KeySwitch & Expression Map for Ableton Live

Version 2.0

All for one and one track for all!

The KeySwitch & Expression Map is a Max For Live* device which uses the instrument and effect racks of Ableton Live to provide you in a single track the possibility to switch easily between different software and hardware instruments, articulations or effects.

  • 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.
  • Change on the fly between manual key switching and automation.
  • Automatic or completely customized fill-out options.
  • The device supports as well ready-made key switches provided by your VST plug-in and lets you control remotely presets or sound banks from keyboards and synthesizers with MIDI messages (CC, Bank, Sub, Pgm).
  • The design perfectly integrates into the interface of Ableton Live 9 or 10 and offers a great visual feedback on the current settings.
  • If wished, you can display additionally the pitch range of your instrument.
  • No noticeable effect on your computer’s CPU.

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:

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

15,00 EUR

+ VAT (depending on your country.)

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


The set-up of the device is not difficult and very straightforward. Please find below a short video tutorial or a detailed manual. Basically, it works like this:

KeySwitch & Expression Map Set-up
  1. Drag & drop an Ableton Live rack in a MIDI track, load instruments or effects in it and distribute their chain zones.
  2. Add the KeySwitch & Expression Map device, give names and pitches to your key switches and specify for each the chain value according to the defined chain zones in the rack.
  3. Map a macro dial to the chain select ruler and connect the new created dial named “chain selector” with the KeySwitch & Expression Map.

If you want to control remotely presets or sound banks of a single keyboard, sythesizer or ready-made key switch in your VST – it is even easier!

Only define control changes (CC), bank (CC 0, MSB), sub bank (CC 32, LSB, UACC) or program changes (Pgm) for your key switches, enter a name and choose which keys you want to use.

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

Video tutorial

For a quick start, you can watch this video tutorial showing you in 5 minutes the set-up and basic features.

The second video shows you first how to connect and to customize ready-made key switches of your VST plug-in. As an example is used the library Hollywood Orchestra from EastWest. Afterwards, you will find some tips and tricks using automation envelopes for articulations. Finally, you can see the KeySwitch & Expression Map in action!


How to do the set-up in detail, you can find in a lovely designed step by step manual with a lot of illustrations, additional informations and some trouble shooting if needed. If you are in a hurry, check the quick start guide which introduce you to the basic set-up in a reduced form.

“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!

KeySwitch & Expression Map - 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. Where there is Staccato in one, there is Sustain in the other.
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 Sforzando is between 10 and 18, Tremolo starts at 67 and the Trills end at 112?

Finally, I had some time last summer 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 fast and automatic pitch distribution, the possibility to customize the chain values, the option to protect the automation, and the alternative to control keyswitches as well with the computer MIDI keyboard or a MIDI controller.
It took me a while to implement all these functions, to eliminate the last small bugs and to prepare a detailed documentation. But here we are now and I am very happy to finally release it!

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 Ableton projects as templates from which you afterwards only need to drag & drop the wished instrument tracks into your new project as needed!

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.

User Feedbacks:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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