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Ableton Live is a software music sequencer and digital audio workstation for macOS and Windows. In contrast to many other software sequencers, Live is designed to be an instrument for live performances as well as a tool for composing, recording, arranging, mixing, and mastering, as shown by Ableton's companion hardware product, Ableton Push. It is also used by DJs, as it offers a suite of controls for beatmatching, crossfading, and other effects used by turntablists, and was one of the first music applications to automatically beatmatch songs. The current version of Ableton is "Ableton Live 10". Ableton is available in three versions. Intro, standard, and suite. The latest major release of Live, Version 10, was released on February 6, 2018.

Ableton Live
Ableton Live logo.png
Ableton Live 9
Ableton Live 9
Stable release
10.0.6 / 31 January 2019 (2019-01-31)
Written inC++
Operating systemMicrosoft Windows, macOS
TypeDigital Audio Workstation



Ableton Live is written in C++, with the first version released in 2001 as commercial software. Live itself was not prototyped in Max, although most of the audio devices were.[2]

Major Releases
Version Date
Live 1 30 Oct 2001[3]
Live 1.5 28 Apr 2002[4]
Live 2 22 Dec 2002[5]
Live 2.1 24 Jul 2003[6]
Live 3 10 Oct 2003[7]
Live 4 28 Jul 2004[8]
Live 5 24 Jul 2005[9]
Live 5.2 10 Apr 2006[10]
Live 6 29 Sep 2006[11]
Live 7 29 Nov 2007[12]
Live 8 02 Apr 2009[13]
Live 8.2 22 Sep 2010[14]
Live 8.3 2 April 2012[15]
Live 9 5 March 2013[16]
Live 9.1 20 Nov 2013
Live 9.2 29 June 2015
Live 9.5 2 Nov 2015
Live 9.6 3 February 2016
Live 9.7 4 October 2016
Live 10 6 February 2018[17]
Live 10.1 Beta Upcoming [18]


Much of Live's interface comes from being designed for use in live performance as well as for production.[19] As such the interface is more compact than most sequencers and clearly designed for use on a single screen. There are few pop up messages or dialogs. Portions of the interface are hidden and shown based on arrows which may be clicked to show or hide a certain segment (e.g. to hide the instrument/effect list or to show or hide the help box).

Live now supports latency compensation for plug-in and mixer automation.


Live is composed of two 'views' – the arrangement view and the session view. The session view is primarily used to organize and trigger sets of MIDI and audio called clips. These clips can be arranged into scenes which can then be triggered as a unit. For instance a drum, bass and guitar track might comprise a single scene. When moving on to the next scene, which may feature a synth bassline, the artist will trigger the scene, activating the clips for that scene. As of Live 6, "device racks" have been implemented which allow the user to easily group instruments and effects, as well as map their controls to a set of 'macro' controls.

The other view is the arrangement view, which is used for recording tracks from the session view and further manipulating their arrangement and effects. It is also used for manual MIDI sequencing, something for which a classical composer would have a greater affinity. This view is fairly similar to a traditional software sequencer interface.

Clips may either be an audio sample or MIDI sequence. MIDI triggers notes on Live's built in instruments, as well as third party VST instruments or external hardware.



By default, Live comes with two instruments - Impulse and Simpler.

  • Impulse is a traditional drum triggering instrument which allows the user to define a kit of up to eight drum sounds, each based on a single sample. There are a number of effects available such as basic equalization, attack, decay, pitch shift, etc. Once the kit is defined, rhythms and beats are created through Live's MIDI sequencer.
  • Simpler is a relatively easy-to-use sampling instrument. It functions using a single audio sample, applying simple effects, and envelopes, finally applying pitch transformations in the form of Granular synthesis. In this case, incoming MIDI does not trigger drums as it does in Impulse, but selects the final pitch of the sample, with C3 playing the sample at its original pitch.
  • Drum Rack is a sampler for drums. Midi notes trigger individual "Simplers" so rather than triggering one sample at multiple pitches, individual samples are triggered at predefined pitches, as is suitable for midi drum programming. As is usual with Ableton almost anything can be drag dropped to or from the drum racks; for example, one can drop an audio clip or any MIDI device onto a drum rack note.

Dedicated hardware instrumentsEdit

Akai Professional makes the APC40, a MIDI controller designed to work solely with Ableton Live. A smaller version, the APC20, was released in 2010. Though there are hundreds of MIDI controllers compatible with Ableton, these Akai units try to closely map the actual Ableton Live layout onto physical space. Novation Digital Music Systems has created the "Launchpad" which is a pad device that has been designed for use with Ableton. Ableton has also released their own MIDI controller, the Push, which is the first pad-based controller that embraces scales and melody.[20] In November 2015, Ableton released an updated MIDI controller, the Push 2, along with Live 9.5.[21]


There are a number of additional instruments which may be purchased separately or as part of the Ableton Suite.[22]

  • Amp - a device that delivers the sounds of various amplifiers and cabinet combos.
  • Sampler - an enhanced sampler.
  • Operator - an FM synthesizer.
  • Electric - an electric piano instrument.
  • Tension - a string physical modelling synthesizer.
  • Collision - a mallet percussion physical modelling synthesizer.
  • Analog - simulates an analog synthesizer.
  • Drum Machines - a collection of emulators for classic drum machines.
  • (Live 10) Wavetable - A wavetable synthesizer featuring two oscillators and remappable modulation sources.
  • Add-on Sample Packs
    • Session Drums - a collection of sampled drum kits.
    • Latin Percussion - a collection of sampled latin percussion hits and loops.
    • Essential Instruments Collection - a large collection of acoustic and electric instrument samples.
    • Orchestral Instrument Collection - a collection of four different orchestral libraries, which can be purchased individually or as a bundle: Orchestral Strings, Orchestral Brass, Orchestral Woodwinds and Orchestral Percussion. The Orchestral Instrument Collection is included upon purchase of Live Suite but must be downloaded separately.


Most of Live's effects are already common effects in the digital signal processing world which have been adapted to fit Live's interface. They are tailored to suit Live's target audience – electronic musicians and DJs - but may also be used for other recording tasks such as processing a guitar rig. The effects featured in Ableton Live are grouped into two categories - MIDI effects and audio effects.

Audio Effects MIDI Effects

Live is also able to host VST plugins and, on the macOS version, Audio Unit plug-ins as well as Max for Live devices since Live 9.

Working with audio clipsEdit

Sasha playing a DJ set using Ableton Live.

In addition to the instruments mentioned above, Live can work with samples. Live attempts to do beat analysis of the samples to find their meter, number of bars and the number of beats per minute. This makes it possible for Live to shift these samples to fit into loops that are tied into the piece's global tempo.

Additionally, Live's Time Warp feature can be used to either correct or adjust beat positions in the sample. By setting warp markers to a specific point in the sample, arbitrary points in the sample can be pegged to positions in the measure. For instance a drum beat that fell 250 ms after the midpoint in measure may be adjusted so that it will be played back precisely at the midpoint.

Some artists and online stores, such as The Covert Operators and Puremagnetik, now make available sample packs that are pre-adjusted, with tempo information and warp markers added. The audio files are accompanied with an "analysis file" in Live's native format (.asd files).[23][24]

Ableton Live also supports Audio To MIDI, which converts audio samples into a sequence of MIDI notes using three different conversion methods including conversion to Melody, Harmony, or Rhythm. Once finished, Live will create a new MIDI track containing the fresh MIDI notes along with an instrument to play back the notes. Audio to midi conversion is not always 100% accurate and may require the artist or producer to manually adjust some notes.[25] See Fourier transform.


Almost all of the parameters in Live can be automated by envelopes which may be drawn either on clips, in which case they will be used in every performance of that clip, or on the entire arrangement. The most obvious examples are volume or track panning, but envelopes are also used in Live to control parameters of audio devices such as the root note of a resonator or a filter's cutoff frequency. Clip envelopes may also be mapped to MIDI controls, which can also control parameters in real-time using sliders, faders and such. Using the global transport record function will also record changes made to these parameters, creating an envelope for them.


Live Intro and Live LEEdit

As of version 6, Ableton also offered a stripped-down version of Live called Live LE targeted at the non-professional market. It has limitations on the number of audio channels and effects MIDI channels and does not feature many of the capabilities of the full software.

As part of the Ableton anniversary celebrations, Ableton introduced Live Intro as an effective replacement to LE.

Ableton Live 8 Launchpad Edition and Ableton Live 8 Akai Professional APC EditionEdit

Specially packaged versions of Ableton that are custom-tailored for the controllers they are bundled with. (Novation Launchpad, Akai APC20/40) These versions of the software are less limited than the LE and intro versions but still don't have all the features of the full version. This version is known as Live lite.

Live 8Edit

On 17 January 2009 Ableton announced version 8 of Live. Live 8 includes a wealth of new features, including an integrated Max/MSP platform, internet collaboration features, and many new effects and workflow enhancements, as well as a refined piracy protection system. Also announced was a dedicated hardware controller developed in collaboration with Akai, called the APC40. Live 8 was released on April 2 of 2009.[26] Max for Live was released on November 23 of 2009.[27]

Suite 8Edit

Suite 8 includes all the features of Live 8 plus a new Library with new sounds and resources. Suite 8 contains 10 Ableton instruments including synths, a sampler, electric and acoustic drums, mallets, numerous sampled instruments, reworked Operator and two completely new instruments, Collision and Tension.

Live 9Edit

On October 25, 2012, Ableton hosted a preview event for Live 9. New features such as integration of Max for Live and the Push hardware controller were announced and demonstrated. Later announced features in Live 9 include a Glue Compressor as well the ability to add curves and shapes to track automation among many other updates.[28] Live 9 and the Push hardware were released on March 5, 2013.

Suite 9Edit

A major addition to the Live 9 suite offering was the inclusion of Max for Live for all Live 9 Suite customers. This dramatically increases the size of the Max for Live community and holds significant promise toward grassroots enhancements in Live by community members creating their own Max for Live devices. Live 9 Suite also expanded the "sound-ware" included in Suite 8.

Live 10Edit

The tenth version of Live brings new devices, improved workflows, a redesigned library, easy controlling, ever-closer Push integration.[29] With Live 10, they added many workflow improvements to speed up music production.

Suite 10Edit

Ableton Live 10 Suite added a host of new effects and instruments. For the first time since Live 8, Live added a new synth called Wavetable.[30] Live 10 also introduced Drum Buss, Echo, and Pedal audio effects.

In popular cultureEdit

In the 2006 film Babel, a scene in which one of the main characters of the film visits a nightclub with her friends, a DJ can be seen using Ableton Live 5 on his laptop while performing electronic music.

American DJ and producer Diplo uses Live to produce his music.


The large international community of users and education around Ableton Live has helped the software grow in popularity. Across the globe, there are Live User Groups and online communities for musicians learning Ableton Live. In 2017 Ableton took this a step further with their educational initiative.[31] This allowed users of Push, a controller for Ableton Live, to trade in their Push 1 unit in exchange for a Push 2 discount. The older Push 1 units were then donated to schools around the world to help inspire kids and adults to explore digital based music production.

To help the music community with the ever growing flood of online schools and trainer, Ableton created a certification program called Ableton Certified Trainers[32]. As of 2018 there are only 280 professional educators that have been hand picked by Ableton for their extensive knowledge and skill with Ableton Live, Push, and Max For Live. Currently there are trainers in 53 countries offering instruction in 33 languages.

Notable Ableton Certified Trainers include Thavius Beck, Isaac Cotec (Subaqueous Music[33]), Brian Funk (AfroDjMac), James Patrick of Slam Academy, and Laura Escudé.

There is also a large community of online blogs, user groups, and websites dedicated to growing the Ableton Live user community.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Ableton Live End Use License Agreement". Archived from the original on August 19, 2014. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  2. ^ "Prototyping explained by Live co-creator Robert Henke". Archived from the original on 2010-11-18. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  3. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Archived from the original on April 5, 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
  4. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Retrieved 2010-05-04.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Retrieved 2010-05-04.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Retrieved 2010-05-04.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Harmony Central". Retrieved 2010-05-04.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Harmony Central". Archived from the original on March 16, 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
  9. ^ "Harmony Central". Retrieved 2010-05-04.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Retrieved 2010-05-04.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Retrieved 2010-05-04.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Archived from the original on March 13, 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
  13. ^ "Find the Latest in Music Gear News and More | Harmony Central". Archived from the original on March 14, 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
  14. ^ "Ableton Forum • View topic - Current Version: Live 8.2". Archived from the original on 2010-12-08. Retrieved 2010-09-22.
  15. ^ "Ableton Blog". 2012-04-02. Archived from the original on 2012-06-23.
  16. ^ "Ableton Blog". 2012-10-25.
  17. ^ "What's New In Ableton Live 10". 2017-11-02. Archived from the original on 2015-08-10.
  18. ^ "Live 10.1: User wavetables, new devices and workflow upgrades". 2019-06-02.
  19. ^ Tusa, Scott. "Getting Started with Ableton Live". O'Reilly Digital Media. Archived from the original on 2009-04-09. Retrieved 2009-04-19. This user-friendly program was designed for live performances by musicians who wanted to use the recording studio like a musical instrument. As performers and recording engineers, they felt stymied by the non-real-time nature of typical audio programs, so they wrote their own.
  20. ^ "Using Push — Ableton Reference Manual Version 10 - Ableton". Archived from the original on 2014-11-10.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-10-23. Retrieved 2017-06-27.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Resident Advisor News: Ableton unveils Push 2 and Live 9.5
  22. ^ "New in Live: Discover the new features Ableton Live 10 has to offer - Ableton". Archived from the original on 2007-12-03.
  23. ^ "The Covert Operators - Ableton Live Packs". Archived from the original on 2011-08-07. Retrieved 2011-08-05.
  24. ^ "Puremagnetik". Archived from the original on 16 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
  25. ^ "Hands-on with Ableton Live 9: Audio to MIDI". MusicRadar. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2016-02-23.
  26. ^ Ableton - Live 8 - What's New Archived 2009-04-05 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "Max for Live - Ableton". Archived from the original on 2009-11-26.
  28. ^ "New in Live: Discover the new features Ableton Live 10 has to offer - Ableton". Archived from the original on 2013-01-21.
  29. ^ "Live 10 – coming February 6 - Ableton". Archived from the original on 2018-02-17.
  30. ^ "Learning Ableton Live's Wavetable - Basics". Archived from the original on 2018-05-15.
  31. ^ "Education Initiative - Ableton". Archived from the original on 2018-02-16.
  32. ^ "Certified Training | Ableton". Retrieved 2019-01-11.
  33. ^ Subaqueous. "Homepage". Subaqueous Music. Retrieved 2019-01-11.

External linksEdit