Packed with improvements for Push, Live 9.7 is here. New sampling features and workflows mean making beats is better than ever, and even more is possible without taking your hands off Push. The latest free update for Live 9 users brings more sample slicing options, a new drum layout […]
Mode Audio is giving away A sampler pack of 650 MB of free samples, Presets, Midi Files, and Effects Racks. All of which are Royalty-Free, so you can use everything in this pack for commercial use and not have to pay out any royalties to anyone. Sample packs are great for when you are starting out in Ableton Live. Sometimes it is nice to grab some loops and focus on learning and playing with clips. You can get a good feel of session view workflow and have a lot of fun. I also find that digging into a sample pack can be that pole vault needed to get out of a creative rut. This pack has a good variety of content and lots of drum samples so you can build your own drum kits as well. Included in the pack are a number of awesome Native Instruments Massive, and FM8 presets which can potential infuse some inspiration into your productions.
In my last blog post, I talked about the general concept of building an Ableton template for live performance. There are many different ways you could use Ableton Live on stage. Everyone will have a different approach and a different Ableton template. The problem is with so many options many people have a hard time figuring out the best place to start. In this blog post, I am going to focus on DJing with Ableton Live and building an Ableton template for DJing.
DJing with Ableton Live – A DJ basically plays fully produced tracks to create a mood or vibe. You could be playing other people tracks, your own tracks, or a combination. DJ’s can somewhat ignore my first rule of performing live. Which is, “Never touch your laptop.” Mainly because you will probably have to be dragging songs from Live’s browser into your live set.
Generally, you will be in a DJ booth and have limited space for gear. So you will want to think compact and simple. Get a small audio interface with at least 4 outs. Something like the Scarlett 2i4 is pretty awesome. If you get something with at least 4 outs you have two main options. Option 1, using a DJ Mixer and routing a left deck and right deck into two channels on the mixer. This method allows you to bring minimal gear and just use the house mixer to mix. The basic setup is two audio tracks in Ableton drop your songs onto those tracks and play. You could also easily expand this into a “stem mixing” set up which I will talk about in next week’s blog post. Option 2, get a midi controller so you can do your mixing mix in Ableton. Run one stereo pair to the house system and use the other for headphone cue so you can pre-listen to your tracks. Finding just the right controller is tricky. Standard DJ layout is 3 band EQ, Filter, Effects, Volume Fader, and maybe a Crossfader. Even on a regular DJ rig, I only use my Crossfader to scratch or cut. For mixing, I use the EQ’s and volume faders. So a Crossfader may not be that important. Check out the Traktor Z1, Allen & Heath Xone: K1, Novation Launch Control XL, Livid DS1, APC 40 MK II, Akai AMX and potentially a fully midi mappable DJ mixer. I’m not officially endorsing any of these products so make sure to do your research to find what is best for you. Your midi controller will have the most impact on how you build your Ableton Template for DJing. You will need to warp all your music. Warping songs
You will need to warp all your music in order to DJ in Ableton. Warping keeps everything in time while maintaining the pitch. Warping songs in Ableton Live relatively easy. I made a video about warping tracks in Ableton Live. Warping most electronic music takes just a few seconds. A difficult track can take about 5 minutes. Just spend some time mastering the art of warping.
Organization is also very important. You will want to organize all your songs. Ableton is not DJ software so you will need to do it on your own. Some people use iTunes and drag from iTunes into Ableton. I recommend just building a DJ Crate style file structure and drag from Live’s browser. If you use Ableton Live’s browser you will not have to jump between two programs while DJing. Learn about “Harmonic Mixing” and check out Mixed in Key. Harmonic Mixing is method of making sure that the songs your mix together are in the same key or relative key. Most people will notice the blend as sounding bad or good. Mixed in Key will help you to organize music based on harmonic quality. Yes, it takes a bit of time to organize your files, but that is part of being a DJ. DJ’s have to organize whatever medium they use, be it vinyl, CD’s, or digital. Staying organized enables you to create fluid on the fly DJ sets. You will be able to react to the crowd much faster to shape the vibe.
One major area that Ableton lacks is cue points. You can use a method of breaking a song into multiple clips. Then saving each song as an Ableton Live sets. So you can drag the clips as “cue points” into your Ableton template while your DJing. I feel this method is very time-consuming and not very elegant but it can work. If you are going to go down the road of DJing in Ableton Live I highly recommend the Isotonik DJ Collection. You will need Ableton Live Suit to use these Max for Live patches. They cost a little money but considering the hours you save it is pennies on the hour. The Isotonik DJ collection comes with DJ Hotcues so you can have cue points in Ableton Live. The Cue points save with the clip. plus DJ Slicer and DJ Looper. The main benefit of DJing in Ableton is you can just use the same software you use to produce, and you can expand your set to other styles of live performance and still have a core DJ template.
Check this out on my downloads page I have a Basic DJ Template you can check out for free. It is a basically A DJ template with some needed effects and tools. I also included a few original Rentak jungle tracks for my junglists out there.
Understanding all of the parts that go into making music can seem like a daunting task. Can’t I just put these two beats together and call it a day? Just like with anything, one must truly comprehend it, integrate it, and then apply it. One can’t just learn how to hammer a nail, and then try to make a boat. It would be a total wreck! The same goes for music.
Though admittedly, there are many people who have little understanding of music that create and release “songs” to the masses. This is what most people are exposed to and accept. Then there are albums that come out that are mind-blowing, and steps above the norm. What makes these albums so epic? (besides actual good musicianship) Composition!
Composition is the actual nuts and bolts structure of the song. We take the components we’ve learned about in previous blogs, like 1/4 notes, 1/8 notes, measures, time signature, etc. and assemble our musical piece into a solid structure. An actual written composition will have all of this literally laid out including dynamics, accents, even mood (usually written in latin). It is everything one needs to know about the song, and that anyone in the world can pick up and play exactly how the composer intended it.
For electronic music, the composition need not be scored out like it does for an orchestra. It DOES still need the structure, however. Its important to know things like verse, chorus, intro, bridge, solo, etc. and exactly when these things happen in a song. The primary structure of a song is based around the chord progression, the melody, or both. Most often this is in 4, 8, or 16 measure segments called Phrases. For example, if a chord progression is 4 measures long and repeated, and at the end of the second time through it there’s a slight difference (measure 8), you got an 8 measure phrase. This phrase is repeated throughout the song, every 8 measures having that change at the end.
Understanding phrases really helps in the construction of a composition. Instead of counting out individual measures, you can now count phrases. You can make the verse 4 phrases long, or 8 phrases, then add a change. Phrases make structure more comprehensive. Melodies to follow this formula, typically being 8 or 16 measures long. This is a melodic phrase.
When you know all of the different phrases in your song, you can assemble the composition all in one go, and then tweak it later. Example: verse phrase 4 times, then chorus phrase 2 times, verse phrase 8 times, etc.. then you can add the intro phrase, a middle change, or anything you want.
Putting a structure to your song brings a direct focus that can help you make the song exactly how you hear it inside. Mapping out the composition not only forms the song, but ensures that all the pieces fit together evenly and at the right moments. Otherwise, a song will sound random, which is not inherently pleasing to the human ear, as we tend towards balance. This means an even amount of measures, and the changes happening at the end of phrases. Bringing a song into focus keeps it from rambling, and losing the listener’s attention.
Create the phrases, then piece the phrases together to create structure, add some flair etc. and your song is done. Trying to come up with structure on the fly can be laborious and not as focused as setting out the structure ahead. This can seem a rather linear way of doing things, but one would be surprised at how fluidly one’s songs are produced utilizing this.
This is a brief introduction into the structural aspects of song creation, more will be covered in future articles. Hopefully this makes Composition more understandable, and you can see the logic behind such a practice. Plus the ability of passing on one’s music to future generations to play is quite awesome. Try it with your next song, you will be pleased with the results.
This is the first article in A series of articles on Performing music using Ableton Live. The reason this topic needs to be a series is because it is not a simple answer. Everyone is different and, everyone has different needs. Yes, you could get someone’s template, learn it, get good with it, and be good to go. Using a pre-made template may work for some people and by all means explore. If nothing else you will get ideas on what you like and do not like. You also may find a template that almost suits your needs that you can modify for Performing using Ableton Live. This particular article is not about templates. I will not even really be talking to much about setting up Ableton Live either. I will be talking about the processes of preparing yourself for performing live with Ableton Live.
The first step in the processes of setting up an Ableton Live set for live performance is conceptualization. Visualize yourself on stage. What do you see? Are you solo? Are you in a band? Do you have a light and video show? What are doing? What instruments are you playing? How are you interacting with the music you are presenting to the world? Imagine yourself from the audience perspective. What does the audience see? How are you going to make a lasting impression on the audience? Take your time with this part. Visualizing your live performance is the most important step. Write it all down. Go see shows and pay close attention to what the artists are doing. take note of not only what impresses you but also what impresses the audience. Even though it mat seem like everyone is a producer, musician, or DJ, you are actually a minority. The majority of music fans have little to no idea what is actually happening on stage. They are there to be entertained. Also, consider the kind of music you are playing and the environment of your normal gig. Are hidden away in a DJ booth playing dance music? Are you the center stage focal point of the music? Are you A supporting performing? All of this has relevance to how you perform live and how you set up your rig.
After you spent some time on the visualizing the next step is conceptualizing. We still are not even going to open Ableton Live in this step but gather up all your gear. If you do not have any gear you will need something, anything. The number one rule of performing live is Do Not Touch Your Laptop on Stage!! I have one exception to this rule for the producer/DJ type that generally performs in a DJ booth. I will talk about that soon. Touching your laptop on stage is boring for you and the audience. I have mixed feelings about iPads those can be ok, but no touching the laptop. Use midi controllers to interact with your music. With the exception of some DJ’s do not put the laptop between you and the audience. It blocks the energetic transfer between you and the audience which can cause a lack of connection. If you come from a performance musician or DJ background you probably know what I am talking about. The magic is why we get on stage and why people become your fans. So imagine your live performance rig. Check out all the awesome gear that exists today. Watch videos about the gear. Watch videos of people performing with the gear. Think about what you want to do on stage. What instruments do you want to play? Do you want to finger drum? Do you want to play everything live? Live looping? Do you want to have a mix of playing live instruments and prerecorded loops or backing tracks? Do you want to just play over backing tracks? Play full tracks? DJ? Enhance the sound of your band? So many ways to perform live! Don’t forget about lighting and video, yes Ableton Live can tell other software and hardware what to do.
After you go crazy conceptualizing all the amazing possibilities of performing live. Look over that massive gear wish list that you just created and simplify. You are not an octopus my friend. Yes, the audience may perceive you as being an entity of many limbs but you actually only have 4. The second rule of live performance. Keep It as Simple As Possible! (but don’t talk about it). The biggest problem with Ableton Live when using it on stage is the limitless possibilities. You need a box. So your gear will become your box. You will need to shape your live set to your gear. That is why thinking about what you want to do is so important. You have feet too. Live loopers, controllerists, and instrumentalists can potentially all benefit from a foot controller. Another thing to think about is changing presets on the controller. I personally can not stand changing presets on my controllers while I am performing. I prefer to have dedicated functions that are always in the same place. This will help you to develop muscle memory. In the end, your live rig is an instrument. You will be able to play your live rig like an instrument. When you get good and your live rig you can focus on the music and the energy so you can take the audience on a journey. I like lots go knobs, faders, and buttons. APC 40, Launch Control, Launch Pad, Push, Quneo, and more. So many controllers out there. They all have strengths and weaknesses. Finding that combination is the trick. Personally, when I started doing this in 2007 there just was not that many choices. The trigger finger, Some cool Novation stuff, and my first controller, The Akai MPD 24 had just come out. I was inspired by the MPC so snagged that quick. My rig has evolved a lot over the years so do not be afraid of change. At the same time do not get every new shiny thing that comes along.
I want to side track real quick. Keeping to the “Keep it Simple” ethos I am directing this specifically to the DJ/Producers types. The ones that are always hidden behind a DJ booth where no one can see what you are doing. Your goal is to make music so awesome that the audience does not bother to look at you because they are dancing their asses off. They should not be watching you, filming you, they should be dancing. Personally, it drives me nuts when people are standing in the way filming the DJ’s head from the area that should be reserved for dancing. Here is a little secret, I do not know anything more simple than some headphones and thumb drives. The club probably has a really awesome Pioneer CDJ rig. Bring some CD’s for backup but thumb drive and headphones are magic. Get awesome with a DJ rig and control that dance floor. You want to add some live elements check out some iPad apps. Imaschine 2 is awesome, yes it is limited but it is simple and fun. I know plenty of DJ’s that use Ableton. Yes, Ableton can be an amazing DJ tool, but just because you produce in Ableton Live it does not mean you need to DJ with it. Personally, I love using Vinyl, CDJ’s, and Traktor to DJ. If you are a DJ you need to be able to use it all. At one of my recent shows, I was set up to do a live set in a DJ club. I had 1 deck to scratch Vinyl, Ableton Live, A Traktor Z2, Apc 40, and a Quneo. That is actually one of my scaled back rigs. I dropped my first sample on Vinyl then when I fired my scene no sound. I could see green audio on my master bus. My Audio interface was set up correctly. Volume was up on the mains. I had no idea what the issue was. So I dropped a Portishead record on my turntable. I went back to troubleshooting but I was quickly running out of time. I decided to get the CDJ’s going. I put my thumb drive into the CDJ. Nothing, CDJ did not read. I quickly grabbed my CD case out of my bag and started playing some music. The audience has no idea that I am having issues. I while playing on the CDJ’s I rebooted my laptop then switched back to my live set after a few tracks on the CDJ’s. If all I could do was use my laptop I would have been screwed. Moral of the story always have backups, and Portishead can save your butt!
Ok, so you know what you want to do. You know what gear you want to use. You have a good idea of how you want to perform. Next step, skills. You need skills. Templates and gear do not give you skills. It is time to figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Are you an awesome guitarist that wants to become a live looper? Have you ever done any live looping? you are going to need to be awesome at live looping. It is time to develop that skill. Are you a hardware looper transitioning to Live looping in Ableton Live? I hate to break it to you but the workflow looping with Ableton Live is a little different then looping with hardware. You have a lot more options and can do more epic things live looping in Ableton but it will not be exactly the same. You want finger drum like Jeremy Ellis, Divinci, Mad Zach, or any of the other awesome finger drummers out there. Yes, they have how-to videos and templates that you should watch but nothing will replace skills. Mad Zach has one of the best finger drumming tutorials I have seen. Check it out. You need to practice. No matter how awesome anyone is at something at one point they sucked and had no clue what they were doing. The only cure for suck is practice. Practice will always cure suck. So figure out what skill you need and the live those skills, breath those skills, figure out ways to alway be practicing. Even thinking about practicing increases your skills. You can actually finger drum and beatbox everywhere! I used to always practice my two and three finger bass plucking technique. I did it so much I would do it without even knowing. In the processes of developing any need skills, your live set will start to take shape.
Finally, here we are. You know what you want. You have the skills to do it. Now it is time to get that live set dialed in. I want to reinforce Keep It Simple. Most importantly keep your interaction on stage simple. Sometimes that will involve some complex tricks under the hood. that is fine, but keep that as simple as possible. You will also need to keep an eye on that CPU. In future articles, I will talk about the nuts and bolts. I will talk about how to actually set up your live set and I will go into a number of different styles of live performing. So for know get back to practicing. Another thing about practicing, you want to be awesome you must keep practicing as do I.
Austin Ableton Tutor is sponsoring a live streaming event at Google Fiber Space in downtown Austin Texas on Jan 27th at 6:00pm CST.
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7:15 Delwin Campbell (Capyac)
Topic: Improvising Performance in Ableton
8:15 Christopher Ross Medders
(BrtherWlf, Sole Glow Collective)
Topic: Processing and workflow utilizing both external hardware and Ableton Live 9.
Here is a video from NAMM 2016 Dave Criss from Keith Mcmillen Instruments demonstrates the K-Mix, a compact nd durable 8 channel audio interface mixer. This video even gets into KMI Labs and all the cool new products in development.Read more
Greetings to you, fellow Max enthusiasts and those who are simply curious about the unbridled majesty that is Max for Live. My name is Nathan Crepeault and I want to teach you how to make your very own Max for Live patches.
A bit about me: I studied music theory and composition at New York University. I moved to Austin in 2011 and have been conducting Max for Live workshops with the Austin Ableton Users’ Group ever since. I develop Max for Live devices, packs, and educational materials for Bit Voltage and perform under the moniker Deferlow. And, I’ve made every bonehead Max for Live mistake in the book so that you don’t have to!
So, if you have some heady ideas for an interactive performance system, controller modifications, or even expansions for Ableton core plug-ins, I would be more than happy to get you started in a big, bad way!
For more information about Austin Ableton Tutor 1 on 1 Instruction, Webinars, and Classes feel free to contact us Here at any time and will get back to you quickly.
You can easily book online at our online booking page located here.
Ableton Certified Trainer Jimmy Allison will be hosting a free Ableton Webinar and getting deep into the new features of Push 2 and Ableton Live 9.5.
Austin Ableton Tutor offers 1 on 1 online Training Ableton Live, Max For Live,Traktor, Maschine, Resolume, Music Theory, Music Composition, and Various VST’s. with an Online live instructor. Also check back often for Webinars and online Classes.
To get the free Ableton Webinar Enter code PUSH2FREE
To get the free Ableton Webinar Enter code PUSH2FREERead more