MIDI Effect For Ableton

I want to create a MIDI plugin for Ableton Live V10 on MacOSX using JUCE.

However, as far as I can see, it’s impossible, because:

  1. JUCE will only generate AU and VST3 plugins for Mac OSX (not VST2 (“VST”).
  2. AU plugins cannot be MIDI Effect plugins.
  3. Ableton Live V10 does not support VST3 plugins.

Q: Are the three statements above correct?
Q: Should I give up on JUCE for making MIDI Effect Plugins for Ableton Live on MacOSX?

Ross Williams

PS: I actually managed to build the tutorial project in:
and I generated an AU and got it working in Live, but Live thought it was an
audio effect and refused to put it before the instrument in the chain.

Juce can produce vst2 plugins for Mac. You simply cannot get a vst2 licence from Steinberg any more and the vst2 headers are no longer included with Juce. But they can still be found.

The only thing you can no longer do, is distribute vst2 plugins, unless you had a license prior to October 2018. If you don’t have the license but do not intend to distribute the plugin, there is nothing to stop you from building vst2 plugins with Juce. I compile vst2 plugins with Juce daily :slight_smile:

And about bullet 3: The first public beta of Ableton live 10.1 is out, which supports VST3 now.

About your second question, the problem is not JUCE, but the lagging behind of Ableton adopting VST3 versus Steinbergs forcing old VST out of the market.

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Thanks very much for this info. I’ll have a think about whether I want to go chase vst2 headers or wait for Ableton 10.1.

Thanks for this info. It’s very encouraging that Ableton actually has VST3 in beta!
I’ll have a think about what to do. Perhaps I will try the beta, or perhaps I will wait.


I just successfully downloaded and installed Ableton Live 10.1.b15 OSX and managed to get it to recognise my VST3 build, so that’s huge progress. Thanks!

But Ableton’s chain window still says “Drop Instrument Here” before the plugin, indicating that it thinks the plugin is an audio plugin, not a MIDI plugin. This seems surprising to me because the plugin I’m trying to build is MIDI
Is there a audio-vs-midi checklist I can look at to see what I might be doing wrong?


I haven’t used Ableton much, since I am more a mix engineer than a producer. But in Projucer there are the Plugin Characteristics, that you can adjust. That usually does the trick:

It might be, that you have to try different options to see, what Ableton expects. And then there is always the possibility, that this feature is not yet fully working. I remember, that many hosts just recently support midi to midi plugins.

So if I understand you right, you want Synth off, but Plugin MIDI Input, Plugin MIDI Output and MIDI Effect Plugin ticked…

Good luck


Thanks for your help. I managed to get it working, but only just. If I tick Plugin MIDI Input and Plugin MIDI Output and build a VST3, Ableton Beta will load it. It will consider it to be an audio effect though. I can get it to work as a midi plugin by putting it on track 1, and then creating track 2 and configuring it to read MIDI from track 1 Post-FX. So Ableton is treating it as an audio effect, but allowing it to output MIDI too!

However, if I tick the box “Midi Effect Plugin” in the Projucer, then Ableton won’t load it! It says
“Failed to create the VST3 plug-in “RossPluginMIDI”. The VST3 plug-in could not be opened.”
Annoyingly, Ableton provides no more detailed information than this.

So I’ve reached the point where yes, I can create a VST3 plugin that processes midi in Ableton, but I can;t configure it to be a pure MIDI plugin. Instead, I have to pretend that it’s an audio effect and configure two tracks to be able to use my plugin as a midi plugin.

So, PROGRESS, but it’s still very frustrating! I really want to create a pure MIDI plugin using JUCE!

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I believe this is a limitation of Ableton, and since you’re using the beta version it may be prudent to talk to the developers on their support forum to clarify the scope of their VST3 support.

Hey @rossw3 did you figure this out?

I solved this by discovering that Ableton was in the process of adding VST3 support to Ableton. I signed up for the Ableton beta programme and managed to get my hands on a beta version which supported VST3. So then I simply generated a VST3 plugin and it worked. Then Ableton released an official version with VST3 support. So it’s all good.

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Thanks @rossw3 !

I was mistaken! I just tried doing some JUCE development again and ran smack into this problem again. I actually Googled the error message and found my own error message on this page. :slight_smile: I thought that Ableton 10 had solved the problem, but it doesn’t seem to have.

I want to be able to create MIDI effect plugins that I can chain within a single effect chain. I don’t want to have to create a new track for each plugin I want to invoke. That would be nuts.

It’s my understanding that this is just how Ableton is designed - the only MIDI effects you can put in a track before an instrument are the internal ones. Anything else has to go on its own track, and have MIDI routed through it into an instrument track.

Hello everyone, I’ve been trying to do this routing with the MIDI Volume plugin from the 2nd plugintutorial, however I get MIDI as an input and audio as the output of the plugin, so I cannot route MIDI messages to any other MIDI track. Could anyone share the conguration in the projucer or how to route the output to any other MIDI track?
Thanks in advance

I’ve tried this with a trivial (pass through) VST3. Your VST3 has midi input and audio output. Insert this on one track (say track1). Insert the synth you want to receive the output of your VST on a second track (say track2). Then in track2’s input, select track1 as the source, and then in the box below that select your VST3 plugin instance. Sucks, but that seems to be by design in Ableton.

Anyone know if Live 11 will fix this? They’re already doing a lot to the way MIDI is handled, but it might just be wishful thinking.

Optimally you could insert several instruments plugins on a track. Each instrument plugin would pass their MIDI output to the next instrument plugin and all audio outputs of instrument plugins would be summed together at the end of the track (or before the first FX plugin in the track chain).

  • Jussi

I’m beta testing Live 11 and I was dissapointed to see that they haven’t implemented VST Midi Effect support. I wrote a suggestion on the beta forum for it, feel free to upvote if you are beta testing as well. :slight_smile: Maybe they’ll implement it some day…