10 Ways To Work Faster In Ableton Live

Adam McLellan shares his tips   02-Jul-13

10 Ways To Work Faster In Ableton Live

Adam McLellan writes:

I've been told I work fast. I guess part of that is because I've been sequencing since the days of DOS trackers! But the other part of the equation is that sometimes I'm really impatient--I want things to happen faster! As a result I'm the type of person to learn every possible hot-key, shortcut, user preference, etc.

In this post I'll be exploring 10 tips for improving your Live workflow, but I'll preface this by giving a short overview of my personal workflow. First let's talk about the de facto standard for producing a track.

It's generally accepted that you should do things in the following order:
  1. programming/sound selection
  2. writing
  3. arranging
  4. mixing


To draw on an analogy from the software industry, it's somewhat akin to the "waterfall" methodology: everything is done in a specific order and you don't move on to the next step until you've finished the current step. But as with software development this can be very rigid.


What if I realize I picked a bad sound? What if something isn't sitting right in the mix? If I'm trying to write or arrange and something sounds "off" perhaps it will affect my creativity?


I personally take a more iterative approach to writing. So, while I do follow the general order listed above, I tend to cycle over the same few steps incrementally. For example, as I'm writing parts I'm also doing a quick mix; if things aren't sounding quite right I may swap some samples, tweak some sounds, etc. When I've got a decent idea/sketch I'll do a short arrangement and once again do a quick mix. By the time I have the full arrangement completed my track is basically mixed.


Of course there's a big caveat with this approach: if you're the type who tends to get hung up on things then it's probably going to work against you. The last thing you want is to get stuck on building the perfect kick sound when you're trying to write or arrange. But if you keep the iteration focused on more mundane tasks, and you're able to do these tasks quickly, then it's really a non-issue.


So without further ado, here are my workflow tips.


1. Set defaults
You can set defaults for pretty much everything in Live:
  • default device presets
  • drag & drop settings (for dragging clips into Drum Rack slots)
  • default warp settings


A few examples:
  • I tend to roll off the low on most tracks, so I've set my default EQ8 preset to a 100hz low cut.
  • I didn't like the default Simpler settings when dragging samples into a Drum Rack--my default has the filter turned off, velocity sens set to 50% and a longer amp release. Also note that if you'd rather default to Sampler instead of Simpler this can be done as well.
  • I've told Live to not Auto-Warp Long Samples (Options -> Preferences -> Record/Warp/Launch), as typically I'm dragging in audio stems at a specific BPM and can warp later if needed



For more info about default presets, see https://www.ableton.com/en/manual/working-with-instruments-and-effects/#default-presets

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4 Comments... Comments are closed while we transition to Disqus

Lagrange Audio    Said...

Interesting stuff particularly the references to methodology and workflow. As a long time IT software developer the waterfall methodology rigidly promotes the idea that iteration is discouraged. The reality of this is simply time and money, iteration requires more of each and if left unchecked can get out of control very quickly. Prince2 as alternative methodology (yes I know that's more project management) promotes iteration but allows for periodic assessment to decide whether a project should continue if it exceeds certain tolerances. In the worst case a project can be cancelled which under this methodology is also considered a successful outcome, weird but true. Ultimately not much of this applies to music creation unless there are rigid constraints i.e. studio time for example. The alternative is that iteration should be and often is strongly encouraged in music making. In addition as a long time Ableton user (some 9 years now) I have found it is a fantastic iterative environment to work in however a line must be drawn at some point because once you get to the point of 'I am now ready to mix this', changing anything other than a mixing attribute can have far reaching consequences. In other words working iteratively to such an extent you are forced to go back far too many steps. Iteration will only tolerate a certain amount of 'adjustment'. A lot of Ableton users for this very reason decide to use a different tool when they get to the mix stage to philosophically force the project to keep moving forward. And to be frank, any discovery you make about having the 'wrong sound' should have been made long before this stage.

03-Jul-13 12:53 AM

Lagrange Audio    Said...

Sorry I forgot to add, I use Ableton to mix tracks but it is in a separate 'mix' project based on renders from the 'arrangement' project. That's the line I draw in terms of separating project 'phases' and forcing iteration to only occur within the associated project in that phase. That's the workflow I have developed over the years and I am really interested in what other people do?

03-Jul-13 01:00 AM

David g    Said...

A quick comment that really helps our workflow using info view.

Most items in Ableton allow you to enter text notes into the info text. Just right click and object ( like a clip, a track header, etc.) and choose "edit info text". When I first started with Ableton I got some great sounds bur when I went back to them months later I had no idea what I did. Take notes as you go and those cool ideas can be brought back and used again.

This was a very useful article.

06-Jul-13 02:40 PM

Adam Bailey    Said...

@ Lagrange: Well said sir. Well said.

14-Jul-13 03:31 PM

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