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  1. #1
    Tech Wizard DJMeloD's Avatar
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    Default Ableton Live Setup Advice

    Hey guys, I am currently learning how to use Ableton Live and have a very basic understanding of the program and what everything does. I am looking to start using it to produce my own tracks, as well as loops and other tools for dj'ing, and I have some questions for you guys that have more experience with the program:

    1: when choosing a midi controller for use with Ableton for production, what are some main, must haves that you look for? for example, I know some people say that velocity sensitivity is a must for them, some say that a midi keyboard with pitch wheels are, etc.
    2: are APC 20/40 and Novation Launchpad more geared toward performing with live or producing with live? I want to say it's the first, but figured I'd ask for clarification.

    In addition to using it for "producing", I also want to use it when just having fun and getting creative in a live, jam-session manner. For example, this would entail using a midi fighter pro mapped to the drum rack with a couple effects as well. The closest example of what I want to do with this is best resembled by what Mad Zach does in some of his videos. However, I would also like to maybe record different layers of what I am jamming into empty Midi tracks and have control of: looping, an effect (such as EQ3, I believe it's called), volume, sends of each track, and record and solo buttons.

    I guess you can say I wish to use it similar to a loop recorder in which i make a pattern, record it, have it playing in the background on a midi track, and record more patterns into new midi tracks while being able to mute and solo them and add effects.

    From the research I've done, I feel that a VCM-600 paired with the midi fighter pro would best be suited for my live "Jam sessions" that I wish to do, while a midi keyboard (such as one from M-Audio's Axiom line) with pads, knobs, pitch wheels, and keys would be best suited for beginning production. VCM + Axiom I feel would be super powerful, production wise.

    The VCM-600's are a bit hard to find and are fairly expensive, and while I'm willing to spend a little extra to get exactly what I want, hopefully someone has an alternative. Possible alternatives I looked at were the Novation Zero Sl-MKII, m audio uc-33, behringer b-control series. However, I feel that the VCM has great flexibility with both production and playing live (if I ever decide to use it that way). I recently sold most of my gear for a new setup and have an Audio 2 DJ for a sound card and Xsession pro. I will also be purchasing a Novation Twitch/serato itch for more traditional DJ'ing.

    Sorry for the wall of text, I just wanted to cover all bases, and thanks in advance for the advice!!
    DJ Setup: Serato DJ/(2) Vestax V7/Ecler Nuo 2.0// Production Setup: Logic Pro 9/M-Audio i-Control/M-Audio Keystation Mini 32/NI Audio 2 DJ/13" 2.3GHz MBP 500GB HD OSX Lion/AIAIAI TMA-1/Roland TR-707//

  2. #2
    RGAS Guru Xonetacular's Avatar
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    APC40 and Launchpad are geared towards playing live. A lot of people use them for production but I found the apc40 very cumbersome for this. Same with the VCM-600- it is really geared mostly towards playing live and I don't think it would be very useful in the studio.

    Everything else is personal and depends on budget. Go try to feel some midi keyboards- most feel like junk but the novation sl line is most tolerable to me for keys. I really don't like any of the knobs and sliders on these keyboard controllers and if I were doing it over I would just get a cheap slim 61 key midi keyboard with no extra junk on it then get better controllers for everything else.

  3. #3
    Tech Guru botstein's Avatar
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    (edit - I somehow didn't see Xonetacular's response before posting my own.)

    Answering your second question first, (Xone is right and) the APC40/20 are geared strongly toward performing. APC stands for Ableton Performance Controller.

    I like Axioms a lot. However, the thing I care most about when it comes to keyboards is the action, and I don't find the semi-weighted action of the Axiom to suit my needs.

    Having velocity sensitive pads is a good idea, but some need them and some don't. I like having at least 16. If you plan on investing in a controller or instrument with pads (like Maschine or a MPC), there isn't a good reason to have them on your master keyboard as well. (This is like what Xone said about getting 'better controllers for everything else.')

    Have you looked at Novation's keyboards? I don't think that they come in hammer-weighted action, but include pads and everything on the ZeRO.

    Do you already have a MIDI Fighter Pro? I don't see it being very useful for production..
    Last edited by botstein; 07-08-2012 at 08:43 PM.

  4. #4
    Tech Wizard DJMeloD's Avatar
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    Hey guys, thanks for the speedy responses. It's good I asked this question, cus you guys said a lot of things that I didn't think of, especially the feel of the keys, which I something that I don't have past experience with or have thought about. Will the weight of the keys somehow affect performance, or is it just a feel thing? As far as the MF Pro, I don't have one yet, but I would like to get one just for jamming out, I've always quick hands/fingers (former paintballer), so finger drumming is something I've always liked to do. I like the responsiveness of the buttons for triggering one shots and things like that. It's more of a want, than anything. I probably should've mentioned that the midi fighter would be used solely for that purpose and not production.

    As far as keyboards, opting for a stripped down one could be good info as I have 2 midi keyboards, one is a 29 key yamaha, and idk what the other is. They're older and don't have a usb port, but if I get one of those midi to usb cables, this should suffice as far as keys are concerned, correct?

    If that is correct, I would just need other controllers such as pads/knobs/faders or whatever. Knowing this, if you were in my situation, which controllers would you guys opt for, from your experiences, for beginning production? I know a lot of this is subjective and depends on workflow, but given my limited experience, I don't have one really just yet.
    DJ Setup: Serato DJ/(2) Vestax V7/Ecler Nuo 2.0// Production Setup: Logic Pro 9/M-Audio i-Control/M-Audio Keystation Mini 32/NI Audio 2 DJ/13" 2.3GHz MBP 500GB HD OSX Lion/AIAIAI TMA-1/Roland TR-707//

  5. #5
    Tech Guru deevey's Avatar
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    What I think you should honestly do is get NOTHING for now - zip, nada, nil

    Its only when you start to try producing / playing that you'll discover what you actually need rather than want, looks shiny, friend has etc....

    Honestly start working without a controller first and if you find your first drawback is creating drum loops, get a controller for that, if its piano/synths, get a keyboard, if its transport control/triggering, get an APC or something.

    But I would not advise ANYONE just to buy XYZ.

    An APC40 + some kind of Keyboard with pads e.g. MPK25 would probably be a great duo for producing and live gigging - I use one in live and the APC40 is VERY intuitive, everything is just - where you expect it to be.

    Weighted keys are mainly a "Feel" thing and for a large number of people will have no bearing on its use if its just occasional riffs - it really depends on your own keyboard skills and if your music is based on keyboard use or not.

    If I were given a Choice of keyboard i'd probably try to pick up a second hand MicroKontrol (the are discontinued)...Really Nice Build, Velocity Pads, sliders, encoders but they are too small for some peoples shovel hands

    The VCM-600 is nice BUT its lack of 360 degree encoders (it uses regular pots) for effects section completely kills it for me - soft-takeover is Not a viable option EVER IMHO.

    If you are getting into finger drumming, a MPD or something with velocity might be a better bet than a midi-fighter.
    Last edited by deevey; 07-09-2012 at 12:56 AM.

  6. #6
    Tech Mentor Razzlesnaz's Avatar
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    I own ableton suite 8.3 and have had various version of the program since version 3. I have an older 2003 M-audio Radium 61 keyboard (5 octaves, 8 sliders, 8 knobs: pots) the key action sucks but it serves it purpose; plays notes across a diverse set of octaves. A synth at note c1 can sound totally different at note c5. The sliders and knobs assign so very easily to any parameter in live and un assign just as easily. I think the first thing to do if you are on a budget is get a keyboard with sliders and knobs. An old shitty m-audio or edirol keyboard product should suffice. I would only want weighted keys if I planned on becoming a real pianist and playing keys as my primary instrument. The keys on any keyboard assign across the drum machines so you can play in your beats, synths, samples, etc..( the crappy keyboards you mention should work too with a midi to USB in to your computer) The next thing would be either the APC line or the launchpad, which i own. Launchpad allows you to play your ableton sets clip by clip, record your key boarding sessions clip by clip, control mixer parameters, assign buttons to functions, and is way versatile and cool looking with the LEDS. These two things together have given me a lot of flexibility and tools to create. I only recently added the AKAI MPD 26. This is a beast for tapping in beats. Its sturdy, has velocity sensitive pads with aftertouch, and maps silly easy to ableton. The only thing I would really want at this point is a Novation Zero or an older edirol UC33 so I could have more knobs and sliders to control more levels and parameters in real time. As if the 22 knobs and sliders that I have aren't enough......
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    Ableton Suite 8.3/Reason 5/ Sub Boom Bass /Massive/Razor/DCAM Synth Squad/ Akai MPD26/ Novation LaunchPad/Traktor 2.5/Kontrol S2/Kontrol S4/ Kontrol F1/Radium Keyboard/Focusrite Saffire 6/UC-33e

  7. #7
    Tech Wizard DJMeloD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deevey View Post
    What I think you should honestly do is get NOTHING for now - zip, nada, nil
    I kinda knew this was coming and was thinking this in the back of my mind. At this point, I feel this is probably the best. I'm currently taking the Dubspot 30/30 class online to get an even better understanding of everything and get an idea of my possible workflow. I think I'll probably hold off on purchasing gear right now until I at least finish the course and start to try my hand at producing, as you stated. I appreciate all of the info from you guys about the different controllers and answering the questions I had, as this will definitely help me when I actually go to purchase gear. Please, if anyone has any other gear recommendations they think I should check out or any other tips regarding Ableton, let me know. Thanks!
    DJ Setup: Serato DJ/(2) Vestax V7/Ecler Nuo 2.0// Production Setup: Logic Pro 9/M-Audio i-Control/M-Audio Keystation Mini 32/NI Audio 2 DJ/13" 2.3GHz MBP 500GB HD OSX Lion/AIAIAI TMA-1/Roland TR-707//

  8. #8

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    i love my apc 20, so far im new to ableton but have used it for the dubspot 30/30 class and for djin with and i love it 1 its small foot print and very intuitve, id add and apc 40 for more studio work if the wallet would let me

  9. #9
    Tech Mentor liam1895's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deevey View Post
    What I think you should honestly do is get NOTHING for now - zip, nada, nil

    Its only when you start to try producing / playing that you'll discover what you actually need rather than want, looks shiny, friend has etc....

    Honestly start working without a controller first and if you find your first drawback is creating drum loops, get a controller for that, if its piano/synths, get a keyboard, if its transport control/triggering, get an APC or something.

    But I would not advise ANYONE just to buy XYZ.

    An APC40 + some kind of Keyboard with pads e.g. MPK25 would probably be a great duo for producing and live gigging - I use one in live and the APC40 is VERY intuitive, everything is just - where you expect it to be.

    Weighted keys are mainly a "Feel" thing and for a large number of people will have no bearing on its use if its just occasional riffs - it really depends on your own keyboard skills and if your music is based on keyboard use or not.

    If I were given a Choice of keyboard i'd probably try to pick up a second hand MicroKontrol (the are discontinued)...Really Nice Build, Velocity Pads, sliders, encoders but they are too small for some peoples shovel hands

    The VCM-600 is nice BUT its lack of 360 degree encoders (it uses regular pots) for effects section completely kills it for me - soft-takeover is Not a viable option EVER IMHO.

    If you are getting into finger drumming, a MPD or something with velocity might be a better bet than a midi-fighter.
    What this guy said.

    If you want something with pads and good feeling keys get a MPK40. Really great keyboard with functionality or the new Novation Impulse.

    After you learn things yourself and play around you'll slowly learn what you actually want. Also dont settle for cheap gear that you will grow out of in like 1 month, that was a mistake I made.

  10. #10
    Tech Guru Patch's Avatar
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    Deevey has hit the nail on the head. Develop your production style, then buy a controller that allows you to d that more efficiently. Using a mouse is slow - but once you know what it is exactly that you want control over, choosing a controller will be easy.

    Before buying a controller, learn the key shortcuts - this will speed up everything you do 10 fold.

    When I see threads like this, I always think "if you don't know what controller you need, you're not ready to use a controller".
    Performance: 2xTechnics 1200MK2, DJM 850, Dicers, Zomo MC-1000, Sony MDR-v700, Sony VAIO
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