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 forth 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). Keep jamming the song for several minutes until you think you’ve got a pretty basic structure.
Arrangement window:

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. 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!
Conclusion:

If you want to create and finish a song, you must get the hang of the arrangement window. 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,

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

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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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