Bezier Curves in Ableton Live 9

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Curved automation envelopes were a highly anticipated feature of Ableton Live 9. Unfortunately, the reality didn’t totally live up to the expectation: instead of allowing customizable bezier-style curves, Live 9 limits you a single pre-configured automation curve style. Fortunately, because Max for Live comes included with Live 9, you can use a third-party Max device called Mapulator to work around this limitation and create customized bezier automation curves. This technique also works in Live 8, assuming of course that you have Max for Live installed.

Download and install Mapulator from the Max for Live device library. Make sure your copy of Max for Live is updated to the latest version. Launch Ableton and install the Mapulator device, then drop Mapulator onto the channel to which you want to add curved automation.

Click the parameter control that you want to automate (the cutoff frequency on an Auto Filter plugin, for example), then click the “Learn” button in Mapulator. This maps the parameter to Mapulator’s X/Y control pad. Click the bottom-left corner of the X/Y section to create an automation point, then click the upper-right corner to create a diagonal line connecting two points.

Holding the “Ctrl” key, click and hold one of the points you created, then drag up or down to create a curve. Move the mouse left or right to change the slope of the curve. When you have the curve that you want to use, right-click the “Smart” knob in the Mapulator window. Select “Show Automation in New Lane.” Draw an automation line on the channel; when you play back the channel, the automated parameter will follow the Mapulator curve rather than the straight line.

You can make more complex curves by adding additional points to Mapulator’s X/Y pad, then Ctrl-dragging them to bend the lines (use Ctrl+Shift to create a symmetrical curve). If you want to use the same automation curve for a second parameter (like the resonance control on the filter), duplicate the Mapulator device, click the second parameter, and click “Learn” again. The first device’s curve design will be preserved in the second device. You can also use Mapulator to automate parameters on VST instruments and effects: just add a slider for the parameter to the synth’s device box using the “Configure” button, then tell Mapulator to control the slider’s position.

James Podles is the creator of Producer Tools, the ultimate mobile app for EDM producers. Read more of his tutorials at