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Monday, 18 August 2014

20 Ableton Tips and Tricks

Here's a list of 20 tips and tricks that I find myself using in Ableton a lot. Hope this helps some of you, spending time to improve and speed up your workflow is always time well spent as it allows you to get down your ideas incredibly fast. So here we go...

  • Hold shift when you're moving your MIDI notes up and down with the arrow keys to move the notes up and down an octave rather than just a semitone.
  • If you are using your computer keyboard to play in a melody, the keys Z and X can be used to shift your keyboard up and down an octave.
  • If you have a bunch of MIDI notes selected, then the keys C and V will decrease and increase the notes velocity by 20 respectively. 
  • You probably know that the compressor device has a sidechain function, but did you know that the autofilter does also? This can be a great creative effect for triggering, exaggerating or altering specific sounds.
  • In the preferences section, you should turn off auto warp long samples. This will prevent Live from inputting a bunch of annoying warp markers when you're importing things like full songs for a DJ mix or similar.
  • Stick to beats warp mode if you can. Beats slices the sound up like a sampler would and avoids any degradation of the audio quality. You can also play around with the beats mode slicing algorithm (transients, 16th or 8th notes, for example) and the slice length (which defaults to 100%) to get some cool results, especially on drum loops. 
  • A cool way to get creative, granular effects or glitching out of a sound is to use the tones or texture warp mode and play around with the grain size and flux functions. The effect is more extreme when you stretch the sound out to say 200% or more of it's original length.
  • Hitting delete on any device parameter returns it to it's default setting. For example if you do this on a macro control it returns it to zero.
  • If you're like me and you rename tracks often, use the tab function to go to the next track and rename it without having to click it with the mouse. 
  • If you like precision when you're drawing in automation or setting device parameters, hold command (Mac) or control (PC) to adjust your values in very slight increments.
  • Having multiple tracks selected will mean that if you pencil in automation on the one track then this will be proportionally entered into the other selected tracks. You can also resize multiple tracks at once by having multiple tracks selected and then just resizing the one track. 
  • A great way to reinterpret melodies is to right click on an audio file containing the said melody, then select the slice to new MIDI track option. Now you should have a MIDI track containing a sampler and various slices of your original melody. Put an arpeggiator in front of this for some interesting results. 
  • Remember the double time, half time and reverse functions in the envelope editor can all work with MIDI clips. You can even insert markers in a MIDI clip and warp it to fit a different time signature or time period. Try to use this creatively with your melodies, mirroring your MIDI melody for example to see if it sounds better that way.
  • Use a start up template to save time. It's really easy to save a start up template in Live's preferences menu. Save a session that contains all of the tracks you'd normally use and all the device you want mapped to macros, then set this as your startup template. 
  • Right click on a device and hit save as default to save the settings you currently have the default preset for every time you open this device. This can save a lot of time, as does saving device presets and instrument or audio effect racks in general.
  • You can quickly re-pitch one or a collection of audio clips by changing the transpose control in the envelope section, or by using detune for finer tuning. This is really useful for trying to get sounds to match the particular key of the song your making. Just quickly move the transpose dial up or down until the selected sounds fit. All warp modes except repitch will keep the audio regions the same length. 
  • You can change t he lay out when importing multiple files from the browser or another window by holding down command (Mac) or control (PC) before you let go of them. This basically toggles from horizontal to vertical in arrangement view and vice versa in session view.
  • Double click any of the browser's buttons on the left to completely collapse all of the folders in your current view. This is extremely useful in that it can save you a lot of scrolling. 
  • The simple delay, ping pong delay and filter delay devices in Ableton are all quite digital sounding, but you can access different delay modes by right clicking the device and selecting the repitch option which makes the delay sound like a tape delay unit. This is usually only very obvious when automating a change in the delay time, and can lead to some cool, bendy, glitchy effects. 
  • Auto bypass can be enabled for device parameters by using macros. Usually when you switch to a macro the midway point becomes the threshold for turning that parameter on or off. By changing the minimum value to one, we'll get the desired behaviour. When the macro control is at zero the parameter is off, and when it's anywhere between 1 to 127 the parameter is switched on.

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