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Ableton Live 3
bleton’s Live software eliminates boundaries between composition, performance, recording, and sound design. You can use it to combine loops, phrases and songs, improvise arrangements, drop samples on cue, and interact with other performers, musicians or DJs. And you can change the tempo, melody, groove and sonic signature of your sounds.
The Control Bar at the top of the screen has controls for tempo, transport, metronome, synchronization, and monitoring. On the left, Live can display various browsers: the Effects browser for built-in effects, the Plug-in effects browser, and the Content Browser for Live Sets. The Info View at bottom-left gives information about whatever is under your mouse. To the right of this is displayed either the Track View to show a track’s effects, or the Clip view for editing the clip’s properties.
Above these, Live has two main views. The Arrangement View displays a visual representation of the audio on a timeline. You can record multiple tracks into this Arrangement, treating it like a tape recorder. The Session View (pictured) is similar to a mixing console, with volume faders and so on. Every clip contains independent envelopes, for drawing pitch, volume, warping, mixer and effect parameters. When the Warp switch is off, Live plays samples at their original tempos. Turn it on and samples, loops or recordings will be warped (time-stretched), to play in sync with the current song tempo.
Built-in effects can be applied to samples and loops. There are 17 of these, ranging from EQs and dynamics processors to more-exotic devices such as Grain Delay or Resonators, and they can be inserted, chained and reordered using drag-&-drop. You can control just about anything (including effects) via MIDI, and automation can be applied by simply moving any control while in Record.
There’s nothing else available for the Mac that does everything Live does – although it’s a pity the manual isn’t better. If you work with loop-based music for any length of time, Live is too useful to do without.