Ableton Live Tutorial: Final Tweaks Step-by-Step

Martin Delaney continues his Ableton Live tutorial examining the final tweaks you need to do before mastering in this handy step-by-step…

1: I have a checklist I use when finishing a song: track volume, stereo image, equalisation, compression, and overall loudness. This is how I do it, I’m sure there are others who will tell you differently.

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2: You know the routine by now – you can use your own Live set if you’ve been following along, but I’d recommend you use the one on this month’s disc for better compatibility with the walkthrough.

3:  Check that none of your volume levels are showing red (exceeding 0dB on the peak indicators). If one is over, select all the tracks and lower them simultaneously to preserve the mix relationships.

4: If you’re touchy about overload issues, you could put the Limiter/Upper Ceiling preset on the tracks in question, although that’s usually something I save for live sets, where it goes on every track!

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5: For stereo interest, use the track pan controls, or even the Autopan audio effect – try it on the Keys track, click the Sync button and set the amount to 100%. That sounds good.

6: This is where I’d use EQ to thin out tracks that still need it. We did it with our keyboard and speech tracks. Toggle EQ Three off/on in those tracks, to check the difference.

7: Live’s Compressor reduces the range between the loudest and quietest parts, making a track’s volume more consistent. This can have a by-product of making these tracks seem louder.

8: We already put Compressor on the kick in our drum rack, but let’s add Compressor/Brute Compression to the entire track – put it in behind the rack. Wow! Loud. Set the Dry/Wet to 15%.

9: There’s already a Compressor on the Keys track as well, where it’s there to enable sidechaining, this is an example of how a more ‘extreme’ compressor setting can be used as a more noticeable effect.

10: Compressor is in every version of Live. However, if you have Live 9 Standard or Suite, you also have the Glue Compressor, which is designed to add a little more colour to the sound.

11: If you have Glue, swap it for the Brute Compressor on the drum track, lower the Threshold to -40dB, raise the Makeup to 20dB, Dry/Wet to 50%, and enable Soft clipping.

12: Compression will affect your perceptions of track volume, so be aware you might need to go back and slightly re-tweak any tracks that suddenly seem louder.

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