The design of tools incorporates aesthetic ideas and values from the creator. With freer access to those tools, and easier creation of custom tools, the line between a music release and a tool release blurs. The difference: you can take someone else’s tool, and warp it to your own purposes.

And so it is that Ableton is increasingly featuring artists and their Max for Live creations. While Max for Live was introduced last fall, many of its fruits aren’t appearing until now.

Magda works with effects and dynamics to polish her included set. Other artists turn to Sampler, Operator, drum machines, and studio tracks that have been adapted for live performance. Photo courtesy the artist.

Record label Minus, founded by Richie Hawtin, has partnered with Ableton to release a set of free Ableton sets to download. Now, a collection of someone else’s Live sets on its own wouldn’t be terribly useful. But using the underused Lessons feature of Live, the sets are accompanied by step-through discussions of the techniques behind the set, the artists’ musical ideas, and tips. It’s a bit like having a master class with the raster of artists, which includes Click Box, Hobo, Heartthrob & Troy Pierce, Magda, Marc Houle, Fabrizio Maurizi, Barem, Ambivalent, JPLS and Gaiser.

Complete full download:

If an instrument is more your style, though, you can turn instead to a new, free FM synthesizing drum machine.

Berlin electronic duo Skinnerbox have released a free drum machine made with Max for Live, the sbx 2049. It’s a six-voice drum machine that incorporates FM synthesis techniques and makes some really lovely sounds. Using Ableton’s own Operator as a source for drum kits has long been popular, but here the range of the sonic palette is still wider. Interestingly, it really moves away from a typical Ableton workflow: the synth features and pattern sequencer are both built in, so while it runs in the Live environment, it feels more like a self-contained instrument.

The sbx 2049 is a perfect example of the convergence of artist ideas and tools, as well. You could load this up and make something that sounds exactly like Skinnerbox’s sounds. Or, push the knobs in another direction, and you can synthesize something very much your own. Thanks to the two halves of Skinnerbox, Iftah and Olaf, for sending this our way.

Even if you’re not a Max for Live user (though that probably means you haven’t read this far), it’s worth having a look through the video just to see their approach to designing the instrument.

Full details:
Skinnerbox Movie and Live Pack

Lastly, if you’re either under 15 or age 15-18, Ableton, Novation, Loopmasters, and Soundcloud have a challenge to make your own track. That could give young producers out there a chance to use these tips:
Summer Music Challenge