Ableton Live Class 5 & 6: ‘Recording & Devices Plug-Ins’

Jon Margulies created a 34-page printed packet that was handed out to the class, the packet breaks down the lessons from all the Ableton Live: Level 1 Remixing classes by providing close up screenshots and highlighted notes. I find it very useful during the week for specific reminders on what we learned in each three hour Sunday course.


I missed class 5, but caught up on ‘Recording’ by reading the packet, which covered the basics of interactively recording MIDI using a MIDI controller, and audio using a microphone or Direct Injection (DI) box. The ‘Devices and Plug-Ins’ class covers the fundamentals about effects and instruments with a focus on a couple of heavy hitters in sound design: filters and delays. Ableton Live has many effects to manipulate sound, but if Jon was producing music on a deserted island and could only use two effects, he would pick filters and delays.


Chart of Frequency Changes

To understand both classes, we discussed what is sound. ‘Sounds’ like an easy question, but when you learn more about it, sound in itself is a science. Covering the basics, we learned that Hertz is a unit of frequency of one cycle per second. In acoustic sound, the range of human hearing is from 0 Hz to roughly 20 kHz, many people lose hearing above 15 kHz. The unit of measure is named after a German physicist Heinrich Hertz, Jon informed us that 60 Hz is the thump in a dance track, where as below 30 Hz you physically feel it rather than hear it. After listening to losing your Hertz, it reminded me to bring a pair of earplugs to the next club I go to – cannot produce music if I cannot hear what I am creating.

Jon told us to start listening to music with our ear focused on the frequency content, for example, an old school track’s high hat has a lot more ‘mid range’, compared to a ‘high end shimmer’ in a current track. By placing a high pass filter on an item (high hat), it eliminates the low-end bleed from other sounds. The high pass filter is essential to today’s mixing, producing and recording.

When creating tracks in Ableton Live, equalization (EQ) is best kept to simple. To eliminate muddling up a song, I learned to identify frequencies in my track: high end, mid range, and low end. For a starter like myself, thinking of three different ranges in a track helps me dissect how other producers create their music. Understanding how others created it, builds my confidence for when I am ready to create it.


Dan Giove – DubSpot founder and fellow classmate

We covered a lot of material in class 5 & 6: recording MIDI into Arrange / Session View, record quantization, quantizing after recording, understanding latency, recording audio, rewire, filters, frequency ranges, delays, and effect racks. I agreed with another students comment, “my head is about to explode.” Jon laughed and reassured the class that if we are feeling maxed out, do not worry, many of these things are previews for what we will learn in the intermediate Ableton Live Level 2: Composing & Sound Design class. Our assignment for the week was to differentiate the high, mid and low in our remix, when we apply this lesson, we will hear how much clearer everything becomes.