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Starter AutoHotKey Foot Switch Script for Use with Ableton Live

IMPORTANT: The software that comes with the foot switch allows for programming of key sequences. In some cases, this may be all you need. I ended up using AutoHotKey because one of the sequences I wanted needed some delay added to it so that it would play right with Ableton.
AutoHotKey can be used to string together keystrokes and reduce complex actions in Ableton to a single keystroke. That key can then be mapped to the USB foot switch for easy foot control. The foot switch shown above can trigger three different key sequences (one for each pedal). A simple example would be the sequence CTRL + Z reduced to a single key and then triggered with the foot switch. A more complex sequence might be Space Bar, CTRL + Z, F9. That sequence restarts recording in Ableton’s arrangement view. More examples below.

For PC:

  1. Copy the script below and paste it into a notepad file.
  2. Save the file as “Abelton Shortcuts.txt”
  3. Once saved, rename the file “Ableton Shortcuts.ahk”
  4. Download and install AutoHotKey (PC Only).
  5. Double click on “Abelton Shortcuts.ahk” to run the script.

Once you complete those steps, the following will happen:

When Pressing the Insert Key on Your Keyboard

When pressing the Insert key on your keyboard, AutoHotKey (AHK) will send the following keystrokes to Ableton:

  • Delete
  • Enter

When in a clip slot in Ableton, this will effectively restart recording of an active clip slot – either during the recording of that clip slot or right after.

When Pressing the Home Key on Your Keyboard

When pressing the Home key on your keyboard, AHK will send the following keystrokes to Ableton:

  • Space Bar (stops recording in arrangement view)
  • CTRL + Z (undoes previous recording)
  • F9 (starts recording again)

This shortcut is not for loop recording but rather for re-triggering record takes.

AutoHotKey can be used to string together any key sequence you can think of. So while the starter script below gives a couple of useful examples, the possibilities are large. Here is the list of keys in the AutoHotKey documentation. From there you can see how I built the starter script and make modifications.

Here’s the Code to Copy for PC users:

#NoEnv ; Recommended for performance and compatibility with future AutoHotkey releases.
; #Warn ; Enable warnings to assist with detecting common errors.

SetWorkingDir %A_ScriptDir% ; Ensures a consistent starting directory.

#IfWinActive ahk_exe Ableton Live 11 Suite.exe
Insert:: ; this resets recording of an active clip in session view
Send, {Delete}
Send, {Enter}
return

#IfWinActive ahk_exe Ableton Live 11 Suite.exe
Home:: ; this resets recording of an active track in arrangement view
SetKeyDelay, 200
Send, {Space}
Send, ^z
Send, {f9}
return

TIP: add the “Abelton Shortcuts.ahk” as a taskbar shortcut to keep it handy. You’ll need to start the script up again whenever your computer is restarted.

Ableton Looper Shortcut

See It In Action:

For Mac:

I found this foot pedal which works natively on the Mac. It’s much more expensive than the PC foot pedal. You can look at all the options here.

The other consideration for Mac is that, without AutoHotKey, you can use the software that comes with the Kinesis pedal and/or Automator in Mac OS.

Update: I got a new M1 Mac mini and Ableton is running great on it. I found it’s actually easy to implement the keystroke sequences using the Mac OS Automator. To use the inexpensive iKKEGOL USB foot pedal, you need to have a PC in order to program the keyboard shortcuts into the pedal. Once done, you can then plug the pedal into your Mac and it will work perfectly after completing the steps below. If you don’t have access to a PC, then you might have to spring for the Kinesis pedal if you want foot control.

Create An Automator Document

  1. Open Automator and create a new document.
  2. For document type, choose “Quick Action”
  3. Set “Workflow receives” to “no input” in [select Ableton Live]

Record the Key Sequence

Once you’ve made those settings and with Ableton running, click the red “Record” button in Automator. Then:

  1. Click on Ableton to make the application active.
  2. Press the Delete key and then the Enter Key.
  3. Press stop recording for the Automator.
  4. Set the timeout to 0 seconds and the playback speed to 10x.
  5. You may need to delete the initial action of a mouse click if Automator recorded you clicking on Ableton to make it active. For the example of restarting a clip slot recording, what you should end up with is this:

Using Mac Automator with Ableton

NOTE: You can set the timeout and playback speed for each line in the recorded script. Meaning, if you set the first line in the example above to a timeout of 0 seconds, the second line (Press Return) will still be set to the default of 2 seconds – slowing down the overall playback of the action. Fine tune as needed.

Save the Key Sequence

In Automator go to File > Save… (I named mine Restart Clip Slot)

Apply the Keyboard Shortcuts

Your newly saved key sequence is now available as a menu item in Ableton: Live > Services which means you can apply a keyboard shortcut:

  1. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard.
  2. Choose the “Shortcuts” tab.
  3. Select “Services” in the left column.
  4. Scroll down and under “General” you’ll find your saved key sequence/new Ableton menu item.
  5. Apply a keyboard shortcut. (I used CTRL + SHFT + C)

Program the Foot Pedal

Again, this whole technique only works if you have a PC to plug the foot pedal into and assign the keyboard shortcut.

  1. Plug the foot pedal into your PC.
  2. Open the foot pedal app and apply the keyboard shortcut to one of the three pedals.