Groups, subgroups, & submixes. Sends, magic sends & more.
There are many ways to work. Here’s what I do. I have a template project. This contains groups for Drums, Percs, Synths, Vocals, Noise and FX. Groups (also known as busses) are great for three reasons. Firstly, they can be folded to get all those tracks you’re not working on out of the way. Secondly you can put effects and processing on them, e.g. a compressor on your drum group. Thirdly, it means you can adjust the volume of all the drums or synths at the same time. You can drag tracks in and out of groups if you want to.
All these groups are routed to an audio track called submix for global effects. There is another audio track called Un for any tracks not going to the Submix, although you could send them straight to the master, I just keep it there in case I ever want to put something different on a few tracks.
Within the groups are audio and midi tracks. Some also contain special audio tracks (subgroups or busses) with no instruments, just sidechain compressors (and/or other effects) on them, and one or two tracks will be routed to these. For instance the Synths group may have three instrument tracks, and two of them could be routed to an audio track containing a sidechain compressor. This means you can freeze the synth tracks, and saves resources.
I have 6 return tracks for parallel processing of sends – reverb, delay and so on. These are also routed to Submix.
I color code standard things, e.g. the kick is always black, the bass is orange and so on. A reference track is placed on it’s own, routed to External Out to bypass anything on the master channel. Personally I have a separate drum on each track, but obviously a lot of people work with Impulse or Drum Racks. You can still route these to separate audio tracks. One good thing about separate tracks is you can apply a Track Delay to certain tracks, e.g. pull the hats forward a few ms (see the bottom of the mixer).
Magic sends is another routing trick you might like, turning return tracks into what is in effect inserts that affect several tracks (giving you a totally wet effect):
Create two return tracks. Put your effect on a return track (B). Put an Invert Utility on another return (A). Enable all sends on both (right click the two knobs), and turn the B knob up on return A. Turn up the A send on any tracks you want to have wet effects added to in this way. To route them back to the submix you would have to do it like this:
This is an alternative to busses within groups as shown in my main example. It means you can have just the one compressor track.
Sidechaining with a non-native compressor
Here’s the routing for this to answer a question on the Ableton forum, how to use a different compressor in Live. There’s nothing wrong with Live’s compressor, but this is shown with The Glue. It may work with other compressors. The compressor in on a separate audio track so that other tracks can share it, and also so the synth can be frozen.
Did you know that you can makes notes for any clip or track in Live? Just right click the clip or top of track, and select ‘edit info’. Now you can type in the info box. It is then visible in the info box when you hover over the clip or track title. Use cunning techniques to get it up to almost full screen height.
You can also use a free plugin called Audio Notes, which gives a tabular form in a translucent window.