable will plug into a stereo DI box (or two mono DI boxes). From the DI box, you’ll run XLR cables to your stage snake or sound console (like you would any other microphone or instrument)

2. Computer Recommendation

Use a fairly new MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. You can run Ableton Live on PC, but I recommend Mac because Ableton runs 10x better on Mac (like every other creative software) and you will be able to maximize my training. You do not need the biggest, high-performing, overpriced MacBook Pro. Make sure it’s not more than a few years old, and it meets the tech specs Ableton has on their website.

3. Multitrack and Ableton Project File Storage

You'll learn quickly that using Ableton Live to run your multitracks requires a fairly large amount of file storage and management. I highly recommend buying an external hard drive that has the sole purpose of storing your Ableton Live sessions and multitrack stems. Solid state hard drives are becoming more affordable, so buy one of those if you can. If not, a regular external hard drive (at least 500GB) will suffice.

4. Selecting the right version of Ableton Live

The exciting part is you do not need to purchase Ableton Live to begin using it. At you can download a 30-day free trial of the Ableton Live Suite. They give you 100% functionality of the software. Personally, I recommend Ableton Live Standard because it gives you unlimited tracks. But you can still make the most out of Ableton Live for worship with the Intro version. You will just need to consolidate your tracks to 16 or less.

Those are all the gear and software requirements to get going with Ableton Live to run a click and tracks. I would master this setup before advancing to production automation described below.

Here are additional things you will need to automate lyrics in ProPresenter and lighting with MyDMX3.0. Can you automate other presentation and lighting software with Ableton Live? Yes but I have not researched or learned how to do it. This level of Ableton Live programming is pretty advanced, and I have only spent time learning how to do it with ProPresenter and MyDMX 3.0. I highly recommend these two pieces of software for any small to mid-sized church. Together they will run just under $900, but the automation capability you will have for lyrics and lighting is incredible.

5. Gear and software to automate lyrics and video

A newer Mac to run ProPresenter - ProPresenter is significantly more stable on Mac and in my training I can walk you through how to control ProPresenter from Ableton Live using a Mac-only ecosystem.

ProPresenter - As I mentioned, this is the #1 presentation software for worship. It’s not perfect, but it is super powerful and can receive MIDI commands, which is how you automate it with Ableton Live. If you do not have ProPresenter, you can download it in trial mode and try out all the features. There will be a watermark on the output screen until you purchase it.

ProPresenter MIDI module - This is an add-on to ProPresenter that allows it to accept MIDI cues. You can fully demo this add-on before purchasing. You’ll have the ProPresenter watermark on your screen until you do purchase it.

Wifi Router - You can use an existing wifi network or create a new one by purchasing an inexpensive router. You need wifi so you can network your Ableton computer to your ProPresenter and Lighting computers.

6. Gear and software to automate lighting

A newer Mac to run Lighting software - You could run your lighting software on the same computer as ProPresenter, just make sure it is a newer and powerful Mac to ensure stability. At my church, we have a 2016 15” MacBook Pro running ProPresenter and MyDMX 3.0.

MyDMX 3.0 Controller and Software - This is hands down my favorite way to run lights in a church setting. The controller is a small USB to DMX interface. The lite version of the software comes free with the controller.

MyDMX 3.0 Software Upgrade - To utilize the MIDI functionality on MyDMX 3.0 you must purchase the FULL version of the software.

Wifi Router - You can use an existing wifi network or create a new one by purchasing an inexpensive router. You need wifi so you can network your Ableton computer to your ProPresenter and Lighting computers.

That is all of the gear I use to run Ableton Live for worship. That may seem like a lot at first, and it can be a bit overwhelming if you are new to this setup. I would encourage you to start first with the click and tracks set up. Once you feel like you’ve mastered that, then up your game with production automation.

Do you want to know exactly how much this will cost? You’ll want to download my Lead Worship with Ableton Toolkit for just that. It’s a detailed spreadsheet that will give you estimated totals for all of this software and gear. It also includes links to the best place to purchase them. It will save you a ton of time making sure you have everything you need to get going with Ableton Live.

Click the button below, complete the form, and I’ll send you instant access to the Lead Worship with Ableton Toolkit.