They say “you can’t master anything if you don’t work for it”.
Be it any field, knowing somethings and accepting if that you don’t know something and working for it, can yield bigger and better results. And, this isn’t any different when it comes to music production. We producers rely on many things to complete a project or to even complete a part of a project in a session. But if you don’t know about a particular thing you can easily google that and that would do the job, but the amount of time you’ll waste in finding the reliable source is something you won’t get back. So, before we start, if you know the following tips it means you’ve done your research, but if you don’t, well fella it’s time to learn something new.
Below are the 10 Ableton tips you should know to up your production and workflow game.
1. Prepare Your Own Template
Some might argue and some might not. Everyone has their own way of starting a project. Some like to start with the default Ableton template i.e 2 MIDI and 2 Audio tracks while others may like to make their own template. The reason for preparing your own template is that when you start completing your projects you’ll notice how your projects end up and look like when they’re complete and you know which channel/element goes where. So if you prepare and start working with your own template you won’t have to worry about thinking which element should go in which group and what should be the color scheme. This path will save you a lot of time that you can use somewhere else.
2. Default Audio/Midi Channel Elements
This is one of those tricks that can come handy for many Ableton users. The option to set default audio effects, either native or third party can save a lot of time. In electronic music, all you want in your low end is your kick and bass. You don’t want anything clashing with them, and if anything does, the idea of achieving a perfect mixdown is ruined because bass and sub frequencies is what drives the crowd at big concerts or clubs. So, to remove unwanted frequencies you’ll be using EQ most of the time, so just set up your EQ on a blank audio/midi channel, then right click and select "set as default audio track" from the drop down menu. Again some might use this and some might not. It all comes down to your workflow and how you feel comfortable.
3. Lock/Unlock Automation Curves
Sometimes you might have found yourself in a situation in which you want to copy a MIDI block to different section of your song in which you’ve automated different parameters like Pitch, Wavetable Position, Cut Off Frequency etc and you want to automate these parameters again but in a different way to give a sense of variation but don’t want all the automation to be copied. You can achieve this by clicking the Lock Button located directly above your 1st channel.
4. Convert Frozen Track to Audio without Flattening
Now sometimes you might feel that the chords or a synth patch that you’ve made is taking a lot of CPU either because of too many voices or you went ham with the post processing. But you also don’t want to flatten it because you feel like you might need to come back and change up something later on. So, to tackle this all you have to do is freeze the midi track and create a new audio track. Then drag that midi block to the audio track and deactivate the midi channel. Now you have the midi data in audio form and since you’ve deactivated the midi channel it won’t be using the CPU power. *easy peasy*
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5. Process Multiple Groups The Same Way
Coming to tip number 5 we have how to process multiple groups in the same way. Now let’s say you have different groups that already have some processing on them but you feel like you want to EQ out a particular frequency from all the groups, then want to add some distortion and later compress and limit them so that they don’t create abnormal peaks or exceed a certain level. This can be achieved by using a Bus. All you have to do is create an Audio Track and turn on its Input (IN) Monitoring then send output of all the groups you want to process, to this audio track. Now add all the effects to this audio channel that you’re now using as a Bus and all these effects will be applied to all the groups that are being routed through this bus. This trick can do wonders to your mixdown.
6. Check You Track's Low End & Mono Compatibility
Now this is a really neat trick. Let’s say you’re working on a bass heavy track and want to check whats going down in your track’s low end? Well this could be done by adding a High Cut/Low Pass Filter at around 90-100 Hz on your Master Channel. Now map the EQ's on/off switch to a number key and whenever you want to hear whats going in your low end all you need to do is just press the assigned key. Another condition could be you want to check the mono compatibility of of your track. This could be done by adding an Utility effect on your master and bringing down the width to 0% and now you’ll hear is your track in Mono. If you feel that any element is lost or anything is losing its volume/impact this means you’ve added too much width to the particular element which is causing phase cancellation and you might need to treat it again to make sure it doesn’t gets week in mono. Make sure to assign a number key to its On/Off switch like you did with the EQ.
7. Don't Solo a Track While Mixing It
This is a really important tip to keep in mind when mixing or making any adjustments. A lot people still use the solo feature while making any adjustments like adding compression, eq, distortion etc to a particular track/element. But, when they play the whole track that element might sound either too loud/ muddy. So the best bet is to make any adjustments while the whole song is playing. Only use Solo when necessary.
8. Rank Your Audio Effects
This is also a good method to increase the speed your workflow and not lose any inspiration while you're in the zone. So using this trick would allow you to rate your audio effects based on how frequently you use them. By default effects are displayed by their Type, so all you have to do is right click where it says Type and select Rank.
9. Test Your Track In Different Conditions
By utilizing multiple audio effects you can replicate how your track would sound in different conditions. Just add these racks to your master channel and map their On/off switch to different number keys like you did in Tip Number 6. Using these rack can give you an idea of how your track would sound Live, Outside a Club and on a Laptop Speaker. You can make your own Outside the Club (I’ve used Valhalla Room reverb which is at 100 Wet but you can use any other reverb too) and Laptop Speaker rack by following the image below and for the Live rack you can check out Frosti’s Video in which he explains what the Live rack is all about and can download it from here.
Some additional tips can be to Learn all the Ableton Live's Shortcuts and to Properly Color & Group all your elements to avoid any confusion later on. We hope this helped and you learned something new with this article. Just keep on reading new things that intrigues you, practice them and execute them in your next project. This is the only way you’ll grow as a better producer.