Ableton Live 8
So have you made the jump to Ableton version 8 yet? Personally I was so impressed with Ableton version 7 that I didn’t really imagine
I would be very interested in the update (even though I would certainly get the update anyway). After watching the promo video, I
got pretty excited. Let’s take a look at each of the features and differences between Ableton 8 and previous versions. I’ll start with the ones that I am most excited about.

Groove templates

This has been a feature I’ve been secretly hoping for and I am more than impressed with how well it was delivered. Currently we have the ability to quantize our midi with the “Control(or Apple) U” shortcut once you click on your clips note properties. You are able to humanize the part by quantizing it
slightly toward the triplet. this does give a different feel, but it is still pretty limiting considering it puts each part off by the exact same amount or percentage. This in itself is still pretty rigid. Quantizing audio to a Global groove works pretty much the same and it will never replace that live feel….

until now…..

With Groove templates, you are now able to drag in a loop or loops with the exact feel you want. Looking for that Led Lepplin swing, Michael Jackson’s groove, or maybe that loose funk of James Brown.. simply drag the file in and it’s a done deal. Perfect.

Looper

This is something I could see using as I do like to jam in a “tape loop” style at times, adding layer after layer without having to stop. In my first Ableton collection I show how I record loops on the fly, which gets the job done without too much fuss, but I can see Looper taking things to a whole new level. The feature many people will love about Looper is it’s ability to detect bpm. This allows a player to just jam out an idea without first setting a metronome. Looper with figure it out and then you can trigger a beat as if you had a live drummer playing along. The idea of layering if very intriguing, and the idea of doing it all with 1 pedal is fantastic. This is a great way to get in the flow without technology slowing you down.

Step Recording for midi

Depending on how long you have been making music, you may have worked with hardware sequencers that have a step record option. I found this to be so useful at times that I considered buying another hardware sequencer just for this feature! Basically step recording allows you to choose a note size (for example 16th note) and then just hit each key or note as many times as you would like it to play. Lets say you wanted hihats playing every 16th note on a drum beat. You would simply make an empty loop of however many bars you would like (lets just say 1 bar), choose the length as 16th note and then hit the hi hat 16 times. No recording, no metronome, no using the pencil. This feature may seem primitive, but I assure you, if you work with midi sequencing, you will be addicted to this feature. It can go much further in depth than you would think.

Group Volume:

A very nice feature that I think everyone will be able to get a lot of use out of. I certainly will. simply control (or apple) click on each track you want to adjust as a group then move the volume and everything moves at the same time and the exact same distance. previosly you had to do each volume by hand and hope you go everything correct. this was a huge pain if you wanted to boost all your drums a few db up at a certain time in the song and then back down after that part is complete. you could group add the drums to another track, but that just adds more clutter to your track. If you are like me, there is already plenty of clutter without rerouting things to group sand subgroups. This simple addition is a godsend. Group tracks looks like a simplified and cleaner version of what you were already able to do, but I look forward to the addition.

Crossfade:

I was wondering about this one thinking about how i would use this feature and if it was even necessary. Most of the time if I have a part I want to fade in while another is fading out, I would just do a fade in on one track and a fade out on the other. I’m still fine with this approach. I don’t want 2 different sounds on the same track. Each track has different volume, effects and processing requirements, so this feature wouldn’t seem handy for that. Same goes for making DJ mixes in your arrange window. Although this feature may be more useful for this task, I still prefer having each track independent. I may change my mind after putting it to the test though but for now I doubt it.
What I would find it useful for though would be a track with ambient sounds or incidentals. I can imagine taking all of your cut up sounds and dropping them into a track crossfading one to the other. I’d likely add a lot of reverb and delay to make the source material less recognizable. In this case you could keep sounds flowing without sounding too choppy. This could be a lot of fun. I’m curious to know how you would use it.

Browse Scrubbing:

Yes! For DJ’ing this is going to be incredibly useful. Now you can basically needle drop through a track in the browse window instead of having to listen to the first few measures and hope it will work in your set. Considering not a lot happens in the first 32 measures of a song, it’s pretty hard to gauge whether a track will work well or not unless you know the tune pretty well. In most cases I suggest you know your tunes inside and out, but I know it’s hard to resist when you have a handful of new tunes. Now you can have more confidence playing new tunes “on the fly”.

New effects:

This for me is a very welcome addition to the effects palate. Although I use plenty of 3rd party plugin’s, it’s nice to have more internal effects to mangle and dirty things up. I’m a big fan of using the saturator to add grit or harmonic presence. Having the Overdrive effect will be another option I will probably use a lot on drums, synths, basslines.. well basically everything J. The vocoder looks very intriguing even though I have others in my arsenal. I show you how to set up a vocoder in may first video collection. I’m pretty sure this new effect will work pretty much the same. Bring on the robot voices! As far as multiband compressor and limiter, I’ll have to see how I like them. A limiter is just a compressor with a high ratio (25:1 and up) which you can already do with the current collection. You can also create a mutiband compressor with your audio racks pretty easily (another video I offer on my collection) so this just makes it easier. I certainly could live without these, but I’m pleased with the addition.

New Instruments:

I’m always interested in sonic upgrades and improved features on the instruments. I find Operator to be a pretty powerful beast as it is, so this should be a welcome improvement. I can’t say anything about the new instrument Collision as I don’t know enough about it. The latin samples should be great for some, but I tend to stay away from Ableton’s sample libraries. I’m not saying there is anything bad about them, I am just already loaded with plenty of samples, so I won’t find this as useful as some of you.

Ableton Share:

If you haven’t heard about this feature yet, make sure to take a look at the video below. It basically introduced a very innovative way to work on song with online friends. It basically creates an online server that holds all of your files.. coool! Cubase attempted this about 9 years ago with Rocket and it failed. Technology just wasn’t there at the time. I like that you can share plugin’s in the session even if only one of you has it. Here is a rundown from Ableton’s site:

key features
One click upload: select “Share Live Set” in the menu and Live automatically gathers and transmits the entire Live Set.
One click download: open shared Sets from the web with a single click.
Uploads and downloads happen in the background, so you can keep making music.
Manage your Live Sets online: You control who can access your Set. Keep access exclusive to your bandmates and producer, or go public and share your Set with the entire Live community.
Intelligent file transfer ignores duplicate files and recognizes changes in a Set. Live transmits only new or modified material, minimizing transfer times.
Avoid plug-in issues: Automatically freeze tracks that use plug-ins and virtual instruments, so people can still use your Set if they don’t own all your plug-ins.
Collaborate even with non-Live users: Non-Live users get a time-limited version of Live for free if you share a Set with them.

Max for Live: make your own instruments:

Well what can I say? Just imagine the possibilities with this one! Ableton now lets you teach yourself to make custom instruments and effects. You know what that means right? A very big community of Ableton Live users sharing their own inventions. Anything that gets the community involved in the software is a very good thing. The guys at Ableton can’t think of everything, but the community can! I love this idea and I look forward to finding links of instructional videos and Custom effects and instruments. When I do, I will share it with you (and if you find a link before me, please share it with me so we can get it to our whole group).

Enhanced Warping:

Ableton changed the warping method in Ableton 8 which caught alot of people offgaurd but given a little time i’m finally starting to appreciate it and like it even better then the previous approach. The fidelity is improved and there are more warping options that are very useful. I also like the new “drag to marker” feature. I see this really coming in handy.

The mastering effects:

Being that I am a mastering engineer I find this both intriguing and not so intriguing. I feel that inexperienced producers run the risk of really messing up a great tune just because they have a “louder is better” mentality. This issue isn’t the tools that Ableton has included, it’s the hands these tools are going into. If people think this is a way for them to avoid getting their song properly mastered by a professional, the delusion might cost them more than they gain. Previously I wrote an article on Mastering and gave some quick tips that people could put to use. If people have information like this in their hands, they might be able to use the tools wisely to “test drive” a track, but you should always keep a copy of your track unmastered for when you are ready to hand it over to a professional.
All that being said, I look forward to testing these effects out and reporting back with my verdict. I’m certain there are plenty of other creative uses for these tools besides mastering, so have at it!

Wishlist for future versions of Ableton:

Save song as previous Ableton version:

It would be great to be able to save your songs specifically for any version of Ableton preceding your current version. This would be incredibly helpful when sharing song files and working with others over the internet. As it is now, if I have version 7 and you have version 6, I will be able to load a song you are sharing me, but when I make updates and send it back, you will not be able to read it because it was saved as a version 7 song file. That can be a real drag. The only workaround I have found is to render each track to audio by going to File, Render Audio/Video, and then choosing All Tracks. This will make a separate audio track for each channel whether it be audio or midi.. This can be updated and emailed back and forth, but the file sizes can be prohibitive and make the whole process less fun and more work.

Group effects

Yes yes, I am aware of sends and returns, but sometimes this doesn’t do the job you want. Send/Returns simply add effect to the original signal, but if you want a sound or group or sounds 100% processed, you’ll need to drop an effect in the actual track. It would be so nice to choose all of the tracks that you want the exact same effect on, drag it once to any of the tracks and it would put a shared effect on every track you chose. When you change the effect on one track, it would change it also on the others. I can’t tell you how often I copy and paste the same effect and settings on multiple tracks which can eat up cpu and time. I know I can route groups on tracks to another track with the effect in it, but if I want a certain overdrive on tracks 2, 3 and 4 and a certain filter on 3, 4 and 5, you can see the complexity to setting that up and remembering what is what.
Update: Turns out you can do this by grouping your tracks and then dropping an effect on the group track. Works like a charm!

Videos:

Ableton 8 overview

Ableton Share

I hope you enjoyed this little Review. Until next time…

Happy music making,

Jason

 



If you are benefiting from these posts, you will absolutely love my 2 bestselling books:

The Mental Game of Music Production
The Process for Electronic Music Producers

To level up your Ableton Production Skills: Ableton Courses & Instruments

If you are looking for personal guidance with your music production or Ableton, you can set up a free chat with me to go over exactly what your best next steps are to create the best music of your life. If it seems like a good fit, we can move forward from there.  https://musicsoftwaretraining.com/private-coaching

Happy music making!
Jason

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