Ableton Live Arrangement and Session Views

Ableton Live

Ableton Live is an ideal solution for genre-crossing musicians who rely on loop-based instruments. Additionally, it serves as an efficient DAW for recording and mixing.

Live 11 has been designed with typical Ableton users’ behaviors and needs in mind, including no unsettling interface changes and some exciting new tools and toys tailored towards Suite (full) users.

Session View

Live is great at allowing users to experiment with various instrument sounds and track combinations in Session View for creating loop based ideas or live performances, but at some point you may wish to move those Clips and Scenes over into Arrangement View for editing and further production.

Session View clips can include audio and MIDI tracks that loop or are one-shot, enabling instant playback at any time. In contrast to an arrangement grid, clip slots in Session View don’t follow an orderly grid structure but rather are organized horizontally into scenes called Scenes; clicking one will trigger all active clips within that scene – perfect for quickly creating rough arrangements of song parts like drum sequences, synth bass patterns, direct input guitar performances, or vocal performances.

Scene clips can be activated at any time by pressing either of two square Clip Stop or Triangle Scene Launch buttons that appear alongside each scene name in Session View, or alternatively you can select individual clips and use their right-click (Win)/CTRL-click (Mac) context menus to start or stop clip playback. Clips from scenes may also be recorded into an Arrange View file if unarmed and no Arrange Record button has been pressed – otherwise Arrangement Record cannot record them into this view.

Arrangement View

After creating some sketches in Session View, move them over to Arrangement View to gain a better sense of how the ideas fit together. From there, you can make adjustments that complete and finalize your song such as adding transition effects and punctuation for transitions between sections of song as well as locators that jump between them as well as altering clip durations.

In Arrangement View, each audio or MIDI clip is represented as a rectangular track area positioned within one of Live’s tracks. Editing in this view typically involves dragging clips around to adjust their position; clips will automatically snap to locators or edges of other clips and will snap to an edit grid for editing purposes. Furthermore, this view includes the ability to add and modify clip loops.

Use the Arrangement View’s context menu to add locators that jump between any clip in your project. Simply clicking in the scrub area above tracks and selecting time points results in quantized locators that adheres to global quantization settings in Control Bar. Alternatively, create locators by either pressing Set Locator button in Arrangement View or right-clicking scrub area using Right-Click/Context Menu > Song Start Time Here > Create Locators command.


Ableton Live’s Browser will become your go-to place. Filled with factory content, Packs, and user presets – as well as powerful organizational features like Collections – it provides access to everything that matters in Ableton Live.

Right-click and ‘Slice to New MIDI Track’ can be an extremely helpful feature, cutting your selection into predefined lengths that can then be added directly into a Drum Rack – saving time when creating quick drum loops or exploring certain rhythms.

One handy trick you can utilize with this technique is ‘Follow Clip Position In Browser’, which ensures that when you move a clip in the browser it moves in step with its position on your arrangement track – this can save a considerable amount of CPU processing when working with large clips.

Ableton Live offers an abundance of great instruments and effects plugins, making it simple to make sure that the ones you use frequently automatically load when opening the application – simply head into your preferences and turn on “Use System Folder for VST Plug-Ins”, after which the contents of your system VST folder will populate into the Browser automatically.

Device View

As soon as you install a device into Ableton Live, its panel appears in the lower area of its interface. Here you can observe, configure and alter its parameters; since these devices act on either MIDI or audio signals they should be placed either within the MIDI or Audio tracks.

As with clips, devices can also be color-coded for quick reference and reminder purposes, or to display text notes to serve as quick reminders or quick notes to yourself. In addition, device presets provide the perfect way to save settings for future use.

The Device View allows you to easily and dynamically create and modify audio and MIDI effects chains for each track in the arrangement view, such as adding reverb and delay effects to tracks, as well as working with MIDI clips with Follow Actions that allows creating loops of patterns by simply clicking their clips. Furthermore, Device View serves as the place where MIDI controllers and parameter settings for devices can be configured or managed.

Piano Roll

Ableton Live’s Piano Roll is a graphical display of MIDI note events that allows users to manually enter and edit note data. It includes vertical lines representing time and horizontal lines representing pitch; users can use this grid for creating melodies, harmonies and chord progressions along with beats and rhythms.

Ableton Live’s Piano Roll differs from conventional keyboards by offering an alphabetical key chart to make creating and understanding scales simpler and quicker. Furthermore, it serves as an excellent teaching aid for music theory concepts like note duration (duration), meter (metere), and clock time.

Each MIDI note in the Piano Roll has a velocity, or how forcefully you should play that note, that corresponds with its respective note in its frequency range. Adjusting this velocity is key for creating performances that sound natural – you can do this in the Piano Roll by clicking and dragging individual notes with your mouse, or by using various tools and shortcuts available within it.

Ableton Live provides two methods to access its Piano Roll: double-clicking any MIDI clip in Arrangement View or selecting an empty MIDI track and pressing Command+Shift+M (Mac)/Control+Shift+M (Windows). When the Piano Roll is open, use its pencil tool and eraser tool to draw new MIDI notes as well as its selection tool to move, resize or drag existing notes – using these features will let you take full control over their placement on the Piano Roll.

MIDI Clips

MIDI clips contain sequences of notes used for chord progressions, melodies, basslines and drum beats. You can record using a MIDI instrument or manually draw notes in Piano Roll view; additionally they can be combined with audio clips to compose songs and arrangements.

Clip View panel contains numerous controls to edit both MIDI and audio clips, such as Loop controls, playback options such as Start, Stop, Reverse and Repeat and an extensive range of Note Options per note in a clip. Furthermore, real-time manipulation can also be accomplished via Record Warp Launch settings which allow for stretch/compress playback time changes as you listen back to MIDI clips being edited in real-time.

Audio and MIDI clips can be remotely controlled from external MIDI devices by activating MIDI Map Mode through clicking its switch in the control bar. Once in this mode, click any mixer or effect control to assign it as a mapping to a MIDI device.

Audio Tracks

Ableton Live offers you an arsenal of audio tools that give you complete control over your productions. Use them to stretch and alter samples without altering tempo, create effects like echo and reverb, stretch out samples in various ways and more – the possibilities for your music productions are truly limitless!

Ableton makes creating new audio tracks easy by simply dragging and dropping an audio file from the Browser into your session. After doing this, it will appear in the Detail View and can be edited. Here, you can adjust volume/panning/panning effects/sample rates (44100 Hz is recommended) etc.

Ableton audio tracks also allow for automation, enabling you to automate any parameter within a track from volume levels to individual instruments and effects – adding movement and life to your music! This feature helps make audio tracks come alive.

Note that if you’re working in Session View while listening to an Arrangement clip playing back, Session clip will override its playback and restore Arrangement playback simply by clicking on “Back to Arrangement” button in Session View.

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