Ableton Live

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Introduction to Ableton

Ableton Live is a loop-based software music sequencer for Macintosh and Windows by Ableton. The latest major release of Live, Version 7, was released in November 2007. Unlike other software sequencers, Live is designed around the notion of being as much an instrument for live performances as a tool for composing and arranging.

Though if you're here, you already know that!

The idea of this wiki entry is to be a one-stop shop for everything ableton, references, links, how-to's etc. (though being the TMB, we'll see) both from a DJ'ing side, and a production side.

DJ'ing With Live

The Basics

1. READ THE MANUAL, ok, so they're long winded and pretty boring, but I guarentee, you'll find something in it that you didn't know before, and it'll probably be useful at somepoint.

2. Fine, don't read it. but you'll need to know how to warp your tracks. Warping, like beatmatching on normal decks is a skill, which you WILL need to learn, it's fairly easy with a 4/4 house beat, but not so easy with an orchestral piece, so don't worry if you don't get it spot on straight away... here's some helpful video's that show you how to do it.
A good basic introduction, should get you started

  • Tip - Courtesy of plugg

1. An easy way is to get yourself a bpm detecting piece of software, MixMeister Pro is good, as is this
2. Drop your tracks into it and it will calculate the EXACT BPM.
3. Drop a track into an empty clip in Live.
4. Make sure you can see it's wave display at the bottom of the screen.
5. Enter the EXACT BPM (ie 126.06) as the track tempo at the top of live
6. back down to the wave display
7. Move the first warp marker to the first downbeat right click it and warp at that BPM
8. Play the track with the metronome playing to check it.
9. Should be spot-on, last warp marker may need a slight tweek.
10. Hit save - track warped!

This doen't work so well with vinyl ripped tracks. For these annoyances, follow the above procedure but when you start playing the track, add a fixed warp marker every 32 bars (double click on the beat marker so it goes green) or so, depending on the track.


If you have a nice multiple output soundcard, (this doesn't include Soundblaster Audigy Series, and similar surround sound cards.. it can be done but it's complicated.. maybe later!) it is possible to set it up so you can listen to stuff through your headphones before you play it through the master out.



The EQ3 is designed to replicate the standard 3-band EQ as found on nearly every DJ mixer in existence (Allen & Heath and budget models excluded) and is generally speaking the first effect/plug-in to put on the audio channel track.

  • Tip

By default, the low frequency cut off is set quite low, change the "freq lo." of the eq3 to about 450-500hz for a more effective low end eq cut for general mixing purposes


For more advanced work, such as multiple layering of tracks, the EQ8 is a better option, the choice of lo/hi-shelf, bandpass, lo and hi-pass filter, variable resonance, gain, and frequency give improved flexibility and sound-sculpting options.

MIDI Controllers

If you don't yet have a MIDI device, you will probably quite quickly get bored of Ableton, or at least, you're missing out on a whole chunk of it's functionality. With a MIDI controller you can manually control nearly every parameter within ableton on the fly.

There are a great range of MIDI controllers on the market, each with their own pro's and con's, so which one to go for depends on your budget, style and needs, some of the most popular include:
Evolution X-Session
Evolution X-Session Pro
Evolution UC-33
M-Audio Trigger Finger
M-Audio Oxygen8
E-Mu Xboard 25
Pioneer DJM-800
Allen & Heath Xone 3:D

To assign a MIDI control to a parameter, first click on the word "MIDI" in the top right corner, everything you can assign will turn blue, click on the parameter you want to assign to a control (eg. an eq gain) and then activate the control you wan to control the parameter (eg. turn the dial you want to control the eq gain with) then click back on "MIDI" to ext the midi assign mode.

  • Tip

Whilst in MIDI assign mode, if you open the file browser you will see a list of the currently assigned parameters, what midi signal controls it, and also what the maximum and minimum values these parameters can have are. for example, you may want the full range of a dial to control the volume of an audio track. if you never find yourself cranking the track volume above 0DdB then you may want to assign the maximum track volume to 0dB, thus giving you more precise control over the volume of that track.

You can also assign keys on your normal PC keyboard to do various stuff. click on the word "KEY" in the top right corner, everything you can assign will go yellowy, again, click on something and press the desired key.

  • Tip

make sure the little piano icon to the left of the "KEY" button isn't illuminated otherwise you won't be able to assign keyboard controls.