13 Ableton Tips That Are Going To Change Your Life
Every producer has a favorite DAW, and many flock to Ableton Live for its natural efficiency. After all, this is one of the few DAWs marketed specifically towards live performance along with production, so it makes sense that Ableton would prioritize speed and ease of use.
However, any DAW is only as good as the engineer behind it, and without knowledge of some of Ableton’s best tips and tricks, you’re undoubtedly missing out. Below, we’ll dive into 13 essential Ableton features that will instantly elevate your workflow.
13 Ableton Tips For Unmatched Workflow And Creativity
Without further ado, here are some of the best Ableton tips to take your production to the next level. Let’s build some beats!
1. Insert Space
Have you ever made a beat only to realize you could benefit from 4 more bars of verse or intro? Instead of highlighting the entire session (which you can do with CTRL + A by the way), press CTRL + I. You’ll open up a window that will prompt you to input the number of blank bars you want placed at your cursor location.
2. The Power of Grooves
One of the greatest challenges of modern music is creating something that sounds organic in the age of digital production. Luckily, Ableton Live makes it easy for you to add an organic feel your tracks. Simply select a "groove" and drag and drop it onto a MIDI track or directly onto an audio file.
You can also help create a more organic feel for your tracks by playing with velocity parameters. To do this, open up the MIDI piano roll and edit the height of the bars in the "velocity" section directly underneath the roll.
3. Convert MIDI
This one is a true gamechanger. Ableton can analyze any audio clip and convert its melody and harmony to a new MIDI track. This makes it easy to add depth to your sessions without having to waste time figuring out your song's key on your own. Simply right click on any audio clip and select "convert melody to new MIDI track".
You can also analyze drums loops and convert them to a new MIDI track or resample with the "Slice to new MIDI track" toggle.
4. Live Automation
Editing and recording automation in Ableton is an absolute breeze. To record automation in real time, simply select the line control above the track list before clicking the record button:
You can also easily copy and paste automation from one section to another with automation mode. Highlight the section of automation and delete, copy, paste or duplicate (Command D) to the desired area.
5. Save Your CPU
If you’re a big plugin or VST user, it’s essential that you know the “freeze and flatten” functions like the back of your hand. This feature will render individual tracks with all effects on the audio chain to give you a processed audio track that takes up less CPU.
Note that "freeze and flatten" are baked in -- so once you've processed a track this way, you can't go back to adjust an effect parameter. That being said, you should be saving your project as a separate session every time you sit down to make significant changes, so you should have a back up in your arsenal worst case scenario. You can also deactivate CPU-heavy clips when not in use by highlighting them and pressing 0.
To freeze and flatten a clip, first highlight the portion of audio that you want to process. Next, right click and select freeze and finally flatten.
6. Precise Parameters
This one is pretty simple, but did you know that you can quickly input precise values into Ableton Live’s parameters? Select any of Ableton's parameters (the box will outline in black), enter in your number and voila! This even works for panning which is especially helpful when you're trying to even out the left and right sides of the stereo field (Positive numbers for right, negative numbers for left).
As a producer, I’m sure you seen endless ads for MIDI chord packs. While these tools can certainly be useful, Ableton’s stock scale plugin may be all you need. Grab the MIDI effect "scale" and place it on any loaded MIDI track.
Scale comes with plenty of stock scales that restrict the notes you're playing on your keyboard or controller. This way, you'll never play outside of your set key! You can think of this utility as the musical bumpers you find the bowling alley.
8. In-Clip Automation
One of the most underused functions of Ableton Live is the DAW’s in-clip automation. Make sure your audio clip is set to warp, press the automation toggle, and you can start to have fun with individual even lopes for some resampled groove.
Ableton’s mapping system is designed to be simple whether you’re linking to an outside controller like Controlla or linking controls to your computer keyboard. Start by toggling the "Key" or "MIDI" buttons in the top right of your DAW. The "Key" ruction is for mapping controls on your keyboard, while "MIDI" links to any MIDI controller.
From there, simply click a parameter you want to link (like a wet/dry knob on an effect for instance), and then press the key or knob you want to automate that parameter.
Once you successfully map something in MIDI, you can set upper and higher limits on your automation in the mapping window for a more precise performance.
10. Width and Height
It’s easy to get lost in a large session. If you find yourself a bit overwhelmed by uneven track sizes, you could press shift, select all tracks, and then the collapse feature to make everything more manageable. You can also toggle on the "H" and "W" controls in the top right corner to optimize your session navigation in a flash.
11. Loop Function
Ableton’s loop function does much more than what the name suggests. You can certainly start by looping a section of your song by highlighting an area and pressing Command + L. From there, right click on the loop bar at the top. You can duplicate the selected time, cut it, or even change the default start location of your song.
12. Play With Preserve Value
It’s hard to beat Ableton’s clip manipulation controls, and preserve value is no exception. One of my favorite things is to edit the preserve value under the beat function, giving the audio clip a pulsating effect. Select at what rhythm you want to process your clip, select the single directional arrow and have fun experimenting!
13. Set Up A Template
This may not be the most groundbreaking Ableton discovery, but setting up your own templates for various types of sessions can be a real time saver. For instance, you could set up defaults for vocal tracking, sampling, or a basic production set up.
To do this, set up your session as intended and select "Save live set as template" under the file menu. You can find your templates underneath the groove section and right click to set a default for when you open Ableton Live.
Hopefully, these tips made it easier for you to build beats in Ableton Live. Have fun experimenting with these new tools!