What is Ableton Live? The Quick Way to Start Making Music!

   By Lisa F   Categories: Audio SoftwareGeneral

So, you’ve installed and authorized Live 9 and now you’re wondering how to get started. Whether or not you have experience with a sequencer or a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), sometimes you just don’t have the time to dig in and read the entire manual cover to cover. For that reason, this Scene is a quick start guide to get you into Live in the least amount of time possible. It underlines the general concepts without too much theoretical and technical jargon. When you are done with this Scene you will be able to execute the basic functions of Live with a general understanding of how it works. You won’t always know how or why something does what it does, but that’s ok. The goal here is to build a foundation that you can rely on later while saving you time now. If you feel like you still need more help as you’re reading, then be sure to launch to the various locations highlighted within this Scene. There you will find dedicated and in-depth information pertaining to each topic. You can also take a look at the interactive Live Lessons that come pre-installed with Live. Lessons can be found in Help View located on the right-hand side of your Live Set. If it’s hidden from view, select Help View from the View Menu or drag it open with your mouse from the right edge of the main Live screen.

Now, here’s a little tip that can really help you to get out of a rut while learning Live. You will find helpful information displayed inside the Info View in the lower left corner of Live’s main screen. Click on the arrow button in the lower left corner of the main Live screen to open it or use the shortcut shift + /. Nearly every feature, button, and object in Live is methodically tagged with a brief description of its function.

As you mouse over and around any area of Live’s interface, descriptions will automatically pop up in the Info View. This is a true time saver in discovering or rediscovering feature functions and parameters.

Figure 3.1 Info View.

Hot Tip

If you’re the really organized producer or engineer, add your own info text to items in Live, such as tracks, Scenes, clips, and devices. Place your mouse over any one of these items and right click or ctrl + click to bring up a contextual menu, and then select “Edit Info Text”. Whatever you type will then be viewable in the Info View box when you hover your mouse over the item you named. Think about using these as comments or notes. You could also use them to leave a friend a little surprise.

Starting a Project

All right, it’s time to get you on your way to creating and producing music, so open up Live 9 and let’s begin. When you open Live 9 the default Set will appear in Session View consisting of two audio tracks, two MIDI tracks, two Return tracks (reverb and delay), and the Master track—the same default setup occurs when you create a new Set. This is just for starters; you can always add or delete tracks as needed. If you want to design a different default template, you can do so by saving any Set you create as default from the Preferences>File Folder tab under “Save Current Set as Default”. If you decide that you want your default setup to always start at 105 beats per minute (BPM), for example, you can save a new default reflecting the new custom parameter. You could also add several more audio or MIDI tracks to a Set then select “Save Current Set as Default”. It’s that easy.

Set is the name given to your work file in Live. Other programs use the terms Session, Song, Project, and so on. Looking at your new Set, familiarize yourself with how to use the Show/Hide Browser on the left-hand side of the main Live screen. Do this by clicking the arrow tab in the upper left just under the Tap Tempo switch. The Live Browser is where you will find all of the media and tools needed to work on your music, for now at least. Later you will use the Browser for a number of other tasks, including loading Live Sets and more. From the Browser you will find all of Live content, such as instruments, effects, presets, sounds, clips, samples, and more. That being said, your new best friend will be Live’s Core Library that was installed with your version of Live 9. This is the content that has populated your Live Browser Categories and Places.

On the opposite side of the main Live screen is Help View. As mentioned before, you can show and hide this window from view from the View Menu, or by dragging the right edge of the main Live screen to the left using your mouse. From Help View you can quickly access all of Live’s built-in tutorials (Lessons) and get extra help setting up your audio and MIDI hardware.

Figure 3.2 Live Browser.

The last thing you need to be aware of is Live’s two views for creating, producing, and performing music. Currently, you are looking at the Session View. If you hit the Tab key on your computer keyboard, the view will switch to the Arrangement View. These two views are independent working environments that reside within Live’s main screen. Use the Session View to construct your musical ideas by importing and recording audio and MIDI into tracks. When your ideas are ready, you can record (perform) them to the Arrangement View as a sequenced song (arrangement). This is the fundamental concept of Live, but the Arrangement View can also be used for traditional importing and recording audio and MIDI too. For that reason, let’s first get you up to speed on how to work in, and with, both views.

Figure 3.3 Click + drag the right edge of the main Live screen to access Help View.

With the basics covered, it’s time to start working in Live 9!

Excerpt from Ableton Live 9: Create, Produce, Perform by Keith Robinson © 2013 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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