Fixing: Sustain Pedal Fail in Ableton Live – MIDI Synth sends All Notes OFF (CC123)

If you are using an old MIDI synth or keyboard with a MIDI-USB interface or an audio interface, you might have experienced this issue: When you lift the last key of a chord, or a single key, all sound dies regardless of your hold/sustain pedal. I experienced this with Ableton Live – though not having any issues with other DAWs before.

At first, one might expect a failure of the sustain/hold CC signal, but this is correctly sent and received by Live. In fact, the sustain pedal is recorded and works in playback as well as with the computer keyboard note input.

Using the Max MIDI monitor, the issue becomes clear. After each last note, the KAWAI K1 sends an CC123 – All Notes Off. This ends all notes regardless of the sustain pedals.

MIDI Log (last event on top) shows CC123 (all notes off) after each note off.

The issue is well-known and there are forum posts around it
here for the Roland RD1000 and here for the RD 300
herefor the K1-II.

There are a variety of suggested workarounds:

  1. Settings on your keyboard/synth that disable the All Notes Off flourish
  2. VST (2) MIDI Plugin that filters CC, such as Midi Shape Shifter
  3. MIDI OX
  4. In-line Arduino MIDI-filter
  5. Max for Life (TL:DR- not a solution)

For myself, solution (2) worked: After an trip to the past wild west of VST plugins (don’t get me wrong – it’s great to see so much free stuff around!), Midi Shape Shifter worked. I created a patch that transforms CC123 into CC5, and that solved the problem.

Midi Shape Shifter shifting away CC123

Ideally (Free VST2.0 MIDI plugins are hard to find and don’t work well in Live), this would be possible with a Max for Live MIDI plugin. But to my surprise (and maybe due to my limited experience with this), CC123 bypasses the Max for Live default MIDI plugin. Below is an illustration of the issue:

In Max for Live 10, CC123 makes it through even with no link between input and output.

Now, there may be some intention for CC123 making it through – e.g. to make sure a MIDI instrument can be silenced completely within any effect line. But I have not found any documentation on this.

I hope this is useful to some of those that still have fun with this now over 40 year old hardware.

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