Over the last few years, I have been working solely in Ableton Live 9 since investigating Ableton a little more.
In the very early days of my DAW use I was Cubase user just from first contact through education establishments, when studying at undergraduate level I was then sold on Logic Pro 7, the main reasons were its ease of usability, fast learning curve and comfortable GUI.
Having used Logic for years, and being very comfortable using it as my main DAW, I began to explore Ableton and found that without realising it I had completely left Logic Pro behind and barely ever opened the software.
As I am writing this I am still trying to specify what the exact reasons are for this, and it can be difficult to explain why you are sold on a different DAW/piece of software when there are many ‘core functions’ that all DAW’s hold.
I want to try and highlight some of the main pro’s and con’s of Ableton and the switch from Logic Pro X, and hopefully show off some of the main features and limitations.
- Editing copies of audio clips on a single channel –Being able to edit copied versions of audio clips within one channel on the arrangement page. – In Logic if you reverse a clip in the same channel it will consolidate the file and you will no longer have the un-effected version (very frustrating when making risers, reversed snares, and generally fast editing).
- Manipulating audio sounds in the clip – to transpose, reverse, or volume control the sound, quickly. – Logic’s audio editor can complete these functions but it prints the effect rather than allowing the user to move between settings quickly.
- Fast automation recording/editing – Recording and editing automation is very easy and quick. By moving the parameter you wish to automate, Ableton recognises this and matches the movements in a new automation lane, this then has to be activate with the click of a plus button in the channel header to save the automation changes.
- Session view launching– Ableton’s mainly selling point is the clip launching functions, something that does not exist in many other DAW’s, (at the time of writing only BITWIG which is a copy of Ableton). This is very useful for anyone wishing to playback/perform their music live with the support of a DAW.
- Session view to compose– I have made some tutorials on this on my youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1HbEDZIIcWtOTwsDma2U7g). By clicking the master record button and launching clips in session view you can finally leave linear production behind and making more unique, original and less formulaic music as you discover new possibilities of structure and arrangement in real-time.
- In clip automation – Clips can retain automation data in Ableton which means it can be controlled, duplicated and edited very quickly and easily, and also transferred to clip launching.
- Max for Live – By incorporating Max for Live in Ableton Live, Ableton have allowed for an open development platform to exist in their product which allows many developers to create functions, effects, controllers and triggers that they would like to see exist in Ableton. Rather than users having to wait for Ableton to develop these from feedback which would be a terribly arduous job, it makes functions appear faster, the software continuously develop, and new possibilities arise quickly for Ableton Users.
- Not Platform specific – I have always been concerned at the cost of replacing a MacBook should mine ever fail, despite the fact that I have always found them reliable operating systems. Knowing that If I did lose my platform, that I could move, or temporarily use a Windows machine is very re-assuring, it is also useful for collaboration and the number of users using this DAW. Logic is OS limited as Apple aim to sell more hardware through their software, and this means it is not always the first port of call for users or accessible for everyone.
- Quick and easy shortcuts – Shortcuts/command keys are very quick and easy to integrate into the use of Ableton, one that stands out is the duplication controls for automation or regions of MIDI/Audio clips, very useful.
- The Browser window – To save audio effects racks, templates and other presets you would like to use again, its very quick and easy to drag to and from the browser to save and re-call presets.
- Groove Pool/Extract Groove – Similar to Logic’s Humanise function, although more specific and tailored more closely to the groove of another part, or song. It is very simple to extract a groove, save it in the grooves pool and add the groove to another piece of audio to give the feel of consistency across parts.
- Effects/VST’s – Logic’s effects trump Ableton’s every time in my opinion. Specifically, Space Designer, Sculpture, ES2, Stereo Imagers, Expanders. Apple are very good and making/implementing good solid virtual instruments, synths and effects plugins, both in sound quality and usability they are strong than Ableton’s.
- Solo-ing – Solo-ing one channel only at a time is frustrating at times. To solo multiple channels in Ableton you need to de-activate all the sounds you don’t want to hear rather than simply solo the two or three channels you want which can be frustrating on larger projects.
- No Mp3 bounce- No option to bounce straight to mp3 can be frustrating when preparing a track for a lower format quickly, maybe to send as a demo/rough version to someone or to upload it somewhere, it is quite annoying having to bounce to wav then convert the file in another program.
- Routing – There is no environment window or platform within Ableton to build advanced routing. This is a very minimal complaint, and to be honest I rarely found users for Logic Pro’s Environment window, but i am sure there are some scenarios where having this ‘under-the-hood’ area would be of use.
- Pink Automation Lanes – As far as I am aware there is no way to colour automation lanes in different colours, they all appear as fuchsia pink and it can become a little difficult to distinguish the different between them, again this is only a minor snag, and I am being a little harsh.
- No session back-ups – If you accidentally save an A
These are just a few of the great things that have stood out to me about Ableton and also a few limitations.
I am sure there are many that I have missed or forgotten to mention so please comment below and add them, or just your thoughts on DAW’s in general.
Janne Hatulas post on his journey into using Pro Tools after having used solely Ableton for some time, has somewhat inspired this post and is worth a read, it can be found here: http://fanumusic.com/ableton-live-versus-pro-tools/
If you would like to know more about Ableton help learning to use it please subscribe to my YouTube tutorial channel where you will also qualify for a free sample pack: