5 Innovative Max For Live Devices

Max For Live
In addition to all the native instruments and FX, purchasers of Ableton’s Live 9 Suite also get access to Max For Live. While some might be tempted to take the addition for granted, Max For Live is a powerful tool that gives you access to a community of users and developers making incredible programs that integrate seamlessly with Live. Today we’ve brought you a list of 5 really innovative Max For Live plugins that you can start using in your projects and live sets right away!

Schwarzonator II

The Schwarzonator was designed with all the non-musicians in mind. It adapts incoming MIDI notes to the selected musical scale automatically, just in case you hit a bad note. It was designed by Berlin Electronic/Jazz legend Henrik Schwarz (who is coming to Together 2016!) to help him stay in key when improvising since he isn’t a trained pianist. A simple but powerful tool, it can help even the least coordinated be more expressive with their playing.

The Schwarzonator II automatically fits notes to a selected musical scale by transposing any MIDI notes that you play, making it easier to play and improvise with other musicians. The latest update now allows users to easily create their own scales and chord progressions, and even upload them to the web.

The Schwarzonator II also comes with a companion device, called ‘Little Brother,’ which applies chord changes from the Schwarzonator II onto other tracks. Download them here.



Described as a “a modular euclidean rhythm builder”, Polyrhythmus is a little intimidating, but with fascinating results. The developer, Bennniii, made a long demonstration video to demonstrate what you can do with it, which you can watch below. Download Polyrhythmus here.


This device is designed to help with transitioning between BPMs, whether in a performance or in the arrangement of a track. It transitions from one tempo to another over a set time interval, either up to 20 seconds or 8 bars. Its creator, Yehezkel Raz, made a video explaining it:

Tempo is available for free download, just put “0” in the price field.


This device was made to emulate the bass drum synthesis of the classic TR-808, but with a few new additions like FM, Distortion, and the ability to adjust the tuning envelopes for a snappier attack. With the key-follow mode enabled, it can be used as a percussive FM synthesizer. You can watch Subtle Sonic’s demonstration video below, and download AnalogKick here.


Though it’s the only one on the list that will cost you money, MouthBreather is a one-stop-shop for adding warmth and grit. “Warm” Mode enables a lowpass filter, “Air” a highpass, while the “crunch” knob distorts the sound to hell. Mix in the result via the dry/wet knob to add more texture to your sounds. Check the video below for a demonstration, and purchase it here.

If you want to get the most out of Ableton Live, read about our music production program! Contact us to schedule a tour of the studio.

5 Amazing Musicians Using Ableton Live

Skrillex Diplo Bieber Where are u now
Technology has had a radical impact on the way we make music today, taking the focus away from big recording studios with hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment in favor of a 13-in Macbook Pro loaded with the right software. Rising hip-hop producer Mr. Carmack sums it up perfectly with this tweet:

Most recording studios today run a software called Pro Tools, a powerful program that is great for classic recording, mixing, and mastering jobs, but falls a little short when it comes to the demands of today’s musicians. Enter Ableton Live, one of the younger DAWs in the game, which has already garnered a huge following among musicians for its quick workflow, powerful features, and live performance mode. To help shed some more light on the Ableton-craze, we’ve picked out 5 amazing producers doing groundbreaking work


Diplo‘s work in the dance music world is all over the place, from his solo work, to collaborations with Skrillex as power-duo Jack Ü, and Switch as the group Major Lazer, not to mention heading up indie label Mad Decent. His productions first started gaining notoriety in 2007 after he produced “Paper Planes” for MIA, but since then he’s had numerous hits, most notably 2015’s “Where Are U Now“, a collaboration between Jack Ü and Justin Bieber, and “Lean On“, the lead single off of Major Lazer’s Peace is the Mission. Diplo Nytimes

It’s a real writer’s program. One good thing about not reading any manuals or anything is that you’ve gotta play all day with it. I just like to DJ and scratch shit up. I love making straight-up 8-bit, nasty Nintendo sounds.

Henrik Schwarz

Also a DJ, producer, and remixer, among a slew of other things, Henrik Schwarz has been making beats and rocking dance floors since 2002. He has also branched outside of the techno world to collaborate with famous pianist Bugge Wesseltoft for an album, Duo, and live performance that saw them grace the stage of Jazz Festivals and Concert Halls around the world.

Schwarz Wesseltoft
Henrik uses Ableton for both production and performance, though sometimes there is little difference between the two for him, and he relies heavily on software for all of his work. He’s even built a Max For Live plugin, the Schwarzonator, to help him stay in key. Be sure to catch him at this year’s Together Boston Festival!

Flying Lotus

A legend of the LA Beats scene, FlyLo might once have been seen as the second coming of Dilla, but his wild and exploratory concept albums have proven that he has his own unique character to bring to the jazz, hip-hop, and electronic music worlds. His genre-traversing music has earned him the praise of musicians like Herbie Hancock, and has helped to push the Low End Theory to international recognition. On the topic of Ableton he has this to say:

I’ve also just really fallen in love with making music again. It feels so new to me, especially because I switched to using Ableton. I feel like I’m finally in a position where I can make things almost as fast as I want to; I can move really quickly, and it’s really inspiring.

Flying Lotus Performing


Not too far from Flying Lotus, Giraffage grew up in the San Francisco Bay area making bootleg remixes in his bedroom, but his personal project blew up after two self-released albums. He now lives the bedroom producers dream, releasing music on Fool’s Gold and Dim Mak, and playing festivals worldwide (including this year’s Together!). He uses Ableton for both production and performance, as you can see in this video of him performing his track “Moments” while in the car:

I’d say probably 90% of the melodies that I do write have started out as just me jamming around, and then after the fact I go in and mess with the MIDI notes inside of Live. I sometimes spend way too much time just jamming out though.

Giraffage Live


Yes, the Almighty US Dubstep Titan uses Ableton exclusively. Skrillex grew up in Northeast LA and rose to fame as the lead singer for post-hardcore band From First To Last, before leaving to eventually drop his Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites EP that would kickstart his astronomical DJ career. He is known to use Operator, Ableton’s FM synth, for some of his characteristic monster bass sounds, as well as Native Instruments’ Massive and FM8.

Ableton's Operator Synth
Ableton Live’s Operator uses a combination of FM, Additive, and Subtractive synthesis

His setup consists of a Macbook Pro running Ableton Live and a few VSTs, two KRK monitors, a Focusrite Saffire interface, and an Alesis Midi controller. In addition to praising Live for its synths, he’s also said that its workflow is incredibly intuitive:

“I think, for laptop producers especially, it’s just so intuitive in the box. Everything is laid out and you don’t have to go searching for things like automation or plug-in parameters – in fact, all the things that are really hard to do in other DAWs. Ableton’s just very fluid and quick.”

And for anyone wondering how he does those incredible vocal chops…

I use Melodyne for formant stuff and basic pitch, but then I’ll print a whole line of audio. To be honest, for all my detailed cuts, chops and actual lines I’ll just basically take my vocal or someone else’s and process it through Melodyne in a certain way. All the stylistic treatments I do then all come from audio slicing and transposing in Live.


The reasons all these incredible musicians use Ableton, are the same reasons why we teach it in our music production program! Watch some of our tutorials made by our talented instructors on our Youtube channel, then come by the studio for a tour! Contact us to schedule an appointment.

World’s First Electronic Instrument — From 1748!

Clavecin Electrique
The Clavessin Electrique is the oldest surviving electronic instrument, invented in 1759, but written reports of an earlier instrument, the Denis D’or, date back as early as 1730.

The early history of electronic music is not often written about, and as a result many are unaware of the early electronic experiments of composers like John Cage and Pierre Schaeffer, or electronic instruments like the electromechanical piano invented in 1867. But even the most knowledgeable might be surprised to hear that the first electronic instrument, known as the Denis D’or or “Golden Dionysus”, was invented around 1748 by 18th century Czech theologian and electronic research pioneer Václav Prokop Diviš. Though there are so surviving drawings or replicas of the instrument, some detailed reports describe the instrument and how it was purported to work:

This instrument was 5 feet long and 3 feet wide, with 790 strings . However, the suspension and the tautening of the numerous metal strings were much more elaborate. The ingenious mechanism, which had been worked out by Diviš with painstaking mathematical accuracy was such that the Denis d’or could imitate the sounds of a whole variety of other instruments, including chordophones such as harpsichords, harps and lutes, and even wind instruments.

Historians believe that Diviš’ instrument utilized electricity or magnetism, as well as the tension of the strings, to alter the sound of strings once struck by a mallet, similar to a modified piano, but reports are unclear as to the actual electrical mechanisms used in the instrument. Some reports even suggest that the instrument came with a built-in practical joke.

An untimely anti joke was that the player of the instrument could receive an electric shock whenever the inventor wanted.


Because of the lack of concrete information, it’s hard to be certain that the Denis D’or was in fact the first “electronic instrument”, because it’s unclear the extent to which sound was generated or modified using electricity. However the reports do certainly confirm people’s interest in electronic sound as early as the first half of the 18th century. It certainly seems fitting that people have been experimenting with electronic sound for as long as they have been experimenting with electricity. We found out about the Denis D’or through PulseRadio, who wrote up a piece about a 2009 mix, titled The Grandfather Paradox: A Journey Through 50 Years of Minimalistic Music, from Henrik Schwarz, AME, and Dixon.

The compilation itself is masterful, beautifully woven together through flawlessly selected tracks that build and release tension perfectly. But what makes the mix really stand out is the idea behind it, which sees the trio reaching back to the grandfathers of electronic music, combining them with ’90s minimal pioneers like Robert Hood, Dan Bell, and Plastikman. Unsurprisingly, the results are incredible.

You can listen to the mix below for an education in early electronic music:

Get a taste for the sound of Henrik Schwarz, who will be playing #MakeItNew during this year’s Together Festival. For more information on the festival or to get your own Together pass, head to the Together website.