For about a decade, musician, producer and tech expert Jon Margulies has been writing comprehensive guides for Ableton Live, a digital audio workstation and music sequencer. With the release of Live, Version 10 in February, Margulies has been working on his latest guide in the series, “Ableton Live 10 Power!,” which was released March 15.
While version 10 of Ableton has few major changes from its predecessor, it has a handful of useful tweaks that make the production process a lot easier such as retroactive recording and intuitive quick key arrangements said Margulies. Unlike other DAWs such as Pro Tools or Cubase, Ableton Live is designed for live performance as well as composing, recording, mixing and mastering.
“With Ableton there’s not that pressure you feel with Pro Tools or something where it’s like, ‘OK now you’re recording. Don’t screw it up.’ Here you can really just explore and create without that pressure.” said Margulies. “Ableton Live came into the game to really make the initial creation part of making music using a computer really fast and really easy and really fun.”
With built-in audio and midi effects, instruments and drum racks, there’s plenty with which to play. Almost all of Ableton Live’s parameters, things like volume and track panning, can be manipulated and automated, drawn on either in clips or the whole arrangement. Like a sandbox, Ableton gives you lots of basic tools and even more room to create almost anything you’d like, from beats to soundscapes.
It was a perfect convergence of circumstances, said Margulies on how he got involved with writing guides for Ableton. While working as a programmer in New York, an opportunity arose to make tutorial videos for the fifth version of the music production software. He took advantage of the opportunity and made connections with Ableton, wrote a few magazine articles and in 2008 he wrote his first guide, “Ableton Live 7 Power!”
After Cengage Learning, the guide’s original publisher, dropped the book, Margulies and his band mate in Tiny Machines, April White, took it upon themselves to release the guide under their own production company, Hobo Technologies.
Margulies is a Flagstaff transplant, having moved here in 2017 after years living in big cities like Los Angeles and New York City. He said he wasn’t quite tired of the city life, but that he didn’t necessarily need to be there to do what he does.
“There’s something fun and magical about playing in big cities, but there are some downsides,” said Margulies. “Really no matter where you’re based you have to go on the road.”
After the home he was renting in Los Angeles went up for sale, Margulies began to look around for a new city.
“I had to ask myself, ‘Am I serious about being here or not?’ Yes, there’s a thriving arts scene, but I could find that anywhere,” said Margulies.
He decided to take a weekend trip up to Flagstaff and immediately connected with the music scene.
“Not only were there sort of the traditional venues like the Orpheum and the Green Room, but places like Firecreek and Vino Loco all had music,” said Margulies. “It was like everywhere I popped my head in there was something going on.”
That weekend he found a place just east of downtown and made the decision to relocate to a new city. For one thing, he says, his new spot has much more space, with a living room full of equipment and a bedroom with a drum kit for isolated recording.
Save for the new book, his focus has been Tiny Machines, a funk/soul duo with singer White. Their new self-titled album was recorded and mixed by Margulies at Hobo Technologies which operates out of his home.
“We plan to take [Tiny Machines] on the road here soon, but I really want to get more involved in the scene here, start playing out more and maybe hosting some workshops with Arizona Music Pro,” said Margulies.
Between the book, Tiny Machines, teaching from his studio, mixing and mastering, personal projects and sifting through endless shows and movies on Netflix, Margulies is keeping himself busy, excited to join the Flagstaff arts scene.
Having spent a year in Flagstaff, “it’s been a really successful experiment” said Margulies with a laugh.