2 Ableton Live Tips Every Drummer Should Know

By Dave Hill Jr.

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If you're reading this, you already know that Ableton Live is a deep and multifaceted music production and performance tool that can seem both simple and complex all at once.

For drummers, it's not always obvious how to use Ableton for multi-tracking and producing vs. other DAWs like Logic, Pro Tools and the like -- but for me, it's the only choice (and kind of all I know).

That said, here are a few essential tips for drummers using Ableton whether you are using Sensory Percussion or not.

Look ma, I'm a studio drummer!

Let's go out on a limb and say that most of us drummers don't always play every note as perfectly as we would like. Perhaps the performance is there for the most part, but you might hear a little pushing and pulling in some sections or hear a couple of kicks and snares not quite lining up. So how do you save the take?

You could try and skillfully copy and paste a section but you can often run into issues with the track not feeling quite right energetically speaking. You might hit harder or softer in different sections or there might be cymbals ringing and they can sound chopped off or absent.

Luckily, Ableton has a very helpful feature that allows you to adjust the timing of multiple tracks at once. Simply click on the last clip and then hold down Shift as you select the easiest clip to identify the out of time hit.

You will see a striped effect on the clip view at the top if you have selected multiple clips.

::: info Make sure to have all of your drum tracks selected at the same time. Otherwise, some edits will be out of sync once you move a warp marker. :::

The key thing here is that every clip has to be exactly the same length. Typically, this isn't a problem if you are multitracking all of the drums at once but if you are overdubbing or mixing other clips in, their lengths can vary. If you have multiple lengths in your project, you can highlight the region and then consolidate these clips by using Command + J. Then you can edit.

Below is an example of a before and after fix.

If the wrong clip is selected in the clip view, hold down Command (CNTL on PC) and click on the track you want to view twice (once to deselect it and then again to select it again). Now you should see the clip and you can zoom in on the transient you want to fix.

::: info Note: Snapping your transients (drum hits) to the grid is typically not the best approach. Use Option + drag to nudge the drum hit where you want it and use your ears to get the feel where you want it. :::

Also, you'll want to use this next trick to make sure you aren't pushing your entire take all over and only adjusting a single hit.

Three Warp Markers at Once

Ableton's online manual describes warp markers as “a rubber-band that you want to pin to a (musical time) ruler.”

The key then is how you pin the areas around the transient that you want to make a precision edit. If you create a single warp marker and move it, you are adjusting the timing of everything in the sample before and after it. Often when fixing a drum track, you want to only fix a single janky hit and adjusting the whole track would be a disaster.

A killer shortcut for precision edits is to hold down command (cntl on PC?) while you create a warp marker. This will automatically create two warp markers on either side of the one you are planning to adjust. These additional two warp markers are like pins in the rubber band stabilizing the timing of the rest of the clip.

This is extra helpful when working with multiple tracks at once as it creates the warp markers in all of the tracks at the same time.

::: info Note: All of the above tips work well for Sensory Percussion users using either the Streamer or the VST plug-in though these tracks have no mic bleed (are discrete) so editing is simpler most of the time. :::

Dave wrote the world's first book on Ableton Live in 2003. Since then, he worked at Ableton and then iZotope before relocating “home” to the Seattle area. Dave is active as a drummer and coach working with individual artists, business leaders, and those interested in development, sustainable growth, and conscious business practices. www.go2marketcoach.com

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