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Thavius Beck live in Los Angeles playing the legendary Low End Theory party, in 2009.

Whadayaknow, Ableton users?

Whether you’re an existing user or considering it for the first time, this month online school Dubspot is giving away 30 video lessons on using the software, free, through the end of June only. So, I turned to my friend Thavius Beck (Plug Research Records), LA-based producer and rapper, and master instructor, to make something exclusively for CDM to add a little more free knowledge. If you are playing with Ableton for the first time, you can unlock the 30-day free trial and give it a shot.

I’m just glad to read Thavius’ tips. You’ll feel a little more like an expert afterward, I guarantee – or, alternatively, count how many of these you did already know. (Yes, some of us have been using Live since its first release.)

30 Tips for Ableton Live

Thavius Beck

1. Holding SHIFT while adjusting a Transpose parameter with your UP/DOWN arrow keys will Transpose by an octave instead of 1 semitone

2. “Z” will transpose your computer keyboard DOWN one octave. “X” will transpose it UP one octave

3. “C” decreases the velocity of midi notes entered with the computer keyboard or mouse by 20. “V” increases the velocity by 20

4. You can disable the grid in the Arrangement View and in the Sample Editor by Right-Clicking in the grid area, and selecting OFF under Fixed Grid in the contextual menu

5. Individual drum cells in Impulse can be routed to other audio tracks to be mixed separately or given individual effects. Enable the I-O (inputs and outputs) button on the Session View, and in the Audio From tab select your Impulse instrument. In the tab below that, you’ll see all the sounds in your Impulse. Choose one, then either arm the track or set the Monitor status to IN.

6. The Ableton Device Spectrum not only shows you the frequencies being generated by your music in real time, it also will show you the specific note that a frequency corresponds to. Hold your mouse anywhere over the graphical display in Spectrum and a box in the lower right corner will show you the exact frequency, decibel level, and corresponding note based on where your mouse is.

7. If you have Live Suite, when using Slice to New Midi track try slicing to a single Sampler instead of the Built-In preset. When your slices are in the Sampler, you can change the pitch, attack, decay, voices, etc. of all the slices at once without using Macro knobs.

8. Right-clicking on the crossfader allows you to choose different crossfader curves.

9. If your audio interface has multiple outputs that are enabled (go to Live’s Audio Preferences and select Output Config), you can enable a separate CUE output so you can monitor on your headphones without affecting what is coming out of the Master. Make sure your I-O button is enabled, and on the master channel you will see Cue Out and Master Out. If the Cue Out is different from the Master out, your tracks solo buttons will become cue buttons, allowing you to cue up tracks in the headphones while the party people continue to party…

10. AutoFilter and Gate also have sidechain sections that allow an incoming signal to trigger/exaggerate/alter the effect.

11. Right-clicking on the metronome allows you to set a count-in. Helpful if you need to record something right at the beginning of bar 1.

12. If you need to record multiple tracks at once, go to Live’s Preferences, select the Record/Warp/Launch tab, and under the Record section disable the Arm button next to where it says Exclusive (you can also do the same thing to the Solo button if you want to solo multiple tracks). Ed.: I feel a little differently than Thavius on this one. I like that when you arm one track, you de-arm another. Generally, if I do want to arm multiple tracks, I’d rather hold down the “shift” key when selecting arm – the same for Solo. So consider that an alternative tip 12! -PK)

13. If you haven’t already, stay in that same page of Live’s preferences and turn off Auto-Warp Long Samples. This will prevent Live from putting a million incorrect warp markers on your audio when drag a longer audio file into it and enable Warp.

14. Complex warp mode may sound better than Beats for warping full songs and playing them below their original tempo, but be careful… Complex and Complex Pro are the only two warping algorithms that alter the quality of your audio even when it’s playing at the original tempo. They can also introduce some odd phasing issues when playing song with deep sub bass… Complex Pro is good for acapellas, but I suggest using either mode with a bit of caution before playing a gig…

15. If you change the Global Clip Quantization to NONE, you can scrub through your audio in the Sample Editor by hovering your mouse right below the loop bracket (so it becomes a speaker icon), click and hold, then drag the speaker icon through your audio clip.

16. You can create your own Slice to Midi preset by opening up a blank Drum Rack or Sampler, adjusting the parameters to your liking (you could even add effects to the blank Drum Rack if you like), save your new preset by hitting the disk icon in the upper right corner of the effect (or rack), and then dragging that preset into the following folder in your Live Library: Library/Defaults/Slicing. Next time you Slice to a New Midi track, try out your new preset…

17. Another way to manually “slice” a sample is to drop an Audio Clip into several different empty cells in the Drum Rack, and change the start point on each on so they each play a different part of the sample. The same thing can be done with the Sampler.

18. You can remove the Stop button from a blank clip slot by Right-clicking inside of it and selecting “Remove Stop Button” (or use the shortcut Command/Ctrl-E)

19. You can set the launch tempo of a Scene by Right-clicking inside the scene (next to the scene number) and selecting Edit Launch Tempo, then type in the tempo. You can also just rename the scene and type in the tempo followed by BPM.

20. You can also set the launch time signature of a Scene by Right-clicking inside the scene and selecting Edit Launch Time Signature, and then type in the time signature. You can also just rename the scene and type in the time signature (e.g. 7/8).

21. If you press DELETE while any parameter is selected, it will be returned to its default setting.

22. Double-clicking on any of Live’s Browser shortcut buttons will collapse any unfolded folders.

23. You can write your own notes in the Info View of clips by Right-clicking on any audio or midi clip and selecting Edit Info Text

24. You can drag any Groove Pool template into a midi clip slot to see the velocity and timing of the groove.

25. You can change the Launch Quantization of individual clips by enabling the Show Launch Button (the L button under the Clip View) and changing the Quantization from Global to something else.

26. If you want to MIDI or KEY map buttons to let you select or scroll through your Scenes, select with MIDI or KEY map, and you’ll notice buttons that appear above the Master fader and below the Stop Clips button. The first button will play the selected scene, the next two are arrows that can be mapped to buttons to select the next or previous scene, and the final box can be mapped to a rotary knob to scroll through your scenes.

27. You can automate tempo changes in the Arrangement View on the Master channel. On the Master channel in the Arrangement View, select Mixer in the Device chooser box (top chooser box), and then in the Automation control chooser (bottom choose box) you’ll be able to select Song Tempo.

28. If you select a parameter, it will be selected in the Automation chooser box on that track automatically. This is very helpful if you want to automate a parameter but aren’t sure exactly where to find it in the automation chooser box.

29. You can drag and drop a quicktime movie into the arrangement view so you can write music to picture.

30. If you set Locate Points in the arrangement view, you can MIDI or KEY map buttons to the Previous and Next Locator buttons (the left and right arrows above the first track in the arrangement view).

BONUS – Enable Info View to find out about any parameter that your mouse is hovering over. Very helpful if you don’t know all of the areas I refer to in the previous tips. Enjoy!

For more of this kind of knowledge, check out Dubspot’s full 30-lesson course with Thavius free – while you can.

http://www.dubspot.com/ableton3030/

“Did You Know?” Video Series

Very much along the lines of these 30 tips, earlier this year, Thavius also did a series of videos for Dubspot entitled “Did you know?” They focus on topics you perhaps should know about Ableton Live, but that some users – beginning and advanced alike – might have missed. Here’s that complete series.

Previously

Once More, From the Top: Learn Ableton Live in Videos, from the Very Beginning

http://www.dubspot.com/ableton3030/

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As Max for Live has matured, this tool for extending the functionality of Ableton Live has played host to a growing wave of brilliant custom tools – enough so that it can be hard to keep track. This month saw a few that deserve special mention. In particular, two tools help make MIDI mapping and automation recording easier in Live, and point the way for what the host itself could implement in a future update. (Live 9, we’re looking at you.) And in a very different vein, from Max for Live regular Protofuse, we see an intriguing alternative approach to sequencing.

Clip Automation does something simple: it patches a limitation in Live itself, by allowing you to record mapped automation controls directly in the Session View clips. (As the developer puts it, it grabs your “knob-twisting craziness in Session View.”) The work of Tête De Son (Jul), it’s an elegant enough solution that I hope the Abletons take note.

Clip Automation

Mapulator goes even further, re-conceiving how mapping in general works in Ableton – that is, how Live processes a change in an input (like a knob) with a change in a parameter (like a filter cutoff). Live does allow you to set minimum and maximum mappings, and reverse direction of those mappings. But the interpolation between the two is linear. Mapulator allows you to ramp in curves or even up and down again.

There’s more: you can also control multiple parameters, each at different rates. And that can be a gateway into custom devices, all implemented in control mappings. BentoSan writes:

For example, if you wanted to create a delay effect that morphs into a phaser, then cuts out and finally morphs into a reverb with an awesome freeze effect, you would be able to do this with just a single knob…

Again, this seems to me not just a clever Max for Live hack, but an illustration of how Ableton itself might work all the time, in that it’s a usable and general solution to a need many users have. Sometimes the itch Max for Live patchers scratch is an itch other people have, too.

Lots of additional detail and the full download on the excellent DJ TechTools:
Mapulator: An Advanced MIDI Mapping Tool for Ableton

Protoclidean We’ve seen Euclidean rhythms many times before, but this takes the notion of these evenly-spaced rhythmic devices to a novel sequencer. Developed by Julien Bayle, aka artist Protofuse, the Max for Live device is also a nice use of JavaScript in Max patching. See it in action in the video above. There are custom display options for added visual feedback, and whereas we’ve seen Euclidean notions in use commonly with percussion, the notion here is melodic gestures. Additional features:

  • Eight channels
  • Independent pitch, velocity, and offset controls
  • Scale mapping
  • For percussion, map to General MIDI drum maps (Eep – darn you, English, we’re using the word “map” a lot!)
  • Randomization
  • MIDI thru, transport sync, more…

More information:
http://designthemedia.com/theprotoclidean

Also, if you’re looking for more goodness to feed your Live rig, Ableton has added a new section to their own site called Library. You can find specific Max for Live content in that area, as well:
http://www.ableton.com/library
http://www.ableton.com/library/tags/mfl/

This is in addition to the community-hosted, community-run, not-officially-Ableton Max for Live library, which is the broadest resource online for Max for Live downloads:
http://maxforlive.com/library/

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For years, since the launch of Ableton Live, many have waited for a worthy rival, something that combines production and live performance for music users. Live isn’t without alternatives – Renoise, for instance, has earned some fans, though it isn’t necessarily built for live performance. But few provide the same real-time workflows.

Bitwig, based in Berlin as is Ableton and featuring some Abletronic veterans, today took the wraps off its own Bitwig Studio. The good news is, it’s looking as though it might shape up to be a viable tool for DJing, performing, and making music. The bad news is, in a market already crowded with lots of similar tools vying for your attention, the first release will look more familiar than radical. That is, it looks and works a whole lot like Live. There’s an Arranger view, a clip launching view with scenes, a tray on the bottom with effects and instruments (they’re even called Devices, like in Live). The screen layout, and even specific interface widgets and channel strip arrangements are all straight out of Live.

It’s not just a little like Ableton Live, either – it’s in some cases a direct clone. Nested drum machine Devices, for instance, work in a way that I’ve never seen out of Ableton Live. A channel strip similarity or two is almost inevitable; here, though, lots of little details add up to something that feels like Ableton, but didn’t come from Ableton.

What that means to you may depend on what you want: whether you just want an improved Ableton alternative that works like Live, or whether you want something more fundamentally different from Live as an alternative.

If you want “Ableton Plus,” Bitwig does take on features Ableton is missing. For instance:

1. Linux support. In fact, right out of the gate, this could quickly be the answer for Linux users waiting for something they could use without booting to Mac or Windows.
2. Proper multiple document support. You can share content between projects in Ableton, but here you can actually open and freely exchange media with multiple files at once.
3. Mix audio and MIDI on the same track. Tracks are content-agnostic.
4. Per-note automation, with the mixed MIDI and audio, promises more detail-oriented editing.

Those are three significant breakthroughs. And it looks like there are lots of tweaks and improvements throughout the tool, many of which I’m sure we’ll hear about as people begin testing the beta. (One nice example: a vertical pane lets you view arrange and clip launching views simultaneously.) Multi-monitor support, while present in many tools, is sorely lacking in Live but available here. Plus, as some readers note, you do get 64-bit support, though that seems an advantage over Ableton that won’t last long.

The challenge is, as a new entrant to the market, your first obstacle is telling a story about what you are. And here, there seems a missed opportunity to make a first impression as something truly different, rather than something “similar, but better.” Ableton Live 1.0 when it was released was a significant departure from what had been seen before. So, too, were the first trackers, the first audio+MIDI DAWs, and the first graphical sequencers. Bitwig Studio isn’t that kind of breakthrough – not yet.

Not that being different is easy, or even always desirable. Amidst so many things users want, and so many expectations they have about how things will work, it’s tough to do something genuinely new without simply confusing everyone and driving them away. But it has happened – Ableton Live’s original release being a notable case. One question is whether you make some sacrifices to release the most significantly-different tools initially, or whether you choose to cover the basic bases to provide a workable solution from day one, and the Bitwig devs seem to have chosen the latter.

The most interesting features remain on the horizon. LAN multi-user jamming and multi-user production are both on the roadmap – features we’ve seen in other tools, but which have yet to catch on. And there’s an integrated modular system that lets you build your own instruments and effects with graphical patching – something seen in various forms from Buzz to Max for Live, but one that could use a fresh take in integration with the tool.

In the meantime, we’ll have to hear from beta users whether Bitwig is something worth a look. You can sign up now:
http://bitwig.com/bitwig_studio.php

We’ll be eager to hear what you think.

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Awesome list. Even I didn’t know some of these. I love Ableton Live. I tell all my friends using other DAWs to get into Live. It’s magic power in your music making hands!

1. Cut copy paste
2. Duplicate
3. Command A
4. Tab selects session or arrange window
5. command shift i
6. Highlight & effect multiple
7. Cmd f – scroll display to follow playback
8. Sidechain w/ compressor
9. Sidechain w/o compressor
10. Freeze
11. Audio to midi
12. Command 4 (no grid)
13. Command 1,2 &3(grid)
14. Cmd b – pencil
15. Hear samples w/ speaker icon
16. Tune drums with EQ
17. Tune drums w/ freq shifter
18. Send returns
19. Step record
20. Assign midi knob/fader
21. Assign midi button
23. Assign midi key
24. Midi key select (no wrong notes)
25. Warp: alt drag
26. Warp: shift drag
27. Warp: Select multiple, alt Drag
28. Warp multiple
29. DJ cue
30. Split DJ track
31. Record multiple tracks
32. Consolidate
33. Add time
34. cut time
35. dup time
36. Group tracks
37. Group instruments
38. Group effects
39. Chain selector
40. Add random w/ groove
41. Bass/low layer/high layer
42. Reverse reverb
43. Impulse- separate samples
44. Macros
45. Record session to arrange
46. Sustain midi loops
47. Send output to:
48. Receive input from:
49. Envelope automate (draw)
50. Envelope automate (record)
51. Dummy clips
52. Make kick
53. Cut non bass at 120hz
54. Shift & up/down arrow key moves selected midi notes by the octave
55. Shift tab: clip properties to instruments/fx
56. Click arrow to return to zero or center
57. Double click when zoom tool appears to show full arrangement or select area
59. Space bar stop, hit again restarts from cursor point
60. Shift space bar to stop and continue
61. Linked unlinked clip automation
62. Shift click to grab multiple tracks. Effect 1 and they all are effected (like volume)
63. Change cue to a different output to be able to cue each track (headphones icon)
64. Ctrl + shift + m – add midi clip
65. Alt + click – expand/collapse all tracks
66. Click + shift + arrow key – shorten or lengthen selected midi notes.
67. add return track ctrl + alt. + T
68. Cmd + Del – deletes automation but not the clip.
69. Drag section of a clip to a midi track, automatically creates a simpler with the sample
70. Assign knob to 1 clip for looping & pitch correct
71. Highlight all clips change warp settings, save, launch info etc
72. Simpler to sampler
73. Shift + – zoom in. – zoom out
74. Shift ? – shows info
75. Cmd alt B – show/hide browser
76. Cmd alt O – show/hide overview
77.cmd alt I – show/hide I/O
78. Cmd alt S – show/hide sends
79. Cmd alt m – show hide mixer
80. Cmd , – preferences
81. Cmd drag – fine adjustments
82. Cmd R – rename tab, rename next
83. Cmd up/down double or half loop length
84. Cmd up/down on midi part – goes to next midi note
85. Shift left right on midi note – lengthen shorten note
86. Enter – launch selected clip/clips
87. Cmd L – loop selected
88. Shift drag over envelope breakpoints.
89. Cmd t – create audio track
90. Cmd shift t – create midi track
91. Cmd alt t – create return track
92. Cmd M Midi map on off
93. Cmd K key map on off
94. Cmd U quantize
95. Cmd drag (alt drag PC) adjust velocity on selected midi notes
96 Cmd shift U quantize Settings
97. Route multiple tracks to sidechain
98. Utility for automated volume & volume for fine tuning later

via Synthtopia

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Ready to make your Ableton Live pattern programming a bit more polyrhythmic with the power of math?

In Monday’s reflections and round-up of cycles and circles, I mentioned Euclidean evenness and Godfried Toussaint’s research. The basic idea is that a mathematical algorithm for spacing pulses has a lot in common with traditional preferences for polyrhythms spanning everything from rock hits to conga patterns and musical cultures around the world.

Reader Tony Wheeler has turned those patterns into MIDI clips so you can drop patterns into Ableton Live. Drum patterns and dance music are obvious applications, but this could be an idea starter for melodic patterns or music in a variety of idioms.

Each individual pattern will sound like an isolated cycle; it’s often when you put them together that they’re most compelling. Here’s an example; Tony added a regular bass drum just to make things more grounded (it actually calls attention to the asymmetry of the other patterns).

ScaledKit by wheelmaker

Tony has another terrific tool for Ableton Live that generates the AMS files used by Operator to tune oscillators to alternative pitches, as we covered previously:
Free Utility Makes Endless Oscillators for Ableton Live Simpler, Sampler
Direct link: AMS File Utility for Ableton Live

And for harmonic experimentation, see the Circle of Fifths Chord Resource:
Circle of Fifths Chord Resource in Ableton Live

This is all fairly academic stuff, but the funny thing about it is there’s nothing stopping you from making either a dance music hit or some experimental new kind of music that doesn’t sound like it came from Ableton.

Alternative tunings for Operator oscillators and Euclidean polyrhythms? There are many tools aside from Ableton that will work, too, but whatever your tool, this could be a great way to jump-start a musical idea. Airport layover, meet musical productivity.

Updated: Another great way to go is the Eckel VST plug-in, also donationware. It works on Mac (Universal) and Windows, and since you can dial up parameters, may be easier to use than the MIDI clips, depending on your workflow – especially since you can still choose pitch. (Or, hey, grab both!) Thanks to John Larsby for the reminder:
Shuriken.se: VST – Eckel

For Dr. Toussaint’s part, you can glance over his syllabus on Discrete Mathematics — and find a reference to Tony’s Ableton experiments.

Grab the download and read more on this topic (free, donations welcome):
Euclidean Rhythm MIDI File Resource in Ableton Live [Age of the Wheel]

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