10 Ways To Work Faster In Ableton Live

Adam McLellan shares his tips   02-Jul-13

2. Search

At first I found the new browser in Live 9 a bit awkward but after using it for a few months I have to say it's actually a great improvement. Anything you add to your library (via packs, sample directories added to "Places", whatever) gets indexed. As a result the search is now lightning fast.


I often find myself searching for devices as it's often faster than scrolling through the list to find something. Try it out:
  • from the Browser: select Audio Devices
  • in the search box at the top type "Delay"
  • Done.


If you want to search your whole library (devices, packs, places, etc.) select "All Results" or press CTRL-F.


3. Start your ideas in session view
Session view is an extremely fast way to get ideas down, especially if you're working with audio. You can seamlessly record and loop audio on the fly, overdub, etc. all without stopping playback. It may seem a bit unintuitive for those used to a traditional DAW, but it's definitely worth the time investment to get to know it.


Keep in mind that if you don't like the "recording" approach to arranging--that is, triggering clips in session view while recording them to arrange view--you can simply drag clips from session to arrangement view and then do your arranging manually.


4. Group tracks

Group tracks are a huge time saver when you've got many tracks that you want to process in the same way. Sure, you could create an Audio Effect Rack preset but then you're also using more CPU and you can't quickly make adjustments without replacing the rack across multiple tracks.


I generally have at least two groups in a track: one for drums and one for bass. As a starting point I throw some sort of parallel compression on the drum rack, and some sidechain compression or EQ on the bass group depending if it's called for.


If I'm working with vocals I often group as well. For example, let's say you've got two vocal takes of the same line and you want to create a natural chorus:


  • Track 1:
    • pan hard right
    • Audio Effect Rack with dynamics processing (de-esser, gate, compression)
  • Track 2: pan hard left
    • Same Audio Effect Rack as track 1
At the Group-level I would then apply any reverbs, delays, send FX, etc. I can now adjust the track volume and any common effects without having modify multiple tracks.


5. Racks
Racks (Instrument, Drum, Audio Effect) are often overlooked, especially by those just getting started. Sure, they can be somewhat intimidating--a lot of power packed into a very small pixel footprint--but once you get familiar with them they can become a huge time saver.


A few things to consider:
  • Drum Racks are not limited to samples. You can put anything in a Drum Rack slot, including Live synth devices and VSTs.
  • Instrument Racks are great for stacking MIID parts: a good old standby trick for producing big bass sounds is to stack 2 or 3 synth parts, i.e. one part for low, one for mid, one for high. Using an Instrument Rack you can easily stack different synths, each with their own processing as well as common FX/processing, all without the need to copy/paste the same MIDI to multiple tracks.


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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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