The fast way to edit automation in Ableton Live.

Sometimes its good watch someone else work because you can pick up interesting habits they use. About a year ago I was watching Miro Pajic produce a track on his laptop. He was new to Ableton Live but was doing something I never thought of and it’s a killer tip. Here it is:

While in Arrangement view clicking on Mixer or Ableton Device controls brings up their associated automation envelopes.

So what does that mean? Here’s an example: If you working on a song and want to edit the volume envelope of say the third audio track normally you would go to that track, select the The Automation Device chooser drop down menu and pick “Mixer”, then select the The Automation Control chooser and choose “Volume”. Then the pink Automation lane representing the Volume for that song would pop up.

Here’s the easy way: Click on the small orange rectangle with the Volume level number in it one time. Bam! Instantly the automation envelope for volume pops up.

Big deal? Now go and click on anything in any of the Ableton devices. Sample start in Simpler… 1 click on it and you have the automation lane in front of you! No need to dig through menus to find the parameter your looking for. Click the on/off button on an Ableton Reverb. Bam! (eek I sound like Emril) The automation envelope pops up allowing you to control the on/off of the Reverb in the time line.

Often, when working with Live’s mixer and devices, you will want the controls’ movements to become part of the music. The movement of a control across the song timeline is called automation; a control whose value changes in the course of this timeline is automated. Practically all mixer and device controls in Live can be automated, including the song tempo. – Ableton Live User Manual

Unfortunately this only works for Ableton’s stuff. Third party plug-in parameters still need to be hunted down. I really hope Ableton figures out a way to make this feature system wide as it’s a huge time saver. Using the one click method I can work really fast making tons of minor adjustments on timeline automation envelopes.

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Oliver Chesler

"Hello my name is Oliver and I'm going to tell you a story." I have been recording music since 1989 under the name The Horrorist. I have released over 60 singles and 4 full length albums. To hear my music please go to:

13 thoughts on “The fast way to edit automation in Ableton Live.”

  1. One of my favorite automation tips dealing with volume is to create a Utility at the end of a channels fx chain & automate the gain instead of the channels volume. This way you can raise/lower the volume later on without having to adjust the automation:)

  2. hey oliver – this is a great tool, i wish steinberg would implement something like this in cubase. but i have to ask you – ask a big Live enthusiast, do you think Live’s mixing engine does something to the audio even when warp is turned off? i first got clued into this when my friend sent me a DJ mix he did where the audio was highly distorted. and then recently i heard it for myself in Live 6 that the audio gets a harsh treatment. curious about your thoughts and if 7 has fixed this.

  3. Hi Mr. Tunes. I used Cubase for more than 10 years from a version on Atari unit SX3 and have a great respect for Steinberg and crew. I do feel there audio engine is really nice but I’ve done some A/B tests and as long as you keep your levels low in Ableton you can get clear nice mixes. I did a big post about it. Take a look: link Ableton lets me work really quickly and I need that to keep my creativity going. The more I use the program the more I see how well it’s designed.

  4. there is a way to get thrd party stuff to work… I just tried Arp 2600V, and when I click on a parameter by selecting “unfold device parameters”, the automation shows up when selecting them there.

  5. firstly id like to say i admire your openness and honesty in sharing all of this with everyone
    most refreshing – thanks

    secondly – it would appear (at least in my 5.2 version) that one doesnt even need to click the volume level button first

    simply click the ‘unfold device parameters’ button and then start moving the control of choice – and the automation envelope changes automatically to that control

    and finally – thanks for the tip (and the ‘master at 0db – keep other faders lower’ tip) – im certain it (they) will prove useful.

  6. Over a year on, hopefully someone is still here! I have been using Ableton’s automation feature to adjust the volume of individual tracks at certain points in the timeline… need to give those samples the same punch. But when playing back from start to end in Session view I moved the track volume a touch, and now Ableton ignores the automation in Arrangement view. Any ideas how I can turn the automation back on? What I’ve drawn is still there but is a pink colour instead of that solid red. Also have a little square next to mixer and track volume on the device chooser in Arrangement mode. Im certain im making a simple mistake. Any help much appreciated

  7. … simple mistake that was. I needed to press the ‘Back to Arrangement’ button next to the play controls! Hope that helps someone else

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