Looking at the basics of audio in Ableton Live
To begin working with audio in Ableton Live, we first need to set up the audio preferences. To open the Preferences window, go to the top bar and select Live > Preferences, or use the keyboard shortcut Cmd + , (Mac)/ Ctrl + , (PC). Audio settings are found under the Audio tab.
We first must select our driver type to show our available audio devices. If you are using a Mac then you will want to use CoreAudio, but if you are on PC then generally ASIO driver types offer the best performance. Next select your input and output audio devices. If you have an audio interface, then this is where you will select it.
Next we want to set our Sample Rate and Buffer Size. The sample rate is the amount of samples per second that Ableton will record when changing analogue audio to digital. A higher sample rate theoretically allows a higher quality recording, but for practical purposes 44.1KHz (44100 samples per second) is a good standard.
The buffer size is the amount of time which your computer is dedicating to processing incoming and outgoing audio. A large buffer size means that there will be an audible delay between audio going into the computer and coming back out again, but there is less chance of errors or dropouts. For the purposes of recording audio, you will generally want to use as small a buffer size as you can, but when mixing, you will want to use a larger buffer size to get some extra performance out of your CPU.
Ableton has two different types of tracks, MIDI and audio tracks. MIDI is different from audio in that it does not carry any sound, but instead carries instructions for virtual instruments: which notes to play, how long to hold them etc. Audio tracks carry actual audio files. To create an audio track, go to the top bar and select Create > Insert Audio Track, or alternatively use the keyboard shortcut Cmd + T (Mac)/ Ctrl + T (PC).
Before you begin recording, it is important to set the audio channel’s settings. To set the input, ensure that the “IO” button is lit and use the lower of the two drop-down boxes to select an input to record audio from.
Below the input selector are the monitoring selector switches. When monitoring is on, the track’s input is directly passed to its output, enabling the user to hear what is being played in. Setting the track’s monitoring to auto will switch monitoring on when the track is armed for recording.
To record to a track, the track must first be armed for recording. When a track is armed using the Arm for Recording toggle, this enables recording to this track.
Across the top of Ableton’s two main views are the Global Controls. These control various aspects of Ableton, such as the metronome and recording behaviour.
Before recording audio, you may want to make sure that the session parameters and metronome are set correctly. The session tempo can be set either by typing a bpm into the tempo box, or by using the Tap Tempo button to tap a quarter note rhythm at the desired tempo. The session time signature is set similarly by typing the value in to the box. The metronome can help to keep in time when recording. The drop-down arrow next to the metronome toggle will open the metronome settings. From here you can also set the count-in length. This determines how much of a count-in you will hear before Ableton begins recording.