Your feet are your two most valuable, underused extremities for music. Your hands are busy, but your feet can trigger transport, recording, looping, different instruments … you get the idea. All you need is a perfect controller.

AlexMC on the Ableton forum liked our $10 DIY footcontroller for Ableton Live, as engineered by Mike Una. But he thought he could do better. So he takes the design from ghetto-fabulous in Mike’s previous iteration to dead-sexy.

The starting point is again a USB QWERTY keyboard, but now AlexMC takes the brains out (the PCB that handles input from keys and communication with the PC). Alex has copiously detailed, step-by-step instructions for soldering and assembly, along with circuit diagrams and specs for the case. There’s even still an LED attachment.

And because it all sends keystrokes, this is hugely useful in something like Ableton Live:

I now have 21 buttons, 20 of which send up to 40 unique outputs depending on the status of the BANK switch…

The main intended use will be to control REC, PLAY and STOP for each of 12 separate tracks in Live, leaving three switches for:
– CAPS (i.e. BANK)
– Stop/fade out all tracks
– Tap tempo/engage metronome

Of course I can dynamically re-assign any function during a Live session by activating the Key Mapping function – without stopping the music.

Sure beats a Boss looping pedal, doesn’t it?

DIY Ableton foot controller build thread!

Thanks to gbsr for sending this out way!

Previously (and with additional tips on key mapping):

Get loopy with the DIY $10 Ableton Footcontroller (no soldering required)

Elsewhere (and in a slightly more compact form factor, as that’s what that author desired):

Making Connections: Building a USB Footswitch [Cycling ’74]

  • Patrick

    Hmmmm I know what I am doing this weekend. Thanks!

  • peter

    "Sure beats a Boss looping pedal, doesn’t it?"

    Except in weight :p!

  • Michael Una

    I've been meaning to do this for a while. Beaten to the punch!

  • j250xor

    I made a smaller one of these a while ago for switching software guitar effects on and off. I used a USB numpad and soldered 4 switches onto the controller board. I also included a true bypass switcher in the box so I could connect the controller in line with all my hardware effects boxes and turn the computer routing on and off. I stole the power for the indicator LED from the USB numpad power.

  • gbsr

    im gonna build one. been doing some simpler ghetto versions for a while. also got myself an ugly piece of shit uc16 knobbox which im gonna put in the enclosure and fit 8 faders on it, route it through bomes miditranslator to a custom user remote script and use as a diy daw controller. never figured out the keyboard matrix thing though, glad this was posted. no wait.. very glad even. 😀

  • Mudo

    For Live 8 it is cool but not necessary…

    with 2 pedals you could go loopy.

  • gbsr

    @Mudo, youre missing the point. you can send any keystroke whatsoever to anyhting that you can map in live, not only use it as a looping station. this is just his personal preference. ill build one and use as a transport controller and a clip controller using this info. looper cant control global start/stop/record and/or arm tracks, can it? didnt think so. :p

    this can.

  • Chelfyn Baxter

    I wrote a tutorial to do the kid beyond thing from a MIDI source using BOMES midi controller, with very smooth interface and resampling. This would be a perfect controller for the job. details here:

  • Andrew Turley

    That's a good looking case. Just for comparison, Cycling '74 had a similar story a while back:

    Chelfyn and gbsr, I'm not a Live user so this may be a dumb question, but why do you map MIDI to keystrokes? Doesn't Live support MIDI mapping? I've encountered enough Live users who are hell bent on getting as many keyboard inputs as possible, so I assume I'm missing something.

  • Alex McGregor

    Give me a couple of days and I'll create a more coherent build guide as a PDF if anyone is interested. I glossed over a couple of bits in the thread on the Ableton Forum which I could expand on.


  • Basement Hum

    "Give me a couple of days and I’ll create a more coherent build guide as a PDF if anyone is interested."

    Hi Alex, I'm certainly interested in a more comprehensive guide. Thanks for your work so far.

  • clarity

    @ Andrew Turley – Live also supports assigning commands to your computer's keyboard. Handy if you've maxed out all available MIDI channels for various USB MIDI controllers.

    It's also handy to assign certain functions to the computer keyboard, e.g. numbers 1-8 for muting channels 1-8, and shift+1-8 for soloing channels 1-8.

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  • Stuart

    Found an old keyboard and made a smaller version using same idea. Good for those of us that prefer port to woodwork!

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  • suprunivka
  • Slim Mclean

    can anyone tell me if this basic idea, using an old usb keyboard re-purposed as a foot control would work for basic Transport controls in protools? And if so, when mapping the keys, is there a master switch for transport control of whatever track i currently have selected? i’m an upright bassist getting into home recording, and i’ve only been at it a few days, and i’ll tell ya, i’m sick of doing contortions to lean across my room to re queue and record enable with my laptop keyboard while keeping my bass in the proper position in relation to my condenser mic between takes. the way i see it, i’d only need controls for: Stop, Play, Record, Go To Zero (the transport control that takes you to the beginning of the track) and a Track up and Track down for selecting tracks. I’ve got an m-audio oxygen 61, but i don’t really want to put it on the floor, have to carefully press a key with my sweaty musician’s toe and worry about stomping the shit out of my brand new keyboard. any help would be great, thanks!