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  • Ableton Live 9 and Push Controller

    I’ve really been looking forward to this review. When I saw Live for the first time back in 2001, it was clear Ableton had not only blown off the existing DAW paradigm, but created an entirely new paradigm. Ableton has been rewarded with a user base that ranges from DJs to those who want a DAW with a difference. It’s the only program I use for live performance—even with laptop-based guitar gigs, Live is the host for the amp sims. Why? It just won’t quit. As far as I can tell if you want Live to crash, your best option is to drop your laptop, or run over it with a truck. It’s also worth noting that over eight versions, Live has maintained an internal consistency that has made it easy for users to move along the upgrade path.

    As Live has become more established as a mainstream program, sometimes its history gets a little murky. So it’s worth remembering that Live was invented by Bernt Roggendorf and Gerhard Behles of the group Monolake because no software did what they needed. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.

    I have two Ableton Live stories that encapsulate two elements that distinguish Live. At the 2004 Frankfurt Musikmesse just before Live 4 was introduced, Gerhard Behles pulled me aside, swore me to secrecy, and said that Live 4 was going to add MIDI. I protested—“But what I love about Live is it’s so streamlined. If you add MIDI, then you’ll have to add all these MIDI menus, and people will want a staff view, and . . . it’s going to bloat. You’re going to lose what makes Live so wonderful.” Gerhard could tell I was actually quite concerned, so he put his hand on my shoulder to calm me down, and said “Don’t worry, Craig. We do MIDI the Ableton way.”

    And they did. Live was able to add MIDI not only without screwing up what they had, but enhancing it. Gerhard was right; it was done in the Ableton way.

    Then there was the update to Live 7. Again at Musikmesse, I ran into Gerhard. “So how do you like Live 7?” he asked. I had to admit that I hadn’t really gotten into the new features, because the previous version already did more than I needed. I apologized for not taking full advantage of the program, but he thought it was perfectly fine Live was so versatile that different users could use subsets of the program and be totally happy.

    And now it’s time for one last Ableton story.

    The first 3 books in "The Musician's Guide to Home Recording" series are available from Hal Leonard and Listen to my music on, and visit Thanks!

  • #2

    I was talking to a guitar player about how much I enjoyed using Ableton Live. He said he’d heard it was a cool program, and while he had a decent idea of what the Arrange View did (basically, linear-style DAW recording), when it came to the clip-oriented Session View he said he wasn’t into DJing, the clip thing made so sense to him at all, and he was totally not into looping. I said that actually, he was indeed into looping. When he looked at me like I had two heads, I said “hum the first two bars of Brown Sugar.” He did. Then I said “hum the next two bars of Brown Sugar.” He did. When I said “hum the next two bars of Brown Sugar,” he figured out where I was going.

    So, I suggested he take the manual, and do a find-and-replace operation to change “loop” to “riff.” Mission accomplished, although he still didn’t quite get the idea of Live’s “scenes” triggering multiple loops simultaneously. Another analogy: Picture a bass player, guitar player, and drummer, and you’re cuing them. First you cue the drummer. Then you cue the bass player to join. Then you cue the drummer to lay out for a measure, then you cue the guitar player, bass player, and drummer to play all at the same time. Think of each cue as a scene, and each player playing a riff, and you’re good to go.

    I’ve often said I can get anyone who doesn’t understand Live to get the concept in five minutes using the explanation above, and 99.9% of the time, they do. But of course, that’s not the end of the story; Live goes way beyond both looping and linear-style recording.

    The first 3 books in "The Musician's Guide to Home Recording" series are available from Hal Leonard and Listen to my music on, and visit Thanks!


    • #3
      I had been slightly doubtful about Push in earlier posts, since it seemed limited in its "InKey" mode. However, I have since purchased one, and have discovered that with ClyphX (, one can use a Launchpad to set the scales and keys to make accidentals easily accessible via a dedicated control track in Live 9:

      See the topic in the Push forum entitled "Chords, Scales, and Push" by myself (BuleriaChk) and the embedded link in the post to see how to apply ClyphX to change related chords and scales.....

      With that capability I have become a True Believer; I think that Push is indeed a revolution in musical performance. I use Maschine within Live, making it truly powerful...

      "Flamenco Chuck" Keyser