..is opening the program up. Anyone who’s been making music for long enough, trying to fit in writing music in the few free hours they get in the day after school or work will tell you that.

It’s especially hard when you are still learning how to use the software itself, and this only changes with the amount of effort you put into learning Ableton. ¬†Postponing the pain of being a beginner won’t make it somehow happen over time.

I’ve been playing around with music / producing since I was 15, and at first was using a program that shut down after 20 minutes. ¬†It was a demo of something called PlayerPro that I’d found on the internet and didn’t have the money to buy the pro version. Countless times I would be in the middle of making huge progress on a song and it would shut down before I had saved it. ¬†That sucked, yet I kept at it for some reason. ¬†I was in high school, I had no girlfriend and didn’t play sports, so maybe I was bored. ¬†I learned then that it takes huge patience to work on something you care about.

Visual metaphor for learning Ableton of Sisyphus pushing a stone over sound waves

Learning Ableton is something of a sisyphean task -you’ll never be finished learning

I’ve been using Ableton for a good five years now, it’s my favorite program to play around with. When I look back at the first real song I made, and all the hours I spent getting to know Ableton after that, it’s crazy how much I can do now. ¬†Knowing more doesn’t mean I’m somehow better than someone¬†who has incredible ideas and taste but knows less than I do. Taste will see you through for sure.

Yet some days, despite having the desire to write a song and the knowledge of how to do it, I don’t get around to doing it. For whatever reason, maybe I’ll get stuck on YouTube or Soundcloud listening to stuff or I’ll just mess around with something more immediately satisfying. Does this happen to you ever?

I mean it’s nothing to get down about, but then when you hear something really great, so great it inspires you and gives you a sort of burning envy / desire to get that same sound, nothing will help ease that yearning except a few hours of work on your own music.

You might make something new, upload it to Soundcloud as a private track, and listen to it the next day, brainstorming where to take it next. ¬†It feels good, like progress. And as you get more at ease with Ableton you’ll hit a point where every time you work on stuff you get better at doing what you want to do¬†faster.

You really only get out of it just what you put into it. Ableton is one of those tools that will go as far with you as your imagination will take you. There’s really nothing you can’t do with it. So there are no excuses¬†for not trying to make something every day (if you set aside the time).

When I’m not at home on my faster Mac, I produce stuff on a small MacBook Air. It’s frustrating, getting that spinning wheel when I have too much going on in the song. But you either figure out a way, or you simplify your process.

I guess I’m saying all this because I know how easy it is to kind of give up on it, to let days/weeks/months pass by while you consider opening it up to make a track but your last experience wasn’t so great and that memory almost keeps you from opening it up again and giving it another shot.

It’s a lot like waiting¬†for inspiration to strike. ¬†You can’t just sit around waiting for that to happen every time, as you’ll soon run out of steam. ¬†The phenomena that keeps us from doing the work we love to do even despite a lack of inspiration has a name: it’s called resistance. And it affects everyone trying to learn a new thing or do any kind of creative work.

Not until you do the actual work and sit in that chair despite the inner resistance saying “Meh, I don’t feel like it,” -not until you ignore that and get creating will inspiration strike and show you what you are capable of. ¬†Not until you stop caring about the outcome will it be easy to ignore wether you “feel like it” or not, you’ll just do it to see what happens.

Finally when you do come back to it, at some point you’ll make something really good and think “Why did I wait so long to do this?”

And that’s my point. You really can advance your skills and evolve your style so much in such a short time if you realize the simple fact that sitting down every day and doing it consistently without hesitation or excuses is the way to learn what you need to know both in terms of learning Ableton and in terms of figuring out your sound.

That’s probably the only way you’ll really discover your own style, short of it falling out of the sky and into your head.

The only surefire way you’ll stop copying other¬†artists or eras or genre tropes¬†or¬†stop relying on sample packs to get you working on music¬†and really make some future shit that nobody’s ever heard before is to sit down and make something new every day.

Or y’know, you can do disco edits or whatever floats your boat. But I hope for the world’s sake that whatever you do you reinvent it in your own personal way. In that way learning how to use Ableton goes hand in hand with learning how to create your own personal style of music, which to me is the most exciting thing.

If you do start making something great, please do share it here or somewhere.

P.S. -I’m starting a course for beginners just learning Ableton as well as for¬†experienced users. Are you interested in something like that? If you have a sec, go here and let me know where you’re at with Ableton.


2 Comments » for The Hardest Thing About Learning Ableton…

  1. NK says:

    I think this is so true! Last year I really struggled with starting new projects, I’d throw together a remix here and there, but otherwise I had no real original work being created. I always had that fear that something would go wrong, I’d mess up, it wouldn’t be good enough so why bother, or anything along those lines. Eventually, I got tired of it and made a challenge for myself, which was to create a new project every day for 40 days. And I did it. Start a new project each day, work for at least an hour, export it, close it, not listen to it until the end of the 40 days. And I couldn’t judge what I was doing, if I struggled, oh well, some days were better than others, but the point was I learned a lot about the program as I challenged myself and pushed my barriers I had created in my own head. I might never do anything with most of those projects I started but the point is that I also proved to myself that I -can- start new projects, it’s just a matter of doing it.

    • josh@abletonbuddy.com says:

      I’m glad this was relatable to you, sometimes it just takes beating that monster of resistance that keeps you from opening up Ableton and pushing through. The 30 or 40 day challenge is a good way to keep on it, and you probably learned a ton of stuff in the process. And I can tell you from experience that some of those songs you started you’ll come back to and finesse and will become album material. Totally how it happened for me. Thanks for the comment!

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