Producing with Ableton

Watching youtube video to get started

  • Uses a lot of music terms, hard to track

Stupid questions

  • What is "Mix"?
    • A: Combining all the individual tracks
    • E.g. orchestra: balance left/right, balance loudness
    • E.g. cut out bass of hi-hats, reserve for
  • What is "Master"?
    • 99% finished; mastering is final 1%
    • Small fine-tuning, EQ to remove frequencies; depends on each track
    • Dedicated mastering experience; reproduce sound faithfully (monitoring)
      • Also: nice to have a second opinion
  • Why Kick/Drum/Hi Hat so prevalent across music?
  • What is Sidechaining?
    • Using the output of one track to compress another
    • Think Hangouts video call: When Austin is speaking, Peter's mike gets quieter
  • What is compression?
    • Reducing "dynamic range" — louder and quiet sounds
      • Transients — high volume hits; dynamics — transient + decay
    • What is tamber?


  • Installing shrinkwrapped software feels kinda outdated
    • Sync with online account — interesting
  • Comes pre-loaded with a full song
    • Just hit the "play" button. It sounds pretty good!
    • Makes me want to tweak with things immediately
  • Very IDE-like (lots of complexity).
    • Info window on the bottom left — helps a bit
  • Left to right scrubbing makes intuitive sense (reminds me of Garageband or iMovie)
  • The other one seems hard!
    • A few more youtube videos cleared this up

Ableton Playground

Sidebar on export from Live was really helpful! Though I missed it the first time
  • Hm... Trying to take the music clip from Learning and show them in the game... not sure how
    • Kinda frustrating, seems like this should be simple
    • Also: I did something and the drums aren't showing up anymore!
      • Gave up, just restarted from Learning clip
  • Also, how do I switch out the instrument using the same melodies?
    • I guess most players tend to care about which instrument is playing, and pick that first?
      • Austin is pretty agnostic ⇒ should adjust for that in others
  • Oh, the binaural audio slider and sends and volume is fun to tweak on each track
    • "Session View" ⇒ top to bottom ⇒ for DJs
    • "Arrangement View": More traditional, for
Also: I hadn't been clear about "scenes" beforehand, but this video helped
  • Trying to get the midi keyboard to work in Ableton but not sure how....
    • So frustrated I started checking out alternatives

Interlude: Landr Creator Beatmaker

Back to Ableton

  • Okay, figured it out: need to use a new keyboard sample
  • Playing a midi keyboard:
    • Nice to have holds (pan flute holding down longer)
    • But cleaning it up after is a mess. Is there no auto-"detect this pattern"?
    • The pan flute playing doesn't seem to line up correctly to the visual beat
      • And when I do, it sounds "off". I'm stuck manually adjusting it until it sounds roughly right
      • Reminds me of photoshop editing without snapping — OCD in me wonders "am I 2px off?"
      • Not sure if music production is supposed to be a little "off"

Meeting notes with Peter @May 4, 2021

FL Studio

  • Easier to get started compared to Ableton?
  • But same level of granularity (and button confusion)
  • Two concepts:
    • Patterns
      • Building block that makes up each thing
    • Songs
    • Playlist: The thing you're making, final output. The final
  • Layers:
    • Beginners: get started with this
    • Start with the drum
  • Usability: This is years of musical training into a simple GUI that anyone can understand
    • Other than this: tooling
  • Getting sound onto playlist and manipulating is hard
    • Copying things is ctrl + b
    • Shifting 3 things to the right — go to a specific tool, to drag
    • So many steps for simple steps
  • Most people uses keyboard shortcuts to stay effective
  • Hint Panel - E
  • Very tool-based. Keyboard shortcuts and turning them around
    • Shortcuts = moat
    • Cost of learning becomes prohibitive
    • [Austin response]: Like Photoshop
  • FL Studio: Modularity — basket of plugins (sounds), everything is a tiny atomic things
    • Multiple versions of the same instrument
    • Real power: Dashboard — controlled by the publisher of the plugin. Plugins are each their own cottage industry. I made the sound, and you can edit it
    • Very expensive libraries of plugins — varying levels of interop
  • Reddit — lots of people say — get a midi mini keyboard (2-octave piano); $50-$100 dollars
    • Shift the octaves as necessary, so you can hit the keys
    • Gives you a more organic feel
    • More clear visual representation (vs computer keyboard)
  • Velocity prefills, shape the sound
  • Coming in as people with music experience but no music production experience
    • Did you think it was an easy experience to get started?
      • Youtube videos as well
      • Ground level stuff?
  • FL studio has a lot of demo projects:
    • 2 minutes to upload
    • Soundcloud took.
      • End to end
    • Took a while
    • Export to mp3 or wav; wav
      • 2.2 megs — 12 second
    • Master, took a meaningful long time
    • Once per production cycle; not a thing that updates a lot

Next time

  • Peter: Looking into:
  • SoundTrap
    Audio Tool
  • Austin: Looking into:
  • BandLab
  • Maybe, MVP of a production tool
    • Playlist — a roll loops back on itself
      • Key thing: Click into a section, it inserts a sound
      • 4/4 time
      • Click in and add one sound