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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > June 17 > Put your projects on a diet – reduce your track count in Ableton Live…

Put your projects on a diet – reduce your track count in Ableton Live…

It’s a wonderful thing that with computer production, there are few limitations on track count. But there are practical and artistic implications. Martin Delaney shows you how to streamline your projects…

Reduce track count

Our aim is simple. We’re going to look at some techniques we can use to reduce the number of audio and MIDI tracks in an Ableton Live project. We’ll use instrument racks, freezing, resampling, and group tracks to achieve this aim. And why, precisely, are we doing this? ‘Because we can’, is the smart answer. ‘Because we want to learn some cool new things,’ is a better answer…

For most of us, our computers, or even ’phones, can run projects with more tracks than we need; that’s not much of an issue any more. But those track-heavy projects can be hard to handle, hard to keep an overview on, hard to mix… there’s an aesthetic beauty about a minimal layout that’s clean, but still functioning as a composition, a mix and a performance space. For live shows, it’s definitely on my mind: I want to have fun, not feel like I’m spinning plates.

If you want to make this a long-term thing, you can embrace it from the offset by composing in a more minimal way. Sometimes using fewer tracks sounds bigger and more exciting than using a lot of tracks. Instrument racks and clip envelopes are a great way to ‘cut down’, if you want to keep the full flexibility of MIDI programming and software instruments; using a clip envelope to select the correct chain means that you can launch the clips in any order and they’ll still sound as they should. There are more dynamic ways to switch chains, based on manual selection, or note range, or velocity (drum racks behave differently – they don’t have the same chain-select tools, but you can put a drum rack inside an instrument rack, and control the chain selection from there). There are also audio effect racks, so once again, you don’t need separate tracks just because you want to use a certain compressor or EQ at one point in your set. The freeze and flatten commands, on the other hand, do away with all of that MIDI flexibility entirely, creating simple audio clips, which are much easier to reorganise while Live’s running, without the risk of triggering the wrong instrument sounds. There are a couple of things to bear in mind with these commands – firstly, if you try freezing a sidechained track, you’ll see this message ‘The track [name of current track] cannot be frozen because of the routing [name of sidechain source track].’ The other thing is that freeze can’t be executed while Live’s transport is running, so better do that before you begin your set!

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