Ableton Push 2 by login
Ableton Push belongs to a new kind of controllers that have had a lot of success over the last few years: Maschine, Arturia Spark and MPC Ren, all offer an integrated experience between software and a hardware controller trying to bring the best of both world: the hands on experience from hardware and the power and flexibility of software and modern day computers.
While Maschine and Spark were designed as software/hardware products from the ground up, Push has to be designed for Ableton Live now in version 9, this for sure brings up some limitations and challenges for the design team since there are many things they surely couldn't broke or modify since they are so important or familiar to Live users.
Push has a very clear goal according to Ableton:
So Push intends to overcome the limitation when inputting data into Live, mainly:
- Notes by using its keyboard and step sequencers,
- Adjusting values (instruments and effects) via its encoders (the screen really makes it easy).
You can easily sit on the couch or stand up away from the computer and make a whole composition with Push without looking at the computer screen: melody harmony and rhythm. It’s also good for some sound design (mainly effects and instruments to some extent).
It is also good for drawing automation either recording it in real time or adjusting per step automation.
The isomorphic keyboard and step sequencer also offer an "In scale mode" in which Push only shows the notes belonging to the selected scale, while this can be liberating for a while it's also a limitation when trying to use chords outside the scale, having to change the layout back and forth.
The drum sequencer is probably the best part of push with almost all functions you would need: per step automation, velocity and nudge adjustments. Swing is adjusted globally and it something that could be improved.
In those aspects in which it is focused it does a brilliant job. But then it has some shortcomings:
- Push browser (which mimics Live 9 browser) gives priority to the content included with Live; user content is also accessible but one more menu away.
- Can't set up a fixed length for recording clips.
- Can't load plug ins directly, and while you can rack effects and instrument plug in to load them it just doesn’t feel the same as native instruments, since once you load them you have to navigate inside the rack to access more parameters.
- Natively it can't browse Plug in presets.
This last limitation has two workarounds:
- Create one rack for each preset, this is of course slow and for some plug ins that take some time to load it can be really annoying. There are third party developers offering packs of racked presets of most popular plug ins.
- If the plug in supports MIDI program change it is possible to use a Max4live device to send this kind of midi message to change presets.
It is also important to state that Push is very limited for other tasks like:
- Mixing: you need to jump around many buttons to access volume and send levels, also no control over drum rack mixer.
- Almost no control over arrangement view.
- No Audio editing options.
- Performance options: for example it is unable to focus on controlling one instrument track while at the same time adjusting effects on a return channel.
Overall Push is a great controller for composing, making it more fun and fast. It has helped me greatly in finishing arrangements and making rhythm parts faster.
I think for those starting in to producing music ITB Push is a great way to make the process fun and avoid the chore of having to use the mouse for everything.
Some of its shortcomings can be complemented using third party scrip called PXT Live by nativeKONTROL.
But in conclusion if I had to start all over again in the electronic music world without synths or other controllers Push would be my first option since it does so much on its own, and for me what it does (making composition faster) no other controller can do it as well.