My Ableton Live workflow for recording vocals.

It’s 90F/30° in Berlin today (hot!) so instead of my normal routine of office work in the morning and then afternoon in the studio I had to reverse things. The only cool time on days like this is early so as soon as I got up I walked over. I’m recording vocals for an artist group from Milan, Italy called Biokip (www.biokip.com). They are a fashion label, a group of visual artists with a gallery and an electrohouse team.

I was wondering if other people who use Ableton Live record vocals in a similar way as I do. See the screenshot above? You can click it to view it full size. What I have here is a very basic drum beat and two simple melodies for the verse and chorus. I set up a scene for each and leave a bunch of empty clip slots in between them (vertically) so I can record a bunch of takes. I usually record 2-4 takes per verse. The blue arrows are pointing to the takes, white arrows are on the scenes. If I’m feeling crazy I will label them Verse 1-1, Verse 1-2, Verse 2-1, etc… More importantly I leave a blank clip slot between each verse.

After I have my takes I then switch over to Arrangement View, duplicate the Vocal channel three times, comp the vocals (take the best bits from each take) and then consolidate all the perfect bits by hitting Command-J.

So what else can I note here? Well, I usually record vocals right after I get the basic melody and drums. First off, your CPU is happy there isn’t much going on so you can knock down the CPU latency to 96ms while you monitor yourself singing. I also find it best to work out the melody and voice in a pure or simple state. If you get too far into a song and then try and add vocals there’s a chance they may just not work. Lastly, in case your wondering 90% of what I keep comes from the first verses I record. I guess I’m best when I’m not thinking too much.

I remember Cubase had some nice comping methods. I also know in Live you can record multiple takes in one shot and then slide the start flag in Clip View around but I still like seeing my takes separate.

What’s your method?

This entry was written by Oliver Chesler, posted on July 31, 2008 at 9:23 am, filed under Ableton Live, song writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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13 Responses to “My Ableton Live workflow for recording vocals.”

  1. Sean Cooper says:

    i usually get matt to record them for me ;)

  2. Hi Sean. Good to see you on the blog. I keep up with you on the Facebook stream. For those who don’t know Matt (Satronica) is a mutual friend of Sean and myself.

  3. raytrace says:

    hi Seán – Satronica’s stuff is great

    i’m going to go totally off topic here as I’ve never recorded a vocal into a DAW in my life, but this post just reminds me of something which constantly nags me, and may seem stupid to a lot of people eheh, but I really dont know what to use the session view for – I literally NEVER use it – the only time may be occasionally when I’m first starting a project to check that the tracks are ‘armed’ before recording a MIDI track or whatever – so much of what I do involves automation envelopes that this doesnt happen much though…

    Is the advantage that you can kinda chuck stuff in it really quick and play it like a massive sampler or something?

  4. When you start building a song in Cubase for example you make a loop at the beginning of the arrangement. Imagine that loop where you start experimenting as an entire page on steroids. Thats only a small jist of it but a quick explanation of Session View.

  5. raytrace says:

    I c – i might try dropping all my wav’s/samples straight into that view first for the next track I make.

  6. Mo says:

    I’ve recorded vocals for my own band a few times in Live. I used the arrangement view though, and like you created 3-4 duplicate tracks containing each take. I recorded a vocal take on each track.

    I performed comped by using Live automation to mute the sections of tracks I did not want to use – while manually cutting and comping the takes onto one track may have been cleaner, this method allowed me to use appropriate takes to double vocals where necessary. I routed the output of the vocal takes to another track on which I kept one set of vocal effects.

    That said, since I last recorded vocals I have bought Logic Studio, and find the takes/comping system in there to be fantastic.

  7. Harry Day says:

    I don’t use Live, but I have a similar process. Usually I mock up a basic drum track and record the basic progression with an acoustic guitar. Then after I have it sounding nice, I record it another time, but play the verses twice. So, when I’m recording vocals, I have a second chance to fix a problem. If I’m trying a different note or shortening some syllables or something I can try them when I’m thinking about it. Then, after recording, I can hear both versions, one right after the other.

    Once I figure out what sounds right, I record vocals for the whole song straight through 4 or 5 times. I tend to get picky with my vocals, so often I’ll work with one verse at a time, picking the lines that I like and perfecting how it sounds. I like a lot of harmonics, so I’ll lay down 3 or more harmonic tracks over a verse, one verse at a time. Then I’ll move onto the chorus.

    One I’m finished, I’ll work with the instruments and tracking them, then rework the vocals back into them again.

    Not the most efficient way of doing it, but it gets done. :)

  8. Chuck silva says:

    I’ve been using Live for about 3 years now and am completely obsessed with it.

    I’m posting this blog in support for those benevolent souls that put the time in to share their tips and tricks.

    I’m interested in learning all I can about Live!

    Thank you!!!!

    http://boxstr.com/files/1726154_4jiqq/Art%20Of%20It.mp3

  9. Sean Cooper says:

    hey oliver, yeah been reading the blog for a while now. thought i’d commented before but obviously never got around too it. i’ve started doing some vocals with jensen now as well, and just generally experimenting with sounds a lot more. we’ve been just tracking them into soundforge and then loading them as samples into renoise and messing about with them in there. we’ve been getting the bare bones of the tracks down and then getting the vocals down over the top, generally just doing one take.

    working with matt is great though, i just get him the tracks sent over and he does his thing. i get back excellent quality already fx’d vocals to just lay over the top. its perfect. i’ve actually been working on a remix of that “Revenge Plan” track as well. i finished off an electro remix but i don’t think he wants it now. you’re right though, his vocals are very arabic sounding in how he sings them.

    hey raytrace, yeah satronica is a quality vocalist and not a bad producer either ;)

  10. Gavroche says:

    Thanks for this! I just started using Live but haven’t tried recording vox yet. I’ll be sure to use this as reference.

    Since everybody here seems to make music, I am hoping some of you might be interested in taking a survey I’ve put together. It asks musicians how they collaborate on music, engage fans, and profit from their art. Its only 11 questions, so it will only take a minute. Thanks!

    Find the survey @ http://tinyurl.com/5ce33d

  11. Spox says:

    Hey. Question not about recording but mixing.
    is there a possibility to route track return A to B ?
    or maybe another way to resolve this situation

    I got 5 vocal tracks

    1 – main
    2 – back
    345 – adlibs
    i want put 2 thru delay and reverb
    345 thru reverb
    and all tracks thru eq & compressor
    so put reverb on S/R A
    Delay on track 2
    and EQ and Compressor on S/R B

    so easiest way for me is chain A to B to master
    but there is no sound when I put A in “send only” and turn input volume for A S/R on S/R track B all the way up.
    any ideas why is that ?

    hope it’s all clear :)
    Thanks

  12. Hi Spox. Take a look at this post I did called Making Groups in Ableton Live is really easy: click here I think it should help you.

  13. Spox says:

    ahhhh yesss – why I didn’t think about it ????…

    Thank U.

    second thoughts
    1. what is the reason to use S/R when we have groups ?
    2. there is no possibility to use chain as i wrote i.e. A to B to D to Master ?

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