Mstation Book Reviews
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Thu, 27 Nov 2008

Ableton Live Tr

Ableton Live 7 Tips and Tricks by Martin Delaney, from PC Publishing is one of those textbook-sized things with lots of black and white screenshots and extremely wide margins to contain their captions (and to make the book 150 pages rather than just 90). I've never read any of these before and have never really been sure at whom they're aimed: apparently the book "does not duplicate the Live user manual, it expands upon it and introduces creative concepts, workflow enhancements and workarounds for common objectives and problems".

Unfortunately, it's a pretty short book, so it's only going to be of much use to you if you're interested in the fairly narrow sample of 'creative concepts, workflow enhancements and workarounds' which Delaney has room to cover. This is most likely to apply if you are using Live to write some form of 'experimental' electronica (which to be fair does cover a lot of the user base), no matter how much he may preach the software's flexibility and range of applications. These expectations flavour the text a bit more than I would have liked ("this can get quite messed up - which is, yes, good") and there are rather too many 'Live is great for lots of different things!' paragraphs for a book ostensibly aimed at existing Live users, adding to the rather unfocused feel. What with the prose's tendency toward smirking jokes, it's all a bit like being stoned while someone shows you a random selection of techniques they've learned in Live.

I'm being slightly harsh - there are definitely worse books of this type out there - but this is far less well-written than the Live manual (which saves its jokes up and makes them count - the deadpan one in the section on sidechain compression is laugh out loud stuff), contains far less information, and doesn't come free with the software... so I struggle to see the point of it. And as far as offering 'workarounds for common problems' goes, it doesn't even mention what I consider to be the most annoying 'feature' of Live: the fact that a lot of clip automation envelopes will only let you modulate parameters downward from their current setting. Many is the time I've decided to add some clip envelopes for a filter cutoff halfway through a project, then realised I'll have to turn the main cutoff knob up to full in order to be able to use the whole range of values (which of course means going back and tediously adding envelopes to restore the desired value to all the previous clips), and ended up thinking: "if only there was some kind of workaround for this common problem". But this issue isn't even mentioned in the book's sections on clip automation.

However, the author obviously knows his subject very well and has some good advice to give, so as long as you can live with the writing style and accept that the scattershot approach may not cover what you'd really like to know, you won't be disappointed. icks (Stephen Hedley)

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