Create Unlimited Return Tracks in Ableton Live
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I’ve been wanting to learn it for a long time, but it’s not as intuitive as some other editors, i. My background is in broadcast imaging and commercial production — not in producing music — so this question may not make sense or apply to an editor designed for music creation That said, I find it fundamentally necessary to be able to group audio clips together and move them as a group in arrangement view.
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Return tracks are an essential part of every producer and engineer’s workflow. They allow you to apply universal processing to your tracks, provide a sense of congruent space and save a ton of CPU. Ableton provides users with a maximum of 12 return tracks. Unfortunately, some projects require more than that. A single vocal may be using up 4 return tracks alone dedicated reverb, delay, saturation, etc.
Ableton allows you to work around this issue with the use of audio effect racks. Audio effect racks allow you to create device chains. This can be found in the left-hand browser section of Ableton. To add the audio effect rack to the device view of your track, either double click on it, or drag and drop it onto the track you’d like to apply it to. To create an audio effect rack from existing devices, right click on the title of the first audio effect that you want apart of your chain.
Hold down “Shift” and then click on the last audio effect that you’d like to be apart of your chain. If there’s a virtual instrument apart of the devices you’ve selected, it will group them into an instrument effect rack. Instrument effect racks are very similar to audio effect racks and most of the following concepts apply to both. Audio Effect Rack Sections Audio effect racks contain multiple sections that can be toggled.
This section holds different devices within the chain. I’ve added the EQ Eight and Compressor, but you could choose any audio effects you like. If you want to add more audio effects, simply drag them onto the end of the device chain you’ve already made. If you want to re-order them, just click the header of the device you’d like to move and drag it to where you’d like it to sit amongst the other devices.
This section splits the incoming signal into different paths and processes them separately. Alternatively, you can type a numerical value into the box. Moving along we have the chain activator. When deactivated, this button will mute the track. The button to the right of this is a hot swap button, allowing you to cycle different saved audio effects.
The first chain is your original, dry signal. Each additional chain can be used as a return track for parallel processing. You can add up to well over chains in a single audio effect rack, which means you’re pretty much never going to run out of returns. If you have a global return track dedicated to parallel processing a single channel, you’re better off applying the parallel processing as part of an instrument or audio effect rack. This will free up a global return track that other channels can now use.
Return tracks made from chains If you need to create more global return tracks, it’s possible, but slightly more work. Label it something like “Parallel Compression”. You need to duplicate the tracks that you want to send to this new return and then change their output to “Parallel Compression”. The sends in Ableton automate this process for you by duplicating and routing audio for you.
By performing this process manually, you can create as many global returns as you like. The issue is that your project will quickly start burning through CPU so it’s a good idea to freeze tracks, as well as group together all of the tracks you duplicated so that your project doesn’t become a mess. This section is toggled by clicking on the icon that looks almost like a power symbol.
Macro Control Panel Within this section you’re able to map many different parameters within an audio effect rack to a single knob. The macro control will now take over control of the original parameter. This becomes extremely useful when performing live. It allows you to create intricate FX chains that map to a single knob.
The section that appears allows you to change the minimum and maximum values of the the parameters you have set to different macros. Macro Map Mode. Chain Select Editor In this section, you are able to assign these blue bars, also known as zones, to different ranges.
By moving the orange slider, also known as the Chain Select Ruler, above this section, you select how much signal from each chain is played back. To switch between audio effect racks in a live setting, map the Chain Select Ruler to a macro control knob.
Doing this will allow you to easily cycle through audio effect racks. This is also incredibly useful if you’re using instrument racks. If you’re playing the keys and you need to cycle through different synths and processing chains, you now know how. Distribute Ranges Equally The ranges will be distributed from the smallest to largest value you have selected in the zone editor.
Evenly Distributed Ranges By moving the light grey bar, also known as the fade range, above the zones, you are able to create fades, smoothly transitioning from one chain to the next. Fade Ranges Modified In the top left corner of the chain list, there is a little arrow pointing to the right, known as Auto Select.
When this button is activated, the Chain Select Ruler will highlight any chain beneath it. This feature will allow you to do things like select all the chains of a certain value and move them at the same time across the Zone Editor. Audio effect racks are extremely powerful and provide you with tons of creative possibilities.
On top of providing you with alternative routing options, effect racks set Ableton apart from the herd when it comes to live performance capabilities. If you found this article useful, become a patron of Black Ghost Audio on Patreon. Your contribution will help launch the BGA YouTube channel and enhance the quality and quantity of educational content being published each week. Thanks for reading and being an active member of the community! If you’re interested in learning more about music production, sign up for a free online music production lesson with a Black Ghost Audio instructor today.
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Return tracks are an essential part of every producer and engineer’s workflow. They allow you to apply universal processing to your tracks, provide a sense of congruent space and save a ton of CPU. Ableton provides users with a maximum of 12 return tracks. Unfortunately, some projects require more than that. A single vocal may be using up 4 return tracks alone dedicated reverb, delay, saturation, etc. Ableton allows you to work around this issue with the use of audio effect racks. Audio effect racks allow you to create device chains.
VIDEO: How to group tracks in ableton
Here’s how to do it using Sends and Returns in Ableton Live (the same Hold the Shift key while clicking on all the tracks you wanna group. I think as long as you stay in Ableton this shall work. My question is, if I select all those tracks and group them with Ctrl + g, will the interface. Track grouping is one of Live’s most powerful tools for managing your tracks in both Session and Arrangement view. Ableton Live Tips & Techniques.