How To Start DJing In Ableton (Part 1)

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For the past several years, we’ve seen Ableton Live establish itself as a popular and powerful DJ tool, with many top DJs routinely using the software in clubs and stages around the world. While the switch to Live may be daunting for those accustomed to traditional DJ paradigms, the advanced performance capabilities offered can be very worthwhile. In this series, we explore how DJs new to Ableton can use Live 8 to unlock greater creativity in the booth, starting with an overview of Session View and a lesson on how to easily warp dance music for sets.

Why Live? A Different Kind of DJ

Live stands apart from other DAWs in that it has always been as much about performance as it is about production. The software was from the onset designed to be used on stage, with forward-thinking users taking advantage of Live’s noted clip launching and timestretching facilities to suit the particular needs of DJs.

Some of the benefits of Live for DJs:

  • Songs stay perfectly in sync without manual beatmatching with track warping
  • Song tempo can be changed without affecting pitch
  • On-the-fly remixes and mashups
  • Top notch built-in effects
  • Unparalleled flexibility: set up your Live DJ template any way you want it
  • Unlimited number of virtual “decks”
  • Option to use third-party VST and AU plug-ins and Max For Live devices in sets
  • Optional integration with Serato via The Bridge, as well as VST-based DVS systems like Deckadance and Ms. Pinky
  • Combination DJ/live PA performances

Of course, DJs have their complaints about Live as well. Users have bemoaned the lack of a multiple waveform display like those in dedicated DJ software like Traktor and Serato for years now. DJs making the move to Live will also have to get used to the lack of independent tempo control for tracks, as all warped songs lock to the project tempo- a significant adjustment for those who play with large, frequent variations in tempo between tracks. A certain learning curve and a fair amount of setup is required as well, and so those who like working on a traditional DJ user interface might want to look elsewhere.

But for DJs who want to break from tradition or are looking for a fresh dose of inspiration, Live may be the thing that will help create those electrifying dancefloor moments that we all strive for.

For a deeper look into the pros and cons of DJing with Ableton vs traditional DJ software check our last article on the subject.

A LOOK AT LIVE’S SESSION VIEW

Live's Session View (click for full screen)

Live offers two “environments” in which to create and perform music: Session View and Arrangement View.

Arrangement View is most similar to a traditional DAW layout, which horizontally arranges recorded audio, musical samples and MIDI notes (collectively referred to in Live as “clips”) along the current project’s musical timeline, and is suited for production work. DJs will be more interested in playing tracks in Session View, which essentially is a grid from which to control and launch clips on-the-fly.

 Audio Tracks

Session View presents audio (and MIDI) tracks as vertical columns, each of which can be renamed and which contain an unlimited number of clip slots.  Each clip slot can hold one piece of audio, and each track can play only one clip at a time. Think of the audio tracks as your virtual decks.

DJs will want to have at least two audio tracks in their Live template, which gives you two “decks” or one audio track for each song you’ll want to play simultaneously with each other. DJs will normally only use audio tracks, so delete any MIDI tracks from Session View for now.

 

Track Status Field

Below the clip slots in each track is the Track Status Field. Tracks with a non-looping clip will have a bar displaying the remaining play time in the clip in minutes:seconds. Tracks with looping clips will have a pie chart displaying the current progress of the loop. The number to the right of the pie measures the length of the loop in beats, while the number on the left tells you how many times the loop has already played.

 

 Browser

To the left of the audio tracks is the Browser, which is used to organize audio and MIDI files, Live devices and installed plug-ins. The File Browser is your virtual crate. You can find and drag songs you want to play from the Browser into audio tracks, though it might be easier to just use Windows Explorer or Finder (or iTunes) to organize and bring songs into Session View. One advantage offered by the File Browser is that it lets you preview songs through your headphones, though I’ve found searching for specific songs to be more efficient outside of Live. You can cue up songs using audio tracks anyway.

 

 

Return Tracks

To the left of the Master are the return tracks, which receive audio via the track sends. These can be useful in DJ sets, but are not necessary for warping and basic mixing, and can be deleted or simply ignored for now. More on these in a later lesson.

 

 

 Tempo and Transport Controls

Finally, the tempo and transport controls are found above the tracks and Browser. Alongside the transport controls is the global quantization tab, which you’ll want to pay attention to. The upper-left section contains the master tempo, tap tempo, budge buttons and metronome switch, all of which will be frequently used by Live DJs.

Warping Songs

Now that we’re familiarized on different elements of Session View, we can look into preparing tracks for DJ sets in Live. The most important aspect of Live for DJ performances is warping, which is what Ableton calls its timestretching function. Warping is used to tell Live where the beats in a track fall relative to the project’s timeline, allowing DJs to lock audio tracks to the master tempo and keep everything perfectly synced and beatmatched. It also allows DJs to speed up or slow down tracks without affecting pitch, if so desired. A good analogy for how warping works would be to think of your tracks as rubber bands that you can pin down (using Warp Markers) and stretch along a ruler (the musical timeline).

Live’s Warp Modes

Live offers six different Warp Modes, each designed for different kinds of sounds. For example, Beats Mode is best used with strong rhythmic sounds like drums, while Tones Mode is recommended for monophonic sources like bass or vocals.

For playing back whole songs, the Complex Pro and Re-Pitch Warp Modes are the best options. Re-Pitch Mode works in the same way as a turntable’s pitch control, pitching tracks up or down as the playback speed is changed. This offers the best overall sound quality, without the artifacts one gets using the other warp modes.

If you want to change tempo without affecting pitch, Complex Pro is the best option, as it is designed to work well with sources combining the kinds of sounds covered by the other warp modes. Complex Pro, like its predecessor, Complex Mode, requires over ten times more CPU resources than other Warp Modes, but most current laptops set up for DJ performance should be able to handle this CPU hit without any problems.

Similar to how Traktor users beatgrid tracks prior to performances, Ableton DJs will want to have their tracks warped beforehand. Live can be set to automatically warp tracks for you, and while it generally does a good job at this, it is always best to correct this warping manually. This warping information can be saved in an .asd file that is automatically associated with each of your tracks, so you will only need to warp tracks once.

The Fundamentals of Warping

Ableton Clip View (click for fullscreen)

There are different ways to approach warping, and over time, you will develop a method that works most efficiently for you. But whatever the method, the basic tools of warping remain constant. Here are the elements from the above screenshot you’ve got to be familiar with to start warping:

1. The Time Ruler: The Time Ruler appears above the waveform in the Sample Display. With Warping on, the Ruler divides musical samples into bars and aligns these with the project timeline.

2. Warp Markers: Returning to the earlier rubber band analogy, Warp Markers are the pins that are used to lock segments of your track to the musical ruler. Warp Markers are created by double-clicking within the sample, and appear as yellow tabs along the ruler. They can then be moved around by dragging or using the arrow keys.

3. Pseudo Warp Markers or Transient Markers: Live automatically analyzes audio files when you first drag them into Session View and locates the transients in the sample. Transients are the spikes in volume at the point where notes or beats begin. These are marked out by Live in the Sample Display using Pseudo Warp Markers, which are gray instead of yellow, and come into view when the cursor is moved over transients along the musical timeline.

Transient detection in Live is often very accurate, and should be used as a guide when placing Warp Markers. Pseudo Warp Markers can be converted into Warp Markers by double-clicking on the gray tabs.

4. The Sample Box: This is where you control the different clip-specific settings such as Warp Mode, clip BPM, sample start-end points, and loop points. You will want to have Warping engaged, and either Re-Pitch or Complex Pro set as your warp mode. The Seg. BPM box tells you the analyzed BPM of the track. This will typically reflect a whole number for properly warped tracks.

The 1-minute Warp

Now that you know the basic elements of Ableton, you can warp your first track. Most current electronically-produced music, from the steady four-on-the-floor beats of house and electro to the broken beats favored in dubstep and contemporary hip-hop, will have a constant tempo throughout an entire song. These tracks are very easy to warp, and most of the time, you will only have to place about 2-4 Warp Markers to get songs in perfect sync.

With practice, you will be able to warp such songs in under a minute, and even be able to warp tracks in the middle of a DJ set. Here’s my approach on how to do it (turn on captions in the video above for simple step-by-step instructions):

1. Bring Your Track Into Session View

Drag your track (use one with a steady, constant tempo from start to finish- no old Motown songs with live human drummers for now) from the browser into an empty clip slot in Session View. If this is your first time bringing the track Live will automatically analyze and warp your track, and create an analysis file (.als), which will take several seconds.

Here’s a quick tip: it is generally a good idea to have the Master Tempo set in the same neighborhood as the BPM of the track you are bringing in for warping, as this will help Live more accurately “guess” the clip BPM.

 2. Clean Up Automatic Warp Markers

Delete the Warp Markers that were automatically inserted by Live. To do so, click on one of the Warp Markers, select all (ctrl+A on Windows, cmd+A on Mac), and hit delete. You can also fix this permanently by turning off warping in the Ableton preferences, as seen below:

3. Look For First Downbeat

Locate the first beat in the song by moving the mouse cursor near the start of the waveform, over the bar numbers. The cursor should change into a magnifying glass. Hold down on this area with the mouse and drag down to zoom into the waveform.  Drag left or right to scroll through the waveform. The downbeats, typically the kick drum hits, can be easily spotted in the waveform as these will usually have the largest transient spikes.

4. Drop Your First Warp Marker

Look for the Pseudo Warp Marker on the first downbeat of the track. Double-click on this Pseudo Warp Marker to turn it into a Warp Marker.

 5. Set Start Of Track

Right-click on the Warp Marker you just created and then click on “Set 1.1.1 here” so that the track starts at this point when launched. Then click on “Warp From Here (Straight).” This Warping method will work well since the track has a constant tempo all throughout.

6. End-of-track Warp Marker

Zoom back out and look for a numbered bar at the end of the track. Zoom in close to look for the Pseudo Warp Marker at the transient of the downbeat at the start of the bar, and double-click to turn this into a Warp Marker. Drag this Warp Marker so it lines up with the bar number. There should be one right by it if the track you are warping is of a constant tempo.

7. Tidy Up

Most of the time, this is all you will need to do to have a properly warped clip that lines up perfectly with other warped tracks. In some cases though, the Pseudo Warp Markers in the middle of the song might have drifted away from the bar numbers. Drifting of a small distance will generally not be a problem when DJing.  But if you wish to correct this and tighten up the warping, simply zoom into 1-2 bars in the middle of the waveform, look for the transient, and repeat what you at the end of the track: double-click on the Pseudo Warp Marker to turn it into a Warp Marker and drag it to the nearest bar number.

8. Save The Warp

Click on “Save” in the Sample Box to save the warping and other clip information in the track’s associated .als file. If you did all these steps correctly, the “Seg. BPM” number in the Sample Box should be a whole number (like 126), or very close to a whole number (like 125.98). Some DJs like to type in the closest whole number before hitting “Save”.

9. Have A Listen 

Make sure that global quantization is set to 1 Bar and that the metronome is on. This ensures that your song starts playing at the start of the next bar. Launch the clip and listen if the beats are in time with the metronome. If the beats all fall in time with the metronome throughout the track, then it is properly warped.

This is the first in a series of lessons for newcomers to the world of Ableton Live DJing. Check back soon for Part 2! 

  • Hi) any info on Part2 to be actually published? Would like to have a look)

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  • Vanya M

    How i can create eq like a pioneer mixers sound? all tutorials about point on the knob like pio, but how create the sound?

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  • anon

    For people having problems with warping: I use Traktor to solve all my tempo problems. Say you have 132bpm track but your Ableton session is in 124?

    Simple! Just sync up your 132 to a 124 in Traktor, hit record, wait until the song is finished, import the finished song in Ableton and adjust the start of the waveform so that it’s in time. Use the metronome to check that all your beats are on and you’re good to go!

    Ableton is great for preparing original edits and mashups of as many songs as you like. Any DJ who isn’t creating their own edits and remixes of tracks in their set is living in the past, and needs to understand that it’s important to have your own sound, and your own exclusive tracks.

    Ableton is a great tool and offers a lot of creativity for DJ’ing. Unfortunately my hardware is currently incapable of dealing with the risk of DJ’ing live in Ableton, but I’ll use in the future live for sure.

  • ricky

    where is part two? its been over a year????

  • bleh

    WHAT THE FUCK ? What is it with most of the videos using electro/house/EDM music to showcase their videos?. Why not use hip hop? It seems like more of a challenge.

  • This was written a year ago, but I still can’t seem to find Part 2 – has it been done yet? If not, can you suggest where to go to next please? I have Lynda.com but the lessons on Ableton there aren’t really related to DJ’ing. I am new to this, though used to mix terribly on a set of vinyl decks 😉 I like ableton as I am more interested in being creative than beat matching.

  • Glen

    uhmm… few questions.. 1. can i choose another BPM to warp at? for example: warp a 135 track into a 125 track so all my tracks in my set, are set to 1 bpm?
    2. i play a bit more uk funky/glitch… it never lines up properly on complex pro modes.. should i use another mode?

  • tom

    where is part 2 ???

  • Wish I read this 5 years ago.

  • Barrym0219

    one tips for new live users. with ableton, u r not remixing songs, u r manipluating loops, and samples.

  • De donde está part two bro? 

  • Indamix

    I love Ableton live , but for djing i hate Those Gazillion hours of Warping so i prefer to mix with my cdjs 900 

    • Echosafari

      I hate warping too so I found a lazy way around it.. you still have to find the exact start of your track and “warp from here”, but at the bottom of each track you can view the track delay (in milliseconds), so if your tempos drift when playing long tracks, you can adjust the track delay on the fly by like 5 or 10 MS until your mix sits in the groove the way you want it.  It’s not perfect, but works like slowing down a record.  You don’t want to change the delay by more than 5 or 10 MS at a time or you can hear the change but it’s not that noticeable.  You also want to reset it before putting on the next tune.  Play with it though and you might like it.  I’ve never heard of anyone else doing this so maybe you’ll discover a way to improve on it as you go.  I use this and mix with Ableton without headphones now because you know that the track is going to start at the right place, so you only need to adjust things as you go along.  Cheers!   

  • Thanks so much for the beginner tips. I love this new hobby and this site!

  • any comments on how to effectively warp a vocal/acapella track?

  • Sean

    I might be way old school in my thought process but i can’t be the only one. in addition to doing a piece like this, i’d be really interested to see if you could approach the ideology and concepts behind breaking down a track to it’s components in order to utilize a live performance software like Ableton (or even the release of Traktor’s latest update) to its fullest potential. 
    I tend to think of songs in sections as opposed to clips, so it’s taking some adjustment for me to conceive how people are motivated to spend their time mining tracks for parts and pieces. I would love to see a different perspective and i think a ton of other people would appreciate that as well. 

  • Why promote laptops! when you can promote records!! Just play vinyl. Artistry should never be replaced by convenience. Fair enough if you want to do a live set up, but just pressing play on a few scenes in Ableton doesnt constitute. I dont see how all this technology has advanced the performance of a DJ or Artist. 

    If you want a real live set up, check out Skudge’s set up. (might not be everyones taste, but just for the idea)

    Just thought id throw my opinion out there

  • A83

    What is the case that is used to hold the controller in the top image?

    • Echosafari

      I think it’s a Soundcraft mixer, but I might be wrong.  Isn’t that an older picture of Sasha? He really pioneered the DJ’ing with ableton thing when it first came out.

  • Echosafari

    I reluctantly sold my 1200’s and got an Alesis QX49 keyboard controller with 8 faders, 8 knobs, and 4 “drum pads” to control Ableton Live Lite that came with it.  I also bought an Audio Kontrol 1 for a sound card.  It has taken over 6 months to get to where I feel comfortable enough to play out and I don’t ever think that my new setup will be as spontaneous as vinyl was.  That being said, here are the pluses that I think outweigh that loss as I learn to DJ with ableton.
     
    1. Free Music
     
    The internet is great for finding free tunes to play and for researching what is out there.

    2. FX

    I can setup knobs and effects, compression, eq cut, filters, and more elements that just weren’t possible with vinyl.  Also, the ease of being able to restart a track from the beginning or other loop point allows me to explore other possibilities with the time I save.

    3. Combining Instruments with DJ’ing

    Now I can add my own musical elements over the top of tracks or rhythm beds at the same time, giving me an element of originality that separates me from other dj’s.  Also, I can switch from track to track much faster to keep the energy moving at an engaging pace. 

    4.  No headphones required

    It’s nice to be able to trust your prep work and drop tracks where you want, and not have to worry about beatmatching.  The classic argument is that it’s cheating, but why not take advantage of the digital realm if you are going to live in it?  I’ve done enough beatmatching in my life and don’t mind if someone wants to dismiss it as cheating because if I had to, I could but now choose to allocate that time to not being hunched over with headphones and enjoying my set as much as the crowd.

    I miss scratching, and I miss the collectibility aspect of vinyl.  I also miss doing backspins and turning the power off to let the record sludge to a slow stop.  But with planning and imagination, these things can be replaced with even more impactful tricks and techniques. Besides, I think most fans of EDM are less concerned with what the dj is doing with their gear and more affected by the sound that is coming from the speakers, however it is created or played back. 

    • nykx17

      dont you research and dig when you use actually turn tables instead of finding”free” music that probably comes out mine and my fellow producers pocket.

      • Ross

        I think what he was getting at is that there is plenty of good LEGAL free music on the internet. As opposed to vinyl – you don’t go to a record store and someone leaps out at you and says “here! have this free record of my tunes”, as happens with Soundcloud and Bandcamp etc.
        Your response is very cynical.

    • Martijn de Geele

      I got a tip for you if you still really like vinyl, there is a solution. That is actualy my mix setup with live. I got an Audio Technica lp120usb, Novation Launch control XL, Ableton Push, Allen & Heath zed 10 all connected to my macbook pro. I did need a usb hub for that ofcourse… But I select my lp120 as audio input and the zed 10 as output. Then you create one channel for vinyl and well I have 2 other “digital”channels for my digital collection wich you can now mix with vinyl.

  • Alaa Bahour

    i love ableton for producing but for mixing i have to say traktor is the shit i love how easy it is to use

  • Yes! Please keep these articles coming DJTT. Have been doing a little DJing in Live, but have yet to find a way to make it more effective than traktor. Would really like to explore it more. 

  • Lauti

    I’d rather dj with two winamps than one live 🙂

    • Sotosoul

      good old 90’s 🙂 There was a crossfader plugin, I remember, simple volume mixing…

    • Hahaha I dj with Live but that’s funny.

    • Hahaha I dj with Live but that’s funny.

  • Guest

    Thanks for taking on that subject! Great article. looking forward to the follow up…
    Could you take us by the hand and construct a template from scratch and making it more and more complicated (dummy clips, effects, vsts, sequencer….) as we go. The beauty of Live is indeed that you can set it up anyway you want. But endless possibilities is also a curse as most often we don’t know where to start…

  • Anonymous

    For anyone interested that uses an apc-40 with ableton for DJing I have coded a Custom DJ Template that adds a ton of new functionality including:Instant Looping, vertical scene scrolling, scene FX, track control fx etc.

    Check it out 🙂
    http://www.quirksmode.co.uk/dj/dj-template/

  • DJ RISK

    just do the tutorials in ableton

  • At first I used ableton for my dj sets with 4 channels with the session view and each track divided into clips like buildup, main, drop, intro. It was great but realized it needed a lot of work and wasn’t flexible enough if I wanted to add new tracks. I could make rocking sets making mashups with the 4 tracks at a time and was great but my sets had to be extremely planned.
    For quick classic gigs I would recommend traktor as it s much faster to set up as you all know.
    Now I’m working on a live act tipe of setup with ableton performing my own tracks.
    For this ableton is great. I have 8 channels with different clips, drums, synths, bass, fils, etc. I include with this a keyboard to play an organ sound o a harsh arpeggiated synth. I also add a korg monotron to make weird sound.
    I control everything with a launchpad and a nanokontrol (looking foward to an apc40 or a korg zero 8 however i do not have the money at the time)
    As well as my own multitracks I tend to search for remix competitions and free stems packages all over the web to extend my material.

    It requires a lot of work but I think its worth it as it can really take your performance to the next level.

    • SLamField

      Korg Zero 8 would be a bad purchase.  it’s wicked expensive and it was discontinued years ago and so there is no customer support and they break really easily and there is no one to ship it back to and no warranty.

      • alchemy

        yeah i´ve heard of that,but it looks so damn sexy hahahha.

        however I live in argentina so the chances of really getting my hands on one almost imposible. evolution uc33e would be a nice solution but also, as it is discontinued is very dificult to get your hands around one.

    • BPSS

      I’ve also found that to my ears, Traktor’s timestretching is superior to Ableton’s when dealing with major changes in tempo. Lately if I want to do a dubstep remix with an acapella that’s at say, 90bpm, I grid it properly in traktor. Then I sync the bpm to the master at 70bpm, I record the audio into ableton & then chop & arrange from there. The same goes for full tracks as well, I can play tunes back in Traktor at more than 20bpm off their normal tempo & they sound great. Not so much with ableton. 

  • Massiv

    Used both Traktor to DJ and Ableton Live for Live Performance, I’m waiting now for Traktor 2.5 to see If I’ll do a move for live performance.  Still I think that Traktor will miss flexibilities in term of channel and effects per channels. But looking more fun to perform.

  • sammsousa

    the only thing that will keep me away from live is its warp mode! i mean i use it with maschine to make tracks… and its great! but for playing live.. or djing.. the only downfall is really the soundquality (in my opinion)!!!! if you take a masterd song, put it in live and then set it to complex pro (or any other warp mode for that mather…) its like the quality desapears… i think for the quality to be the same as intended by the producer, warp has to be turn off, but if thats the case its impossible to play with it… so idk! ableton has to comeup with something regarding its sound quality!! 

  • D3rkin

    I use Ableton to warp older tracks with tempo drift so I could beat grid them properly in Traktor.   

  • about warping modes…

    beats and repitch = for beats
    complex, textures and tones = textures or voices

  • max

    I started “dJing” with ableton about 3 years ago and I never thought of switching to traktor etc. especially the opportunity to create your own style of mixing is something only ableton can give me. i think it’s wrong to say ableton is getting “old”, the point im trying to make is: traktor gives you a optimized interface for djing, in ableton you have to create your own interface and channelstrips; ableton is more like a creation kit for live performances.
    so, getting into djing with traktor is imho easier because there already exists a accessible and easy workflow for live sampling/remixing, in ableton you have to create your own, maybe even program your own plugins via max4live to get things done. In addition to that, in ableton you have to prepare your set at home which is in most cases time intensive, so using ableton is a bit less spontaneous, but more relaxing, as mentioned in the article, you do not need to focus on beat matching.
    you can’t compare live and traktor that easy, because traktor is a dj software (!), using ableton as dj software is just one of many ways of using live for playing music live.
    so please dont say ableton is not that good for djing only because you dont know how to use it.
    so in the end, the sound matters, just use the stuff that suits your style ;)!

  • Macky

    I’ve been using Traktor for some time but mainly was on CDJ’s. Wanted to start using my other equipment (MIDI’s and so on) with a different software so I came to Ableton and it looked too funky for me but after reading this I really wouldnt mind spending free time learning this rather than planning new tracklists on Traktor! 

  • SLamField

    i would warn new users to NOT use complex pro for warping full songs as it will introduce artifacts and muffle the transients of the kick-drum.only re-pitch and beats warping modes are “neutral operations” meaning that the playback will be identical to an unwarped track when warped properly and played at its “natural” tempo. 

    any other warp mode is not a neutral operation.  while complex might be better for songs with a huge tempo variation or for huge transpositions, only re-pitch and beats mode are completely neutral.  all other modes will alter the sound.

    • BXBP

      While I agree with you I’d warn new users not to use ‘beats mode’ for warping unless you’re within 1bpm either side of the original track.  I’ve found that even warping a 128bpm track to fit with a 130bpm track creates a sort of slurring effect that can particularly be heard on the vocals of a full track. While it may allow the kick drums to remain un-muffled it will turn the track into sounding like it’s been heavily processed by live and I’m sure most users won’t like this.

      The solution?  Try and stay within 1bpm difference if possible when your mixing, and make sure you pick the appropriate warp function for the job (using beats for beats, and complex for vocals or chords or melodies where clarity of individual beats aren’t necessary) and wherever possible, turn warp off!   If you know the bpm  of a track (has to be very very accurate!) and it matches the project tempo you can mix without using warp at all.

      • SLamField

        yeah i generally use re-pitch, but will use beats (beast) mode when i need a key-lock or with really percussive vocal material.

        • Rasmus Kallqvist

          Or, you use whatever warp-mode sounds the best. If you put warp-makers tastefully and use the warpmode and sub-mode (transient, 16th, 8ths, and so on) that suits the track best, you can easily push around 5bpm. A combination of beat and repitch can do big wonders, and complex can help finish it off. Don’t do one massive warp, do it in small steps.

          • SLamField

            i just consider “what sounds best” to be exactly as the track was mastered, thus i use beats and re-pitch for 90% of my tunes as they are the only modes that do not impart any artifacts or color the sound in any way
            when used correctly. 

            if i am mixing between genres with a huge bpm change, then i generally use effects to pull that off unless i’m going for a huge change, then i use re-pitch on the track being brought in and it makes a nice little buildup just with the pitch as you bring up the tempo.

      • SLamField

        when you say “warp a 128 bpm track to fit with a 130 bpm track” do you just mean warping the track in general? why would you warp a 128bpm track @ 130bpm? 

        just warp it at its natural tempo with a “warp from here straight”.

  • zapdat

    Epic tip for new Live users that are struggling with tempo management…

    You are able to re-name the scene launch buttons in the master track area to automatically change the global tempo upon triggering that specific scene.

    Live automatically numbers the scenes in the master track “1, 2, 3, 4…ETC”

    Right-Click>Rename>change the scene’s name to desired tempo numerically followed by “bpm”  so your scene will read “125bpm” or whatever tempo is desired.

    Now, When you trigger that scene, the global tempo will then snap to the new tempo without any nudge, tap, or manual macro pitch bend.

    • bloodhound

      i will have to try that! ive been a live user for a while, and i never knew that!

    • Spacecamp

      Great tip, thanks for sharing! 

    • BXBP

      Also something for doing tempo jumps if you want to keep the previous track playing (I’ve often found I wanted to jump tempo but didn’t want to cut off the last track by starting a new scene), right click on the empty clip slot in the mixing track number that your current song is playing in, and ‘remove stop button.’

      That way when you start your new song at your new tempo your old one will continue playing (at the new tempo)  – but it saves you having to create another version of the song that will start playing where the old one left off.

      • Arcrunner

        also; duplicate clip on song A while it is playing (ctrl/cmd D), move the start point to a good cue point inside the duplicated clip, and assign it’s clip tempo to the jump tempo to value,  then jump the tempo.

        result – audience hears tune A stay at the same tempo, while tune b cuts in at it’s tempo.

  • Majonymus

    ableton is getting old, no breaking updates, its good for production and remixing but less live, in the while traktor is making awesome evolution

    • bloodhound

      i agree, but the thing for many people like me is that it doesnt change because it works well for what it is. i put ableton and traktor on equal levels (yes i use both) and both have strong advantages over the other. it all depends on what you are trying to achieve.   live is also a great tool for traktor users to manage BPM of tracks, and plan a mix set.

  • I feel that the sound quality of the warp modes in Ableton is not good enough yet. The complex pro mode is not bad, but cuts the attack of the transients here and there, resulting in less thrust on the beat.
    The Traktor algorhythm sounds superior to me.
    But that’s no reason to go without Live. On a decent MacBook Pro it’s no problem to run Traktor and Live on the same system and send a MIDI clock from Traktor to Live.
    So you can use the best of both worlds. Of course a dedicated controller for Live is necessary to really unleash the power of such a combination.

    • SLamField

      if you are warping correctly and using either beats mode or re-pitch then the sound output will be identical to an unwarped file when played at the clip’s natural tempo.  whether live’s output in general is up to snuff is another question.

    • any tips on how to send a midi clock from traktor to live? i have dedicated controllers for both and would like to use them both as i see unique benefits on both sides…

  • right now im using live from 2005… and change my view as a dj…

    I started to stop “djing”, in terms of the traditional mixing and tricks with turntables, and started to play live music, with hardware synths, controllers and other stuff!!!

    • RockingClub

      Sounds super cool. I’m just about getting into this. Which synths do you use (for which genres)? I thought about Clavia Nord Rack 2x, Virus Ti 2 desktop or Moog Slim Phatty… I will mainly use it for Progressive House/ Electro/ Chillstep.

  • DannyBr

    Great article 🙂

  • chicomodo

    Fix tempo is not that good… I like to throw a moombaton or hip hop song between house songs, to do a great shake at the dancefloor. Maybe I’m just getting to use Traktor and not seeing the benefits of using Ableton.
    Anyway this is a great let down.

    • you can do that… al you need its just understand how the time managment works on ableton

  • Anonymous

    What SoundCard Should I use when Djing with the Apc 20 I have an Audio 2

    • the audio 2… but also works with your integrated soundcard… 

  • celtic-dj

    very good article….looking forward to read the next part !!
    cheers !

  • skulpture

    And don’t forget your amazing article from 2009 about Smart Mixing. Very important in Ableton.

    http://www.djtechtools.com/2009/06/01/smart-mixing-setup-for-ableton/

  • Djdrame

    nice tutorial!!!!live rulez!!!

  • Ramirez

    Would love it to see something new exlpained stuff.
    I am looking for a setp-by-setp tutorial of The Bridge.

    Can some of you guys help me gettin in with that?
    Greetz & Thanks from Italy…

  • Victo

    I’m using Ableton for DJ Set for 3 years now.
    I’ve an APC40 as “main” controller, and playing with some iOS device and Touch OSC for fun sometimes.

    I’m a regular Traktor user too.

    But :
    – If I play a “planned” DJ Set, I prefer using my Ableton setup, but it needs more Prep.
    – If I play a “Hey guy, do you want to play in my Bar in 2 hours” DJ Set, Traktor and my S2 is more appropriate, but know I have the feeling that I am not able to do “performing” things on Traktor… The next version will probably helps…

    So :
    Ableton is more powerfull when you passed hours to built your OWN configuration, mapping, and manner to mix with, but it requires time and prep.

    Traktor (or other DJ Software), are “instant” ready for mix when you didn’t have anything planned, but <there's for me a lack of functionality, especially when you want to play mashups Live, and remix tracks.

    • Victo

       Lol, think my comment bugs.

      The last sentence is : “but there is a lack of functionality, especially when you want to remix or mashup in Live”.

  • Lucas

    nice….but in traktor, i don´t even have to do anything with my tracks until they are all perfectly in sync….but i will check back for part two. maybe i will combine traktor and ableton. ( if my laptop still works than 😉 ) 

    • RockingClub

      Probably because you’re DJing with EDM only. But if you like to integrate a piece of acoustic music or some oldies you’ll realise our problems

  • Thedaniel01

    Is there any chance of doing some articles on advance ableton setups and mapping, such as the stuff that ill gates does. Not knocking the article, but there is soooo much stuff online that explains basic dj’ing on ableton. Stuff that anyone with 1/2 a brain can work out in 5 minutes by themselves.
    Love your work DJTT team

    • Remote

      Agreed. Some stuff on “deck design” practices EQ placement, looper and effect use etc.

    • Spacecamp

      Absolutely – we’ll lead up to such topics, we just want to build a solid foundation to start from. If you’ve been following DJTT for a while, you might know that we’ve never done a basic intro to DJing in Ableton!

      • what I really want is a tutorial on live mapping so that I can do things like this:

        • Lg2873

          I would love to have a controller mapped for mixing and another one used to be able to do something like this video within a set
          Great track