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DJ & Studio Equipment: Ableton Live Intro

This week Juno’s Ben Daly takes a peak at Live Intro, the new piece of sofware from Ableton.

Live Intro is Ableton’s replacement for the popular Live 7 LE software, and with a sub £100 price tag, this is bound to be a bestseller, and popular for those looking for a way in to Ableton’s world.

Installation of the software was fairly simple and straightforward, and after launching the software for the first time, my modest computer (PC with a 3.0Ghz Pentium 4 processor and 1GB of RAM, running Windows XP) took 25 minutes to install all the content that comes bundled with Live Intro.

Being an Ableton Live virgin, I was pleased to see the ‘info view’ box at the bottom-left of the screen displaying useful information about Live when hovering over things on-screen with the cursor.

The ‘help view’ is also useful for a newbie, offering ‘shortcuts’ (navigates to Live’s setup), ‘lessons’ (for learning how to use Live), ‘sounds’ (for accessing various folders in Live’s library) and ‘reference’ (for navigating to the Ableton manual).

“Being able to mix an old disco track seamlessly into dubstep and then into a country and western song was mind blowing”

To familiarise myself with Live’s environment, I decided to follow some of the built-in lessons. I started with ‘a tour of Live’. Following this, I was able to learn the basics in about 20 minutes and create my own arrangement by jamming along using the clips in the session view.

Creating the new arrangement was fun and creative – a refreshing alternative from the usual monotonous ‘copy and paste’ style of arranging that people using traditional DAW’s (Digital Audio Workstations) are used to.

To give me an insight into Abelton’s process of building a track from scratch, I chose the ‘creating beats’ lesson next. People already used to building tracks using other DAW’s such as Apple’s Logic Studio or Steinberg’s Cubase 5, should have no problems following this lesson.

Newcomers to music production needn’t worry, as the lessons are all very well explained throughout and I never felt out of my depth or lost the thread of the lesson, even though I’d never used any of Ableton’s software before. The ‘playing software instruments’ lesson took me about half the time of the previous lesson as some of  the steps were repeated. This lesson was also easy to understand and warmed me to Live Intro.

“Ableton Live Intro is perfect for anyone looking for an inexpensive, user-friendly, intuitive and creative piece of software”

As Live is hugely popular for DJing, I was keen to explore the fundamentals by following the lesson. The tutorial only briefly skimmed over the subject of warping tracks in Live, and as this is one of Live’s star features, I felt slightly stumped.

Once I’d figured out how to warp tracks (by searching for tutorials on You Tube), I was amazed by Ableton’s accuracy. It gave me the ability to mix tracks of completely different genres and tempos seamlessly.

Being able to mix an old disco track (originally played on live instruments by musicians and possibly not totally tight, timing wise), seamlessly into a dubstep track, then into a country & western song, was mind blowing. The creative possibilities of using Live Intro for producing, jamming, remixing tracks on-the-fly and DJing are huge.

There are, however, limitations with Live Intro compared with Live 8 or Live Suite. Live Intro has a maximum of 64 audio tracks, a maximum of four groove patterns, only 23 included Ableton audio effects, no looper, no vocoder, no multiband dynamics, no overdrive, no frequency shifter, no Instrument & Drum effect rack editing, no external instrument/audio effect devices, no REX file support, no POW-R dithering and no video import and export.

Ableton Live Intro is perfect for anyone looking for an inexpensive, user-friendly, intuitive and creative piece of software.

Yes, compared with Ableton’s more expensive Ableton Live (£299) or Ableton Suite (£449) there are limitations, but for £89, Live Intro is an absolute bargain.

Review: Ben Daly

Learn more about Ableton Live Intro at Juno Records.