Loop Recording and Comping in Ableton Live

I will show you a workflow to efficiently create a compile from multiple audio recordings in Ableton Live, after using loop recording in the Arrangement view.
Using loop recording for recording multiple takes can save time while recording but it's a bit more tricky to pick apart at the editing stage. The real great benefit of loop recording is the possibility of jamming continuously without worrying to start recording again for each take. When looping is enabled and you record through the area bounded by the loop brace, Live will record over the loop area repeatedly. All the takes are kept, as the audio is in fact recorded into one long file.


Fire up Preferences panel (ctrl or cmd +,) and look under Audio and Record/Warp/Launch tabs. You can save this settings once and for all in the default Live template. Look under File/Folder tab.


Setup a new audio track (ctrl or cmd + t) and rename it (ctrl or cmd + r). Then select the input to which your instrument or microphone is connected. Finally setup monitoring with Auto option (default), arm the track and check the input levels.


Select the range you want to overdub and make a loop (select a range and then ctrl or cmd + l).

Activate Punch In and Loop buttons, to the right of the transport bar. You really should have shortcuts for this tasks. If you haven't, quick hit ctrl or cmd + k and assign a couple of key commands.

I really love to use the Punch In method more than the classic Metronome Count In method, because so I can set my own preroll and I can listen to the rest of the song during the pre­roll. 

At some point you have to make a multi purpose Group Track: select the audio track then ctrl or cmd + g. This Group Track will be useful for rendering at the end of the comping process, but can serve even now: if you want some realtime audio effect on your instrument (examples: delays, reverbs, guitar rigs…) insert audio effects in the Group Track and not directly in the audio track on which you are about to record. Soon you will understand why it's better this way.
Now set your own preroll clicking at a point which you prefer before the Punch In point (the loop start brace), and hit the record button (you have a key command for this one, I know…). "Eh-eh! I hope you like jamming'." (cit.)


When you stop recording, you will inevitably be left with a partial take overlaid on the previous take. Undo (ctrl or cmd z), and the last pass will be removed (successive Undos will strip back each pass).

Let's begin the comping process! Double-­click the recorded Clip to display it in the Clip view (see the screen above). As expected the Clip contains all the looped takes in one long file. The portion that is actually being played in the Arrangement will be the last take, indicated by Start and End markers. 

First check Loop activation. In the Clip view you can activate it also selecting the loop and hitting ctrl or cmd + l.

To hear other takes, simply move Start and End markers within the Clip, by the length of the loop. Usually I start adjusting the loop length so that the loop encloses only the first take. To quickly move between takes you can select the loop and use up and down arrow keys to move by the length of the loop. 

Audition the first take, and if anything in it is useful, duplicate the track in the Arrangement view (ctrl or cmd + d). Again double-­click the Clip in the new track to display it in the Clip view and move on the next useful take. Repeat this process for successive takes. When you're done with this first selection, in the Arrangement view you'll have a few takes from which to choose the best parts. 
Note: if you had inserted audio effects directly in the audio track (and not in the Group Track as I have suggested) you may also have uselessly duplicated that effect rig, with great sorrow for your cpu.

In the Arrangement view cut and slice the best parts of the individual takes using all the non-destructive techniques you know: trim, split, fades, crossfades. In Live you also have another option: use the Mixer Speaker On automation to mute unwanted parts (see the screen above). Remember you can use different colors and clip names to differentiate clips and parts. 

Finally, after this last selection you have the compiled performance in a Group Track, convenient for the rendering task. Sure you could put it all on one standard track and consolidate (ctrl or cmd + j). But I prefer to do it in another way.


Fire up Export Audio/Video (ctrl or cmd + shift + r) and select your Group Track name in the Rendered Track menu. If there are audio effects inserted in the Group track you have two options before exporting: bypass the audio effects and export dry or leave the audio effects on and export wet. Remember it when you get to this point.
Because we are doing a 'service' rendering we do not want to degrade the quality of the recording. Check rendering settings and activate Render as Loop.

Save the audio file in a new folder inside your current project folder so you can quickly find it also from the Live Browser (Current Project folder). I usually call these folders Bounce (from track bouncing).

And here it is! Load the file from the Live Browser in a new track and go ahead with your song. "Ain't no rules, ain't no vow, we can do it anyhow". (cit.)


There are usually many ways to do the same job in a DAW. The important thing is to find a workflow that is best suited to our needs. I really hope you enjoyed learning my workflow. I tried to be as succinct as possible and I hope I have not forgotten some critical step. Is there anything I missed or could have explained better? 

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