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I recently got Ableton Live, and I really really love it. The clean UI, the instruments, it just all feels very intuitive. Though I have one major problem that I just can't work at all because of it.

I come from Logic Pro, where most of your work is done in the arrangement view: You create regions (equivalent to Live's "Clips") in there, you do all of your automation there, and you sequence your song there. Though in Live, there is the Session View, and I just don't understand the proper use of it.

Am I supposed to just ignore it and do all my work in the Arrangement view just like in Logic? But then I will feel like I'm not maximizing the software's potential... Am I supposed to create my clips there, and have everything prepared in Scenes, and not touch the Arrangement view at all (maybe only for mastering) and have everything prepared so I can just hit record and play my scenes one by one? That might be good for more loop-based songs (like some of those dance tracks) but for the type of music I create (full-fledged songs with a lot of changes) there are a lot of clips that only need to play for a single bar for example. So should I just create them as a 4-bar clip, but draw notes only in the, for example, third bar? that also seems kind of weird to me.
Or maybe I'm supposed to use the session view like FL Studio's pattern list? I'm really lost...

I really need someone to explain the proper workflow in Live, and when and how to use both the Arrangement/Session views, so I can maximize my workflow.

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this type of question would be far better handled by Ableton's web site or application documentation. This is not Customer Support. – Tetsujin Jul 24 '16 at 15:20
  • I know, but I am not looking fir the same type if answers I would get there. I am looking for an explanation, not a simple answer, something I won't get there – Hexa Jul 24 '16 at 15:22
  • From the Session View section of the manual: ableton.com/en/manual/session-view "In Live’s Arrangement View everything happens along a fixed song timeline. For a number of applications, this is a limiting paradigm. (...) This is exactly what Live’s unique Session View is for." Basically, Session View is optimized for performance. – Paulo Rodrigues Pinto Jul 25 '16 at 15:16
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I've seen people use Live in so many different ways. That's one of my favourite things about it, it allows you approach things in new ways. I used to use session view mainly when I started out with it, but these days I use the arrangement window more. It really depends on what I'm trying to achieve. I've found the session view useful for a number of things, from writing and performing a full track, to using it as a dumping place for ideas whilst leaving the arrangement intact on the other side. I don't know if there is such a thing as a "proper" way to use the session and arrangement views, it's pretty much up to you to use them however you want.

Here are some suggestions for ways to use the session view creatively:

  • set the IO on a new track to "Resampling". Turn the input monitoring off and record arm that track. Now you can use the clips in the session view to record whatever you doing in Live at the time. I like using this for resampling synth modulations and effects chains.
  • place a bunch of clips on a single track, something like individual drum hits or weird glitches/random noises, and then use the clip launch follow actions feature to create randomised patterns (look for L in the bottom left corner of the clip pane). There is plenty of info out there that goes into more depth with this (or you know, the manual).
  • you can create endlessly looping MIDI clips in session view - create a clip, add a MIDI note that lasts the whole bar, then create a loop within the clip between beats 2.1.1 and 3.1.1. Move the start point back to 1.1.1 and then press play. As long as loop is enabled it will play the note continuously until you stop the clip. Why would you want that? I've used it for system testing, installations, and even for sound design purposes. It's up to you really.
  • loop a warped drum break in session view then make a few copies below it on the same track. Leave the first clip as it is but on the next clip move the start marker to the next drum hit transient. Do this for next clip, and the next...when you launch these clips you should find it starts on different part of the break. Now MIDI map those clips to different notes and you can get some beat juggling on the go.
  • have a go at making from a track from start to finish using the session view only. Arrange the different sections of the song using the scenes and then try performing your arrangement using MIDI mapping to keys.

I think of Live as being more like an instrument than a traditional DAW. It does have that ability, but you can also see elements of old school trackers and MPC style production within it. It always seems to confuse people who have come from other software though. Having the option of the session view lets you do crazy stuff that I just don't think other DAWs are capable of.

  • Thank you for the great answer! Though I didn't completely understand the 4th item of the list (about the warping)... Also, it would be AWESOME if you could go more in depth about using Live as an instrument – Hexa Jul 26 '16 at 21:30
  • Yeah, that's a difficult one to elaborate on in text. What I mean is that you create several copies of the same clip, for example a drum loop, but you place the start point at different locations in the clip. Once you've mapped those clips to MIDI (or the keyboard) then you can play those clips, kind of like an sampler/MPC. The advantage of something like a looped beat is that it will continue to play in a loop once launched. I would adjust the launch quantisation if you want the clips to launch faster. – Dale_G_sound Jul 26 '16 at 23:32
  • When I talk about using Live as an instrument it's more of a conceptual way of approaching it. What I mean is the way that the software has a fluidity and is able to respond to how you want to use it. I think that is the concept that Ableton are trying to communicate to people with things like the Push. A good person to check out to get more of an idea of what I mean is Moldover, he's got lots of videos that go into more depth: youtu.be/L2McDeSKiOU – Dale_G_sound Jul 26 '16 at 23:36
  • Thank you very much for the extremely supportive, in-depth information! Marked as the solution ;) – Hexa Jul 26 '16 at 23:37
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The Session View makes most sense when you are using a dedicated controller like the Push in order to trigger scenes. Check out

to see someone using a Push controller to build up individual clips, arrange them in scenes, and then play through the scenes.

  • I know that, but it must have a stand-alone use. I'm going to keep to Dale_G_sound's answer. Thanks for contributing you knowledge, though. – Hexa Jul 26 '16 at 21:22
  • You can definitely use it stand-alone, but in terms of your mental model for how it all hangs together, it is good to understand how someone will use it through a hardware controller. – Jonno Jul 26 '16 at 21:27
  • +1 for the insight, though it's not a complete answer, just one way you can use it. Still, thanks again! :) – Hexa Jul 26 '16 at 21:32

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