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Ableton Live: Session & Arrangement Views

Ableton Live Tips & Techniques By Simon Sherbourne
Published February 2023

Screen 1: Rough mix and acapella tracks in the Arrangement timeline. I’ve grouped them and added some Locators.Screen 1: Rough mix and acapella tracks in the Arrangement timeline. I’ve grouped them and added some Locators.

Bridge the gap between Live’s Session and Arrangement views.

Live’s Session and Arrangement views correspond roughly to two different stages or modes of working. Session view is associated with capturing ideas, jamming, performing and experimenting. The Arrangement view can be used for assembling an arrangement, but it also seems like the natural place for recording longer, linear takes and overdubs as you would on a traditional DAW timeline. But there are times when you might want to stay in the Session view and work with longer audio parts alongside clips and scenes.

A typical example of this is when you want to work up some ideas around a bounced acapella. Another is a live performance that combines a backing track structure on the timeline with clips and scenes for live triggering. Let’s look at the first example in detail.

Working With An Acapella

Let’s say the starting point for your project is an acapella that has landed in your Dropbox as one or more audio files. The most obvious thing to do is drop these into the timeline in Live’s Arrangement view. Screen 1 (above) is an example. In this case, rather than a flat stereo mix, I’ve received two separate vocal contributions and a temporary beat, which I’m going to replace. I could stay in the Arrangement, and start adding my own parts in other tracks, the same as in any regular DAW. But we’re not in a regular DAW! I want to work in the Session view where I can capture ideas and experiment with different combinations.

In this situation you don’t want Live to try to warp the tempo of the audio you’re importing. I made sure ‘Auto Warp Long Samples’ was off in the Preferences. Once the files were imported, the Audio info of the beat mixdown clip calculated that the track was 125 bpm (actually it sounded like 62.5 but working in double‑time is fine). I made sure Warp was off on all the clips and set the project tempo to 125.

I grouped the three audio tracks and muted the beat. In the Session view, if I hit play I’ll hear the vocal acapella, and can start exploring some sounds to add. In this case I started with an audio clip with a chord progression, found a drum kit I liked, and a subby bass synth, and started to record some ideas into clips. This way of working is great but there are a couple of snags that you’ll...

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