From the smallest bedroom studios to the worlds biggest stages, Ableton Live is fast becoming an industry standard. That shouldn’t deter any young beginner out there though. Despite the learning curve, it’s not a bad place to start if you consider the impressive tutorial system that greets you with a smile when you open this bad boy up for the first time, or the pdf manual that’s more than easily reachable. Not to mention this article that we have here for you today, so let’s shed a little light on the situation with our Ableton Live Review.
Product: Ableton Live 9
Cheapest Place to Buy: Amazon.com
Operating Systems: Windows 7 or 8 and Mac OS X 10.5 or later
What stands out the most right away is the exceptional functionality you get with this DAW. It’s definitely a step down from Magix Music Maker when you factor in how easy it is to jump in and get started but once you get your feet wet, you’ll soon find out the water can be quite inviting. The layout itself comes in two distinctly different views: The Session View and the Arrangement View.
Class in Session
This is the part that separates Ableton from many other DAWs around. Here time moves in circle instead of in a straight line , with each track divided up into columns. Much like other Drag & Drop systems, clips are added to columns individually or as a group, to be instantly triggered at the drop of a hat. Now when I say “time moves in a circle” I’m not trying to quote Doctor Who. All the clips contained in these columns are treated as loops and are quantised to fit the appropriate timeframe and tempo you choose, so once they are triggered they will run until you stop them. This works a a great way to ‘audition’ clips before adding them to your arrangement.
Make Your Arrangement
The arrangement view is really where the magic happens. One push of the TAB key and you’re instantly switched to seeing your tracks in rows instead of columns, with every waveform visible. Time also move in the good ol’ fashion way, from left to right, so no doubt you see this is where you’re going to build your songs from start to finish. Unlike other DAWs on the market, you don’t need to select specific tools to do any of your cutting, splicing, duplicating or even selecting. One mouse cursor does it all. And when it comes to controlling your automation, you can easily switch it to the pencil tool to draw any actions in.
- For all Beginners: Automation is the programmable action that you give to faders, knobs and switches to control each of their movements independently.
Make It Happen
Ableton Live is available in three packages: Intro, Standard and Suite, and I highly recommend going for the Suite Edition. The amount of features available in the other two might just leave you feeling a bit disappointed but that should not discourage you as upgrades are always available.
From Your Mind
Live comes equipped with many instruments at your disposal, from drum racks to pianos, to synthesisers and oscillators, you’ll have everything you need to take the music out of your head and into the ears of your listeners. Creating your own MIDI patterns is a breeze with the piano roll that can easily be brought up from any view for you to start letting your creative side loose. Plus audio-to-MIDI conversion is as simple as dropping your audio files onto the selected MIDI track. Turn your favourite drum breaks or symphonic harmonies into reusable MIDI patterns that you can apply to any other instrument you have.
To The Masses
Whilst in the Session view, tracks are laid vertically (as we’ve said before) much like they would be on a regular mixing board, making it easier to follow the Flow of Audio when routing and applying the necessary effects. Audio interfaces integrate effortlessly so you can connect any instrument or microphone with ease. Mixing, and mastering, your tracks is great with Ableton’s complete toolkit that comes along with all 4 of the basic plugins that you will always need, including warm, vintage compressors and surgically precise EQ’s. You can add a direct link to your Soundcloud page so that you can upload almost immediately.
Why stop there? Ableton Live is designed for exactly that: the live stage. It’s fast becoming one of the hottest tools for DJs and any artist brave enough to add a few live elements to their performances. Plug in your own instruments or use the ones in your software, have prepared loops that you can trigger on the fly or even improvise on the spot and add a brand new creation right then and there, the possibilities are truly endless.
The Short Version
- Multitrack audio recording at up to 32-bit/192 kH
- Powerful and creative MIDI sequencing of software and hardware instruments
- Advanced warping and real-time time-stretching
- Unlimited number of audio and MIDI tracks per song
- Includes 10 software instruments, 41 effects and Max for Live
- Includes 23 sound libraries (Packs) with over 50GB of original sounds
I highly recommend Ableton as the ideal choice for any intermediate level producer looking for a great DAW that you’ll be using no matter how big your projects get. It’s still an okay buy for beginners, however, if it’s your very first time stepping behind a computer screen to make music then I’d rather you go for Magix Music Maker as it’s a fraction of the cost and a great starting point.
Have fun living that producer life. Got any more questions to ask? Got something to say about Ableton Live? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.
Ryan C. Voller, Recording Artist – Producer – Lead Contributor for HowToMakeHip-Hop.com