Should I learn how to use Ableton Live for worship?

The first time I used Ableton Live, I spent almost an entire week trying to build my first setlist. I was new to using a click and tracks in worship, and I decided I wanted to use Ableton Live because it offers the greatest power and flexibility of all the software options available.

My journey of learning Ableton was a tough and long one. I’m even a tech-savvy guy. Give me a problem related to just about any topic, and I can quickly find a solution.

But learning Ableton Live for the first time was incredibly difficult. I almost gave up. I almost decided to can the idea of using a click and tracks in worship. I almost resorted to using an iPad app to run tracks and missed out on the advanced features of Ableton.

But I was determined, and I stuck with it. Over the past few years, I’ve developed an Ableton workflow that only takes me an hour or two of prep a week and has dramatically improved the quality of my worship ministry.

I believe any worship leader with the right guidance can learn how to use Ableton Live for worship. Maybe you are considering whether or not Ableton is right for you.

In this article, I want to share some tips to help you have the right expectations on what it takes to implement this powerful software in your ministry. In a few minutes, you’ll know if Ableton is right for you. I’ll also tell you about an opportunity coming up to help you learn Ableton Live the quickest way possible.

The question of the day: Do you use Ableton Live in worship? If not, do you want to learn how to use Ableton Live in worship? Let me know below in the comments.

First, I want to talk about why Ableton Live can be a challenge to learn. There are three reasons.

Challenge #1 - Ableton Live is more than just a worship leading software.

Ableton Live is for a variety of musical applications. It’s uniquely designed to be an instrument for live performance, but it also can be used for composing, recording, arranging, mixing, and mastering. The advantage of Ableton’s wide variety of usage means that it’s a well-resourced and developed software. Ableton, the company, is huge and their software is probably the most reliable for playing audio in a live context. The downside is you must develop a unique workflow that is best suited for worship leading. A lot of worship leaders don’t take the time to learn what workflow is best for the ministry and consequently give up on using the software.

Challenge #2 - Ableton Live is incredibly powerful and flexible.

Ableton has the most flexibility in playing back audio and MIDI in a live performance setting. You can program it for just about any conceivable situation or need in your ministry. The downside of Ableton’s advanced features is that it can cause overwhelm for the untrained user. There may be multiple ways to accomplish the same task in Ableton, but it can be tough knowing which is best for a worship band.

Challenge #3 - The user interface is not intuitive.

When I first opened Ableton Live, I felt like I was looking at the cockpit on a commercial jetliner. There were so many cool buttons and parameters, but I had no clue what they did. That’s what a lot of people feel like the first time they open Ableton Live. It is not super intuitive at first, but with step-by-step instruction on how the user interface works, you can learn all you need to know for a worship setting in no time.

Now I want to talk about the type of worship leader for whom I think Ableton Live is a great fit. While I believe any worship leader can learn how to use the software, I don’t think it’s the best fit for everyone. Here are five things I think every worship leader must have for Ableton Live to be a good fit for their ministry.

Requirement #1 - Desire for advanced control of tracks and production automation

If you do not care about the benefits of learning Ableton such as advanced control of you backing tracks and the ability to automate lyrics, video and lighting in worship, then Ableton is not a good fit for you. There are much simpler apps you can use such as Prime or Playback. With their simplicity comes certain limitations. You should only learn how to use Ableton if you desire the advanced features it offers.

Requirement #2 - A couple of hours a week available for prep time.

It takes a few hours each week to prepare worship sets each week adequately. Depending on your experience with Ableton, it could take you 3 hours, or it could take you less than one hour. That includes time to program production elements. In my opinion, the reward for this weekly time investment is worth it, but if there is no way for you to add a couple of hours of prep to worship planning, then Ableton is probably not for you.

Requirement #3 - Willingness to learn.

Like all advanced technical skills, Ableton takes time and persistence to learn. With the right training, you can get up and running in just a few hours, but you have to be patient with yourself and the software as you learn and memorize how to use it in a worship setting.

Requirement #4 - Supportive church leadership.

Ableton Live is a significant investment for any worship ministry. I recommend purchasing the Standard version which costs $449. If you are using Ableton primarily for your church’s worship ministry, your church should be the one buying the software and any other peripheral hardware to support it. Often this will require a conversation with your pastor and other church leaders. You need to sell them on the benefits of using Ableton. They need to be supportive of you investing in this software and building a library of backing tracks.

Requirement #5 - In-ear monitoring

The one major equipment hurdle for using Ableton Live is not having in-ear monitoring. You’re band must have in-ears since you will be playing with a click track.

If you have those five things in place, you are ready to implement Ableton Live in your worship ministry. Let me know if you have any questions below in the comments.

To get started with Ableton Live, download my Lead Worship with Ableton toolkit. It’s a document containing a list of my recommended gear to get up and running with the software. It includes links and pricing to everything listed, so you know how much to budget for Ableton.

On May 1, 2018, I’ll be releasing my training, Lead Worship with Ableton to the public. It’s a step-by-step guide for non-techy worship leaders who want to become experts at Ableton. We just wrapped up our beta launch of the course in which I had 67 worship leaders from all over the world enroll, and it has been incredible. To ensure you hear about the course’s release, download my Lead Worship with Ableton toolkit, and that will automatically place you on the waitlist for the course launch.

Thanks for reading! Leave your love, questions, and comments below.