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Native Instruments Tutorial: Using the Traktor Kontrol Z1 as a MIDI controller and audio interface with Ableton Live

From Native Instruments:

This article provides step-by-step instructions on how to set up the TRAKTOR KONTROL Z1 as a MIDI controller and Audio Interface with Ableton Live. In our example, the TRAKTOR KONTROL Z1 is used to control an Ableton Live Set which resembles a basic two channel DJ Setup with DJ-style mixing functions.

The TRAKTOR KONTROL Z1 automatically switches to MIDI mode when TRAKTOR PRO 2 is not running. In this state, you can use it with any software supporting MIDI control without further settings on the device itself. When MIDI mode is active, the MODE and Cue A and B buttons on the Z1 are lit white and blue respectively:
Z1 MIDI Mode
The Z1 automatically switches to our own proprietary NHL mode when TRAKTOR PRO 2 is started on the computer In this case, it does not send any MIDI messages. If you want to switch to MIDI mode while TRAKTOR is running, for example when using it side-by-side with another program, please follow the instructions under Optional: Enabling the MIDI Mode in TRAKTOR PRO 2 below.

GENERAL SETTINGS IN ABLETON LIVE

These steps establish the connection between Ableton Live and the TRAKTOR KONTROL Z1 and set up the audio routing for standard DJ-style prelistening.

  1. Open the Live Preferences and go to the MIDI / Sync tab.
  2. Activate the Remote button for both the Traktor Kontrol Z1 Input and the Traktor Kontrol Z1 Output.
    Midi Settings
  3. Go to the Audio tab in the Preferences and select Traktor Kontrol Z1 (0 In, 4 Out) as your Audio Output Device.
  4. Click on Output Config under Channel Configuration in the Audio Preferences.
  5. Activate all outputs as shown in the below screenshot.
  6. Close the Preferences and go to Live’s Session View.
  7. Open the I-O settings by clicking the corresponding button on the right edge of Live’s Session View.
  8. Select the output 1/2 as your Master Out and and 3/4 as your Cue Out.
  9. Click on the Solo / Cue mode button until it shows Cue to activate DJ-style prelistening via the Solo / Cue buttons of each channel.
    Master Routing

SETTING UP A SUITABLE ABLETON LIVE SET

Before starting to assign the control elements of the TRAKTOR KONTROL Z1 to parameters in Ableton Live, we’ve set up a Live Set resembling a basic two channel DJ-Setup as shown in the screenshot below.

The Set consists of the following tracks, effects and settings:

  • Two Audio tracks where you can put in your music files.
  • The Ableton Audio Effects UtilityEQ Three and Auto Filter are added to both Audio tracks in order to accomplish typical DJ-style mixing functions like channel gain, Kill-EQs and a Filter.Note: The EQ Three only offers 6 dB of positive gain for each band, which is uncommon for DJ-style mixing. Additionally, the center position of the TRAKTOR KONTROL Z1 controls do not match 0 dB gain of the EQ bands. This behaviour is very different from normal DJ-mixers. If you want to set up a more suitable DJ-style EQ, we recommend to use the EQ Eight Audio Effect in Ableton Live. Since the setup with this EQ is more complicated, we are using the EQ Three in this guide.
  • The Crossfader function is enabled via the X button on the right edge of the Session view and assigned to the twoAudio tracks via the A and B assignment buttons respectively.

You can get an overview over the Set in the below screenshot.

DJ Setup

MAPPING THE MIDI CONTROLS

The following steps describe how to map the Z1 controls to parameters in your Ableton Live Set:

  1. Enter the MIDI Mapping mode by clicking on the MIDI button in the upper right corner.
  2. Click on a function you want to assign, for example the volume fader of the first Audio track. It is highlighted around the corners.
  3. Move the control element of your choice on the TRAKTOR KONTROL Z1. In our example, we use the left channel fader.
  4. The controller number of the chosen control element shows up above the function in Ableton Live when the mapping has been successfully set in place.
    Assigning MIDI
  5. Repeat the above steps for all functions you want to assign.
  6. While MIDI Mapping mode is active, you can see a list of all mappings in the Browser area on the left side of the screen. The below screenshot shows all mappings in our example Live Set.Note: In our example, some of the control ranges are adjusted with the Min and Max settings in order to get more usable results in the DJ-context. For example, the Gain settings are limited to -12.0 dB and 12.0 dB just like the Gain control in TRAKTOR.
    MIDI Mappings
  7. When you are done with the mappings, click the MIDI button again to leave the MIDI Assignment mode.
  8. You can now control your Live Set with the TRAKTOR KONTROL Z1.

Find the complete Ableton Set including our example mappings in the file “Z1 Ableton DJ Setup.zip”, which is attached to this article below. It has been created in and is compatible with Ableton Live 9.0.4.

Note: Native Instruments does not offer support nor can be held responsible for issues which arise from the use of this Live Set. For more information about Live and the MIDI Mapping mode, please refer to the Ableton documentation.

OPTIONAL: ENABLING THE MIDI MODE IN TRAKTOR PRO 2

The MIDI mode of the TRAKTOR KONTROL Z1 needs to be activated from within TRAKTOR PRO 2 if you want to use it while the program is running. Make sure to use version 2.6.2 or higher for this.

  1. Open TRAKTOR PRO 2 and go to the Preferences.
  2. Within the TRAKTOR KONTROL Z1 preferences section, check the Enable MIDI mode via Mode + Cues option.
  3. Close the Preferences and shut down TRAKTOR.
  4. To activate MIDI mode on the Z1 while TRAKTOR is running, press MODE and both the A & B headphone cues on the Z1 at the same time.
  5. The Z1 now operates as a standard MIDI controller and does not control the default functions in TRAKTOR any more.

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