You got one of the best DAWs there is. So what are the ways of getting sound into Ableton Live?

For the experienced Ableton Live user, you may be thinking that there are obvious ways at the top of your head. For newcomers like myself, its something many don’t even think about.

I do know that people’s first inclination when running Ableton Live is to charge right into it and immediately start banging out beats. For me, that is the wrong approach. I want to know what options I have available. In this article, I explore what avenues there are and offer some of my own perspective as a former software engineer in how I view things from an Object Think perspectivve.

Ableton Live Track Types

Before we look at how to actually get sound into Ableton Live, lets step back a bit and talk about the track types it supports. There are four kinds:

  1. MIDI tracks
  2. Audio tracks
  3. Return tracks
  4. Master track

Return tracks are used for effects processing. The master track is the catch all track prior to being sent to output. We won’t be looking into those two as they are more for routing and input/output. What we will focus on are the MIDI and Audio tracks where all your musical creativity flows into.

Associating Sound Sources To Track Types

A roadmap is the best here. Lets consider MIDI and Audio track types and how we can get sound into them.

Here’s how I see it:

Ableton Live Sound Sources
Each of the sound sources and track types are discussed further below.

MIDI Track

If you want to create a MIDI clip, everything concerning MIDI goes here. Things like:

  • Ableton Live Instruments – What’s in the Instruments category
  • Max Live – Cycling ’74 Max objects
  • Plugins – VSTs and AUs
  • ReWire – ReWire Slave to Live Master of MIDI (DAW to DAW)
  • MIDI Instruments – Drum pads, MIDI Keyboards, Computer keyboard, etc.
  • MIDI Editor – Built in MIDI clip editor
  • MIDI Files – .MID files that can be imported
  • Notation Software – Sibelius, Notion, MakeMusic

Push 2 and Maschine don’t count. They are not creators of MIDI clips but rather playback and control devices.

Audio Track

Audio clips can be digital recordings or analog source generated.

  • Microphone – Vocal recording
  • Electric Guitar – Sourced from analog input
  • Analog instruments – Other analog instruments (synthesizers, bass guitar)
  • ReWire – ReWire Slave to Live Master of Audio (DAW to DAW)
  • Audio files – Typically .WAV or .AIFF

A Slightly Bigger Picture

An Object Think perspective:
Ableton Live Objects

  • LiveTrack and LiveClip are LiveObjects
  • There are MIDIClip and AudioClip types of LiveClips
  • There are two classes of AudioClips – AIFFClips and WAVClips
  • There are five different types of LiveTracks
  • A MIDITrack contains MIDIClips
  • A AudioTrack contains AudioClips
  • MIDIClips are data generated by many different MIDI Sources
  • AudioClips are data generated by different Audio Sources

This is a high level object hierarchy of major components in Live. Does that help you in seeing things in a different perspective in what can be clip sources? Sometimes pictures can be better communicators than words.

Summary

In Ableton Live, the MIDI and Audio tracks are what you use to reference sound clips. Depending on the track type, you have many input sources available to produce sounds. Knowing the general category of sources you can use lets you create the structure and sound of the music you desire.

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