Ableton Live is an undeniably cool DAW, from the fact that it’s used by countless EDM producers, to the austere grey-on-grey colour scheme straight out of a Berlin techno club. But, much approaching the front door of the Bergain, diving into music production can be intimidating. To help you out, we’ve put together three-part tutorial which you can blast through on your lunch break and end the day with a beat of your very own!
If you don’t already own a copy of Live 9, we offer boxed and downloadable options at a range of prices, or if you just want to try Live 9 out, you can download a 30-day demo from Ableton’s site.
Lesson 1: What Am I Looking At Here?
When you first open Ableton Live 9, you’ll be greeted with the Session View. This is where you will do most of your work. Around the periphery of the Session View are various dialogues which can be opened and closed with the triangular buttons (disclosure triangles). You may want to declutter the screen just now by getting rid of a few of the dialogues.
The session view may look like an Excel document, but it’s much more exciting than that (unless you’re super into spreadsheets). Each cell on the grid can be filled with an audio or MIDI clip. Each column is a different instrument or an audio channel, and each row can be triggered to play several clips at once. Session view is designed for performing your session so we will use this view later to make a rough arrangement of a beat.
The other important window in Ableton Live is the Arrangement View. If you’ve used another DAW before, this will look familiar. This view puts your track onto a timeline, meaning that if you want your hi-hat to come in on bar 10, this is where you can change that.
Switch between Session View and Arrangement View using the Tab key, or using the button at the top right of the window.
You can adjust the tempo and time signature of the session at the top left of either window.
Lesson 2: Grab Some Loops
Now what we can make sense of the layout, let’s make some noise.
In the session view, click on the disclosure triangle in the top left corner to open the Browser. In the browser, select samples and have a browse through. You can click on samples to preview them. Choose a drum loop which is fairly close to the BPM of the session and drag it into one of the audio tracks in the session. Ableton will automatically warp that sample to the session tempo. Now click on the little play button on the clip and it will begin playing. Grab another drum loop that you think goes well with the first and place it underneath the first clip.
Look out for parts two and three of 30 Minutes With Ableton Live which will be posted over the next two weeks. Alternatively, you can check out the video playlist which is live now.
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