Beginner Ableton Questions? We all start somewhere
To load stock instruments:
Simply click on the Instruments tab in the Live browser (the left vertical panel of categories). Once the Instruments category is selected, you will see all of the available types of instruments. Click on the arrow to the left of an instrument type, for instance “Analog.” Inside “Analog” you will see different presets organized by sound such as “Bass” or “Piano and Keys” Click any .adv preset to load that instrument into a new track.
To load third party plugins:
(assuming you’ve already installed them on your computer), the next thing you need to do is make sure you’ve pointed Live to the folder where you installed your plugins. YOU ONLY HAVE TO DO THIS ONCE.
On Windows, for example you might install your plugins to C:\Program Files\VSTPlugins, but it completely depends on where the specified the location is when you installed the third party plugins. Then go to Options, Preferences, File Folder. Turn On “Use VST Plug-In Custom Folder,” then click the “Browse” button underneath and point to the folder where your plugins are stored.
On a Mac, the process is similar. Go to Live, Preferences, File Folder. On Mac OS, Ableton Live understands 2 different formats of third party plugins; Audio Units (AUs) and VSTs. These formats are very similar and you won’t notice much difference between them. Most plugin developers will have installers that offer both formats. However, Audio Units do not exist on Windows. If you are a Mac user and want to collaborate with Windows users, use VSTs so that your projects are compatible. On a Mac, third party plugins will be installed in a premade system folder “Library\Audio\Plug-Ins.” Audio Units are stored under the subfolder, “Components.” You can turn on both Audio Units and VSTs from the File Folder Preferences. In Live on a Mac, you can also specify a Custom Folder for VSTs in addition to the system folder.
Once your plugins are enabled and pointed, on both Mac and PC you can easily access and load them from the Plug-Ins tab in Live’s Browser. You can click and drag them to a desired track. Remember, there are midi only Plugins that are virtual synthesizers (these go only on midi tracks), and there are audio effect plugins that can either go on an audio track or on a midi track after the synthesizer instrument.