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9 Sessions / 6 hours of work per session
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Ableton, Digital Audio Workstation, Sampling, Sound Design, Production, Mixing
Open for Enrollment

Ableton Live Course: Sound Production for Musicians and Artists

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Go at your own pace
9 Sessions / 6 hours of work per session
Included w/ premium membership ($20/month)
Skill Level
Video Transcripts
English, Spanish; Castilian, Chinese, German, Portuguese
Ableton, Digital Audio Workstation, Sampling, Sound Design, Production, Mixing
Course Description

This course provides hands-on experience in producing, mixing, and sound design with a digital audio workstation. Students will learn the fundamentals (physics) of sound and digital audio, proper gain staging, where and how distortion enters recordings and mixes, how to set levels and panning, effective sub group mixing, and an introduction to signal processing such as equalization, compression, delay, and reverb. In addition to core audio and mixing concepts, students will learn various production techniques, such as sequencing, arranging, automation, using virtual instruments (e.g. synths, samplers, and drum machine plugins), working with MIDI, plugin formats such as VST/Audio-Units, and mapping digital USB controllers for the studio and live performance.

The material covered in this course will range from the foundations of producing music and sound design, to more advanced topics such as Ableton "racks" (Audio Effect Racks, MIDI Effect Racks, Instrument Racks, and Drum Racks), multi-band effects processing, advanced modulation, warping, time-stretching, and mangling audio, as well as taking advantage of Live's audio analysis tools for extracting grooves, melody, harmony, and drums from recorded sound.


This course is in adaptive mode and is open for enrollment. Learn more about adaptive courses here.

Session 1: Introduction to Ableton Live (January 25, 2022)
This session will cover the fundamentals of Ableton Live, including Live Sets and Projects, tracks, clips, the Session View, the Arrangement View, exporting audio, and more.
7 lessons
1. Welcome
2. Live Sets and Projects
3. Browser
4. Session View, Clips, Tracks and Scenes
5. Arrangement View
6. Clip View
7. Bouncing Down, File Management, Collect All and Save (Premium Exclusive)
Session 2: The Nature of Sound (February 1, 2022)
This session will cover the basic properties (physics) of sound, an introduction to digital audio theory, and gain staging.
10 lessons
1. Introduction
2. Basics of Sound
3. Properties of Sound: Frequency and Pitch
4. Analog Audio
5. Human Hearing (Premium Exclusive)
6. Phase and Phase Interference (Premium Exclusive)
7. Digital Audio: Sample Rate
8. Digital Audio: Bit Depth
9. Gain Staging
10. Mixing Practices
Session 3: Levels and Panning (February 8, 2022)
This session will cover the fundamentals of setting up a basic mix, including balancing levels, placing sounds in the stereo field, and mixing into pink noise.
8 lessons
1. Introduction
2. Levels at the Source
3. Panning Overview
4. Panning Perspectives / Balance (Premium Exclusive)
5. Automation: Drawing
6. Automation: Recording (Premium Exclusive)
7. Pink Noise
8. Homework Reference File
Session 4: Sculpting Frequencies: Equalization (February 15, 2022)
This session will cover using EQ to shape your sounds and mixes. Learn about the different types of EQs (3-band, Graphic, and Parametric) and how to use them on different sounds, using EQs for dramatic effect, as well as creating dynamic EQs.
9 lessons
1. Introduction
2. Different Types of EQ: Two and Three Band EQs
3. Different Types of EQ: Graphic EQ
4. Different Types of EQ: Parametric EQ
5. EQ on Drums
6. Clear up the Mix (Premium Exclusive)
7. EQ on Bass and Kick/Dynamic EQ with Max4Live (Premium Exclusive)
8. Tips and Tricks (Premium Exclusive)
9. Homework Reference File (License in Session Content)
Session 5: Reverb and Space (February 22, 2022)
Learn about natural and analog reverb, sound reflections and absorption, and how to use Live's powerful digital 'verb to bring a sense of space and depth to your tracks. Additional lessons in using reverb for sound design and FX will be covered.
10 lessons
1. Introduction
2. Why Artificial Reverb?
3. Understanding Reflections
4. Different Types of Reverb
5. Overview of Ableton Live's Reverb
6. Reverb Sends
7. Gated Verb (Premium Exclusive)
8. Convolution Reverb (Premium Exclusive)
9. Tips and Tricks (Premium Exclusive)
10. Homework Reference File
Session 6: Compression and Dynamics (March 1, 2022)
This session will cover everything you need to know about dynamics processing and using compression to produce punchy mixes. Topics include an overview of how compression works using Ableton's "Compressor", buss compression with the "Glue" compressor, Parallel/NY compression, multiband compression with the "Multiband Dynamics" compressor, and Side-chain compression.
11 lessons
1. Introduction
2. What is Compression?
3. Why is Compression Used?
4. Types of Compressors
5. Compression Parameters
6. Drum Compression
7. Mix Bus and Parallel / NY Compression (Premium Exclusive)
8. Sidechain Compression
9. Multiband Compression (Premium Exclusive)
10. Compression Tips and Session Outro
11. Homework Reference File
Session 7: Slicing and Dicing: Sampling in Live (March 8, 2022)
This session will cover the foundations of sampling from a historical perspective (Musique Concrete to Hip Hop), and practical use of samplers and sampling including using Live's Simpler and Sampler devices for synthesis and sound design, chopping up drum breaks, etc.
9 lessons
1. Introduction
2. Some History
3. The Development of the Sampler
4. Overview of Sampling, and Live's Simpler Device
5. Live's Simpler Device: Additional Parameters (Premium Exclusive)
6. Overview Live's Sampler Device
7. Warping, Slicing and Dicing (Premium Exclusive)
8. Beyond Samples: Synthesizing Drums with Robert Henke
9. Session Outro
Session 8: Parallel Signal Processing: Ableton Racks (March 15, 2022)
This session will cover using Audio Effect Racks, MIDI Effect Racks, Instrument Racks, and advanced Drum Rack configuration for a wide range of applications including: dynamic audio effects, custom arpeggiators, multiband effect processing, and more.
13 lessons
1. Introduction
2. Signal Flow: Serial and Parallel Device Chains
3. Macro Controls
4. Types of Racks and Creating Them
5. Anatomy of a Live Rack
6. The Chainlist and Global Wet/Dry Mix
7. Audio Effects Racks: Preset Banks and Preset Fading
8. Audio Effects Racks: Multiband Effects Processing (Premium Exclusive)
9. MIDI Effects Racks: Harmonic and Melodic Arpeggio Stabs and Runs
10. Instrument Racks: More Zones (Keyboard Splits, Instrument Stacking, and Instrument Fading) (Premium Exclusive)
11. Drum Racks: Overview (Simplers, Instruments, Choke Groups, Return Chains)
12. Audio Effect Processing with Robert Henke
13. Session Outro
Session 9: Inside/Outside: Advanced MIDI, Syncing Laptops, Mapping Strategies, and Audio Analysis (March 22, 2022)
This session will cover a wide range of advanced production techniques including a deeper understanding of the MIDI protocol, syncing multiple Live sessions on different computers via a standard computer network (WIFI/Ethernet), mapping strategies for live performance, as well as advanced audio analysis in Live (extracting "grooves" from audio, and converting melody, harmony, and drums from audio-to-MIDI).
9 lessons
1. Introduction and the Development of MIDI
2. Introduction to MIDI
3. Outside the Box: Communicating With External Hardware and Controllers
4. Syncing Computers and Sending MIDI Over the Network
5. Mapping Strategies, Jamming Arrangements, and Introduction to the Ableton Push
6. Audio Analysis in Live I: Extracting Grooves, Melodies, and Chord Progressions to MIDI (Premium Exclusive)
7. Audio Analysis in Live II: Converting Melody, Harmony, and Drums to MIDI (Premium Exclusive)
8. Extended Interview with Robert Henke
9. Closing
Learning Outcomes

Below you will find an overview of the Learning Outcomes you will achieve as you complete this course.

Instructors And Guests
What You Need to Take This Course

• Equipment: Computer with installation privileges

• Software: Ableton Live (Discounts available for premium members including $70 off Standard, $100 off Suite, and $100 off Push. Please see Course Resources for more information.)

Additional Information

PLEASE NOTE: Taking part in a Kadenze course as a Premium Member, does not affirm that the student has been enrolled or accepted for enrollment by California Institute of the Arts.

If a student signs up for the Foundations of Music Technology program, it is recommended that these courses are taken sequentially.

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