Ableton Live is a premier digital audio workstation (DAW), capable of creating just about any type of music, but excelling in electronic music production. The software has gone through a few iterations over the years, with the current version being dubbed Ableton Live 10. With the release of Ableton Live 11 right around the corner, it has never been a better time to explore some of the free Ableton courses available to you.
To make your studies easier, we have collected a few of the best Ableton courses that are currently available for free. Some of these options are detailed introductions, diving into every detail in the Ableton workspace, while others will have you creating a song in less than 30 minutes. If you don’t already own Ableton Live, don’t forget that a trial version is available that will allow you to use the software for 30 days.
This Ableton Live 10 guide, published on YouTube by InspirAspir, is a full-featured lesson designed to take you through the basics of creating a song. The video is edited in a clean, easy-to-follow manner, and the narrator speaks clearly and to the point. The lesson is split into a number of sections, including:
- Picking an Instrument
- Bass Lines
- Kicks, Snares, and other Percussion
- Basic Side-chaining
- Expanding and Transitioning Your Song
The video is only about 26 minutes long, yet it covers the entire production process, from instrument selection to creating multiple sections in a song. Even if you come in with no prior DAW experience, you will leave with a good understanding of the basics.
This course, offered through Kadenze, gives learners a hands-on experience with sound design, production, and mixing in Ableton. The course is 9 sessions long, with each section requiring about six hours of work and attention. The course is free, but if you want a certificate of completion, memberships start at $20 per month.
Each session covers a new topic. You’ll start with a basic introduction, and by the end, you’ll be harnessing the advanced powers of MIDI, synchronization, and more. The nine sessions of the course are as follows:
- Introduction to Ableton Live
- The Nature of Sound
- Levels and Panning
- Sculpting Frequencies: Equalization
- Reverb and Space
- Compression and Dynamics
- Slicing and Dicing: Sampling in Live
- Parallel Signal Processing
- Inside/Outside: Advanced MIDI, Syncing Laptops, Mapping Strategies, and Audio Analysis
The course is perfect for beginners with no prior experience, and it is even available in a variety of languages, such as English, Spanish, Chinese, and German. The course has been reviewed by over 30 past students, resulting in a five-star rating.
Beat Academy released their Ableton Live 10 Beginners Tutorial in 2018. This is a more in-depth introduction, stopping to teach you the nuances of the software, rather than breeze over the details. The instructor, ill Factor, is a professional music producer of 15+ years, having worked with the likes of Justin Timberlake, Groove Armada, Calvin Harris, and others. You can trust that your Ableton education will be in good hands.
The instructor dives deep, spending over 5 minutes discussing just the browser window. To those with short attention spans, be warned: this may not be the lesson for you. The lesson clocks in at over an hour, and in that time, you’ll have only created a basic song section. However, you will also have received invaluable technical details from a professional producer.
The video also includes a 100% royalty-free sample pack download to get you started. High-quality samples are notoriously expensive, so feel free to grab the sample pack whether you are using the lesson or not.
This free six-minute lesson from M4SONIC covers how to use the Novation Launchpad. For those that don’t know, the Launchpad makes recording in Ableton Live easier than ever. The hardware looks like a vintage drum machine, with 64 colored pads that allow you to control nearly every aspect of Ableton. The Launchpad is especially useful for live music performance, so this lesson will be especially interesting to those that wish to play on the big stage.
The lesson goes over a few aspects of the Launchpad. The video is split into a few sections:
- Creating Audio Tracks and Importing Audio
- File Types: .asd Reference Files
- Playing and Launching Clips
- Editing Clips and Different Launch Modes
- Downloading Projects and Playing Live
While this won’t teach you how to use the Ableton Live software, it is a great second or third lesson to take to get you acquainted with your Launchpad. Alternatively, if you are thinking of purchasing Novation’s integrated hardware product, you can check out this video to see if the Launchpad will fit into your workflow.
This course, Introduction to Ableton Live, is offered by the prestigious Berklee College of Music. While their onsite classes are inaccessible to most (due to cost and acceptance), this course is free and available to the public. The course only spans three weeks, so don’t expect a full-featured Ableton education. However, they do cover all of the essential functions, including MIDI programming, warping and processing, loop editing, and much more.
If you enjoy the course from Berklee, they have three others available through Coursera. The courses are as follows:
- The Technology of Music Production
- Introduction to Ableton Live
- Creating Sounds for Electronic Music
- Electronic Music Performance Techniques
If you follow the four-course track, you will come out feeling confident in your electronic music production abilities. After taking the four courses, Berklee provides a hands-on project to test your skills. Upon completion of the project, you can even earn a professional certificate that may help you network and find potential job opportunities.
This eight-part Ableton Live tutorial comes straight from the developers of the software themselves. Ableton’s YouTube channel is home to a flood of production-related videos, but none are as informative as these eight instruction videos. The series follows this lesson format:
- Part 1: Audio Interface Setup
- Part 2: MIDI Controller Setup
- Part 3: Recording Audio
- Part 4: How to Make Beats
- Part 5: Session View
- Part 6: Arrangement View
- Part 7: Exporting Audio
- Part 8: Optimizing Audio
There is no better way to learn than from the creators of the software themselves. The entire eight-part series only runs around 30 minutes, giving a detailed overview of the basic workings of the software, leaving you to experiment and discover the rest on your own.
Electronic Music Production in Ableton Live is the first in a series of three courses available through Udemy. The instructor, Thavius Beck, is an accomplished producer and an Ableton Certified Trainer. You can be sure that you are only studying with the best – Thavius has instructed hundreds of students in Ableton Live, including one-on-one instruction and at workshops around the country.
This course provides an overview of DAW software in general, before diving into the unique complexities of Ableton Live. You will be introduced to Session and Arrangement views, learning the appropriate uses for each. Sampling and MIDI, two important aspects of Ableton, are covered in depth. The lessons will give you a firm understanding of Ableton’s interface, buttons, and settings, so you can spend less time wondering, and more time making music!
After completing this introduction class, you may be left wanting more. Part two in the series covers music theory and composition, while part three explores sampling, EQ, and effects. The three sessions give you the knowledge to experiment and create your own songs.
Bonus Lessons: The Manual
If none of the above courses work for you, the best Ableton instructions are actually included with the software: the manual! The manual can be downloaded from Novation’s website and covers just every aspect of the Ableton Live software, including mixing, grooves, routing, keyboard shortcuts, and more.
The manual also makes for a great reference manual as you explore Ableton Live on your own. Anytime you come across a problem, just consult the guide for the answer. It is also available in a printable PDF format, so you could even create a hard copy.
The seven free Ableton Live courses that we covered today should give you everything you need to get started with the innovative DAW software. As long as you are consistent with practice and experimentation, your music production skills will advance in no time.