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Notes on the Ableton Reference Manual Version 11

I thought I’d finally get around to reading the Ableton Reference Manual. Here are some notes on things I learned, chapter by chapter. Keyboard shortcuts use Mac notation.

Since these are my personal notes, I’m mostly writing things down because I didn’t already know them, or to summarize a bunch of facts at once. I skipped several sections wholesale (where I didn’t think I’d get much value out of them), and even in the sections I did take notes on, I’ve likely skipped over some things you might not know. So, if you find helpful things in here, I’d recommend reading the manual yourself to discover even more.

1. Welcome to Live

Just some updates about what’s new in this version. I’ll mention some of them later as they come up.

2. First Steps

3. Authorizing Live

Authorization, pretty boring.

4. Live Concepts

5. Managing Files and Sets

6. Arrangement View

7. Session View

There are a lot of features I didn’t know about in Session View, but I rarely touch it so didn’t go too deep here.

8. Clip View

9. Audio Clips, Tempo, and Warping

10. Editing MIDI Notes and Velocities

11. Editing MPE

I don’t use midi polyphonic expression often, but this chapter was still interesting.

12. Converting Audio to MIDI

13. Using Grooves

14. Launching Clips

More session view stuff, so more skimming.

15. Routing and I/O

16. Mixing

17. Recording New Clips

18. Comping

19. Working with Instruments and Effects

20. Instrument, Drum, and Effect Racks

21. Automation and Editing Envelopes

22. Clip Envelopes

23. Working with Video

Another thing I don’t really do. Learned that Live has a video viewer/editor built in

24. Live Audio Effect Reference


Auto Filter

Auto Pan

Beat Repeat


Channel EQ






Drum Buss

Dynamic Tube


EQ Eight

EQ Three


The first effect I already knew “everything” about!

External Audio Effect

I don’t have external hardware to produce effects with, but good to know they can be inserted in device chains like any other effect

Filter Delay


Frequency Shifter


Glue Compressor

Grain Delay

Hybrid Reverb



Multiband Dynamics

Most of this section is kind of theoretical. Multiband Dynamics basically just allows upward/downward compression/expansion along frequency bands










Spectral Resonator, Spectral Time

These entire sections (and their main ideas) were totally new to me, so I’ll just say they start on page 482 and I should go read them again later.




Finally, another one where I knew everything the manual has to say.

Vinyl Distortion


Live MIDI Effect Reference



Note Length





Live Instrument Reference

I use external plugins or samples for almost all my instruments, and Live’s instruments seem fairly self-explanatory (if you experiment with all the different settings a bit). Plus this section is over a hundred pages long. Maybe I’ll come back to it someday.

Max for Live

I haven’t had a need to create any custom Max devices. I imagine if I ever do create something, it’ll most likely be via programming a VST rather than Max (especially using the “patcher” GUI). However, I gave this section a skim to get an idea of what was possible.

Max for Live Devices

A bunch of instruments and effects you can poke around inside (using Max)

MIDI and Key Remote Control

Another feature I don’t really use. I do remember mapping a key once to easily A/B two parts. (And, now that I’ve learned the crossfader exists, that wasn’t necessary.) I’ll come back here if I ever need more than that.

Using Push

I don’t have a Push.

Using Push 2

I don’t have a Push 2.

Seems cool to synchronize devices over a network, but I haven’t wanted to actually do this.

Computer Audio Resources and Strategies

Audio Fact Sheet

I’m sure this stuff is of technical interest to someone, but not really to me.

MIDI Fact Sheet

Note: the MIDI timing issues discussed in this paper are generally not applicable to users with high-quality audio and MIDI hardware. If you…are not experiencing problems with MIDI timing, you probably do not need this information.


Live Keyboard Shortcuts

Good to reference, but I’ve already noted the ones that matter to me above.

I also noticed this section claims Follow’s shortcut is K on Mac, but it’s actually F.

The End

That’s all there is. As a bonus, here’s the loop I made while reading the manual, as a way to tinker with all these new effects, instruments, and so on.