Performing with Ableton Live


Authored by Erik Hawkins


Course Code: OMPRD-281

Next Term Starts January 14

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Learn how to use Ableton Live for real-time, dynamic live performances such as triggering backing tracks for your band, creating a live DJ/remix set, or recording and assembling an entire song, on the fly, in front of an audience. This course will give you the opportunity to learn and practice these performance skills using Ableton Live, your MIDI controllers, and your instruments. You will learn how to build your own Live sessions, customize them for your specific performance needs, and be able to skillfully and artfully perform with Live using a variety of setups and techniques. This course is designed for students with diverse backgrounds—from singer/songwriters, music producers, DJs, and electronic music artists to music directors, podcasters, pastors, and YouTubers.

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By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Record a clip-based performance using your computer’s keyboard or your MIDI controller
  • Employ MIDI mapping
  • Create and record a real-time performance from scratch using Live’s Browser in conjunction with Live’s Session View
  • Warp and manipulate stereo song files for perfect playback at any tempo and pitch
  • Use Live’s headphone cue system for DJing
  • Synchronize Live with other DJ systems, such as CDJs, Serato, and Traktor
  • Record a real-time DJ performance using Live
  • Perform, record, and arrange a live looping session
  • Use Live’s effects and third-party effects
  • Use Live for mashups and remixing
  • Set up and control external MIDI hardware (such as drum machines and sound modules) from Live in real time
  • Design a multi-controller, multi-computer, multi-performer stage setup and use it in a live performance
  • Control lighting and audio/MIDI cues from a handheld device
  • Set up and manipulate a live performance from your handheld device
  • Create a studio quality mix down of your Live set performance
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Lesson 1: Live Electronic Music Performance 

  • The Evolution of Audio Loops in Today’s Live Electronic Music
  • The Development of Live
  • A Brave New World
  • Help Resources
  • Exploring Live’s In-Program Help
  • Review: Session View
  • Review: Launching Clips
  • Keyboard Shortcuts
  • Recording Your Performance
  • Live Performance Tips

Lesson 2: Complete Control

  • Exploring Basic MIDI Controllers
  • Other MIDI Controllers
  • Controller Envy
  • Review: Launching Clips and Scenes from Your Controller
  • Work With What You’ve Got
  • Browser Experience
  • Review: Understanding Live’s Browser
  • Review: Hot Swapping
  • Drag, Drop, and Play
  • Review: Clips and The Browser
  • Live Performance Tips

Lesson 3: Djing with Live

  • The DJ Saved My Life
  • Review: Understanding Warping
  • Song Section Clips
  • Give Me Warp Drive
  • Cue This Up
  • DJ Controller Setups
  • Extreme DJ Setup
  • Recording Your DJ Set

Lesson 4: Using Live with a Band

  • Band Aid in Action
  • Who is the Conductor?
  • Got a Band?
  • Expanding the Cue Mix
  • Click and Sync
  • Freeform Beat Match
  • Get in the Cue
  • Review: Managing Clips
  • Review: Managing Scenes
  • Clips, Scenes, and Sync

Lesson 5: Live Loop Performance Recording and Playback

  • These Amazing Artists
  • Performance Approaches
  • Live Loop Recording Fundamentals
  • Looper
  • Controller Help
  • Loop Record Yourself
  • Loop Recording and Performance Tips
  • Rehearse Then Record

Lesson 6: Real Time Effects Manipulation

  • Effective Artists
  • Review: Killer Stock Effects
  • Are You Effective?
  • Review: Rack Effects
  • Macros for More Control
  • Straight Through with Effects
  • Real-Time Effect Manipulation
  • External Effects
  • Synchronization Considerations
  • Mid Way Skills

Lesson 7: Real-Time Remixing

  • The Real Remix
  • Setting Up Songs
  • Setting Up Your Clip and Sample Libraries
  • Mash It Up
  • Adding Your Own Elements
  • Third-Party Plug-in Effects
  • Remix Live

Lesson 8: Controllerism Meets the Stage

  • Controllerism in Action
  • Ever Seen a Show Like This?
  • Example Setups
  • Mapping Parameters and Limbs
  • MIDI Controller Preferences
  • External MIDI Sound Modules and Drum Machines
  • Synchronized Computers
  • Summary of Setups
  • Diagram a Multi-Controller and Performer Stage Setup

Lesson 9: Handheld Device Control

  • Real-Life Examples
  • Identifying Uses and Platforms
  • Basic Connections
  • Troubleshooting
  • Got Handheld Control?
  • Max for Live
  • Controlling Stage Lighting
  • Handheld in Action

Lesson 10: Building a Live Performance Set (Part 1)

  • Review Set Types
  • Performance Goals
  • The Power of Locate Markers
  • Group Tracks for Organization
  • Into the Set
  • Live Set Check
  • Dress Rehearsal

Lesson 11: Building a Live Performance Set (Part 2)

  • Words of Experience
  • Too Organized to Fail
  • Check In
  • Clips and Scenes on the Fly
  • More MIDI Mapping Fun
  • Real-Time Performance Review
  • Final Review
  • Curtain Call

Lesson 12: From Stage to Studio

  • Live Performance Album
  • Make it Live
  • Understanding the Scenario
  • Set Up, Enhance, Manipulate
  • Mix Down Approaches
  • Mastering
  • Which Approach Works for Your Project?
  • Everybody Is a Critic
  • Mix Down and Master
  • Where to Release



Completion of Ableton Live Fundamentals, or equivalent knowledge and/or experience.

No Required Textbooks

Software Requirements

  • Ableton Live 9 or 10 (Standard or Suite)
  • Webcam video recording software

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

  • 2G RAM, 8 GB RAM recommended
  • For Live 9 Standard, 12 GB free disk space; for Live 9 Suite, 55 GB free disk space
  • USB MIDI Controller, a dedicated Live controller (such as the Akai APC 40 MkII or Ableton’s Push) recommended
  • Audio interface with a minimum of one audio input, a multi-input and output audio interface (such as the Focusrite Forte or the Apogee Quartet) recommended
  • Video recording device for capturing live performance such as a USB webcam, smartphone, or digital camera
  • Microphone
  • 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)



Author & Instructor

Erik "Hawk" Hawkins is an EDM artist, producer, composer, remixer, label owner, and author. His music has been used by major television networks and film studios, including ABC, CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, and New Line Cinema.

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Dozens of his articles have appeared in the Industry's top publications, including Electronic Musician, Mix, Remix, and Keyboard. He has authored several books, including Complete Guide to Remixing and Producing Drum Beats. His Berklee Online course, Programming and Producing Drum Beats, won the 2012 UPCEA Award. He also manages his own busy YouTube channels and has collected way too many vintage synths.

Some of Hawk’s Web sites:,,,, Read Less

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Performing with Ableton Live can be applied towards these associated programs:

Associated Degree Majors


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.