Get started with making music in Ableton Live Lite

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Illustration: Leonard Peng

Whether you’re looking to pick up a new hobby or you’re reaching for the stars, music creation can be an endeavor that’s extremely immersive, rewarding, and fun.

There’s nothing quite like being able to make the kind of music that you love listening to, or creating something that you’ve never heard before. That said, with countless different courses, articles, and resources out there, it can be challenging to know where to start. Should you begin with learning how to read music? Or should you download some software first (and if so, what software)? Just figuring out where and how to start can feel overwhelming.

Good news: You’re not alone – we’re here to help.

The articles and tutorial videos featured below break down each step of the music production process so you can tackle them one at a time. Together, we’ll lay the foundation for building your first track brick by brick, sound by sound. Once you reach the end of the experience, you’ll be equipped with the tools you need (and the know-how for how to use them), a basic understanding of music theory, and an export of your first track!

What to expect:

This experience is designed so that you’ll be able to create your first track in the span of one week, if you choose to put in some time everyday. Of course, you can move faster or take longer than a week if you’d like. To receive notices to keep you on track over the course of seven days and a code for a free month of sounds that you can use in your music, enter your email here if you haven’t already.

By the end, you’ll have made something like this, in the genre of your choosing:

What you’ll need:

In addition to a computer or laptop, the following is all you’ll need to get started. Don’t worry – we’ll dive deeper into how to install and use each of these in the first tutorial video.

  • A DAW (Digital Audio Workstation): Ableton Live Lite
    • The DAW is the main software we’ll be using to create and edit our music. While there are tons of DAWs out there, all of the concepts explored throughout our tutorials can be translated to any workstation of your choice. That said, we’ll be using Ableton Live Lite in our demonstrations, so we encourage that you follow along with it if you’re not already set on a different option – it’s the free version of an incredibly popular and versatile DAW that can be used for absolutely free.
      • Do note that we also offer this equivalent experience using another DAW, Studio One 5. If you’ve already downloaded Studio One 5, or want to simply check out an alternative option, head over here.
    • Cost: Free (Lite version only)
  • Some sounds: Splice Sounds
    • If the DAW is our canvas, sounds are our paints. Splice Sounds will give us instant access to an expansive array of sounds that we can freely arrange and modify to create our own music.
    • Cost: Free for 14 days, then $7.99/mo for 100 credits/mo.

If you’re looking to just test the waters of music production, you should be able to create your first track for absolutely no cost using Ableton Live Lite and the free trial of Splice Sounds. A pair of headphones will also be helpful for when we get to mixing all of our different ideas into a cohesive track. While anything you already have at home will do, if you’re considering buying a pair, here’s our guide for choosing the headphones that are right for you.

What you’ll learn:

You’ll gain an understanding of the following concepts along your journey towards creating your first full track. Each topic (rhythm, melody, etc.) pairs written guides that overview key concepts with tutorial videos that help you put them into practice:

Feeling ready? Let’s get started.


Get acquainted with Ableton Live Lite and Splice Sounds

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Let’s start by getting acquainted with our toolkit. In this video, we’ll provide an overview of our DAW, Ableton Live Lite, and our sounds library, Splice Sounds. As mentioned above, while we’ll be using Ableton for upcoming tutorials as well, all of the core topics explored throughout the following videos can be translated to any DAW of your choice.

Watch the tutorial: Get acquainted with Ableton Live Lite and Splice Sounds


An introduction to music theory

Before we dive into specific topics, let’s briefly discuss why a basic understanding of music theory will be beneficial in helping you find your sound.

Read the article: An introduction to music theory


An introduction to rhythm

Rhythm is perhaps the single most fundamental element of music. While entirely rhythm-driven music exists (ex. music created by hand claps), you can’t really have music that’s ‘solely melodic’ – after all, how can we have a melody if we have no information about when its notes are going to strike? For this reason, it makes sense for us to start our musical journey by learning about rhythm.

Read the article: An introduction to rhythm


How to make a beat in Ableton Live Lite

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Let’s take the ideas we learned about rhythm and apply them in the DAW by creating our very first drum groove in Ableton.

Watch the tutorial: How to make a beat in Ableton Live Lite


An introduction to melody

A catchy melody can continue to bounce around in our heads long after we’re done listening, and a soaring tune can move us to tears. What are the building blocks that constitute the melodies we know and love? In this article, we talk about the fundamental principles that are relevant to the idea of melody.

Read the article: An introduction to melody


How to make a melody in Ableton Live Lite

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Let’s build on the groove we previously laid down in our DAW with our own melody, which we’ll program using the piano roll in Ableton Live Lite.

Watch the tutorial: How to make a melody in Ableton Live Lite


An introduction to harmony

Harmony not only helps us identify what notes sound good together, but why they sound good together. It also plays a pivotal role in helping us tell a story with our music. In this article, we walk through important subtopics that pertain to harmony such as intervals, triads, chord progressions, and more.

Read the article: An introduction to harmony


How to make a chord progression in Ableton Live Lite

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Let’s add some much-needed color to our groove and melody by crafting a simple but sweet chord progression in Ableton Live Lite.

Watch the tutorial: How to make a chord progression in Ableton Live Lite


An introduction to mixing

A great mix not only helps create a commercial-sounding end product, but also elevates the emotional impact of our track. In this lesson, let’s explore the three key processes that constitute mixing: balancing levels, panning, and applying audio effects.

Read the article: An introduction to mixing


How to mix your music in Ableton Live Lite

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Let’s sweeten the existing sounds in our track and create an exciting mix using audio plugins and the other tools available right within Ableton Live Lite.

Watch the tutorial: How to mix your music in Ableton Live Lite


An introduction to song structure

Song structure allows us to take our disjointed individual ideas and turn them into complete compositions. In this article, we discuss some popular song sections and forms, and how you can approach putting them together yourself.

Read the article: An introduction to song structure


How to arrange and export your track in Ableton Live Lite

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Lastly, let’s expand our idea into a complete song and export our finished track so that we can share it with the world.

Watch the tutorial: How to arrange and export your track in Ableton Live Lite


…And there you have it! Making your first track is truly an exciting adventure to embark on, and we’re thrilled to be able to be a part of that experience. While there’s no pressure to share your work, we’d love to hear what you created; feel free to tag us on Twitter or Instagram @Splice if you do choose to share your first creation with the world.

We wish you the best of luck on your musical journey!

October 19, 2020