Q&A: How do I send notes from a MIDI file into a VST instrument using Ableton Live?

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Ableton Help, Ableton FAQ, MIDI, VST Plugin. Having trouble using MIDI files with Ableton Live? Do you want to use a MIDI file you downloaded from the internet within Ableton Live? Then read on. For this lesson you will need:

  • Ableton Live 4.0 (or newer)

Hi everyone, newbie here… I’m trying to load a MIDI file (eg. The Immigrant Song by Led Zep) and then use a guitar-based VST (Guitar Rig 3) to make the MIDI guitar sound like a real one. First, I drag the VST plugin over the MIDI guitar track, but no sound comes out. I’ve tried the same thing with Linplug’s Sax VST and it works. Any hints?

My sound device (Tascam UL-122L) is working correctly, by the way.

Thanks in advance,


Hi Phil,

Here are some ideas:

  1. Make sure that you can play notes using a MIDI keyboard through Guitar Rig. This will ensure that the problem lies with the MIDI file, and not Guitar Rig.
  2. Try changing each MIDI clips Program number to None. To do this:
    1. Click on a MIDI clip in Live
    2. In the Clip View, find the section labeled Notes.
    3. Click the drop-down box labeled Program. Change the value to None.
    4. Repeat for all MIDI clips.
  3. Guitar Rig responds to program change MIDI events, as well as other types of continuous controllers. You should disable all CC’s within each of your MIDI clips. To do this:
    1. Click on a MIDI clip in Live
    2. In the Clip View, click on the little E icon at the bottom left. It’s the icon to the right of the little music notes icon, underneath the Clip section. This icon toggles the Envelopes section.
    3. At the top of the Envelopes section you should see 2 drop-down boxes. The first one should say MIDI Ctrl. The next one will probably say Pitch Bend. Click on that drop-down box and look for any (Controller) envelopes that have a red box beside them. This means that they have automation.
    4. For each (Controller) envelope, select it. Then, go over to the clip view and right-click inside of it. A context-menu will appear. Select Clear Envelope from the context-menu.
    5. Repeat this process for each MIDI clip.

Happy Producing!

Matt Sonic