Every DAW out there has a set of keyboard shortcuts to speed things up when using them. As one of the favorites among the producer community, Ableton Live has its own. Ableton doesn’t allow customization of shortcuts, and it’s not the DAW with the most shortcuts either. However, there are quite a few handy commands that will save you a lot of time if you start implementing them in your production process. Here’s our list of favorites (Pdf version down below):
The space bar is the play/stop command in every DAW. But pressing shift at the same time in Ableton will start playback exactly where you stopped it before instead of going back to the start marker you selected by clicking
Ableton has sped up this process a lot in version 10 by implementing this shortcut that doesn’t necessitate to double click on a clip and hit reverse to do so. Simply hitting R will reverse the selected clip in the arrangement view. Double-clicking on the clip and hitting rev. is still mandatory in the session view.
Insert Audio & Midi Tracks
A right-click allows to insert audio and midi tracks, but Cmd + T (Ctrl + T on windows) will quickly create an audio track while hitting Cmd +Shift+ T (Ctrl + shift + T on windows) inserts a midi track ready to receive a new software instrument.
Starting to work on a loop before creating an arrangement is the process embraced by many producers. Also, it’s good to have a loop function that will go back at the beginning of the loop when it reaches the end, making it all sound like an endless loop. Drag your mouse over the selection you’d like to loop (make sure to do so beneath the file name) and hit Cmd + L (Ctrl + L on Windows) to enable the loop function.
Duplicating clips or sections quickly can save a lot of time instead of hitting alt while selecting and dragging a clip or selection of clips. Just select the part you want to copy and hit Cmd + D (Ctrl + D on Windows) to duplicate the selection right after the end of it. Selecting a clip along with a blank will duplicate everything the exact same way, keep the exact same gap between two repetitions of the same sound. Handy with drums mostly.
Sometimes you realize an entire section is missing in the middle of the track. You could split everything and move manually to the right to make room for the new section you’ll add. But you’ll find it way more useful just to select the length of the section you want to insert exactly where you want to add it and hit Cmd+I (Ctrl + I on windows). This will shift everything from every track to the right of the newly created silence. There doesn’t seem to be a shortcut to insert a silence on a single track without moving the rest as well, though.
Playing in perfect sync with the metronome is pretty hard. Thankfully, quantization eliminates imprecision and brings everything to the selected grid. Select a bunch of notes and hit Cmd + u (ctrl + u on windows) to replace them on the grid.
Zoom (+ / – )
If the zoom keyboard shortcuts located on the numeric pad aren’t ideally located for right-handed people, it’s still handy to have those.
Clip & Device view switch (Shift+Tab)
We used to waste time switching with the mouse for years until we realized there was a shortcut that would just do the same thing directly from the keyboard! We can’t live without this shortcut now! Give it a try!
Create a new midi clip
In session view, double-clicking in an empty slot will create an empty midi clip. To do the same in the arrangement view, press Cmd+Shift+ M (Ctrl+Shift+M on windows). You’ll then be able to draw notes with the mouse without having to hit record prior.
Show/hide browser and clip view
Showing/hiding the browser quickly saves some time as well when it’s something you often do. That’s pretty much the case when there’s already new plugins or samples to drop! Hit Cmd+Shift+B (Ctrl+Shift+L on windows) to do so. When you need more space on the screen to work on an arrangement, hiding as much stuff as you can really is handy. And hiding the clip/device view really helps. Cmd+Shift+L (Ctrl+Shift+L on windows)
It happens, especially with audio, todo a lot of editing, and it can help the readability of the session to have fewer clips. Don’t hesitate to consolidate (Careful, it’s destructive!). Works also with midi!
+/- 1 octave/semitone
The fastest way to shift up or down an octave a selection of notes? Check! Hit shift+up or down arrow. Hitting just the arrows will move or down by a semitone. Download the pdf version of the entire list HERE, and feel free to either print it or save it on your desktop! Wallpaper is also a good idea! Use these keyboard shortcuts regularly, and you’ll memorize them in no time. The Ableton reference manual has even more that we encourage you to get familiar with asap!
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