There’s been a lot of excitement in the Ableton community with the release of Push 2. The new Push features an upgraded display, improvements in the design, and superior pads. Although there are some new features, like sample editing, that depend on Push 2’s new display, many of the changes have also carried over to the original Push. Ableton has made it clear that while they have worked hard on Push 2, owners of the original Push will not be left in the dust. Let’s explore some of the recent improvements for our beloved original Push.
Here's what you can now do with Push 1 since Live 9.5 was released:
Here's AfroDjMac's Push 1 and Push 2 comparison video from November 2015:
When Push first came out, it promised users they could create music without using the computer screen. While that was true for anyone strictly using Live’s devices, people that used third-party plug-ins were out of luck. A workaround was to create an Instrument Rack containing the non-Ableton plug-in, but it was otherwise impossible to access your plug-in folder via Push. That has changed! Now any device you wish to add to a Live project can be done from the original Push, minimizing the need to consult the computer screen.
When I first heard about this feature, I missed its importance. It turns out, it is one of my favorite changes for Push. As you browse through your samples and Ableton instrument presets, you can hear a short preview of that sound. This is incredibly useful when searching for drum sounds. You no longer need to load a kick drum sound to see if it will fit your project, simply scroll over it with Push’s browser and it plays. This saves tons of time, and is a significant workflow improvement. Not sure what kind of bass sound you need? Just scroll over the presets to preview it instantly without loading. Awesome!
Of course there may be times when this feature could be irritating (especially on stage), so Ableton gives you the option of turning it off with the push of a button. One caveat, and frankly it’s a feature I would love to have, you can only preview Ableton-created sounds. That means your own personal presets will not give you a preview. This limitation is true of Push 2 as well. If you’re like me and have hundreds of your own presets, you’re going to feel the hurt on this omission. Perhaps in a future update …
In keeping with the idea of moving away from the computer screen, Push offers a few handy improvements for editing and creating Drum Racks. You can now hot swap individual drum pads on Push. Got a great Drum Rack but you don’t like the snare drum? Select the snare and hit Browse to try out a different snare. This is a time when you will appreciate being able to preview sounds as you browse.
You can also copy and paste one drum pad to another. I find this useful when I have a nice tom drum and would like a similar tom at a different pitch. Simply hold Duplicate, select the pad you want to copy and then select the pad you wish to paste to. Now you have copied and pasted the drum and you can alter the new one as you wish. Again, there’s no need to touch the computer.
One nice thing about Push is that it is great for playing melodies. There’s a wide selection of different scales and keys you can play in. Have you ever built up a track, reloaded it the next day only to find you don’t remember which scale or key you were in? This might not matter if you are sticking to a common major scale, but it can be a big deal if you are experimenting with something a bit more exotic. Well, now Push saves the scale information with the Live Set. This has already gotten me out of trouble when I forget what key I am working in!
There’s no doubt Push 2’s display is its most striking feature. Editing samples on that big beautiful display is a real joy. Although you won’t be slicing and dicing samples on Push 1, there are some helpful improvements.
You can load samples on MIDI tracks. Loading a sample on a MIDI track will create a Simpler instrument loaded with that sample. You can instantly play that sample on Push’s pads, as well as access some of the newer features of Simpler, such as the Classic, One Shot, and Slicing Modes, as well as all of the Warping features.
Working with Clips has a notable change as well. Holding Shift will allow you to fine tune Clip lengths by 1/16 notes. I find this especially handy for creating polyrhythms and Clips with odd lengths.
Last but not least, Ableton has helped streamline the recording process on Push. Holding Shift and pressing record now toggles Global Record. So that means you can record your jams in Session view to Arrangement view directly from Push, without the computer.
Also, the Fixed-Length button has become much more useful. One of my favorite techniques for coming up with new musical ideas is to start recording a clip and jam for a while until I get something I like. Then I go back and find a good portion and loop it. This process just got a bit easier. When Fixed-Length is off, you can press it while recording a clip and Live will loop the last few bars of your performance. The amount of bars depends on what your Fixed-Length is set to. So, the minute I perform a few bars I like, I hit Fixed Length and Live instantly loops it, saving me the trouble of editing the clip!
While Push 2 offers some substantial upgrades, original Push owners should not fear. In the most recent updates to Live, the first Push has received more changes and improvements than any previous update. It’s nice to see that Ableton has not left out its customers just to entice them into another purchase.
If you should feel the overwhelming desire to upgrade your Push, Ableton has an offer that will make you feel good about your decision, save you money, and perhaps even earn you some Karma points. If you send Ableton your original Push, they will give you 30% off Push 2, and donate your original Push with a copy of Live to music education projects for young people. So you save money and help put music making in the hands of children. Amazing. But hurry the Push Trade-in Offer (https://www.ableton.com/en/push-trade-in) deadline is May 1st.
Watch Noah Pred & Jordan Rudess show what you can do with Ableton Push 1: