better ways to automate volume in ableton live

we've all been there. we finish a track, happy with the sound, and close out for the night. but when we come back the next day, we find that is a little too loud and this is a little too quiet... in short, we need to rebalance. but lo! the volumes are locked in to automation and can't be adjusted; moving the fader disables the automation, and re-enabling the automation undos the adjustment:

fader automation ableton live

sure, you can work around this by adding a utility to bring up or down the overall levels but it's pretty inconvenient to have your track's gain buried in its devices, especially when working across multiple tracks. the point of faders are to have quick access to balancing the gain of all your tracks all at once, so we want to leave these free to make adjustments at any time.

using utility to write in gain automation from the beginning is an easy fix for this:

utility gain automation ableton live

in this example, you can see my new track already has a utility on it, and it is for this very reason (for more on saving default audio tracks, see my article on hidden ableton secrets). the utility is my go-to for gain automation, leaving my fader free for rebalancing at any point in the mixing process. just make sure you have the utility at the end of your chain if you want it to act on the post-processing signal like a fader.

let's say you've already automated your fader though. is there any path toward repenting from this blasphemy? fortunately, there is:

copy envelope volume automation ableton live

ableton blessedly allows you to move automation between parameters and even devices. in this example, I cut the automation from the fader and add a blank audio effect rack. I paste the track fader's automation envelope onto the chain's fader automation. this same trick works with utility, but it utility's gain knob isn't on the same -inf to +6db scale live's faders are and requires some rebalancing. big thanks to reddit user u/macadamiaz for the chain fader tip.

while the utility works great for this application, I actually prefer a different method:

ableton slip clip automation clip ableton live best

by splitting clips (using the cmd-e function ... see my article on ableton shortcuts for a full explanation) and isolating certain sections, the clip gain fader can be used to "automate" volume in different parts of your track. the beauty of this, beside still keeping the fader free, is that you can see the waveform react in real time in the arrangement view. you want to use your ears to mix, but sometimes your eyes can be helpful as well. you can easily use consolidate (cmd-j) to transparently rejoin your clips at any point. the negative side of this is, of course, you are changing the volume of your signal before it hits effects, so keep this in mind if you are changing volume on a clip with heavy processors. often, using this technique is to take corrective action (like lowering a plosive in a vocal take) & you don't want those to influence your processors all that much.

that's it! if you use something different than these to automate volume, I would love to hear about it on facebook//