Last time, we looked at Live 10’s new and updated devices; now Martin Delaney explores the many tweaks to the workflow and Arrangement View in the latest update to Ableton’s top-drawer DAW…
Ableton Live 10 has some great new standout features – the Wavetable synthesiser being an obvious example – but it’s also packed with tiny tweaks designed to improve the day-to-day user experience. The Arrangement View benefits from this in particular.
You could argue (and I have, a few times) that the Arrangement View has lagged behind the timeline tools of other major DAWs such as Logic and Cubase. Of course, that’s understandable, because Live has the all-important Session View as well, and they don’t… but we want it all, don’t we?
As much as the Session View is fun and sexy to use and great for live performance, there comes a time when we need to get locked into the Arrangement View, and for anybody who has used Logic et al, it can feel severely lacking. So, back to the point: Live 10 includes many changes and additions that’ll make your Arrangement View time faster and more productive.
Let me work it
Now it’s time to introduce a word that can drive some people crazy – workflow.
In itself, that simply describes the process we use to get the job done. But it’s controversial, because it’s become something of a cliché, especially in tutorials and ads. In the creative world, the focus on workflow and efficiency can be seen as counterintuitive; I personally don’t want to think about ‘workflow’ when I’m being creative, I want to work how I want to work, and if I’m going slow, that’s okay.
But as much as it’s rewarding to go on long meandering journeys and to stare out of the window for hours, sometimes we just want to get things done. Nothing wrong with that. And that’s why our Live pages this month are dedicated to this subject and what Live brings to it.
One of the more showy changes is the ability to stretch warped audio clips directly in the Arrangement timeline, without using the Detail View at the bottom of the screen. I like this – it somehow feels more like reaching in and manipulating the arrangement directly – you don’t have to take your eyes off it.
Be aware that if you stretch your clip too far, the status bar at the bottom of the screen lights orange and warns you ‘Warp marker segment BPM limit reached’. You can be sneaky and get round this by freezing/flattening the track, then you can start stretching all over again! The faster access also applies to repositioning waveforms within a clip, reversing and deactivating, and audio clip fades, which you can now use without a keyboard shortcut.
Navigation has also been refreshed – with that simple Z/Shift-Z to zoom in and out on a selection – and you can hold Alt and scroll vertically to expand the selected track or tracks vertically, or hold Cmd/Ctrl while scrolling vertically to zoom in on the cursor position.
Another zooming one is that whenever you select a section of an Arrangement View clip, the Detail View will automatically zoom in to show that area. Tapping ’S’ on your keyboard minimises your Arrangement tracks so you can see them all at once, which is great, although there’s no option to switch back to the previous view.
We now have a few different ways to import audio and MIDI into the Live set – drag from the Browser, from the computer desktop, copy and paste from another Live project, or now, via the Create menu. You need to have a track of the correct type selected before this will work, though; it won’t automatically create one for you.
Working with automation is faster – for starters, tap ‘A’ to toggle visibility of your automation lanes. Breakpoints now snap to the grid when being dragged, they’re also faster to create, because you can double click anywhere in the envelope view rather than having to precisely click on the existing envelope, and you no longer have to leave envelope view to split/reverse/deactivate/crop clips.
Live 10 integrates further with Push, specifically Push 2, and more Live Devices are getting added visual feedback on that lovely Push display, typically in terms of showing filter envelopes and improved icons. There’s a new MIDI note layout available, which is very fast for sequencing and we can see the notes in MIDI clips on Push as well. All this makes Push better than ever as a hardware control surface for Live.
For workflow convenience, Live 10 definitely makes the creative and practical aspects of music production smoother and more transparent. It also brings the Arrangement View to life in ways that it hasn’t been previously, and the coolest thing is that it’s all been achieved without adding unwanted clutter.
Workflow and the Arrangement View: Step-by-step
1. Let’s review some of Live 10’s workflow improvements. Bear in mind that it’s still in beta as I’m writing this, so some features may change or even disappear by the time you try it!
2. Starting with the Arrangement View; audio clip warping is faster than ever – you can do it right in the Arrangement View timeline. Hold down Shift and drag the edge of a clip to stretch it.
3. In the same timesaving way, if you hold down Shift-Option and then drag in the clip, you can ‘slide’ the waveform, to reposition the area defined by the Arrangement View clip!
Interface tweaks In the most general sense, the changes to Live’s interface will help your workflow – anything that improves legibility is a good thing; the new typeface, the simpler, more blocky graphics and the updated skins (now known as Themes) all serve to help visual clarity.
4. Click and drag to highlight a section of an audio clip in the Arrangement View, and tap ‘R’ to reverse it. There’s no need to split the clip first (also works via the Context Menu).
5. The same technique works if you use 0 to deactivate part of a clip. Both of these also work if you click and drag to select sections of a number of clips in different tracks.
6. When you’ve got an Arrangement View clip selected, or just a section in Detail View, tap ‘Z’ to zoom in on that clip or section, or use Shift-Z to zoom back out.