10 Ways To Work Faster In Ableton Live

Adam McLellan shares his tips      02/07/13

10 Ways To Work Faster In Ableton Live

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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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