live - Performance Audio


sequencing instrument owners manual

Live Sequencing Instrument for Windows and Mac OS

Owners Manual by Brian Tester, Gerhard Behles, Torsten Slama


2001 Ableton AG. All rights reserved.

This manual, as well as the software described in it, is furnished under license and may be used or copied only in accordance with the terms of such license. The content of this manual is furnished for informational use only, is subject to change without notice, and should not be construed as a commitment by Ableton AG. Ableton AG assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or inaccuracies that may appear in this book.

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Product serial number:

Response key:

Please fill in the serial number and the response key in the fields above for later reference. You will need these keys in case you have to reinstall the program.



For additional and updated information, please refer to the electronic documentation on the Installation CD-ROM.

Welcome to Ableton Live

Welcome and thank you for purchasing Ableton Live!

Live is the result of musicians wanting a better way to perform live, improvisational music using a computer. A lot of effort has been put into making it intuitive and easy to use, yet still capable of helping you create music as complex as you want it to be. Live is meant to be an instrument – something that allows truly musical expression.

We hope you enjoy using Live in all of your music-making experiences. And we welcome your suggestions about how we can make Live better for you.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Installing and Setting Up Live . . . . . . . . . 9

Copy Protection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

Setting up Live for Audio and MIDI . . . . . 11

Getting Started . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

The Live Interface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Playing a Live set . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18



Chapter One:

Installing and Setting

Up Live

Chapter 1

1. Installing and Setting Up Live

Before you install Live, make sure your computer fulfills these minimum requirements:

Macintosh System Requirements

• G3 Macintosh or faster.

• 64 megabytes of RAM or more (128 MB recommended).

• CD-ROM drive.

• MacOS 8.6 or later.

• 256 color monitor or better, 800 x 600 pixels or larger.

PC System Requirements

• 300 MHz CPU or faster.

• 64 megabytes of RAM or more (128 MB recommended).

• CD-ROM drive.

• Windows 95, 98, NT 4.0 or 2000 or later.

• 256 color monitor or better, 800 x 600 pixels or larger.

• Windows-compatible sound card, preferably with a

DirectX or ASIO driver.

To install the Live software, first insert the CD included within the Ableton Live package. Refer to the ReadMe file on the installation CD for specific instructions.

Copy Protection

Live uses what is called challenge-response copy protection. This ensures that each copy of Live runs on only one computer. When the Live software is installed it creates a challenge: a unique number that identifies the computer you are running Live on. When you first run Live, an Unlock dialog box will state the challenge. To unlock the soft-


Installing and Setting Up Live ware, you have to type a response to this challenge into the response field that is also found on the Unlock dialog.

To obtain the response from Ableton, you have to submit both the challenge and the product serial number, which is printed on a sticker that you will find in the Live package.

This can be done using the Ableton website, or by sending an e-mail, or by phoning/faxing/mailing us. Please follow the instructions on the unlock dialog.

Live will run in “unlock period” for several days until the response can be provided. After this period, Live cannot be run without the response number.

When you receive the response number from Ableton, please write it down. In the manual’s fist pages you will find a field for the response number. Under certain circumstances, for instance after a disk crash, Live will ask you for the response number again.

Setting up Live for Audio and MIDI

When you first install Live, the audio output setting will default to SoundManager if you are using a Macintosh, and

MME/DirectX if you are using a Windows PC. This is a good thing because it ensures that Live will be making sound as soon as your computer is plugged into your listening equipment, but if you have a different sound card, you will have to set the Audio preferences.

Audio Preferences tab.

Open the Preferences dialog by selecting Preferences from the Options menu in Live.


Chapter 1

Click the Audio tab. From the Device Type pop-up menu, choose the type of driver you would like to use; then, choose among the available soundcards from the Output

Device Pop-Up menu. To learn more about setting the

Audio preferences, Chapter 5.

If you intend to use a MIDI keyboard or controller, you will need to set the MIDI/Sync preferences to tell Live which

MIDI interface you are using. If you are using a Macintosh, you will also have to have OMS 2.3.8 installed and your

MIDI device selected in your OMS Studio Setup.

The MIDI/Sync Preferences Tab.

Click on the MIDI/Sync tab in the Preferences dialog.

Select your MIDI interface from the Input Device dropdown menu. To learn more about setting the MIDI/Sync preferences, see Chapter 5 of this manual.

Now you are ready to get sound out of and MIDI in to



Chapter Two:

Getting Started

Chapter 2

2. Getting Started

Live is the world’s first audio sequencing instrument totally geared towards live performance. You can jam with your computer. Clips can be launched from the computer keyboard or via a MIDI note and can be processed with a practically unlimited chain of plug-in effects.

Live also happens to be a sophisticated recording and editing tool that allows you to capture your improvisations, view them as an arrangement, and to refine them to the smallest detail.

Live’s time-warping engine automatically compresses or expands audio as it is being read from the hard drive. Loops, phrases, and entire works can play in sync with a master tempo or with external sync-sources. Because Live timewarps audio without changing the pitch, you can independently tune each audio clip, which allows you to use a selection of clips that differ not only in tempo but also in key.

For a performance, or Set, you can configure a pool of clips as you choose, with loops, one-shot sounds or entire pieces. Because Live reads audio directly from the hard drive, clips of any length can be used in a Live Set. By setting Warp Markers, you can ensure that even the sloppiest recording will play in sync.

Live comes with a selection of built-in, custom-designed effects. You also have access to any compatible VST plugins, giving you maximum flexibility when it comes to producing unheard-of sounds in your performance.


Getting Started

The Live Interface

The Live main window showing the Session View.

Live’s interface is designed to be simple in appearance and intuitive in use. It is composed of a number of distinct areas, each of which can perform more than one function.

The main Live window is composed of five areas:

The Document Area, the central area, shows the current

Live Set. A Live Set is the performance document you create and edit with Live. A Set consists of the Session

(Session View) and the Arrangement (Arrangement View).

• The Session View is accessed from the Session

Chooser button.

It contains a user-specified number of tracks. Each track functions not only as a pool of audio clips, but also like a standard mixer channel. Each track has full controls for volume, pan, effect send, and input/output routing.

The Session Chooser.


Chapter 2

• The Arranger View is accessed from the Arranger

Chooser button.

The Arranger


The Plug-in Effect


It allows you to edit the performance you record during a Live Set. The Arranger View gives you access to a host of non-linear editing tools. See

Chapter 4 for a detailed description of all arrangement editing options.

The Live Effects


The Browser Area, to the left of the Document area, is where you will find and organize the folders of clips and effects that will make up a Live Set. You can switch the browser view between the various browsers listed below:

• The Live Effects browser contains the built-in

Live effects.

It is accessed by the Effects Button at the upper left of the Browser window.

• The Plug-in Effect browser contains the VST Plugins you can access from within Live.

You open this browser by clicking the Plug-in

Effects button at the upper left of the browser window.

• The last three file-shaped buttons in the browser view access the Files 1, Files 2, and Files 3 browsers respectively. You can use these browsers to load and organize WAV and AIFF samples into a

Live Set.


Getting Started

The Detail Area, at the bottom right portion of the screen, gives you additional information on aspects of the Live Set.

• The Clip View allows you to view the audio waveform of the clip in detail. You can also edit the pitch, loop length, loop offset, and you can change or refine the placement of the Warp Markers which match the tempo of each loop to the master clock.

You can access the Clip View by clicking on the lower-right tab that displays the small image of a waveform, or simply by double-clicking a clip in the session or arranger view.

• The Track View lets you view and manipulate the effects that are inserted on each track. You access this view by clicking on the Track View tab at the bottom right corner of the window. The tab always shows the name of the currently selected track.

The Clip View Chooser.

The Info Area, a square window in the bottom left portion of the screen, gives you information about elements of the interface as your mouse rolls over it.

The Track View Chooser.

The Control Bar contains global controls for tempo and clock division, synchronization, tape deck-like transport, and system monitoring.

Since you will tend to focus on the Session View during a performance, we will talk mainly about this View in the quick start guide.


Chapter 2

A running scene

Playing a Live Set

Now that you have an idea of how Live’s interface works you can start playing, editing, and processing a Live Set.

The first step in creating a Live Set is to load the clips you intend to use into tracks in the Session View. You do this by using the Browser View to locate and load clips.


When you first open Live, you will see that the Session

View contains eleven tracks, which appear as vertical columns. The numbered tracks (Track 1, Track 2, etc.) are Clip

Tracks, for storing and playing clips. The Clip Tracks are the only ones that generate audio.

Send Tracks receive signal from the Send controls on each

Clip Track. They are used to process audio sent from the

Clip and Send Tracks.

The Master Track is the default destination for all tracks. It controls Live’s main output.

You can add additional tracks by selecting the Insert Tracks command from the Edit menu. Each track consists of the mixer portion and the clip column, which is divided horizontally into scenes. A track can have as many scenes as you want, each scene holding a clip, but only one clip can be triggered at a time for each track.

Essentially, scenes visually organize your clip pool and allow for multi-clip triggering options as well. By clicking each scene’s play button in the Master Track, you can trigger every clip in that corresponding row (refer to Chapter 4 for more information on the Session View, Tracks, and



The mixer component at the bottom of each track has familiar controls for volume, pan, and send level.

Getting Started

Loading Clips

In the Browser Area, the Files 1, Files 2, and Files 3 buttons are used to open browsers to locate and organize audio clips. You can use the different Files browsers to set pathways to your audio material. In the top of the file browser area, you find three buttons:

• The leftmost button, shaped like a pair of headphones, is for pre-listening to clips. When this switch is turned on, clicking on a clip in the browser will play this clip. If your audio hardware allows for more than one stereo output, you can privately audition clips through headphones, without disturbing an ongoing performance. Please refer to Chapter 5 to learn about setting audio preferences.

• To make the browser go up one step in the directory hierarchy, click the middle button, which shows an arrow pointing up. Repeatedly clicking this button will bring the browser to the desktop.

• The right button, an arrow pointing down, makes the item that is currently selected in the view the

The Session View’s mixer component.


Chapter 2 new root of the browser, so you do not have to scroll through endless lists of unwanted subdirectories.

When you locate the file folder that contains the AIFF or

WAV audio clips that you want to use, clicking on the folder opens it, displaying the contents as individually named clips in alphabetical order. You may want to make this folder a new root directory by clicking the set root directory button in the browser view.

To add a clip to the Session, just select a clip from the browser and drag it onto a scene slot in one of the tracks.

Using the Edit menu’s Insert Scene and Insert Track commands, you can add scenes and tracks to suit your needs.

Playing Clips

Each clip is identified by name once it is loaded into a Clip

Track. You trigger a clip by clicking on its triangular play button, which changes to green to show that it is playing.

A running clip.

While the clip is playing, each track displays an animated pie chart that shows at which point the clip is playing as it loops. Turn the loop off by clicking the stop button on the track. Triggering a clip starts the clock running, but you can also click the Play and Stop buttons on the Control Bar transport area to start and stop Live.

By setting the global quantization rate, you can let Live automatically correct the timing of each clip trigger (i.e.

1/8, 1/16, 1/32, etc.). You can change the quantization level or turn it off altogether by using the Options menu or by the drop-down menu in the Control Bar. As you change the tempo at the Control Bar, clips will not only stretch and compress to match it, but trigger quantization will keep up as well.


Getting Started

Editing Clips

You can edit a clip by selecting it and switching to the

Clip View. In the Clip View you can transpose the clip by semitones and cents. You can also select clip color and set the Launch mode (see reference guide for more on Launch modes). By using the Loop start, end, length, and offset controls you can not only change the clip length, but also change where the clip starts and which section of the clip will loop.

You can also edit the position and number of Warp Markers, which allows Live to sync clips of different tempos to the master tempo. If you are using clips that have already been trimmed into perfect loops, you will not have to change the marker positions. See Chapter 4 for more on Warp Markers.

Using Effects to Process Clips

The Clip View.

Clicking on the Live Effects button in the Browser View opens the list of Live Effects. Each track can have its own unrestrained chain of effects. You can edit a track’s effects parameters by switching to the Track View. Effects can be dragged and dropped onto the Track View while audio is running with no drop-outs or pauses.

Live Effects in the Track



Chapter 2

When a Live Effect is added, its panel opens in the Track

View. As more effects are added you create a processing chain, with audio feeding left to right from one effect to the next. You can rearrange the order of a chain of effects simply by dragging and dropping them within the Track

View. Clicking on an effect’s title bar and pressing the delete or backspace key on your computer keyboard will remove that effect from the processing chain.

Feel free to experiment with the Live Effects to determine the subtleties (or not-so-subtleties) of each one’s processing powers. You can read more about the individual Live

Effects in Chapter 6.

You can use the Plug-in Effect browser to load any available VST plug-ins to the processing chain. The original VST plug-in panel graphics will be replaced with a Live panel; all parameters of the VST plug-in are represented in the

Live panel and work in the same way. The Edit button in the upper left of the effect panel opens a floating window that shows the original VST plug-in panel. Changing parameters on the floater window has the same effect as changing them in the Live panel, and vice versa. You can access any presets the VST plug-in may have by using the dropdown menu to the right of the Edit button. You can assign any two plug-in parameters to the Live panel X-Y window by using the drop-down menus immediately beneath it.

Recording and Playing Back a Live Set

By now, you should be playing a Live Set: triggering and editing clips at will, using the different effects, and generally making some interesting noise. By using Live’s session recording capability, you can also record your performance and play it back later, with all of your moves captured as part of the recording.

Start recording by clicking the Record button in the transport area of the Control Bar (the circular button). If Live


Getting Started is stopped, clicking the Record button arms the recording capability so that recording begins when you start the Live master clock. You can also begin and end recording at any point while Live is playing.

When you have finished your recording session, pressing

Play on the Control Bar will cause Live to play back everything that you just recorded, including any mixer, effect, or clip manipulation.

Switch to the Arrange window by clicking the Arranger

Chooser just below the system monitors, or by selecting it from the View menu. You can now see a “classical” sequencer view of all the clips that make up your recording.

Though the clips are in a linear arrangement in the arrange view, you can edit them in a nonlinear fashion by using the cut, copy, paste, and delete commands from the Edit menu.

You can learn more about editing and the Arrange View in Chapter 4 of the manual.

The Control Bar’s Transport Section.


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