How Ableton Live and Apple Logic's Rivalry is Great for Musicians

Logic and Live can’t stop copying each other

Key Takeaways

  • Live 11 is now way better at recording live instruments.
  • The Logic vs. Live rivalry spurs developers to make really great apps.
  • Musicians are the real beneficiaries of this rivalry.
Ableton Live on a laptop in a music studio.
Ableton

Ableton Live is the music-production app that looks like an Excel spreadsheet, but rocks harder than a granite electric guitar. Version 11 is now up, and you can take it for a free 90-day spin.

Ableton Live and Apple’s Logic Pro are the East Coast vs West Coast of music production apps, and both have their own styles and standout features. Until last year, that is. With their latest updates, both apps have ripped off each other’s last few unique features. Both Live and Logic are incredible apps, but for me, Live is easier to use.

If Live is a pair of familiar, comfortable slippers, Logic is the mess of coats, hats, and old extension cords you have to fight through to get your slippers out of the shoe closet.

"I find Ableton Live more conducive to getting into a 'state of flow' while composing," musician, Echoopera, told Lifewire in a forum thread. "I find Logic to be rooted in the 'old' way of doing things from a workflow standpoint and find myself fiddling with it too often to achieve a desired result."

Live 11: What’s New?

Live 11 adds new sounds, new instruments, and new tools, as in any software update. The really exciting parts are live-tempo following (which lets your pre-programmed songs follow the tempo of other musicians on a live stage); MIDI Polyphonic Expression (which lets you use expressive, touch-sensitive controllers for instruments); and lastly, comping.

"Both Live and Logic are incredible tools, each with their own strengths, and the strong rivalry keeps both Apple and Ableton on their toes."

When you record several takes of the same part, a vocal or guitar part perhaps, comping is what lets you easily pick and choose the best parts of each take. Logic Pro is the master of this, and many Ableton users fire up Logic just to use the comping tools. Now, finally, Live has added this tool.

This is big news. While there are still plenty of differences between Live and Logic, this was probably the last essential tool missing from Live. Now you can do everything in one place. 

Logic Rivalry

The copying doesn’t just go one way, though. In May 2020, Apple launched Logic Pro v10.5, which it called the "biggest update to Logic since the launch of Logic Pro X."

Apple Logic Pro on a MacBook.
Apple

The big news in that release was Live Loops, which is Apple’s take on Ableton Live’s Session View, aka Clip View. The clip view is the heart of Live, letting you trigger clips of audio and MIDI live. Logic added other great tools, but in the Live vs Logic battle, Live Loops was its biggest shot.

Why I Love Live

Apple's Logic is an epic piece of software, and it is a huge pain to use. Every task requires multiple mouse clicks, and many essential functions are hidden in menus. Even when you are proficient, it sometimes can feel like a lot of work to do simple things.

"I turn to Logic when I just want to record more typical long tracks (songs, compositions)," musician PZoo said in in the same forum thread.

"It can do everything, but I find it really annoying and often unintuitive. Commands are all over the place and just generally convoluted workflow in my opinion."

Ableton Live, on the other hand, is a dream. From the moment you begin, it’s intuitive. The clue is in the name. Live was built to be used live. It is as much a musical instrument as it is a DAW (digital audio workstation, aka fancy tape recorder).

Ableton Live 11
Ableton

Everything you do in Live can be done while the music is running, making it more like a jam session than the writing-a-music-score-into-Excel experience of Logic.

"For a more creative process of pulling together a lot of sources, mining for gold and rearranging, I turn to Ableton," said PZoo. 

There also are platform differences. Apple's Live is available on Mac and Windows, Ableton Logic is Mac-only. But Logic also has a great companion app on the iPad—Logic Remote—and can import projects created in GarageBand on the iPhone and iPad. 

Friendly Enemies

In the end, the winner is clearly the musician. Both Live and Logic are incredible tools, each with their own strengths, and the strong rivalry keeps both Apple and Ableton on their toes. You can pick the one you prefer. And I prefer Live.

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