The first teasing screenshots of Ableton Live 9 created a buzz in online EDM production forums this past October. Producers and DJs from all over the world revealed their eager anticipation of Live 9, the newest version of Ableton Live to be released in four years. Last month, Ableton officially confirmed that Live 9 and its companion MIDI controller, the Push, will be available by early 2013. Since the release of Live 8 in 2009, customers have demanded that specific improvements be made to the production workflow. Live 9 addresses these demands by including enhanced navigation options, better MIDI note manipulation, and curved automation.

Those unfamiliar with Ableton Live and its sequencing software may think of the program as an artist’s blank canvas. The synthesizer and sampler plug-ins create a palette of musical colors that may be mixed and recorded into Live’s “clips,” the colorful boxes that can be set to loop. Ableton Live provides a stable platform for the artful arrangement of these musical loops, permitting the producer to craft very intentional instrument voices and arrangements in real time. The finished musical product is a collage assembled from synthesized and sampled materials that translates seamlessly from the studio to the stage.

The promotional videos found on Ableton’s official website report an improved workflow, making the transition from improvising to arranging even easier. These enhanced automation tools better equip electronic musicians to take their show off-book, and guarantee that no show will be performed exactly the same way twice. These software improvements are especially exciting from an audience’s perspective, as the ability to record automation directly onto clips can better capture improvised musical moments. When paired with a mappable MIDI device, a performer can assign specific synth and filter parameters to knobs, faders, and pads. As these MIDI devices evolve, the electronic musician will interact less with a mouse and more with a MIDI controller. With an 8 x 8 grid of velocity and pressure sensitive pads, Ableton’s Push is designed to respond like a traditional instrument with a performable dynamic range.

The audio-to-MIDI feature may represent the greatest change facing current production methods. Sing a melody or tap a rhythm, and Live 9 will convert that raw audio into usable MIDI information. Once an audio loop is converted to MIDI, any combination of sounds may be used to substitute for the original instruments. The potential of this advancement is staggering, as a specific aspect of a sample may now be isolated and reproduced in a way never before possible. Although the EDM style is built on the borrowing and sampling of existing material, it may soon be easier to just recycle the old sample into a new MIDI format.This might not be as romantic as a digging through crates for an authentic vinyl sound, but at least that authenticity can be simulated with the new Glue Compressor, another attractive feature of Live 9.

An analog-modeler of a classic British bus compressor with a distinctive flavor, the Glue Compressor has been added to Live’s studio effects rack. Early reviews of the Glue Compressor agree that it preserves the unique color of the original compressor, and makes a “better” sound possible in less production time. Electronic musicians may opt to bypass the “real” gear in favor of the software models, a much cheaper and convenient way to learn about the nuances of compression.

The pack of orchestral instruments (including brass, mallets, strings, and woodwinds) is available only for the Suite version of Live 9, but it promises to be an amazing resource of symphonic textures. The Suite version also includes Retro Synths, a pack of classic samples from the Minimoog, Roland TB-303, and the Casio CZ series.

The goal of Live 9 is to help producers streamline an individual workflow while promoting creativity . Simply put, the goal of modern music production is to achieve higher quality in less time. A faster workflow will transform electronic music by allowing deeper and more dynamic musical textures to come into being. Ableton facilitates this progress of media alongside the musician, and Live 9 is an exciting look into the future of EDM production.

See the official video for Ableton Live 9: