After a long wait it’s finally arrived: Ableton Live 9. But as can be expected from a “major” upgrade (from one major version (8) to the next (9)) there are several things to keep in mind. I think that because Live 8 has seen many updates (it has been maintained for 3+ years) many people seem to be under the impression that moving to Live 9 is merely an issue of installing, converting and you’re ready to rock.
Well, unfortunately its not that simple. Now, don’t get me wrong: you can simply remove Live 8, install Live 9 and use it. But if you do, and treat it as if it were Live 8, I think you may end up with some disappointment and a few annoyances too.
Live 9 introduces many new features and changes, one of the most noticeable change in comparison to Live 8 is the extended browser, which you see on the right.
But here’s the thing; Live 9 doesn’t only look different here and there, it also behaves different. Sometimes these are small differences, and as far as I can tell most things which you did in Live 8 can still be done in Live 9.
However, and that’s a key issue in my opinion, sometimes it needs to be done a bit differently.
For example; If you wanted to record something to the arrangement in Live 8 you’d simply hit the record button, prepared yourself and then either hit the start button to, obviously, start recording or you could start one of the clips (or scenes) in the Session view. This would also enable the start button, as such your recording started right away.
In Live 9 however the program starts recording the moment you press the record button. If you want the previous behaviour of “priming” your setup you need to press shift before clicking record.
But let’s not get ahead of the story and start by looking at some of the specific differences to keep in mind when setting up Ableton Live 9.
When looking at the new browser above you’ll notice that there are several different sections, instead of the previous “Live devices, plugins and user browser” approach. Instead we now have Places and Categories, and even though the browser lists them in the opposite order; this is how to address these.
Live 9 moves away from the traditional “keeping everything in one place” approach, and I personally think this is one of the better changes. Think about it: its much easier to backup a smaller portion of your (sample) library than having to store 50+ Gb somewhere. So instead of using one single library Live 9 actually uses 3, plus the optional access to the previous Live 8 library:
- Core library; The core library sits in Live 9’s program folder and is therefore an integrated part of the system. As such you can’t remove or uninstall this using the “Packs section” (but more on that later).
- Factory packs; The factory packs folder is actually not a library on its own, but merely a place to store your livepacks. As you may know livepacks are files which you can use to install new contents within Ableton Live (but also to export your own work and install it on another version of Live).
- User library; This is another library location and its used to store your own contents in. So from samples or presets you made to Max for Live devices and even device configurations, like the option to specify which preset should be used whenever you activate a certain device.
- Live 8 library; If you’re upgrading from Live 8 then your previous library will be preserved and will be accessible from within Live 9. However, there are a few important details to keep in mind here, but more about those later on.
Apart from the Core library all these folders are setup on your computers home directory by default. Of course you can simply relocate them if you so desire, you can do so using the Preference screen (check the ‘Library’ tab).
Although this new approach means that you can easily install Live 9 without having to worry that it might somehow negatively affect your Live 8 environment, there are also a few strings attached.
Live 9 doesn’t import nor migrate your existing Live 8 library into its own, it only provides read-only access. Another thing to keep in mind is that by only using the Live 8 library you can’t take advantage of some of the new features of Live 9, such as the category section.
As I mentioned before Live 9 knows 2 main browser sections: Places and Categories. The places section is where you can access your contents almost in the same way as they’re stored on your harddrive. For example; if you go to your user library you’ll see folders such as Clips, Defaults and Samples. If you then open a file browser and point it to where Live has installed this user library you’ll see the exact same folders appear.
But the category section works differently. For example; in the Sounds category, shown to the left, you also see many folders like Bass, Brass and ‘Piano & Keys’. The main difference though is that these folders aren’t real.
Everything you add in the Places section gets scanned, archived and sorted out by Live’s new browser. This sorting is done based on categories; such as you see here.
For example; one of my favourite presets in Live is Brass-Brassinsky, you can find this under ‘Operator’ as well as under the ‘Instrument racks’. In Live 9 however there is a new section where this preset will appear: The Sounds category. And as you can see here its not merely dumped in a huge pile, instead you’ll find ‘Brassinsky’ neatly sorted in the virtual ‘Brass’ folder.
However, it can’t do this with your existing Live 8 library, and therefor you will need to re-install every livepack you had. That is; every livepack which installed itself to your library.
Livepacks & Livepack installers
Livepacks come in two categories; first you have the livepacks such as the ones you can make yourself. These livepacks are best compared with archives, such as zip or rar files. They basically collect and compress a number of files and group them together in one single file.
But in order to use this you’ll need to extract their contents first. That’s done by dragging the livepack into Live and then tell Live where it should extract the contents to. You can then access these contents through Live’s browser (assuming you can access the target location).
Next you have the livepack installers, at least that’s what I call them.
They’re basically the same as the livepacks mentioned above; with the main exception that these packs will automatically install themselves in your library. The other main difference is that Live doesn’t merely extract them, it also registers them. This means that you can also tell Live to remove these livepacks.
In Live 8 you can remove livepacks using the ‘Library’ tab in the Preferences screen. Not only does that give you an overview of the installed livepacks; it also has a uninstall button.
Live 9 uses the Packs place for that. The packs section in the browser points to the earlier mentioned ‘Factory Packs‘ folder; it lists all the packages you have installed and also allows you to browse their contents or remove them entirely.
Obviously there is a problem with having to re-install all your previous livepacks. Because this basically means that you’ll be keeping a lot of the same presets and samples in two locations at once. I’m sure you can probably imagine that this will basically lead up to a gigantic waste of diskspace. Especially since chances are high that once you installed a livepack in Live 9 you won’t be using its contents from the Live 8 library again.
Although I can’t rule out every option; the only time some of my livesets from Live 8 complained about ‘Missing media files’ was whenever I used a home-made Max for Live device.. Needless to say; its relatively easy to point such sets to the right file(s) in the new user library and save them again.
Therefor I prefer to uninstall certain livepacks using Live 8 the very moment that I have installed them in Live 9 and verified that everything is working as I expect it to be. And as I mentioned earlier; this is very easy to do.
You can see an example of this in these two screenshots where I uninstalled the EIC2 collection from my copy of Live 8.
With Live 9 containing the full Orchestral Instrument Collection I really had no need for an extensive compilation.
Speaking of compilations however…
When Ableton introduced their Partner Instruments they eventually also released a Livepack which contained a small (but extensive!) selection of several featured instruments. Needless to say; even fully free of charge. You can see the logo to the right; I saved that because not only do I like the design; I heavily favour this livepack as well.
However, when you look at the current Packs section on the Ableton website you’ll notice that there is a lot to purchase or download for free, but these cool livepacks are no where to be found anymore.
Or what to think about this fine collection of nostalgia ?
Livepacks which provide files for compatibility purposes so that I should be able to open livepacks made in Live 4, Live 5 or even Live 6 and 7. Well, as mentioned earlier; for contents such as these we’re simply out of luck. I can’t rule out the option that I overlooked something, but these things are no where to be found on the Ableton website anymore.
Heck; I’ll see your “compatibility packs” and raise you with the ‘Dennis deSantis livepack’ in which he provided some very interesting instrument racks. Long before Amp even existed did Dennis already provide us with an amplifier effect…
Well, for all of those unreplaceable contents did Ableton make sure that you can always access your previous Live 8 library. And by uninstalling all those unneeded livepacks I basically reduced my Live 8 library from 53Gb to a mere 7.3Gb, which is fine with me to keep around as extra.
Now that we have the libraries sorted out there is another important thing to keep in mind: all the contents which you added yourself. For starters; all the presets you made in Live 8 ended up in its library. So to make it easier on yourself I’d advice you to copy or move all of those into the Live 9 user library, since this is also the place which Live 9 will use by default to save any new presets you make.
The next thing to carefully address are the locations on your PC which you used to store projects and / or your sample collection(s).
On Live 8 it was pretty simple: you had 3 “user browsers” which you could basically point to any location you wanted. However, depending on the way you have organized your content folders you may want to carefully think this through before doing the same on Live 9. That’s because Live 9 behaves very different with this…
As I mentioned earlier; everything you add to the Live 9 ‘places section’ will be checked, sorted and imported into the category section. However, this also includes any contents you add yourself by using the ‘Add folder’ option.
So if you add a HUGE folder which contains thousands of files you can imagine that Live 9 will take its sweet time before it has sorted everything out. That’s why you may want to re-check whatever you want to add to these locations.
An example: My own changed setup
Ableton Live sits at the heart of my setup, everything I do with regards to sound involves around Live. Therefor I used 2 main “sound folders” for all the environments I used.
On drive C I kept a folder ‘Ableton’ which I used to store project files. In the ‘Ableton’ directory itself I kept all my Ableton projects and livesets, but I also added subfolders such as ‘Reason’ to keep my Reason songfiles, ‘Samplitude’ which kept Samplitude projects, ‘Max’ for Max patches, ‘Komplete’ for stuff I did with Komplete Elements and finally external Max for Live experimentations also ended up in the ‘Max’ folder.
As you can see it ended up to be quite the directory, one which I kept accessible in Live 8 using its own dedicated livebrowser (number 1).
Next to “user contents” I also had a dedicated folder for what I describe as “system contents”; an ‘Ableton’ directory I kept on drive D. Here I kept the Live 8 library, a Reason folder containing several Reason “refills” (think of this as a dedicated sample collection), “Komplete data” which contained all the libraries used by my Komplete Elements collection (the Kontakt Elements selection library for example), a directory for all my VSTs and finally a dedicated folder for all my samples, neatly separated into different sub folders (Loopmasters, Roland TR-808, etc.).
Finally all the livepack “archives” mentioned earlier got unpacked into this folder as well. From the AbleTen collection right down to the Live 7 demo, Minus artists and the Isotonik 6 project folder.
Also quite an heavy directory indeed where contents are concerned. And I kept this accessible in Live 8 using the second livebrowser.
My move to Live 9
At first I simply added the previously mentioned folders to the Live 9 places section, but soon started to reconsider that strategy. The main problem is that Live 9 needs quite some time to sort everything out. And the larger your directories, the more Live needs to monitor.
So basically you want to keep as little unrelated files in your Live 9 structure as possible. Having my ‘Reason refills’ accessible in Live maybe fun, but also hardly usable since Live can’t cope with those. And although I sometimes did access some Kontakt samples; this was actually highly impractical; much easier done from within Kontakt itself.
And so I started to do some copying and moving…
While I still maintain 2 “major” Ableton folders I no longer have these directly accessible from within Live 9. Instead I’ve made a sub folder on C called “Projects” in which I store all my projects. This folder got added to the Live 9 places section.
On D I moved all the “system projects” (AbleTen, Minus, etc.) to its own “Livepacks” folder and added that to Live 9 as well. And finally, last but not least, my ‘Samples’ folder also got added separately.
And that was basically it. While it may take getting used to a new setup like this its been my experience so far that by doing so you’ll save yourself quite a bit of time waiting for Live 9 to finish indexing your stuff.
So what’s the advantage ?
One of the most heard complaints of the Live 8 browser was that its search capabilities were almost nill. Searching in the browser basically meant typing something to search for; hitting enter and then walking off to make some coffee or preferably lunch. And when you were all done there was also a good chance that Live had also finished its search.
Always fun to get back to your computer, only to discover that you searched for “kik” instead of “kick”, so get ready to do it all over
Live 9 does this a ‘little’ bit different. Because it keeps an index of all the contents it has processed its capable of searching through your files a whole lot faster. As you can see to the left I selected the sampled category and searched for “kick”. Although I did have to wait a few moments before Live had all the results it was but a fraction of the time Live 8 used to take.
By default Live 9 searches through all the installed contents, but if you want to do a search through all of your contents (so including any folders you added yourself) you only need to click the magnifying glass.
But it doesn’t stop there…
Live can use the same search string in every category you have available. So in this case I was searching for a kick, lets say I used the ‘DrumKick0001.aif’ sample file which is displayed above.
So now I have a nice kick to work with; how about some sound effects which were specifically designed to be used with kicks ?
Those are but one click away; to the left you see some specific compressor presets, specifically designed to be used on a kick. Same applies to the Corpus and EQ Eight effects.
The best part is that I didn’t have to start a whole new search for ‘kick’, instead all I had to do was to click on the sound effects category to select it. Live kept the search string active and applied it on the new selected category the very moment I had selected it. This can be a very useful feature if you’re in need for some quick results.
But also if you have managed to setup some specific presets of your own. With the same ease Live can also search through your user library; this can make it very easy if you need to get quick access to presets in “Project B” which you previously used in ‘Project A’.
SO… Although it may seem a bit tedious at first to having to let Live 9 sort out your entire collections, chances are that you will come to appreciate these features.
However, and I mentioned this a couple of times already, the most important thing to keep in mind is that Live 9 isn’t the same as Live 8. Not only does it look different, it also behaves different. And thus may even require you to make some changes or adjustments to your workflow.
And there you have it…
I hope this tutorial helped you to get a good idea of how you might want to approach an upgrade from Live 8 to Live 9. Although you can easily install Live 9 besides Live 8 and simply treat it as if it was a continuance of Live 8 I think you’ll have even more fun by keeping the changes and differences into mind which I addressed here.
Live 9 is different, and at the time of writing also has some issues here and there. But despite that I’m sure it can provide a solid replacement for Live 8.