Cant’ hear MIDI keyboard in Ableton – How to fix

Often, the MIDI keyboard is a universal way to interact with most music software, including Ableton Live. However, what happens if you cannot hear sounds from your MIDI keyboard in Ableton?

Since 2001, Ableton Live is one of the most reliable and efficient DAWs for creativity and workflow. It is an audio editing program that allows musicians to create music, keeping in mind their needs when it comes to real-stage performance. They offer an intuitive clip-based approach to producing music tracks, with many finding themselves fully immersed in music creation and never needing another editing program.

The MIDI keyboard is one of the most popular and versatile ways to control Ableton Live. Live needs to confirm that your MIDI keyboard is connected to your computer before you can use it. As such, you have to make sure that your keyboard has the latest drivers, and then follow the instructions in the owner’s manual to connect it to the computer. Once it is properly connected, you can select it in Live and immediately start recording MIDI.

How to set up your MIDI keyboard on Live

Ableton Live allows you to manage your MIDI connection via its MIDI settings menu, which enables you to activate and deactivate the MIDI channels or ports of your hardware. When connecting your MIDI keyboard:

  • Navigate to the ‘Options’ tab, select ‘Preferences’ and then click on the ‘Link/MIDI’ tab on the left side
  • Locate your MIDI device in the ‘Input’ section of the tab and switch the track button to ‘On,’ enabling it
  • Follow the same procedure for your MIDI keyboard output as listed
  • Confirm connection by pressing any key on your MIDI keyboard and listening for a MIDI signal

But, what does it mean when you cannot hear your MIDI keyboard on Live?

You have not chosen the appropriate audio gear

Like many other popular DAW applications, Live allows users to connect various other devices to their computer to record them into the platform using an audio interface. The audio interface enables you to improve the quality of your sound by giving you more options in terms of multiple inputs and outputs, as well as increased recording capabilities. It also helps in achieving less latency, which contributes to more exceptional sound quality.

If your MIDI keyboard does not have any sound on Live, it is best to check if you have connected it properly to the platform. If you have, check whether you have chosen the appropriate audio gear on Live from which you want to hear a sound. To check your selected audio device:

  • Open Live and select the ‘Preferences’ tab
  • Proceed to click on ‘Audio tab inside Ableton Live
  • You will find a list of preferred audio devices, choose one which you want to hear sound from. For instance, if you want to hear sound from your computer headphones or speakers, choose ‘Audio output: Built-in output.’ If you want sound from your audio interface, select ‘Audio output: (your preferred audio interface).’ Ensure your audio interface has all the latest drivers installed

Check your MIDI settings

As discussed earlier, you can connect your MIDI device to Live by using ‘MIDI settings’ menu. If you cannot hear your MIDI keyboard, you will want to ascertain that your device is sending MIDI. You can do this by:

  • Open Live and go to the ‘Preferences’ menu, click on ‘Link MIDI
  • View the settings of your device to find out the connection status. If your device is on the list, it is connected to Live
  • Check your ‘Track & Remote’ settings. It should say ‘Track on’ if you want to use that device to play your tracks. Similarly, the Remote settings should be ‘On’ if you want to make MIDI mappings for your device’s faders/mod wheels using Live’s MIDI button

Check your cable connections

If your audio interface and MIDI settings are correct, the reason why you cannot hear your MIDI keyboard is in the cables. Often, most music producers either use USB or MIDI for cable management when using Live. Some may prefer USB connections since its power supply is provided by the connection, while others prefer MIDI, which requires a mains power supply.

As such, check that your MIDI keyboard cable connection to your computer is correct. If your connection is via USB, ascertain that you are using the proper USB cable as smaller MIDI keyboards require USB-A-Mini B cable. Older MIDI keyboards use the traditional MIDI DIN-type plug. Consequently, you may opt to use a USB-to-MIDI cable, or check if your audio interface has a MIDI input.


Ableton Live is a user-friendly digital audio workplace that makes recording and performing songs a breeze. There are numerous possibilities in music production with Live, and using a MIDI keyboard with it could potentially unleash all those possibilities. However, you have to make sure you have a stable connection and that all the settings are correct to guarantee an organic workflow while using the platform.

Peter Smith

Welcome to MusicGearAdvisor! 4 years ago I rediscovered my passion for making music and began building my own home studio. As I have gone through my journey I realized that I am just as passionate about the equipment as I am about the music. I started MusicGearAdvisor as a way for me to share my learnings with others so you can get started making music that you dream of.

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