Ableton Push — hardware to harness Live 9

Like Native Instruments before it, the day had to come when Ableton made their own hardware. Granted, they’ve had loose partnerships with Akai via the APC range, and Novation with the Launchpad, but now the perfectly named Push is here. And it’s everything you’d expect it to be.

It’s still an Akai made unit, but designed by Ableton specifically to make Live 9 easier to use. But first the official words:


Ableton presents a new hardware instrument designed to solve an old problem:how to make a song from scratch.

Push provides direct, hands-on control of melody and harmony, beats, sounds and structure, powered by Ableton Live running on your computer. High-quality, dynamic pads, buttons, encoders and display combined with an innovative workflow allow you to play and compose musical ideas without the need to look at or touch your computer, and more importantly, without interrupting the musical flow.

The most important features at a glance:

  • Play and sequence beats: Push’s 64 velocity- and pressure-sensitive multi-color pads can be used to play, step sequence, and navigate within rhythm patterns – all at the same time. The 11 touch-sensitive endless encoders can control device parameters, adjust velocity, nudge timing and more.
  • Play melodies and chords in a new way: Push “folds” a keyboard’s worth of notes into its 64 pads, with different pad colors showing the key center and other notes in the key. This allows you to play in every key using the same finger patterns, move between keys at the touch of a button, and explore new harmonies and phrases.
  • Improvise with song structure:  Push expands the scope of creation with its unique workflow. Using just a few buttons to trigger clips, overdub notes, move between song materials and variations lets Ableton Live itself become an intuitively playable instrument.
  • Move smoothly from creation to arrangement: Push offers both the inspiring instrument to start creating music, and the full-featured software to finish off a track. Everything created with Push is laid out in Ableton Live on your computer – ready for fine-tuning, arrangement and export.
  • Includes Ableton Live 9: Push includes Ableton Live 9 Intro and works with any edition of Ableton Live 9 (Intro, Standard, Suite). All the included instruments, effects and sounds, as well as your own libraries, are ready to be played, tweaked, and personalized.
  • Designed by Ableton, built by Akai Professional: Utilizing Akai Pro’s long-standing expertise in the field of pad controllers, Push features 64 pressure and velocity-sensitive RGB (multi-colored) pads with an adaptive layout and a touch strip with 24 LEDs for pitch bending or navigating through a Drum Rack. The 11 touch-sensitive encoders and LCD display adapt dynamically to control and show active parameters.
  • Fits inside a backpack alongside a laptop: Push is 370 mm / 14.57 inches wide, 293 mm / 11.54 inches deep and is 46 mm / 1.81 inches in height (including encoders) and weighs 2990g / 6.59 pounds. Backside connections are a USB port, power adaptor input and two assignable footswitch inputs. (Push is USB-powered, the brightness of the display and LEDs can be increased by using the included power supply).
  • Push cover: An optional steel cover doubles as a sturdy, angled stand for performance.

Pricing and availability

Push will be available in the first quarter of 2013 for USD 599 / EUR 499.

Push includes Ableton Live 9 Intro and works with any edition of Ableton Live 9 (Intro, Standard, Suite).

Bundle upgrade discounts will be available for owners of previous versions of Live.

More information, including a video tour of Push:

Jump to 28:00 to start the Ableton Push section.

Now, to get one incredibly obvious thing out of the way first. I’m fairly sure that everyone’s first impression was that Ableton are “paying homage to” NI’s Maschine. After all, it’s a big box full of RGB buttons and a screens designed to be hit and performed on. But for me, it is nothing more than a physical similarity. Live has been around for years before Maschine was even an idea in a sketchbook, as have pad based controllers for it too. I have no doubt however that Maschine buyers now have something else to think about spending their money one.

I guess because I see Live as more production than DJ, for me Push is a different beast to Maschine anyway. This is a lot less MPC 4×4 pad bashing, and a lot more about specifically harnessing the power of Live in the studio and also making it work in a performance sense too. I love how the 8×8 matrix can be broken up into sections, and also how the pads are velocity and pressure sensitive too. But I expect that more experienced users of such things will be finding a lot more to get the adrenaline pumping.

Ableton Push hardware instrument (6)

The one thing that did pop out was how Push was being proposed as a real keyboard alternative – and very logically as well. I’m all for looking at how things are done conventionally as coming up with new ways of doing things, and Dennis DeSantis certainly seemed to do a lot to convince me with my big palms and little fingers that Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” sounded good on a box of pads. Still not as cool as being able to do it on a piano though, but it does underline Ableton’s proposal that Push is indeed an instrument rather than a groove box.

It’ll be interesting to see how tied to Live Push is. Will there be things it can’t do outside of Live? Is it just another big MIDI controller if used with anything else? If NI open up the Remix Decks for mapping, could Push be a serious box of buttons that could make the Remix Decks even more powerful? That would be the sweetest irony of all.



  • Yes. I use the APC keys as a keyboard more often than I use the keys on my APC. So I can see this.

  • Rhakka

    I love that it comes setup, right out of the box, to not only do step sequencing, but switch between step sequencing and other modes, while performing.

    I’m kinda hoping I can just setup my APC to do kind of the same, with it being a software feature. Maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough for articles on how to setup a controller in that way, but I haven’t even found any videos of people using their launchpad in that way. It’s always using it as either one thing or the other, never switching between modes while performing.

    I’m kind of surprised that I haven’t seen more people using similar controllers as a keyboard, though, with the ability to create their own scales, marking each octave with a different colored button.

    If anything, the Push videos were more inspirational, than making me really want to buy the new hardware. Unless, of course, we come back to the mode switching being linked to the hardware, not the software. 😉

  • coke

    Ableton demo songs are the worst

    • nomiS

      agree 🙂

  • Damn, that Audio to MIDI is awesome.
    Love the Push too.
    I wonder if NI will counter?

  • Push’s touch strip, browser, aftertouch and note repeaters all look awesome, but I’m the most excited about simultaneous modes, and pad colors that mirror their corresponding clips. Hacking my Launchpad to support multiple simultaneous modes was a huge pain (involving heavy MIDI hacking), and I’m excited that Push will support it natively!

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