How to make electronic music with Ableton Live

Latest posts by Liya Swift (see all)

As digital audio workstations (DAWs) have become more accessible over the last two decades, the creation of new electronic dance music has exploded. Needing a computer with enough power to run the software, anybody who wants to make beats, try their hand at trance, or just mess around with funky baselines, can do so with relatively no experience.

The earliest DAWs first came about in the ’70s but were anything but commercially available. Computers were only beginning to appear in homes and the bandwidth just wasn’t there to handle anything more than a few tracks. The late ‘80s and early ‘90s saw improvements, but the explosion of electronic music was still a few years away.

As processors improved, so did the DAWs as different companies began increasing versatility, such as the number of tracks that could be created. Cubase, Samplitude, and Pro Tools were some of the earliest DAWs on the market. Coupled with an increase in home-based computers, electronic music production came to the masses.

Messing Around With Music

It’s easy to see why – it’s a lot of fun playing with drum machines, creating loops, and producing midi notes. The proliferation of mobile technology means you can have a little studio on your laptop, tablet, or even your phone.

There are plenty of free DAW options on the Mac App Store or Google Play, including Garage Band, Audacity, or Cakewalk. If you’re looking to learn a DAW as a way to kill time on the weekends, these are excellent choices. The price tag is obviously nice, but you can also try out a few to see which one you like best.

There are going to be a few minor differences – the session view, interface, and available features – but all DAWs are designed to let you create hip hop, house music, and other electronic dance music (EDM). If it’s a hobby you’re after, pick one, download it, and see what you can come up with. Have fun!

Make Electronic Music with Ableton Live

However, if you’re looking at creating electronic music as a way of life, it’s going to take more than a few hours a week and a DAW that’s a little more sophisticated than what you’ll get for free. Ableton Live is a popular choice for touring Live DJs and professional beatmakers and is an industry staple in recording studios around the world.

Ableton Live is an ideal tool for live performances. Because it can be run from a laptop, it’s easy for DJs to take their act on the road. If the venue is already outfitted with external gear that you are familiar with, moving from stage to stage is as easy as packing a computer bag, headphones, and external drive and heading to the next show.

But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. You came here to learn how to make electronic music with Ableton Live, not listen to a commercial for Ableton Live. Once you’re understanding how to work the dashboard, the software really sells itself.

Start at the Beginning

Before mixing and mastering in the full-fledged Ableton Live, consider starting with a lite version of the software. Often bundled with hardware, this free software gives the beginner enough to entice their curiosity and creative urges before moving onto the more loaded, advanced software.

At this point, creating full-fledged dubstep, techno, and other forms of popular music will have to wait. But it’s probably the smartest, most cost-efficient way to go until you’re downright certain Ableton and serious music-making is more than just a hobby.

This means before you start working on 32-track songs, try mastering 8-track sessions or just creating a midi track first. While the Ableton interface is intuitive, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with what the interface gives you. If you’ve never worked with music before, it can be confusing.

So spend the time learning the instruments, the faders, and other facets of Ableton Live. There’s really no shortcut, so just get in there and do it. Once you’ve built a solid foundation, consider adding additional gear to your repertoire.

Ableton Live is designed to let you grow your studio as you see fit. Midi keyboards, monitors, microphones, and more electronic equipment can be integrated right into the software, enabling you to create a setup that reflects your unique tastes and artistry.

Do you need a drum rack right out of the gate? Certainly not. In fact, you may not need one at all – it all depends on how you want to create your music. Some find working on a computer keyboard cumbersome and prefer using a midi keyboard or drum rack. But it doesn’t matter what others do: find something that works and stick with it.

If you find yourself getting stuck with transitions, drops, or other aspects of electronic music, there are plenty of YouTube videos and online message boards to find answers. You may also be able to find local electronic music artists who can answer your questions, maybe tell you a thing or two.

Make sure it’s an organic conversation, though. If you genuinely seem interested in learning the craft, most musicians don’t mind sharing a few tricks of the trade. If you’re too pushy or demanding, you probably won’t get very helpful answers to your questions.

Bring Your Creations to Life

You have the foundation, you have the gear, you have a few tips, and you have Ableton Live. Now get to creating! As you’ve been learning Ableton Live, you’ve probably held on to a few musical tracks, samples, or harmonies. Start putting it together and see how they work together.

That wicked drum beat you created a month ago may not work, the loop that was so smooth a few days ago might need a tweak here or there for perfection. Continue to play with the instruments, the tracks, and other facets. Before long, you may have something that gets people up and moving.

Sooner or later, you’ll have to bring others in for their feedback. Get in touch with fellow electronic music enthusiasts and get their impressions. If you were able to forge a relationship with the musician we mentioned before, run it by them and see what they think.

Take all of that information and pour it back into your music, and then do it all again. Of course, don’t change a note here or a beat there and then make your friends listen to it again. This isn’t EDM by committee, it’s your creation. Besides, making everyone listen to the same thing over and over again with the very slightest modifications might be considered harassment.

We’re not going to lie: it takes time. And you’ll have to keep that cubicle job or otherwise unfulfilling gig a little while longer so you can pay for those upgrades, updates, and other cool accessories as they are released. But that’s okay, right? This isn’t a hobby, it could be your future. And remember, if you don’t do it now, chances are it just gets harder and that clock just keeps a-ticking.

Jump on the Fast Track

As an extern with The Recording Connection Ableton Live Electronic Music Production Program, you’ll gain real-world experience working one-on-one with an electronic music professional. You’ll learn how the Ableton Live software works with your mentor and how to incorporate updates and upgrades to the software in real-time.

Our programs are designed to get you into a studio as soon as possible. There is no downtime once you and your mentor have established a schedule – skip the classroom and get right to work. The curriculum (yes, there are e-books to read) has been refined to make sure there are no wasted moments.

That means when you enter our program, there isn’t a moment to lose. Our most successful graduates understand the opportunity and make the most of it by showing up on time, absorbing everything they can, and putting it into practice on their own. Remember, this isn’t a hobby anymore.

This is potentially the first stop on your way to making a career in electronic music using Ableton Live. To sweeten the deal, we’ve made it so you don’t have to move to New York, Los Angeles, or Miami to learn the industry. Recording Connection has more than 120 locations throughout the United States and Canada.

Learn how to make the music you love with an industry professional that’s already located near you. All you have to do is apply for the program and get ready to put in some serious sweat, and tears. You ready?

You may also like...