Default presets can save you time & keep you focused on producing music rather than repetitious setup. Of all the suggestions in this article, the most important is simply that you set up default presets. The particulars are somewhat arbitrary & rather dependent on your individual workflow, but I hope you'll find inspiration in the ideas & recommendations below. To be clear, none of these are "best settings" for any given device - they are merely a "best starting point" in my opinion.
As you adjust the settings of your devices, you can save them to the default preset with a right click. However, if you prefer the easier method - & if you trust me - I created a pack you can download that contains every device set to my preferred default settings. This way, you can simply place them into your ableton defaults folder & have them all immediately.
To install, just navigate to user library in live's sidebar, right click on the defaults folder, & select "show in finder" or "show in explorer" per your operating system. From there just drag in the .adv files from the download into the audio effects folder.
Amp is great for adding subtle distortion & crispness when used in small amounts, especially on vocals and synths - often time, it can help you achieve the air and presence you're looking for. I tend to use it for these less obvious purposes, so I made my default preset a bit more conducive to this.
- output set to dual to preserve stereo signals
- volume down a bit to compensate for gain
- clean amp for most subtle effect
audio effect rack
There are lots of ways to use the audio effect rack, of course, but as it is so easy to simply cmd + g your devices together into a rack, it's worth using the default setting to save time on more complicated uses. I'm currently a fan of using the default preset to quickly create a dry/wet for any group of effects.
- create two blank chains, name one "wet" & the other "dry"
- open the zone editor & drag each chain's blue bar across to the other side
- above each blue bar, pull the thin white bar to opposite sides
- finally, map the orange chain select ruler to an empty macro
In general, I prefer my effects to be as transparent as possible when they're initially added to a track, so I want the filter fully open when I first place it in my set. Additionally, like millions before me, I prefer the sound-shaping qualities of the Moog ladder filter & the added utility of the drive knob that comes along with it.
- set the frequency to 20k (or, 19.9kHz, as it were)
- set the filter type to PRD
I find makeup gain to be misleading because it would have you think compressors make sounds louder when in fact they make sounds quieter. I like these attack & release settings because they "do the least" & from these settings forces you to really think about what you want your compressor to do.
- change the compressor's display to activity view
- set the ratio to 1.5 : 1
- set the release to 1 ms
- set the attack to 1 s
- turn off makeup gain
These settings are strictly preferential, but if you want to get the most out of corpus, you'll probably want to engage the midi sidechain & filter sections to have them available for slightly quicker operation.
- change resonance type to "tube"
- lower decay a tad
- unfold the sidechain parameters
- turn on the filter & set it a bit lower
This is just a copy of the "warm tube" preset, which is what I found myself often using as a starting point anyway & saving it as the default preset makes it a few clicks easier to pull into my session. Don't forget to switch dynamic tube into hi-quality mode as well!
- set the tube mode to "B"
- give drive, tone, & bias a little boost
- set hi-quality mode
Of all the default settings listed here, I find this the most useful. I don't think Live's layout of frequencies & filter types is very logical - the filter order is far less likely to align with the frequency order since the first four already spread the frequency spectrum. I leave all the filters off by default (so I can save RAM on each instance of eq I load) but leave the lowest filter ready to high pass unnecessary subs. Filter 5 is particularly handy, as I find myself making a cut around 500 hz all the time. You can learn more about the device in my article "8 things you didn't know about eq8".
- set filters 1-8 to 48db low cut, 12db low cut, low shelf, bell, bell, high shelf, 12db high cut, 48dB high cut, respectively
- set frequencies 1-8 to 30, 200, 300, 500, 2k, 3k, 5k, & 18k, respectively
- turn off all filters but the lowest and possibly the 4th
- set the eq to "oversampling"
Filter delay would be a lot more pleasant to use if it didn't come in like gangbusters. & anyway, I think I make better decisions when I have to feed an effect in rather than taper it off.
- turn dry all the way up - no reason to lower your signal's level
- turn all delay volumes down
- if you wish, set all the delays to a neutral starting point - for me, that's as follows:
- 1kHz filter, 4.00 resonance, 2/16th delay time, 20% feedback
I usually want my gate to open as fast as possible, & I don't usually like the "chatter" that comes with low hold. You can learn a lot more about how to properly use a gate in my animated guide to gates. Anyway, since I always find myself making these kinds of changes, I saved them into the default preset. I also relaxed the settings of the floor and threshold to force myself to set these more delibreatly.
- set the attack as low as it will go
- set the hold somewhere in the middle
- 50ms release
- -40dB or -20dB floor
- 0dB threshold
My favorite thing about the new glue compressor is its soft clip option, so I want it to load in with the switch flipped. I also prefer slow attack and fast release as my starting point for compressor settings (again, so I have to think about it more when I set it).
- turn soft clip on
- notch the attack up a bit
- lower release
- turn "oversampling" on (right-click)
There are many uses for grain delay, but I use it most effectively as a pitch shifter. These settings help me achieve that effect faster (just change the pitch amount to work the effect, usually at an octave up or down).
- unsync the time & set it to 1ms
- set frequency as low as it will go
ping pong delay
Per usual, my goal is mostly to make it less extreme to start. The simpler, the better.
- set the feedback to something lighter
- turn dry/wet all the way down
- set the time to 2/16th or 1/16th
Redux is one of live's oft-ignored devices but it can be great for adding the right crunch to the top end of drums and midrange of bass in particular. I like the less extreme sounds of the soft setting. & that's about all the changes worth making.
- change "hard" to "soft"
This is basically a copy of the "ballad reverb" preset with a few tweaks, which quickly became my go-to. While I usually prefer max for live's convolution reverb for adding space to my track, the stock reverb is great for adding some transparent depth with these settings. Most importantly, be sure to turn off the ugly eco-mode of the default preset.
- set pre delay to 30 ms
- raise the filter to around 3.5kHz
- lower spin frequency
- change quality to "high"
- lower decay time to taste, usually 600ms or 300ms
- turn down reflect to -3.1dB
- turn off chorus
- set scale to 100%
- set size to 125.00
Just a copy of the "hot tubes" preset, again a go-to. It can be really useful to save in your favorite preset so it's worth looking around to find one that suits you.
- set drive to 8.2db
- lower output to -8db
- enable DC filter
- set the curve type to "soft sine"
- lower base to -21
- set freq to 1.68
- bring depth up a bit
- turn "hi-quality" mode on
With filter delay & ping pong delay as options for traditional delay effects (especially considering the convenience of their built-in filters), I tend to use simple delay as a more wild & creative effect. Having an unsync'd delay is useful for slapbacks & reverbs, & repitch mode is great for building transition & adding dissonance.
- unsync both channels
- lower dry/wet to 0%
- change delay mode to "repitch"
Spectrum is very useful for many utility purposes, not least of which is analyzing the key and pitch of samples. It's much easier to read when it is large enough to pinpoint individual frequencies so you'll definitely want the expanded view.
- toggle the display
- lower refresh rate
- switch to "bins" (purely preference)