Exporting to Ableton Live 11

I’m using 64-bit WIndows 10 + latest builds of Dorico 5 & Ableton Live 11.

I’m trying to export a complex composition – 16 minutes long, 11 players, additive meters, etc. – from Dorico into Ableton Live. The goal is to add a live percussion part in Ableton, using an Ableton drum kit, and then master the piece in Ableton.

Ideally, I’d do this by exporting each Dorico player to Live as a discrete audio file.

However, so far, we can’t even get a stereo mixdownto import into Ableton correctly. We’ve correctly specified sample rates, etc., in Ableton, but the file still arrives in Ableton with incorrect parameters, like tempo, bar boundaries, or meters. No matter what I or my collaborators (one of whom is a very experienced Ableton user) try, Ableton simply can’t find the information it needs in the Dorico audio output.

This piece has been meticulously arranged in Dorico, using score notation and NotePerformer , so I can’t export a MIDI version to Ableton for obvious reasons.

Has anybody successfully accomplished this seemingly straightforward task in the past? We’ve tried everything we can think of and a deadline is looming. Ableton Support has not yet responded to my help requests, but in the past, it’s responded to other queries with the statement that Steinberg will only help with bug fixes, not “usability” problems.

To put this into perspective, despite being relatively new to Ableton, I have decades of experience with music software, going back to Intelligent Music’s M/PC and the original beta version of Finale. If this was an easy problem, I wouldn’t be begging for help here. I’m out of ideas.

Thank you for any insight you can provide.

Apologies for being ignorant. But what file format contains “tempo, bar boundary and meter data” other than MIDI? Surely a wav or similar just encodes frequencies and time?

I’m not the Ableton expert doing the importing, so I hesitate to speculate based on my basic-black Ableton knowledge. But if you put a gun to my head, I’d guess that you give Ableton basic information about the imported audio file & it figures out the rest. I know that you do have to specify parameters like sample rate in order for the program to accurately infer tempo.

If you’re curious, why don’t you check out the Steinberg forum & let me know what you find? At this point, any new information could be helpful.


Yet you appear to blame Dorico for how it exports audio…

My understanding is that Dorico exports wav/mp3/flac files that will be imported into Ableton as Audio (a format has no knowledge of tempo or barlines etc.)

Sorry - I’m not that curious.

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Janus, every single time I post a question on this forum, you reply with no useful information and then try to pick a fight. I’ve asked you in the past not to reply to my postings. Please respect that. Thank you.

I’m sorry I can’t provide more useful information, but I’m certainly not trying to pick a fight. What I offer is done in good faith.

I’m sure there are many others more expert than me in this area, but so far none has offered you an opinion.

All I suggested was that wav/mp3 files do not encode the information you require.

There is a format that does encode additional information, specifically a “broadcast wave”. This format is largely meant for film and TV scoring, and adds the start timecode to an exported sound so that when imported into a video project it will have the correct start time and will appear there instead of at the current cursor position or the beginning of the project. Cubase supports exporting this broadcast wave chunk, and it appears Dorico is also able to export this by checking the “Broadcast wave” check box in the audio export window.

However to my knowledge this really just contains the start timecode value and is really only meant for synchronization with video or some other timecode source.

Use of this format shouldn’t be necessary at all though for the situation described. You would export the individual instruments one at a time from Dorico as different files that were all the full length of the entire piece. If it is a 16 minute piece exactly, every single track exported should be exactly 16 minutes plus the 2 seconds or whatever that you have allocated for the reverb tail. When placing all tracks with 16:02 length to start at the same spot in whatever DAW, they should maintain exact synchronization throughout. I cannot think of any way that you could end up with 11 tracks of the exact same length that somehow fall out of synchronization with each other.

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After re-reading the original post, this jumps out and I should have addressed it in my previous message:

WAV files themselves contain no detail on tempo, meter, or where bar lines fall. What should happen is you would create a new project in your DAW (Ableton or whatever) which will probably default to 4/4 time and 120 bpm. When you import any WAV file containing music, it will import, and the entire project will still be 4/4 time and 120 bpm or whatever, and the bar lines of the 4/4 and 120bpm probably won’t match up with the imported audio unless by chance that it was in 4/4 throughout at 120bpm throughout. It would be the same as if you just imported a recording of someone talking, or a rainstorm - the 4/4 120bpm DAW default tempo and time signature is not likely to have any relation to the rhythm that the person is speaking at or that the rain is falling at. The fact that the bar lines and tempo are completely wrong generally don’t matter for things like mastering as at this point you are just working with the audio, so it doesn’t matter if the bar lines, tempo and meter don’t match up with what you have in the project.

But what you are describing seems different - “incorrect parameters”, not “missing parameters”. Although I don’t use Ableton, it might be that there is a function in Ableton to perform an audio analysis of a WAV being imported to try to “find the beats” in the WAV file by listening for transients from sources like drum kit hits and automatically add meter changes and tempo changes and bar lines based on where it finds the beats. But such functions are really just meant for pop/dance music with very predictable and regular beats. If you are using things like additive meter, there is no way an automated analysis could listen to the sound and accurately hear what the meter and tempo is. It would get most things completely wrong, which sounds like what is happening to you.

So instead what I would do is turn off this automated analysis function in Ableton so that the whole thing just imports into a default 4/4 120bpm project file, without trying to add its own meter changes and tempo changes. It will still be completely wrong in terms of where the bar lines are, but at least it won’t have wrong and confusing tempo changes and meter changes.

You can’t import a MIDI file into Ableton from Dorico to provide an audio rendition of the composition if you’re using NotePerformer, but you could import a MIDI file to provide the missing parameters like tempo, bar boundaries, and meters. Just delete the MIDI tracks in Ableton after you import the MIDI file and work with the audio tracks imported from Dorico instead.


If you need the tempo changes and bar lines and meter changes from Dorico in Ableton, yes you would transfer it over via MIDI. This is the way you normally transfer audio with bar/beat/tempo/time signature information from one DAW to another - transferring the MIDI tempo track first, followed by the audio files - because audio files themselves do not contain this information.

This can either be done with a regular MIDI export as you say, and delete the notes after the import into Ableton, or by doing a “Tempo Track” export from Dorico, which exports a MIDI file with only the tempo and time signature changes and no notes.

I’ve never tried this process with Dorico, so one thing to watch out for is that it is possible that an exported WAV file from Dorico may not start exactly at the same instant as this Tempo Track, if Dorico adds any extra silence at the beginning of the exported audio. If this is the case, the audio export may still have to be shifted back by a tiny amount to match up exactly with the clicks in Ableton, but after being shifted to coincide with the clicks, it should maintain synchronization.

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I do two things when exporting to Ableton:

  1. In Preferences > Record/Warp/Launch > Turn off Auto-Warp Long Samples

  2. In Dorico, export a MIDI file (not Tempo Track) and import that into Ableton, then select “Yes” when it asks "Import tempo and time signature data into Arrangement?

I just did it and it worked almost perfectly, towards the end of the score it added a tempo change and a time signature that I had to delete, but apart from that, all the other changes in tempo and time signatures appeared correctly, and it was completely synchronized with the audio files exported from Dorico

Importing a Tempo Track doesn’t work in Ableton? I believe it is supposed to be just a MIDI file with tempo changes and time signature changes but no notes, so I am surprised if this doesn’t work.

When you try to import a Tempo Track into Ableton, you just get a “No Entry / Ghostbusters” sign. It also can’t export a Tempo Map

What is strange is that if I import the MIDI file into an empty project, I’ll get all the staves, but if there are other audio files, then only the first stave is imported

Interesting - good to know for future reference. Thanks. This must be some weird limitation specific to Ableton. I’m able to open up this tempo map in other software and it is seen as a valid MIDI file, just with no notes.

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Yeah, I’m assuming it’s an Ableton limitation too. I love to use it for making electronic/experimental stuff, but for other stuff (like film music), I prefer to use Cubase

Most of the issue is being created by the need for collaborators to be able to add live parts to my through-composed score. Those people each have their own way of working and their own software, so I need to try to make this as friendly as possible.

I had speculated last night about the idea of importing a MIDI track into Ableton and using its embedded tempo & time signature information to format an Ableton project that understands meter changes – and then import audio files into that project where, theoretically, Ableton (& its metronome) would know where to place bar lines & beats.

But I personally had no idea whether that would work. This morning, I find that several of you suggested the same thing, along with advice re: how to do something like that. So I’ll try that idea today & let everybody know how well it works.

To be honest, it sounds too easy…

One related question: I see that Dorico’s tempo maps contain the data I’d need to provide Ableton. Is there any way to export a tempo map to a third-party application (not merely apply it to a different Dorico flow)?

From Dorico: File/Export/Tempo Track…
If I drag the produced midi file to a project in Cubase (in a Tempo track), it recognize it and writes all the tempi correctly. I don’t know if Ableton is able to read it.

As I said above, the regular tempo map is just a MIDI file with no notes, so it should work any application. It is meant to work in third party applications, and I can use these Dorico tempo maps successfully in Cubase, Digital Performer, and Pro Tools (I have tested all three personally). From what I can tell, these tempo maps work in every single DAW and other third party program out there except Ableton Live, for some stupid reason. My best guess is that Ableton sees a MIDI file with no notes in it and freaks out, not knowing what to do with a MIDI file with no notes for some reason. You’ll have to try to get Ableton to fix this issue as this seems to be a really dumb limitation.

This was a surprise: Ableton won’t recognize the tempo maps created by Dorico. I believe that this is the reason why:

" Note: the must include a MIDI note, or group of notes which span the entire length of the tempo changes. This screenshot shows a section of time in Pro Tools with tempo changes, and a MIDI note spanning the length of the tempo changes."