UPDATE: I have created an additional Max For Live device that makes this whole setup quite a bit easier to use by customizing push’s grid and eliminating the laptop from the performance. I’ll add another post with an easy to digest video once I get it totally refined.

This post is the culmination of a few years of work fine-tuning a stage setup for live violin / bass / soft synth looping using the FCB1010 midi pedal board, and now the Push. I will tie in my other forum threads that helped arrive at this concept.

The goal is to be able to improvise bass guitar and violin with multiple loopers while focusing completely on the music and none on the computer. While very complex, this setup is quite mature with lots of subtlety so I thought I would share my time-tested lessons. This tutorial also covers lots of major Live tips. It will be worth the time learning. Enjoy!

Download the Live set: http://goo.gl/Y17mWb

Video example (it moves slow so feel free to jump around): http://youtu.be/MCMO8mfmfYs

Birds-eye view once all the pieces are assembled.
And here is how it works…

The Purple Bus Channel

The core of the setup is the track labeled “** Bus” which contains a rack of Loopers. Each chain in the rack has a number and an instrument label, for example “1 – Violin”, “2 – Violin” – the numbers are important but we’ll come back to that. All Loopers are set to:

– Song Control: “Start Song” so the first loop that is recorded starts the song.
– Tempo Control: “Set and Follow song tempo”
– Record X bars and then: “+”
– Each Looper’s big “Multi-Purpose Transport Button” gets mapped to midi notes 1-8 as sent from the FCB1010. More on that later.

Chains 1-4 are for violin and have no effects. Chains 6-8 are for bass and have my bass effect rack (FCB expression pedals mapped to effect 1 & 2) before the Looper so those effects are recorded into the loop.

The parent rack’s first macro is mapped to the Chain Select Ruler, which makes sure that audio input is only going to one Looper chain at a time. Chain “Auto Select” is enabled, the chain ruler is hidden, and the whole rack is showing devices (see screenshot) – this is important and I’ll cover this later.

The (collapsed) white input group – Important!

This is the white track group that has raw hardware input and instrument-specific pre-processing. You won’t interact with it in live performance so it’s labeled XXX to be obvious in Push and always collapsed. Tracks are:
  • M:CC – global midi control – this one is important (and awesome!) and I will describe why below.
  • I:B – bass hardware input and preprocessing
  • I:V – violin hardware input and preprocessing
  • O:B – bass post-processing to master
  • O:V – violin post-processing to master
  • I:R – resampling record for when I want to record a whole session’s master 🙂
Since we are physically only able to play one instrument at a time, both I:B and I:V are channeled into the Bus “Track In” and monitor is set to “In” so it’s always on.
Now this is the crux of the whole setup. M:CC has my special “PK Button 2 CC” M4L device that allows you to bind computer keyboard keys to midi CC values 0-9. M:CC’s output is set to “IAC Loopback” so that I can map those CC values to the chain selector in the Bus track. This allows you to only be recording one instrument at a time.
To setup the IAC Loopback device on mac, go into the Audio MIDI Settings app and set it up like the following screenshot. Then you will be able to send CC and Note messages (any midi, really) to the IAC Loopback, and then map those messages to any other control in Live. For example you would be able to send clip automation values from one dummy midi clip to any Knob in the Live set. Just imagine the possibilities…

I’ve not tried it but I heard you can do the same thing with MIDI Yoke on Windows.
Here is the “PK Button 2 CC” Max patch:

I map the number keys on my keyboard to the buttons on the “PK Button 2 CC” max device, set the CC to 125, and then map the first macro on the Bus track’s rack to CC 125. Now I can switch between Loopers by hitting the number keys! Soon we’ll also map the FCB1010’s pedals to the same functions, but hold tight on that. (Now the track numbers in the “PK Looper” rack’s chain labels should make sense!) Additionally, you can also include an empty effect rack to I:B and I:V with the chain ruler mapped to CC 125 in order to mute the instrument inputs when they are not needed (See 1st image in “White Inputs Group” section above).

Additionally, you can also include an empty effect rack to I:B and I:V with the chain ruler mapped to CC 125 in order to mute the instrument inputs when they are not needed (See 1st image in “White Inputs Group” section above)


The FCB1010 is a complex, but excellent controller. My advice – just bite the bullet and learn to program it using the pedals. There is a short learning curve, but programming it will quickly becomes second nature and you’ll be able to fix problems and make adjustments on stage very quickly. The Behringer manual is very good.
For this setup, all of your programming will go in a single bank on the FCB. For each pedal:
  • Pedals 1-10: Emit CC 125 each with the value of that pedal’s label to activate the corresponding Looper’s input.
  • Pedals 1-10: Also emit a note value according to the pedal’s label – 1 = E1, 2 = F#1, etc, to start/stop recording on the corresponding Looper. 
  • Expression Pedal 1 = CC 126
  • Expression Pedal 2 = CC 127
This setup will simultaneously activate the desired chain and start recording on the corresponding Looper. But since you have the FCB sending out CC and Note values simultaneously, you’ll have to use some kind of midi simulator to send only the exact message you want while in Live’s midi map mode. I use MIDI Simulator for mac: https://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/35645/midisimulator/ Sorry, I can’t find the original author’s download link.
Then in Live’s midi/key map mode:
  • CC 125 => Bus rack Macro 1 (chain looper select)
  • CC 126 => Bus rack Macro 2 (bass effect 1)
  • CC 127 => Bus rack Macro 3 (bass effect 2)
  • Note D2 (pedal 5) => “clear” button on all Loopers
  • Note A1 (pedal 10) => “stop” button on all Loopers
  • Keys Q,W,E,R,T,Y,U,I to corresponding Looper’s reverse buttons (for fun!)

Live Instrument Tracks

These tracks are the post-processing for each Looper and are made to be easily accessible from Push. The key here is that the inputs are set to “** Bus” and then the “Post Mixer” for each looper. Then each track can have a special effect that you like to tweak during or after playing a loop. The violin 1-4 outputs are set to O:V, and the bass 6-8 outputs are set to O:B.

Audio Interface

Having a fast audio interface is absolutely essential for live looping. For example, I frequently play in time with a ping-pong delay, and if you want to do this you need < 4ms *actual* round trip latency. Using my top of the line macbook pro, my old Edirol FA-101 didn’t cut it but my RME FireFace UCX is solid. It’s so fast I can’t tell Live’s output apart from the instruments’s ambient sound!
Another nice side-effect of having a ridiculously fast audio interface is that you can use real hardware send/returns using internal routing and zero-latency monitoring. For example, I run my violin into channel 1, but then internally route channel 1 => output 5, then to an effect pedal (see “Violin Sound” below), then back into input 5 from which I read from in Live. This also solves the problem of using an effect pedal on a high-impedance condenser microphone! So awesome.

Extra Credit 1: Violin Mic & Effects

I own a wonderfully crafted violin by local Alaskan maker John Osnes (http://osnesviolins.com), but honoring it with quality live sound has been a journey. I tried a piezo bridge pickup with matching DI but the results were mediocre. Then I bought the incredible DPA 4099:V ($499USD). The sound is absolutely phenomenal, and a close mic is essential for live looping since you have to minimize ambient noise.
I also use a POG 2 octave pedal for the violin. It has a -1 and -2 octave, which is perfect for cello or string bass sound, and the tracking is the fastest out there (as far as I know) – maybe 2-3ms. The quality of this pedal was an incredible innovation for looping with the violin.

Extra Credit 2: Push + Soft Synth

I also have an electric piano track on track 9 that has it’s own Looper. I use Push’s note mode to play the instrument, and the FCB’s pedals to record just like the other loopers. Insert your own soft synth here.

Tying it all together – Live Performance

While this setup is very complex, in live performance it is very easy to forget the tech and focus on the music:
  • Lower your laptop’s screen brightness to the minimum value. You will only need it for basic visual cues.
  • Read the Live Manual on how to use the Looper’s “Multi-Purpose Transport Button”. You can start/stop recording, start/stop overdub, and clear the looper all from one midi pedal.
  • While playing, leave the Bus track selected so you can see which Instrument chain you are currently on, as well as a visual cue of the tempo on the Looper itself.
  • Push is now your mixer. In Push, you can adjust mixer levels, sends, device effects, mute/solo, etc very easily. This is especially nice for adjusting (top-level) track effects in device mode.
  • There are exactly 7 instrument tracks + 1 Bus track so you don’t have to scroll side to side in the mixer. We don’t have the brain cells to deal with extra complexity.
  • After you are done with a song, hit pedal 5 to stop the transport, then pedal 9 to clear all the Loopers.
  • When you create a song you like, drag the sample from the Looper onto the corresponding Instrument track. I use this feature to keep a log of my brainstorming.
Again, here is a video example of it in action (it moves slow so feel free to jump around): http://youtu.be/MCMO8mfmfYs
If you made it this far, I am impressed. Please feel free to rip this post to shreds, and offer suggestions or comments. Thanks, and have fun!