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Ableton Live


Ableton Live

Ableton Live
Ableton Live 8 on Microsoft Windows 7
Developer(s) Ableton
Stable release 9.2.3 / 20 October 2015 (2015-10-20)
Written in C++
Operating system Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
Type Digital Audio Workstation
License Proprietary[1]

Ableton Live is a software music sequencer and digital audio workstation for OS X and Windows. The latest major release of Live, Version 9, was released on March 5, 2013. In contrast to many other software sequencers, Live is designed to be an instrument for live performances as well as a tool for composing, recording, arranging, mixing and mastering. It is also used by DJs, as it offers a suite of controls for beatmatching, crossfading, and other effects used by turntablists, and was one of the first music applications to automatically beatmatch songs.


  • History 1
  • Features 2
    • Views 2.1
    • Instruments 2.2
      • Built-In 2.2.1
    • Dedicated Hardware Instruments 2.3
    • Add-ons 2.4
    • Effects 2.5
    • Working with audio clips 2.6
    • Envelopes 2.7
  • Versions 3
    • Live Intro and Live LE 3.1
    • Ableton Live 8 Launchpad Edition and Ableton Live 8 Akai Professional APC Edition 3.2
    • Live 8 3.3
    • Suite 8 3.4
    • Live 9 3.5
    • Suite 9 3.6
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Ableton Live is written in C++, with the first version released in 2001 as commercial software. Contrary to popular belief, Live itself was not prototyped in Max/MSP, although most of the audio devices were.[2]

Major Releases
Version Date
Live 1 30 Oct 2001[3]
Live 1.5 28 Apr 2002[4]
Live 2 22 Dec 2002[5]
Live 2.1 24 Jul 2003[6]
Live 3 10 Oct 2003[7]
Live 4 28 Jul 2004[8]
Live 5 24 Jul 2005[9]
Live 5.2 10 Apr 2006[10]
Live 6 29 Sep 2006[11]
Live 7 29 Nov 2007[12]
Live 8 02 Apr 2009[13]
Live 8.2 22 Sep 2010[14]
Live 8.3 2 April 2012[15]
Live 9 5 March 2013[16]
Live 9.1 20 Nov 2013
Live 9.2 29 June 2015


Live does now support latency compensation for plug-in and mixer automation.

Much of Live's interface comes from being designed for use in live performance as well as for production.[17] As such the interface is more compact than most sequencers and clearly designed for use on a single screen. There are few pop up messages or dialogs. Portions of the interface are hidden and shown based on arrows which may be clicked to show or hide a certain segment (e.g. to hide the instrument/effect list or to show or hide the help box).


Live is composed of two 'views' – the arrangement view and the session view. The session view is primarily used to organize and trigger sets of MIDI and audio called clips. These clips can be arranged into scenes which can then be triggered as a unit. For instance a drum, bass and guitar track might comprise a single scene. When moving on to the next scene, which may feature a synth bassline, the artist will trigger the scene, activating the clips for that scene. As of Live 6, "device racks" have been implemented which allow the user to easily group instruments and effects, as well as map their controls to a set of 'macro' controls.

The other view is the arrangement view, which is used for recording tracks from the session view and further manipulating their arrangement and effects. It is also used for manual MIDI sequencing, something for which a classical composer would have a greater affinity. This view is fairly similar to a traditional software sequencer interface.

Clips may either be an audio sample or MIDI sequence. MIDI triggers notes on Live's built in instruments, as well as third party VST instruments or external hardware.



By default, Live comes with two instruments - Impulse and Simpler.

  • Impulse is a traditional drum triggering instrument which allows the user to define a kit of up to eight drum sounds, each based on a single sample. There are a number of effects available such as basic equalization, attack, decay, pitch shift, etc. Once the kit is defined, rhythms and beats are created through Live's MIDI sequencer.
  • Simpler is a relatively easy-to-use sampling instrument. It works using a single sample, applying some simple effects, envelopes, and timing, and then applying pitch transformations in the form of Granular synthesis. In this case, incoming MIDI does not trigger drums as it does in Impulse, but selects the final pitch of the sample, with C3 playing the sample at its original pitch.
  • Drum Rack Is a sampler for drums. Midi notes trigger individual "Simplers" so rather than triggering one sample at multiple pitches, individual samples are triggered at predefined pitches, as is suitable for midi drum programming. As is usual with Ableton almost anything can be drag dropped to or from the drum racks, for example you can drop a clip or part of a clip into the drum rack to isolate drum parts from audio.

Dedicated Hardware Instruments

Akai Professional makes the APC40, a MIDI controller designed to work solely with Ableton Live. A smaller version, the APC20, was released in 2010. Though there are hundreds of MIDI controllers compatible with Ableton, these Akai units try to closely map the actual Ableton Live layout onto physical space. Novation Digital Music Systems has created the "Launchpad" which is a pad device that has been designed for use with Ableton. Ableton has also released their own MIDI controller, the Push, which is the first pad-based controller that embraces scales and melody.[18]


There are a number of additional instruments which may be purchased separately or as part of the Ableton Suite.[19]

  • Amp - a device that delivers the sounds of various amplifiers and cabinet combos. It is the newest add-on and a part of Suite 8.2.
  • Sampler - an enhanced sampler.
  • Operator - an FM synthesizer.
  • Electric - an electric piano instrument.
  • Tension - a string physical modelling synthesizer.
  • Collision - a mallet percussion physical modelling synthesizer.
  • Analog - simulates an analog synthesizer.
  • Drum Machines - a collection of emulators for classic drum machines.
  • Session Drums - a collection of sampled drum kits.
  • Latin Percussion - a collection of sampled latin percussion hits and loops.
  • Essential Instruments Collection - a large collection of acoustic and electric instrument samples.
  • Orchestral Instrument Collection - a collection of four different orchestral libraries, which can be purchased individually or as a bundle: Orchestral Strings, Orchestral Brass, Orchestral Woodwinds and Orchestral Percussion. The Orchestral Instrument Collection is not included in Live Suite.


Most of Live's effects are already common effects in the digital signal processing world which have been adapted to fit Live's interface. They are tailored to suit Live's target audience – electronic musicians and DJs - but may also be used for other recording tasks such as processing a guitar rig. The effects featured in Ableton Live are grouped into two categories - MIDI effects and audio effects.

Audio Effects MIDI Effects

Live is also able to host VST plugins and, on the OS X version, Audio Unit plug-ins.

Working with audio clips

Sasha playing a DJ set using Ableton Live.

In addition to the instruments mentioned above, Live can work with samples. Live attempts to do beat analysis of the samples to find their meter, number of bars and the number of beats per minute. This makes it possible for Live to shift these samples to fit into loops that are tied into the piece's global tempo.

Additionally, Live's Time Warp feature can be used to either correct or adjust beat positions in the sample. By setting warp markers to a specific point in the sample, arbitrary points in the sample can be pegged to positions in the measure. For instance a drum beat that fell 250 ms after the midpoint in measure may be adjusted so that it will be played back precisely at the midpoint.

Some artists and online stores, such as The Covert Operators and Puremagnetik, now make available sample packs that are pre-adjusted, with tempo information and warp markers added. The audio files are accompanied with an "analysis file" in Live's native format.[20][21]


Almost all of the parameters in Live can be automated by envelopes which may be drawn either on clips, in which case they will be used in every performance of that clip, or on the entire arrangement. The most obvious examples are volume or track panning, but envelopes are also used in Live to control parameters such as the root note of a resonator or, more commonly, a filter's cutoff frequency. Clip envelopes may also be mapped to MIDI controls, which can also control parameters in real-time using sliders, faders and such.


Live Intro and Live LE

As of version 6, Ableton also offers a stripped-down version of Live targeted at the non-professional market. It has limitations on the number of audio channels and effects and does not feature some of the synchronization (MIDI Clock, ReWire) utilities the full version has to offer. The current Live LE version is 8.1.4.[22]

As part of the Able10 celebrations, Ableton introduced Live Intro as an effective replacement to LE. Registered users of Live LE can now receive a free upgrade to Live Intro.[23] The current version is 8.3.3.

Ableton Live 8 Launchpad Edition and Ableton Live 8 Akai Professional APC Edition

Specially packaged versions of Ableton that are custom-tailored for the controllers they are bundled with. (Novation Launchpad, Akai APC20/40) These versions of the software are less limited than the LE and intro versions but still don't have all the features of the full version. This version is known as Live lite.

Live 8

On 17 January 2009 Ableton announced version 8 of Live. Live 8 includes a wealth of new features, including an integrated Max/MSP platform, internet collaboration features, and many new effects and workflow enhancements, as well as a refined piracy protection system. Also announced was a dedicated hardware controller developed in collaboration with Akai, called the APC40. Live 8 was released on April 2 of 2009.[24] Max for Live was released on November 23 of 2009.[25]

Suite 8

Suite 8 includes all the features of Live 8 plus a new Library with new sounds and resources. Suite 8 contains 10 Ableton instruments including synths, a sampler, electric and acoustic drums, mallets, numerous sampled instruments, reworked Operator and two completely new instruments, Collision and Tension.

Live 9

On October 25, 2012, Ableton hosted a preview event for Live 9. New features such as integration of Max for Live and the Push hardware controller were announced and demonstrated. Later announced features in Live 9 include a Glue Compressor as well the ability to add curves and shapes to track automation among many other updates.[26] Live 9 and the Push hardware were released on March 5, 2013.

Suite 9

A major addition to the Live 9 suite offering was the inclusion of Max For Live for all Live 9 Suite customers. This dramatically increases the size of the Max for Live community and holds significant promise toward grass roots enhancements in Live by community members creating their own Max For Live devices. Live 9 Suite also expanded the "sound-ware" included over Suite 8.

See also


  1. ^ "Ableton Live End Use License Agreement". Retrieved August 18, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Prototyping explained by Live co-creator Robert Henke". Archived from the original on 2010-11-18. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  3. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Archived from the original on 7 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  4. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  5. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  6. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  7. ^ "Harmony Central". Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  8. ^ "Harmony Central". Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  9. ^ "Harmony Central". Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  10. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  11. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  12. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Archived from the original on 24 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  13. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Archived from the original on 16 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  14. ^ "Ableton Forum • View topic - Current Version: Live 8.2". Retrieved 2010-09-22. 
  15. ^ "Ableton Blog". 2012-04-02. 
  16. ^ "Ableton Blog". 2012-10-25. 
  17. ^ Tusa, Scott. "Getting Started with Ableton Live". O'Reilly Digital Media. Archived from the original on 9 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-19. This user-friendly program was designed for live performances by musicians who wanted to use the recording studio like a musical instrument. As performers and recording engineers, they felt stymied by the non-real-time nature of typical audio programs, so they wrote their own. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Ableton - Ableton Suite
  20. ^ "The Covert Operators - Ableton Live Packs". Retrieved 2011-08-05. 
  21. ^ "Puremagnetik". Archived from the original on 16 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-17. 
  22. ^ Ableton - Live 7 LE Features
  23. ^ "Live Intro". Ableton. Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  24. ^ Ableton - Live 8 - What's New
  25. ^ Max for Live
  26. ^

Ableton vs. FL Studio

External links

  • Ableton's official website
  • Lastfm website
  • Ableton Live how-to database
  • Ableton Live tutorials, tips & news
  • Free tutorials & resources for Ableton Live users—updated daily! Beginner to advanced.
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