Hit your own upgrade button with Ableton Live: costs nothing, keeps on giving. Photo (CC-BY) Andrea Mitrani.

Get a whole new Live, for free. Smart users can make it happen.

Sure, just a mere mention of Ableton can bring out angry hordes of Live users waiting for whatever they imagine they want out of Live 9. We can’t comment on Ableton’s internal development process. So, why not instead make Ableton new for yourself – no need to pay for anything, all with free downloads, free tips, and more musical power? (Hint: I do expect an upgrade from Ableton – I, uh, don’t think they’ve abandoned their development efforts – but when you can upgrade your own music making, it’s even better.)

Our friend AfroDJMac, NYC-based producer and musician, has been producing amazing Live Packs over the past year. (In fact, while I expect I frightened away any non-Live-users with this headline, the audio is perfectly usable in any software you like.) Setting himself the ambitious goal of producing one Live pack every single week, he’s done the unthinkable. One year later, he has 52 Live Packs, all free giveaways on his site, all wonderful and unique. Everything conceivable and inconceivable is there: Commodore 64 drums, a Casio MT-68, Justin Bieber (third-ever mention of Justin on this site), water bottles turned into synths, Christmas Trees, Game Boys, glitches and resampling and bizarre sounds, Melodicas and Fenders, the works.

Grab #52 – built with the Korg iMS-20 app for the iPad as a starting point – then lose hours perusing all the other entries.


(I read that initially as SAT word “abscond,” as in “I absconded with your MS-20; I’m very sorry.” If someone can make that pack, let me know.)

So, when you’ve pulled off those 52 packs, how do you one-up yourself? How about by starting all over again with a weekly series – this time, with two-minute video tips. (Seriously, man, can you let us know what you’re having for breakfast?) Episode #1: having learned the lesson the hard way, our hero AfroDJMac remaps the “stop” button on his APC to avoid utterly destroying a live set. (Doh!) Video:


Still hungry for more? We turn, then, to another friend, Austin, Texas-based Francis Prève. When we last joined Fran (who I hear turned 23 yesterday, making him one year older than me), we got to download via Vulcan Mind Meld and the Internet a wealth of tips, sounds, and Live Packs:

A World of Sounds: Academik’s Francis Preve Shares Label’s Music, Studio Advice, Samples for Live

Well, Fran didn’t stop there. His latest addition is a really cool patch, not so much because it manages to steal a sound design trick from Sweden’s OP-1 synth and Sweden’s Swedish House Mafia (though that is nice), as much as because the resulting use of Racks to morph from kicks to leads could help you find all sorts of new instrumental effects. Go. Download. Enjoy:

Free Ableton Instrument: One Trick Pwnage [Francis Prève blóg]

I do look forward to what’s coming in software upgrades – but I can’t wait to upgrade my own music-making first. Go forth. May your set not coming to a screeching halt as you play, may the white noise generator always be at your back.

  • http://bedroomproducersblog.com/ Bedroom Producers Blog

    AfroDJMac kicks ass!

    • Bob Bell

      Too right he does, big thanks Mac! Cheers to Francis for the other goodies too :)

  • kent williams

    I’m of two minds about the idea of Ableton Live 9.

    On the ‘win’ side: New effects or instruments.  Workflow improvements, like a browser that uses audio file metadata.  Bug fixes! MaxForLive 6!

    On the ‘lose’ side: More features just to add bullet points. Complications to workflow.  

    The reason I stopped using and updating Cubase is that Live does everything I need and feels much more intuitive.  Cubase just got too encrusted with features that were difficult to learn and to use.

    It’s a truism of the music software industry that the larger the ratio of your installed base to your potential customer base, the more you depend on paid upgrades to support revenue.  But Ableton must be careful to maintain what makes their software special, and that means being very cautious about adding new features, and very, very picky about how they are integrated into the end-user experience.

    To anyone clamoring for Live 9: be careful what you wish for — sometimes those whizzy paid updates can end in tears.  It’s always better to wait longer for a better end product.

    • Refluxdesign

      I agree with your comments on keeping the user experience to a simple and intuitive design. 
      I would like to see overall improvements with the GUI, with a specific focus on legibility and interaction dynamics. Sequencing and working with MIDI would surely benefit from a redesign. I imagine a node based system where samples, effects, plugins and metadata could interact more fluidly with an emphasis on visual and physical manipulation. 

      I believe LIVE 9 will be “worth” the upgrade in terms of monetary cost and user learning curve, the previous versions certainly have been in my experience. 

  • http://twitter.com/joshgiesbrecht josh giesbrecht

    One selfish request I’d put out to anyone putting out free packs like this: please try saving them in Live-Intro-friendly formats. eg. If you’re sharing things as a Live Set, please get rid of tracks 9-20 if they’re empty anyway; saving any set with 20 tracks, even empty ones, makes them locked down in Live Intro.

  • David

    Over 4000 free instruments for Ableton live at TogeoStudios.com 😀

    • http://modeaudio.com/ ModeAudio

      Excellent article and thanks for the free audio resources! You can download our free Ableton Live pack, made in collaboration with AfroDJMac and called ‘Free Live Pack #111: ModeAudio Drums’ here:


      It features 32 drum and percussion samples from our library plus to of our Drum Racks, as well as 12 automated FX clips from AfroDJMac himself. Enjoy!

  • ldb

    Sadly, the one big thing A9 needs can’t be done by users — 64 bit.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      I’ve been an advocate of 64-bit and maximizing performance. But the assumption that Ableton isn’t working on this, combined with the assumption that you *need* 64-bit in order to make music (even though all of the stuff above is possible without it) to me makes no sense at all. Am I missing something?

    • ldb

      For a simple example, I use Band in a Box as a guitar practice tool. For my ‘band,’ I have a Trillian acoustic bass, a half-dozen Play instruments from Goliath, Gypsy, and Ministry of Rock,  and a few Kontakt instruments. After the second instrument is loaded, Ableton begins to give out of memory messages (and, if I persist in loading instruments, eventually just crashes). It simply cannot access enough RAM. I’ve got the same template in Cubase and it is rock solid.

      I also do some orchestral composition for games, and Ableton is incapable of loading a reasonable composing template, never mind an actual full orchestra. Again, Cubase handles it with no problem.

      I love Ableton’s workflow, especially when doing electronica. But until I can push past the 4G limit, I simply can’t use it.