Live 5 is one of those must-have software applications for putting beats and bass lines together with MIDI – building arrangements up with pads, bells and whistles (or whatever) and dropping in samples until you hear something you like. Live lets you quickly rearrange the order in which sections of your music play and makes it simple to play parts from one section alongside another. When you drop in sampled loops, these automatically play at the correct tempo. All of which is amazingly helpful.
Live’s Arrangement View is used for multi-track recording and editing, while the Session View lets you do the ‘jamming’ – improvising the arrangement on the fly.
Programming beats is dead easy. Open the Impulse drum-samples folder from the Devices Browser and drag a preset kit into a MIDI track in Live’s Session View. Click on the Arm button so it can receive MIDI, then play your MIDI keyboard or hit the middle row of keys on your computer keyboard to play the drum sounds. Double-click any empty slot in the Session view to create a MIDI clip to record into, click the clip’s Play button to activate recording, and start dancing on those keys.
Recording bass lines and lead lines is equally easy using Live’s Simpler sampler. You can play this from the computer keyboard using the middle and upper rows of keys, transpose the range by hitting the Z or X key and change the velocity of the notes using the C and V keys. So you can do lots of stuff with Live using just a laptop.
The third built-in instrument, Operator, is a powerful synthesizer. Like Impulse and Simpler, it is totally integrated so that every parameter can be automated or performedin real time. The difference is that you have to pay extra to unlock Operator from its demo mode, which seems a bit stingy.
Live 5’s main new features arePlug-in Delay Compensation, Clip Freeze, dedicated support for Mackie Control-compatible mixer surfaces, completely revised Transport and Navigation tools, and a new system of Locators for the Arrangement window. There are lots of new effects such as Phaser, Flanger, Arpeggiator and, my favourite, Beat Repeat. Beat Repeat lets you create short loops on the fly, controlling their lengths manually or via random functions for endless variations.
And there’s more. Live 5 supports MP3, the built-in Browser is much improved and now has a Search Mode, and the new Device Groups feature allows you to save Simpler, Impulse and Operator instruments with chains of MIDI and audio effects attached as presets, in a similar way to Reason’s Combinator patches.
At first, Live seemed confusing. But after I had followed just a few of the software’s tutorials, I found myself having lots of fun and quickly knocking up catchy beats, lines, licks and grooves. There’s no doubt about it, Live 5 brings healthy doses of spontaneity to your MIDI music.