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Ableton Live for Music Production

Ableton Live for Music Production

Nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to not hear the name Ableton if you have a burgeoning career in the music industry, or even a nascent interest in music production. The Germany-based company, best known for its Live program, has provided music production software solutions since the start of the 21st century. The software offering is even backed up by a physical controller, also created by the company, which can further enhance your music production experience.

Ableton is the choice of countless music producers and songwriters and is especially adept in making loops, most commonly used in hip-hop and electronic dance music (EDM). However, that style of beatmaking is becoming increasingly popular and is now a mainstay across genres, making Live one of the most commonly-used programs in the music making world. 

So, What is Ableton Live?

Currently in its 12th iteration, Ableton Live is a digital audio workstation (DAW) that is used in the production of music. With a very particular approach to the music-making process and live performance-oriented functionality, it has been embraced by the industry, becoming a go-to with artists and producers across the world.

While the style of production it embraces is particular, the DAW’s focus on using virtual instruments and clips has helped democratize music production. Furthermore, the free availability of its Lite version has been made available for free by simply being bundled with various controllers, further increasing the availability of powerful music production software for up-and-coming artists. Its more advanced versions offer more diverse feature sets, great functionality and provide a versatile platform that is suited for any genre. 

Digital protocols and Ableton Live

First off, it is important to understand the versatility and functionality of the program, to get as good a grasp of how it can fit your particular needs. This means knowing your objectives, larger genre of music and understanding your resources. The latter ranges from understanding your skill set for recording, to the material resources like instrument availability during the production process. 

Ableton’s Live software can work to produce both audio and MIDI tracks, which can be easily summed up as follows:

  • Audio - this protocol calls for the recording and capture of actual instruments playing notes, then mixing them together using loops, clips, one-shots, etc. think of it as the analog way of going about analog music production.  
  • MIDI -  the MIDI protocol is a more technology driven approach that uses virtual instruments to capture notes. Think of this one as telling software what instrument to play in what way, then arranging the music around those pieces. Following along with the above analogy, call this one double digital. 

It’s important to keep in mind that moving between the two protocols can be beneficial. Most commonly, converting a drum audio track into MIDI contributes to capturing a more precise sound, so having that option helps getting to that objective. 

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Interacting with the program as a producer

The ease of use built into the software directly relates to the wide ranging possibilities that are available to the end-user. These include intuitive ways of arranging music, easy looping, a variety of views and several tiers of the product, that are suitable to different sets of users. Ableton includes all of these, with different views and versions of the product. 

Arrangement View 

If you’re in any way familiar with the top-down view associated with a DAW, Ableton’s Arrangement view will provide no surprises. You’ll get exactly what you expect, having the ability to monitor your sounds and tracks in a left-to-right timeline view in real time. 

It’s very nimble and versatile, allowing you to quickly arrange tracks, skip around at different moments without having to restart the playback and make quick tweaks throughout. It works with both audio and MIDI files. 

Session View

One of Live’s main attractions is the dynamic between the classic, easily recognizable Arrangement view and its Session view. The two are easy to toggle between during the production process, thereby allowing for different objectives to be worked on in the making of a single song. 

Its name refers to the non-linear, less bound nature of a music session. As a result, it allows producers to focus on fleshing out ideas, without the constraint of a more common timeline view. One of its advantages is the potential for its use during live performances. 

Clip View

As one of Ableton’s strong suits is the enabling of clip usage, double clicking on a clip in the arrangement view will open up the third type of visualization that the DAW provides: Clip view. In Clip view, users can get a vertical or horizontal view of their clip to easily fine tune and change these smaller sequences. The program will remember your latest iteration of the arrangement when you next use Clip view. 

Keep in mind that both the audio and MIDI versions have their own slightly different types of Clip views, with similar functionality. 

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Versions of Ableton Live

Live Lite - The free version of the program, it is a plug and play solution for producers that have just purchased a physical controller and are looking to get into making tracks. Main limitation of this version is that it only allows the use of up to 8 tracks. So you’re essentially getting an 8-track recorder. 

Live Intro - The first paid version, Intro is meant to unlock music production for aficionados who already have a physical device and want to venture into the world of Ableton Live. With up to 16 tracks available, this version also includes the program’s flexibility between Arrangement view and Session view, consisting of a significant jump in featuresets from Lite. 

Live Standard - Essentially the complete version of Ableton’s Live DAW, this iteration includes all the features associated with the software. Unlimited tracks and scenes means that there are no countable limits to what you can throw into a song, while live recording is made available through up to 256 audio inputs. 

Live Suite - Think of this version as Standard with bonuses. This one is meant for the most advanced and experimental users, with a pack of extra mods and plugins that can take a producer’s vision to the next level. Things like live instruments, advanced effects and other packs constitute a very varied and eclectic mix of add-ons that fully flesh out the experience. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How do I get started with Ableton Live? 

Your best bet to get into it is to assess your level of interest/knowledge. If you have prior DAW knowledge, then the choice may well be getting one of the paid versions after carefully assessing how rich a featureset you need. However, if you’re just starting out, then one of the hardware+free software bundles may well be the pick for you. 

  1. What are the advantages of using Ableton Live for music production?

Access to a stable, continuously updated digital audio workstation is crucial to both up-and-coming and seasoned producers alike. The variety of tools available through the program can provide support in entering an already saturated business. Quick functionality and ease of use contribute to the objective of making professional music tools available to independent artists. Using an industry standard DAW can help bridge the gap for aspiring musicians. 

Join Xposure Music and gain access to some of the best music industry professionals in the U.S. Top experts from Sony, Columbia, Def Jam, or Universal have already joined our platform, and they’re ready to give invaluable, on-point feedback on your work, which can help you land that dream record deal or publishing deal you’ve been working towards. Sign up now and reap the rewards.

If you’re looking to kickstart your music career but have limited resources, we can help you get funding for your next project while staying in control of your own work and career trajectory. You keep 100% ownership of your masters and get an advance ranging from $1,000 to $3 million to get your career off the ground. Get an estimate now and start turning your dream into reality.

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Gregory Walfish
Co-founder of Xposure Music, Gregory Walfish stands at the intersection of music, tech, and culture. With a software engineering background, he's passionate about artist development and technology.

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