Ableton Live is a software music sequencer and digital audio workstation for OS X and Windows. The latest major release of Live, Version 9, was released on March 5, 2013. 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. 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.
Much of Live’s interface comes from being designed for use in live performance as well as for production. 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 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