Importing and Exporting MIDI with Ableton Live

The Ableton Live 9 User Manual (section 5.3) is notably terse in explaining how to import and export MIDI files. Actually, it doesn’t explain how to import a MIDI file at all.  While it does (sort of) explain how to export a MIDI file, it leaves out an important detail.

How to Import a MIDI File

  1. Begin with a MIDI file in SMF0 or SMF1 format.
  2. Put the MIDI file in a folder defined in the Ableton Live Browser (or add the folder to the Browser).
  3. Click on the folder name in the Browser. The name of the MIDI file should appear in the Browser’s “Name” pane.
  4. Toggle to Session View.
  5. Drag the MIDI file onto the Session View. A “ghost” of each track in the MIDI file will appear as the mouse hovers over the Session View. When you release the mouse button, Ableton will create a track for each track in the MIDI file.
  6. Assign instruments to each track as appropriate.

How to Export a MIDI File

The User Manual (as well as this Help article) fails to mention that Ableton Live can only export individual MIDI clips from a single track. There is no way to export multiple tracks into a single MIDI file.

  1. Select a given clip in a track.
  2. Select File > Export MIDI Clip… (or press Ctrl+Shift+E). The file name will default to the name of the clip.
  3. Navigate the folder you want to save the file in and click Save.