Ableton Live Fundamentals

Authors: Erin Barra, Loudon Stearns   •   Course Code: OMPRD-278

Ableton Live is a unique and fun environment to explore sound, composition, and performance.

This course is for:

  • Novices that want to learn to make music
  • Experienced producers wanting to learn Ableton Live
  • DJs wanting to expand into music production
  • Performers wanting to add digital tools into their performance

Ableton Live Fundamentals is an optimum point of entry if you’re looking to learn this fascinating program, which will open up new possibilities and change the way you think about making music. Ableton Live is not only an ideal tool for recording, but it can also be used for composing, arranging, mixing, and especially performing. This course will touch upon all of these fundamentals, also covering aspects of production, synthesis, sampling, effects processing, and workflow inside of this unique software. 

Every week you’ll receive both technical and musical guidance which will allow you to create your own original productions inside of Ableton Live. You’ll engage in hands-on experimentation, always making music throughout the 12 weeks of this course. All types of creation and styles are supported.  

Upon completion of Ableton Live Fundamentals you will have composed and produced five original pieces of work and you’ll feel confident and empowered to challenge yourself even further inside of Ableton Live.

By the end of the course, you'll be able to:

  • Program drums in Ableton Live
  • Compose in Ableton Live using MIDI sequencing and MIDI editing
  • Create an arrangement using mappings, groupings, and tracks
  • Export your arrangements
  • Set up inputs and outputs
  • Record audio
  • Convert audio to MIDI
  • Use the Simpler instrument
  • Use automation
  • Consolidate clips
  • Build sounds using Racks
  • Convert MIDI to audio 
  • Freeze tracks
  • Mix your projects using dimension
  • Perform gain staging
  • Use Audio and MIDI effects to enhance your project
  • Remix songs
  • Manage your computer’s CPU usage
  • Troubleshoot computer and session issues
  • Prepare your session for live performance
  • Record your live performance

Lesson 1: Drum Programming

  • Sessions and Arrangements
  • Audio Preferences
  • Quantization
  • MIDI
  • MIDI Preferences
  • MIDI Programming
  • MIDI Editing
  • Groove
  • Assignment 1: Drum Programming

Lesson 2: MIDI Composing

  • MIDI Sequencing
  • Composition: Contrast and Repetition
  • Motivic Development
  • Harmonies
  • Using Apps to Implement Music Theory
  • Session View Automation
  • File Management
  • Assignment 2: MIDI Composing

Lesson 3: Arranging

  • Mappings
  • Grouping
  • Tracks
  • Send/Return
  • Controllers
  • Moving From Session to Arrangement View
  • Frequency Spectrum
  • Automation in Session View
  • Consolidating Clips
  • Exporting Your Arrangement
  • Assignment 3: Create Final Version of Project

Lesson 4: Audio Playground

  • Setting up to Record
  • Input/Output (I/O)
  • Sampling Rate
  • Bit Depth
  • Buffer
  • Recording Audio
  • Audio to MIDI
  • Simpler in Classic Mode
  • Assignment 4: Create a Short Composition

Lesson 5: Building Sounds

  • Racks
  • Instrument Racks
  • Key and Velocity Ranges (Splits)
  • MIDI Effects
  • Arpeggiator
  • Pitch
  • Macro Controls
  • Saving to User Library
  • MIDI to Audio
  • Freezing Tracks
  • Assignment 5: Building Sounds

Lesson 6: Mixing 

  • Dimension
  • Width
  • Depth
  • Height
  • Time
  • Sectional Contrast and Timbre
  • Critical Listening
  • Managing Volume
  • Gain Staging
  • Session Organization
  • Assignment 6: Create Your Arrangement and Mixing for Dimension

Lesson 7: FX Processing

  • Audio Effects
  • Brightness
  • Autofilter
  • EQ8
  • Sends
  • Time-Based Processors
  • Effects Automation
  • Assignment 7: Use Effects to Finish Your Project

Lesson 8: Remixing

  • Warping
  • Crossfader
  • Simpler: a Second Look
  • Remixing
  • Assignment 8: Create a Remix

Lesson 9: Pre-Production

  • Big Picture: What, How, and Why
  • References
  • Form
  • Energy
  • Sonic Palette
  • Curation and Prep
  • Session Prep
  • Assignment 9: Generate Ideas in Pre-Production

Lesson 10: Production

  • CPU Management
  • Troubleshooting Computer and Session Issues
  • Session File Management
  • Relinking Missing Files
  • Deleting Unused Files
  • Collaboration
  • Redundancies
  • Mixing With a Controller
  • Assignment 10: Compose, Sequence, and Record

Lesson 11: Performance

  • Moving From Arrangement to Session View
  • Performance Techniques
  • Live Looping
  • Record Quantization
  • Launching
  • Follow Actions
  • Scene Changes
  • Live Effects Processing
  • MIDI Mapping
  • Playing Along
  • Recording Your Performance
  • Assignment 11: Format Your Arrangement for Performance

Lesson 12: Looking Ahead

  • Artist Interviews
  • Home Studio Setups
  • Exploring Additional Topics
  • Synthesis, Sampling, and Digital Signal Processing
  • Assignment 12: Review Your Classmates’ Final Performances

Erin Barra

Author & Instructor

Erin Barra has been a key player in the creative process of many projects from conception to final master to stage performance. With a wide ranging skill set (educator, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist, music technology consultant), she enables people to create content they're personally invested in and execute their ideas.

Specializing in music technology integration, she works with artists and bands looking to integrate laptops and digital technologies into their writing, production and stage setups, and has developed, taught and executed several music technology curriculums at the open source (Coursera and ROLI), K-12 (Beats By Girlz), and collegiate levels (Berklee College of Music, Berklee Online).

An authoritative voice in music technology education, she is an associate professor in the Songwriting department at Berklee College of Music and is one of the leading product specialists for the Berlin-based music software company, Ableton. A natural collaborator, Erin has had the opportunity to work with an array of artists, from Grammy winners like John Oates, George Massenburg, Kathy Mattea, and Elliot Scheiner, to those at the front lines of the independent movement like Res, Miles Robertson, and Ari Raskin. She holds a degree in Songwriting from Berklee College of Music and has 20+ years of keyboard/piano experience.

Loudon Stearns

Author & Instructor

Loudon Stearns is an associate professor at Berklee College of Music, a course author and instructor at Berklee Online, and an active media-artist. Within the Contemporary Writing and Production department at Berklee College of Music he prepares students to work as independent composers and producers in a technology-laden music industry. Online, he focuses on the latest electronic music styles and music-technology innovations, showing students how to analyze contemporary styles and use the latest music technology in their own works. An innovator in both education and art, Loudon authored a Massive Open Online Class, "Introduction to Music Production," that has provided high-quality free education to hundreds of thousands of students, received an award from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association for "Excellence in Teaching" and received the "Excellence in Media Art" award from the Emerson College Visual and Media Art department.

Holding a Bachelors of Music in Contemporary Writing and Production and Bass Performance from Berklee College of Music, and a Master of Fine Arts in Media Art from Emerson College, Loudon pulls from a broad range of skills in the creation of his own multi-media performances that include live music, projection-mapping, dance, visual art and interactivity. Of particular interest is using the entire world as a performance space by using internet streaming to coordinate numerous performers and audiences on vastly different parts of the globe. The technical and aesthetic challenges of this type of performance are new and exciting and require the sort of broad skill-set that Loudon has developed through his extensive institutional and self education in music, sound, performance, motion graphics, photography, programming, and construction.


There are no prerequisites, this course is designed for those with no experience with Ableton Live.

No Required Textbooks

Software Requirements

  • Ableton Live Suite

*Berklee Online and Ableton have come together to offer an educational discount on Ableton Suite 9. Once you enroll in the course, you will be able to purchase the software at the discounted price through the Required Course Materials link on your My Home page.

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • MIDI controller recommended
  • Audio interface
  • Microphone
  • Associated cables
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)


Got a question? Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

  • Level
    Level 2
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition

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