I really like MIDI editing in Live. Over time, I’ve developed a workflow for programming MIDI that is faster and smoother than I’ve ever achieved in any other environment.
I create a lot of parts by drawing them directly into the MIDI editor. In fact, I’ve made entire songs without ever touching a MIDI controller. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to play parts live to get a good feel – you just need to approach it differently. (I have nothing against playing parts – do it all the time!) Even when you do play your parts live, though, you’ll occasionally need to get into the editor to make some tweaks to the velocity.
Velocity is displayed two different ways in the MIDI editor. In a lane below the notes:
…and also by the color of the notes. Darker color means higher velocity:
Most people learn to edit note velocity by changing the height of the velocity markers in the velocity lane. The method for doing this varies slightly depending on whether or not you have Draw Mode enabled, but for most purposes I find this method a bit fussy. For most MIDI editing, I keep the velocity lane hidden. There’s a Fold switch in the lower left hand corner for doing this:
The trick to know here is that velocity editing can be done right in the note editor. When drawing in notes with the mouse, hold the mouse button down after the note appears in the editor. Before releasing it, drag vertically to change the note’s velocity. Sweet.
If you need to change a note’s velocity after the fact, float your mouse pointer over the note you want to change, then hold down Command(Mac) or Alt(PC). The pointer will change into a splitter tool, and a box will appear displaying the note’s velocity. Now click and hold the mouse button while dragging vertically to change the value. Both of these techniques work whether or not you are in Draw Mode.
I strongly recommend practicing these techniques until they are second nature. Not only are they fast, but hiding the velocity lane saves you precious screen real estate as well.