Loops are great—but they're even better when you can blend in some "real" instruments
by Craig Anderton
If you base your act around Ableton Live, then you have one of the easiest ways ever to record your gig: Click on the record button, and your various moves (clips and scenes you’ve triggered, effects tweaks, and the like) will be recorded in the Arrangement view.
But what if you also do vocals, or have other instrumentalists in the band? Or want to record your MIDI keyboard controller’s output? You can feed those into Live as well, and record them as linear hard disk tracks or MIDI tracks, respectively―here’s how.
The screen shot (Fig. 1) shows tracks 16 and 17 being fed with guitar and vocals, respectively.
Fig. 1: Ableton Live set up for a live performance situation (the effects used for guitar are along the bottom: Compressor, Native Instruments' Guitar Rig 5, and PingPong Delay).
The following describes how to set up those external tracks for recording.
1. Under Audio From, set the Input Type to the audio interface being used by the instrument.
2. Below that field, choose the appropriate audio interface input channel for the various instruments.
3. Set monitor to In so that the input is always being monitored.
4. Audio To will usually go to the master output (unless you want to choose sends only for some reason).
5. Make sure the Track Activator that shows the track number is activated if you want to hear the track. But note that sometimes you’ll want to mute a track (e.g., an instrument that’s not being used at a particular time), in which case it’s handy to deactivate this function.
6. Moves made with clips and faders are recorded automatically, but you’ll need to record-enable the audio tracks. Ctrl-click on the record enable buttons to enable multiple tracks.
Recording a MIDI track is almost identical: Set up the inputs to listen to the correct MIDI input, set Monitor to In, and assuming a soft synth is assigned to the track, just enable record. If you’re using MIDI to drive an external sound module, choose the desired interface output under MIDI To (but even if you select No Output, MIDI data will still be recorded to the track if it’s record-enabled).
Craig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central and Executive Editor of Electronic Musician magazine. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.