Actually, it was not until I learned some of these tricks in Live that I started using the software. I had worked with most of the popular DAW’s out there but to me, the GUI in Live always seemed a little cluttered. So I’ll start with the tips that instantly made Live a whole lot more appealing to me.
Please note: the key commands mentioned in this article work under Mac OS. For the equivalent keyboard shortcuts on a PC, please refer to this post.
1. Hide Unused Panels
Look at this screenshot. All the panels are visible, so you’re supposed to see everything, but really, you can’t make out much.
With just a few key commands, this is what you get:
The shortcuts to be remembered are:
So actually, all you need is to memorise the word ‘BLORMI‘. All the letters in that word go with [ALT + CMD]. Of course, all of these panels can be shown or hidden straight from the menu bar, too (all, but Track Delay, actually).
My advice is: learn what each of these shortcuts do and get in the habit of only having them on when when you use them. Clearly, you won’t need the Browser, Track Delay, Return Effects, etc when working on the arrangement, for example.
2. Fold / Unfold All Tracks
If you hold down [ALT] when clicking on the little handle to fold or unfold your track, all of your tracks will fold (or unfold) together.
3. Show Automated Parameters Only
Personally, I only ever want to see an automation track when it either has information to show or when I’m actually working with it. I definitely don’t need those dotted red lines of inactive automation on every single channel, only to show me that there would be something there – if there was something there. If you know what I mean. Let alone clicking or moving one of them by accident.
By selecting ‘Show Automated Parameters Only’ from the automation dropdown on a track, you’ll only see those red lines when ever they are active.
4. Save Current Set as Default
I think it’s a good idea to set up a starting point from which you kick off every project. Have your favourite plugins with your favourite settings on your Return Tracks, pick your preference by using either the Arrangement or Session View, etc. I myself have an Operator with a reasonable volume envelope set up on one channel, too, so when ever I start a new project, there’s instantly an instrument I can play. When you have an idea for a melody in your head, it can be quite distracting to have to make a decision about what instrument with what settings to load up. You can see my preferred Return Track settings on the first screenshot of this post – small / medium / large reverb, and two delays with different delays times and settings.
Once you’re ready, go to preferences, File, and ‘Save Current Set as Default’.
5. Save as Default Preset
Chances are, the default preset of a device will not have all the right settings for you to start tweaking. That was especially true in my case with the EQ Eight and the Filter Delay. Their defaults were just not quite set up with an angle where I like to grab them from. Whenever you’re happy with a setting on a device and would like to use that as a starting point when you open it up next time, just right click on its Title Bar and go ‘Save as Default Preset’.
6. Utility / EQ8 to Change Gain
I often run into a track with volume automation that needs an overall nudge of volume change. Instead of going in the hassle of re-drawing the entire automation, I tend to first see if there’s an EQ Eight somewhere on the channel, since EQ-ing is usually the most common adjustment I apply. If there is, and there is no dynamic processor after it, I can use it to adjust the volume by changing the Gain on its bottom right corner. If there isn’t though, I can always chuck a Utility on the channel, and use its Gain parameter.
7. Utility to Check and Fix Stereo Issues
It’s always a good idea to check your sound’s mono compatibility. You can do so by adding a Utility as an insert effect and bringing down the Width to 0. If it sounds bad, or if you were just not happy with the stereo information in the first place, you’ll probably want to create a stereo spread that is to your liking. Start by re-setting the Width to 100, then go into the dropdown under the Gain knob and set it to Left instead of Stereo. What this does is, it sends the left signal to both left and right channels, thus creating a perfectly mono sound, i.e. both channels with identical information. Try setting it to Right, too, see which one works best. Now all you need is a tool that builds a decent stereo width. You can experiment with introducing different modifications or distortions to the left and right channels respectively but I find that the tool for creating stereo with the best mono compatibility is Joey Sturgis Tones’ Side Widener – a plugin that comes free with every issue of Computer Music Magazine.
8. Freeze to Get Audio from MIDI
If you need to make a MIDI track into audio quickly, just right click on the track, click Freeze, and if you now drag it to a new Audio Track, you’ll see it has been converted to audio. If you want to keep the original MIDI track, you can use [ALT] click of course while grabbing, and go back and unfreeze the track.
9. Simpler -> Sampler
Simpler is a great instrument, it is where I most often start playing with a sample, but sometimes you realise you need its bigger brother for the job. Good news is, you don’t need to start all over again with a new Sampler, you can just right click on Simpler’s Title Bar, and go Simpler -> Sampler.
10. Global Send Effects in a Drum Rack
Accessing your global send effects in your Drum Rack is quite straight forward, if a little fiddly.
- Make sure the Chain List is visible (the second button from the top, on the left side of the device).
- Then click on the button that says ‘R’ on the bottom left.
- Right click where it says ‘Drop Audio Effects Here’, and hit Create Return Chain.
- Now make sure the Input/ Output Section is visible (the fourth button from the top, on the left side of the device, says I-O).
- Go to your Return Chain and change its output to which ever return track you like.
- Now, make sure the sends are visible in your Drum Rack (the button just below the Input/ Output Section toggle)
- You can now access your global send effect from each Pad/ Chain that you set at 5.
If you have any questions or tips you would like to share, please feel free to post them in the comments.
Also, check out my post about the 9 steps to prepare your track for mixdown and download the high res infographic, too! If you want to make sure you get the best out of your mixes, there’s a few things I recommend you check before rendering it to audio. Here are 9 I find the most important.