Why Ableton?

Why do I use Ableton Live?

Ableton Live is a DAW, a Digital Audio Workstation. There are many on the market. I have several. Ableton is my primary tool.

DAWs record and play back MIDI and audio. MIDI stands for Musical Information Digital Interface. It can be used for several things but it was born in the early ‘80s to communicate between computers and synthesizers and drum machines and that is how I use it. Audio mixers, drum machines, and synthesizers these days can be hardware or “in the box” (in the computer). For these projects I use both.

With some exceptions most DAWs do pretty much the same things in similar ways. However, Ableton was designed by DJs in Germany and has a feature called Session View. Session View is a grid, designed to hold “clips” of songs. A group of “clips” can be played at the same time by way of a “scene”. A DJ can easily mix and match different clips from different sources to make their own music on the fly as a result. Ableton has fantastic live looping features. It’s very popular with certain artists. “Scenes” can be used as a starting point for DJs or live loopers or both. It’s a primary tool for dance clubs. However, I use it for leading worship. I have done events an hour long all in one easy to navigate and visualize set in Session View.

I do:

  • Create derivative works of public domain hymns
  • Use “Session View” exclusively
  • Break the songs down into as many “clips” and “scenes” as I need and build the songs up from the scenes
  • Use the Ableton Push2 hardware to launch the scenes and live mix
  • Use VSTs (software synths, drum machines, and effects) and MIDI automation (e.g. track volume) in these sets. I never “freeze” to audio (convert the VST sound to an audio file) so that I can play the VSTs if I’m inclined and easily edit the raw MIDI files
  • Use some modest looping
  • but am so far not a live looper. I generally use loops as preludes or as background music during a time of prayer or communion
  • Have guest musicians and singers with me when I do these worship events. They’ve never had an issue singing or playing along with the Ableton sets, as long as I launch scenes on time. I also go solo if needed

I don’t:

  • Use click tracks. The rhythm instruments carry the groove fine without the annoyance of a click
  • Buy other folk’s loops and stems and such
  • Link Ableton to light shows, slide shows, graphics presentations or other non-musical applications. I’m a small church, small venue guy

I’ve served in several Praise and Worship bands over the years and still do. All these bands were with great Brothers and Sisters in Christ. All live music. That is my preference! However, to support an hour long set filled with “new” songs and new arrangements would be too much to ask of them. Also, I don’t have access to a brass ensemble or string quartet. Additionally, I don’t feel like hauling a pile of hardware around thus, Ableton fills a purpose for HIS Kingdom.

If you are new to DAWs Ableton is a steep learning curve. However, one of the “features” of this particular product is a near endless amount of free resources for those that are willing and desire to learn the tool. There has been no musical task to-date that I couldn’t figure out how to make happen with Ableton.

Bottom line: Ableton is an incredibly deep and well supported creative tool. Like any other creative tool, the result for the Kingdom all depends on the Worshiper’s, heart, intent, and skill.