Using Ableton Live 11’s Comping Feature

The standout feature of Ableton’s Live 11 update is certainly it’s new comping capabilities. The concept of comping is not a new idea and has been included in other DAWs like Logic Pro X in the past but this is a first for Ableton Live. Comping is an incredibly useful tool for producers who record live instruments like vocals, guitars, drums, or bass. Comping allows you to record multiple takes in an individual recording which you can then sift through to find the best parts of your recordings and create the perfect sounding take. If you’re familiar with looper pedals, comping is essentially one sophisticated looper pedal that is embedded into your DAW. Let’s take a deeper look at Ableton Live 11’s comping. 

Engaging Comping

Accessing Ableton Live 11’s comping feature is easy. Before you record, first engage looping over the section of your project you’d like to record over. Next, simply begin recording as you normally would. As you play, Ableton will record your input as usual but when you reach the end of your loop, you’ll notice that the playhead will return to the beginning of your looped section and give you a seamless opportunity to record over the loop again. This is particularly great for when you want to record a solo or are hashing out some musical ideas.

Accessing Takes

Once you think you’ve done enough takes you can begin organizing and chopping up your recordings. You can find your recordings by navigating to your selected tracks Context Menu and selecting ‘Show Take Lanes’. You can also access your takes by using the short cut ‘command+option+ u’ on a Mac or ‘control+alt+u’ on a PC. This will produce a dropdown menu that will show you all of your different takes. Your takes will be shown in chronological order with your earliest at the top and most recent at the bottom. You can solo your individual takes and audition them by pressing the speaker icon next to the track. This is good for helping you find the best parts in each take. Once you’ve found a part you’d like to include in your main track, simply select the area, press ‘enter’ or ‘return’ and the section will automatically be pasted into the top most track. You can also use the pencil tool to selected parts your different parts.

The top most track, your ‘main lane’, is the track where you’ll be able to see which pieces of your previous takes you’ve combined to create a single take. If you haven’t noticed by now, each of your takes is color-coded. This will help you keep tabs on which track is which when creating your ideal take. As you continue to work you can delete takes or reorder them if you desire. Once content with your new take, you can hide your takes by going back to the tracks Context Menu and selecting ‘Hide Take Lanes’.

Editing Clips

After you’ve selected the parts of your takes you’d like to use in your track, you can begin editing them as you would like any other clip in Ableton Live. You can add fades, rearrange them on your timeline, change view settings, and more. If during your editing process you want to swap out a take with a different one, select the clip you’d like to change and  simply hold ‘command’ or ‘ctrl’ while pressing the ‘up’ or ‘down’ keys on you keyboard. This will help you cycle through your takes without having to reopen your take lanes.

Comping MIDI

Comping MIDI follows the same exact process of comping any other live audio recording. Make sure you’ve engaged your loop before you start recording, then continue to record as you normally would. Once again, you’ll notice the playhead return to the beginning of your loop so you can record a second take and so on. You can access your MIDI takes and edit them the same way you would with a live recording which is demonstrated for you above.

Overall, comping is an excellent tool for producers who aren’t entirely sure what sound they’re looking for and want a way to become easily inspired. It’s great for laying down lots of musical ideas at once instead of having to record individual takes which can be a long process. Comping is also a powerful creative tool because you can use it to chop up samples from imported audio quickly and effectively. If you’ve recently updated to Ableton Live 11, be sure to give the new comping feature a try and see how it can help you create.

Check out this comping tutorial video below for Ableton Live. It is a comprehensive and visual demonstration of all the ways to create using comping: 

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