By Paola Sánchez Q
If you’ve used Ableton Live, you’ve most likely used the Ableton manual. This document, found in every copy of the software, lays out the most important aspects of the software and is powerful not only for the explaining the countless functions of the software, but also because it is written so clearly and concisely and unlike so many manuals, it’s a pleasure to read.
Readers of the manual have Ableton’s head of documentation at Dennis DeSantis to thank for this fantastic piece of writing. Recently I had the opportunity to interview him for the DJLAB (Costa Rica) blog and ask him some questions about the his new projects and the creative process.
P: Ableton has recently introduced some fantastic online musical learning tools like https://learningmusic.ableton.com and https://learningsynths.ableton.com, which we use here at DJLAB as part of our courses. These are not about learning the Ableton Live software, but about learning musical and production concepts and have some really great visuals as well as hands-on exploration. Do you feel that this type of learning through touching and doing is superior to reading about a concept or passively watching a tutorial?
D: My hope is that this question has a different answer for every reader. The goal with the book was to lay out a collection of seemingly disconnected ways of thinking about music, with the hope that some of them would resonate with a reader such that they’d find their way out of whatever creative block made them pick up the book in the first place. So for one reader, a particular strategy might be totally uninteresting because it doesn’t make any sense in their musical practice, or they’ve tried it and the results were terrible, etc. But to someone else, that same strategy might be critical to making a breakthrough.
Also, the strategies cover a wide range of specificity. Some of them are quite narrow, focusing on a particular musical or production technique. Others are much more broad and are less about doing a particular thing than they are about thinking a different way. For the narrow ones, you could conceivably listen to a piece of music and hear that it’s an example of the strategy. But for the broader ones, the results (if there were any at all) would be much more personal and also diffuse – a listener probably wouldn’t be able to hear them directly.
But after all that hedging, I can still tell you my personal favorites! I like “Write drunk, edit sober” because I think it’s a pretty universally useful creative practice, and for much more than just music. “Process vs. Product” is interesting because it’s hyper-opinionated and potentially controversial. I should have also included one called “Product vs. Process,” just to clarify that there are no right answers. Finally, “Thinking Like an Amateur” is good advice for anyone who’s started to find that something they used to love now feels like a chore.
This interview was compiled and translated into Spanish by Paola Sánchez Quirós the editor of the DJLAB (Costa Rica) blog. She is a writer, student of communications and electronic music based in San Jose, Costa Rica. For the Spanish language interview, click here