And the answer is … this real-time music production software is used for instantaneous sound effects and music clips needed in the fast-paced world of two popular game questions.

What is … Ableton Live?

Veteran sound pro Barbara Hagan describes to how she works with both programs:

Now I have two computers with Live; one is my main computer (new MacBook with 2.16 processor), and one is a back up (G4 PowerBook). I currently use Live on both computers, and I’m constantly busy building cues during two days of taping, six shows a day, on Wheel of Fortune, five a day for Jeopardy. I transfer new cues from CDs right into iTunes, then edit them in Live. I transfer info to my backups with flash drives and build folders for post production use every day we tape. I store everything, and back up three times everywhere. Guess I’ve ended up being the keeper of the music, safe and intact. Sometimes it’s pretty crazy, but mostly it’s fun. And it all started because of Live!

Now, music tool developers are regularly touting various “celebrity” users and pro applications for their product. But, of course, what makes this especially interesting is that Ableton Live was never designed to perform this task. It just happens that Live is the only general-purpose music software that tackles how to do live, real-time sound, not just as a plug-in but by baking what amounts to sampling features into the app itself. Years later, there’s been little response from anything else. It also demonstrates that certain general capabilities can have applications for users you haven’t thought of, particularly if there’s some fundamental utility to them (like triggering sounds easily).

Something to think about, not only in respect to Live, but if you’re building your own tools in programs like Max or even just working on tweaking your own live performance music setup.

Thanks, Marcel Ramagnano! Photo: xbeachy.

  • Marcel

    Thanks for the post, Peter! You added a very good insight on the many applications of Live and how a program like Live doesn't necessarily have to only work within the music production realm.

    – Marcel

  • Creature

    That photo is excellent :-) lol


  • Cort3x

    Nice entry, but is there something I'm not understanding or are there only two questions in the American version of Jeopardy?

  • Peter Kirn

    You mean "What is…?" and "Who is…?"

    Yeah, I was always kinda confused by that, too. We used to annoy our quick recall teacher by prepending our responses with "What is…"

  • panopticon

    A few years ago I used a combination of Live and Reason to do the sound design and production for a production of "Frankenstein In Love". It was the perfect combination for producing long, unevenly synched (for an organic effect) loops of ambient sound, and also being able to fire sound effects dynamically in response to the actors. It makes me feel good that the solution I came up with on my own for a local production is similar to that used by the big kids.

  • ronnie

    Great to see Ableton used in places you might not expect.

    Loving the picture of the kid glued to the tube! LCD screens are steadily pushing CRT out so soon we'll have to resort to carpets and balloons ^_^

  • (noou)

    I know several people using Live for triggering samples (and more advanced tasks) during theatre/dance performances.

    What I really like in Live is that, whoever you are (avant-garde composer, guitarist, dance music producer, etc.) and whatever you need (from mixing to composing, from audio mangling to sound design, from studio work to live performance), Live is there!

  • Rozling

    Someone was just mentioning on the Ableton forum yesterday about partial-match searches in iTunes ( It would actually be a great database for tunes & samples in tandem with Live, as search results come up as-you-type (you can drag mp3s & aifs straight into Live – quite easy if you just drag it a mm or two and press Alt+Tab).

    That is it would be great, if the track list view wasn't so garish to look at and you could go into full-screen mode while perusing playliists… it's currently too sanitised and locked down for my tastes.

    I remember DJing a year or two ago in a club in Dublin & it was a really good night, one of my best DJ sets with Live in fact (which isn't saying much!). Anyway there was a track which I'd bought on iTunes and really wanted to play out – I burned it to CD while I was playing the set and started re-importing. I was chatting to my mate about how well the night was going when over the system we heard a confident "ba-da-ding!!!" from iTunes to let me know the track had been imported…

    We just looked at each other and went 'oh sh…', looked at the crowd and no-one had noticed. From then on I disabled my system sounds before sets!

  • Pingback: Modern Art Extendo Leaf Ableton Live… As heard in Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune!()

  • pylbug

    <blockquote cite="But, of course, what makes this especially interesting is that Ableton Live was never designed to perform this task.">

    Well, think about this for a second. The market for this particular use has to be so small that you'd be hard-pressed to find a software company that could afford to make products specifically for it. Especially when there's already a good solution for cueing audio clips in real-time. I don't think this use of Ableton comes as any surprise whatsoever; I, like other commenters, have seen it used in dance and theater performances – since version 1.0. Ableton designed Live to play audio clips with much versatility – it's a tad narrow-minded to assume it's only good for electronic musicians and DJs.

  • pylbug

    eh. my blockquote tag went wonky. I meant to quote this passage from the post:

    "But, of course, what makes this especially interesting is that Ableton Live was never designed to perform this task."

  • Peter Kirn

    Need to close your tags. 😉

    I'm certainly not saying that Live is only good for certain segments. What I am saying is that Live was originally built with a much narrower scope in mind — original prototypes were based on the needs of a couple of people. And initially even DJing didn't really figure in. So, yes, it demonstrates that good, versatile design can have unintended uses — that's a good thing.

  • Peter Kirn

    Oh, and there are specialized tools for some of these tasks … but you might just prefer using Live. 😉

  • Pingback: Tunguska released at K.M.Krebs 833-45, Meal of the Week 2, Hallelujah, Charles & Marie: Hot Cold Mug, Top 10 Ways to Get Cables Under Control, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy Powered by Ableton Live, 1,000 True Fans, and Netscape 9 Users: Time to Flock or()

  • Beldon

    Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely return.