Ableton: A Few Favourite Features

Over the last 5+ years Ableton Live has slowly established itself as one of the go-to DAW's of choice.  After a few late night discussions about which software is best (no answer) we decided to compile a few of our favourite features of Ableton and drop them into a list of our favourite Ableton Live Tips.  All for you fine people. 

Many of these will be familiar but if not you might spot something that helps keep the creativity flowing, speeds up your work flow, gets more life out your sample pack collection or just makes things that bit nicer when producing and writing. 

1. Macros - So powerful yet so often overlooked the humble macro allows multiple dials or sliders to be adjusted simultaneously with Ableton Live.  With the ability to set a maximum and minimum value these amazing little dials of joy are perfect when performing live and save crucial space when mapping out midi controllers. 

Live Tip - Use the ‘map to siblings button’ to save time when using drum racks with macros. This will copy all the info changes to the other cells held within the drum rack

2. Markers - I'm forever loosing where I am in a track but with the aid of markers it allows you to easily navigate around the session.  Markers are also Key & Midi assignable meaning you can jump around your session with ease.  I like to set 1 to the start (Cmd+K switches Ableton to key map mode) and also label key moments the session to that I often jump to.  For me this would be intro, drop, breakdown and outro. 

3. Transient Mode & Transient Envelope - This was only pointed out to me recently but instantly became one of my favourite hidden Ableton tips.  

By adjusting the envelope settings you can create amazing, short rhythmic patterns to any loop which completely changes the context of the original sound source.  Long phrases become short rhythmic pieces that are perfect for percussion.  This is how it's done: 

  1. Ensure the warping on your loop is on 'Beats' Mode and the preserve on 'Transient's. 
  2. Set the 'Transient Loop Mode' to play forward.  The image below has the settings you'd be looking for. 
  3. Adjust the transient amount to taste.  100% will sound normal - The lower the threshold the more choppy the results.  
Envelopes

4. Save As Default -   Nobody likes repeating the same tasks over and over, even in Ableton.  On all devices and channels you can right click and save the current settings as the default.  For me I always have an EQ and compressor on every channel just in case.  I also prefer to have the EQ on 'Oversampling' mode for better quality.  This tip has saved me no end of time.   

Set as default Ableton Live

6. Noise oscillator in Ableton's Sampler - An easy way to add some noise, grit & Lo-Fi style to your samples.  Just click on the 'Pitch/OSC' section of your sampler and choose the noise wave form from the 'type' dropdown menu.  Slowly bring up the volume to reveal the noise. 

This can also be tweaked with the on board envelope for more natural results.  This is great for adding some analogue inspired hiss feel to any sound or instrument.  This technique along with many other lo-fi production techniques were explored in our Lo-Fi Production techniques blog last month.  

Ableton Live's Noise oscillator held within the Sampler. 

Ableton Live's Noise oscillator held within the Sampler. 

7 . Freeze Midi Channels for quick bounces - Never wait for bounce in place again.  The process: 

  1. Right click on the midi channel and choose 'Freeze'
  2. Once frozen, Alt+Click on the frozen piece of midi 
  3. Drag to new channel to reveal the audio with all the Ableton effects included. 

8. Speed Editing - Because pressing CMD+E can be boring why not try this top tip.  Highlight the section of audio that you would like to chop - drag your mouse down then release to pop in the edit you require.  This should split the audio clip into the desired length.  

9. Smooth Automation - Change the shape of your automation from straight lines to curved.  Just hover over the automation, hold Alt and drag the automation into beautifully shaped curves.  These can be incredibly useful for adding more natural fades and risers.  A personal favourite tip of all the Touch Loops Ableton lovers.  

Ableton Automation curves

10. Delay Modes - Instant Tape FX

By right clicking on the simple delay audio FX you can choose multiple options that affect how the simple-delay responds to changes in tempo and delay time.  By selecting re-pitch mode the audio shall warp and twist, especially with changes in tempo, delay times and feedback levels.  

Delay options

Found this useful?  Can think of some more secret Ableton tips and tricks?  Get in touch and let us know! 

You might also like our debut Ableton Live Sampler Instrument: Ethereal Instruments 

The Touch Loops team. 

Touch Loops