Producing Music with Ableton Live

Author: Kai Turnbull   •   Course Code: OMPRD-280

Master the creative tools and techniques required to compose, record, remix, improvise, produce and edit your musical ideas, using Ableton's Live audio and MIDI sequencing software, a sequencer you can play like an instrument. Unlike other sequencing software, Live allows you to create sequences in real time, on stage, or while remixing in the studio. You'll learn Live's interface, work within its various views to record and edit audio and MIDI, and explore Live's unique real-time recording and mixing capabilities. While learning to use it, you'll acquire production skills that can be applied to a wide variety of applications from songwriting, to studio production, to laptop dj'ing. By the end of this course, you'll know how to compile live sets from audio and MIDI clips, loops, or samples in real time, and create/record/produce songs in any number of contemporary styles, including drum and bass, R&B, breakbeat/trance, and house music.

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. Early enrollment is encouraged to ensure software delivery prior to the start of the course. Depending on the shipping option chosen, software delivery could take up to eight business days.

Lesson 1: Getting Started with Ableton Live

  • An Overview of Ableton Live
  • Basic Components of the Desktop Studio
  • Troubleshooting
  • Live's User Interface
  • An Introduction to the Arrangement View
  • The Aesthetics of Music Production
  • Music Production Analysis
  • Additional Resources

Lesson 2: Exploring the Session View

  • An Introduction to the Session View
  • Launching Individual Clips in the Session View
  • Launching Clips from Tracks and Rows
  • Key and MIDI Map Mode

Lesson 3: Song Production: Part 1 (Introduction and A Section) 

  • Developing a Song Production (First Steps)
  • Adding Clips (Creating an Intro Scene)
  • Audio Clip Properties
  • Adding and Modifying Clips (Creating a Second Scene)
  • Clip Launch Programming

Lesson 4: Song Production: Part 2 (B Section, Variation, and End) 

  • New Song Sections
  • Creating the Breakdown Section
  • Variation of A
  • The Ending
  • Clip Envelopes
  • Creative Clip Envelope Editing

Lesson 5: Song Production: Part 3 (Adding Effects) 

  • Effect Processing in Live
  • Setting Up Effects
  • Determining Where Effects Are Needed
  • Effects as Inserts
  • Effects on Return Tracks
  • Audio Effect Racks
  • Creative Possibilities Using Built-in Effects

Lesson 6: Song Production Part 4: The Arrangement View 

  • Session View Recording to the Arrangement View
  • Using Locators
  • Editing in the Arrangement View

Lesson 7: Song Production-Part 5 (Creating A Vocal Track And Mixdown) 

  • Adding a Vocal Sample
  • Mix Automation
  • Rendering the Live Demo 2 Song Mix
  • MP3 File Format

Lesson 8: Creating an Original Live Production: Part 1 (Establishing Style) 

  • The Production Process: Establishing Style
  • Designing Parts
  • Working with MIDI
  • Live's Software Instruments
  • Making Beats
  • Drum Racks
  • Slicing
  • REX Files
  • File Management

Lesson 9: Creating an Original Live Production: Part 2 (Developing the Groove) 

  • Instrument Racks
  • Creating a Groove
  • Developing a Song Section
  • Using the Session View to Develop a Song Section
  • Building a Scratch Vocal
  • Higher Fidelity Audio

Lesson 10: Creating an Original Live Production: Part 3 (Expanding the Sound Palette/Perfecting Musical Parts 

  • Expanding the Sound Palette
  • Designing Sounds for the Blue Nova Trip Hop Production
  • Sound Sources
  • Submixes
  • Finalizing Musical Elements
  • Sound Design Programming Techniques

Lesson 11: Creating An Original Live Production-Part 4 (Song Arrangement and Mix) 

  • Song Form
  • Developing The Arrangement
  • Refining the Arrangement
  • The Aesthetics of Mixing
  • Mixing the "Blue Nova" Production

Lesson 12: Is Your Future Live? 

  • Remix Production
  • Video Production
  • Stage Performance
  • The Akai APC40
  • MAX for Live

Kai Turnbull


As Assistant Professor of Music Technology at Berklee College of Music, Kai Turnbull is a dedicated and experienced educator specializing in digital audio music production, MIDI programming, and sound design. At Berklee, he has taught hundreds of students to use the latest technology tools and techniques in desktop audio and video production.

His courses at Berklee cover both popular and electronica music styles, using software tools such as Live, Logic, Reason, Digital Performer, and Pro Tools. He teaches courses in hard-disk recording, MIDI systems, songwriting production techniques, and a new course that examines modern applications of traditional North Indian music, titled "Indian Music Concepts in Contemporary Synthesis Production". In that course, students use Live to produce Asian Underground remixes using a variety of classical Indian vocal and instrumental samples.

Originally from Glasgow Scotland, Kai has been a music technology faculty member at Berklee College of Music for more than ten years. In addition to commercial film credits, Kai has two independent CD releases. He has performed in the United States and Europe, including an appearance on National Public Radio and has served as a songwriter for Peer Music, New York.

Erin Barra


An authoritative voice in music technology education, Erin Barra is an Associate Professor in the Songwriting Department at Boston's Berklee College of Music and is one of the leading product specialist for Berlin based music software company, Ableton. A natural collaborator, she has had the opportunity to work with an array of artists, from Grammy winning artists engineers and producers (John Oates, George Massenburg, Kathy Mattea, Elliot Scheiner) to those at the front lines of the independent movement (Res, Miles Robertson, Ari Raskin, etc.). She holds a degree in Songwriting from The Berklee College of Music, and has 20+ years of keyboard/piano experience.

Additionally she has released 5 studio albums as an independent solo artist, is on the Board of Women in Music, writes for several online publications.

Michael Bierylo


For Michael Bierylo, teaching Music Synthesis at Berklee is just one component of an eclectic and highly creative career. From his Virtual Planet studio, he's completed film, video, and multimedia scores for clients like Hasbro Interactive, Nintendo, MSNBC, Nickelodeon, VH1, Martha Stewart Living, and Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure. He's also a guitarist, composer, programmer and sound designer for the uncategorizable new music avatars Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. His solo album Life Line earned four and a half stars from the All Music Guide, and he's a voting member of the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Steve Maclean


Steve MacLean is an Assistant Professor in the Electronic Production and Design Department at Berklee College of Music. A guitarist, composer, producer, and engineer, he has been evolving with music technology since the early '80s, when he worked in a New York City recording studio and got hands-on with early versions of the Fairlight CMI, DX-7, Linn Drum, automated mixing consoles, and digital audio samplers. Later, he founded his own recording and production studio and produced/engineered hundreds of artists and numerous award-winning projects including scores for over two hundred commercials and soundtracks as well as a constant prolific artistic output of his own acclaimed works.

An active performer and composer for more than thirty years, he was co-founder of the Portland Experimental Music Collective, has performed original compositions at numerous new music festivals, including several pieces for New Music Across America and similar events. An innovator in the new music circuit, he was curator for a series of concerts "2001 New Music Odyssey," and continues to release recordings internationally on Recommended Records, U.K., and others.

Steve has been a music technology educator both independently and with over 13 years as Berklee College of Music faculty, also previously as a product specialist/clinician with a variety of manufacturers for over 20 years. More than a dozen published CD's of his compositions and recordings are available. Many can be found at including Expressions On Piano "A rare and quite brilliant record" - Kev Nickells, Freqzine 2011.


None required

Recommended Textbook

Ableton Live 9 Power! by Jon Margulies, Cengage Learning PTR

Software Requirements

  • Ableton Suite 9*

*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

  • DVD drive or broadband internet connection for Live installation
  • Recommended, MIDI keyboard controller with knobs/faders and/or pads
  • Recommended, quality headphones and/or speaker system
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 3 GB hard drive space
  • 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.

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  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
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