Producing Music with Ableton Live

Author: Kai Turnbull | Course Code: OMPRD-280

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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.

Mark Cross


Mark Cross is a successful producer, composer, and mixer with an extensive discography in both film and television that spans over two decades. He currently composes for the NBC prime-time hit show Last Comic Standing, and contributes additional music to the Fox prime-time hit series American Idol, HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, Kathy Griffin's My Life on the D List (on Bravo), and Denise Richards's It's Complicated (on E!).

Other recent projects include composing for NASA and The X-Prize Foundation, scoring the award-winning short Undefended for the Directors Guild of America, and working with James Newton Howard, Martin Davich, and Youssou N'Dour on the score for I Bring What I Love, a documentary on N'Dour's career, focusing on his controversial Grammy-winning album Egypt.

Cross has created musical themes for Nickelodeon's Wow Wow Wubbzy, the Seinfeld Season 8 DVD, as well as producing and performing with Grammy winner John Legend on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. He has worked on numerous albums, film scores, and television episodes, including the Grammy-winning I Am Shelby Lynne, Randy Newman's Oscar-nominated and Grammy-winning CARS and Meet the Parents score and soundtracks, along with mixing hundreds of episodes of the NBC prime-time show ER. Cross has been a voting NARAS member (Grammy Awards) since 2000 and served in the NARAS Producers & Engineers Wing from 2007 to present (he is currently Committee Chair). He now sits on the 2008-2010 NARAS Board of Governors.

Loudon Stearns


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 eduction 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.

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.

Recommended Textbook

Ableton Live 9 Power! by Jon Margulies

Ableton Live 9 Power! is the all-inclusive guide to making music with Ableton's revolutionary live performance and studio software, Live 9. Written for all Live users, from digital audio beginners to seasoned pros, this book explores each fundamental feature in Live. The book provides power-user tips and insider tricks for integrating Ableton Live into your home or professional studio. But Live's in-studio capabilities are just the beginning. Every last feature, button, fader, instrument, and effect in Live 9 was also designed with the live performer in mind. Ableton Live 9 Power! is a book written for musicians by a musician who uses and teaches the software on a daily basis. Whether you use Live for producing, composing, DJing, or film and television, Ableton Live 9 Power! will help you put the fun back into making music with computers, while taking your music to the next level.

Software Requirements

  • PC Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 or higher
  • Mac Web Browser: Firefox (Recommended), Chrome, Safari
  • Flash Player: current version
  • Adobe Reader: current version
  • 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.

Hardware Requirements

PC Users
  • Windows Vista SP2 or higher
  • Multicore Processor
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 3 GB free disk space.
  • 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
Mac Users
  • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher
  • Multicore Processor
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 3 GB free disk space.
  • 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


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Next Term Starts June 27

  • Level
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
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    $1,200 + $25

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