How to make a DJ set in Ableton Live – A beginners guide
Ableton Live’s auto-warp function makes beat-matching and mixing easier than ever. Today we will review how to make a DJ set in Ableton Live in 4 extremely easy and quick steps.
Every DJ has a different operation when, mixing, choosing tracks, adding effects, loops, etc… Electronic music production and DJing are moving together hand in hand and we are able to take full advantage to create smooth, harmonic DJ sets in no time.
There are various DJ setups that you can play, mix, and record your DJ set. Our DJ set has been made in Ableton Live, running on a Mac computer, and a pair of KRK studio monitors. You can obviously use your studio or DJ headphones but avoid any low-quality cheap pairs.
Making a DJ set in Ableton Live in 4 steps:
1. Track Selection
You can either spend a specific amount of time per week or month listening and download new music. Or if you constantly listen to new tracks, sets, promos, you can download a song or two every day to build your song collection. Either way, you have to be careful and not overfill your libraries with tracks you are not going to use or listen to.
It’s good to instantly organize and categorize your tracks. I’m too lazy to do it at first, but every couple of months I spend a day or two updating my libraries. We also recommend you write down the genre, BPM, and musical Key of each song.
I wanted to make an atmospheric set, with progressive and melodic house tracks. I tried to pick tracks on the same key or similar that will sound harmonic.
For our set we picked the following 11 tracks:
1. Nico Stojan, Mira (Berlin) – Born and Raised (Be Svendsen Remix) – C Major
2. Pete Oak – Solis (Original Mix) – F Major
3. Kasper Koman – Hi (Original Mix) – G Major
4. Marcelo Vasami, George Yammine, Luke Santos – Cedar Sunrise (Original Mix) – D Major
5. Olivier Giacomotto, Forrest – Whole Lot (Jonas Saalbach Remix) F♭ minor
6. The Organism – Reflection (Original Mix) – A Major
7. LØC, Innsæi – A Winter in Kyoto (Original Mix) – E Major
8. Marcus Worgull – Broad Horizons (Original Mix) -D Major
9. Hans Zimmer – Time (Tale Of Us Edit) -E minor
10. Filter Cutz – Dan Ground (Reelaux & Ricardo Piedra Remix) – A minor
11. Elias Dore – Ayasa (Original Mix) – D minor
You probably noticed I have included the musical key of each track. That’s because we will need it for the next step.
2. Open Ableton live & Import your tracks
You add the tracks by simple drag-and-drop and put them to the Arrangement view of Ableton Live. Create 2 or more audio channels and separate the tracks, so you easily move and listen to each song without them stepping on each other. As seen below:
Double click a track and it will show up the waveform in the sample display window at the bottom. There you will find the BPM, and other track settings as well as the Warp markers.
3. Beatmatching and Mixing your set harmonically
We need to arrange the tracks in order to create a nice flow and harmonic mixing throughout our DJ set. Harmonic mixing is easy to learn the technique that helps you sound perfect every time you play. It is doesn’t mean you will automatically become a pro DJ, but it will guide you to the correct path.
As soon as you learn the musical key of the tracks you are good to go. The songs are downloaded on Beatport.com and they provide all track information, including the Key.
Harmonic mixing doesn’t mean you’re mixing in the same key for your entire DJ set. It means you’re mixing two songs that are harmonically compatible.
Arrange them according to your preference, and desirable mix flow. Keep in mind harmonic mixing and compatible musical keys. Drag each song to sit perfectly on the previous playing.
Adjust the volume of each track to achieve a nice smooth transition.
In my ears and by following the Camelot Wheel I created the below DJ set:
From the Audio effects, pick the “EQ Three” on each channel. This is the ideal audio effect to adjust the low, middle, and high frequencies of your channels. It represents the standard EQ bands of DJ mixers.
If you have a midi controller or keyboard you can map the settings and adjust each parameter with knobs, faders, and buttons. Find more at The best Ableton controllers and The best MIDI keyboards under $400.
Learn more about harmonic mixing at How to become a professional DJ.
4. Adding effects, sample sounds, and vocals to your DJ set.
Since we wanted an atmospheric set that can be heard easily at home or work or during studying, we record the set dry without additional sounds or effects.
But you have the free will to do as you want. Ableton Live gives you easy-to-use tools to perform a unique and rich DJ set. Ableton comes with a large variety of audio effects to apply to your mix. Filter, Chorus, Delay, Reverb, EQ, Vocoder, and many more.
You drag and drop the desirable audio effect to your channel and adjust the settings to your preference. Counter to conventional DJ mixer effects, Ableton gives you plenty of room to manipulate a large variety of attributes on each effect.
Each effect has many presets for you to pick and then you can process these features at your desire. Just click the parameter you want to adjust and the automation will appear at the channel.
If you are a beginner producer and do not know the use of each effect and its parameters, I would suggest you do your research online or in the manual for explanations and descriptions. Do not start experiments if you don’t know what you are doing. You can find more ways to edit your mixes with a free VST plugin.
When your set is ready, select all audio channels, and then go to the “File” menu and select “Export”. Export your audio file in WAV form and save the file wherever you want. You can now upload your mix for streaming, share it, or burn it straight to a CD.
Here is our final progressive DJ set… Hope you enjoy it…
Share your DJ set, ask for feedback from your friends and listeners, and improve your skills on the next one. If you have anything to add or suggest, feel free to share it with us in the comment section below.
We will also be happy to listen to your mixes…
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