New Update Available: Ableton Live 8.1.3

Ableton Live 8.1.3 has been officially released. Head over to Ableton’s official update page for more details!

A new Ableton Live update, version 8.1.3, is now available.

This update is free for owners of Live/Suite 8, Live Intro and Live Lite.

To get it, select “Check for Updates…” from Live’s Help menu or visit Ableton’s official updates page.

MIDI Effect Tutorial: How To Use Ableton’s Scale

Ableton’s powerful “Scale” plug in gets explained in this tutorial. Harness the power of “Scale” and program your own exotic tones!

Ableton’s Scale is a powerful MIDI effect that allows you to constrain every note on your keyboard to a specified scale. For example, if you wanted all of your keys to play only notes within an A minor scale, Ableton’s Scale can do this.

In this tutorial we’ll take a look at how Scale works and map out some of our own scales.

The Basics Of Scale

A full octave of notes runs 12 keys (both white and black) on a keyboard.

Here is what one octave looks like on a keyboard:

In this octave there is the potential for a scale. A scale is a sequence of notes within the octave that fits a musical key.

Below is an example of a C Major Scale:

If a song is in the key of C Major, you could play any of those notes, and it would make “musical sense” within the song.

Any of the black keys (sharp/flat notes) would not fit within a C Major scale. This is where Ableton’s Scale comes in.

With Scale, you can make it so that the black keys (sharps/flats) are forced to play the same notes as the white keys. For example; an A# note on your keyboard would be shifted with Scale to play an A note

Sure there are doubles of some notes (the A# key plays an A note, as well as the A key), but this means it’s impossible to play the “wrong notes” in any particular scale.

Ableton’s Scale In Action

As a simple exercise, we’re going to force all twelve of our keys to play only C notes.

  1. Drop a soft synth (Analog or Operator is fine) onto an empty MIDI track.
  2. Under the MIDI Effects folder in Ableton’s File and Device Browser, drop “Scale” onto the same MIDI track.
  3. Your copy of Scale should now look like this:

  4. Click to activate each square on the bottom row of Scale.
  5. Play some notes on your keyboard. Notice no matter what key you hit, you’re always getting a C note.

The only difference is when you reach the end of 12 keys, it changes an octave higher or lower.

Using Scale’s “Base” Knob

Even though we have a simple “All C Notes” scale programmed, let’s change the base of the scale with the “Base” knob.

  1. In Scale, locate the knob labeled “Base”.
  2. Shift the knob up once to C#.
  3. Play some notes on your keyboard.

You should only hear C# notes being played. What’s happening is that Scale has shifted the “Base” of our notes to C#.

Shifting The Key Of A C Major Scale

Lets program a C Major scale (I know there is a preset for this, but learn by doing!):

  1. Change back our base scale to C on the “Base” knob.
  2. Reset back to the “All C Notes” scale by click on the lowest notes horizontally.
  3. Your scale should look like this:

  4. Leave the first two horizontal boxes (C and C#) at a “C” note.
  5. Bring the next two horizontal boxes (D and D#) 2 steps up to a “D”
  6. Bring the next horizontal box (E) 4 steps up to an “E”
  7. Bring the next two horizontal boxes (F and F#) 5 steps up to an “F”
  8. Bring the next two horizontal boxes up (G and G#) 7 steps up to a “G”
  9. Bring the next two horizontal boxes up (A and A#) 9 steps up to an “A”
  10. Finally, bring the last horizontal box (B) 11 steps up to a B.
  11. Your final C Major scale should look like this:

  12. At this point, all you have to do is turn the “Base” knob to any desired key, and your scale will conform to that key.

Here is what the key shift looks like:

I highly recommend visiting this site which has tons of visual scale charts. Use this to practice programming your own scaled into Ableton’s Scale.

The Other Options Explained

Okay, so you have a grasp of how the basics of Ableton’s Scale works. Let’s dissect the other options that are a part of scale.

Transpose – Use this option to transpose your performance up a certain number of steps. Similar to the “Base” knob, however, this option does not change the root of the scale.

Fold – If a note is six semitones away from the original, this button will shift it down an octave. Say you have a C1 and next to it you have a G#2, enabling fold will shift the G#2 to a G#1.

Range and Lowest – These options allow you to set the range of keys that are affected by Ableton’s Scale. With the Lowest note selected, and a certain range set, you could theoretically map a scale to only a set amount of keys.

Practice Your Scales!

As I mentioned before, the more you work with the scale, the better you will get used to it. Not all of use have the time or ability to learn all the scaled on a keyboard.

Ableton’s Scale offers a powerful alternative, and with a little bit of forethought, can be used to create scales ranging from the simple to the exotic!

R.I.P Guru

After battling health issues related to cancer, legendary MC and founding member of Gang Starr has passed away at the age of 43. His words will continue to inspire.

After battling health issues related to cancer, the legendary MC and founding member of Gang Starr has passed away at the age of 43 on April 20th, 2010.

He is survived by his son KC.

Guru will live on through his influential music, which helped pave the way for countless hip-hop acts. Consisting of the classic “one DJ and one MC” set up, Gang Starr released one quality album after another, leaving most other acts in awe of their skills.

Solar, a producer working closely with Guru before his passing had this to say:

“The world has lost one of the best MCs and hip-hop icons of all-time — my loyal best friend, partner, and brother, Guru.

He has been battling cancer for well over a year and has lost his battle! This is a matter that Guru wanted private until he could beat it, but tragically, this did not happen. The cancer took him. Now the world has lost a great man and a true genius.””

How To DJ In Ableton Live Part 2: Clips, Effects And Mixing Songs

Part 2 of a series on how to DJ in Ableton Live. This tutorial goes over Working with clips, setting up effect,s and basic blends…

Here is the second and final part of a series on how to DJ in Ableton Live. This tutorial goes over how clips work for DJing, setting up the effects, and how to do basic blends.

Here is a link to Part 1: How To DJ In Ableton Live Part 1: Setting Up Ableton And Preparing The Songs

How To Warp And Save Loops In Ableton Live 8

Live’s ability to time stretch audio is a favorite among many users. Learn the basics of warping and saving loops with Ableton Live 8 in this step by step guide.

Warping could be argued as Ableton Live’s bread and butter. Live treats the audio almost as if it’s a rubber band, shifting and pulling to conform to whatever tempo you have set. Warping Audio in Ableton Live 8 is much easier when seen in action, so lets begin.

Engaging Warp

In this tutorial we are going to be warping a 4/4 drum break.

Download the drum loop we’ll be using for this exercise here.

Step 1.) Locate the drum break in your file browser, and drag it onto a new audio track in session view.

Step 2.) Double click the clip slot where the newly loaded drum break is.

Step 3.) Once you’ve double clicked the clip, the clip waveform should show up at the bottom of the screen.

Step 4.) In Live’s Sample Display (shown below) uncheck the box labeled “warp”. This will remove any warp markers Ableton has automatically added to the drum break.

Step 5.) Now that the track has been unwarped, click the play button on the clip slot.

Step 6.) Our goal is to get a 2 bar loop from this drum break. Here is where the loop will start and end.

Step 7.) Drag the start marker over to the first kick hit at the beginning of our loop start. (Zoom in to get it at the beginning of the transient).

Locating Live’s Start Marker

Lining it up with the first kick of our loop.

Zooming in to better see the start of the kick transient.

Step 8.) Right click on the start marker and select “Warp From Here (Straight)”

Step 9.) Live has guessed that our loop is 80.85 BPM. We will change this in a couple of steps, in order to change the BPM later we will add another warp marker to the end of the loop.

Find the “3” on the beat ruler, and double click the top half of the wave form to add a warp marker there.

Step 10.) Take a minute to engage the metronome (located top left of Ableton Live) and play back the loop so far. Notice we still have a little ways to go, as the metronome isn’t quite synching up, yet.

Step 11.) Engage Ableton’s Loop Button to the left of the waveform.

Step 12.) Set the loop points as follows: Under position type 1, 1, 1 in the three boxes. Under Length type 2, 0, 0.

Step 13.) Again, play back the loop with the metronome on. The loop is working, but there is excess at the end. Let’s fix this now.

Step 14.) Find the Seg. BPM section under the warp options.

Step 15.) Click and drag up to raise the number in Seg BPM. Notice how it shifts the waveform to the right.

Our goal is to get where the loop should end lined up exactly with the “3” on the beat ruler.

If you’ve done it right, your Seg BPM should be in the range of 90 – 92 BPM. If there is a decimal at the end, round up or down. Change Live’s global tempo to that as well.

Your loop should look something like this:

Step 16.) Zoom all the way out of the waveform (hold the mouse on the beat ruler and drag your mouse up). Remove the extra warp marker after the loop by double clicking on it.

Step 17.) Add a warp marker under “3” of our beat ruler again.

Step 18.) Play back the loop with the metronome on. You can hear the click now staying in time with the drum break.

Tighten The Timing And Saving The Loop

So we have a drum loop that has conformed to timing metronome and repeats almost flawlessly. Before we crop the loop and save it, lets tighten the timing a bit more.

Step 19.) Lets start by locating all of our major snare hits in this loop.

Step 20.) If you zoom in on the first snare hit, you will notice it doesn’t exactly line up with the 1.2 on the bear ruler.

Step 21.) To line the first snare hit to the 1.2 on the beat ruler, double click to add a warp marker right on the 1.2.

Step 22.) Hold your mouse over the warp marker and while holding the Shift key, drag the snare hit, until the first transient lines up with the warp marker on 1.2.

Repeat for snare the snare hits on 1.4, 2.2, and 2.4.

Step 23.) Right click on the top half of the wave form and click “Crop Sample”.

Step 24.) Drag the loop from the clip slot in Session View back into Live’s file browser. This will save your newly cropped loop into a ready to use Ableton Live clip.

More Than One Way To Warp A Loop

Armed with this knowledge, and a bit of insight into counting when loops begin and end, you can potentially amass an archive of loops sampled from practically anything. Keep in mind, some loops are much harder to work with that others.

Warping in Ableton Live can be done many different ways, this is just my preferred method. If you have your own ways of doing it, please share them below!

Coachella Q&A: Richie Hawtin Talks About Using Ableton Live In His Setup

LA Weekly got a chance to catch up with Richie Hawtin at this years Coachella festival to discuss technology and the state of american electronic music.

LA Weekly got a chance to catch up with Richie Hawtin at this years Coachella festival to discuss technology and the state of american electronic music.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

LA Weekly: Are you still using Ableton Live software to perform?

Hawtin: We are using Ableton Live, Ableton is actually controlling and opening pages on the iPhone app. Where we’re at today technologically, there’s some unbelievable software that’s out there. We put together some off-the-shelf programs and customized how they interact with each other to create something different than anyone else is doing.

Read the rest of the interview here.

How To Control The Low End Of Your Mix In Ableton

There is a fine line involved when it comes to mixing the low end of your track. Here are some tips you can use in Ableton Live to keep the bottom in check.

There is a fine line involved when it comes to mixing the low end of your tracks. It’s easy to teeter on the brink of making the mix too muddy, or clip the low peaks. Here is how you get the best of the bottom.

The Fundamentals Of Bass In A Mix

Usually it’s the bass line and the bass drum that can cause problems while mixing in Ableton Live. Both can take up a broad amount of frequencies, and clashing between the two is a very common problem.

With most bass instruments, the low E sits at about 40Hz. While the low end of an kick drum sits in around the 60-80Hz.

By playing two notes in the lower register of an instrument (say a D1 and an F1), you’ll realize it’s not as pleasing when the two are played together in a higher register.

Although electronic instruments can produce sounds as low as 20Hz, most low end heavy electronic music usually hang out above the 40Hz range. Anything below 40Hz is usually rolled off with EQ to add a subtle punch that can be felt rather than heard.

So, where exactly does getting better low end in your mix start?

Fix Up Your Room

If your mixes sound great in your studio, congratulations! If they sound bad everywhere else, stop the celebrating. The problem usually lies in your listening environment.

Monitors Make The Difference

Getting accurate bass response by investing in a decent pair of monitors (regular speakers will colorize the sound, giving you inaccurate response.) Go to your local music store, bring in some of your favorite tracks, and listen to how different monitors handle the low end.

TheMackie HR-824’s can be purchased for under $1,000, and they sound great.

I don’t recommend using a sub woofer. However, if you do, blend the sub so it doesn’t overpower everything else in your mix.

The bottom is, save the extra cash you would spend on a sub, and spend it on a nicer pair of studio monitors.

Treat Your Room Nicely

Next up, treat the corners of your room with some bass traps. Low frequencies tend to cloud up your listening environment since they travel much slower.

Bass traps are made from an absorbent material and they will suck up any of the excess bass that can complicate things when mixing. Learn more about them here.

Analyzing Mixes With Ableton’s Spectrum

Ableton Live’s spectrum is a great tool for getting a visual representation of your mix. Obviously you shouldn’t rely on it solely (that’s what your ears are for), but it really does help put things into perspective.

  1. Drop Spectrum onto an individual track, or your overall mix.
  2. Double click the main window to get a larger view of the frequencies being analyzed.
  3. Play the track (or clip), and pay attention to the numbers on the left side (the decibel or volume of certain frequencies) as well as the numbers on the top (the hertz).

Here are some real world examples of songs I have analyzed with Ableton Live’s spectrum. They’re genres feature prominent low end.

Gangstarr – Mass Appeal

Like in most hip hop songs, the the weight of this track relies heavily on the kick drum.

Peaking out at around 50Hz, with another bump around 85Hz, you can hear the tight punchy kick through the entire mix, without it taking up too much weight.

Mason – Exceeder (Felguk Remix)

Once again, you have the kick taking up a lot of the low end in the track (peaking around 48Hz) with a very prominent bass line taking up the low-mid frequencies with some higher overtones. Note the high level of compression on the overall mix as well.

Skream – Midnight Request Line

Dubstep productions are well known for it’s low sine wave bass lines. In this track you can see it’s the simple 2 note bass line that’s taking up the majority of the low end, while it’s the kick that’s filling in the low-mid frequencies.

Notice how in most of these examples the low end slowly curves off. This is using the same technique mentioned above. Roll off the frequencies below 40Hz to still feel them, but not let them take up too much space in your mix.

Don’t Compromise, Equalize!

Equalization can be dangerous territory when trying to fix your low end. Use these tips to help keep your bass under control. We’ll be using Ableton’s EQ Eight in these examples.

Boosting Lows

To boost the fundamental frequencies of many bass parts, try these settings with EQ Eight.

  1. Select Band 1 of EQ Eight
  2. Boost around 40Hz – 100Hz
  3. Use a fairly broad Q (0.5 – 1.0)

Cutting The Mid-Lows

If you’d like to separate the bass parts from the rest of your mix try cutting out some frequencies with EQ Eight.

  1. Select Band 2 of EQ Eight
  2. Cut between 200-300Hz
  3. Use a much more narrow Q (3 – 5)

This technique also allows you to add a little more compression later on in the mix.

Boosting The Mid-Highs

Tonally shaping the mid-high range of a bass part can add subtle harmonics to the low end.

  1. Select Band 3 of EQ Eight
  2. Boost around 800Hz – 1,200Hz
  3. Use a broad Q (0.5 – 1.0)

This can harmonically boost the bass without making the mix muddy.

Don’t Give The Wrong Compression

Compression will essentially squash any dynamics and make the source louder. This is a great technique for bass and kick drums, but use in moderation.


This will setup a threshold for when the compression will kick in. Setting a threshold of about -10dB to -20dB is a reasonable area for bass sounds.


This sets the ratio of decibels between the input and output of the signal. As an example every 3dB of input above the threshold level, the output level will only increase by 1dB.

For most bass sounds a ratio between 2 and 4 will do a good job of creating a nice punch for in the mix.

Attack And Release

For faster bass parts try boosting the attack and release knobs, 20ms and 400ms respectively. The release control allows the compressor to recover between each of the notes.

Here is an example of good starting settings:

  1. Drop Ableton’s Compressor on a bass or Kick track
  2. Bring the threshold to -20dB
  3. Change the ratio to 4
  4. Bring the attack knob up to 20ms
  5. Bring the release knob up to 400ms

Tweak these settings to taste.

Not Enough Room

We’ve really only been able to touch on a lot of these subjects (they can fill books). As always, take any of these tips with a grain of salt, and have fun coming up with your own settings for taming the bass in your mixes! Interviews Jazz Mutant Cofounder

Numerous artists with loads of credibility have brought Jazz Mutant’s products on the road. Co founder Guillaume Largillier gives some insight into the future of these amazing devices

Here is a great interview by with some amazing insight into the world of multi-touch interfaces.

Here is a quick snippet from the interview:

On Designing for Touch, and the Music Tech Industry

Peter: I remember when I first talked to Darwin Grosse about Lemur, when it was being distributed by Cycling ‘74. Darwin just kept saying, “You know, I just think Star Trek: The Next Generation.” (That’s my recollection, Darwin; I hope I’m not misquoting you.) I tended to agree. It’s a cliche, perhaps, but this was clearly hardware that brought into our century part of an imagined vision of a much further-off future (the 24th Century). Was that a conscious influence? In an industry that has sometimes been aggressively traditional, is there a way to channel ideas from something as far out as science fiction?

Guillaume: Before answering your question, allow me to challenge your statement about the computer music industry. I think “ill nostalgic” would describe this industry much better than “aggresively traditional.” Most music software companies have kept being innovative over the last decade, but their creativity has been a slave to this nostalgic obsession. Emulating an analog channel strip, a tube amplifier, or a vintage synth is far from a trivial job. It actually requires as much engineering time and resources as developing a disruptive product such as Ableton Live or Max/MSP/Jitter! On the hardware side, the innovation killer is the price pressure. Despite a common misconception, the computer music industry is not and will never be a mass market. Companies such as M-Audio [Avid], Behringer, or Native Instruments may look like giants compared to JazzMutant, but they are nano-particles compared to large consumer electronic brands such as HP or Nokia. The volume and the gross margins are too small to amortize ambitious research and development plans. When we launched the Lemur in 2005, a lot of people predicted, and somewhat hoped, that Behringer would release a similar device at $200 within the next eighteen months. Five years later, the first serious competitor of the Lemur is about to land – Apple’s iPad – and its entry level price is $500.

Read the rest here: The Future of Multi-Touch: Behind the Scenes with Stantum, JazzMutant Co-Founder

Arrangement Tips For Ableton Live

Arrangement is one of the most important (and often overlooked) aspects of creating music. Here are some tips to help the flow of your tracks in Ableton Live.

Arrangement is one of the most important (and often overlooked) aspects of creating music. It is literally the framework that holds a song together, and without a solid framework, the structure can easily give way.

For this tutorial I am going to be referencing most basic forms of dance music. Songs that have a 4/4 beat, and are usually built around 1, 2 and 4 bar loops. By grasping the concepts discussed in this tutorial, arranging songs in Ableton Live should come much easier.

How Songs Are Structured

Music is built on rhythm, melody and harmony. Most dance music is based on loops, these loops consist of the elements noted. Once the loops are arranged in a certain order, you have a song.

Dance music is arranged into basic sections, these are known as:

  • Intro
  • Breakdown 1
  • Main Section 1
  • Breakdown 2
  • Main Section 2 (or Refrain)
  • Outro

Lets break one of these elements down with a real world example:

The intro of this song runs from 0:00 to 0:59. The intro ends as soon as the tom roll enters. It is built around a 4 bar synth melody that is looped throughout the whole intro. Notice how the arrangement builds every 8 bars (2 of the 4 bar chunks).

Most dance music is built this way. Things are brought in or taken away in chunks of 4, 8, 16 and sometimes 32 bars.

The tom roll at the end of the intro is used as a transition from the intro into the first breakdown.

This is basically the idea behind an entire track. You develop melodies, counter melodies, beats, that all lock into the 1, 2, and 4 bar loop structure. Those loops are then introduced, dropped out, and re introduce for effect.

Working With Loops In Ableton Live

So now that we know how loops work, and how they can help organize our arrangement, lets see how they work in Ableton Live.

  1. Create a new MIDI track in Arrangement View (Ctrl+Shift+T)
  2. Starting on 1 of the beat ruler, highlight a section that goes up to 2 on the beat ruler (see below). The section should turn orange if selected properly
  3. Press Ctrl+M to create a new MIDI clip
  4. You’ve just created a 1 bar loop

If you would like to create a 2 bar loop highlight up until the 3 on the beat ruler, for a 4 bar loop, highlight up to the 5.

To change the length of the loop, you can locate the notes section in the clip overview and find the loop section. Locate where is says “Length”. The first number represents the bars of the measure, the second is beats, while the third is sixteenth notes (rarely used).

Organizing Your Arrangement

The best way to organize your arrangement in Ableton Live is by setting up Locators. Locators are play markers that allow you to add notes in Arrangement View. This helps give a visual representation where changes in the song will be.

  1. Right below the beat time ruler, is the scrub area. You’ll see a small speaker icon when you hover your mouse over it
  2. When you find the location you’d like to place your Locator, right click and select “Add Locator”
  3. Name the locator so it’s appropriate to the section of the song
  4. Double click a locator to start playback from it

Spontaneous Arrangement

The great thing about Ableton Live, is that Session View allows you to trigger off loops of a certain length in real time. Say you have three tracks each with one loop. Two loops are 1 bar and the other is 4 bars. Live will keep these clips in synch while you start and stop them. Great for improvised jamming.

  1. Enter Live’s Session View
  2. Start a new MIDI track by hitting Ctrl+Shift+M
  3. Double click the first empty clip slot
  4. A one bar loop has been automatically created
  5. Drop your favorite virtual instrument on the track
  6. Draw in some notes in the piano roll window
  7. You can edit the loop length in the “Notes” window as mentioned earlier

Do those steps a few times with different lengths of loops. Once you’ve got a small army of loops you’re satisfied with, you can start and stop them in session view for instant arrangement ideas.

Finding The Right Formula

There is no right or wrong way to arrange songs, but I hope this guide has given you some insight into how it’s done. I’ve used dance music as an example, since most arrangements of that type are fairly repetitive and simple.

If you’re ever in doubt, it helps to take a step back and rest on your production for a night or two. Coming back to an arrangement with fresh ears can do wonders for inspiration.

Got any arrangement techniques you like to use in Ableton Live? Feel free to share them below!