Ableton Tips for (very early) beginners

Please note: All pictures in the following blog were found on google images.

I’ll warn you now that there will be a lot of comparison between Pro Tools functions in this blog, as that is the DAW I first learnt. During project 1 and the start of this trimester, we’ve started using Ableton quite a bit. We’re learning about synthesizers, sampling and also just generally how to use Ableton. When I came into my course at the start of the year knowing nothing, we were then taught all about Pro Tools, so switching to Ableton was definitely an interesting experience. A couple of things I’m going to discuss today are:

  1. Zooming
  2. Clip View
  3. Master
  4. MIDI recording vs other recording
  5. Synthesizers vs. Pre-sets

Zooming
So lets start simple. Just a really small difference between Pro Tools and Ableton, but personally I think the Ableton way is more logical. In Pro Tools there are a few ways to zoom, but my favourite is by holding option and scrolling in/out on the mouse. With Ableton, all you have to do is hover your mouse over the correct place and click with the mouse, and you’re able to zoom as well as move right/left at the same time, which I think is a really handy feature to have if you’re working very quickly on a project.

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Clip/Session View
Again, something pretty simple. Where in Pro Tools there is the Edit and Mix windows, in Ableton there is the Clip or Session View and Arrangement View. I think clip view is a really cool way to work, because you can put a bunch of different takes of the same thing to see how it fits in with the rest of your project. I think this feature was actually directed toward DJ’s, because you can select to randomly shuffle clips in the same row, or play them in a specific order. However, it would also be very useful in a session in which you recorded multiple takes and are deciding between them. Pro Tools has a similar feature I suppose in their Playlists, however it is not as diverse or user-friendly as Ableton’s.

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Arrangment View in Ableton
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Session/Clip View in Ableton

Master
This is more of a tip than anything, but in Ableton you have to remember that all the channels go through the master, and the master goes to the speakers. In Pro Tools it’s different because the channels themselves all go directly to the speakers.

MIDI Recording vs Other Recording
This is something I learned in class while we were using the MIDI Keyboards and I couldn’t get mine to record properly (Thanks John). In Ableton there are 2 recording buttons. As far as I can work out, to record from an external instrument you must used the non-filled-in record button (1) to record into clip/session view. To then record that into arrangement view (with all of your mixing/effects/etc) you have to use the filled-in record button (2).key_1

Synthesizers vs. Pre-sets
This last one isn’t really something that is Ableton-specific (I don’t think), but it is something that I learned through using Ableton all the same. This probably seems super simple, but as well as never having used Ableton before this trimester, I’ve also never used synthesizers so just bear with me. With the synthesizers, there are a few different ones you can choose such as Operator, Analog, etc. What I didn’t realise, was that those are the actual synthesizers, which you can make your own sounds with, or if you go further to the drop-down menus, there are pre-set ones which you can still play with, but also have an already pre-set sound.

As always, thanks for reading!

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