[10 KNOW-HOWs MAKING ABLETON LIVE 9 UNIQUE]
by Andrey Romanenko, www.Ableton.in.UA
Funny thing - the first in-depth DAWs popularity analysis popped up only weeks before I’ve collected everything necessary to publish my first post I’ve started to work on 6 month ago. So I do recommend you to have a read:
Back in September, 2015 we ran the mother of all music gear contests, with a whopping $33,000 worth of hardware and…ask.audio
Switching to Live from Cubase in 2007 turned out to be one the most important decisions I’ve made in my sound production career. Having spent 8 years learning this fantastic tool - I’ve decided to share the list of advantages I find unique to Ableton Live vs classic “linear workflow” DAWs (Cubase, Logic, ProTools etc, and I do not consider Bitwig here due to let’s call it “goodwill” reasons).
To keep this list structured I will split it accordingly to the main sound production stages: PRODUCTION — MIXDOWN — MASTERING, adding WORKFLOW — LIVE ACT on top of that.
This post may look lengthy (and it is)) but for those thinking of switching the DAW or being at the point of selecting the first DAW — critical decisions in both cases — I do recommend to read it through.
1. PRODUCTION: SESSION vs ARRANGEMENT MODES
These 2 modes is what actually makes Live unique in concept and architecture, bringing the whole another level of creative freedom to the table. When comparing it to classic “linear” or “left-to-right workflow” DAWs like Cubase, Logic or ProTools — it’s like living the whole life in 2D, stepping out into 3D space one day, and no exaggeration here (here I mean the production part of the process — tracking, sound design, arrangement). You need to try it to believe it)
I’m working dual-screen, with different screen resolutions, that’s why the picture looks like that. If you will have a closer look — the logic is obvious — in both cases 8 audio, 8 MIDI tracks, 2 returns and the master bus. So these are 2 views at the same subject but from different perspectives.
2. PRODUCTION: DRUM & INSTRUMENT RACKS
DRUM RACKS: Control your Drums/Percussion/FX layers both production and mixdown-wise using one Drum Rack only (!) placed on the single MIDI track. Use dedicated MIDI clips for major parts, breaks and transitions with unlimited layering & processing options. Forget about stodgy 20+ tracks structures taking tones of your screen real estate and complicating your workflow. One click export of individual drum parts into audio when/if needed and excellent routing possibilities — all that you need for your drum works. Of course it’s not a must, but at least you must try it)
Here we got an unfolded drum rack with several MIDI clips (just to give an idea) containing the major structural part of the rhythm section.
Here we entering a CLIP view mode looking into the “BREAK” 1 MIDI clip.
Drum Rack also contains its own Sends/Return section, to be either processed within a drum bus or send out to Master Sends, to me personally this option is extremely handy.
INSTRUMENT RACKS: a fantastic sound design tool, with virtually endless capabilities. Most of the drum rack options apply, the only thing is no in-rack sends/returns (at least nothing else comes to my mind now)
Here we got 3 different Analog patches layered (just for demo purposes) at one MIDI track, that you could play and tweak simultaneously, though totally independently.
3. PRODUCTION: NATIVE MIDI CONTROLLERS & MACRO MAPPINGS
Exclusively designed for Ableton Live, native MIDI controllers like AKAI APC40/APC40mkII, PUSH/PUSH2, Launchpad provide the whole new level of interaction with your DAW, with PUSH being capable of performing as one-man-orchestra the one and only instrument combining the functionality of a control surface, MIDI keyboard and drum pad controller. Native controllers yield fantastic results both at production and mixdown stages, and of course during the live performance.
As already mentioned — any number of processors in series or parallel could be chained in a rack. Mapping multiple parameters to a single knob (with an option to set up upper/lower parameter ranges) brings all the control you may ever need to your fingertips.
4. PRODUCTION: ABLETON SPECIALS
MAX4LIVE INTEGRATION: Another universe of limitless capabilities has been just added (Suite version only). Create and process Audio/MIDI or even video (!) content in the ways never available before. Create the tools yourself if needed, e.g. OSCiLLOT by Max for Cats — a modular synth (commercial): https://www.ableton.com/en/blog/modular-synthesis-comes-to-ableton-live/
CONVOLUTION REVERBs: MAX4LIVE technology puts real place reverbs at your disposal. Need the highest quality realistic reverbs — search no more. Two sections of Convolution Reverb Pro settings(EQ and POS Tabs are opened).
DRUM SYNTHS: Easy to grasp and tweak yet great sounding drum synthesis tools.
LIVE 9.5 ADD-ONS
Great sounding analog-modeled filters (developed together with Cytomic), re-designed Simpler, RMS indicators on channel strips… No comments)
New waveform view + new filter section is selected.
To make a very long story short— Live’s fantastic racks concepts, routing options, bussing, grouping and preset management possibilities make the whole mixing process extremely comfortable. It goes even further when you run a multi-channel audio interface, and work dual- or triple-screen with a native MIDI controller. Referencing has never been easier (as with a multi-channel interface you may route two audio streams via different physical outputs and use Live’s crossover to switch between the project and your reference track easily keeping an eye on the levels and stuff).