Ableton Live - Editing and Recording

Ableton Live is not just for live performances - with Loupedeck CT or Live, you can harness the power of Ableton's editing and recording features.

If you are using the Ableton Live default profile, editing and recording functions are located in WORKSPACE 1.  These editing functions work in both Arrangement and Session view.

Let's go through the editing-related actions of WORKSPACE 1 of the Ableton Live Default profile.


Table of contents

  1. Moving, Selecting & Zooming
  2. Working with Locators and Clips on Arrangement view
  3. Recording Functions  
  4. Deleting actions
  5. Utilities
  6. Record Quantization

1. Moving, Selecting & Zooming

Moving around on Arrangement View
Use the ←→ dial to move around horizontally on Arrangement and in arrangement clips: turning the dial moves the playhead left and right. This dial also works for scrolling inside clip view. Pressing down on this dial plays the song. These moves are based on the grid.

With Loupedeck CT, you can also use the Wheel to move around horizontally on Arrangement and in arrangement clips. Turning the wheel moves the playhead left and right  

TIP: You can actually use the ←→ dial for whatever uses left and right commands. If you want to use this dial for scrolling, make sure to click on Arrangement first to make sure you are not controlling or moving something else – a parameter or a clip, for example.

TIP: The last touch pad page of this workspace has pads that emulate computer arrow keys. There is also a Return pad. Use these for utilitarian actions such as moving a selection, triggering an action etc.

Moving vertically / selecting a track
To move vertically on Arrangement / select a track, use the Select Track dial on top right.

Playing your song
Use the <-> dial to determine where the song will start, as the song will begin to play where you set the vertical playhead.

To play, press the <-> dial or use the touch pad actions.

Play has been assigned to the push (press) function of the <-> dial, so it’s convenient to scroll the vertical playhead to where you want the song to start. Then press the dial to play.

If you are using Loupedeck CT, you can choose how to execute these actions. For example to play,  press one of the three options: ↔ dial, the play icon on wheel, or Fn + E.  


Moving around on Session View
On Session View, use the arrow pads (Live touch pad page 8) or the arrow keys (on CT) to move the clip selector around. Also see dedicated Session mode (later in the manual) for more specific control of Session View. These moves are based on the grid.

Quickly “skipping” clips on Arrangement
There is a way to move very quickly on arrangement.

Page 3 in Live (or Page 4 in CT) for dials is control dial page. There, you will find a Skip ←→ dial.
On Arrangement, as long as you are not in automation mode, this dial can be used to skip over clips very quickly. Also, if you have Locators on Arrangement, selection will stop on them as well.

Note: If automation mode is on, this does not work. This reflects actual Ableton Live behavior.

Setting grid density
You can change the grid density by using the grid dial on Live or by using the grid wheel on CT.

For CT: Rotating the wheel counter-clockwise makes the grid wider, while clockwise rotation makes it more narrow. In addition to rotation, these actions are also in the wheel as touch actions: you will also find touch actions for making the grid fixed as well as disabling snapping to grid. Grid can be set both on Arrangement and in clips, depending on your current focus, and the resolution also depends on zoom level. Selecting regions
Select ←→ dial performs horizontal selection (and Select ↑↓ selects vertically). Use this dial to highlight a desired range to be manipulated. Once this is done, you can copy and paste the selection, move it, etc. For example, if you want to manipulate a clip and/or its automation on Arrangement, select the relevant range and use the arrow pads (pad page 8) to move it as described above. This dial also works in midi clip note view.

TIP: To deselect, press down on any selection dial: an “Esc” key action has been assigned to be the press action of all selection dials, and it can be used to deselect. You can also press Fn + Enter in CT for the same action.

NOTE: If the vertical movement of Select ↑↓ feels illogical to you, there is also an Select ↓↑ action available via the Setup software, so the direction is different.

Selecting clips
A very quick and handy way to select clips on Arrangement is use the Skip Select ←→ dial (on dial page 3 for Live and page 4 for CT. Starting from the playhead location, it selects all clips to its left (counter-clockwise rotation) or right (clockwise).
Selection stops at Locators, if there are any.

TIP! This is a very quick way to copy, paste, and move a clip on Arrangement: first use Skip ←→ dial to move playhead in the beginning of a clip, then use Skip Select ←→ dial to select the clip, copy, deselect by clicking on Skip Select ←→, use the ←→ dial to select the location where the clip should be pasted, and finally paste it.

Zooming on Arrangement and in clips
See the magnifier dial for zooming in and out. It zooms on wherever you vertical playhead is, so first use the ←→ dial to determine where to zoom. This zoom dial works on arrangement view and inside a clip view.

NOTE: For this zooming to work properly on a Mac, your computer keyboard should be using UK or US keyboard settings (you can change this in your computer’s settings). It does not work properly with Scandinavian and German layouts, for example.

For CT: All the above-mentioned actions are also found on a zoom wheel tool with the exception that it has a zooming action for Arrangement as its rotation action. This way you can even zoom in/out of Arrangement when you are in a clip view!

Zoom into a selected region
For zooming in and out of a selection, use the same above-mentioned zoom dial: Zoom to/from region action has been assigned as the press function of this dial. This action expands the view to cover the selected range, and another click zooms out of it.

Deleting a highlighted range
A quick way to delete the selected material is to use the trashcan icon (delete). There is also a dedicated Delete page on this workspace for more specific deletions.

Looping a region
Highlight a region. On dial pages, you will find a loop icon (as well as other loop controls): click the dial, which activates the loop brace for the highlighted region. If a region is not selected, this can be used for disabling/enabling the existing loop brace. On the same dial page, you will find controls for loop position and loop length. This applies to arrangement and clip views.

2. Working with locators and clips on Arrangement View

You will see a Locator dial: one push adds a locator, while pushing down deletes it if the playhead is on one. Turning the dial moves between locators. This function works exactly like the locator arrows in Ableton Live that control this action: relative to the  playhead. Consult the Ableton Live manual for more specific information on this.

TIP! With Live and CT, it is very convenient to use locators as points in your song on Arrangement and quickly move between them. You can have locators on intro, bridge, drop, etc. and easily switch between the  different sections. Moving between locators has never been easier: when you have locators on Arrangement, just turn the locator dial. This can be done both when the song is stopped and when the song is playing.

TIP! You will also find Next/Previous locator actions on the Loupedeck app, and you can have them on  pads, if you wish.

Moving locators
A very fast way to move locators based on grid is to select one with your mouse and use the ←→ dial.

Selecting a clip and/or automation on Arrangement to manipulate Select ←→ dial performs horizontal selection, while Select ↑↓ selects vertically.

To view automation on Arrangement, first enter automation mode by touching the Automation icon (it can be toggled on/off on using the automation icon on a touch pad Utility page. Also find it on Workspace 7: Views/Browser).

If the playhead is on a clip on Arrangement, clip view opens and shows automation for a clip, and if the playhead is not a clip, this action toggles automation view for Arrangement tracks.

TIP! Use the Track height tool on dial page 1 to make the automation view of the desired track nice and  tall – or use the Optimum Height pad (pad page 6) to make tracks as tall as possible.

When viewing automation on Arrangement, you can select either just the clip – or both the clip and  automation – for manipulation.  When moving the flashing playhead up and down on tracks, you will notice that the playhead can stay in a clip’s top  bar area – or the bottom half (see pic above). Selecting ranges that cover the top bar area affect both the clip and its automation, while selecting the  bottom area only affects automation.


NOTE: While Select Track does change track selection, it cannot switch between clip and automation content field, so use your computer or CT arrow keys,  or the arrow pads on Live touch pad page 8 to quickly change that.

Notice that if you are not in automation mode, automation will always be manipulated with the selection (unless envelopes are locked) even though it is not seen.

Selecting and moving a specific clip
When a clip’s header is selected on Arrangement, you can use the ←→ dial to move clips.
You can also use the Play/Stop dial or arrow pads for this if you wish.
Movement is based on the grid.

TIP: After a clip has been duplicated with Duplicate action, it is selected. Want to quickly move it to a new location? The ←→ dial is your fast friend!

Clip length on Arrangement
If you want to change the length of a clip on arrangement, first place the cursor on the clip edge. Then, enter Workspace 1 and find Mouse Drag: Horizontal mouse tool on a dial or use the same tool on CT Wheel. This emulates horizontal mouse movement while mouse button is being held down. Rotate the dial to set clip length.

Applying a fade to an audio clip on arrangement
Fading an audio clip in or out is easy: just highlight the range you want to fade in or out and use the Create Fade action on touch page 2 on Live and on page 1 on CT.

Muting/deactivating clips and tracks
You will see Mute and Mute track/clip on the pads. Mute track always mutes a track regardless of where your selection is, but general Mute can be used to mute either, depending on what is selected: if track header is selected, track is muted, but if a clip is selected, it mutes the selected clip.

TIP! The general Mute works like the key 0, so it can also be used to turn devices on/off!

Turning devices on/off
The Mute action can be used to turn devices on and off: just selected the device from its top bar and use the Mute action.

Moving a track vertically / horizontally (sorting tracks)
On page 4  for dials, you will find Horizontal / Vertical dials. These emulate mouse click + horizontal/vertical dragging. To sort tracks and move a track upward or downward, place your cursor on a track header and operate the Horizontal dial to move it. Vertical dial can be used to sort tracks in Session View.

3. Recording Functions

The touch page 3 on Live or touch page 2 on CT presents several functions you will need when recording and creating content.

Arming a track

Before you can record on a track, you must arm it.


Recording on Arrangement

To start recording in the desired location, use the <-> dial or arrow pads or CT Wheel or arrow keys to place the playhead where recording should start.

Then, activate Arrangement Record and press play. Punch In/Out controls are found on touch page 3 in case you want to define the area where recording can
only happen. Loop controls for setting the recording area (relating to by Punch In/Out) are on the second dial page.

Recording on an existing Session clip
Make sure track Arm and Session Record are activated. Use arrow pads on Live (touch pad page 8) or arrow keys on CT to highlight the clip you want to record into and touch the Return pad (touch pad page 8) or the enter key in CT to start recording.

Recording on an empty Session clip slot
To record in an empty clip slot on Session View, first select the desired track (use Select Track dial or CT track select Wheel) and arm it. Use your mouse or the arrow pads on Live (touch pad page 8) or CT arrow keys to place the highlighted selector on a clip slot where recording should start. Use the Return pad (touch pad page 8) or enter to start recording. Stop or dearming a track stops clip recording.

Creating new MIDI clips
You can insert empty MIDI clips on Arrangement View (length is based on highlighted region) as well as Session clip slots by using the Insert MIDI Clip command. You can also copy clips from Arrangement and paste them to Session – and the other way around.

Creating new tracks
Insert MIDI Track and Insert Audio Track actions are on touch page 3.

Capture MIDI
Technically speaking, Ableton Live is always listening to MIDI tracks that are armed.
Tapping Capture MIDI creates a new MIDI clip, or if an existing clip was selected, musical notes will be added to the selected clip. This works on both Arrangement and Session, and the captured MIDI information will be added on whichever view is in focus when Capture MIDI action happens. Refer to Ableton Live manual for more specific information on Capture MIDI behavior.

Automation Arm
Manual automation changes can be recorded on Arrangement and in Session clips when Automation Arm is enabled.

MIDI Arrangement Overdub
Allows for adding newly recorded midi notes to be mixed with existing midi notes in clips. If overdub is not enabled, old MIDI notes will be discarded in recording. This is an Arrangement feature.

4. Delete Actions

The third touch page on CT and fourth touch page on Live default profile presents various delete and discard actions. These are somewhat self-explanatory. The general delete work fine for most deletion needs, but does not work for everything. For example, should you need to delete time off Arrangement, Delete Time is the tool for that.

5. Utilities

Several utilitarian functions that you may need quite often are found on these two pages.
For example: metronome, back to Arrangement, tap tempo, follow song, renaming action, height/width optimization and keyboard mode can be found on these pages.

Remember: you can arrange all the pages and actions to your liking! For example, for ever faster access, you could create a whole new workspace dedicated to all the utilitarian actions that you use the most.


6. Record Quantization

On this page, you will find the most commonly used recording quantization settings.
You can also turn recording quantization off. Some of the less-often needed settings such as 32nd note triplets were left out of this page, but you can add them with the Setup software if you wish.