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Top 5 TDAbleton Components for Beginners in TouchDesigner

One of the most significant thrills when starting your TouchDesigner journey is discovering how effortless it is to access linking capabilities between virtually any modern software and TouchDesigner. Now, if you are a producer, or an audiovisual artist, and you’ve been working with Ableton Live and TouchDesigner (possibly separately,) it is time to step up your game and discover the capabilities offered by the TDAbleton components in TouchDesigner.

Before starting

First off let’s keep in mind that Elburz has provided us with a lesson on how to unlock the power of TDAbleton in our beloved software. 

If you are completely new to this tool, or want to refresh your knowledge, I highly recommend getting started off with this tutorial, since it will guide you through the installation and navigation of TDAbleton. Here is the link:

Now, it is important to acknowledge that the connection between Ableton Live and TouchDesigner, albeit completely seamless, offers a vast myriad of possibilities, which can be overwhelming to the beginner mind. That’s why in this post we’ll discuss the top 5 TDAbleton components available to get you started with your joint projects of TouchDesigner and Ableton Live. Let’s get started!

TDAbleton Package

This is the component where all the magic begins, and this will be the starting point for basic actions such as installing TDAbleton, depending on what version of Ableton Live is available on your computer, or simply making sure that the connection between TouchDesigner and Ableton Live is up and running. 

I would recommend not underestimating the importance of this starting point, since it is possible that any problems and troubleshooting will take place within this component’s features. 

Something worth pointing out is that the connection between software is accomplished through the use of the OSC protocol. And, since this protocol uses UDP/IP (IP addresses,) and Ethernet, it is possible to imagine settings where TouchDesigner and Ableton Live are running in separate computers. This can come in handy when putting together complex and massive installations.

TDAbleton Components TouchDesigner

Remember that the ideal workflow with this tool is to copy the TDAbleton components we want to use, which are contained within Package, and build a customized network with the selection we have made. 

If you have trouble with networking and ports, this series can help you troubleshoot those:

Now, let’s look at the most useful TDAbleton components for beginners, and some of their capabilities.

Ableton Song

Without a doubt this component offers us the most comprehensive view of the data that is flowing between TouchDesigner and Ableton Live.

In this component you will have access to information of the Live Set you are currently working on. This includes valuable data such as Timeline (Tempo, Play status, Bars and Beats,) and general information pertaining to the current status of your Set.

It is through this component that you will begin referencing channel information in order to affect parameters in your TouchDesigner project.

TDAbleton Components TouchDesigner

In this example I am using the Beat information from my Live Set to rotate a rectangle.

TDAbleton Components TouchDesigner

Ableton Track

Now, if you want to move into a less general view of your Ableton Live Set, and start referencing more particular information, then the Track component is a great starting point. Here it is possible to access data pertaining to individual tracks in your Set. This means that, if with the Ableton Song you had overall control and access of your Set’s information, you will now have a specialized view of the tracks and the clips available in these. You will also have access to playhead position, loop points and clip playback information.

TDAbleton Components TouchDesigner

In this example I am using an LFO within TouchDesigner to modify a rectangle’s position on the X-axis. Additionally, this is also controlling a track’s panning in my Live Set.

TDAbleton Components TouchDesigner

Ableton Device Parameters

If you have more complex arrangements in your Live Set, and are working with the use of Drum or Instrument racks, it is possible you are making use of Macro parameters. In this case the Device Parameters component will give you access to these nested chains and macros in Ableton Live, allowing you to map or intervene on both TouchDesigner and Ableton Live.

TDAbleton Components TouchDesigner

In this example I am using a Pitch Macro parameter to control the size of a circle in TouchDesigner.

TDAbleton Components TouchDesigner

Ableton MIDI

As you can imagine, one of the most important tools in Ableton Live is the use of MIDI data. And it would be a shame if we didn’t have access to the information this protocol provides. Through this component you are able to access data pertaining to the MIDI events (both input and output) taking place in your Ableton Set. This includes data such as Notes, and Control and Program messages.

If you are big in programming complex MIDI sequences then this is a component you cannot miss!

TDAbleton Components TouchDesigner

Keep in mind that when using the MIDI component it is necessary to add a Max For Live device in the track you want to link. But fret not; you can do this with the Add TDA MIDI Device pulse button within the MIDI component. Once you’ve done this channel information should begin flowing! 

In this example I am using a Kick MIDI signal from Ableton Live to modify the brightness of a circle in TouchDesigner.

TDAbleton Components TouchDesigner

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These templates shed light into the most useful and sometimes obtuse features of TouchDesigner.

They’re designed to be immediately applicable for the complete TouchDesigner beginner, while also providing inspiration for the advanced user.

Ableton Level

This component provides information pertaining to volume levels within your Ableton Set. Now, these level inputs can be configured to source either from separate tracks, or from the master channel, which gives you the possibility to have either specific or general level data overview of your ongoing project. It is a simple yet powerful tool to be considered when referencing channel information in TouchDesigner, so don’t let it be overlooked!

TDAbleton Components TouchDesigner

In this example I am using three separate Level components to map volume levels from Ableton Live and modifying RGB values with a Level TOP in TouchDesigner.

Derivative Resources

Remember that the Derivative website provides us with most of the information we need in order to understand these TDAbleton components and tools, so when in doubt, please make your way to the user guides provided. Here is a link to the TDAbleton components guide:

Wrap Up

As you can see, the possibilities offered by the TDAbleton tool in TouchDesigner are vast. My suggestion is to try and not be overwhelmed by these, as well as not attempting to link and reference all of Ableton Live’s information all at once, but to take the time to understand the roles that each component fulfills, and slowly make your way up to more complex and intricate communication between the two software.

On that note, I can’t wait to see what new techniques you develop to link these two amazing software. Please share with us your results and doubts through our social media channels! Here at the HQ we are eager to see what adventures you endeavor on with TouchDesigner and Ableton Live!