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Ableton Live 8 – Five tips to speed up workflow

I’ve been a big fan of Ableton Live ever since switching from another host a couple of years ago. Learning a new DAW host can be a challenge, and take some serious time. Here’s 5 things that will help any user speed up workflow.

1. Mouse free browsing – Live’s browser can be a bit clunky, but you can actually navigate quite well without ever using the mouse. Cmd-Shift-F/Ctrl-Shift-F will take you straight to the browser search. Then type the name of your plugin, Live device or sample and hit enter. From here you can hit the down arrow on your keyboard to start browsing the results. Select the correct item and hit Return to insert it on the currently selected track. Bingo – quick, hands free file browsing.

2. Multiple track selections – Almost any track parameters can be changed on multiple tracks at once. Cmd/Ctrl click to select more than one track and then change any parameter. It works on the obvious stuff like volume and panning, but also parameters like input and output routing, expand/collapse, automation parameter selection and even freezing.

3. Naming tracks – Hit Cmd-R/Ctrl-R to rename a track and instead if hitting enter when done, hit the tab key to rename the next track.

4. Favorite plugins – Take a favorite plugin, something that you use again and again (an EQ is a good example). Now Group it (Cmd-G/Ctrl-G) and assign the most common parameters to the Group’s 8 macro knobs. With an EQ you could have Low and High Cut and 2 bands of parametric EQ with control over frequency, gain and Q. Now save it as a Live device. Whenever you need your EQ, insert this device instead of the plugin itself and you will be able to do 80% of EQ tasks without ever opening the plugin interface.

5. Changing the grid size – Probably my most used keyboard shortcuts are Cmd-1/Ctrl-1 to decrease the grid size, Cmd-2/Ctrl-2 to increase it, Cmd-3/Ctrl-3 to turn triplets on/off and Cmd-4/Ctrl-4 to turn the Grid off altogether. These apply to the Arrangement page as well as the Midi editor. Make these key presses instinctive and you’ll be editing much faster.

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