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Getting Set Up
  1. Ableton Live 9 Power!
  2. Racking up
  3. Ableton Live 8 Power!: The Comprehensive Guide by Jon Margulies

In this new edition, you'll learn the software in depth and get the lowdown on all the latest updates, including the Wavetable synthesizer, multi-clip editing, Capture, and Live 10's many workflow improvements. Jon's friendly, engaging writing style and deep knowledge of the program come together to help you hone your production skills without losing sight of what's most important: making music!

I've been a fan for a long time, and over the past few years have relied on him heavily for technical assistance navigating the wild waters of Ableton for my live sets. Ableton Live 9 Power! Ableton Live 7 Power! His years of real-world experience in the studio and the classroom have given him a unique understanding of how musicians learn and use Live.

There are four main components alongside the controls at the very top. The leftmost section is for navigating and selecting project files, instruments, and effects. This is called the Browser , and can be shown or hidden using the small arrow in the top-left corner. The Browser is split into two halves.

These Categories are where you can search for the effects and instruments built into Ableton. Underneath this is Places , where you can search your computer for files.

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The right side of the Browser is where you can navigate to specific files or folders within the category or place you have selected. The top section of the browser contains a search feature, which allows you to search in the selected folder for a particular sound, instrument, or effect. Hover over anything in Ableton, and this will tell you what it does. This is extremely helpful, and can be a lifesaver in helping you learn.

The bottom pane is the Effect Controls section. Finally, the remaining panel on the right is the session or arrangement view. This is where you will create and manipulate audio. MIDI devices and tracks are covered comprehensively later on, but for now, think of them as a way of generating a sound, like a keyboard or guitar. Audio tracks are the opposite of MIDI tracks. These can play and record sounds from other devices such as a microphone or other device , but they cannot generate any sounds on their own. Finally, there are Return Tracks. These provide a route for processing audio and returning it back.

Each track has the same basic structure. The top of the track is known as the Track Title Bar.

Ableton Live 9 Power!

You can right-click here to change the name and color of the track. Underneath this are the Clip Slots. Underneath the clip slot is a mini control panel for each track. Here you can enable or disable the track, adjust settings such as pan or gain, and route audio from or to nearly any other place. The default values are sufficient for now. Go ahead and delete the two MIDI tracks and one audio track so you are left with one track. Underneath Categories , select Samples. Use the right side of the browser to search for some sounds you like — Ableton comes with lots of samples, and each version Intro, Standard, and Suite comes with a different selection.

You can use the cursor or the arrow keys to select a sample, and doing so will play a preview of it. Most of these will be short sounds of people or instruments. If you want something a bit more complex, select Clips from the Categories submenu. To hear a preview, select Click to Preview from the bottom of the browser. This will now show up as a clip. You can drag multiple clips onto empty clip slots, or drag them over existing clips to replace the old clips with the new ones.

Once in the session view, clips have a random color assigned. You can change this by right-clicking and selecting a new color. Press the small triangle next to a clip to play it. Notice how the interface changes. The triangle turns green, and you get audio meters on this track and the master.

Racking up

Down in the mixer section, try playing around with the various controls. The Track Activator will enable or disable the track.

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  • When disabled, no sound will come out of the track, but it will keep playing — think of this like a mute button. Use the Pan Knob to adjust the pan of the track, or adjust the volume using the Track Volume Slider to the right of the output levels. Go ahead and drag some more clips onto the track. Once you have more than one clip, try playing another one — what do you notice? There are several things that happen once you trigger a new clip in the same track.

    Ableton Live 8 Power!: The Comprehensive Guide by Jon Margulies

    The currently playing clip stops, and the new clip starts. Use one of these great sites to learn a little bit more about what makes music what it is. Read More will be useful to you. If you start a clip in the middle of a bar, Ableton will wait until the start of the bar before playing that clip. This makes music sound better and keeps it in time. You can change this from the Quantization menu on the top-left settings bar.

    This menu also lets you change the time signature and tempo. You can create a new track by right clicking in some empty space, and selecting Insert Audio Track or Insert Midi Track. Once you have more than one track, you can trigger all of the horizontal clips across multiple tracks using a Scene. A scene is a single row of clips whereas a track is a column. Scenes can be found on the right hand side under the Master track, and can be colored, renamed and adjusted just like clips.

    Double clicking a clip will open it in the effects controls section at the bottom of the screen. Here you can manipulate the audio sample, as well as fine-tune the sound. You can adjust where the sample starts or stops, as well as the pitch, timing, volume, and much more. Underneath the Sample Control, there is a Loop button, which is turned on by default. This means that once a clip is finished playing, it will start again. Looping can be configured on a per-clip basis, so you can have some clips looping, and others only playing once.

    The Warp button adjusts the timing of a clip to match the current timing of your project.

    This can sometimes get confused and muddled up, but there are things you can do to make it more accurate. Finally, one of the most useful actions is the Launch Mode. This defines how clips play once started. Trigger : The default mode. Clicking a clip will play it.