I might have written about this before, but my iTunes and Ableton integration has evolved over time, so here’s the latest work flow. The reason I’m using iTunes with Ableton Live is that even if Ableon Live’s browser has evolved over time, it still does not have a lot of features that are really good to have when working with multiple tracks, especially when scaling up to hundreds and hundreds of tracks.
To start with, you could select a specific iTunes library when you hit the option key as part of starting up iTunes. This will give you a dialog box to either create a new library or select an existing one. This makes it possible to have a separate DJ music library. I have actually two as I changed my playlist to have old seventies/eighties funk and good disco tracks, but I keep the other one around in case I suddenly want to play tech house and so on. Anyway, this is not necessary, you could have one huge DJ library, or even use the one and only library you use for iTunes. Anyway, it also makes it possible to keep the DJ library on an external disk, only copy this library to a laptop and so forth.
Secondly, you could just drag and drop audio files from iTunes to the Ableton Live browser. I wish they will fix the issue of using the clipboard for copy/paste between the applications in Ableton Live 8. Then this would be even easier, including copying over multiple entries.
Next thing to remember is that Ableton Live picks up the .asd files with warp info from a corresponding .asd file with full same name as the original audio file. If you have already warped your audio file and drag this file into iTunes, iTunes does not know anything about this dependency so it does not copy this file over. If a future Ableton Live embedded the .asd information inside audio container formats that support meta information, such as MP3, CAF, AAC and so forth, then this would not be an issue.
Anyway, what you need to then do is to select the audio file in iTunes, and with a right-click or control-key click get the context popup menu. One of the entries there is to Get in Finder. This will get you a window with the location where the iTunes managed file resides. You could now drop in your .asd file and things are fine. Just remember that iTunes sometimes renames the audio file so double-check that your .asd file has the exact same starting file name including any extensions such as .mp3 and that the .asd is added to the end.
Now, another approach is to first just get the audio file into iTunes. When you want to warp, drag this file into Ableton Live. When you save the .asd file via the clip panel it will save the .asd file into the location where iTunes has the audio file.
There’s even a third approach, iTunes could refer to audio files outside it’s library folder, see iTunes documentation for more information in case you don’t want iTunes at all to manage your audio files.
So now we are at the point to discuss what is so good about iTunes… To start with, as part of warping I figure out the key, major/minor and so forth. I also register the BPM speed after the initial auto warping. I then add this information into the file info inside iTunes. Again right or command-click and select Get Info. You will get a dialog box such as the in the image above. BPM has its field. I use the Grouping field for the key information as there’s no default key field in iTunes. Also add or modify any other information as you wish, including creating your own Genre by just typing into the Genre field (in case the pre-existing ones are not your liking.) If you don’t like to register BMP for a lot of existing tracks inside your iTunes library, check out Tangerine.
When this is in place you could do sorting in the iTunes view based on these values, provided you activate any missing columns — again right or command-clicking in the column header section is your friend. You could sort based on key, or bpm, or artist, genre, date added and many other values.
I even use the rating star system; my approach is to register the level of ‘energy’ in the track from one star (ballad), two (moderate dancing), three (normal), four (sweaty) up to five (energy-drink level.) This way I could also do sorting or searches narrowing down the style so I don’t place a slower paced track in the middle of a sweaty section.
What else? I could make play lists with recommended sets and save those in the iTunes database, do all kinds of interesting searches, just by typing a couple of letters I could quickly find all my Isley Brothers tracks and so forth. I could even make smart play lists that find things based on key, style, date added and many other values.
Also, it’s fun scrolling through the entries using the cover flow and see covers… Data backup of the file to DVDs spanning multiple DVDs is also easy. And that’s just a tip of the iceberg when you could do all kinds of interesting things inside iTunes itself before you get the track to Ableton Live.
Now, if Ableton Live in 8.0 could synchronize to iTunes libraries in forms of showing playlists and smart playlists there might not even be a need to drag-and-drop any longer…
I’m sure there’s even more to it. Yes, it takes a little bit time to add tracks to the database including registering meta information, bu I see more benefits from this all from this work. Feel free to add your own comments in case you have other cool ways of using iTunes and Ableton Live, I could always pick up a new trick or two.