Session vs Arrangement window in Ableton
I got a great question from a subscriber and I wanted to pass the information on to whoever this might help. There seems to be alot of questions regarding whether you should use the session window or the Arrange in Ableton. The thing i must make absolute certain the you understand is that you simply cannot complete a song in the session window. as incredible as it is a building song ideas and creating an intuitive workfow, you will always need the arrangement window to complete a track. The only reason I would suggest sticking to the session window is if you are strictly using Ableton to DJ otherwise the arrangment window is key to finishing a track.
My Approach in a nutshell
When I am writing a new tune or doing a remix, I pretty much always start in the session window. This is where I explore ideas and create alot of loops and potential parts using both midi and audio.
Once I have enough parts to work with (drums, bass, melody, pads etc) I start jamming out these ideas and figure out which clips work best together. Each time I find a good combination, I’ll create a new scene (TIP: while playing a group of clips that you like, click on Control/Shift/I or Apple/Shift/I it’ll automatically create a ne scene out of those clips).
As I am creating scenes, I’ll try to keep in mind the structure of a song and take note on whether the part is an intro, peak part, outro or somewhere inbetween. The best practice for me is to create the peak of the song first, that way you know that where the song is leading to is worth the effort. Once you have the peak of the song, you just simply strip the parts down for the intro and outro and then work out a couple breakdowns.
I don’t really bother with crashes, buildups, fx and swooshes at this point in the session window. I’m basically trying to get the meat of the song together all in the session view.
Once i’m pretty happy with my basic layout and scenes I jam with the song firing off one scene, then another and so forthÂ while recording the whole jam session into the Arrangement window (To do this, you simply hit the record button at the top of the screen and then fire of your first clip or scene).Â Keep jamming the song for several minutes until you think you’ve got a pretty basic structure.
After this point I flip over to the Arrange window and see what I’ve got. I can cut copy, paste, automate, edit and fine tune all my parts in the arrange window.Â I also add all my crashes, swooshes, fx, builds and breakdowns in this window. It’s much easier to simply copy and paste those parts where they are neccesary once a basic structure has been layed out.
With very few excetions, I stay in the Arrange window until the song is complete. I may go back to the session view to create a “one off” loop, but I always Immediately copy and paste the new part into the arrangement window and keep working from there.
When your song is comple you want to make sure to put the loop bar across your whole song making sure to leave room at the end for the echo and revegrb to properly trail off. Then you jsut render it to a wav or aif file and you’ve got a song!
If you want to create and finish a song, you must get the hang of the arrangement window.Â Ableton gives you incredible tools for both inspiring ideas and completing them a full releasable songs. Ableton doesn’t force you to choose between using the session of arrange windows, but it does force you to complete your song in the arrange window. As you get the hang of it, you’ll realize how much sense this all makes.
Below is a short video explaining the above a bit more clearly. below that is a video on how to warp a song in the new Ableton 8 (which is noticably different than earlier versions of Ableton).
Happy music making,
With that said, 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
You can also Check out the: 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!
great stuff msn.
thank once again!
Good info, but relatively elementary. I use Ableton to produce and remix tracks (involving both the session and arrangement view), then as a separate, entirely different template, DJ those very tracks i’ve made in Ableton along side purchased tracks, movie samples, etc, while using an external Analog Mixer with 2 mini-KPs attached to either channel of the Analog Mixer outs for live FX. Also use the MPD16, while producing to do beats or synthy stabs, and while DJing to trigger clips (songs) and start/stop functions, including Beat Repeat, which sounds reallly cool if you do it just right on a big sound system… http://www.youtube.com/payolaparty for demo.
Pretty cool post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say
that I have really liked reading your blog posts. Anyway
Iâ€™ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you post again soon!
Just watched the 1st video, very good and helpful to a beginer.
Great Share J. Thanks alot
Something I’ve wondered about Ableton’s session view vs arrangement view is the difference in envelope flexibility. Why is it so easy to draw in values on clips in arrangment view, but limited in session? For instance, their is no parameter for turning arpeggiator on or off, but their is in arrangment view, and for adjusting things like sync rate or lfo rate for synths are in “st” value rather than arrangment views quantized rates (ie. 1/16th). As a live-tronica performer, I enjoy being able to have empty-noted midi clips with pre-made envelopes and this makes it difficult to copy and paste envelopes from arrangement to session view.
What frustrate me is whenever you see somebody doing a warping video it’s always with material that is computer generated and much easier to work with because the transients are pretty much equal across the whole track. The problem starts when you warp something from vinyl with live musicians
that’s when things get a little exciting!