5 Tips On Optimizing Ableton Live’s Performance During a Live Set w/ Dan Freeman

In this article, Dubspot Ableton Live instructor Dan Freeman gives you 5 tips on optimizing Ableton performance on your computer during a live set. Interested in taking Music Production w/ Ableton Live classes Dubspot? We have classes starting on 8/4 in NYC and 9/22 in LA. This course is also available online. Register today!


5 Tips On Optimizing Ableton Live’s Performance During A Live Set.

The worst thing that can happen to a live performer using a computer is a complete onstage crash. One fantastic thing about Ableton Live is that it’s a remarkably stable program – if used right. I’ve used Ableton Live since 2005, starting with version 3, for live performances. Since then, I’ve played hundreds of shows and in all of those, I can count only 3 times when the program crashed. Two of those instances came from playing outdoor shows on hot summer days with the sun directly on the laptop which happened to overheat the computer and drastically slow the processors. I’ve even dropped a computer off a DJ booth onto a dance floor (ouch) and when I picked up the laptop, the Live set was still up and running.  Here are five ways I’ve found over the years to keep my live sets from ending with a computer fail.

1. Clean and Organize Your Sets Before A Performance

As an Ableton Certified Trainer, I consult with artists on their live Ableton sets. It’s amazing how many people I’ve seen come in with seemingly infinite numbers of tracks, scenes and clips for a 45 – 60 minute set. Before the show, go through your tracks, clips and scenes and clear out anything that you know you are not going to use. I do this before every performance. So invest a bit a time into it if you haven’t before and make it a habit.

2. Keep Plug-Ins Native As Much As Possible

Ableton’s native plug-ins work quite smoothly and are incredibly stable and efficient. Although I use plenty of outside plug-ins in production and mixing, for live performance I try and avoid them as much as possible. If you absolutely need to use them, use them with caution. Instead of putting a bunch on different tracks, can you put just one into a send? Can you take parts that are played with MIDI and an plug-in synth and convert them to audio? I think a lot of what’s kept my performance Ableton happy has been my avoidance whenever possible of external synths and effects.


3. Clean Up The Plug-Ins That You Do Use

Go through your plug-ins in your live session and get rid of anything that you’re not using. Even in the plug-ins you use, try to minimize them by putting them in return tracks and using sends rather than slapping them individually on a bunch of tracks. Reverbs are especially CPU intensive.  Also, in the ones that you are using, turn off extra oscillators, LFO’s, EQ bands etc. If you are using Ableton’s Simpler or Sampler, especially within Drum Racks, set the number of voices to ’1′ and you’ll save a little CPU.

4. Always Be Aware Of Your CPU Meter

I personally will never use a live set where the CPU spikes over 50%. If I find it getting over this point, besides cleaning up the audio and plug-ins, I go to the ‘Audio’ tab in the Preferences and do a little fiddling around there. Firstly, I set the buffer as high as I possibly can.  If you are simply playing back audio, you can get away with a higher buffer size, say 1024 Samples and this will keep your CPU a bit lower.  If you’re processing audio during a live show (as I do with my group Comandante Zero – CØ) I have to keep the buffer size at 256 to avoid extreme latency. This makes tips 1 – 3 even more important.  You can also save CPU by going into the Input and Output configurations and shutting down any inputs or outputs that are not being used.


5. During A Performance, Keep Your Computer Dedicated To Music

Unless you’ll be doing stuff like checking Facebook, writing e-mails, listening to tracks on iTunes or watching movies during your live show, you should go ahead and close all applications that aren’t needed for the performance. Also, close all windows that aren’t necessary. For my live shows, I even disable my Mac’s Wi-Fi.  If you use a computer for live performance that happens to be the computer you use for your daily life, you should be sure to make sure that it has enough memory on it and regularly repair your permissions.

Finally, it’s always a good idea before a show to do a run through with the exact set that you’ll be using during the show to make sure that everything’s operating smoothly  You’ll want to double-check any cables and hardware that you’ll be using. Take the time to treat Ableton and your laptop well, and they should return the love during your live sets.

Dan Freeman (CØm1x) (Dubspot NYC)

Dan Freeman (CØm1x) is a Brooklyn­based bassist/producer. Originally from Boston, Dan trained as a classical pianist at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School before switching to jazz bass. He graduated from Harvard College and then came to New York to study at the Bass Collective where he studied with John Pattitucci, Matthew Garrison and Richard Bona. As a bassist he has also performed with, among others Angelique Kidjo, the B­52’s and performed in Europe, North and South America in venues from underground Brooklyn loft parties to Carnegie Hall. He was also the keyboardist for RCA Records’ Stellastarr* and the musical director/bassist for Virgin Records’ artist Xavier.

Ableton Live Producer Certificate Program

Classes Starting Soon, Register today!
8/4, 8/18 in NYC
9/22 in LA
and Online!

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.

More start dates and information about payment plans can be found here.

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