Recommended Guitar Pedal MIDI Controllers for Ableton Live Looping (All Instruments)

In this video, I’m using a MIDI controller for guitar looping:

This website is built around the idea of a specific, powerful looping solution that uses Ableton Live’s clips slots and turns each one into a looper. If you are into looping, either from MIDI or audio sources, there’s really nothings as powerful as this. I use this setup because:

  1. Having 40 available loop slots spread out visually in front of me is far better than having them stored in a pedal on the floor. With the visual grid, all the MIDI loops and audio loops are immediately available, no extra clicking or searching.
  2. Since I’m looping in Ableton, I can of course save and load a group of loops like I would any other file on a computer. That may not seem like a big deal, but when I used to use a floor pedal looper, I spent too much time managing the loops within the pedal.
  3. Because of the way Ableton is set up, there’s a natural flow of writing with loops, and then switching to the arrangement view, to work those loops further into a song when I want to.
  4. I like having a visually large loop clock that I can see from anywhere in the room.
  5. Ableton does support following a live drummer. It can listen and change its BPM on the fly.

For ease of use, I use a hand controller and a foot controller. You can see both in action in the video.

Hand Control

The Akai APC40 MKII Midi Controller

best midi controller for looping in Ableton

This controller works really well for triggering loop recording in Ableton, quickly arming/disarming tracks, controlling volume levels, panning, and effects parameters. It’s fairly large: 16.5″ wide x 9.75″ tall, and the buttons are good sized and have a good feel. I prefer this over Ableton’s Push because this device has volume sliders (and it’s significantly less expensive).

Programmable Keypad

This is not a MIDI device. However, you can use it with AutoHotKey on PC or the Automator on Macs to trigger actions in Ableton. And of course not just Ableton, you can use this with any DAW.

In the above image, I have laser cut a stand for the keypad and ordered colored keys to replace the default black ones. I use the colored keys to help my brain map which key does what.

Ideas for key presses include:

  • Undo
  • Restart Loop Recording
  • Delete clip slot recording
  • Duplicate track
  • Move up/down clip slots (with knob)
  • Restart arrangment recording
  • Start/stop playback
  • Start/stop arrangement recording

There is also a smaller, bluetooth version available.

Foot Pedals

Behringer FCB1010 Midi Foot Controller

Behringer FCB1010 Midi Foot Controller

This MIDI foot controller is a more expensive (and more versatile) alternative for foot control than the simple, 3 pedal USB foot switch shown below.

It can be used with Mac or PC and can be programmed to send MIDI signals directly into Ableton. You can then use Ableton’s MIDI mapping feature to assign the pedals to do various things in Ableton. That includes mapping bar length selection in the Clip Slot Looper. However, if you want to enable “restart loop recording” in Abelton’s session view and/or “restart take recording” in arrangement view, then you’ll need the Bome MIDI translator to convert MIDI signals from the pedal board to keystroke sequences.

For anyone who is trying to use this pedal board with Overloud’s TH-U, here are some helpful tips.

iKKEGOL Upgraded USB Triple Foot Pedal Switch Control 3 Three Key Foot switch

three pedal USB footswitch

This USB footswitch can be used with AutoHotKey (PC only) or the MacOS Automator to control Ableton in some very handy ways. Personally I use it to start/stop playback, to undo or redo a loop recording, and to undo/redo session takes in Ableton. See the video below for examples of how it can be used to dynamically control your loop making process.

Note for Mac users: This foot switch will work on Mac. But, you have to have access to a PC in order to be able to assign keys to the foot switch. (That requires software which runs only on PC.) Once the keys are assigned, they are saved in the pedal and you can then plug it into your Mac. Then you use Automator on Mac OS instead of AutoHotKey. Instructions here…

guitar pedal for mac os

For Mac : Kinesis Savant Elite2 Programmable Triple Foot Pedal (FP30AJ- with Extra 4th Jack)

While much more expensive than the PC foot pedal, this pedal does work with the Mac OS, including the ability to program macros into the pedal.

Personally, I think if you’re going to spend this much, you might as well go for the FCB1010.