Ableton recently launched its latest software, Live 11. Music producer, composer and synthesist Stefan Knauthe gives his perspective on the new release. Stefan is a senior Catalyst music tutor and tech, as well an Ableton Certified Trainer since 2012.
It has been said that the 2001 inception of Ableton Live was a new milestone in electronic music history, along with such inventions as the analog synthesizer and digital sampler. Even in its early days, Ableton Live changed our perception of how music can be made and performed –serving as both instrument and workstation. “I’ve used Live since version 3, which I bought in 2004,” Catalyst Music veteran and Ableton Certified Trainer Stefan Knauthe recalls. “It could only handle audio signals, but was capable of stretching in real time, which was an outstanding feature.”
The same 20 years that advanced Nokia bricks into slick iPhones turned Ableton Live into a cult tool for musicians. Released in February, the latest version, Live 11, introduces even more exciting features – including recording and comping, linked-track editing, MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) and new devices and sounds – which promise to further open up expressive and experimental potential.
How does the software measure up for a seasoned electronic music production expert? Following the launch, we asked Stefan – synth nerd, recording studio enthusiast, music tech and short course tutor – for his reflections.
Stefan Knauthe reacts to Ableton Live 11
My career as a Certified Trainer is closely connected to Catalyst (formerly known as dBs Berlin). I met the school founder David Puttick for the first time in autumn 2011. That's when it was decided that I should become responsible for installing the recording gear in the Funkhaus. David wanted the school to be an Ableton-certified training centre and, as I was already a Live user, we agreed that I should apply in summer 2012. Coincidentally, there was a certification event already planned for October 2012. I was invited to that and became an Ableton Certified Trainer. The opening of dBs, however, was postponed to September 2013, but I was able to start working for other institutions, both inside and outside of Berlin.
“Live is the quickest way to lay down a musical idea, and deep enough to heavily process sounds.”
These days, I use Live 11 mainly as a studio tool. It serves as my recording device, but also as a mixing and audio-processing tool. I don't use the internal sound generating possibilities that much, because I mostly generate sound with my hardware and modular synth equipment. The only exception are the granular synthesis options that Max for Live offers. Live – even though it has become quite feature loaded in the past – is still the quickest way to lay down a musical idea, and is then deep enough to heavily process sounds. The internal plugins are of good quality, even though I use third-party plugins a lot.
In Live 11, the new features that most interest me are a little hidden; it's more about smaller workflow improvements. I like the way they redesigned the clip view, integrated new MIDI editing features like MPE, and redesigned some devices in a useful way. The new version is super stable on my computers; even in the beta testing phase I had only a few crashes. Another important point is that the quality of Ableton’s sound content has become much better over the last years. I don't use third-party material a lot, but I have noticed that in the past that was a weak point. And of course – very important for me – all these weird Max for Live sound mangeling devices are super important for my work, also as a trigger for new ideas and as a source of inspiration.
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