Ableton Arrangement view explained

Posted by Esteban Miranda on

Are you new to Ableton Live? Do you want to know all you need about the Arrangement View? 
Today with Top Music Arts we bring you a detailed review of Ableton Live 10´s Arrangement view, not the view that Ableton is more known for, but the one we get used to easier and faster because it´s the most similar to other DAWs. Always with some tips, tricks, and recommendations for you all to get the most out of your DAW.

Let’s jump into it...

Arrangement vs Session

Honestly, I think there´s not just one right way to use Ableton Live, but there are things that are better or easier done using the Session View and others using the Arrangement View. You just have to figure out which one serves your purpose better. To learn which one is more useful to you, we recommend you to try to do the same task, for example, composing a beat making loops, in Session view and then in Arrangement view. And consider in which one you worked faster if you were able to use more shortcuts, or even if the ideas flow better in one view than the other.

Both of them are connected and share the same track order, colors, and groups. If you add a plugin to a track in Session, you also add it in Arrangement view. At first, some things can be confusing, but both of them have a lot to offer, and anyways you can switch between them whenever you like toggling the Tab key (both in Mac and Pc).


Having that said, there are some common uses for Session view such as:

 Playing a Live Set

Jamming or Looping

Composing new Ideas


When you are in Session View you see all your tracks aligned vertically from left to right. Each track has Clip Slots from which Audio and MIDI clips can be launched and all the clips in a row can be launched together as a Scene in the Master Track. So this way the clips in each row can contain the individual parts of a song that should play together. This way all clips within a Scene could compose a whole song or a song could be split into different Scenes for a Drop, a Breakdown and more.

However, if need to, we can talk more in detail about the session view in our next articles. Just let us know in the comments!


The Arrangement View

We´re not trying to do a simple review of the interface and looks of this view here, we´re trying to go through the elements we consider useful or helpful for you to learn how to use Ableton faster and easier. Arrangement View is particularly useful for arranging and producing. Mainly because it is a great Visual representation of the Timeline of your composition, along a fixed Grid with a set beginning and an end.

In this view, you´ll see that the tracks are aligned horizontally from top to bottom, moving along a timeline from left starting at bar 1 at 0 seconds to however long your Production is. If you are familiar with other DAW or Sequencing Software, when you see Ableton for the first time, you´ll find this view easier to get used to.

In the Scene view, you have a less visual representation of it, sometimes making it difficult to follow your song or set.



A big help of this view, to your workflow and song section management, is to be able to add Locators or Markers to your different song parts and to be able to move within them by just clicking them, or using the Previous and Next Locator buttons.


There´s a major “Pro” about this view, that is a big "Con" about the Scene view, and that is the Audio Editing Features, particularly in Ableton Live 10, the editing in Arrangement has been upgraded and updated giving it a great overall workflow, that you just can´t get in the other view. Making it really comfortable to work with. You just can´t add and edit Automations to your mix, or draw in your Fades the same way you can do it in Arrangement view. Also now in Ableton 10, you can edit multiple MIDI clips at the same time, making it super easy to find errors, adapt melodies or Drum hits. You can select up to seven MIDI clips at the same time. When viewing multiple clips, you can toggle between them by clicking on a color bar that represents each clip's associated color.


And Also with Ableton 10 now Warped Arrangement Audio Clips can be stretched or compressed by holding down Shift while dragging their border with your mouse cursor. This is especially useful when editing background vocal performances that need to be perfectly timed together, or when doing sound design for films. You can also move Arrangement clips within a time selection using the Arrow Left / Right keys. These move based on your grid setting, but to toggle grid snapping, hold down the CTRL(Pc) / CMD(Mac) key. With grid snapping off, the selection moves in micro amounts, perfect for nudging a take right into place. And it’s possible to slide the contents of an Arrangement clip within the clip's boundaries by holding Alt + Shift and dragging the clip's track display area. You can move the audio clip boundaries around within the clip's boundaries to experiment or search for new content.


The more common uses of Arrangement View can be:

Multitrack Recording

Audio Editing




Another thing worth mentioning about the views and the playback is that the Session View Clips “has right of way”.
Let's say, you're playing your song in the Arrangement View and then launch a clip in Session View. On that track, the just-launched clip will play in the scene view, and the other tracks will continue playing in Arrangement View. So we don´t mess up while doing this kind of thing, it will be indicated by the clips on the track being greyed out in Arrangement View.

Even if you stop this particular clip in Session View, the track in Arrangement View will not be playing its clips. For this, you will need to press the 'Back to Arrangement' button in the Control Bar at the top in Live. It lights up whenever one or more clips in Session View are playing. Pressing it will make Live resume playback in Arrangement View and thus stop all clips in Session View (the greyed out tracks).


To get used to both of the views faster we recommend you all to use the “help button” down on the left, it hides/shows the Info view, where you can find a brief description of each of the elements shown on screen, in case you are having trouble getting used to the view of your choice.



These are some tips and shortcuts to help all of you Ableton producers out there keep your focus on what you are doing while in the Arrangement View, save some time from opening too much context menus or searching for a basic tool:

1. Toggle Device / Clip view

    To change between Device view, where you can find your plugins, and the Clip view, where you can edit your Audio and MIDI clips you just have to push Shift + Tab (both for Pc and Mac).

    2. Quick Save

    Saving your project often is a great habit in any DAW, it´s important to avoid losing your work by accident (we´ve all had that mini heart attack, so consider it a health issue Lol ). Remember, to save everything quickly, simply press CTRL + S on PC or CMD + S on Mac.

    3. Switch to Full Screen

    In case you want to use the full space available on your screen, you can switch to Full-screen mode pressing the F11 key (on Pc) and CTRL + CMD + F (on Mac).

    4. Resume Start/Stop Playback

    If you have your playback set to go back to the starting point you selected and you don´t want to go back to the beginning you can quickly resume playback without a problem by just pressing Shift + Spacebar (both for Pc and Mac) to start/stop at any point.

    5. Double or Halve a Loop

    To quickly duplicate or halve the length of a loop, with the clip selected, you can press CTRL + ↑ or on PC or CMD + or ↓ on Mac.

    6. Quick Resize the Current Grid

    Sometimes in Arrangement view, you may need to resize the fixed grid you are using. To do this on the fly, hold CTRL (or CMD on Mac) and press a number from 1 to 4 on the keypad to change its time.

    7. Finely Move MIDI Tracks and Parameters

    Adjusting a MIDI track so it lines up just the way you want can be difficult. To make it move only in very fine increments, press and hold CTRL while you drag it with your cursor. This same trick works with parameters.

    8. Toggle Draw Mode when Editing MIDIs
    When producing music, you’ll be working a lot with MIDIs. To quickly toggle Draw mode and edit a MIDI´s automation curve (for example), simply press B on your keyboard (both for Pc and Mac).


    If you are interested in more Ableton Shortcuts, you can check out our previous article here:

     And as always you can leave us a comment if you have any doubts or tell us what you think. Don´t forget to make music!


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