Saturday, March 3, 2012

Using Ableton Live to create Studio DJ Mixes

I recently put together three YouTube videos to teach people the basics of using Ableton Live software for DJ'ing. There are two separate approaches to DJ'ing with Ableton. Some people are interested in using it for live performance. Others are interested in using it to put together podcasts or radio shows.

The three videos that I have online right now are related to the second approach, putting together podcasts or radio shows. If you're interested in using Ableton for live performance, I'll have a few more videos coming in another month or so, although this first set of three videos for creating mixes will still be useful.

When the "live performance" videos are available, there will be three separate videos to teach you the overall process:
- Warping your tracks, to prepare for a live show (similar to the existing warping video)
- Using Ableton as a live DJ (mixers, controllers, sound card interfaces, dj booth hookup, performance)
- Actually doing a live performance

For the current approach, making a DJ mix, we have three videos online now:
- Warping your tracks
- Putting together your DJ Mix
- Mastering and marketing your mix

Warping Your Tracks in Ableton:

This video teaches you the basics of using Ableton, ie. how the software is laid out, and how to prep for a mix by importing and "warping" your tracks. Warping a track properly and accurately can usually be done in about a minute, once you know how, but you MUST warp your tracks before you play, if you expect to be able to beat-mix. If you're planning a "radio-style" mix format, ie. just fading in and out of songs without worrying about beat-mixing, then warping isn't critical.

Putting Together Your DJ Mix:

This video explains the process of bringing each individual track into the "arrangement view" and then using cross-fades on volume and other effects parameters, through the use of drawn automation, to make a great-sounding continuous DJ Mix.

Mastering & Marketing Your DJ Mix:

Once you have a mix exported from Ableton, you're not quite done. You want your final mix to sound as good as possible for listeners. This video teaches you how to do simple edits like removing leading and trailing silence from your mix file, adjusting the overall volumes through amplification or normalizing, the basics of compression, various encoding options, and more. At the end of the video, there is a short discussion about marketing your mix, such as choosing distribution methods, adding graphics files and "ID3" tag data.

I have a second series of videos that complement this series, and which focus on actual live performances using Ableton, ie. in front of a crowd. Those videos also talk about related aspects of being a performance DJ, including the use of external sound cards, MIDI controllers, and integrating your set with a DJ mixer, as well as tips that might help when you're playing in front of a crowd. Here's a link to learn more:

I have an additional series of shorter "Ableton Q&A" videos that I produced to answer viewer questions from the above videos. You can see a list of these videos if you go here:

If you find that these videos are useful in helping you learn about how Ableton can be useful to you as a DJ, I'd really appreciate if you could share them! Post links to the videos (or to this blog post) on your facebook walls, or on music/production message boards, or tweet the URL. Thanks for your help in sharing these tutorials.

And finally, these particular three videos used the creation of episode 100 of my weekly radio show as the example mix. If you want to listen to that mix, here is the SoundCloud link to the show:

I'm Jonathan Clark, known online as DJ Bolivia.  Do you want to learn more about DJ'ing and music production?  If so, visit:

If you happen to enjoy techno tracks, most of my tracks are available as free downloads from this link:

Thanks so much for visit, and for your support!  I really appreciate the fan base that I've been able to build up over the years.

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