10 Ways To Work Faster In Ableton Live

Adam McLellan shares his tips      02/07/13

6. Context menus
A lot of useful features are hidden in the context menus of Live. Try right clicking the title bar of a Device and see what you can find. A few notable features:


  • Save as Default Preset (re: tip #1)
  • Simpler -> Sampler: convert an instance of Simpler to Sampler
  • Group: convert the selected device(s) to an Instrument Rack or Audio Effect Rack (Live will decide automatically based on your selections)
  • Repitch/Fade/Jump (for delay Devices): how the delay responds to pitch changes.




7. Drag & drop
You can drag & drop anything in Live. A few things to keep in mind:


  • You can drag devices between tracks. Hold CTRL while dragging to create a copy.
  • You can drag presets onto an existing device instance. For example, if you want to A/B reverbs, try dragging presets from the browser onto the existing Reverb device while the track is playing.
  • (in Live 9) dragging an audio clip to a MIDI track will bring up the Audio to MIDI tool (note: you need to have a MIDI Device/Instrument loaded in the track for this to work, otherwise Live simply converts the MIDI track to an audio track)


8. Use Locators
An extremely useful but somewhat hidden feature of the arrangement view is the ability to add "locators" to your track. For example, you can add locators for the various parts of your track and easily and precisely jump to them. (As a bonus, the locators are even MIDI-mappable, and the global quantization value will be applied when triggering them--quite handy for live performance!)


Try it out: right-click the the area just below the Beat Time Rule, click "Add Locator" and give it a name. Right click the new locator and "Set Song Start Time Here". Now whenever you start the track it will start from the position of the locator. (from within the context menu you can also "Loop to Next Locator" and "Select to Next Locator".)



9. Don't automate the Track Volume
Automating the track volume (that is, the level of an individual track) is problematic as it will impede your ability to make overall level adjustments. Why? Because automation works with absolute values: a fade from -inf to 0db will always be a fade from -inf to 0db. If you lower the level of all other elements in your track the automated track will then be too loud in the mix and you'll need to go back and adjust the automation accordingly. If you have many level automations this can very quickly become a headache.


Luckily there are many alternatives to automating track volume directly:
  • Use clip envelopes: clip envelopes work on a relative basis so a fade from 50% to 100% will scale according to the track's level
  • Use fades (for audio clips): this is really only useful if you're going from 0 to 100%, mind you
  • Automate device volume or Instrument Rack "Chain Volume" (assuming you only have only one chain in your rack)
  • Add a "Utility" device and automate the '"Gain"



10. Info View
Last but not least, if you're just getting started with Live the "Info view" (bottom left) is a great way to get help. Pretty much everything in Live has info text, just move your mouse pointer over something and see what the Info View has to say about it. If it's getting in the way, just press "?" on your keyboard to toggle it.


Adam McLellan, AKA Snug, is a DJ and producer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Since a young age he's been fascinated by the intersection of art and technology. When he's not producing or performing he's sharing his knowledge and ideas through teaching, writing for his personal blog (snugsound.com)


Write for Sonicstate


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4 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
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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