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Quick Ableton Live Tip – Levels that don’t clip on the fly

Posted on June 8th at 10:49 am
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I haven’t posted for a while… but my New Years resolution was I will post on this site more often. Let’s see, it’s June – not BAD! ;)

I have been using a simple technique to help me address a common issue I have in Ableton Live and I’d thought I’d post a short description of it in case it helped someone in the same situation.

So I’m up late working on a tune. I want to hear just a little more of the rhythm guitar. A few minutes later I might want the accents on the conga to pop up just a little bit more – up goes the velocity. +2db at 3.5k on the eq for vocal, now the bass drum needs a little more, and on and on it goes. Then you look at your master channel output meters – oh man, the level is in the RED! I’m not one to drop a limiter on the master channel and forget it – nope, I’m to old school for that. I figure getting my levels optimized before a limiter goes on is a good idea (however on a Live gig, a limiter is just the thing).

Now before I figured out this tip I would start the mix over just at an overall lower level. This worked but took quite a bit of time. The fact is often I like the relative levels of the tune I’m working on it is just that they are overall to loud.

THE TIP!

In either Arrangement or Session View left click on Track Title Bar to select it. (In the default “New Live Set” the Track Title Bars say “Audio” on track one and “Midi” on track two). After you have clicked on a Track Title Bar press and hold command and tap the “A” key. This will select ALL of your Track Title Bars.

Now, while these are all selected turn down one of the volume faders. You will see that ALL of them change. Nice eh?

Say I have a mix I am really liking but I get a peak of +2.27db (you can see this in the Peak Level Meter read out in session view on the master channel right above the Master Channel Fader. If you can’t see the Peak Level Meter roll over the line just above the Master Channel Fader, click and drag up on the line. Clicking on the meter resets the read out which lets you see current peak levels.) Select a Track Title Bar, Cmd A, adjust the level of a fader on any selected track down 2.5db (or 3db for just a tad of head room). You are done. No “in the red” level peaks for the overall mix.

 

This has saved me a LOT of time and lets me just keep working rather than trying to optimize levels when I’m trying to stay in a creative or production oriented state of mind.

A few notes:

1) If you have groups created for some tracks this technique only turns down the group master – not the levels in the group itself. That is great since many times, for instance in a string section I want to keep the section balance intact but just want the over all level in context of the entire mix to be reduced.

2) This technique can also be more granular – hold shift and click the various Track Title Bars that you want to make an Ad Hoc group out of for global editing. Very handy!

Note – if your peak is really high +6db or otherwise out of control you might have other issues in your mix. There may be one sample or instrument that is just to loud at a particular instant. This tip is really aimed a mix that doesn’t have other level problems, just those that in the normal process of tweaking tend to get a little hot. Oh, you might also need to bring up your playback systems listen level a bit once you adjust the overall levels since you turned down the entire mix. But clean, none “peaking in the red zone” mixes are what I like to have and this tip helps me keep in the flow while I am working.

BONUS TIP!

This technique of selecting all the tracks and making a change globally works for many if not all the parameters in Live. So if you need to change a send level, a follow action, expand, collapse or resize tracks in both Session and Arrangement view or pretty much anything you can think of, this can be a great tool for global edits.

Thanks for dropping by. Comments and additional tips welcome!

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