Moving a Project from Logic (or any DAW) to Ableton for DJ-ing

Ableton is best known for live performance, and is the favored platform for DJs over traditional DAWs like Logic Pro. Gary Hiebner shares timeless tips on performing a project from any DAW in Live.  

My two DAWs of choice are Logic and Ableton. I do most of my productions in Logic, and then move them across to Ableton for live performance. It can be quite tricky to decide on how to move elements of your Logic project across for live performance, so in this article we'll explore some tips on the best way to do this. Even though I am using Logic, the same principles can be applied if you are producing in other DAW as the focus is on moving these projects across to Ableton for live/DJ-ing performances.


Step 1 – The Logic Project

My Logic projects usually include about 20 or so tracks. These projects include different drum elements, bass sounds, synths, and sound effects. 

A typical Logic Pro project.

A typical Logic Pro project.


I don’t want to pull each element across, as this will make my Ableton project quite bulky. What I want to do is look for elements I can combine together, and bounce out these as stems for Ableton. I have decided on the following as stems for Ableton: 

  • KICK
  • BEATS
  • BASS
  • LEAD01
  • LEAD02
  • ORGAN
  • SFX

Together all these stems will encompass my whole mix.

Export the stems out at the project's sample rate and the 24-bit depth to retain the quality of the audio.


Step 2 – Exporting out Stems

I have broken these stems down even further so that I will have more flexibility within Ableton. For example there's an Intro, Verse 01, Chorus, Verse 02, Chorus, Drop, Breakdown. Using these different sections I will be able to jump between different clips and launch them on the fly in Ableton if I wish to change my arrangement structure in realtime. Make note of the tempo of your project in your DAW as this will be necessary to input when we move across to Ableton.


Step 3 – Moving Over to Ableton

In Ableton, create audio tracks for the different stems. I have pulled these audio stems across onto their respective audio tracks. Some of these audio files may be out of sync as Ableton will try and calculate the tempo of the files automatically. 

The stems in the Ableton project.

The stems in the Ableton project.


Step 4 – Creating your Warps and Scenes

Here is where knowing the original tempo is necessary. Make sure Ableton is set to the correct tempo. Go into each of these audio clips and enable the Warp, and the Loop functions. As long as you were working with a fixed tempo in your previous DAW, there shouldn’t be any problems with the timing, but it's good practice to take a listen through each audio clip and see if all sounds correct. 

Also make sure that the Seg. BPM is set to the correct tempo. Ableton tries to predict the tempo and may sometimes be wrong. For example, on some of my clips Ableton picked up that the tempo was 80 BPM. So I had to go in and change the clip Seg. BPM to 160. You can also choose different warp modes for each of these clips. I have chosen Beats with the Transients Preserve setting as this algorithm sounds the most transparent with all my clips playing together, but you can go through these and see which one sounds best with your clips.

Warp and Scenes have been created.

Warp and Scenes have been created.


Step 5 – Be Creative with Your Clips

Moving between different DAWs can bring ideas to the surface that you may not have had before. For example, on my Kick clip I decided to tweak the Volume Automation on the clip. This brought about a different dynamic within the track that I can use in a Live situation that I would not of thought of in my Logic project. That’s the good thing about working between different DAWs. The different GUI and interface can spark new creative ideas.

Use the strength of each DAW to enhance your creative process.

Use the strength of each DAW to enhance your creative process.


The great thing now is that when I play back my project in Ableton I can make decisions with the arrangement and create a variety of different versions of the arrangement. I can mix the Kick verse pattern with the Synth Chorus sections and so on….

On my SFX channel, I have also added some sound bites that I can trigger at different times in the Ableton project. This will help create interest at specific points of the performance.

Sound effect triggers setup in Ableton.

Sound effect triggers setup in Ableton.


Conclusion

As you can see, you can achieve very different (and creative) results if you plan your Ableton performance correctly. By taking the time to choose your stems you'll have more flexibility when performing live.

This is just the tip of the ice-berg with regards to Ableton and live performance. Once you start building on with audio effects and Ableton’s Racks, things can really start getting exciting in a Live context.


Gary Hiebner is an enthusiastic South African Sound Designer and Apple Tech Head! Gary has been involved in the South African music industry for the decade, and in this time has also been involved in the sound design and music production for many advertising agencies and media houses. Gary is a devoted Logic and Ableton user, but he al... Read More

Discussion

Magic Fingers
I've been a Mainstage guy for a long time, and the new Mainstage tutorials have really made things that much easier to gain control of than ever before. According to most live performers I've spoken with, Ableton is still the "go-to" live performance DAW of choice for all genres of music, not just EDM. I'm gonna have to give Ableton a spin, thanks to this article. The next time I'm mixing a track, I'll be looking forward to bouncing some subgroup mixes for an Ableton Live session... Thanks for the tips!!!
Gary Hiebner
Definitely try out Ableton. Its a great DAW, and even better as a live performance tool. I find when I work in it I work in a different way than other DAWs, which is interesting as you get different results.
lostinthesound
Great stuff Gary. I take a bit of an opposite approach in that I find myself writing my riffs and ideas in Ableton and now want to bring them into Logic to flesh out the tune. What would be the best approach to do this? Essentially I'm looking to export stems and MIDI files...I'm sure the answer is obvious and I'm just overlooking it...

Cheers.
Gary Hiebner
Hi lostinthesound,

Take a look at G.W Childs article here on how to export stems in Ableton:

http://www.macprovideo.com/hub/ableton-live/exporting-stems-in-ableton-live

Then you can pull these stems into Logic and flesh out your tune there.

Have fun!

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