Vocal Tracking In Ableton Live

Ableton Live is renowned as a particularly user-friendly DAW, and it quickly attracted followers who were drawn to its extensive clip arrangement functionality. However, Live is also fully capable when it comes to recording audio from external sources…

Get Me In

If you’re using sample loops, all you need to do is drag the audio clips from the Live library into the arrangement window and move them into the required place, duplicating as required. A good starting point for a song is to lay down a basic drumbeat that can function as a metronome; you can work on tweaking and filling out the drumbeat first, or add other elements first and then alter the basic drum track around them later.

However, if you want to record external audio into live, you’ll need to enable the IO view – in arrangement view, you can see this as a round button labeled I-O just below the scrollbar on the right of the screen (see screenshot).

Live IO

This will reveal an Input-Output (IO) section that starts with a dropdown menu – in this example, it’s defaulting to ‘Ext-IN’, which is external input (depending on your setup, you can choose a variety of other inputs here). Below that you can select the particular channel to input from (the number of options here will depend on your sound card, but you’ll need to select the channel that your microphone is plugged into).

Once you’ve chosen the correct input options, you can hit the ‘record enable’ button (the button with the circle to the right of Ext-IN) – now, when you press the main record button on the Live player, live will record audio from your microphone into your selected track.

Vocal Settings

For vocals, and indeed for many audio tracks, it might be a good idea to put a high-pass filter on the track to remove any stray low-frequency rumble. The threshold you set will depend on how deep your voice/instrument is, but there’s almost always some scope for low frequency attenuation – which can greatly improve the clarity of the recording.

A commonly-used technique for vocals (or guitars) is multi-tracking, and it can add greatly to the punch and impact of a recording. Basically, the idea is to get your vocalist to perform the exact same piece and record it multiple times – you then sit the takes on top of one another to create a composite layered sound. In this case, the closer the vocalist can get the takes to one another in terms of timing/cadence, the more effective the layering will be.

Live Multitrack

If you want to experiment, you can apply different effects/EQ to each vocal track, pan them left and right and so on, to create a more diversified sound (if that suits the atmosphere and intention of the song). However, the basic technique of vocal multi-tracking involves simply layering multiple almost identical takes on top of one another so that it sounds like a single take (but with added punch).


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