My Ableton Live template setup

Download my blank Ableton template here. Version 6+ (Mac)
Click on images to view or download a larger version from Flickr

ableton_routing

ableton_signal_flow

This lesson is assuming you have a mid-to-advanced knowledge of Ableton Live. If you’re a beginner there are tons of really great tutorials in the help menu of Ableton. I’m hardly an expert but it would take entirely too long to layout the groundwork for most of this. I’m using version 6 by the way. I’m pretty sure everything here can be done in version 5 and up.

Ok here’s the basic concept. I can run analog tracks in (as well as MIDI) and loop them live on the fly. I have 2 microphones, an electric guitar, acoustic guitar, electric drums, cello, and a MIDI keyboard all going simultaneously into Ableton Live via my Edirol FA-101 audio interface. I use a Behringer MIDI Foot Controller FCB1010 and a M-Audio Axiom 49 to control everything. I’ll explain more about how I use those in another post. I can also have pre-recorded audio in any one of the looping tracks so I can mix them up with the one’s I’m recording live.

I’m sure this will continue to evolve over time but I think I’ve settled into a good base point.

I created a rule that I call THE RULE OF 8′S. It just so happened that almost all my gear does most things in 8’s. There are 8 analog inputs on my Edirol interface as well as 8 faders and 8 buttons on my Axiom keyboard. I have 10 buttons on my Behringer foot controller but I had to use 2 of them to scroll scenes, thus bringing me back to 8. I might have been able to work around it and squeezed out 10 controllable tracks from the Behringer, but I decided to keep it uniform. Besides when I tried using more than 8 tracks for looping it just got confusing. 8 seems to be the magic number here.

Here’s the basic signal flow:
– Audio and MIDI go in to their individual tracks
– Their output is sent to a track I set up called "Bus"
– I have 8 blank tracks set to have audio-in from that Bus track only

Here’s a closer look at each element…

AUDIO IN:
All of these tracks are set to go directly to the Bus track. Their monitor is set to IN. That way you can still hear audio even though you’re not recording.

Each instrument has it’s own track. I have a few effects (such as reverb, delay) on the Return tracks that I keep hidden. So if I want to add reverb to any of the tracks I just turn up that return knob. I also have certain effects I know that I’ll need for specific instruments loaded directly onto their tracks, like compressors or noise gates.

Now with this setup if you want to have an instrument running into Ableton but DON’T want it to be recorded into the loops, then you leave the output to Master. Since the looping tracks only receive audio from the Bus track then those tracks won’t go into the loop. For example my band mate might be playing cello that’s piped into Ableton with some really cool delay on it but I’m also playing a guitar part that I want to loop seperately.

MIDI IN:
All MIDI tracks output is set to go directly to the Bus track. Their monitor is set to IN. Same reason as Audio above.

I have the M-Audio Axiom 49 going in as a MIDI keyboard. Now I have 2 tracks set up for it. The first is a blank slate MIDI track. When I’m ready to change the sound I’m using I just look in the menu on the left (I have my favorite sounds in their own menu) and drag and drop it into that first MIDI track. The 2nd track is already loaded with an Ableton Operator synth in which I have certain settings controlled through knobs on the Axiom. Basically, so I can make fun synth noises. Now to make it easier to switch between the 2 I have one track muted and one not. Then in the Ableton Key Mapping mode I set the same key for BOTH buttons. So when I press that key on my computer keyboard then the one that is un-muted is then muted, and vice versa on the other. Love it!

8 LOOPING TRACKS:
Each of these track’s input are set to come directly from the Bus track. Their monitor is set to OFF. That is because you’re already getting their audio from the Bus track. If they aren’t off then you’d be hearing audio from all 8 tracks, plus the bus.

So all of those Audio and MIDI tracks we’ve been talking about are being corralled into a single track, the magic Bus, then the audio from that is being sent to these 8 tracks simultaneously. I can record a loop on every scene available for tracks 1-8. Since all the instruments are live, I can pick up the guitar and record a loop into track 1. Then pick up the acoustic and record a loop into track 2. Then play the keyboard and record a loop to track 3. For track 4 I want to get really cool and record guitar and vocals at the same time! Sweet. Now I have a band bigger than Pink Floyd’s stage show in a matter of seconds. I can also have pre-recorded loops on these tracks so if you like building up the loops one by one of the verse, but don’t want to lose momentum on the chorus you can have certain parts in the can.

Now each of these tracks record buttons are ALL ARMED. The reason for this is when I click on the controller for a particular track, it will immediately start recording in the scene that is currently selected. This way I don’t have to arm and then disarm each track every time I want to record. They’re already ready to go. And it won’t record over any pre-recorded tracks you might already have in there.

ALL RECORD:
I added this track so I can record an entire performance including things that aren’t loops. Without this, If I want to record an entire performance and click the record button at the top of the Ableton screen, it will not record the Audio or MIDI tracks that are being played live, just the loops. The reason is those tracks are not armed to record, BUT their audio is still going to the Master. So I set up a designated track that stays record-enabled and ONLY receives audio from the Master. Since the Master is basically a mix of everything you’re doing (loops, and parts you’re playing live) then this track grabs it all. When you want to play back your performance you can solo this track out.

CLICK:
I have my own click track because the drummer needs to have the click blasted in his headphones. This way I have full control of the volume. It also grants me more control on what kind of click I want. Now in order for the click to not go out into the PA I have it panned hard left and only output hard right to the board. I can route the click to a separate output but that would require a designated mixer to get it to my headphones in a separate mix. Ultimately, for myself, the reasons to just go mono out to the board far outweigh what it would take to have stereo out.

So that is my Ableton Live set up. On my next blog post I’ll describe how I use my Behringer MIDI Foot Controller FCB1010 and a M-Audio Axiom 49 to control Ableton. Hope you enjoyed it!

Download my blank Ableton template here. Version 6+ (Mac)

Related posts:
How to program a Behringer MIDI Foot Controller FCB1010 for Ableton Live
Using a Behringer FCB1010 and M-Audio Axiom with Ableton Live

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27 Comments on "My Ableton Live template setup"

  1. Curtis
    27/05/2009 at 7:57 pm Permalink

    This is brilliant, really. I’ve only been using Live for about 6 months so I’m still learning. Could you possibly save this as a set/template and email it to me? Thanks!

  2. Jeremy
    27/05/2009 at 8:42 pm Permalink

    Thanks Curtis! I appreciate the kind words. Sure I don’t mind at all. I’ll send it tonight!

  3. Glenn
    29/05/2009 at 7:49 pm Permalink

    Hello Jeremy! Great stuff here. It’s been a great help to my learning Live. You wouldn’t happen to have a version of the project that is compatible with Live! 5.2.2, would you? I still have a ways to go before I’ll be able to upgrade to version 8. I would be very grateful if you could send me the file if possible. :) Thanks!

  4. Jeremy
    29/05/2009 at 11:02 pm Permalink

    Thanks Glenn! I’m so happy to hear that this helped. I’m using 6.0.3 I think but it might work. I’ll send it to you and we’ll see.

  5. Jerry
    15/06/2009 at 10:50 am Permalink

    Hi Jeremy. Came across yr blog while researching how to use an fcb1010 and Ableton 7. However, I am a newbie to Ableton and more of a computer/electronics geek (built a sampling synth/sequencer prototype in 1978!) so it would be really useful to also get hold of a copy of your template. Any chance u cd mail me with it?
    I also have an 8 way physical mixer and am using my PC sound card via the tape in/out mixer connections – instead of buying a multi I/O card like yours. Probably not ideal, but it allows me to control things a bit more when I am not in Ableton. I guess i will need to buy a more sophisticated interface soon…

    As for the FCB1010, my interest is that it makes more sense (to a software man) to use an external pedal system to control lots of different effects running on the pc rather than having lots of harder (or impossible) to program devices in the pedal itself. So my objective is to implement a wah function (to start with) by using the pedal to sweep a bandpass filter somehow in ableton… If this makes any sense to u, i’d be very grateful for any comments, thoughts, advice, etc – even along the infamous lines of “well I wouldn’t start from here”!
    Cheers, Jerry

  6. Jeremy
    16/06/2009 at 3:11 am Permalink

    Hey Jerry! Sure I’ll send that too you. I think setting up a wah function should be totally possible, in fact, I can’t believe I didn’t think of that! I’m going to have to give that a try now. Let me put some thought into that. I think there might be several ways to go about it. Just about anything you can think of can be mapped effortlessly in AL. You can even change multiple things with one control message.

    By the way, you built a sampling synth/sequencer in ‘78? My hats off too you!

    I’ll get that file to you tonight.

  7. Hi Jeremy
    20/06/2009 at 9:12 pm Permalink

    Hi Jeremy,

    Echoing everyones comments above, I have found this page SO helpful!

    It really does give a great head start to getting a base set-up working that is tried and tested. A real time saver!

    Could you also please email me the file.

    Once again, thank-you, and all the best.

    Jason

    PS. I have also recently bought an Axiom 49 and am looking forward to using it in the set-up.

  8. Jeremy
    21/06/2009 at 1:35 am Permalink

    Thanks Jason! I’m so happy that my post has been so helpful for people. Sometimes trying to find useful information can me a huge headache. I’m glad I’ve been able to help. No problem I’ll email that out to you. I decided to include the template in the post itself too since it’s such a popular request! :-)

    Your gonna like the Axiom. It’s so perfect for this set up. I love it.

  9. tiyok
    08/08/2009 at 1:00 am Permalink

    hi jeremy,
    this is what i’m looking for, i’m new in LIVE worls and this will be very helpful..
    would appreciate if you could email me the set..btw, I’m using PC..will it work?
    thanks for a great work.

    tiyok-singapore

  10. Jeremy
    08/08/2009 at 4:12 am Permalink

    Hello Tiyok! I’m so glad my post was helpful to you. Unfortunately my set will not work on a PC. I’m going to see if I can get someone with a PC to make me one that way I can provide both. But best of luck and if you have any questions just ask!

  11. thomas
    16/10/2009 at 8:37 pm Permalink

    Hello Jeremy ,

    I’m using abelton for about 2 years now . and i never get my audio & midi tracks recorded like i play them . always troubel !! One time i got the audio but not de midi recorded , the other time the midi but not the audio , or my recording stops somewhere random in my live set or song.
    I’m thinking this abelton live template is just what i need . But just one problemo !!
    i’m using PC :-(
    so please get a pc version .
    in the mean time i’m going to examine your template and use this as a reference for my own template .
    thanks !
    grtz

  12. Jeremy
    16/10/2009 at 9:01 pm Permalink

    Yeah I’ve been trying to get a PC version of it up and running. If you follow the tutorial hopefully it will work for you. From what you’re saying though I worry it’s a software issue. Have you tried wiping it (completely) and reinstalling it?

  13. Shon
    02/11/2009 at 4:49 pm Permalink

    Hello Jeremy

    I just stumbled across this article and it gave me a little more insight on the depth of live. I also have a fcb1010 and a mpd 32 an would like to use your template could you email me it? I also have templates that I`ve made an would like to share…. Thanks

  14. Gabi
    01/12/2009 at 7:43 pm Permalink

    Jeremy!

    This is absolutely brilliant!!! Here I am trying all sorts of routings to loop live and I stumbled over the most clever (and informative) way of looping!

    One thing I would ask – It seems like everything is running live through the computer. Do you have to deal with any latency? I have (still) a G4 Mac at 1.3 GHz, beefed up with 2 Gb Ram, all is well, etc.
    Any good advice to make Ableton run as smooth as possible?

    Note: the template is missing some of the samples. Any chance to have a template that include those (maybe using Collect and Save)?

    Thanks a TON!!!

    Gabi.

  15. Jeremy
    01/12/2009 at 10:10 pm Permalink

    Wow thanks Gabi!!! Your very kind words mean a lot.

    Good question regarding latency, yes yes and yes unfortunately. I have a 2.6 GHz 4 GB memory and an Edirol FA 101 interface (which I purchases specifically because of user comments regarding it’s low latency) and it’s still present. Mind you it’s not terrible, but it is present. A slight chorusing effect. It’s not so obvious on instruments though, like the guitar. I really don’t notice it, but on vocals it is. You can mess with the Buffer settings in Ableton but I haven’t found any magical setting.

  16. Gabi
    02/12/2009 at 6:07 pm Permalink

    I am thinking that one could ‘lighten’ the processing load with certain external routings (still need to experiment).

    For instance using an external mixer, and external FXs for all the incoming audio (mic1, mic2, electric guitar, acoustic, etc.) that feeds the BUS track in Ableton with one submix stereo input.
    And the same thing applies – if you have instruments on the physical mixer you don’t want to be recorded, you simply don’t assign those mixer channels to the submix that feeds the Ableton BUS channel.

    Now – in this case you might have some slight delay issues between the instruments that are playing with direct monitoring (i.e. from physical mixer to direct out into PA or monitor system), and the loops recorded onto Ableton. But chances are that having less tracks, might free up some CPU that’s so precious for folks like me using still old school stuff [sigh].

    I am just curious to know your impressions on this routing option (I still need to actually try it – heh). Maybe tonight.

    thanks again!
    Cheers,
    Gabi.

  17. Lasse
    22/12/2009 at 11:21 pm Permalink

    Hey! Great post – really inspired me :) Have you any idea on how to decide which midi channel the fcb will be transmitting on (.. i have a lot of midi controllers – and i really want to seperate them to their own channels, so things won’t be messed up.. :)

    Kind regards

  18. Jeremy
    22/12/2009 at 11:56 pm Permalink

    Thank you very much Lasse! Very pleased that my post inspired you! I honestly haven’t messed with the channel but you got me curious and I found this. https://secure.mtnsys.com/faq-fcb/IdiotsGuide.htm.

    If you scroll down a bit you’ll see a section “Set the MIDI Channels”. Hope that helps!

  19. Mozart Secret
    03/01/2010 at 3:14 pm Permalink

    This is a gift for me to find your blog…… A good idea is to integrate Tape it to your
    All Record Track or master etc………

    http://www.silverspike.com/?Products:TapeIt

    Happy New year !!!

    Mozart

  20. Matt Wood, DC
    23/01/2010 at 5:57 am Permalink

    Great post, man. I look forward to hearing more.

  21. Jeremy
    23/01/2010 at 8:13 am Permalink

    Thanks Matt! I appreciate it!

  22. Jah B
    27/01/2010 at 9:28 am Permalink

    I have a quick question. ON the screen shot, you have your audio in monitering set to “in,” however the mute button is still green. How is this done. Should the button be green or orange. On the downloadable template, the audio in monitering is set to auto, and the lights are green. Could you help me to understand, which way it should be. Peace

  23. Jeremy
    27/01/2010 at 10:39 am Permalink

    Thanks for the comment Jah B! For which channels are you referring to? The recording loops tracks or the incoming audio/MIDI tracks? Also you mention the mute button being green, I’m not really sure what you mean on that. The square track activator button can either be orange (monitor in) or yellow (monitor auto or off) or gray (muted). The yellow looks a little greenish I suppose.

    Now the 8 looping tracks should be set to Monitor OFF which would make the track activator square yellow. The Audio/MIDI incoming tracks should be set to Monitor IN which would make the square orange. If it was not set that way in the downloadable template I apologize. Hope that helps!

  24. Jah B
    28/01/2010 at 6:24 pm Permalink

    I followed your written advice and now the incoming audio track’s monitors are set to IN and their track activator button is orange. But, if you look at the screen shot those track activator buttons are still yellow, evn though the monitor says IN. Is this possible? Another quick question: My interface only has two inputs, I’m routing the rest in from an external mixer. When I play or sign etc, I get a signal in all of my incoming audo tracks. Should I monitor IN only the track I’m using? Thanks for your help and patience.

  25. Jeremy
    28/01/2010 at 6:33 pm Permalink

    Yeah I have NO idea why those are showing yellow on the screenshot! I pulled up my actual template after your last comment to be sure and it is orange. Strange! Either way yes it should be orange. I’m glad you pointed that out! Very strange.

    And I would Monitor IN your incoming signal from your mixer. I set all the tracks that need to have a continual live signal to IN and just turn the monitoring off for the looping tracks. I don’t need to “monitor” those. They’re just there to record and play the loops back.

    So basically… incoming mixer signal set Monitor IN. If you have anything else incoming from the other channel of your 2 input interface I would also set to IN.

  26. Ted
    02/02/2010 at 8:24 pm Permalink

    Thank you, this helps tons. The monitor off on loops is the answer I was looking for.
    Im a little unclear on the purpose of the “record All” track. Im pretty sure Ive been able to record everything with the record button on top(including live instruments). Your example of why mentions a band mate playing cello simultaneously. Question is ,if Im solo recording only, is there any advantage to setting up the bus track or “all record track”? Or is all this routing necessary to achieve multiple loop tracks that are pre-armed for recording. And (I may have answered my own question)
    Ted

  27. Jeremy
    02/02/2010 at 11:41 pm Permalink

    Thanks Ted! I’m glad I was able to help. Excellent question on the “all record”. Honestly, I don’t even use it anymore :) but if I remember correctly it was to catch the audio from the MIDI channels so that I could get WAV audio recorded and not just MIDI data. Also I think it was to capture multiple solo instruments like our cello too but I don’t remember. I probably should have just left that portion off my example because it’s unnecessarily confusing.

    So to answer, for solo stuff no you don’t need to worry about that at all.

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