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We're doing something a little different with this Pro Review, so let me provide some background.

 

Ableton was the first company to sign on for a Pro Review, and its success laid the groundwork for the ones that followed. You can still access the Ableton Live 5 Pro Review in the Archived Pro Reviews forum.

 

Ableton then wanted to do a follow-up when Live 6 came out, and its Pro Review is in the Archives as well. However, at the time, personnel changes within Ableton, combined with the company sort of "turning the corner" from cult software to mainstream program, made it difficult to get manufacturer participation - one of the most important elements for a Pro Review. So, it never really got traction.

 

I always felt kind of bad that the review never took off, so we're going to cover Live 8 from a somewhat different slant and make up for the unfinished nature of the Live 6 review. If you're not familiar with Live, the core of the program remains very similar to Live 5 and 6, so check out the archived reviews to get a sense of Live's "gestalt." And if you want to know about Live 8's specs, Ableton's web site is loaded with descriptions, videos, and also, you can download the program for free and try it out for yourself.

 

So, we're not going to "re-invent the wheel" and simply duplicate what happened in previous Pro Reviews, or what's on the Ableton site. Instead, I want to steer this into a more "applications-oriented" direction - for example, Live 8 has a looper, but how would you use it? What do multiple layers of E-Bow guitar going through the looper sound like? Or, there's now a custom controller for Live - Akai's APC40 - and that's a big part of the Live 8 concept as well. And how well does the collaboration module work? Can we actually get some collaborative work going here?

 

Although the people at Ableton remain pretty busy, we do have a commitment that one of their top people, Dennis DeSantis, will be monitoring this thread to answer questions and offer advice. I've also made it clear that any Ableton people are welcome to join in and offer comments.

 

As to the structure, we'll pick something that looks interesting, discuss it, then move on to something else. And I'd like to start with the APC40 controller, because at least to me, support for a custom controller is one of the most important things about Live 8.

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When I first started using Live, it made sense intellectually, but I simply couldn't make satisfying music with it. I wasn't alone; a lot of people just can't "wrap their head around" Live, while others take to it immediately.

 

It took me a while to understand that Live is a musical instrument that just happens to look like a sequencing program. Once I realized that, I also realized that it needed to be played, not just programmed. I hooked up a Peavey PC-1600X controller, and from that day on, I "got" it. I tied the PC-1600's faders to Live's channel faders, and the buttons to Live's solo buttons, and all of a sudden I had an instrument - but instead of "two turntables and a microphone," I had the equivalent of 14 turntables, a guitar, and a microphone. I've done many solo concerts over the years, including several performances at NAMM, using the Live/laptop/PC-1600/PreSonus FireBox combination.

 

Bottom line: Playing Live with a mouse is like playing guitar with a mouse. Sure, you can use the mouse to hit strings and make them vibrate, but it's no musical instrument. The other analogy I use is that playing Live without a physical controller is like owning a Porsche that you never take out of second gear - sure, it's still a Porsche and the engine still purrs, but you're not even close to taking full advantage of it.

 

And now, Akai has introduced the APC40 controller, designed in conjunction with Ableton and 3.5 years in the making. I've written a review of the APC40 for the Harmony Central Confidential newsletter, which ships next Wednesday. If you want to see a bunch of pictures and read an in-depth report about it, by all means, subscribe (it's free, and you don't get spammed as a result of signing up).

 

To summarize, the APC40 is basically a physical version of Live's virtual interface, specifically, Session View. In fact, the entire left side of the APC40 looks like Session View, with the clip and scene launch buttons on top, rows of the Track Activator/Solo-Cue/Record buttons, and faders toward the bottom (there are 8 faders total for the channels, and one master fader). The first attached image shows a close-up of the clip and scene launch buttons, while the second attached image shows a close-up of the faders.

 

As to the right side...we'll get into that next.

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The APC40's upper right has eight Track Controls. These are continuous rotary encoder knobs that can control eight channel pans, eight Send A controls, eight Send B controls, or eight Send C controls, as selected by the buttons below the knobs. What if you have more than three sends? As far as I can tell, you're stuck with manual operation for those.

 

Most communication with Live is bi-directional. Note the LED rings around the controls: If you change a virtual knob in Live, the LEDs show the approximate control position. Conversely, if you change a physical knob, the equivalent knob in Live's GUI reflects the change. Buttons work similarly. The one place where bi-directional control doesn't apply is, unfortunately, the most important one: The channel faders, because they aren't motorized. Changing a physical fader is of course reflected in Live's GUI, but changing a virtual fader doesn't move a physical fader.

 

Given how much motorized faders cost (and add to the complexity, starting with a beefier power supply), I'm not surprised the faders aren't motorized. But this also brings up an interesting point: Different people use Live in very different ways. Some people mostly launch clips and scenes, and have a ton of them. Others load just a few, but do a lot of manipulation with effects and looping. I've even seen people use Live solely as a host for effects for live performance. My use of Live is "fader-intensive," as I have loops going in a Scene just about all the time, and mix them in and out with the faders (as well as solo individual channels for a breakbeat effect, prior to "un-soloing" and having the sound crash back in again.

 

What I'm getting to is that while I would like to have motorized faders, I'm not sure how many Live users are into "fader-slamming" as much as I am, and would balk at having a dramatic price increase for a feature they might rarely use. The functionality that IS included in the APC40 strikes me as stuff everyone would use. Furthermore, some of the functions might inspire people to tweak things they wouldn't tweak otherwise. For example, in my setup with the PC1600, all that I can control easily is levels and solo. But with the APC40 bringing the pan options out to physical controsl...well, now that's something that's available and easy to tweak.

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can you control faders with one controller and the rest of controls with an apc40? If yes, I guess the problem would be trying to be in the same bank of controls all the time with both controllers right? :)

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can you control faders with one controller and the rest of controls with an apc40? If yes, I guess the problem would be trying to be in the same bank of controls all the time with both controllers right?
:)

 

Hi Kaux,

 

Certainly, you can combine up to six controllers at once in Live. And if you're using one of Live's natively mapped controllers, it's possible that the faders will be automapped out of the box.

 

Besides the clip launch matrix, the big advantage with the APC is that SO many parameters are pre-mapped - the APC was really designed as a Live controller, not just a controller that happens to have Live mappings.

 

Best,

Dennis DeSantis

www.ableton.com

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In my case, I have the dilemma that even though my controller (Mackie Universal Control) is mapped for the faders, I am not sure how to set up all the rest of the buttons to tweak the different parameters... there has to be a way, I just do not know how...

 

BTW, Thanks Dennis for joining us in this forum... WELCOME!!

and Thanks Anderton to start such great Thread....

 

:wave:

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In my case, I have the dilemma that even though my controller (Mackie Universal Control) is mapped for the faders, I am not sure how to set up all the rest of the buttons to tweak the different parameters... there has to be a way, I just do not know how...

 

Hi orbm1,

 

The Mackie Control is one of Live's natively-supported control surfaces. So many mappings should simply work as soon as the control surface is connected and configured.

 

But also, you can custom assign any MIDI control on any MIDI device to almost anything in Live by using MIDI Map Mode (see attached screenshot.) In this mode, everything in Live that can be mapped turns blue. Simply click on the parameter you want, move the hardware control that you want to link to that parameter, and exit MIDI Map Mode.

 

For more information, see the chapter in the manual called "MIDI and Key Remote Control."

 

Best,

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+1 to MIDI and Key remote control. Being able to map QWERTY keys to Live functions is incredibly useful - to supplement the PC1600, I usually map scene changes to specific QWERTY keys. But also, if you set up your scenes more or less sequentially, you can use the up/down arrow keys to select a scene, and Enter to launch it.

 

I'll experiment later on with combining dissimilar controllers with Live 8 and report back on the results.

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On a PC, Keymap mode opens w/ "Cntrl K". Or you can mouse up to where it says "Key" in the upper right-hand corner. Activating Keymap mode highlights everything that can be assigned to the keyboard. Click on the parameter you want to assign, then hit the QWERTY key you want to assign it to and exit Keymap by clicking on the "Key" button or pressing Cntrl K again. As long as you save the Set, that shortcut is saved.


Some of the keys are pre-assigned. I think the F1-F8 keys are locked to the tracks 1-8s mute buttons. And several of the letter keys are assigned to the computer MIDI keyboard MIDI (see the little keyboard symbol just to the left of the "Key" button. This very cool little feature allows you to trigger MIDI insturment notes and/or beats with your qwerty keyboard. "A"= middle C, W=C# and etc. Z&X are octave shifts!)


The only keys I've got assigned are the numbers 1-8 as track arming buttons, the "/" key runs tap tempo, and "m" turns the metronome on or off.

 

Thanks!

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Hi orbm1,


The Mackie Control is one of Live's natively-supported control surfaces. So many mappings should simply work as soon as the control surface is connected and configured.


But also, you can custom assign any MIDI control on any MIDI device to almost anything in Live by using MIDI Map Mode (see attached screenshot.) In this mode, everything in Live that can be mapped turns blue. Simply click on the parameter you want, move the hardware control that you want to link to that parameter, and exit MIDI Map Mode.


For more information, see the chapter in the manual called "MIDI and Key Remote Control."


Best,

 

 

Thanks!!!!

 

I'll give it a try and I'll let you know!

 

Take care :wave:

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To provide a definitive answer, I decided to see if I could use a Behringer BCF2000 to control Live 8 channels 1-8, with the APC40 handling channels 9-16.

 

Well, it took me a couple minutes to figure out the right preferences to use (see the attached image), but once I did that, all was well. Basically, I enabled both controllers and used the Bank Select button to tie the APC40 to channels 9-16. You can see what the APC40 is controlling by the red ring; note how in the screen shot, it starts with channel 9.

 

I did go into Ableton's MIDI assign function (by clicking on the MIDI button) and made sure that channels 1-8 listened to what the BCF2000 was sending. That probably wouldn't have been necessary, given that the BCF2000 is a supported option in Live, but after tearing down my test setup I remembered that the BCF2000's controller mode was still set to power-up to a Sonar-specific mode, not the "Behringer generic" mode.

 

Either way, though, no big deal as I found that yes, you can indeed use multiple controllers with Live.

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While we're on the topic of MIDI mapping, it's worth mentioning that almost everything in Live can be mapped. In addition to all parameters on devices and on Live's mixer and transport controls, there are even options to map relative navigation of scenes. These mappings use special controls that appear below the scene launch buttons and are only visible when in mapping mode.

 

See attached screenshot.

 

From left to right:

 

- launch the selected scene

- move up one scene

- move down one scene

- scroll through scenes (for use with an encoder)

 

Best,

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While we're on the topic of MIDI mapping, it's worth mentioning that almost everything in Live can be mapped. In addition to all parameters on devices and on Live's mixer and transport controls, there are even options to map relative navigation of scenes. These mappings use special controls that appear below the scene launch buttons and are only visible when in mapping mode.


See attached screenshot.


From left to right:


- launch the selected scene

- move up one scene

- move down one scene

- scroll through scenes (for use with an encoder)


Best,

 

That's a great tip, Dennis! I'll have to check it out instead of always mapping QWERTY keyboard keystrokes to scene launches...although I guess with the APC40 that's a thing of the past, anyway!

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Okay...I don't want to dwell on the controller thing TOO much, because there's a lot more to cover. But I really felt this was a good place to start, just because 1) Live is at its best with a live performance controller, and 2) the APC40 just plain rocks.

 

Besides, the APC40 review I did for the Harmony Central Confidential newsletter is now published. Of course you're all intelligent people so I'm sure you've already subscribed, but if not, click here for the full review, including lots of pretty pictures :)

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Okay...I don't want to dwell on the controller thing TOO much, because there's a lot more to cover. But I really felt this was a good place to start, just because 1) Live is at its best with a live performance controller, and 2) the APC40 just plain rocks.


Besides, the APC40 review I did for the Harmony Central Confidential newsletter is now published. Of course you're all intelligent people so I'm sure you've already
subscribed
, but if not, click
here for the full review
, including lots of pretty pictures
:)

 

When i saw the APC40 announced i thought it would be much more expensive than it really is...

 

$399 is not "a little", but i certainly think its a bargain when you consider the door this controller opens to you and your music, isnt it?

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When i saw the APC40 announced i thought it would be much more expensive than it really is...


$399 is not "a little", but i certainly think its a bargain when you consider the open this controller opens to you and your music, isnt it?

 

I agree, especially because I think the build quality is definitely above average.

 

I can't emphasize enough that it really feels like there was serious thought put into this controller - it wasn't just a "Hey, let's throw some parts in a box and sell it to Ableton fans" type of project. The people who put it together are clearly Live aficionados.

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I agree, especially because I think the build quality is definitely above average.


I can't emphasize enough that it really feels like there was serious thought put into this controller - it wasn't just a "Hey, let's throw some parts in a box and sell it to Ableton fans" type of project. The people who put it together are clearly Live aficionados.

 

You are making me regret not buying the APC40, I was after that one, but decided to buy the Mackie Universal Control (previous version) instead...

 

OH WELL!!!

 

(btw, I am a Full Live User - it is my main DAW)

 

Thanks!

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The Mackie Universal Control ain't too shabby, either, and Live does support it as a controller...as do many other programs. Besides, you get motorized faders, so don't feel too bad. After you make it big :), you can buy an APC40 and use it for 8 channels, and the Mackie for another eight.

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I'm very impressed. I think the APC40 is a smash hit! Outstanding build quality and elegant design.

 

At the last Chicago Ableton User Group, the question came up:

 

What if you want to map the pan controls of the APC from the default to functions such as tempo or chain select? From what I can tell, to do this we must disengage the apc40 control surface template. And then midi-map-mode assign the controller settings. But then, the lights on the APC are mute, which is no fun.

 

Any ideas for a work around on this?

 

Dennis, your abletoninc and cdm youtube videos are a revelation! Nice to see you on here. Come to Chicago!

 

-Tommy

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First let me say the Pro Review concept is a very cool idea and this is my first time posting on Harmony Central.

 

It took me a while to understand that Live is a
musical instrument
that just happens to look like a sequencing program. Once I realized that, I also realized that it needed to be
played
, not just programmed.

....

And now, Akai has introduced the
APC40 controller
, designed in conjunction with Ableton and 3.5 years in the making.

 

Very well put and I couldn't agree more. I started with Live 3 and the "software as an instrument" light bulb came on for me with version 6. Now Live is my primary instrument and DAW. I'm an Operator and Sampler fan and upgraded to Suite when I went from 7 to 8. I also use Live to host a wide variety of VSTs.

 

I've been using a Novation Remote SL and M-Audio trigger finger to "play" live and do sequencing on-the-fly in session view for some time. To reduce mousing I started using a Wacom tablet (and I'm happy to report Live 8.0.2 added improved tablet support).

 

For me the APC40 is a game changer - especially when used in conjunction with my other controllers.

 

Regarding the Live 8 upgrade, there has been a lot of coverage in the magazines and on blogs about the "big" features included in Live 8 - but as time goes on I'm really appreciating the little changes and improvements in functionality and workflow.

 

For example, I just posted a step-by-step video tutorial describing Ableton Live 8's new custom parameter mapping methodology. The video illustrates how to map select parameters from VST plug-ins into devices and then control these parameters via the Novation Remote SL and the new Akai APC40. The video also discusses how to add and access more than 8 parameters. Lastly, the video covers use of instrument racks and macro controls to map parameters from multiple devices to an 8 knob group.

 

modulate_this_apc40_controllerism.jpg

Click here to watch the video on Modulate This.

 

I'm also quite excited about the upcoming Max 4 Live and the ability to take Live's real-time workflow into the realm of custom device creation.

 

Live 8 + the APC40 + Max 4 Live = an incredible year for Live users!

 

Mark Mosher

http://www.twitter.com/markmosher

http://www.markmoshermusic.com

http://www.modulatethis.com

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What if you want to map the pan controls of the APC from the default to functions such as tempo or chain select? From what I can tell, to do this we must disengage the apc40 control surface template. And then midi-map-mode assign the controller settings. But then, the lights on the APC are mute, which is no fun.

 

Actually it's very easy to override the APC's automatic mappings with custom ones - and you don't lose the lights or the bi-directional feedback.

 

To do this, simply enter MIDI Map Mode, touch the parameter to map, then touch the control on the APC. It isn't necessary to disengage the controller template first. All of the other automatic mappings are left alone, and co-exist with the manually mapped ones.

 

Best,

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