How to Add Plugins to Ableton Live

For most VST plugins for Ableton Live, you need to download the installer from the manufacturer and then choose an install folder to get it to work. From there, you can choose the installed plugin from the VST Plugin Folder.

I’m Donovan, a lifelong musician and lover of all things audio-related. I’ve worked in the music industry for several decades and have been exploring Ableton Live and all that it can do over the last two years. 

This post will show you how to add plugins to Ableton Live. I’ll walk you through all the steps to install a VST plugin on your computer and then sync up with Ableton Live. This can help you get more from this already excellent DAW. 

Let’s get started. 

Adding Plugins to Ableton Live: Step-by-Step

Before we start with the exact instructions on how to make this happen, it’s important to note that the steps listed here will apply to installing plugins on a Mac. I’m a Mac user, so that’s my expertise and what I’ll share here. The process isn’t that different to install on a PC, but since I don’t have a PC to give you good screenshots and walk-throughs, I’ll keep things focused on a Mac. 

You also need to ensure that the plugins you want to install or add to Ableton Live are compatible with this DAW. There are so many third-party options out there that I can’t list all of the options that will work. Just double-check before proceeding. 

Step 1: Choose Your Plugin

The first step is to find the plugin that you want installed. There are a lot of free or paid options out there, and the plugin you want will depend on what effects, preferences, or needs you have as a producer or musician. 

You can search around for Ableton Live Plugins, and that should get you pointed in the right direction. For this example, I’ll go through the process of getting the DEELAY VST plugin for Mac

Image from SixthSample

Step 2: Download the Installer

After you download the plugin onto your Mac, you’ll need to install it. This requires using the installer that will come as part of the download. Go to your recently downloaded items, and you’ll see whatever plugin you just downloaded. 

From there, choose the installer file. You can see an example of this with the plugin I’m using below. Double-click on that installer and follow any instructions you get prompted to during the installation process. 

The installer will walk you through steps such as a user agreement and destination folder for the download. Keep this destination in mind so you can reference it when you need to locate the plugin in the next step.

Step 3: Open Ableton Live and Find your Plugin

Now open up Ableton Live. You can either open a new project or an existing one. 

Navigate to the Settings menu by going to the Live tab and then select Settings or by pressing the shortcut Command-,

The Preferences window will pop up after this, and then select the Plug-Ins tab on the left of that window. 

Now, since we downloaded a VST-3 plugin, we need to browse the folders on the computer to locate it. If you downloaded a different type of plugin here, you’ll need to scan or browse for those accordingly. 

For this example, I’m choosing the Use VST Plug-In Custom Folder option. Turn both tabs to on as indicated by the screenshot below. 

You also need to click on the Browse option to locate your VST plugin folder. Click on Browse and then locate the file wherever you downloaded it.

Step 4: Locate Your Plugin and Add to Track

Now you can add the plugin to whatever project you are working on in Ableton Live. 

Click on the Plug-Ins tab on the collection windows. Then select the VST plugin you just synced up with the DAW. You might need to click on several subfolders to find it. But then you can just click and drag the plugin onto whatever track you want it on. 

Depending on what sort of plug-in you have installed, you can make adjustments or tweak settings in the track window at the bottom of the main window. But you can repeat the process here for any other plug-ins you want installed.

Final Thoughts

Adding plug-ins to Ableton Live is a great way to expand the capabilities of this already awesome DAW. There are an almost endless amount of options out there, but just know that not all of them are free. 

Keep in mind that you’ll want to remember where you downloaded the plug-in so you can find it easily when you are getting things set up. 

What are your favorite plug-ins to use with Ableton Live? Let me know in the comments below.

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