How to Produce and Perform with Ableton Live

Ableton Live is a great program that allows you to create music with a minimum of fuss. It’s very easy to use and it doesn’t take long to get intothe swing of how it works.

Ableton Live has become the premier DAW for performing music

Live can mainly be used in two ways:

  • In the studio to compose and arrange your songs and productions.
  • On stage for a live performance, due to its loop-based approach.

I find myself using the program more and more these days. I love the way it allows you to get your ideas down really quickly and easily, but that it also has all the features you’d want in a good DAW. Playing around with the live performance side is great fun as well.


Live Performance


Live is best known for its use as a live performance tool for electronic musicians and DJs. But due to the improvements Ableton have made over the years with the different releases and versions, it’s becoming more popular as a studio DAW program as well.

The reason for its use in the live arena is due to its loop-based approach to production. It allows DJs to use it for mixing tracks and loops together from other artists as any normal DJ would.

But it also allows musicians to use it for their own live shows – usually by triggering loops and samples of their own material to create new arrangements on the fly.

A live performance can be built around all of the loops, scenes, and samples you’ve created over time with all your different tracks and productions. They can then be ‘remixed’ live, creating brand-new combinations of loops and sounds. It means that every performance can be different because you’ll always be able to combine your tracks and loops in new and exciting ways.

I love hearing recordings of live performances using Ableton Live, as I know that it’s being created in that very moment, which is an exciting way to listen to music.


Ableton Live Features


Live is organised around two main screens:

  • The Arrangement view
  • The Session view

The arrangement view is where the program looks most like other DAW programs. It’s where audio can be recorded and edited, processing and effects can be applied, MIDI tracks can be played and edited, and tracks can be arranged, amongst other things.


Session View


The session view is where Ableton Live comes into its own, where live performances can be created. Audio and MIDI loops, called ‘clips‘, are loaded and triggered (played). Several clips can be combined together to create ‘scenes‘. So for example, a 4-bar drum loop, synth bass, and keyboard loop could be combined to create one scene.

  • You can have many scenes and many clips loaded into the session before a live performance starts. These scenes can then be triggered alongside individual loops and clips to build up a live performance on the spot.
  • The global tempo can be fixed, and all the scenes and clips triggered will play at this tempo, keeping everything synchronized in time for smooth and seamless transitioning between different loops and scenes.
  • Instruments and effects can also be combined together to form ‘device racks‘. These can then be controlled with external MIDI control surfaces, helping to give more flexibility and creative direction to a live show.


Instruments and Effects


Lots of different instruments can be used inside Live. They include drum machines, samplersand synthesizers. When you purchase Live it already comes with a few instruments included as part of the package, and there are countless more that can be downloaded at a later date as well.

The effects found in Live are made up of both audio effects and MIDI effects, and are the same as you would find in other DAW programs. They include devices such as:

  • filter
  • compressor
  • EQ
  • delay
  • reverb
  • arpeggiator

…plus many many more. They’re also designed to fit in with live performance use as well.


Time Warp


One of Ableton Live’s coolest and most useful features is Time Warp, which you can use on your audio samples to great effect. It’s one of my favorite parts of the program.

When you import a new sample, it’s likely that certain parts of the sample won’t fit rhythmicallywith the rest of the track, causing it to sound out of time. Time Warp lets you adjust where each beat position falls inside the sample, giving you more control over where each part of the sample falls rhythmically in relation to the rest of your track. It allows you to be really flexible with your samples.


Final Thoughts


There’s no denying that Ableton Live (the link takes you to the official site) is a unique piece of software. If you’re looking to create and produce electronic music, from techno to house to drum ‘n’ bass and beyond, and then to perform your music live, this would definitely be the package for you. I highly recommend it.




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