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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.

“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.


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


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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:

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:

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:


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Just because an audio plug-in is free doesn't mean that it's not amazing. Let's dig deeper to find some rad plug-ins to make novel sounds.

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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:

We’ll be eager to hear what you think.



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With great power comes great learning curves – or maybe not. Csound for Live, just announced this weekend and shipping on Tuesday, brings one of the great sound design tools into the Ableton Live environment. You can use it without any actual knowledge of Csound, without a single line of code — or, for those with the skills, it could transform how you use Csound.

For anyone who thinks music creation software has to be disposable, you’ve never seen Csound. With a lineage going literally to the dawn of digital synthesis and Max Mathews, Csound has managed to stay compatible without being dated, host to a continuous stream of composition and sonic imagination that has kept it at the bleeding edge of what computers can do with audio.

Csound for Live does two things. First, it makes Csound run in real-time in ways that are more performative and, well, “live” than ever before, inside the Live environment. Second, its release marks a kind of “greatest hits” of Csound, pulling some of the platform’s best creators into building new and updated work that’s more usable.

If you’re not a Csound user, you just dial up their work and see what your music can do. If you are, of course, you can go deeper. And if you’re somewhere in between, you can dabble first before modifying, hacking, or making your own code. And that means for everybody, you get:

  • Spectral processors
  • Phase vocoders
  • Granular processors
  • Physical models
  • Classic instruments

More description:

It looks great. It works great. It sounds… beyond great.

CsoundForLive is a collection of over 120 real time audio-plugins that brings the complexity and sound quality of Csound to the fingertips of ANY Ableton Live user – without ANY prior Csound knowledge.

Capitalizing on the design power of Max For Live, what once took pages of text in Csound can now be accomplished in a few clicks of your mouse.

Move a slider on your APC40 and deconstruct your audio through professional quality granular synthesis…

Touch a square of your Launchpad and warp pitch and time with real time FFT processing…

Press letters on your keyboard and create sonically intricate melodies through wave terrain synthesis…

And Dr. Richard Boulanger, unofficial Jedi Master of the Csound movement, instigator of this project, and Berklee School of Music sound and music wizard, posts a bit more:

With my former student, and now partner, Colman O’Reilly, I have been working around the clock for months to collect, adapt, create, wrap, and simplify a huge collection of Csound instruments and make them all work simultaneously and interchangeably in Ableton Live. In this guise, I am able to “hot-swap” the most complex Csound instruments in and out of an arrangement or composition – on the fly. This is something Csound could never do (and still can’t!), but CsoundForLive can, and it makes a huge difference in the playability and the usability of Csound.

Two weeks ago, I played a solo concert in Hanover Germany, at the first International Csound Conference. There, all of my compositions, from 20 years ago to 20 minutes ago, were performed in real-time using CsoundForLive. Tonight, at the Cycling ’74 Expo in Brooklyn, NY, I will be demonstrating the program; and next week, I will be releasing this huge collection (on Tuesday, October 17th, at 12:01am).

A huge part of the complete collection is FREE, and I hope it will make the creative difference in your (and your student’s) lives that it is making in mine. This is a serious game changer for Csound. Check it out. Dr. B.

If you’re at Expo ’74, do say hello to Dr. B for us (and I think you’ll get some nice surprises with this project).

I’ve got a copy in for testing, so stay tuned. And I’ll be doing some follow-ups with Dr. Boulanger and company.

The only bad news here, of course, is that both a supported version of Ableton Live and Max for Live are required to be able to run Csound in this way. In fact, sounds like we have a nice four-horse race going. Max 6 overhauls how multiple patches work (on top of Max for Live), SuperCollider has its own possibilities for multiple real-time patch loading, someone suggested in comments using pd~ inside Pd to manage multiple Pd creations (something fairly new even to most experienced Pd users), and now we have Csound in Live.

But overall, Csound for Live looks like a no-brainer for Max for Live owners, no question, and an exciting taste of the ongoing convergence of cutting-edge creative sound and code with live music making for everybody. As I hinted at in the Max 6 post, I think it’s suddenly a Renaissance for all these platforms.

Silly geeky footnote: With pd~ for Max, I know it’s possible to run Pd for Max. And via another external, Pd can also run Csound. So we could theoretically run Csound in Pd in Max in Live. But let’s not get carried away.

More Videos


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Above: Cycling 74′s just-released video highlights enhanced audio quality; our friend, French artist protofuse, has a go at working with the beta and showing off the new user interface. (See C74′s official take on the new UI below.

Max 6 in Public Beta; For Home-brewing Music Tools Graphically, Perhaps the Biggest Single Update Yet

Just because a music tool fills your screen with tools and options doesn’t necessarily make it easier to realize your ideas. From the beginning, the appeal of Max – as with other tools that let you roll your own musical tools from a set of pre-built building blocks – has been the blank canvas.

Max 6 would appear to aim to make the gap between your ideas and those tools still narrower, and to make the results more sonically-pleasing. The reveal: it could also change how you work with patches in performance and production. I was surprised when early teasers failed to impress some users, perhaps owing to scant information. Now, Max 6 is available in public beta, and the details are far clearer. Even if Max 5 was the biggest user interface overhaul in many years, Max 6 appears to be the biggest leap in actual functionality.

It’s what I’d describe as a kitchen-sink approach, adding to every aspect of the tool, so there’s almost certain to be some things here you won’t use. What could appeal to new users, though, are I think two major changes.

More visual patching feedback and discoverability. First, building upon what we saw in Max 5, Max’s approach is to provide as much visual information as possible about what you’re doing. It’s probably the polar opposite of what we saw earlier this week in something like the live-coding environment Overtone: Max’s UI is actively involved with you as you patch. There are visual tools for finding the objects you want, then visual feedback to tell you what those objects do, plus an always-visible reference bar and rewritten help. This more-active UI should make Max more accessible to people who like this sort of visual reference as they work. No approach will appeal to everyone – some people will find all that UI a bit more than they like – but Max’s developers appear to be exploiting as much as they can with interactive visual patching.

Multiple patches at once. New objects for filters and data, a 64-bit audio engine, and low-level programming are all well and good. But the change that may more profoundly impact users and workflow is be the way Max 6 handles multiple patches. Max – and by extension Pd – have in the past made each patch operate independently. Sound may stop when you open a patch, and there’s no easy or fully reliable way to use multiple patches at once. (Compare, for example, SuperCollider, which uses a server/client model that lacks this limitation.) That changes with Max 6: you can now operate multiple patches at the same time, mix them together with independent volume, mute, and solo controls, and open and close them without interrupting your audio flow. (At least one reader notes via Twitter that you can open more than one patch at once – I’d just say this makes it better, with more reliable sound and essential mixing capabilities.) Update: since I mentioned Pd, Seppo notes that the pd~ object provides similar functionality in regards to multiple patches and multi-core operation. This has been an ongoing discussion in the libpd group, so I think we’ll revisit that separately!

One upshot of this change: some users have turned to Ableton Live just to host multiple patches. For users whose live performance set involves Ableton, that’s a good thing. But it could be overkill if all you want to do is bring up a few nifty patches and play with them. Now, I think we’ll start to see more people onstage with only Max again. (Check back in a few months to see if I’m right.)

Here’s an overview of what’s new:

  • Discoverability: A “wheel” makes the mysterious functions of different objects immediately visible; Object Explorer makes them easier to find, and new help and reference sidebar keep documentation close at hand.

  • 64-bit audio engine

  • Open multiple patches, solo and mute them, open and close them without stopping audio, mix audio between them with independent volume, and take advantage of multiple processors with multiple patches.

  • Low level building blocks: You don’t get new synth objects, but you could build them yourself. New low-level data-crunching goodness work with MSP audio, Jitter Matrix, and OpenGL textures

  • More JavaScript: An overhauled JavaScript engine makes JS scripting faster and more flexible, and there’s a proper text editor with syntax highlighting (though, of course, you may still prefer your own).

  • New visuals: Vector graphics and “HTML5 Canvas-like” UI scripting (though to me it’s a shame this isn’t just the HTML5 Canvas). There are also massively-expanded Jitter powers, but those are best left to our sister site Create Digital Motion.

  • Filters: New filter-visualizing tools for audio filter construction and manipulation.

  • Dictionary data type and associated objects let you describe information in a more structured way (all kinds of potential here from control to composition)

  • Projects now let you organize data, media, and scripts in the manner more associated with conventional development environments

  • What about Ableton? No news on that front, but I expect more soon. Max for Live users will at the very least get the advantages above, since Max for Live is really Max inside Live.

Looking over all that Max does, I have to say, I’m really amazed. I wonder if computer musicians ever pause to consider how fortunate we are. Even if this isn’t the tool for you, its availability – compounded by the availability of a range of other tools – is itself worth reflection.

Max is a program that shouldn’t exist, doing a number of things it shouldn’t do, for a user base that shouldn’t exist, doing things they shouldn’t be doing.

It doesn’t make sense that you could maintain a commercial project for this kind of audience, that you’d wind up with something this mature and powerful that had a continuous lineage stretching back to the 1980s. It doesn’t make sense that musicians would embrace such a tool and produce invention. The only explanation is sheer love.

Then, even as Max reaches new heights, some of the alternatives you have for making your own music tools are simultaneously growing by leaps and bounds. They provide very different approaches to music making (compare Overtone and SuperCollider, or Pd and libpd, or AudioMulch, or new Web audio tools). There really aren’t many fields that have this kind of choice, free and commercial, in their medium. In science and engineering, there’s private and public funding, producing some amazing tools but nothing with this kind of meeting of power and accesibility. There’s just something about music.

The fact that Cycling ‘74 can maintain a business model – just as open source projects maintain volunteer contributions – is a testament to sheer passion and love for music, and a commitment to perpetually re-imagining how that music is made from an atomic level up. There was a wonderful piece on C creator and UNIX co-creator Dennis Ritchie, whom I remembered yesterday, that observed that what he did was to do what others said couldn’t be done. From Max itself to what people make with it, I think that fits nicely.

So, have a look at the public beta, and let us know what you think. The release of Max 6 has caused more people to ask what this means for Pd and other tools, or even whether to patch things from scratch at all, but I’ll leave that question to a bit later. (I do have my own opinion about which tool fits which circumstance and user, but that’s best left to a separate discussion.) For now, you can try Max yourself and see what the fuss is about. If it doesn’t fit your means of music-making, know that you have a wide array of other options – pre-built to low-level code to old-fashioned tape-and-mic approaches, and everything in between. Go out and listen and see what you discover.


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JFugue is an open-source Java API for programming music without the complexities of MIDI.

JFugue makes programming music this easy:

Player player = new Player();"C D E F G A B");
     See more examples | Learn how to get started

In addition, JFugue provides many more features:
Read more about features | See the Complete Guide

  • Music Strings let you specify notes, chords, instruments, tracks. More...
  • Music can be played at runtime, or saved to and opened from MIDI files
  • Music can be sent to and received from external devices: keyboards, mixers, etc.
  • A "Pattern" of music can be transformed and manipulated in interesting ways
  • Support for microtonal music, intuitive rhythm tracks, anticipating musical events
  • Other music parsers and renderers can be easily integrated into the JFugue architecture

JFugue is ideal for applications in which music is generated at run-time, such as:

Using JFugue is also a great way to inspire future programmers, and to experiment with music theory and composition.

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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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What makes music software popular? Simple recording, DJ, and remix apps unsurprisingly do well. But perhaps as a testament to the importance of individual music expression, some stranger entries do, too. And those less-typical software creations can give you new ways of exploring music creation and performance. Just take Nodal.

GarageBand sits comfortably at the top of the sellers list on Apple’s App Store. But, at least briefly, a generative composition tool has rocketed to second place. Nodal 1.7, available for both Mac and Windows, is unlike most music production tools. In place of linear track arrangement, clusters of graphical nodes represent musical structure, awaiting real-time experimentation. In a network you create, “virtual players” produce patterns by traversing a geometric map defining pitch, rhythm, and sequence.

Nodal and tools like it have always been able to create musical machines from simple elements, letting the user define an arrangement and then set it in motion. But Nodal 1.7 is a major release in that it allows MIDI control, so that you can actually “play” the structure and not just sit back and let it roll.

This isn’t just for ambient music lovers, either – sync features mean you can use Nodal just as easily in rhythmic pieces or even dance music.

Developer Peter Mcilwain tells CDM:

We think new features make [Nodal 1.7] a serious composing tool. Firstly, it can be synced to other applications. Next, individual networks can be triggered (like clips in Ableton) from MIDI notes. The velocity levels in these networks can be scaled according to the velocity of the triggering note. Also, the edges or connections between nodes can now contain MIDI controller curves. This is all demonstrated in [the YouTube clip at top].

The triggering aspect means that you can perform with a generative system in a very intuitive way. Also, I have been working on a piece for a flute ensemble in which I create a triggering score in Logic. This information is then sent to Nodal. Nodal then sends back MIDI which is rendered and recorded in Logic. I’m finding this a fascinating and natural way to work.

Nodal has slipped a bit since Peter first contacted me, but seeing this among the top Mac App Store apps to me is tremendously satisfying. Peter tells us they’re not giving up their day jobs, but it’s nice just to get to support great software.

Nodal: Generative Music Software

I’d love to hear more about Nodal here, especially if you’re making interesting stuff with it. Of course, to discuss with other Nodal users, your best bet is the Nodal discussion group:

Support | Nodal Google Group

The development team – Jon McCormack, Alan Dorin, Aidan Lane, Jon McCormack and Peter McIlwain of Monash University’s Centre for Electronic Media Art in Australia – have published technical papers, too:

Nodal R&D / Technical Papers

Nodal fans / users … or other folks doing development … we’d love to hear from you.

For more generative goodness, see also:

Intermorphic and Noatikl / Mixtilk, a cross-platform system that also includes mobile tools for iOS, from the same team that collaborated with Brian Eno and worked on the landmark SSEYO Koan system.

Hans Kuder’s Tiction uses graphical nodes as does Nodal, and, built in Processing, works on any OS (including Linux). Unfortunately, I’m not sure what happens to Hans or the tool; if anyone knows, let us know.

There are probably others I’m forgetting as the coffee settles in, so chime in in comments.


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