Ableton Live Tutorial: Building a Basic DJ Template w/ Rory PQ + FREE Download

In this new tutorial series focused on building a DJ template, Dubspot’s Rory PQ shares his insight about digital DJing with Ableton Live and takes us through the steps to build a customized DJ Template. Included is a FREE Ableton Live DJ Template download. Learn more about our DJ/Producer Ableton Program and Enroll Today!

DJ Template

Ableton Live is a powerful tool for producers but it also excels as the ultimate digital DJ platform. Live’s innovative approach to live performance allows you to create and customize DJ templates that suit your needs. It opens up possibilities and gives you the tools to expand your creativity and evolve as a DJ. Blurring the line between production and performance, Live’s unique interface and features make it possible to transform the stage into a performance studio.

This tutorial will be the first in aeries on building a custom DJ template in Ableton Live. We will explore some of the advantages of digital DJing using Ableton Live and create a basic DJ template. The template included in this tutorial will be the foundation for creating additional custom effects in a series of other DJ template building tutorials.

Before we get the wheels spinning, you’re welcome to follow along by downloading the FREE Ableton Live DJ Template below. Includes guide for mapping each control.

Free Download | Ableton Live Live DJ Template

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What is Digital DJing?

Digital DJing is a more modern approach to performing using computer-based DJ software driven by various MIDI controllers and analog devices. This style of DJing allows for highly customized setups that are intuitive and streamlined. It essentially eliminates the time spent Beatmatching for more creative possibilities. Digital DJing has evolved rapidly over the years and Live has become one of the leading weapons of choice for many forward-thinking artists looking to take advantage of its non-linear approach to live performance.

Visit here to see more of Dubspot’s DJ Kiva ‘Guided Dub’ Performance w/ Ableton Live + Akai APC4.

Advantages of Performing with Ableton Live

Ableton Live’s capabilities and versatility allow artists to create personalized DJ setups tailored to meet individual artistic needs. Below are just a few of the many advantages of using Live as a powerful performance tool.

  • Trigger an unlimited number of songs and samples
  • Mix songs seamlessly in sync without manual Beatmatching
  • The tempo can be changed without affecting a songs pitch
  • Capable of creating remixes and mashups on-the-fly
  • Ability to create complex effects configurations
  • Real-time manipulation of audio and MIDI
  • Unlimited flexibility and customizability
  • Capable of using third-party plugins
  • Unlimited amount of virtual decks
  • Integration abilities with other DJ software platforms
  • Portability

Building a DJ Template

Lets start this party by switching over to Live’s Session View. Session View was designed for live performance and is ideal for creating a DJ setup for many reasons. Mainly, because its easy to visually navigate and simultaneously launch various clips and scenes, create virtual decks and signal routings, stay organized, and have the option to use Live’s built-in cross fader. In addition, most if not all MIDI controllers that are compatible with Live are designed to control and navigate Lives Session View.

Template Overview

Ableton DJ Template

The DJ Template includes the following:

  • Two virtual decks labeled Left Deck and Right Deck
  • One track for additional samples
  • Custom four band DJ EQ racks for each deck
  • Lowpass and Highpass filter racks for each deck
  • Gain and Mute controls for each deck
  • Custom Short Verb Delay racks for each deck on Return tracks
  • Expansion Macros for additional effects we will create in other tutorials

Creating Virtual Decks

DJ Decks

To keep things simple at first we will only create two virtual decks to emulate the left and right turntables of a traditional DJ setup. However, I do encourage experimenting with this template and creating as many decks as you like.

Although we will be performing on two decks, we will create four Audio tracks. Two Audio tracks will emulate our virtual decks and contain all the clips used in the DJ set. The other two Audio tracks will be used for routing the signal to all the audio effects, including ‘Dummy Clip’ effects that we will create in the next tutorial of the series. The audio signal will be routed from the Left and Right Decks to the Left and Right Out tracks. This setup allows the original signal to keep playing without any playback interruptions when effects are triggered. It also allows the signal to pass through in parallel unaffected for stability and better performance.

Step One | Creating Virtual Decks

  • Create four Audio tracks in Session View
  • Label the first track Left Deck
  • Label the second track Left Out
  • Label the third track Right Out
  • Label the fourth track Right Deck
  • Optional – Create an empty Audio track to separate the left and right tracks

Step Two | Routing the Signal

Expand Live’s In/Out Section and set the following routing destinations for each track.

  • Left Deck – Select Left Out from the Audio To chooser
  • Left Out – Select the Monitor ‘In’ button
  • Right Deck – Select Right Out from the Audio To chooser
  • Right Out – Select the Monitor ‘In’ button

Creating Audio Effects

DJ Effect Rack

Now that we have virtual decks to playback our club bangers, its time to set up some basic controls commonly found on most DJ mixers. For this demonstration we will use Live’s EQ Eight. We could also use EQ Three or any other third-party EQ plugin.

Creating a DJ EQ Rack

DJ EQ Rack

  • Drop in an Audio Effect Rack
  • Load an EQ Eight device
  • Activate the first four filters
  • Macro map the Gain controls for each filter to each of the top four Macro controls and name them accordingly
  • Macro map the Frequency controls for each filter to each of the four bottom Macro controls and name them accordingly
  • Select low shelf for filter one and set the frequency between 100-200 Hz
  • Select bell for filter two and set the frequency between 200-1.5 kHz
  • Select bell for filter three and set the frequency between 1.5-6 kHz
  • Select high shelf for filter four and set the frequency between 6-12 kHz
  • Duplicate the EQ Eight. This will create a steeper filter slope in the signal for a sharper cut. Alternatively you could stack filters on each other with the same settings to create 24 dB slopes.

Creating Lowpass and Highpass Filters

DJ Filters Rack

  • Drop in another Audio Effect Rack after the DJ EQ rack
  • Load two Auto Filter devices
  • Select highpass for the first filter and lowpass for the second filter
  • Macro map the Frequency control for each filter to separate Macro controls
  • Macro map the Filter Q for both filters to the same Macro control
  • Optional – Macro map the Device Activator switch for both filters to the corresponding Frequency Macro controls. This will deactivate the filters when not in use. They will switch on when the Frequency Macros are adjusted
  • Select both racks and press CMD (Mac)/CTRL (PC) + G to Group the two racks into a main Audio Effect Rack
  • Macro map the Highpass control to Macro 1, Lowpass to Macro 2, and Filter Q to Macro 3 on the main Audio Effect Rack
  • Rename the Macro controls accordingly

Creating 12 O’Clock Gain Controls

DJ Gain Control

Many artists prefer there mixing controls to be centered at the 12 o’clock position for 0 dB. Like the DJ EQ’s, we will create a Gain control that zeros out at 12 o’clock.

  • Drop in another Audio Effect Rack after the Filters rack
  • Create three device chains
  • Load a Utility device to the top and bottom chains
  • Macro map the Gain control for both Utility devices to the same Macro control
  • Open the Chain Select Editor by clicking the Chain button
  • Macro map the Chain Selector to the same Macro control as the Gains
  • The top chain will be used for positive gain. Click and drag the blue Zone bar to define the range from 64-127 and then drag the top bar to create a fade range
  • The middle chain will be a dry unaffected chain. Click and drag the blue Zone bar to define the range from 48-80 and then drag the top bar to create a fade range for both ends
  • The bottom chain will be used for negative gain. Click and drag the blue Zone bar to define the range from 0-64 and then drag the top bar to create a fade range
  • Macro map the Gain Macro to Macro 5 below the filter controls and rename it accordingly
  • Click the Map button to open Macro Map Mode and adjust the following parameters

Gain Control Mappings

Creating a Transform Switch

A transform switch is essentially a button that cuts the audio off quickly. It’s commonly used for scratching techniques and manual rhythmic gating effects.

  • Drop in another Audio Effect Rack after the Gain Control rack
  • Load two Utility devices
  • Macro map the Gain control on both Utility devices to the same Macro control
  • Macro map the new Gain control Macro to Macro 4 and rename it accordingly
  • Click the Map button to open Macro Map Mode and adjust the following parameters

DJ Transform Mappings

Creating Reverb Delay Effect Sends

Reverb-Delay-Send-Rack

The last set of audio effects we will create will be triggered by Send controls. The rack works great for creating wide delay effects with a touch of saturation and reverb.

  • Create two Return tracks and rename them Left and Right Delay
  • Drop in an Audio Effect Rack
  • Load a Saturator and adjust the Drive to taste. This will add a bit of analog warmth to the delay signal
  • Load an EQ Eight to cut out any unwanted low frequencies below 200 Hz
  • Load a Filter Delay Device and Macro map the Feedback and Pan controls
  • Adjust the Delay Time to taste and ensure the Dry control is set to –inf dB
  • Load a Reverb device and Macro map the Dry/Wet control
  • Adjust any parameters to taste
  • Load a Compressor and Macro map the Threshold control
  • Enable Sidechain and choose the corresponding deck from the chooser menu to help keep the delay signal in check from cluttering the mix
  • Load a Utility and Macro map the Gain control
  • Rename the Macro controls accordingly

Additional Setup

The following additions are optional, but just to be safe from overloading anything I dropped in a Limiter to both Left and Right Out tracks, as well as the Master channel. In addition, I created an Audio track used to trigger additional samples.

Final Thoughts

Sa-weet, that brings the record to a stop for the first tutorial in a series of building a DJ Template. The next set of tutorials in the series will focus on building additional audio effects for the deck racks and creating punch-in effects using Dummy Clips. In the meantime I encourage you all to experiment with the template, come up with your own set of effects and configurations, and most of all HAVE FUN!

Snag the free Download of the DJ template, load your favorite jams, hang the disco ball, and bump the club!

Be sure to check out the other tutorials in the series.

Part Two: Ableton Live Tutorial: Building Dummy Clip DJ Effects w/ Rory PQ + FREE Download

Part Three: Ableton Live Tutorial: Creating a DJ Assist Mix Fader Rack w/ Rory PQ + FREE Download


Ableton Live Producer Certificate Program

The flagship of our music training, with every Ableton Live course offered at the school. After completing this program, you will leave with a portfolio of original tracks, a remix entered in an active contest, a scored commercial to widen your scope, and the Dubspot Producer’s Certificate in Ableton Live.

What’s Included:

  • Ableton Live Level 1: Beats, Sketches, and Ideas
  • Ableton Live Level 2: Analyze, Deconstruct, Recompose, and Assemble
  • Ableton Live Level 3: Synthesis and Original Sound Creation
  • Ableton Live Level 4: Advanced Sound Creation
  • Ableton Live Level 5: Advanced Effect Processing
  • Ableton Live Level 6: Going Global with your Music

This program is about learning Ableton Live by going through the entire process of being an artist, by developing your own sound through a series of sketches and experimentation. You will also learn the ins and outs of this powerful software through a series of exercises designed to help you master the steps involved in producing your own music. After a level of getting familiar with the tools that Ableton has to offer, you will then develop your sonic ideas into full-length tracks. You will be exposed to a variety of approaches to arrangement and composition, storytelling techniques, ways of creating tension and drama in your music. At the end of the day, it is the sum total of your choices as an artist that define your sound, and levels 2 – 6 will give you the experience of actually completing tracks to add to your portfolio.

If you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.

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