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Book Review: Ableton Live 5 – Tips and Tricks by Martin Delaney

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If I had a more up-to-date computer instead of this boat anchor, I could be playing around with the Ableton Live 5 demo while I review Ableton Live 5 – Tips and Tricks. Lucky me downloaded the Live demo and then found my system did not meet the minimum requirements: Mac: G3 or better, 512 MB RAM, OSX 10.2.8 or later. Windows: 600 MHZ or faster, 512 RAM, Win 2000/XP, compatible soundcard.

Oh well, I'll try to slog through this anyway. Any of you Ableton Live experts will have to excuse my ignorance. I’m still using Voyetra's Digital Orchestrator Pro. I've tried my best (sure) to understand what Ableton Live 5 – Tips and Tricks is all about.

Ableton Live is a loop-based jamming tool used in performance, composition, recording, jamming, and remixing. The author of Ableton Live 5 – Tips and Tricks, Martin Delaney is a performing musician who uses Live in performance on a laptop (Apple G4 PowerBook 12inch, 1.5 GHz, 1.25 GB RAM, 80 GB hard drive at the time of writing the book) along with various other electronic gadgets. He is also the author of Laptop Music.

Delaney begins with the admonishment to RTFM. Any further information he gives is based on the user of Ableton Live 5 being familiar with the basics of the program.

The chapter "Get Organised" covers the basics of setting up your system for optimal performance of Live 5. Basics such as checking for updates, keeping file sizes down, signal routing, hardware configurations, etc. are covered. Don't forget to use the Live tutorials.

Delaney mentions a new feature in Live 5, a "nudge" control which allows you to jump through clips in the increment of global quantization values. New audio effects are Flanger, Phaser, Saturator, Auto Pan, and Beat Repeat. The use of the optional Operator synth includes Impulse, a sample playing instrument and Simpler, a sampler.

Automation of Live 5 is covered, working with envelopes, and MIDI mapping tricks. Chapter 8 lays out preparing a "set" for live performance and Delaney's track set-up for techno stuff.

I must mention the graphics here. The good: The pages are filled with screen shots of particular Session or Arrangement views, along with lots of other shots of menus, effects, track set-ups, etc. The bad: Many of the shots are just too small and the particulars of a screen shot cannot be seen without magnification. Either that or my eyes are really, really getting bad.

Chapters 10-16 cover more aspects of Live 5 such as its use in songwriting, remixing, and mashups. The use of ReWire and other software is detailed and the specifics of using Live 5 with various hardware controllers, audio, and midi controllers are spelled out. The final chapter mentions ways to get more sounds and samples.

The useful appendix has a variety of links to audio and midi sound collections, software sites, etc.

Quite frankly, my review does not do justice to the book. Author Delaney has used the software since version 1.0.1 back in 2001. He uses it regularly in live performance and is familiar with the little details that crop up in using audio software. Things like routing of signals, communications with other software and hardware, and troubleshooting glitches are all covered. Delaney is also not afraid to point some of the shortcomings of the program. Ableton Live 5 has a steep learning curve and the author flattens it out.

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About Neal Gardner