How to get started on using Ableton Live? Ableton live is a very powerful DAW that can be used as a live performance tool or as your typical recording DAW. and though it may look daunting, once you know where everything’s at it’s really very easy to navigate. In this article Im gonna take you through the basics of the different windows and views and then I’m gonna show you how to get going with your very first song. Let’s get started.
When you open up live for the very first time it opens up an empty song in the session. The are 2 views in Ableton the session view and the arrangement view. The arrangement view looks like this:
Ableton Live Preferences
We’re going to start in the session view. Before we get to that, it’s really important to take you through the preferences page first. That’s where you set up Ableton with your recording interface, your midi controller, the look and many other things. To get to the preferences page, go over where it says Live. Click on that and preferences right there and this is the page that will open up:
let’s start from the very top: Look and feel. There’s a number of different things here, but I want to point you to the bottom. This is where you set the different colors and views. Set that where you like and then you can make adjustments for the brightness, the color hue and so on. Next one down is audio this is where you set it up with your recording interface. Then when you hit the input config, it tells you how many inputs you could have to record with. Same with the output configuration.
Right down from that is your in and out sample rate. It is set to 48000 herts, which is a good middle road value, but the buffer size is where you set your latency for the audio going into Ableton live. With 256 samples there’s not too much latency there at all the lower you go the less latency you’ll have. Like when you play something on the keyboard, there will be no delay at all.
You want to have a high buffer setting when you have a lot of stuff going on, like a lot of plugins, a lot of affects, all those things happening at the same time. The higher the buffer setting the easier your computer will work.
The next tab down is the Link and Midi. That’s where you set up your midi controllers with Ableton live. You have some file in library hierarchies where you can set where you have your sounds placed in your computer if you have a separate hard drive that kind of thing. Same for your plugins.
In Record warp is where you set up Ableton to know what kind of file you can be working with. Whether it’s a wave or an A IFF and the bit depth. And then right down below that is warp and fades. And the last tab is your licenses.
So now that you know what’s going on in the preferences tab let’s get back into the session view and look around that.
Ableton Session View
The session view is a great area to work on your song ideas. You can jam along and turn different elements on and off really easily. You can set up all the different sections of your song into scenes and play those scenes in any order you want, in real time. it’s a really cool and super unique feature. The arrangement view is set up more like your typical DAW, and to get over to that view , just hit the tab key on your keyboard.
now the parts move in the arragement view in a linear fashion from left to right. You can set up these parts to loop and you can jam over them just like in session view, but typically let the song start at the beginning and go all the way to the end.
First thing I want to show you are all the triangles in the different areas and how they open and close different windows, the first one I want to show you is the bottom right corner. There’s the triangle right there when I click on it it opens up the edit window that’s where you edit your samples your loops and your midi:
There’s also another triangle on the bottom left, and this is a super important area. it’s already open it opens up automatically when you open the edit triangle.
What this window does and why it’s so important, is whenever you hover your cursor over anything in Ableton live, it gives you a description of what that is you’re hovering over in that little box. So in case you don’t know what something is or you’re confused about something just open up that little window hover the cursor over there and it’ll tell you exactly what it is. The top left triangle and what that does, is the hub of everything inside Ableton. This is your browser to all of your sounds, instruments, plugins, how to navigate to other folders on your computer or all in your browser. All of your plugins, clips and samples all right there and you can even make your own favorites by just dragging anything you like up into a favorites tab appear in the top left:
Right below that are the places on your computer where you have different things. Packs are third party programs that you can get on the Ableton website of all kinds of different things: effects, instruments, sounds. Your user library – all of your different folders that you have on your computer desktop, you can customize that how every like. And finally at the very top is your search bar.
Now that I’ve shown you run the browser little bit, let’s check out the main features of the session view.
First is the tap tempo and next to that is the project BPM what ever that BPM is set to any clip or loop you put into Ableton live quantize is gonna play in lock to that BPM.
The 2 buttons next to the project BPM are the temple nudge buttons. Ableton live is like an elastic program, you can speed up and slow down the computer to lock in with like a record player. say your a DJ you have a record set up, you’re doing a gig and you have your computer and the turntables locked together you can lock in the tempo by speeding up or slowing down the computer just enough to where it finds the tempo and then it’ll stay there.
Next to that is your time signature and your metronome is right next to the time signature. You also have this little triangle , click on that triangle and you can set your count off, your rhythm. Say you want more than just a quarter note click track, you can set it to eighth notes triplets anything you want right in that window.
Next thing I want to tell you about is the arrangement counter. Now it’s worth mentioning, you can have stuff going on in the arrangement view and in the session view at the same time, but you’re not hearing them at the same time.
There’s a counter that shows you what’s going on with the time line is set in the arrangement view. Next to that is your play, stop and record buttons. Your midi overdub buttons, your record button for when you want to record clips. Next to that is your loop and your punch in and punch out buttons. it’s also worth noting if anything is grayed out that means it’s not turned on.
This next one is pretty cool. It is called the midi keyboard tool:
When you click that on you can use your computer keyboard as a midi keyboard to play notes with your computer keyboard if you have that turned on. Next to that is the key mapping button ,you could set different keys or buttons to do certain things inside of Ableton with that on. Next to that is the midi mapping button.
Right next to that button it is the percentage button, that’s telling you how hard your computer is working. You can really see that getting a spike when you have a lot of things going on at the same time. And the last little button over there on the top right is the D. button that just tells you if you’re gonna overflow your hard drive.
Okay! Thats it for now
We will continue getting started with Ableton Live in: Part two