First off, having a physical controller for Ableton is a must, I’d start with something inexpensive like the Launchpad, which you can buy from Amazon for like £100.
Sometimes, using Ableton you can spend more time fiddling with menus than making tracks. Remember that there are plenty of little tricks that make life that little bit easier, leaving you more time and energy to put into your music. Here’s my list of tricks that I use in almost every Ableton session:
- Set a metronome count in for recording; just right click on the metronome icon and choose how many bars.
- You can use Cmd+R to quickly rename a track. But don’t do it every time, just hit tab to start renaming the next track/scene along.
- Map a couple of keys or MIDI controller buttons to the Up and Down scene selector buttons (below the Stop Clips button), so handy to just skip through scenes.
- Put a limiter on the master track. It’s best to set it to stereo, that will lock the left and right channels together (L/R will change the left and right channels independently, that will effect your balance)
- Use follow actions to jam live with your clips: learn how here.
- If you are getting pops and clicks in your audio, increase the buffer size in the audio preferences. The pay off here is increased latency, so see what works for you.
- Go to Options->Preferences->CPU tab. Select “Multicore/Multiprocessor”. If your computer supports it, this will distribute the CPU load more widely over your available cores and CPUs.
- To make sure all your sounds and samples you are using are safe in your project file, use the Collect All and Save option.
- Use Groups to speed up mixing and keep everything balanced. For example, if you have multiple drum tracks, create a new audio channel, name it something like “Drum Group” and then select “Drum Group“ on the “Audio to” option of each drum track you want sent to the group. The group then sends out to the master, so you can now control the levels for all drum tracks at the same time.
- Use sends for any effect that is being duplicated on more than one tracks. It cuts down on CPU and improves work flow.