Abelton Live Q
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  1. #1
    Tech Guru grazz16's Avatar
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    Default Abelton Live Q

    Ok first of all, just bought a Novation Nio sound card which comes with Ableton Live so I decided to give it a shot after playing around with Traktor or a while. A couple of initial comments/questions about it:

    First of all, wow, Ableton is not nearly as intuitive as Traktor is. Traktor is pretty straight forward, here are your decks, here are the effects, here are your cue points. I'm struggling to wrap my head around how Abelton gets used as a DJing program.

    Now correct me if i'm wrong but:

    #1. As far as I can tell there is no way to give clips in Live cue points. This poses obvious problems like, where the hell am I in this song and how do i jump around between sections? It seems that you have to make individual loops of each section and work with it that way, is that the only way to do this? It seems like an extremely tedious way to go about things although I can see the benefits of doing this.

    #2. If this is the case, is it impossible to seamlessly transition between clips? Like if one clip finishes playing can you set Live to automatically start playing the next clip in the section or do you have to manually trigger all the clips? If you can set it to automatically scroll through the clips like it is playing a song, things become much clearer to me.

    #3. You can't see both waveforms at the same time. This seems like a big problem to me. Seeing the waveform allows you to see which section is coming up when and where the rises/falls of the music happen. Without being able to see both songs you are mixing at once doesn't that pretty much require you to have every song you own memorized perfectly? Or is there a way to get both waveforms visible? To me it's like trying to DJ blind.

    #4. Because you seem to be working with individual clips as opposed to the song as a whole, doesn't Live require you to pretty much plan out everything you do in advance? If you are mixing 2 songs you need to know exactly what clips have to be triggered when. Not that you don't need to know this with Traktor's cue points, but at least you can see the whole song and all the cue points when you load it up so you have an idea of what's coming up next to see if it fits your needs. With Live it seems you need to know that "clip x on track 1 must start with clip y on track 2" by memory. (I'm not sure if that makes sense)

    I may have the whole idea of Djing with Live wrong tho, im not sure. If anyone could clarify any of those points I would appreciate it.

  2. #2
    Tech Wizard nicolas's Avatar
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    I've tried mixing with Live, I always end up playing with loop samples but not with tracks. Mixing is now a thing of whatever you can try, there are many kinds of software and hardware that you can pretty much organize as you like, or as your style says so.
    Some Dj-Producers use Live, the just have all of the parts of a track and then use them as individual chunks, people such as Applescal use it this way. Somehow it is also good if you want to check your hearing, as you can't rely on the waveform your only guide will be your ears and your ability to count beats.

    "Because you seem to be working with individual clips as opposed to the song as a whole, doesn't Live require you to pretty much plan out everything you do in advance? "
    I don't think this is the only way you can use Live: take a lot of loops and play with them, you will find yourself doing a lot of improvisation, take a couple of songs and mix them together, when you force your ears to concentrate they will work in different ways, this makes the way you mix different.

    Traktor works great, and it is the only one I use to play live, Ableton is just another kind of mixing.
    the point is, get what fits your style.
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  3. #3
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    My question is, why are you trying to DJ with Ableton when you're already mixing with Traktor? If you feel comfortable with Traktor then stick with it and try and get the most out of it.

    Sounds like you're trying to use Ableton the same way you use Traktor and I don't see that working out very well in the long run as you'll be missing a lot of the key points that make Ableton unique when performing live VS using Traktor to DJ.

  4. #4

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    ad 1)
    if you referring to chopping up the whole song into clips, where every clip starts with the "cue point". then your right

    ad 2)
    in live you have follow actions that you set on the playing clip, which can trigger the next clip on the current playing clips end, so yes, seamless transition can be done (be aware though that it can happen that the audio "crackles" when the new clip starts to play - to solve this you have to delay the downbeat a little on the clip beginning)

    ad 3)
    yes you can only see 1 waveform at a time (with standard live setup)
    be aware though that you can see the waveform of the next clip, as ableton displays the waveform of the sample used for the clip, and not only the part you "cut" out (if they were made from the same sample ofc)

    ofc you could start to experiment with max for live (a program which lets you make unique devices you put on your tracks), so you could dynamically load the waveforms of the current playing clips into seperate floating windows (for more info, look at the ms pinky for max for live patch which is exactly doing that)

    another thing to note is that you can easily switch the display of the waveform - map a midi button to the small fields where the last "stop" button is located on each track (the track global stop button field)
    when you trigger the midi message, it will automatically display the waveform of the current playing clip in that track

    ad 4)
    many djs that use ableton (including me ) split their songs into several clips
    e.g. 1 clip is the intro, 1 clip is the main and 1 clip is the outro
    you can also rename those clips to show you how long they last (in bars) and/or if they are heavy on low frequencies or not
    so you can dj without even knowing song, as you can easily read the most important characteristics from the clip name

  5. #5
    Tech Guru mostapha's Avatar
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    TL;DR the responses.

    Quote Originally Posted by grazz16 View Post
    Ok first of all, just bought a Novation Nio sound card which comes with Ableton Live so I decided to give it a shot after playing around with Traktor or a while. A couple of initial comments/questions about it:

    First of all, wow, Ableton is not nearly as intuitive as Traktor is. Traktor is pretty straight forward, here are your decks, here are the effects, here are your cue points. I'm struggling to wrap my head around how Abelton gets used as a DJing program.

    Now correct me if i'm wrong but:

    #1. As far as I can tell there is no way to give clips in Live cue points. This poses obvious problems like, where the hell am I in this song and how do i jump around between sections? It seems that you have to make individual loops of each section and work with it that way, is that the only way to do this? It seems like an extremely tedious way to go about things although I can see the benefits of doing this.
    The clip slots are like hot cues, except they're a lot more powerful. I'm assuming that the lite version also comes with a copy of the live manual. if not, it's available on ableton's website.

    there are a lot of tutorials online about splitting tracks into clips, so I won't go over that here.

    But…the idea is that you can split the track up if you want to and set follow actions on clips to play through the track or give you the option of re-arranging it. at least, that's how I use it. Some people are different. Some just make it so they can skip breakdowns easily…others mark intros and outros…some of my songs take up 25+clip slots because I want to be able to really re-arrange them, though I'm doing this less and less now.

    You can also click anywhere in the clip view and it'll jump to that point in the song, keeping it correctly in time.

    But, no, it's not as simple as Traktor when it comes to "cues" and looping.

    Quote Originally Posted by grazz16 View Post

    #2. If this is the case, is it impossible to seamlessly transition between clips? Like if one clip finishes playing can you set Live to automatically start playing the next clip in the section or do you have to manually trigger all the clips? If you can set it to automatically scroll through the clips like it is playing a song, things become much clearer to me.
    Read the section of the manual on Follow Actions.
    Quote Originally Posted by grazz16 View Post

    #3. You can't see both waveforms at the same time. This seems like a big problem to me. Seeing the waveform allows you to see which section is coming up when and where the rises/falls of the music happen. Without being able to see both songs you are mixing at once doesn't that pretty much require you to have every song you own memorized perfectly? Or is there a way to get both waveforms visible? To me it's like trying to DJ blind.
    You can also structure clips so that you see song structure with them.

    Or you can do it the old fashioned way and just remember things…but I agree with you, that's something about it that kinda bugs me. And, no, I don't have every song memorized…but it's been a while since a track (even one I'm hearing for the first time) really surprised me with something structural I wasn't expecting. Every now and then, producers put little 2-bar turnarounds in tracks for no reason, but for the most part structures are straightforward.
    Quote Originally Posted by grazz16 View Post

    #4. Because you seem to be working with individual clips as opposed to the song as a whole, doesn't Live require you to pretty much plan out everything you do in advance? If you are mixing 2 songs you need to know exactly what clips have to be triggered when. Not that you don't need to know this with Traktor's cue points, but at least you can see the whole song and all the cue points when you load it up so you have an idea of what's coming up next to see if it fits your needs. With Live it seems you need to know that "clip x on track 1 must start with clip y on track 2" by memory. (I'm not sure if that makes sense)
    Nope. Again, look at Follow Actions. Other than splitting tracks into sections (similar to setting hot cues and loops in Traktor) and configuring what effects I want, I don't pre-plan anything. You do have to do more prep work, but it's not the same as going to a gig with a set list.

    Quote Originally Posted by grazz16 View Post
    I may have the whole idea of Djing with Live wrong tho, im not sure. If anyone could clarify any of those points I would appreciate it.
    DJing with Live is a few things, but straightforward it is not.

    It gives you a LOT more control than Vinyl or CDJs.

    It really doesn't do that much more than Traktor Pro when it comes to re-arranging/editing tracks, except that you have a full DAW environment with all of the interesting routing possibilities that entails. It's also a full VST/AU host, so you can use just about any studio grade effect plugin, synth, or drum machine you want…the only limit is how good your computer is.

    It may now be possible to sequence a drum loop live and mix it into your set, letting Traktor keep everything in sync with you, but it wasn't the last time I looked into it. With Live, not only is it trivial, but they give you several good drum machines (sampled and synthesized), a couple good ways to use them, and it takes care of all of the midi and audio routing and the timing.

    But, it is NOT as straightforward to DJ with. It took me less time to just start playing a set the last time I downloaded a demo of Traktor Pro than it did with Live. Live isn't really a give you want you want and hold your hand until you figure it out kind of program. It's a DAW that makes enough concessions to live performance that it is just barely capable of being used for DJ sets.

    And it's not straightforward to set up. My current Live template file is pretty straightforward to play on…2 channels from my CDJs (that I never use), 3 channels for use with Live Clips, 1 channel to take from a friend's computer running Live (he's a drummer), a synth channel, a drum machine channel, and 2 effects busses. it's basically set up like a DJ mixer would be and controlled from my VCM-600…I can play on my CDJs if I decide to, but mostly I drop prepared clips in and just play (every song I have, I split into clips…there's a way to save these settings so that instead of dragging in a song you drag in a song's worth of clips, though it's not very straighforward).

    BUT, there are an extra 12 audio channels that I don't even see in the interface that perform utility functions and are controlled with very very basic superknobs (just a knob midi-assigned to 2 straightforward functions…actually, 12 of them). There's another audio channel and 2 Return tracks that CAN'T go to the master output, because they're set up to do cuing the way I always wanted it instead of the way Live (or all DJ mixers) thinks you should do it.

    People are so confused by Live, I'm seriously considering writing a how-to and sending it into DJTT…with the exception of a few things on ALDJ Forums (Tarekeith, s4racen, etc.) the vast majority of the information about DJing with Live online is just dumb. Most people would get similar if not better results with Traktor Pro with fewer headaches. Unless you're a producer working with multi-tracks, the only real reason to use Live to DJ is because you just want to.

    That's why I picked it over Traktor.

  6. #6
    Tech Guru grazz16's Avatar
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    People are so confused by Live, I'm seriously considering writing a how-to and sending it into DJTT…with the exception of a few things on ALDJ Forums (Tarekeith, s4racen, etc.) the vast majority of the information about DJing with Live online is just dumb. Most people would get similar if not better results with Traktor Pro with fewer headaches. Unless you're a producer working with multi-tracks, the only real reason to use Live to DJ is because you just want to.

    That's why I picked it over Traktor.
    hence why I asked you guys :P most of the stuff i found online wasn't really helpful at all. Thanks for clarifying some of this stuff for me. But you're right, the only real reason to use Live over Traktor is "just because". I like the the idea of having more options available to me tho. I see the potential of using a program like Live to DJ, its just implementing these features is much more complicated, especially for a beginner.

    However the way I see it is that if I am a beginner, and have to learn a program from scratch anyway, why not get a handle on the program that in the long run will give me more flexibility? I think i have to play around with it some more tho and see if it is indeed the route i want to take.

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    IMHO Live is a program more suited to djing once you have a really good handle on the program in general. It's complicated, has a learning curve, and if you don't know a lot of tricks, shortcuts, and ways to quickly get a sound you're looking for, your djing is going to sound boring and you're going to get bored too. You'll probably get better results from Traktor quicker, but keep working with Live, because once you get it under control the sky's the limit.
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  8. #8
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    Default I've only used Ableton

    I'm about 4 months into DJing total, and I've never used anything but Ableton. I got into it simply because I love House.

    The comments about the learning curve are absolutely true, but in my opinion you can get 75% the way there rather quickly. If you have any knowledge of music theory at all, and even a very, very basic understanding of what the core FX sound like, i.e. EQ-3, Flanger, Chorus, Ping Pong, Beat Repeat, etc - you're well on your way.

    Because I never used Traktor or Serrato, there are lots of things I haven't had to adjust to or 'unlearn' - having both tracks or decks on display in front of me.

    I also split up my songs into clips. There have been a couple of sites that have helped me tremendously in my setup and workflow: Tom Cosm's site and Will Marshall's site. I started playing around with Cosm's DJ megaset (available from his site for free, and a great tutorial [ame="http://vimeo.com/3773783"]HERE[/ame]) but I've since moved on to Will Marshall's template because it's APC 40 specific. Will also has a great tutorial on vimeo HERE. He also has a great little snippet about how to split up your songs and save them as clips.

    mostapha - it sounds like you're using a heavily customized template. Did you create it yourself or did you base it on Cosm's megaset? I'd love to see it.

  9. #9
    Tech Guru mostapha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by muzacH View Post
    Because I never used Traktor or Serrato, there are lots of things I haven't had to adjust to or 'unlearn' - having both tracks or decks on display in front of me.

    mostapha - it sounds like you're using a heavily customized template. Did you create it yourself or did you base it on Cosm's megaset? I'd love to see it.
    Well, I started on vinyl. I've also used (at various points) CDs, SSL, FS2, and Traktor. But, because I started on Vinyl, I don't think waveforms are important. Live gives you enough feedback elsewhere.

    And I am using a very customized template. I've looked at Cosm's set, but the one I looked at was just 2-deck mixing using multitrack recordings instead of full tracks. I don't have access to multi-track recordings, so his template is pointless for me. I don't think I've heard of the other one you mentioned before now.

    I've read a lot about them on aldj forums, the ableton forums years ago…but mostly I just look at what's possible, the controller I have, and figure out what I want.

    This is what my Live set looks like.


    It has a lot more capabilities than I actually use, and a lot of the "tricks" aren't visible, like the Return tracks that are hidden but fully functional and the collapsed Track Group (black, above) that turns the send knobs on my controller into wet/dry knobs.

    A lot of people on DJF and ALDJF helped with the concepts, but the template itself is original. I have several different versions of it…it kind of just keeps evolving. I think of something that might be cool, I try it…I refine it…I do it again. A lot of ideas don't pan out (like what to do with more than 3 or 4 "decks," even though my controller can handle 6); others turn out to have been bad ideas (like Smart Mixing…at least for the way I work).

    My biggest problem is trying to figure out what to do with all of the controls on the VCM-600. There are a lot of controls that I just can't figure out a practical use for.

    Quote Originally Posted by grazz16 View Post
    The way I see it is that if I am a beginner, and have to learn a program from scratch anyway, why not get a handle on the program that in the long run will give me more flexibility? I think i have to play around with it some more tho and see if it is indeed the route i want to take.
    Well…if you don't know basic mixing, I honestly think you'll drown in Ableton. I still think that a pair of Turntables/CDJs (or software that gets as close as possible) are the best way to start learning…but I'm also waiting to see what happens when someone figures out something genuinely new because they've never had to work within those restrictions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mostapha View Post
    I've looked at Cosm's set, but the one I looked at was just 2-deck mixing using multitrack recordings instead of full tracks. I don't have access to multi-track recordings, so his template is pointless for me. I don't think I've heard of the other one you mentioned before now.
    There are two templates on Cosm's site, and I think the one you saw was the 'megaset' - not the 'DJ megaset'. The aforementioned one is for live performance with just what you were talking about - multi tracks. The other is actually just for DJing. The Will Marshall template is based off of that, but heavily modified since then. Here's a screenshot:


    I'm trying to wrap my head around this now.

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