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Ableton Live 12 Released - Important News!

Ableton Live is one of the most popular and powerful DAWs (digital audio workstations) - that has been around since 2000. 

It’s seen countless updates over the years, evolving from a small, live performance-based tool, to a fully-fledged DAW

Recently, Ableton released the Ableton Live 12 update - on March 5th 2024. This update is one of the largest and most exciting arguably since Live 9 - which was released in 2013.

This article is a deep dive into all the features, improvements, and additions you can expect in the latest release! It's a pretty thick set of release notes, so get stuck in for the ride!

TL;DR - Ableton Live 12 Update#

  • Ableton Live 12 is one of the largest updates to the software in over 10 years.

  • Some of the most exciting features include new MIDI tools, a new synth, a multiband saturator, and a generally refined user interface. 

  • Ableton Live 12 was released on March 5th 2024 as a free update for all Live 11 owners.

  • DJ.Studio has powerful integrations with Ableton, making this an unmissable pairing for DJs. 

Ableton Live 12 Update: Overview#

As far as recent Ableton Live Updates (10 and 11), the 12th chapter of this story is looking a lot fuller than the predecessors. 

Exploring this update, you can tell that the team has put a lot of work in - it comes with a huge amount of new features, that offer a massive expansion over earlier versions of the software. 

It seems that the main focus of this update is giving users a range of new composition tools, refining the MIDI and notation system, and updating a lot of older features and systems that needed a bit of a refresh (like the browser and user interface).

I think that you'll find some exciting new features regardless of what music you make or what capacity you're working with Ableton Live!

Ableton 12 New Features - Deep Dive#

This section takes a deeper look at all the new features released in Ableton Live 12.

With so many new features, there is a lot of ground to cover here so get comfortable!

The first features I'll share are mostly MIDI-related. As you can see, the MIDI editing window has been completely redesigned, giving you access to all the new MIDI features in one place!

MIDI Transformation & Reshaping#

ableton live 12 MIDI transformation

There are a tonne of improvements to the interface for creating and editing MIDI clips, with a range of new MIDI tools. These are designed to make the composition process smoother and give you more options for refining your MIDI with ease. 

You will now be able to reshape and craft MIDI with a more expressive and flexible interface, making it easier to add details and articulation. A bunch of new tools have been added to the MIDI clip editing window, giving it a completely refreshed look and feel. 

The purpose of these MIDI transformation features is to give you new tools for altering your MIDI arrangements. I have to say, these tools are impressive and pretty inspirational. 

This 'Transform' section on the MIDI clip window gives you deeper and extended MIDI composition techniques like flams, grace notes, various articulations, and more. This will be of use to many kinds of composers, from classical musicians to electronic music tinkerers.

Several new shortcuts mean you can instantly slice your MIDI notes into various subdivisions at the click of a button. You can also add articulations, ornaments, acceleration, and deceleration curves, connect notes and chords, and create chord strumming simulations.

In essence, this gives you one-click solutions for processes that would otherwise require time, patience, and a fair amount of clicking and fiddling to create by hand. 

MIDI Generators#

ableton live 12 midi generators

The second notable MIDI-based updates are the new MIDI Generation tools. These are all tools that help you to create new MIDI patterns and notes with a few button clicks. You simply select the type of MIDI you want to create, set the parameters, and click Generate!

The addition of MIDI generation tools helps you kickstart your inspiration and generate new chords, rhythms, harmonies, melodies, and other musical ideas at the click of a button.

I'm excited by these generative tools in the new version of Ableton because of how easy they are to use, and how helpful they can be for composition and experimentation. These give musicians a new way to free up their creativity and take an alternative approach to composition - letting them get a bit of assistance from the old machine. I see these replacing a lot of 3rd party MIDI generation tools that producers use, instead, giving you an all-in-one MIDI generation solution. 

This update includes separate MIDI generation devices for each type of musical concept (rhythm, melody, harmony, etc).

In particular, the rhythm generator tools look interesting as they have different devices for each type of instrument generation (kick, snare, shaker, hi-hats, etc). This helps you to quickly get some beats going. 

The Seed Generator looks very exciting from a generative standpoint, where the user can specify a few parameters, and let the device generate a range of new MIDI chords and notes to trigger their virtual instruments. 

Max for Live Upgrades#

With Max 4 Live, you'll be able to get even deeper with the above MIDI features, as the MIDI generation section features M4L integration. This means that users will be able to program and share their own custom-coded MIDI transformers and generators, opening some exciting doors for Ableton users who like to experiment with 'under the hood' features.

Of course, you'll need a bit of Max programming experience to make your own, but I'm certain that the community will share a wealth of their own creations for free. 

New Tuning Systems, Modes, and Settings#

ableton live 12 tuning systems

For fans of tuning systems that don't conform to the traditional 12-note Western tuning systems, this update will be particularly exciting. 

Ableton Live 12 adds a completely new tuning system, letting users change how the MIDI notation system is configured and breaking free from traditional Western scales and keys. 

This enables users to start composing music using a wide range of microtonal and non-western tuning systems.

With a simple integration, you can easily start using alternative tuning without the need for any complicated fiddling. You simply select a tuning system from the browser, apply it to a MIDI clip, and you'll now see that the piano roll has been changed to match the configuration of the chosen tuning!

For anybody who wants to experiment with alternative tunings, this new system gives them a completely seamless experience, which would have been nearly impossible to achieve beforehand.

Keys and Scales: MIDI Key Locking#

ableton live 12 key and midi locking

This feature seems to be a bit of progression on the old Scale and Chord MIDI devices, and is now implemented directly into the MIDI editor.

You can now force notes in a MIDI clip to conform to chosen scales and keys. This can also be passed to input and output MIDI signals.

I see the new Key and Scale features having several uses for a range of user types. For one, it can help beginners to make more musical-sounding tracks without needing to learn music theory in a particular amount of depth.

It also helps with generative methods (particularly the new MIDI Generators), as you can use randomized MIDI generation, and then apply rules to make the results more musical and less chaotic with key and scale awareness.

These additions will be exciting to anybody who works with MIDI, from instrumental performers to experimental generative music composers.

Or, you could put a scale filter on and start mashing your MIDI keyboard randomly to create a half-decent melody - hopefully... 

Improved MIDI Editing#

ableton live 12 improved midi editing

The final exciting point in Ableton Live 12's MIDI department is a general overhaul and improvement to the MIDI editing interface. Additional keyboard and mouse commands make it easier to edit MIDI, including the ability to split and join notes (finally), add intervals, and humanize inputs.

All the new MIDI features are laid out cleanly and intuitively on the MIDI editing window - so you should have no problems getting stuck in. The whole MIDI interface makes a bit more sense now, and doesn't require so much menu-diving to find what you need. 

More Powerful Modulation Devices#

The internal modulation M4L devices that were added previously (think LFO, Envelope Follow, Shaper) have seen some significant improvements.

You now have total freedom over the parameters that these modulators can be mapped to, lifting some previous restrictions where certain parameters were out of bounds.

This means that effectively any parameters on any Live device can now be modulated with these powerful devices. These devices were some of my favorite secrets in Ableton Live and gave producers a way to link modulation envelopes or get randomization involved with the LFO. These are a lot of fun to play with, and the upgrades are very welcome!

Meld: A New MPE-enabled Synthesizer#

ableton live 12  meld a new synthesizer

Ableton has only seen a few new instruments over the past decade, so you'll be excited to hear that they are introducing a new synthesizer: Meld.

This is an MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) enabled synth, so you'll be able to get some extra expressive performance if you're using MPE controllers like the Roli Seabord or Ableton Push.

Meld is a 2-oscillator synth focusing on offering sonic variety, character, and playfulness. With a staggering modulation matrix section, Meld is the perfect tool for forging abstract and textured soundscapes, drones, and progressive synth patches.

You get access to simple and complex waveforms that are similar to some of the offerings of the previous Wavetable synth added to Ableton, and a range of cool new ideas like oscillator quantization, and feedback in the modulation section.

New synths are always exciting, and Ableton always brings a refreshing and unique perspective to these sound design tools.  

Roar: A New Saturation & Color Device#

ableton live 12 roar a new saturation device distortion

Roar is something I'm particularly excited about - a 3-band saturation and color device. This gives you a whole new way to saturate and distort your sounds, with more flexibility and depth than before.

This is a multi-stage, 3-band saturator. This means you can apply different levels and types of distortion across three frequency bands, with two subsequent stages of distortion. This also features a modulation matrix and an envelope, giving you some more control over the shape and timing of this distortion.

This honestly looks like one of the most flexible distortion/saturation tools I've ever seen, and by pairing this with Ableton's new modulation devices, you'll be able to add a huge range of color to your productions. Typically the stock distortion tools in Ableton were a bit stale (overdrive, saturator, and pedal) so this is a nice addition to the sound customization devices.

Granulator III: More Expressive Granular Synthesis#

ableton live 12  granulator iii

Robert Henke (one of Ableton's founders) is an influential character in the granular synthesis scene and has contributed many cool and exciting devices to the movement.

In the latest update to his cherished Granulator synth, he has introduced a range of new expressive control features, letting you get some extra depth out of the granular manipulations. You can also now run audio into it in real-time, which opens some exciting options for live performers and sound design experiments.

The interface has also been given a well-needed refresh, updating it to fully match the aesthetic of other Ableton devices.

Performance Pack#

One of two new packs (Lost and Found, is another audio pack focusing on found sounds) the Performance Pack offers some extra tools for enhancing Ableton's live performance workflow. 

For example, it enables you to capture a snapshot of the current settings of your project, which can be saved and restored, enables the playback of independent loops in the arrangement view, gives some expanded automation features, and makes it easier to convert your live jams into a structured arrangement.

Upgraded User Interface#

Several general improvements have been made to Ableton's overall interface - making it a bit tidier, sharper, and more intuitive.

Most notably, you can now stack the mixer in any of the windows, meaning you can see the full mixer in both arrangement and session view.

You can also stack the device view with the MIDI/automation editor, giving you a bit of a better overview and control over more parameters at once. I think this is a long overdue upgrade, and just makes things work a bit smoother and streamlines user interaction.

These stacked detail views are going to be very useful to people who run more complex projects, and means that they can see everything at face value, rather than having to constantly spend time menu diving.

ableton live 12 improved search function

The library section has received a bunch of additions and quality-of-life improvements, making it easier for you to browse your files, and find the sounds, instrument presets, and patches you need faster.

Some of these have been a long time coming!

Search With Tags

A new tagging system makes categorizing, browsing, and discovering sounds, presets, clips, and instruments easier. All stock material now comes pre-tagged, but you can also create your own tags for some extra personalization. This gives users a new way to organize their library, and should hopefully allow you to spend more time being creative and less time hunting through your files.

More Flexible Searching

This feature is long overdue and solves a particularly annoying system in Ableton. Now, when you search in the library, the results will be shown from all places in your library, not just the currently selected category. This will be a massive time and pain saver and generally will make the searching process smoother and less workflow disturbing. Finally!

Sound Similarity Search

The new Sound Similarity search is a smart tool for discovering new sounds in your library with a similar sound to a chosen sample. 

I'm not sure what the mechanics are under the hood (it claims some kind of neural network is involved), but Ableton is promising a fast new method for finding replacement and similar sounds in your library. I can see how this would be particularly useful for producers and beatmakers looking for a quick switch-up.

Instant Drum Replacement

Evolving the 'hot swapping' feature already found in Ableton, you can use this drum replacement feature to instantly swap out the entire bank of samples loaded in a Drum Rack device. Giving you faster experimentation and sonic exploration, this will help you keep your beats fresh by making it easy to switch between completely new kits at the click of a button.

Ableton Live and DJ.Studio#

dj studio supports ableton live

If you’re not aware of DJ.Studio - this Ableton update gives you even more reason to look into it. 

DJ.Studio has a powerful connection to Ableton Live, letting you export your finished DJ mixes as Ableton Live projects - including all the edits and automation. 

This pairing of tools gives DJs a sophisticated and high-powered workflow, letting them create DJ mixes with incredible speed and quality. 

Let’s have a look at the process of creating DJ mixes in DJ.Studio, and exporting them to Ableton Live. 

ableton live 12 and dj studio

The first thing to understand about DJ.Studio is that it isn’t traditional DJ software like rekordbox, Virtual DJ, Serato, and other similar options. Rather than focusing on live DJ mixing with a controller or decks, DJ.Studio focuses on a timeline-based approach: you can think of it as a DAW for DJs.

It takes inspiration from DAWs and audio editors but applies a range of extra tools which are designed to make DJ's lives easier. 

DJ.Studio Workflow #

dj studio carousel new

This is the process:

  1. Open DJ.Studio - You can use it in your browser, but the installed app has more features and stability. 

  2. Connect libraries and import music - You can manually import music, or you can connect it to your existing music libraries and software for a more seamless experience. DJ.Studio connects to all major DJ software and libraries, including rekordbox, virtual DJ, iTunes, and many more. 

  3. Create a project. There are three project types in DJ.Studio 

    • Local File Projects - These work with your downloaded music files, and connections to other software libraries like rekordbox, and iTunes. 

    • YouTube Projects - These enable you to make mixes with music on streaming services like YouTube, Spotify, and 1001Tracklists. Due to copyright, these projects cannot be downloaded, and instead are shared on DJ.Studio’s own streaming platform. 

    • Beatport Projects - Let you mix with music from Beatport Streaming’s enormous catalog. You can either share your mixes online with the DJ.Studio community player, or ‘legalize’ your mix which automatically creates a Beatport shopping cart, so you can buy all the tunes and instantly recreate your mix as a Local File project, allowing you to download and use in your other DJ software.

  4. Pick Music - Start adding tracks to the project playlist. You can then manually create an order, or…

  5. Automix - DJ.Studio has a proprietary AI automix assistant. This helps to rapidly generate a sequence for your mix based on harmonic mixing and beatmatching, taking into account the key and tempo of tracks to create the most effective arrangement. This saves a lot of time and energy compared to ordering it manually and makes sure that your tracks aren’t mixed with clashing keys and drastic tempo changes. 

  6. Edit and refine - Now you can get stuck into the real craft of making a DJ mix. Use the timeline and transition editor to precisely customize the flow of your mix. Adding edits, cuts, loops, samples, and transition automation however you please. You can make more detailed transitions than you could perform live thanks to the multi-parameter automation lanes (that works similarly to Ableton Live) 

  7. Export - When the mix is finished, it’s time to export and share. DJ.Studio presents a wide range of export options, giving DJs broad choices on where they can share their work. 

    • WAV/MP3 - You can quickly render the full mix to a file, taking up to 1/10th of the time it would take to record live. 

    • Video - DJ.Studio has its own built-in video creation engine. This music visualizer lets you tap into the engagement factor that having accompanying visuals offers your mixes. You can use over 30,000 audio-reactive 3D animations from Shadertoy, or our other libraries. You can also layer in the album artwork, track information, and other custom details. 

    • DJ Set - For live DJs, you can export your prepared set as an ordered playlist into other DJ software. This makes it the perfect tool for experimenting and preparing your mixes. Some software like rekordbox features extra information, including hot cues that show you when and how to perform transitions, 

    • Ableton Live - This is where you might be most excited! You can export your DJ.Studio project as an Ableton Live (including live 12 when it releases) set. This converts your mix into a multitrack project and includes all the mix information, including any edits you make, and all the automation data for transitions and effects, etc. This lets DJs do some extra mastering and editing, and take advantage of Ableton’s powerful features to further enhance their mix

dj studio exporting

This workflow opens new doors for DJs - giving them more opportunities to experiment with mix ideas and playlists, try out new songs, and refine mixes over time. (And of course, work on a mix with a laptop alone, no decks required). 

The above step-by-step guide only shows one possible workflow process offered by DJ.Studio, and in reality it can be used in a wide range of other ways. Particularly when you take into account the YouTube, Spotify, and Beatport integrations - all of which expand the DJing process allowing for more nuance, control, and detail. 

DJ.Studios Feature Recap#

dj studio process and features

The powerful DJ features like automix assistance, library management, and integration with other DJ software make this an essential tool for all DJs, whether they’re professionals or hobbyists. 

To recap this important software, here are a summary of the key features:

  • Integration with mainstream DJ software and music libraries.

  • AI automix - helping you to harmonically mix and generate optimal orders. 

  • Unique timeline editor - Get a new perspective on crafting DJ mixes with a DAW-style timeline editor 

  • Powerful Experimentation and Discovery - Test-drive YouTube, Spotify, and Beatport tracks before you buy, letting you scope out the best new tunes to include in your next DJ set, for free. 

  • Transition Tools - Get hands-on with transition sculpting, either take advantage of our instant transition presets, or dial in your own with pinpoint precision. 

  • Video Creator - Make the most of your mix and boost online engagement with accompanying interactive animations from Shadertoy

  • Versatile and Fast Export - Rapidly render your finished mix to a range of formats and locations, including HD audio, video, DJ sets, Ableton projects, and more. 

  • Constant Updates - Driven by a dedicated team of skilled developers, DJ.Studio is constantly updated with new features - many of which are suggested by the community!

This is just a brief overview of DJ.Studio's key features, so make sure you check out the rest of this website to discover other powers it gives you!

With the latest release of Ableton 12, you’ll be able to get even more out of this software combination and rapidly make a name for yourself as a prolific DJ. 

You can try DJ.Studio yourself with the free 14-day trial. 

Finally…#

You can start using Ableton Live 12 now if you have a valid license. All of the above features open up a range of creative doors for Live users, and it will be interesting to see how these affect today's electronic music scene. 

If you're a DJ or just want to experiment with new tools for making DJ mixes, you should try out the combination of DJ.Studio and Ableton Live! 

Test DJ.Studio free today!

Noah Feasey-Kemp
DJ/Producer
I started DJing when I was 15. Started a record label, residency by a club in Bristol. I’ve played at all the biggest clubs in Bristol (and the small ones) and have entertained thousands of dancers! I love writing about music, DJing, and technology. I've been blogging for DJ.Studio since the start of the project, and am always happy to answer questions and help fellow DJs out!

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