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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Jul-18 > RECORDING, EDITING, AND MIXING VOCALS IN ABLETON LIVE


You might not think it, but Live works brilliantly for recording, processing, and organising vocals, including harmonies, which is what we’re mostly talking about here. Martin Delaney explains…



Usually when people talk about recording vocals in Live, they focus on warping (time stretching), which is undeniably a big part of what Live’s about. But let’s talk about some other aspects of working with vocals, including recording, editing, processing, organising harmonies – and when not to warp vocals at all.

You might not appreciate being nagged about following basic recording techniques, but it’s arguably more important with vocals than any other source. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but a reasonable microphone and soundcard and a quiet room, will make all the difference. If you want a clean starting point you need a suitable mic and interface. When recording layers of vocals, everything else piles up as well – noise, distortion, headphone bleed, room sound, frequencies that are common across all the tracks – you’ve got to be careful otherwise it’ll end up a smeary mess.


Live has great onboard EQs, reverbs, compressors and so on, but one thing it doesn’t have yet is any kind of pitch correction device. For now you can use third party plug-ins like Antares Auto Tune or Waves Tune to fix wobbly vocals. I try to avoid using pitch correction for a single lead, but it’s very useful for keeping a group of four or more backing vocals in line. For vocal recording, it makes sense to use Live’s Arrangement View rather than Session View; it’s helpful to see the vocals take their place in the structure as you record. In Preferences, turn off Auto-Warp Long Samples, and unwarp any clips that have been warped automatically. In the walkthrough I mention how you can add reverb while recording: personally I prefer to hear the voice dry while tracking and I think it helps my timing as well, but it’s down to preference so do it the way that feels best for you. Cropping clips is a fast way to shed material at either end of your take. If there are noises or breaths in-between phrases, you can either slice them out, or add clip envelopes to mute those parts (although you’ll need to be working with a warped clip to use envelopes). Live’s Gate effect can help with these issues, but if you’re not careful it can affect the tails of your words. Some device automation may be required to get the best out of Gate on a full audio track. I always EQ vocal tracks, mainly to thin out lower frequencies. There’s no hard and fast rules, it depends on the nature of the recording – for me it’s mostly about managing the overall bass frequencies.

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About MusicTech

He’s the man who revolutionised modern film scores with a creative approach to music-making, sonic experimentation and sound utilisation that helps some of the biggest directors to tell their stories. This month we’re overwhelmingly honoured to speak to one of the greatest composers on the planet: Hans Zimmer. In our ten-page interview we talk to Hans about his recent work with Spitfire Audio – co-creating a remarkable assortment of production and studio tools – as well as his incredible career in soundtracking. Elsewhere this issue, Dave Gale takes us through the legacy of the vocoder, we report on this year’s Superbooth show in Berlin and speak to its progenitor Andreas Schneider about his views on modular synthesis and its integral place in the music technology world. We’ve also got our usual tutorials, tips and reviews. Enjoy the issue!