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Ableton Live 8 Essential Training with Rick Schmunk offers a comprehensive overview of Ableton's live audio and MIDI sequencing software and the techniques required to compose, record, and edit music, in real time, on stage, or in the studio. The course includes tutorials on compiling live sets from audio and MIDI clips, loops, or samples, applying MIDI effects, warping audio, and recording and producing songs in any number of contemporary styles. Exercise files are included with the course.
With a DAW like Ableton Live, we are not really limited by the number of tracks, and so often our projects and sets get very difficult to manage because of a large number of tracks. In this video, we'll take a look at how to group tracks together for both organizational and musical purposes. It's often more convenient to combine the outputs of two or more tracks because it helps to organize a session, and it gives you fewer faders to manage when mixing, and you also might want to treat multiple tracks with identical effects. So creating groups in Ableton Live is very easy.
All we need to do is select the tracks that we want to include in the group. So let me Shift+Click the drum tracks that I have here, and now I can either right-click and choose Group Tracks, or I can use the key command, Command+G on a Mac or Ctrl+G on a PC, and I've grouped the tracks. So let's take a look at what we have happening here. So I still have all of the tracks that are part of my drums, but now I have this additional group track, and I might want to go ahead and Command+R and rename that-- that would be Ctrl+R on a PC.
Next to that, I do see that there is a Track Unfold button. So if I click that, I'll only see the group track. But for right now, let's make sure that we can see all the tracks by re-opening that. So I still have the mix that I had with the drums when I started, and their individual levels. But if we look at the track outputs, we can see that they're now going to a group, which is our drums. Over on the drum track itself, I see this little icon here that indicates to me that on this particular slot, I've got clips.
So, on these first three clip slots, we do see that I have got clips, and now I can launch those as a group by simply clicking on a Group Launch button. So let me stop those from playing, and now I'll click one of those, so we can see that launch all of the clips within that group. (Drums playing.) Okay, so that's really handy. So some other things that are going on there, in addition, is that within the group I can still have individual effects on individual tracks.
So if I bring up the kick track here, I can see that I do have an EQ and a compressor that are on the kick track in the device chain on inserts. If I go to the snare track, I'll see that there currently aren't any effects: Snare Bottom, nothing; HiHat, nothing; so on and so forth. And I also still have all of the sends available. So if I want to do something with reverb with all of these tracks, I can do that. Let me close this temporarily. So we see our sends down here, and I do have a reverb loaded over here on return A.
So all I need to do is choose any tracks that I want to add reverb to, and I can raise those send levels. So I probably want some on my snare, and maybe a little on the hi-hat and definitely some on my overheads. But notice that I can leave the kick track alone, and I won't get any reverb added to that particular track. So let's hit Play, and let's check that out. (Drums playing.) So we can hear there is a little bit of reverb added to the snare and those other tracks but nothing that's happening to the kick, when we saw the level that was associated with that.
So that's really cool. So the groups don't get in the way of having individual send amounts or having individual effects added on a track-by-track basis. In addition to providing kind of this organizational thing, so that we can hide that and not see all of these tracks, what else do they do for us? Well, one thing: I can now raise and lower the level of the drum tracks by simply using this one fader. Let's check that out. (Drums playing.) So I still have my drum mix here, but if I need to make an adjustment about how all of those drums fit into a mix within a larger session, I can simply raise or lower that volume by using the fader on the group track.
Another thing that I can do is if I like overall how the individual tracks sound, but there might be a little bit too much low end or a little bit too much high end, I can actually add an effect at the group level, and that will affect the signal of all of the tracks that are flowing through that group. So if I come up here and grab like an EQ Eight and drop that on the group track, now the signals that are flowing from the individual tracks are flowing onto the group track, and they're going through this EQ before they're going out to the master.
So let's say if I boost the low end a little bit and I boost the high end a little bit, now all these signals that are flowing through here are going to go through the drum group, through the EQ, and have that EQ effect that I've added, and then go out to the audio output-- which is the master in this case--and over here. So, let's check that out. (Drums playing.) Okay, so I was playing that.
You'll notice that you saw some signal over here in the meter by the EQ to show that the signal was flowing through that on its way through the device chain. So groups are really cool, and in effect what's happened here is I have actually sub-mixed these tracks together. And that is simply a term that we use when we take all of the signals from a number of tracks and put them together before they go on to be further mixed. And that's something that's very commonly done in Live sound. And in the case of mixing in a DAW, we often do that to reduce the number of tracks that we are working with. But I would note at this point that I have spoken with a number of well-known engineers, and they all say that in the end that they feel that sub-mixing tracks also lends to resulting with better-sounding audio.
Now at this point, all of the tracks are going through this group, and it may be that after adding this affect you might think, "Well, hey, you know, I don't want to run the kick through there," but that's really helping everything else. So I still can go to the audio output on this one kick track and route that back to the master, so that now these tracks are part of the group, in terms of the audio signals that are passing through this track, and the kick has now been separated from that. But visually and organizationally, it's still part of the group.
One last thing that I comment on before we finish this video is that in terms of working in the Session view window, the one other thing that using groups gives us is the ability to trigger, or launch, a number of clips without having to do that through clicking a Scene Launch button. So if you've got multiple groups or A group and other tracks that have clips on them, you can launch them separately by clicking on a Group Launch button and then adding other tracks playing back, rather than having to do that all through Scene Launch button. And that does give you just one more level of versatility and power that we didn't have before there with group tracks in Ableton Live.
So grouping tracks is easy, and it solves a lot of problems. It also gives us more options for shaping our projects. So the next time you're trying to figure out how to add an effect to all of your drum or guitar parts, remember to try grouping the tracks.
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