Polyend Play with Ableton Live - drum rack for live performance


I’m hoping someone can help me.

I just purchased a Polyend Play. I bought it to use solely in MIDI mode, with the intention to control a drum rack in Ableton Live for live performance. I like the idea of being able to access and see eight drum/percussion instruments at once, without having to push other buttons to view or access their sequence (this is something you have to do, for example, on a Launchpad, Ableton Push, Maschine, etc).

Here’s my problem (apologies if this has already been discussed/answered):

I was under the impression that I could save a note to each pad. For example, the first row/lane of 16 pads could all be note C1 and when pressed would trigger the kick drum. The second row of pads could all be A#1 and trigger the hi-hat, and so on and so forth. This would enable me to have complete control over 8 different percs and punch in the pads to active or deactivate on the fly.

However, the Polyend Play doesn’t work this way, because when I trigger a kick drum within a sequence then move to the row of hi-hats to trigger a hi-hat the hi-hat note which was A#1 now becomes C1 and therefore the kick drum is triggered in the hi-hat lane.

Am I missing something? Are there any work-arounds for this? I hope this makes sense and I hope someone can assist me.

Thank you.

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Hey @JMC81 and welcome to Backstage :partying_face:

What you are trying to achieve is absolutely possible.
But there might be a tiny bit of confusion as to how the Play sets its steps here :blush:

When you press a pad, it will be set to whatever values are currently in the Plays memory.

For example:

  • Without pressing a pad
  • You set your note to C1 via the Note Knob
  • Every subsequent step/pad you press will be set to C1

and when you

  • Set your note to A#1 without pressing a pad
  • Every subsequent step/pad you press will be set to A#1

There is however a quick copy functionality - if you long press on a pad, you may have noticed it blinking. What that means is that it has copied the values of that step into it’s memory and every next pad you press will have the same values.


  • If you long press a C1 Pad and the pad blinks (meaning it was copied)
  • Every subsequent step/pad you press will be a C1 again

I’m guessing this is what is happening here. Unless i misunderstood what you are trying to do.
Let me know and i hope this helps :blush:

Hi @Sandroid, thank you for your reply, I appreciate it! :grinning:

Yes, I understand that you can hold the pad to copy/paste, however, I was hoping that I could store or lock the note(s) to the pad(s) (as opposed to long pressing it each time), in order to make it easier to trigger during a live performance. Furthermore, even if I did choose to long press each pad, it wouldn’t work on the pads/rows where I had no active clips - I would need to long press and revert back to the note selector encoder, which is not ideal when performing in live situ.

Again, thank you for taking the time to respond. I was really hoping that the Polyend Play would meet my expectations for what I wanted to use it for :cry:

Ah i see…

yeah that is currently not possible, but i have a couple ideas for workarounds:

  • If you don’t require all 8 tracks, you could use for example Track 8 (at the bottom) to store the individual notes in steps. Then long press the one you want to have active and then sequence your pattern on your desired track. This should work quite well unless you are working at really high tempos :laughing:
  • The other idea would be to use multiple pattern variations (check out Section 7.4 Track Variations in the Manual - Page 128). So you could have an empty pattern, or semi prefilled variations that would make improvisation easier

And lastly, if those do not appeal to you, you could always create a Wishlist entry.
An option to lock a track to a specific note, could indeed be very handy for these kinds of situations.

Hey @Sandroid , looks like you discovered the palette workflow, which works well for working with samples. If you are working with midi, you don’t need to do this.

You could also use the piano roll.

This way, you will have lanes that will give out a fixed note. Just make sure that you use as many tracks as drums are supposed to be triggered simultaneously. This also has the benefit that it will take up less space on the Y axis if you ever decide to leave the piano roll view. (You will need to place your samples in the ableton live drumkit accordingly and make sure you do not have the key filter activcated).

Another way to do this is to press the view button once. This way, you have the note view on the right side and save the track you are currently using for your palette. Also, you can hear the sounds immediately without having to press down the encoder. This way you can still place different drums on one track, which can be nice for soundeffects and the like, where you do not use more than one at a time. However, with this method, you still need to use two hands to place one step.

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had no idea that had a name :laughing: . Today i learned!

The Piano Roll is actually a very good suggestion as well, thanks @daniel.brennecke !

Hey @Sandroid, apologies for the delayed response and thank you for the workaround ideas. I perform at 150 BPM so unfortunately the long press isn’t an option - I need to trigger notes quickly. I need something a little more tactile and sadly I’m going to have to return my Polyend Play :frowning:

Sorry to hear, before you do though - try out the Piano Roll Method that @daniel.brennecke has proposed. That is exactly what you are looking for, especially if you remain within the 16 steps.

If that doesn’t fit your needs then i totally understand and wish you well :hugs:

Hi @Sandroid, I tried the Piano Roll and it does exactly what I need, so thank you and thank you to @daniel.brennecke, I’m very pleased and I can now keep my Play! :grinning: :raised_hands:

Whilst on the Piano Roll topic, is it possible to assign a different midi channel number on each of the lanes within the Piano Roll? I have tried, however, they don’t appear to stay fixed/locked and keep changing to the last one assigned when pressing a new pad (similar to my original issue). No worries if not, I’m still happy I can now do what I want to…

Thanks again!

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