Ableton Note brings Live's Session View to iOS

Ableton Note brings Live's Session View to iOS

Ever had a great idea for a riff rattling around your head while you ride the bus or wait in line? Well, if you use Ableton Live, there’s now a way to capture those busts of inspiration wherever you are thanks to the new Note iOS app.

The name here is important. It’s not Ableton Live Mobile or Live Go or similar. The “Note” idea is as much about noting things down as it is a reference to semiquavers. Think of it as a scratch pad for ideas on the go. Ideas that can then be seamlessly picked up in Ableton Live proper once you get to your PC.

Users of Ableton’s Live desktop DAW will recognize Note’s main interface. It bears more than a striking resemblance to Live’s “Session” view – itself a sort of sandbox for experimentation. In Note, you can have up to eight tracks each with up to eight clips.

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For those not familiar with Live or its Session View, each track can be considered a musical part (drums, synth, vocal and so on) and each “clip” represents a sequence or short arrangement using that part. From there you can build out different collections of clips that form the basis for different parts of a song.

Note comes preloaded with 261 of synth presets, 56 drum kits, melodic samples and more. Basically most things you need to put together a song. Everything found in the app is part of Ableton Live, too, which is what enables you to export it to Live so easily.

That said, you’re not limited to the sounds included in Note. You have the ability to sample into the app via your phone’s microphone. The good news is, that includes an external microphone and I was even able to sample into the app via a synth with a 3.5mm-to-lightning adapter. All that should mean this is plenty flexible when it comes to sound palettes.

Three screen shots from the new 'Note' mobile app from Ableton

Ableton

There’s a surprising amount of depth of control, too. Beyond sampling, there are all the essential edit tools like quantize, nudge and transpose. There are also two effects slots and each of those can have its own performance “automation” – if you alter a filter over time, that performance is recorded into the clip.

While there are many apps out there for making music, a true “DAW on a phone” is perhaps a little ambitious. It feels like Ableton has got the balance right here, it’s familiar, deep enough but also simple to use. Best of all, is the integration with Ableton Live proper – something that’s obviously unique to Note.

In Note there’s a setting for Ableton Cloud. Activate this, and your current Note projects will appear in Live’s browser on the desktop (providing that PC has an internet connection of course). This cloud functionality is free, but limited to five “ideas” or slots (which should be plenty for most).

While cloud functionality is free, the app is now. Note will cost $6 (£5/€7) and it requires Live 11.2 and onwards for sharing projects to the desktop.

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