So I’ve recently started dabbling in Ableton Live. Lots to learn. Here are some of my initial thoughts and first impressions.
Why Go For Ableton Live??
Why the move from Logic? After all, Logic is like second nature for me. Well, there are many reasons:
- The most important reason is personal. I’ve been on Logic for 11 years now. I wanted change because it’s just good to push beyond your comfort zone sometimes. Discover new territories and find new inspiration in the process. Simple as that.
- My search for better workflow. In the recent times I have noticed myself putting more and more thought on improving my workflow. I am constantly trying to find better ways of doing things. This involves a lot of trial and error. NI Maschine changed a lot of things for me in the past year. The plunge to Ableton is another experiment in this never ending quest. And I’m already glad I took it.
- The third reason is that I feel Apple have simply taken too long without any substantial updates to Logic. They’re really falling behind in features. Now don’t get me wrong Holmes. Music is not a race. Logic 9 is a really good DAW, and if you’re happy with how things are working out for you then there’s little reason to look elsewhere. But let’s face it – you can’t really call Logic innovative these days. Logic 10 is coming and I really hope they are taking a good look at the competition and making it stand up. But right now I felt it was a good time now to take a look at what Ableton has to offer.
- Performing. I am working on new ways to perform my music. Ways that go way beyond traditional DJ:ing. Native Instruments Traktor is the heart of my setup, but combining that with Ableton gives me a whole another world of possibilities. I am definitely welcoming that, so I’ll be experimenting with adding Ableton into the mix. We’ll see how things shape up.
So here’s a few observations. Please note at the time of writing this I have only been using Ableton Live for a couple of weeks. So excuse the newbie talk. Also while I don’t want to make this a feature comparison post, I can’t really avoid comparing to Logic at points as that’s where I come from.
Ableton Live feels snappy and lightweight. I am not a programmer but I can’t help but think there must be some smart design and clever coding at work behind this thing.
It hardly makes you wait when loading up instruments and effects (of course, 3rd party plugins can be a different story as always). It responds very well to any user action. It’s simply a joy to use.
It’s not until now that I realize how clunky Logic actually feels. Also Logic crashes more. In fact I’ve only been able to make Live crash once so far and that was clearly due to an unstable 3rd party plugin.
I have the Ableton Live Suite 9 Beta now. The quality of bundled sounds, effects and instruments you get with it is great. Logic Studio comes with good factory effects and instruments too. But the real difference here is in the bundled sounds. The many gigabytes of Apple loops that you get with Logic were never of any real use to me. In fact I don’t even have those installed anymore. But the sound libraries in Live Suite 9 are posh. There is some pretty generic stuff in there too, but I do find a lot of the bundled content quite useful and yes, even inspiring.
What is also nice about Live is the way they handle the sound content. There are loads of packs and you get to download just the ones you want and need. I work on a laptop so I don’t want anything useless taking up space. If I ever need the Grand Piano, I can grab it then. It’s also easy to uninstall any sound packs that you are not using.
I won’t hide the fact that it took me a while to get my head round how it works (of course I still have loads to figure out). My main initial difficulty was fully understanding the relationship between session view and arrangement view. To be fair though, that kind of thing is always to be expected when getting into new software. And now that I do get it, I see the purpose and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When I found out Ableton comes from Germany I wasn’t surprised. Everything about the interface seems really well thought out and honed to perfection. Everything has a purpose. Gotta love that attention to detail.
It’s clearly made from ground up for electronic music production and that makes all the difference for me. Where as Logic is something for everyone, Ableton Live really zooms in and goes deep on electronic music.
Good Integration With My Gear
I use a Presonus Faderport and NI Maschine, and they both integrated easily with Live. Can’t say the same about Logic unfortunately – yeah I’ve managed but not without problems. So I was very happy to see these beloved pieces of kit working in Live nicely out of the box.
Ableton Live Makes Me Listen
It really seems somehow Live makes me look less and concentrate more on listening to the music. Which is always a great thing and has a pretty profound effect on the music. Maybe it’s the minimalistic and rugged looks of the interface that causes this effect. Whatever it is I like it.
Some Mad Features
Some of the features in Live 9 Beta are just crazy. Especially the audio-to-MIDI functionality. I am talking about some proper black magic vibes here. I was pretty skeptical when I first heard about it. Once I tried it though… Woah!! Converting complex harmonic audio content to a MIDI synth instrument or a beatboxed sample into a drum sampler track… Just magical. I would not have thought this would be possible. Voodoo time.
They have also done some great work with some of the basic plugins like EQ8 and the compressor in Live 9. Without going into detail, they’ve clearly taken a look at the some of most cutting edge plugin developers out there and brought in some great features.
I downloaded the 30 day free trial, made 2 new tunes in the first 2 days and on the third day I bought the full version. That pretty much sums it up I think.
For mixing work I keep using Logic for the moment. Who knows if my opinion will change, but I still think Logic has mixing and audio editing covered better than Ableton. Other than that, it’s hard to think of any negative things to say.
Right now I think it’s safe to say Live is going to be my future workstation for creative work – combined with Maschine. Push is coming out soon too. It looks very promising so I’m definitely keeping an eye on that.
In general I’m very impressed and inspired with Live at the moment as you can probably see.
What are your thoughts? What do you like/dislike most about Ableton Live?