Ableton Live Version 3

Mar 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Barry Milroy


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The fact that Ableton Live can instantaneously preview any .WAV, .AIFF or SDII file at any tempo with the click of a mouse without additional slicing or preparation, combined with the software's capability to run alongside Pro Tools (via ReWire) or function as a disk streaming software sampler, has made the product popular with both film and television music composers and loop-minded producers. Now, Ableton has upgraded Live to Version 3.


Live 3's new Link/Unlink envelope may be its most powerful button. Unlinking an envelope means that any given loop is no longer a monotonous, repeating loop, but rather an extendable or contractible amount of time for each independent envelope. In other words, while your looped audio file goes 'round and 'round, Live enables you to create automation envelopes of any length, similar to the way an LFO or filter modulation can cross bars and beats.

Say you are working with a two-measure drum loop and would like to create a longer, more interesting (i.e., dynamic) drum loop. To do this, open the loop by double-clicking on it in Live's Clip View. Next, make sure that Clip View's envelope window is open, and that the Device Chooser reads “Clip” and the Modulated Control Chooser says “Volume” (all default settings). Click on the Linked button so that it now toggles to Unlinked. To the right of the Unlinked button, enter in the desired length for your new Volume envelope (for example, 4,0,0 in the three successive boxes to designate exactly four bars). Your sample region, visible on the right, will now be extended to four measures and the original loop remains its original length. Next, edit the envelope by drawing in a volume curve. I often use this trick to silence unwanted drum hits or parts of a sample, as well as to add variety to a static loop. For instance, I may cut a couple of notes out in measures one and two so that bars three and four add a bit of intensity. Keep in mind, this is a two-bar loop with a four-bar volume envelope working over the top of it. You can take this further by automating the sends, panning or any other effect parameter, as long as it is active on the given track. Better yet, any automation pattern can be cut, copied and pasted to any other clip or parameter.


This vanilla-sounding feature is easy to overlook; however, try it once and you'll be hooked. Here's how it works: Now that you have set up a volume curve, drag another two-measure drum loop from Live's browser to the previously edited loop's Clip View. All settings and envelopes on the original clip will now be superimposed onto the new clip. This tactic allows you to multiply your editing efforts. For instance, you have created a complex drum pattern with multiple Unlinked envelopes (as described above) and now you want to sample another drum sound with those same edits. By dragging your new sample to any point on the original sample's Clip View, even while the clip is playing, you will immediately hear a brand-new loop. Note: This drag-and-replace feature is different from Live Clip View's Replace/Locate Sample, which will swap out all copies of the clip in question throughout your Live set.


By pressing Ctrl (Cmnd) + D, you can duplicate almost anything in Live, be it a clip, loop, a group of loops or samples, or even the complex automation envelopes described above. You can also quickly copy and paste at once with this simple command. To duplicate a scene (a row of clips in Session View), hold down the Shift key along with Crtl (Cmnd) + D.


When a clip is in Re-Pitch mode, Live ceases to apply its magical pitch correction (aka, warping) to your loop. If this sounds a little counterintuitive, then think of Re-Pitch mode as “old-school sampler” mode, where the clip changes pitch with regard to tempo. I use this mode as my default whenever I am recording into Live at the final project tempo. Live will then simply stream the recording from disc unaffected. I also use Re-Pitch to fatten up drum loops that are near the tempo I am working in. For instance, if a drum set loop is recorded at 95 bpm and I am working at 90 or 92, I will change the clip's mode to Re-Pitch, thus producing more punchy and slightly lower drum tones with absolutely no warping.


At the risk of sounding obvious, I want to stress that if you have not tried linking Live via ReWire to Reason, Project 5, Orion, Logic, Pro Tools or any other ReWire application, you simply must do so now. (You've reached the end of this magazine, anyway!) It's as easy as opening your desired master application first, designating the future ReWire inputs and then opening your slave application. Ableton's Website ( hosts several DAW-specific tutorials on how to set up ReWire. When running Live as the master, you can apply all of your VST effects to your ReWire slave application's tracks, as well as record the ReWire input for creative tweaking inside of Live.

The author would like to thank Dave Hill Jr., author of Ableton Live 2 Power! (, for his help in writing this piece.

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