Ableton Live - Rise of the Machines

Through the years, a new story has developed. Starting with the industrial revolution, a storyline evolved as a morality tale warning mankind about his inventions. The base of it is " Man invents obj  

Through the years, a new story has developed. Starting with the industrial revolution, a storyline evolved as a morality tale warning mankind about his inventions. The base of it is " Man invents object to ease his burden, man loses control of object, man is destroyed by out of control object." Frankenstien is one of these tales. Mad brilliant doctor makes life in the laboratory, loses control of the creation, is destroyed by the creation. Terminator - same basic plot line. Skynet decides that the humans it was meant to protect are more of a threat than the enemy. Even Disney gets in on the action, with Fantasia - a certain big eared mouse finds himself a wizards apprentice, and in his masters absence, the mouse casts a spell on the broom to do his work for him. And the broom replicates. and replicates and replicates out of control, threatening our cute little corporate icon.

So how do you keep Ableton Live from taking over your workflow? Well, lets put down the rise of the machines. The first thing you want is to get a good grasp on Abletons Folder Structure. Many new people to Ableton are confused about how to organize the folders in and around projects. Let me lay out the basics of how Ableton works.

First you create a Project Folder. Think of this as a master folder, that will hold your particular project library. Then, inside the project folder, you create Sessions. Let me describe how to properly structure a DJ project folder.

I create a Project Folder called "MASTER DJ". Then I create a Session inside the MASTER DJ project Called House Tunes. I drag and drop a ton of house songs into this session. Then, I choose  File > Collect All and Save. What this does is take all the sound bytes, each bit of audio in each clip, and it copies it to my MASTER DJ folder.

Now I create a new session, still under the MASTER DJ Project Folder and I call it "TONIGHTS GIG HOUSE" I use some songs that were in my House Tunes session, and I add some new Hawaiian Nose Humming House tracks. (Never heard of Hawaiian Nose Humming House? It's real big in Japan). After I drag and drop the clips into the new session, I choose File > Collect All and Save. What happens? Well, Ableton sees that I have already copied some of the songs into the MASTER DJ folder when I collected all and saved the first time. It only ever keeps ONE COPY of a song in the MASTER DJ folder, even though it may show up in 2 or more sessions. So it only copies the new Hawaiian Nose Humming tracks to the MASTER DJ folder.

It sees, and knows that the other House tracks are already there. This does several things. First it saves on disc space. I have 50 gigs of music on my MASTER DJ project. If I created a master folder for each session, each session would take up 50 gigs of space! Another way to think of sessions is that they are "edit decision lists"- they contain no real audio even though you've dragged and dropped it into the session. To really get your audio to travel with your session, you have to choose Collect All and Save. Even when you do that, it does not copy the songs to the session, it copies the songs to the Project. Once a song is in your Project folder, any session you create under that Project folder uses the same library. Collect all and save will not put duplicates into the library, it only puts the new audio it hasn't seen before into the library. A session doesn't contain anything other than a very small spreadsheet of numbers. The actual audio files are all physically stored in the Master Project Folder- as long as you remember to always choose Collect All and Save when you're done with your work.

One time, I loaded a bunch of songs from an external drive, warped them in my session, and clicked "Save" by accident, instead of "Collect All and Save". I took my laptop off to the gig, loaded up and - guess what- None of my new songs were there. The session had the placeholder color slot, but no actual music. The session was pointing to an external hard drive from when I first dragged and dropped the samples. Had I hit "Collect All and Save" then Ableton would have copied those songs off the external drive, onto my laptop, and put them under my MASTER DJ folder.

If you are DJING with Live, you want to keep all your songs in your master folder, and just create sessions underneath that. Its the most efficient use of disk space. Here's an example.


  • House songs session 40 gigs
  • Dub step session 10 gigs
  • Tonights gig session, (this is all my House songs and Dub Step songs in one session) 50 gigs.

If all the sessions are under one Project Folder- "MASTER DJ" then Your hard drive will have a total of 50 gigs of music on it. Even though there are 100 gigs worth of tracks represented by these three sessions, 50 gigs of them are duplicates. The project folder realizes this, and does not copy duplicates when you hit collect all and save.

I see many people make the mistake of creating a new project folder for each DJ session. Using the example above, what then would happen is this:

  • House Songs Project with House songs session 40 gigs
  • Dub Step Project, with dub step session 10 gigs
  • Tonights Gig Project, with Tonights Gig session 50 gigs.

Your hard drive now would have 100 gigs of drive space taken up. You see how improper file structure can turn 50 gigs of material into 100 gigs of disk space? Don't be the mouse from Fantasia with too many copies of the same broom. Otherwise like in Fantasia, your workflow duplications will rise up and take over your hard drive.

Let's get even more creative with the concept of project folders and sessions. So I spun a great set- called it "WHISKY STEP". It's all Country songs mixed with Dubstep. (Really, really, not so big in Japan. or anywhere else. I'm still working on it.)

I feel the set needs work, and I want my friends at Red Cola to save my ass with some better production value. Now my MASTER DJ Project has 50 gigs of music- House, Dub, Western, Soundbytes, everything.

I don't want to hand Red Cola a 50 gig project folder. My session only has 3 gigs of Western/Dubstep tracks. So I load up my session "WHISKEY STEP" from my MASTER DJ Project. I Click "Save live set as...." from the File menu. When the pop up shows, notice that it tells you what master project folder you are in. (In the example image, my Master Project folder is called "DJ MASTER 8").

Click on the Blue Arrows to open up the project folder browser.

Now, choose a folder that is above the Project folder. It can be anything. But it must NOT be inside the DJ MASTER Project Folder.

After you choose a higher folder in the folder hierarchy, click where it says New Folder.

In the example image, I type "Whisky step project". Now you see that the Master project folder reads "whisky step" instead of "dj master 8" Now hit Save.

Go back to your Session View. Notice at the top it now has a new read out: Whiskey step [whisky step project] The name of the session comes first, then in the brackets, it tells you what master project folder you are under. Now you have a new master project folder, with just the Whiskey Step session in it, and only has 3 gigs of music. Choose File > Collect All and Save. Now all those audio files get copied into the new whiskey step project folder. If you just hit File > Save, the songs stay back in the DJ MASTER folder, with the new whiskey step session simply pointing back to those songs in those folders. After you choose File > Collect All and Save, you can copy that Whisky Step project folder, and when you give that to someone else, they have all the bits they need, and none of the other bits that they don't.

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Dj Wolfie headlines parties from coast to coast, both in main stream venues and the underground circuit. In 2008 he's played at Coachella Music Festival on the bill with Prince and Roger Waters, The Optimus Alive festival in Portugal with Rage against the machine, Bob Dlan, and Neil Young, The All Points West Festival in New York with ... Read More


What u wrote helped clear things up for me,, thank u dude. Props for mentioning Terminator

I also want to add that u DON'T have to click create new folder, to create a new project folder when u save outside the old project folder. It does that automatic.

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