KeySwitch & Expression Map for Ableton Live

Version 3.1

All for one and one track for all!

The KeySwitch & Expression Map is a Max for Live device for Ableton Live which provides you the possibility to switch in a single track easily between instruments, articulations or effects with your piano, MIDI controller or automation envelopes.

  • Build your own customized key switches.
  • Choose between 9, 18 or 27 key switches. Easy to create and individually nameable.
  • You can control the key switches with your piano, MIDI controller or computer MIDI keyboard.
  • Use Ableton Live’s automation envelopes for comfortable expression mapping in the arrangement view.
  • Control remotely presets or sound banks from keyboards and synthesizers with MIDI CC, Bank, Sub and Pgm.
  • Connect easily ready-made key switches provided by your VST plug-in.
  • Supports instant mapping to control multiple instances dynamically.
  • Change on the fly between manual key switching and automation.
  • Automatic or completely customized fill-out options.
  • Display additionally the pitch range of your instrument.
  • The design perfectly integrates into the interface of Ableton Live 10 and offers a great visual feedback on the current settings.
  • No noticeable effect on your computer’s CPU.
  • Detailed user manual with many illustrations and further tips in a growing knowledge base.

Max For Live is part of the Ableton Live Suite.
If you use Ableton Live Standard you might have to buy an add-on license to use this device.
Ableton Live Lite and Intro do not support Max For Live!

Please find more information here:

15,00 EUR

+ VAT (depending on your country.)

If you are a pupil, student or you have a small budget, please click here.

More information

The set-up of the device is not difficult and very straightforward. How to do it in detail, you can find in a lovely designed step by step manual with a lot of illustrations and a knowledge base with further tips. If you are in a hurry, you will find there as well a quick start guide which explains the interface and all features of the KeySwitch & Expression Map quickly.


Knowledge Base


“Automate your articulations in orchestral compositions with Ableton Live’s envelopes and improve your workflow to gain time for creativity!”

Limited edition? Absolutely! Forget limited key switches in your VST and edit your own one.”


Here are additionally a few videos. Stay up to date and subscribe to the YouTube channel if you like!

This video explains you quickly how to set up the KeySwitch & Expression Map in combination with an Ableton Live instrument rack or effect rack so that you can build own and completely customized key switches according to your specific needs.

Ableton offers a variety of Live Packs providing orchestral instruments which are implemented in a pre-configured multi-articulation rack. The video shows you how to easily connect these instruments and to draw their articulations with automation envelopes in the arrangement view using their names, or to control them with your MIDI controller and piano.

See first how to set up ready-made key switches of your VST plug-in. Afterwards, you will find some tips and tricks using automation envelopes for articulations. Finally, you can see the KeySwitch & Expression Map in action!

“You don’t have to know everything. You just have to know where to find it – all key switches are directly displayed on the piano interface!

15,00 EUR

+ VAT (depending on your country)

If you are a pupil, student or you have a small budget, please click here.


I originally created this patch for own purposes, because I did not find any satisfying solution for Ableton Live to manage in a comfortable and clear way different articulations in a single track by playing key switches on a piano or using automation envelopes.

Many VST libraries sound awsome and offer you plenty of articulations that are sampled in great detail. Unfortunately, some of them provide only key switches with a few standard articulations or if at all, very limited options to customize them. Additionally, you can only automate them in your DAW by using anonymous notes or MIDI values which are hard to remember and change from library to library.
Therefore, the only solution to use the full potential of the library is oftentimes to create dozens of tracks with articulations of a single instrument, in which at some point you lose literally track or get a tendonitis from the constant scrolling through them;-)

Multi-Clip Editing in Live 10 is a great feature to edit numerous tracks simultaneously and has definitely helped to make composing in Ableton more straightforward. But it still didn’t allow me to work in the way that I had in my mind. I didn’t want to open midi clips and to push notes around just to try out how different articulations would sound in the arrangement.
The instrument racks, which are the basis of the KeySwitch & Expression Map, also offer a lot of possibilities. But can, or rather do I really want to learn the chain values for a whole orchestra with different articulations to know that I have to turn the macro control dial or chain selector between 10 and 18 to set the articulation Sforzando. Or that Tremolo starts at 67 and the Trills end at 112?

Finally, I had some time last year between two projects and decided spontaneously to build my own solution in Max for Live. Euphoric to have finally found my long awaited workflow for orchestral compositions, and encouraged by some enthusiastic musician friends, the idea came up to develop the device in such a way that it would be accessible to anyone else looking for a more natural feeling way to play or edit multiple articulations of an instrument in a single track.

So I tried to imagine what other Ableton users would like to have included in this kind of device. For example, I created the piano interface, added the “AutoFill” function for a quick and automatic distribution of the values, the option to protect the automation and the alternative to control keyswitches as well with the computer MIDI keyboard or a MIDI controller.

After the release in April I got a lot of nice and inspiring feedback from the first users and I decided to implement some new features. The version 2.0 includes now additionally the possibility to define control changes and program changes so that you can connect more easily ready-made keys switches provided by your VST plug-in. Like this, you can also control remotely the presets or sound banks of external instruments. Furthermore, the device allows you to draw automation envelopes for MIDI CCs directly in the arrangement view!

I hope that you will enjoy the patch as much as I do. With the risk that I may sound like a vacuum cleaner salesman now … it has made my workflow so much easier and faster that I cannot imagine working without it anymore. Especially, if you create templates from which you afterwards only need to drag & drop the wished instrument tracks into your new project.

If you have any ideas, wishes or questions, just write me a comment below or send me a message using the contact form. I am looking forward to your feedback!

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The software was developed with electricity from renewable energy sources.

  1. kim commented on February 3
    Hi. I have a question after testing this product. We are testing KONTAKT or other SYNTH instruments. Sometimes the key switch's response is slow, so it cannot respond to the sound transition, or it proceeds to the next syllable. Right now, I'm using RME FIREFACE UCX. We're testing it with a bunch of BUFFER SIZE. From 1024 to 2048 SAMPLES, the response is very slow and difficult to use. Only 128 and 256 SAMPLES are the kisses working normally. For AUTOMATION, which is not a key switch, it is slightly faster, but equally difficult to use. As you know, the more track we get, the less CPU we need. 128 and 256 SAMPLES modes are difficult to use Is there any way I can solve it? Or can we solve it with a new update? Please answer me. Good Luck Reply
    • swub commented on February 3
      Hello Kim, I think what you experience as slow response is connected to the delay settings of the device (in the second tab or page of the settings). By default, they are activated for Key, Bank, Pgm, CC messages and the passed through MIDI note to make sure that all information of the key switches are sent before the MIDI note will finally be played. If you like, you can compare it with a car: before you step the gas, you first have to put the car in the right gear. Otherwise, you only rev the engine or the car goes backwards instead of forwards;-) In that way you are able to use the option "Chase MIDI notes" which was implemented with Ableton Live 10. It allows you to start to play back your song with the automated parameter settings (in our case the automation of the articulation) even if playback begins after the MIDI note’s start time. Like this you can skip through the arrangement view and you will hear always the good articulation. In Ableton 9 you still had to wait that the next MIDI note will be played or the cursor passed for example the breakpoint of an effect automation. To fix your issue: (A) If you do not use a rack, you can reduce all delay times of Key, PGM, CC etc. to 0 ms. For the passed through MIDI note choose 1 ms. (B) If you use a rack, you can balance out the defined delay times manually in the "Track Delay Section" (this small round "D"-button in the bottom right corner of the Ableton interface under I-O, R, M) If you are not sure what I mean (hard to describe it with words), you can have a look as well to the manual on page 21ff or 58 in the trouble shooting. It is described there much more detailed with some images. According to your question to the update. YES! Generally, the latency of the device itself will be reduced from currently 5ms to nearly 0 ms. If you only want to switch remotely articulations in a VST-player, the delay times can be automatically compensated. With rack usage you still have to balance them out manually in the track delay, but I created at least some presets so that you can adjust and try out the good delay times for your system very quickly. The presets are named like Buffer Sizes because it is completely true what you found out. The necessary delay is connected to the Buffer Size of your sound card. Here is an image how it will look in version 3.0. Unfortuantely, but fitting very good to our topic, I am a bit "delayed" with the release, but it will come very soon! I hope that this answer can fix your issue already. I will also send you asap the beta to try it out. Thanks for your purchase and trust. Stay healthy. Best. Jan Reply
      • kim commented on February 4
        Thank you so much for your kind reply and your support. jan I'm going to try what you said now. In fact, I've been using Script called "Mind Control", which allows users to designate Kontakt's Keyswitch. However, there are many products that are not applied well, so I decided to use Instrument Rack and your products. Especially, I hope that the functionality of instrument rack is implemented well. This is an M4L program that I dreamed of and really like. Thank you for making it. Reply
  2. AlexDreamer commented on January 17
    Hi there! Very cool add-on! Thanks a lot! One question though - is there a way to switch the articulation with keys or midi cc before you start recording? I know, I can change it beforehand by mouse in automation view. But if I try to change it with keys or cc the line just greys out and become dotted and I have to push key or cc again after the beginning of recording. So, my question is, is it possible to make changes to keyswitch automation line in standby mode with a controller? Thanks for your work and the answer in advance) Reply
    • AlexDreamer commented on January 17
      One more thing - is there a way to save a midi cc mappings? Like, I want to have modulation and expression lines in arrangement view, for that to work, I map cc from my controller to those parameters in your patch (without mapping, CC1 and CC11 will record automation only for the clip view). So, I have to map them for every track? Or I can copy-paste those mappings somehow? I know, it is not a big deal, but what if someone wants to map all the articulations to CC, not just note keys?.. Reply
    • AlexDreamer commented on January 18
      Also, if I map Modulation in your add-on on two tracks (two instances of Keyswitch&Expression map) to same cc, it always records both automations at the same time. Switching of the record button or muting the track doesn't help( so, I have to map Modulation to different cc on every track? This would be a bummer... Sorry for so many questions, just trying to make it work perfectly) Reply
      • swub commented on January 18
        Hello Alex, no worries, you actually ask good questions. So feel free to go on;-) According to your second and third question which are connected to each other: In the current version 2.0 of the device, it is unfortunately like you discribed it. The automation lanes of the MIDI controls are not really convenient for recording, because the boxes of the parameters are only mappable in the MIDI map mode of Ableton. It was more thought to draw them with the mouse. BUT there will be an update in the end of the month which will make it possible to control them with a dynamic mapping. I was bothered by this, too. Therefore, you will have four banks available on your MIDI controller to let you edit and to record everything with the eight knobs/dials of the device control. Additionally, the first bank will be customisable so that you can gather all your most frequently used MIDI controls in one bank. I uploaded an image for you to illustrate what I mean: In the image at the first dial, you can see the name "KeySwitch" in the menu. This will lead me to your first question and it will be the option I would suggest you to use to record the articulation changes. What you described with the greyed and disabled automation lane, I actually had to try it out myself to find out exactly what you mean. Indeed, you are right and I haven't realized this yet. In a way, it is the normal way how Ableton handles the automation envelopes, but it is a bit unlucky in the context of switching the articulation. In my own workflow, I am not used to change the KeySwitches (articulations) while recording in the same time the melody. I do that always beforehand with the mouse as you wrote or edit them afterterwards to work on the details of the articulations. I will have a look to this issue - I already have an idea and I will try to implement it as well in the update. But due to the fact that the recording in Ableton is organised in this way, the only idea which I would have for the moment is that you use the MIDI arrangement Overdub (this button with the "+" in the top of Ableton). Then you start the recording at an earlier location in the timeline so that you have enough time to switch the articulation after the recording has started and before the phrase begins which you want to record. I hope that you can be a bit patient until the update comes. If you like, I can send you the beta version in a few days. I would be actually very happy if you try it out. It seems that you have a good nose to uncover the weak points;-) I will write you a mail with a link asap. Best. swub Reply
        • swub commented on January 18
          Maybe one more idea which might help out for the moment. You could record the Modulation for example for one instrument into its MIDI clip as you are used to do it and copy paste the automation enevelope afterwards to the arrangement view. Where required, you can share it then with other instruments. Reply
        • Alex commented on January 18
          Thanks for replying so quickly, Jan! Version 3.0 sounds great! Will gladly check the beta. Keep up the good work, this thing can really change the perception of Ableton as EDM-only DAW :) Reply
  3. lattetown commented on November 28
    This looks very helpful! After playing around with Logic's way of handling articulations and Cubase's way of handling expression maps this definitely makes my "go to DAW" Ableton more friendly for orchestration. With the Max4Live plugin it looks like writing chords on one track will limit what articulations I can use...for example, if I want the top note to be played pizz then it would need to be on it's own track, yes? Do you have any plans on making the individual notes in the combined piano-roll articulation editable like Logic and Cubase? Reply
    • swub commented on November 30
      Hello! Unfortunately, the answer to your question is mainly "no", but a bit "yes";-) You are right, it is not possible to link articulations to a specific note or to work with "Note Expressions" as you can do it with Logic or Cubase. Hence, you normally cannot trigger the notes of a chord at exactly the same moment with different articulations in a single track. What you can do though is to play some pizzicato notes during the playback of the sustain notes and to switch back the automation envelope of the articulation in time for the next sustain notes. With other words, you can use the fact that MIDI is an event-based communication protocol and a note will normally play with the chosen articulation until it receives the "Note off" message. In case that the several voices of your instrument are played in completely different octaves (e.g Sustain notes of a violin always between G3 and B4 and Pizzicato always between C5 and A7), you would be able to make a special set-up of your instrument rack with chain zones + key zones to play both articulations at the same time depending from the pitch. According to your question if I plan to make this possible. For the moment it is not planned and to be frank with you, I also do not know if it would be possible with M4L and Ableton 10. I haven't thought about it yet and I would only go for this if I see a chance to label somehow the notes. I like currently a lot that you can see very easily on the automation lane which articulation is chosen. I have not worked myself with Cubase or Logic for ages, so I can only say what I have seen in some YouTube videos a while ago, but I missed a bit the overview. The articulations or MIDI CCs are quite hidden in the preferences of a note. But as I said, there might be an option to visualize it or it changed already with an update. Sorry, it got a pretty long answer and I hope that you had a cup of tea or coffee on your desk to read it;-) I wish you that you will make the good decision for the choice of the DAW. In general it is hard to say which one is the best. It is like the Apple vs. Windows question and really depends of your taste, what you mainly want to do with it and even then there will be always stuff what you like and what will bother you. I hope that my answer helped you a bit to make your mind. Best. swub Reply
  4. Adrian commented on September 12
    Hey, I really like this plugin and would love to integrate it into my workflow but I'm not sure if this will be possible. I'm terrible at composing music in different keys, so I always choose those keys with minimal flats and sharps so I can quickly improvise melodies on top. Therefore, I transpose a lot of my instruments with midi pitch shift devices to be able to stay inside my key (visually), but the song would be in a different key (auditory) if that makes sense. Is there a way to add a midi pitch shift device that only affects my playing but not the midi data created by this plugin? Maybe if I add a midi pitch shift device right before my instrument but after your plugin? Sorry for this probably very confusing sounding question, thanks in advance! Reply
    • swub commented on September 13
      Hello Adrian, if I understood right, you compose in Ableton for example in C major and you pitch it then to the evil 7 sharps in C# major;-) The problem is that the notes which are normally intended only for the "ears" of the key switch in the VST plug-in will be transposed as well and finally the wrong articulation will be played. You should be able to avoid this by using key zones in a MIDI effect rack. I made you a screenshot to illustrate what I mean: I hope that this can be a solution for you. Otherwise don't hesitate to write again. Happy to help! *PS: If you are interested, you can find here further infos how to use the racks in Ableton. In particular, have a look to 18.5.2 "KeyZones" Reply
  5. Victor commented on June 16
    A great idea very smartly implemented. Exactly what I was looking for to simplify the addition of orchestral articulations in Ableton Live. Fantastic job. Reply
  6. Andreu Mateu commented on May 15
    I have seen the video and read your experience and I do not understand. May be because I have been using Ableton only for two years.. Maybe you should make a video on how you were music before and the problems you had and how you use the tool now and how easy it is. If you need someone to make understand what it does and give you feedback on how you should present it to idiots like me, let me know. We could have a skype conversation, you explain me the things, and then I will tell you how you could explain it and make you site and videos idiot proof. Cheer and congratulations. Andreu Reply
    • swub commented on May 16
      Hello Andreu, thanks for your comment. You are right, there was missing a video showing a bit more the workflow and what you can do with the device. I have just posted a second video. Maybe this will answer your question and shed light on the dark? More informations how to set up the device is explained step by step in the manual with a lot of illustrations. In general, the KeySwitch & Expression Map does not reinvent the wheel. Neither key switches nor expression mapping is a new thing. Everything you can do with the device, you could actually do as well without it. It is only a tool to make your life easier, the workflow faster and to give you a better overview in your compositions. Me for example, I am composing mainly for performances and videos which easily reach 30 minutes of duration and the number of tracks oftentimes increase a lot. Therefore, every track I don‘t have to scroll through and the more overview I have in playing live is a blessing. I also have to deal oftentimes with deadlines and even small stuff like having the standard articulations always on the same keys, whatever library or instrument I use, speeds up my production. So, no need to be too self-critical here;-) After two years working in Ableton, I guess, you know stuff I never heard about. Maybe you only scratch your head, because your musical workflow does not demand it. Everything is a question of needs and how to achieve your goals to do the kind of music you like. I hope my answer helped a bit. Stay tuned! Best. Swub Reply