The Ableton Live 9 beta is trickling out, but not officially released until next year. Ditto that saucy new Ableton Push controller. And some users are complaining about things that aren’t in the feature list for Live 9.

Waiting’s no fun. Let’s do stuff now. Here are three examples of things you can do right now, today, with your current version of Live. In fact, all three wind up being applicable to Live 9, too.

1. Modulate anything. First, I’ll start with my favorite. EXT, at top, is a free Max for Live device that does modulation. Unlike the new default LFO, it uses steps, a kind of modulation step sequencer. You can assign that modulation to any parameter in Live for rhythmic control of your whole set. In a cool twist, you can also trigger each step manually by playing it, in case syncing everything to clock is getting too mechnical and dull.

(I wish on these free devices that developers would use open source licenses; it’d be fun to freely remix this into a third mode for continuous LFO-style modulation.) [free]

2. Make use of a second (or third) display. Next, via comments, an illustration of how to kinda sorta make Ableton Live work in a multi-monitor setup.

Live user jamief, on the Ableton forums, is pretty serious about multiple monitors. This, of course, isn’t quite what most of you have in mind: Jamie is taking the whole Live window and stretching it across the displays. Since Live doesn’t have a detachable mixer or arrangement window (like Reason), or a multiple-windowpane view that allows you to show displays side by side (like many, many DAWs), you can still only look at Session or Arrange singly. This seems to me easy to fix. Ableton already has panes that open and collapse. Barring a change that would allow side-by-side views, there could be a New Window option for multiple views. On the other hand, this is a “things you can do right now” story. And Ableton’s design decision means you focus on one workflow at a time – either the non-linear Session view or more traditional Arrange. That still has some advantages, and I can imagine appreciate the stretched view.

Jamie, for his part (her part?) does. He’s ordered three new 40″ (100 cm) displays for an even bigger view. That’ll come in handy with curved envelopes and Session Automation next year when Live does arrive. Discussion:

3. Use a pressure-sensitive, light-up grid for playing and modulation. Just before Live’s new release, Keith McMillen Instruments released this video of their QuNeo touch controller modulating Live with pressure. It means Push-style control you can get right now, cheaper and lighter.

The set you see is available for download:

Despite the cost and size advantage of QuNeo, I do generally prefer Push’s appearance, pads, and greater control options. But readers are already imagining a smaller version of Push. (Push jr.? Push mikro?) QuNeo essentially is that now. I’m curious: readers, how do you view the relationship of QuNeo and Push?

So, there are three things you can do without waiting for new hardware and/or software. Got more? Send them our way. Now I want to go play with Ext.

CDM Live 9 coverage:

  • Paul Rose

    You should name this article “2 things you can do in ableton since a couple of years, and another one since a couple of months” There are a device-lfos in the live8 library since 2 years or so. and many more on the website. And step modulation of parameters was possible since live 3 at least, via clip envelopes.
    But then again, pressure-sensitive-light-up-controllers are quite state of the art, apparently.

    • Peter Kirn

      EXT is I believe new, and quite nice – step triggering manually from a source is fairly unusual. There are also advantages to not having to dig into clip envelopes.

      The QuNeo set and video is barely a couple of weeks old.

      The multiple monitor approach here came up in comments. It’s perfectly relevant, and I’m posting it tongue-in-cheek as I agree it’s disappointing it doesn’t work differently. Actually, come to say that, I think I *say that fairly explicitly.*

      Sorry, was there some reason this humble post needed you to jump on top of it?

    • Paul Rose

      oops, did I jump on your post? Sorry for that. And yes, you’re right, EXT is kind of new, and great. But I am a passionate devotee of clip envelopes, especially unlinked clip envelopes, you can do so many things with it. Do you remember Robert Henke’s Ocean of Sound Live Set, where h built complete techno tracks with nothing else than some white noise, live efx and clip envelopes?

    • Peter Kirn

      Yeah, absolutely, that set was great – which is why, okay, having curves and automation recording in those same envelopes is a really nice thing.

  • Martin Wheeler

    Peter, being able to stretch a window over two or more screens isn’t a Live thing, it is an OS thing. I use four screens for Live: Two next to each other with the main window stretched across them, another to the side for AU/VST plug ins, and a big screen above for picture when I am doing film scores and more plug-ins when I’m not. This is great, but it is still crippled for no good reason that I can see. As I waffled on about at great length on the previous thread, at this point it is just INSANE that you cannot have the Session and Arrange windows open at once. INSANE. These two windows interact, and sometimes, depending on what you are doing you really need to be able to monitor what is happening on both if them, plus if you do as much copy-pasting between the two windows as I do, you really, really, REALLY want to be able to copy/paste and drag and drop between them. Almost every other program of any type allows you to do this, why not Live ? The two windows are already there, you just need a BOTH button up the at the top right next to the A & S view buttons. If some people don’t want to use it, fine, don’t click on it, but crippling the program like this is just INSANE. And before the inevitable ‘I’ve been using Live since version 4 and I don’t need it’ comments arrive, I have been using Live as my principal DAW since version 1.0, and I spend literally half of my life inside this program … believe me I do understand the issues here.

    • Peter Kirn

      I definitely understand the issues here, as I say.

      Split panes are just one solution. I think it isn’t quite as simple as just having undockable views, though, because of the relative independence of Session and Arrange. So, if anything, it’s the workflow relationship of these two views – it goes deeper than the UI.

      I just thought the forum pic was funny. Obviously, though, uh, others don’t share my sense of humor.

    • Martin Wheeler

      I disagree. The Session and Arrange views have the relationship that they have to each other, which, especially for those learning the program, isn’t always obvious. This relation is quite complex, but being able to see both windows at the same time would, IMHO, make it easier to undertand, certainly not harder. I think it IS a UI thing. The program is at any given moment in a certain state, but you cannot always determine that state, because you can’t see half the program at any one time ! Sometimes, probably most of the time for most people, you only need to be able to see Arrange ( or Session ) to understand that state, but sometimes, like when you combine clips being fired off on some tracks with linear audio on another you CANNOT determine the state of the program without jumping back and forth between the two views. Why would you not want go have THE OPTION of seeing them both ? And that isn’t even the main problem, at leat from my point of viewit’s the copy paste thing which is just ridiculous …

      Of course there are UI decisions to make … like what happens to the tab at the bottom of the sçreen ( big audio view, plug Ins etc) when you ave both views open ? Have it only on one ‘primary’ window or on both. But UI decisions are made all the time, its just one more to make …

    • Peter Kirn

      Right, I don’t think we disagree – I’m saying because that relationship is complex, Ableton would need to evaluate the interaction, not just slap up a second screen. I’m not saying it’s not needed; I’m saying there’s a bit more involved in doing it right. I want to see them do it, and I want to see them do it right.

    • Martin Wheeler

      Well we are certainly in agreement on that ! 😉

    • Durk Kooistra

      Tbh I’m not too bothered about having 2 workflow’s being merged in to one. It’s just crazy that you can’t use multiple screen (I have 2 x 22inch stacked on top eachother, since the bottom one is a touch screen). I’d be really happy if I did not have to stretch stuff….

    • kent williams

      I used to be really frustrated with the ‘drag a clip from session to arrange through the arrange icon’ action — about 1/2 the time it did something wrong, unless you were REALLY precise with the mouse.

      Then I discovered that you could click a clip, keep the mouse down, and hit the tab key. Makes all the difference in the world.

    • Martin Wheeler

      It certainly makes a difference, but it is still just a really clunky workaround to a problem that simply shouldn’t be there … and it is much, much, much slower compared to standard copy/paste and/or drag/drop between two open windows.

      Especially if you are trying to build an arangement in Arrangement view by adding / deleting / replacing parts with material from Session view. This _should_ be a major feature of Live, it is such a ‘best of both worlds’ approach to composition, but having to click back and forth ten million times between the two windows and NEVER being able to see both your developing arrangement, and your Session view organised ‘database’ of material at the same time is just fxxxing _perverse_ at this point. PERVERSE I tell you !

      And once again, this is from a non-hating, Ableton-fanboy, intensive Live user from 1.0.

  • Matt Leaf

    Coming from Touch OSC on iPad, QuNeo seems like a great option to shed some weight, but also retain the form and fit of iPad (allowing for use with iKlips etc)…

    In Touch I’d set up a template basically in the same form as the QuNeo, so I could see it being very helpful.

    What Push seems to be going for is a more direct 1:1 relationship within Live. I’d imagine it would be plug and play right out of the box, which to me, is awesome.

    I’ve spent countless hours tweaking mapping controls, it will be nice to do away with that in some regard. QuNeo is placed more within this map-tweaking zone. And even though it is tempting to buy one, it’s hard to justify swapping out the weight for the maleability of iPad, which not only can change interface any time you sync the device, but also offers loads more: Animoog, TouchAble, Griid, Lemur, etc, etc, etc.

  • kent williams

    I just acquired a QuNeo, and while it is a really nice piece of hardware I think that the firmware needs some help. Using the pads as modulators is pretty jittery. The crossfader is too jumpy to use as a crossfader. Maybe I need to fine tune the preset I use and tweak the sensitivity control, but I was disappointed with how spastic it feels as a controller.

    • eonomine

      i kind of agree, theres a discussion on the KMI forums about the value averaging and quite a few tips on how to configure the QN for different ‘feels’.. i really think its gonna come into its own with the next firmware

    • jengel

      That’s what we’ve been saying about the softstep for 2 years now… wait, where was that update? (sorry to be drinking haterade)

    • cassiel

      I won’t comment too much about the QuNeo until my review hits print, but yes: it’s all pressure-sensitive, which means that note triggering has some latency (slightly worse than, say, the Akai LPD8) and fader position detection is done by interpolating pressure between multiple points. The MIDI functionality is really good, but it needs some firmware tweaks to improve sensitivity and accuracy.

  • Lucke

    Yeah, we need session+arrangement side by side. There was that m4l device with the mixer controls floater, one should do that for the whole session view (can’t imagine that to be stable though)

  • Jon

    Hi Peter, sorry if this is slightly off topic but do you know if the play functions/ performance notation system of push will be available to people using a launchpad??

  • Seppe

    The problem with all these M4L LFO’s is the timing. Just try to modulate the volume of a white noise oscillator in Operator on and off. You hear something you really don’t expect for the first steps AND the timing is off for all the other steps. I really hope this has changed in Live9 + MAX6

    • John S

      There is something wrong with the timing of M4L modules. I have experienced this delay with all of the Midi generators and effects. I am not sure if it can be resolved with some track delay? I agree Ableton should look into this as M4L is supposed to offer tight integration with Live.

  • moss

    I did a M4L plugin called “Squaron” a while ago to play the Launchpad like they are doing now with the Push.

    • redoom

      Great patch BTW. Any chance there will be an update?


  • moss
  • a

    Push doesn’t do the 4 points per pad the QuNeo does, does it? On the other hand, Ableton is building a lot of functionality into Push and KMI seems dead set against making their programmer easy to use for musical purposes. The scale things push does are pretty obvious, but have fun programming that with the QuNeo. That’ll teach me to buy into blog hype. :(

    I think external controllers make better “monitors” than a video screen and have more real, proven productivity benefits, especially if purpose designed to work with software. It looks like Live 9 has some tweaks to make the screen function as a visualizer (eg the EQ) and as long as Push is capable of acting independently of the screen you’re going to have a much better time.

    I mean, you can visualize more data at once with two screens, but your ability to act on it is still limited to your input devices. Two monitors being musically fruitful is still unproven.

    I’ve never heard a convincing argument that making users buy multiple monitors is a good solution to solving interface design and ergonomics issues of music software. The external hardware controller has it’s own problems, (forced upgrade cycle, lack of future support, cheap plastic, etc.) but we should get on developer’s cases about this.

  • Andrey M Clis Ryzhkov

    tell me, how did mr aphex twin did all these things in 95 without i7 and he wasn’t moaning all the time about “something is wrong with my 88 Mhz Mac”. c’mon! thanx createdigitalmusic for all the beautiful inspiring ideas and reviews!

  • Jason Scott Furr

    Being a video guy first and foremost… I discovered some time ago that VDMX data generators (LFO, StepSeq, etc.) make for excellent Ableton modulators. I have even created VDMX projects solely to use as control data generators with Operator… makes for some insane synth patching goodness.