Ableton Live

Ableton Live DAW software lives up to its name

Each of the leading DAW program have an obvious focus — something for which they are known and at which they excel. Ableton Live is no exception. One of the newer entries into the field, it was, as the name suggests, developed primarily as a tool for live situations.

But that is not to say that it doesn’t have powerful capabilities in other areas as well.

Why it is such a powerful performance tool

Because it grew from the DJ movement and was focused initially on performance, Ableton Live has several features that make it ideal for working musicians. First is the compact user-interface that lends itself well to changing things “on the fly.” In addition, this makes one of the — if not the — easiest DAW software to master.

Based on a “one screen” format, it sublimates additional features into the background, or makes them accessible via additional keyboard commands. Thus, the performer can focus on the main action, without being distracted by pop-ups, sub menus, and the like.

Imbued with a suite of controls that includes crossfading, beatmatching, and other effects, Ableton allows users to stretch and shrink (or “warp”) tempos in order to match other band members, or blend one song into the next.

An ideal tool for electronic music

Though it doesn’t have the depth of MIDI-sequencing and virtual instrument facility that Cubase enjoys, Ableton Live is well set up for MIDI programming, looping, drum programming, and more. Its two buit-in instruments, Impulse and Simpler, can be augmented with additional plug-ins and VSTs.

Because of its Live performance bent, Ableton Live makes it even easier to create, especially in the electronic realm. Its streamlined workflow system means that writing, pre-production, and live editing is not only possible, but simple as well.

Combined with the wireless, DAW-controlling features of the pok footswitch, Ableton is literally the most power DAW system a performing musician could ask for. Starting and stopping tracks, turning instruments on and off — anything that can be done with a keyboard (and that’s a lot) can also be done with the pok. Which leaves the artist free to play and perform while running a sophisticated suite of additional instruments.

Beyond the stage

While it lacks the depth of audio editing and mixing features that Pro Tools, Cubase, and Sonar have, Ableton can be used in the studio. As mentioned, it is especially powerful for creating and editing electronic music.

The stripped down user-interface and no-nonsense workflow paradigm make it especially useful as a composition and arranging tool. It’s quite common for songwriters, composers, and musicians to do their writing and pre-production in Ableton Live, then move to Cubase or Pro Tools for the final mixes.

Who is using Ableton?

The list of Ableton Live users is long and varied, including legendary Who guitarist Pete Townsend, Korn keyboardist Zac Baird, Television composer Barbara Hagan, hip hop producer and DJ Jazzy Jeff, and numerous DJs and electronica bands.