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Scale Guide

for Ableton Live
  • Avoid "wrong notes" in your songs
  • Makes your standard MIDI keyboard easy to play
  • "Penta Scale button" brings in new melodic and harmonic ideas
  • Useful in all kinds of electronic music

How to

Step 1: Find your keynote/tonic

Step 2: Choose the "mood" that fits your song

Step 3: Drag and drop the right Scale Guide preset to your MIDI tracks

Changing the mood of a song

Install Scale Guide

Download the file 'Scale Guide' here.

Unzip the file, and you'll have a new folder called "Scale Guide vx.x.x.x", that contains 60 presets.

This folder should be moved into this folder:

  • on PC: user/Documents/Ableton/User Library/Presets/MIDI Effects/
  • on MAC: user/Music/Ableton/User Library/Presets/MIDI Effects/

Find the keynote

The keynote (tonic) is the most important note in a song. If you allready have recorded or programmed the bass track, the keynote will be the note the bass is playing at the first beat of the bar.

Keynote example
F# is the keynote/tonic in this bass clip

If you don't have a bass track yet, just pick a random keynote, and be sure to make the bass start at this note. If you are working on an ep or an album, choose different keynotes for the songs to get tonal variation.


Normally when you record or program music in Ableton Live, the chromatic scale (all 12 tones) is available. This can be pretty confusing, because music often uses a heptatonic scale (only 7 tones).

Scale Guide offers you five different seven-tone "moods": AQUA, BLUE, DARK, JOYFUL and SOULFUL. Just select the "mood" that best supports the atmosphere you want to expose to your song.

Listen to the five moods here:

Drag and drop the right preset

You'll find the Scale Guide presets in Ableton Lives browser, click
User Library, Presets, MIDI Effects

By knowing your keynote and the desired Mood, it's easy to find the right preset, because it's named
"keynote MOOD"

Example: If your keynote is A# and the desired Mood is SOULFUL, you need the preset
A# SOULFUL - Bb Lydian

The last part of the name "Bb Lydian" is the correct music theory name of the scale that corresponds to your Mood. It may be good to know, if you cooperate with a musician who asks you for "the key of the song?"

Be sure to drag and drop your preset on all MIDI tracks that use notes. I.e. anything other than beats and noise.

Changing recorded and programmed notes

If you look in the MIDI Note Editor, you may see notes that does not belong to your Mood. But don't worry, the Scale Guide preset will change these notes to nearby notes from the right scale/Mood.

Playing the MIDI keyboard

This is a really nice feature! Scale guide turns all your white keys into the right scale. Now it's easy to be creative.

If you are an accomplished keyboard player with music theoretical knowledge, it is so smart that you can also play the right scale with the proper keys. For example a C natural minor scale can be played on the white keys, but also by using the keys Eb, Ab and Bb. Unfortunately there are five Moods, marked "wk" where this could not be done. You can only use the white keys in these Moods.

The Penta Scale button

The Penta Scale button
The Penta Scale button

This button has five positions. Set to "Off", it delivers the selected seven-notes Mood. The other four positions are four different ways to limit your Mood to five tones, called pentatonic scales.

Sticking to five tones is not really a limitation, since the exclusion of tones actually creates a sound that is new, but still fits your Mood.

Try out the pentatonic scales, and listen to the exiting results!

Important! This button should always be set to "Off" on bass tracks, cause in some of the other positions it will remove the (for the bass important) keynotes.

When the button is in position 1, 2, 3 or 4 and you want to play on your MIDI keyboard, you should instead use the black keys. Easy and simple :-)