Ableton is not designed primarily for DJs, but, when treated properly, it can be used to create some of the most amazing live performances a crowd can experience. Delivering an awesome gig requires a lot of practice and set up. That’s why we’ve created the ultimate guide on how to perform live with Ableton.
Exploring Ableton as a DJ
If most virtual DJ software comes with two decks, a mixer, effects block, waveform viewer and file explorer tab, then Ableton is pretty different as none of these come in a form we are used to see them. Technically most of them are still there, thought.
Audio decks double as the audio channels, the mixer is separate for each channel and effects are available from the drop down menu of the audio channels. Plus, waveforms are available by clicking on tracks and file explorers are accessible via import options.
When performing live, you will work mostly in session mode, as the arrangement view is purely for making pre-recorded mixes.
Preparing Your Decks
Create two audio channels to use as your DJ decks. The minimum is two and the maximum is pretty much unlimited. The number of channels is determined by the variety of tempos of tracks as DJs tend to store similar tracks in a single slot.
Next, drag and drop the tracks into the audio channels. The number you import depends on how long your mix will be. Normally 15-20 tracks will be enough to cover you for an hour or more. If you use clips or samples, the number will increase.
Set the desired project tempo and enable the metronome. Play the tracks one by one and see if the clicks of the metronome match with the tempo of the track. If so, the auto-warping has been done properly. If not, follow the steps below.
Double click on a particular track. The sample display should now pop up. Next, zoom-in the waveform and set the first yellow marker on the first beat by right clicking and selecting “Set 1.1.1. here”. Right click on it and select “Warp your BPM from here”.
Check if the peaks of the waveform follow the markers. Play the track and see if the metronome is now in sync. If not, continue to adjust the positions of the markers.
How To Perform An Awesome Live Gig
Play the first track on any deck you prefer. When the first bar of the outro hits, launch the track from the other audio channel. Depending on your specific transition type, adjust the volume for each channel separately.
If you have managed to launch the upcoming track precisely in time and the previously described warping process has been done properly to main project tempo, Ableton should do the beat matching for you automatically.
It is a good idea to delete the tracks you have already played. It allows you to manage your set more easily, and avoid playing the same song twice.
How to Take Your Performance to the Next Level
For the best live performance, pair Ableton Launchpad to Ableton. This way you can map the specific tracks or samples to a specific pad, making launching and controlling them much easier.
Have a look at these instructions on how to pair and use the two simultaneously click here.