Ableton Live 7: Turn Live into a signal processing rig

OBJECTIVE: Although Live can serve as both an instrument and a DAW, it also makes a fine host for signal processors, whether in the studio or live. BACKGROUND: You can feed realtime audio into a Live track, so a low-latency system lets you process the signal with Live’s built-in effects (or any VST effects). What’s more, it’s easy to set up parallel processing chains. We’ll assume you have an audio interface and have patched an instrument like guitar, voice, hardware synth, etc. (and if needed, a preamp) into a spare audio interface input.
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STEPS:

  1. If the I/O section isn’t currently visible, click on the I/O button toward the right-hand side of the Arrangement view or Session view.
  2. In the Audio From field for the selected track, choose Ext In. In the field below that, choose the audio interface input to which the signal connects.
  3. Under Monitor, as the main goal here is to do realtime processing, select In; a small mic symbol appears above the Audio From field to indicate that Live is listening exclusively to the input. If you also plan to record a signal feeding this input, Auto is usually best so you hear the audio input while recording, and the track out on playback.
  4. If you set Monitor to In, you’ll hear the input regardless of the record/playback status. But if you selected Auto for the monitor function, click on the track’s Record button to hear the audio.
  5. Drag the effects for your “rig” from the browser to the Track View Selector for the track doing the processing.
  6. To create additional chains of effects, repeat steps 2–5 for different tracks and set them all to the same input. To select one effects setup at any given time, click on the Solo button for the associated track.

TIPS:

  • In Step 6, if you’ve created several tracks of effects, it’s easy to do parallel processing. Simply ctrl-click on the Solo button for multiple tracks, and use the track faders to adjust the balance of each parallel chain.
  • If you want tempo sync but there’s no timing signal to feed Live, use the Tap Tempo button in the upper left of Live’s screen.