Ableton Studies?

Yeah, if only I had the Worbulizer 5000… I have learned to counter this, but it’s still an almost automatic thought when seeing/hearing something I like! I have (once more) cleared my desk 2 days ago, actually - there are now only 4 instruments on it, and I promised myself to only add to it once I’ve sort of mastered them.

Thanks for sharing. Please update this thread as you move forward and if you find anything helpful.

I’ve been on a similar journey. About to sell a good third/half of my modular stuff. I bought too much, too fast and am overwhelmed, unfocused, and still the GAS is real. Probably because I’m intimidated by all of it and imagine something new will be just the ticket. :slight_smile:

I also read Goodbye, things recently and have been on a “do more with less” kick. Seems to be helping. Sounds like you’re on the right track.

Ironically I had some time this morning and decided I should spend an hour working on music instead of playing through Cuphead again on ‘Expert’.

I found myself spending a lot of time messing around with plugins, but it was pretty fun and somewhat rewarding. It made me realize some of the benefits of hardware.

Now I really want to use my 104hp modular as sample fodder, and make all my own instruments. I’m not sure if that breaks my self-imposed ‘no more hardware” plan. It’ll force me to get the most out of my synth, but it’s another place where I can waste time. It’d be cool to see how Tides’ oscillator sounds in the context of a chord!

Edit: it was actually this video that got me into the idea of creative sampling. It makes me want to grab a microphone and my 4 track and really make some organic sounds!


If you have the hardware already, I think it should be fair game. After all, the goal is to build towards the kind of workflow you wanna have with you for a long time. If you see yourself having some amount of hardware throughout yr musical explorations, practicing recording it is great!


Ah yes, what a great video!

This reminded my of one of the best videos I’ve watched on music making. Four Tet uses a technique I’d never seen before here:

This video which talks through the technique as well:


i have seen this a couple of times (do not like the end result at all…) but have somehow never noticed that he seems to literally not touch the keyboard at all for the first 6 and a half minutes of this??

If your focus is primarily on making songs/tracks finished structures then there is a chance ur heading down another trap/distraction towards non completion by “studying” ableton. Since your not an absolute beginner then I would skip getting lost in countless studies.

What i would suggest since it sounds like you have enough musical tools…use it as the DAW was intended for…recording…using arrangement view like a tape recorder and mixer and your primary tools being cut/copy/and paste and the mix functions. Record your jams and noodling…record everything…multitrack it…name it organise it…then limit yourself to using what you record to create a finished piece using ur ears and feeling the flow.

Down the line you might feel this tune needs a little more material for the high freq range and then you can figure application specific methods to complete your desired task. You can then also start recording directly into session view to see how that is different from the linear arrangement and how that perspective would apply in your productions. But me and countless others have gotten trapped in session view creating endless loops with very little song output. Ableton has only become more and more sprinkled with toys and the options and techniques one can put to use are indeed overwhelming if you have no idea what you want out of it


Brilliant! What a playful technique Thanks!

Something I do is to try and approach each ableton session with the intention to do one particular experiment, typically this means trying a technique or tool I haven’t explored before. Beyond that I’m happy to just do what feels right and use techniques I am familiar with. For me this has been a good way to learn whilst also creating relatively complete pieces of music.

For example, when I wanted to start learning about the max4live instruments that were added in ableton 10 I created a session where I loaded various FM drums, envelope followers and LFOs and messed around until something fun happened. I then ended up incorporating what I’d done into this track (starting at 0:33)

possible experiments to try

  • make all your tracks interact with each with other by aggressively using envelope followers mapped to parameters of other tracks
  • build a track only using your laptops inbuilt microphone and the sampler
  • use corpus!!
  • make a track that is one very long sustained chord - and add all the interest and movement by automating parameters
  • etc

Many years ago, when I purchased Ableton Live 5.0 I uninstalled all the cracks and plugins I had on my computer. Now even more so Ableton Live contains everything you might possibly need for sound experimentation, production, and fun with with electronically produced and recorded sound.

Focus on that, though it’s hard not to get distracted. As others have mentioned focus on making AND releasing music. Goal orientated as well as practice-based learning is the key. That’s what I would tell younger me. You learn more by releasing and performing music than anything else (countless hours noodling).

Having taught Ableton at various levels in institutions and online the educational route is not for everyone. But making music is! Do that.


Ableton is totally at the centre of most of what I do lately, but I also echo the sentiment others have expressed here: you do not need to learn all the ins and outs. Just start making music and figure things out when you run into a wall.
Reading through the manual from start to end did give me some insights that I later found useful though, and I can also recommend Ableton’s “Making Music” book, which has been mentioned earlier. It can be a good tool to get you out of an uninspired moment.

As usual there’s no right nor wrong, which is what makes it difficult I guess.
I never use the session mode. I did try very hard to make it work for me and even bought a launchpad at one point, but it never clicked.
So now I just work in arrangement all the time. A lot of what I do boils down to collaging sounds together and working with automation lanes anyway. It’s like a tape machine on steroids with buil-in FX for me. The source sound always come from outside of the box.
No DAW will be 100% like you want it, but there’s benefits in just sticking with it, and figuring out some workarounds. I’ve found that it’s one of those things that help you to build up your very own process.
Sometimes the DAW can feel a bit stiff and might even kill off the momentum. Which is why I am keeping the modular synth close by. I have a multi-channel audio interface and sometimes the starting point for a track is playing something live and just recording it all multi-track into the DAW.

I guess more than learning new DAW tricks, one thing you could do is experiment with various compositional/production approaches like (just a quick brain-dump):

  • focus on one part/sound only. Try to make it shine without adding more sounds/parts.
  • improvise and record everything into discrete tracks. Then edit it down to something that makes sense as a track.
  • See if sending out the audio to external gear and then recording it back in can be a way to add a more hands-on feeling to the process.
  • @ioflow’s blind recording technique can also be very interesting. So for example you could create one track at a time, but always leave the other muted. Only at the end listen to the result.

I’m enjoying reading all the sage advice here…

One thing that I really love to do is to use Live’s effects (including M4L) to transform clips into sounds in which the original is largely unrecognizable…

That way it almost doesn’t matter what you started with…

I Ike granulation, time stretching, reversing, buffer shuffling, and other means of revealing things that you wouldn’t have thought were in the sounds… Great fun!


Talking of which…
Since we’ve been talking a lot about focus and not letting onself being distracted too much by the endless possibilities of digital audio software… here’s a little rabbit hole for you to fall into:



I’ve been getting into the Use-Ableton-to-Destroy-Sounds philosophy and I’m finding it is a very rich source of ideas. I am so far doing this by slicing pieces of performances I previously recorded and placing them in different audio channels. The pieces range from one-shots to complete loops. I start by editing the pieces with the clip tools and adding dynamic processing to the channel. I only then freeze and consolidate that as a new piece of audio that will be mixed into a a bigger piece.

Would you mind sharing part of the process you follow to do this? What do you mean by buffer shuffling? That’s the part I’m particularly curious about.

This looks cool, something to look into on my weekend shift!


First, the Michael Norris tools are wonderful, free and no pretense of gui to obscure their lovely insanity…

Buffer Shuffler is a Max for Live device that is either included in the basic installation or is one of the free M4L devices you can score on the Ableton site… It’s great, outputting slices of the original input in a different order and sometimes reversed or pitch shifted…

If you’re not already familiar with it, I predict you will love it!


hello, i’m an Ableton Live Certified Trainer since version 8 and always recertified until now (version 10). i teach electronic music production, sound theory and sound design in two different schools in Milan, Italy (one a private school, the other a public institution) since about 10 years. i also offer private lessons. this represents my main income in the last years while i still do sound engineering and some mastering from time to time and of course i’m an electronic music performer and (sigh) producer , even if i dont really like the latter term.
feel free to ask questions about ableton live both here and via PM.
while in the last years i shifted back to hardware for my music and use ableton live mostly for recording, some minor editing and final touches to mixes and sometimes mastering, i still think it is one of the most versatile environments, especially since the addition of max for live.
even very simple m4l tools like LFO and Envelope Follower add a lot of power, especially if one wants to break free of the “usual” daw workflow.
what i always suggest to my students is to think of the session view as a great sketchpad tool, not only a place where to organize a live performance but also a very friendly environment for pre-production, a place where you can sketch up rhythmical, melodic and harmonic ideas without the burden of the linear timeline to oppress one’s own creativity. sometimes even for just 4 or 5 different clips for drums\percussions, a couple of basslines and other stuff…
then you switch to the arrangement view and start building up your piece. and the arrangement itself gives you hints about clip variations, transitions, effect automations and stuff like that.
so first advice is never underestimate the power of session view!
another thing that i find really priceless on Live is the ability to decouple automation loop length from clip\loop length (via the linked\unlinked button in the envelopes box of both audio and midi clips).
that can transform a simple automation into a powerful custom lfo or if clip automations are longer than the clip itself and you add some of them to different parameters, all of them unrelated to each other, with very odd lengths, you end up with infinitely evolving patterns that never repeat themselves even from the most basic of basslines!
clip launch properties are other little gems, especially the follow action function.

some of this stuff is very similar to some monome grid\ansible apps like kria (decoupled lengths for all parameters of sequencer tracks) or meadowphysics (follow actions: after this clip has played x times do the y thing)


Check out point blank deconstruction videos on yt with ski oakenfull. Entertaining and educational

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Could not agree more. I’ve been “learning” Ableton since fall 2017 (coming from Pro Tools/Logic) and I feel like I’m just now really getting great with it.

But the whole time I’ve been making tracks, some of which have been released - I just knew that I was doing things slowly and inefficiently and not using its full capabilities, and often I’d print stems into Pro Tools to finish the track quickly.

What I’ve been doing is just starting the same way I would in any program - with a beat, melody, or chord progression. When I hit a roadblock I google my way around it.

It took over 18 months for me to be fully “comfortable” in it, but now I can barely remember what life was like before it, and I just bought a Push 2 because I finally feel at the point where I confidently know how I’m going to use it.

So as the quote says, if you wait to create until you’ve “learned” Live, then you’re going to lose more time. Just start creating and learn as you go and don’t worry about if you’re using it “right”!!


Progress report: “just use it and look stuff up when you get stuck” is the best advice I could have gotten. Looking back I sort of feel silly even making this thread! There is a ton of great information and practice techniques here and I’m grateful for that!

For anyone who cares: here’s a cute little teaser of a song I made yesterday. My drum programming/processing leaves a bit to be desired, but I’m figuring it out!


I’ve been considering wiping all the presets and samples that shipped with Ableton - basically removing the entire library of sounds and presets and creating my own library. I think this would be a pretty cool journey.

I think I would most likely download the grand piano and orchestral libraries, aside from that I’d be creating my own samples and presets. My hope is that the instruments and effects become more like my instruments rather than a distracting, huge range of options.