The Lazy Guide to Ableton Live: Part 5 – Clip Automation

It’s time for our final part of our lazy guide to Ableton Live and this time we’re looking at getting the most out of clip automation. Check out the rest of our guide, part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.

clip automation

So to our final way of easily getting variation from your clips, and it’s time for some automation. Again, this is a subject that we could go into some depth with, but as this is ‘The lazy person’s guide’, let’s not go too deep. All you need to do to get things moving is to hit a couple of keys and record some movement and everything you record will be kept within your clip in Session View. Edit it later to make it perfect!


Simply arm the track and enable the automation. We start by showing you how simple panning and volume changes can be recorded per clip. Then we detail how you can edit the results or draw in completely new versions of the automation.

Finally, you can even record the changes you make to MIDI instruments on the track in question – we show you how to record a synth frequency fader being opened and then how to select that recorded automation (from a drop down menu) to then edit it. Automation is a key feature in any DAW and Live’s clip automation takes it well beyond what is possible in many of the other DAWS, to turn it into a completely creative and immersive experience.

So we hope that this tutorial has enabled you to get more creative with your clips in Live and, importantly, to do that without spending too much time or effort getting there. Using technology to make music should make it easier after all! Happy creative clipping!

Clip Automation Step-By-Step

1. One final element in clip management that enables more creativity is clip automation. This means that you can record several parameters over a recorded clip to give it life and movement.

2. The yellow icon (with two arrows in the transport bar) shows that automation is enabled (if not, click on it) but you will also need to arm each track…

3.  All sorts of automation parameters can be recorded here including panning and volume. As you pan from left to right,
for example, your movements will be recorded into the clip.


4. The automation will be shown by way of a red line along the clip as you record. Here, the panning goes from left to right and back again as the clip cycles around.

5.  If you want to switch to another parameter, like volume, simply move a fader and its automation will be recorded over the top.
If you want to go back to the panning, simply click the pan control. Here’s our volume coming in and going out over a clip.

6.  If ever the automated data is greyed out – by clicking off a clip, for example – you might need to click on the orange back arrow which should be illuminated, to re-highlight the clip automation back to its red editable status.

7. You can edit any automation by selecting a point with the cursor and dragging it as shown (in blue) as you would in the Arrangement view.

8. Better still, select the Pencil tool (top right) and draw the automation in yourself. Here, we’ve adjust the panning position ourselves and completely redrawn it. Looks a bit chunky, though…

9.  That’s because the automation draws to the snap value, so use the drop-down menu to turn the snap off and you can draw your automation in as a finer resolution (shown on the left here).

10. You might want to start from scratch – we certainly always get over-excited by automation and end up doing too much – so simply select all and delete and start again. Easy.

11. So that’s panning and volume, how’s about we dig deeper and record some synth parameters changing into a clip? No problem! Here’s the frequency opening being recorded on a synth.

12. And now as it appears as one of the envelopes of automation being recorded. Simply select from the drop-down menu and you can edit it. So clip automation really can take your clips to new levels…