Ableton Studies?

(Please merge this post if another topic exists)

It’s always been about the music, not the gear.

I’ve lost sight of that recently. I’ve spent a lot of money on equipment, and I have little to show for it.

I’ve decided I’m going to put my hardware aside for a few months to focus on itb production. I enjoy most genres of electronic music, and I think it will benefit me to learn some actual production tricks. I’m likely never going to soundtrack an indie game just by goofing around on my synth, I should figure out a way to polish it and turn it into something that is compatible with the rest of the world. Modular taught me a lot about sound design, and I’m ready to take that to the digital realm for a while.

I know some DAW basics, but I’m pretty green in terms of knowing actual production terminology and practices. I have produced full tracks with Ableton and FL Studio, but somewhat by luck.

The reason I’m posting here is because lines offers great insight for all creative endeavors, so I’m wondering what some lines approved tutorials/courses are? Also open to sample and plug-in suggestions. I know the basics, but I don’t know how to use effect busses, set up instrument racks, etc. Basically I know how to program a beat (barely!), basic effect stuff, simple sequencing, and how to treat the machine like a tape-recorder.

I’m ready to dig deeper so I can further explore different genres, and I don’t want to get lost watching countless “how to deadmau5” videos so I can apply some theory to ambient music. Not that I have a problem with edm tutorials (and I do plan on making some bangers for fun and practice), but they seem to be the overwhelming majority in the realm of ‘learning Ableton’.

Where would lines send someone who isn’t an absolute beginner, but isn’t necessarily a seasoned vet? I have 9 Suite running on a slightly dated (but capable) iMac fwiw, and I plan on upgrading to 10 when funds allow and if I wind up getting as much mileage as I hope to out of 9. I’d like to spend as little money as possible on instruments and lessons, as there’s so much free stuff out that there that the options can be overwhelming.


I’m up for this.

Conceptually I see two fundamental modes of inquiry:

  1. look up what you are curious about on an ‘as needed’ basis
    (‘how do i record incoming audio’? ‘how do i work with audio clips’? ‘how do i chop up a sample in the ‘Simpler’ sampling device’?)

  2. go for the big picture overview

For the latter, ableton’s well documented manual may be a place to start (I prefer reading over videos).

For the former, google around for your question.

As to ambient, my approach is to start with a sound (sample, simple midi sequence played back with a stock synth or VST), then goof around with effects chains. Put a field recording underneath. Etc.

Explore generative MIDI sequencers - here’s my post in another thread Ableton Sequencers

Play with different effects in your two send/return channels, and sending tracks to those send/returns at different proportions.

Learn about making your own effect racks

Learn about automation (clip and arrangement)

If you have Max for Live, familiarize yourself with the LFO device.

Oh! And though Ableton’s default ‘Session Mode’ of launching various clips in different tracks does set it apart, explore working more in arrangement mode. Pressing ‘tab’ switches back and forth. I usually ‘play around’ in session mode until I have a minimum viable sound idea, record myself ‘playing it back’, then switch over to arrangement.


Here’s a bunch of video tutorials I did. Pretty general so you might find something of interest :slight_smile:


If you have Ableton 9 Suite, I would set a challenge for yourself to just use whatever you have already. Suite is a wealth of powerful devices and effects that can really shine with a little effort put in to learning them.

I would say if there’s a specific device or effect or part of Ableton that you want to get more comfortable with, do check out as @healthylives suggests and check out the manual for those things.

As for making music, the only thing that will help you improve is to attempt it over and over. So you need to figure out what works for you as far as getting you writing and recording songs. For me, I like to use this method: take a song you like, and try and record your “version” of it. Your version could be a straight-up cover, or it could be just attempting to match some aspect of the energy or harmony or production of it. Trying to closely copy things you like will get you into the mindset of listening for what about your sound needs to change, and at least for me it lets me give up some of the ego aspects of music-making.


This is very good advice.


fantastic collection of ideas from @healthylives @alanza

The one thing I’d add is make sure you are creating an organized archive as you explore and experiment. All the stuff I’ve released has been because I’ve had it in my archive and I went through and found things that fit together and told whatever “story” I was trying to tell. I hardly ever sit down with a clear idea to create a finished track in a sitting, but rather want to explore some particular device or instrument. Sometimes these turn into more full ideas, sometimes they are just a simple arpeggiated line (that I’ll try fitting together with other stuff time and pitch wise with ableton’s warping).

I really like splice studio for this because it is free, (mostly) automated, has the ability to add tags and audio previews that you can access anytime on any device.

Here’s an example of what that looks like for me (the “v1” things are play buttons for the audio previews I have uploaded):


First of all thank you so much to everyone who has responded so far!

I know about Session and Arrangement view. I’m not very comfortable with session, so I will focus on that more!

I’m not specifically looking

I do prefer videos to reading. Real-time visual and auditory feedback is helpful for me. I lose my patience when reading, maybe I should focus on that, too.

@alanza, that advice is great! I want to take a moment to say that I really appreciate all you do for this community and your wealth of knowledge. I see you offer great insight in almost every thread and I just want to thank you personally.

I will absolutely try to make some of my favorite songs. I do plan on learning the stock instruments of Ableton more, but I’m so drawn to the slick interfaces of third party software! I actually had the “use what you have” realization when I started using my SK-1 again. It really got me out of “I can’t wait until I can afford X” mentality. It made me realize that I have the most powerful set of tool available to me, I just need to work past some occasional roadblocks. As I do constantly with hardware :laughing:


I might add that with reference songs, it can be a very very loose interpretation…most important in my opinion is to glean the structure and instrumentation, rather than, say, the melody and rhythmic finer points.


Big fan of Splice as well. I have a ‘studio’ machine and a laptop I use on the go and it’s just perfect for picking up on a work in progress on another machine.

One thing to note with splice – you need to save projects in their own subfolders, one project per subfolder.

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Yes! another tip— “collect all and save” if you start exporting wavs from one set to use in another.


It looks like you touch base on a lot of subjects I had specific questions on! I will definitely be watching some of your videos!

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Hi everyone. I’ve spent some time in lines already but this is my first post.
To the topic.
On upgrading to Live 10. Live 10 has a few more effects and instruments that may or may not be of interest to you. However, Live 9 (that is the Suite version) is a complete package of tools worth exploring.
On Session or Arrangement. I personally found it more productive (in finishing pieces of music) to work on Arrangement. I use Session to jam and experiment around when I’m not looking to work on specific ideas. Some ideas arise from Session view, but not always.
Personal advice:
*Sample sounds generated through different devices and throw them in Simpler/Sampler.
*Make use of Collision, Tension and Electric.
*Try chaining effects. Use macros to change parameters in groups.

The manual is your ally. I frequently found myself drowning in Youtube videos.


great thread

something that really helped me get better about fleshing out songs instead of “concepts” in ableton was grabbing a song i appreciate, putting it into arrangement view and dialing in the tempo, then going through with markers and labeling all the parts of the song—“kick enters”, “reverb throw”, “something weird goes on with the pad here”, etc. then after that’s done just deleting the song and leaving the markers.

i’m a big fan of four tet/caribou/jamie xx style house music which feels “genre defying” to me, so i resisted any kind of paint by numbers structuring like this for a really long time, but i tried this out on a whim and found it super helpful for clarifying focus. i was able to make a full length song that i was pretty happy with once a day using this method, which is unheard of for me.

i do it for pretty much everything that makes it into ableton now, but am less strict about actually following the markers. cmd shift d/x can double/remove a section without screwing up the rest of the markers.


While you may like video learning better - the manual has the advantage that it has the clear info (and Ableton’s manuals are very good and clear) - and then it’s over so you get back to making music. Watching one video tutorial leads to another and another on the same topic… and soon an hour has gone be…

As for software Live 9 Suite is incredibly rich. I strongly recommend making a commitment to buy nothing more for some period of time (a year?). While videos will feature other plugins (eqs, mastering, effects…) you really do have all the tools you need at your disposal with 9 suite. Sure, some fancy eq might be have a nicer interface… but for learning and understanding and mastering (both forms) eq, the EQ8 will do excellent. Once you’ve learned all the stuff in 9 suite - you’ll be in a much better position to know if that $150 compressor is really worth it…


Some great advice there already! I might echo some without giving credit to first one who said it. A daw like Ableton is huge. Unless you plan to teach it makes little sense to learn it all. You are likely to be more productive focusing on a few tools and learning them inside out.

Learn small chunks at a time. As soon as you learn a technique. Put it to use. I have often studied and learnt ten techniques and forgotten nine.

Paying for tuition isn’t bad. Doing it forced me to commit. To put in the work to get value for my money. I took a course called “30 Day EP” by a guy called Jason Timothy Ward. It was really thorough with a well-thought out process. – he has a book on Amazon too and has been featured a lot on the different Ableton podcasts lately regarding his thoughts on the “mental game” of producing music. (His course is probably somewhere between 200-400 dollars?) He offers a lot of free material as well.

Cheaper and with quality material is to sign up with – an academy library card is like 9-15 bucks a month (they run campaigns now and then). I learnt a lot of sound design techniques through Timo Preece there. Noah Pred is another really good teacher that has a course there called “producing house and techno” that gave me a lot of ideas. It was basically him constructing a track from scratch which takes you through a lot of fundamental concepts. There are other great teachers at Ask.Audio too.

I really have very little patience with the “duuuudeezz” on youtube. But I’m a big fan of Elphnt ( - very clear and concise lessons. Yehuda at is great – and so is Slynk. The freebies from Pointblank and Dubspot is usually good too. And of course Ableton website is not a bad place to start - both for their own stuff and their reposting of the just mentioned teachers. Not forgetting Afrodjmac that is now (and always was) Brian Funk - I’m a member in his subscription club to support his work and podcast that I enjoy a lot.


I haven’t used Live in ages, but I highly recommend Madeleine Bloom’s tutorials:


This was the reason I quit Live (and before that, Photoshop): there’s so much “gear” to master that I found I spent most of my time “in Live” or “in Photoshop”, as opposed to making music or photographs.

Funnily enough, I’m an avid Rack user these days, however for some reason I always end up a session with something to show for it - horses for courses, I guess.


I got a little too obsessed with videos that showcase specific gear and instruments and started to exclusively replicate that style of video and music. I think those videos and music associated are great, but lead me down a path of gear-fetishism and thoughts like “I need ‘X’ to make the music that I want.” Cleaning my desk was a physical and metaphorical moment of realizing how much stuff and space I was using and how much I had neglected the world of endless possibilities that was tucked behind it all.

I know exactly what you mean in saying “in Ableton”, but I’m comfortable stepping “outside the modular” for a little while to gain some more perspective!


You might enjoy the book Ableton published called Making Music - Creative Strategies
for Electronic Music Producers. It is filled very practical ideas that can be applied at different stages of the process. I like the way it is aimed at getting musical ideas down rather than how to get a particular genre sound from a plugin.


I do this exact same thing. I’ve always called them “Structure Studies”. Most of the time I also create a track for each instrument that I imagine enters or leaves at the marker point, with a description like “fuzzy bass” or “bleepy thing”. Then I delete the song and for every track I created that I imagine should be there (along with the markers) I record something completely different.

I’m usually surprised by how few instruments make up a track. When I’m not working this way, I end up creating dozens of tracks that I just end up deleting, because really between 4-8 is enough.

Unless I’m recording live drums… then I need 12-16 tracks… :slight_smile: