ableton is a deep program; one could go years ignorant of even its most useful features. here's a list of some the hidden functions I wish I had known sooner than I did.
I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about options.txt. I know it's been beaten to death elsewhere on the web, but for anyone who doesn't know this can be really significant. here's where you find it on your machine:
mac os x: /Users/[username]/Library/Preferences/Ableton/Live x.x.x/
windows: \Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Ableton\Live x.x.x\Preferences\
if you don't see it, don't worry. you can simply create a .txt file called options.txt and drop it into this location. by editing this file, you can enable unused, hidden, and experimental features within live. here are the one's I think are most essential:
map to all siblings
where would I be without map to all siblings? this might be the single biggest time-saver in all of ableton. similar to "copy value to all siblings", map to all siblings let's you map a parameter across all of the same device in your rack. this also works beautifully in instrument and audio effect racks.
enable it by typing the following into the options.txt file:
show device slots
enabling this feature allows you to view your track devices from your mixer in the session window. a standard feature on many other daws, this will let you toggle your devices on and off as you play with the clip matrix. this can be turned on and off like the other mixer views.
to enable, type the following into options.txt:
this is another interesting feature you can enable. when you record automation, an insane amount of nodes are created and it can make the automation line unwieldy. you can hold shift as you drag a node to delete the other nodes it comes into contact with, but this isn't a very elegant solution. what the "thinning" is doing is removing nodes to make it simpler. the default value is set at .45 but the higher the number the less nodes and more "smooth" your automation will be.
enable by entering the following into options.txt:
-ThinningAggressiveness=0.85 (or whatever number you feel is appropriate)
there's a lot you can do with options.txt, most of it for very particular circumstances. you can read about it from ableton here and sonic bloom's excellent tutorial series here if you want to know more about what you can do.
high quality/oversampling modes
you can allow some of live's devices to draw more cpu in order to process at higher quality. if you aren't pushing your processor too hard, it's probably best to leave these in high quality mode. some devices, like reverb, have this option on the surface of their display. for others, it's hidden in the device options. you can enable high quality via right click on the following devices:
- chorus (crisp)
- dynamic tube
- eq eight (oversampling)
- glue compressor (oversampling)
bonus if you save it into the default preset for the device!
default audio/midi track
it can be a massive time saver to make your own default tracks. I want a utility on every one of my tracks for amplitude automation (so I can save my faders for balancing and general leveling). with the device saved into my default audio and midi tracks, I don't need to add one to them anymore. I also like to have resampling the default input for what I do and a compressor/eq ready-to-go but experiment with what works best for you!
three of ableton's delays have this option to change the way their samples react to time changes. ableton's manual explains best what these modes do:
- Repitch causes a pitch variation when changing the delay time, similar to the behavior of old hardware delay units.
- Fade creates a crossfade between the old and new delay times. This sounds similar to time stretching if the delay time is gradually changed. Fade mode is the default option.
- Jump immediately jumps to the new delay time. Note that this will cause an audible click if the delay time is changed while delays are sounding. Jump mode corresponds to the default behavior prior to Live 8. When loading Sets that were made in earlier versions, Jump will be selected automatically.
different crazy and creative spring forth from each of these in different way and offers a great opportunity to experiment!
cmd (ctrl) dragging things
maybe not so much a secret, holding cmd (or control, if you windows) and dragging things can allow you to interact with live in new ways. two of my favorites are cmd-dragging an automation line will make a smooth exponential curve to your automation - this made live 9 amazing for me. cmd-dragging a dial will let you fine-tune it to find the exact value you need.
if you've ever been bugged by ableton's default metronome, why not make your own? you can replace the stock sounds by locating them on your machine:
mac os x: "show package contents" on live application, then contents/app-resources/misc/metronome/samples/
windows: c:\program files\ableton\live x\resources\misc\metronome\samples\
all you need to do is name your start-of-bar and rest-of-bar files the same - "metronome.wav" and "metronome.wav". it's probably a good idea to make a backup of the stock sounds as well - just renaming them and leaving them in the folder will do it.
if you don't want to make your own metronomes, I've made a few from the clicks and pops of my latest sample pack. here's what they sound like: