In this tutorial, I will be showing you how to resolve playback issues. Playback or monitoring in audio production refers to the process of listening to your audio output when recording, mixing, or mastering. Setting up your inputs and outputs is the very first step when producing music so you can hear what you are doing. There are many reasons why you are not able to hear your playback in Ableton Live, but here are the main reasons:
- Your I/Os (ins and outs) are not correctly set up: this issue mainly affects your recording and monitoring hardware. Solving the issue here is simple, as you can resolve I/O issues in the same segment.
- Some tracks might be muted or incorrectly routed: if you are listening to your session and realise that you cannot hear specific tracks, this may be due to muting, incorrect routing and sometimes although not common, plug-in errors.
- Hardware Connections: you may find that you are still not getting sound after all these troubleshooting fixes. This is where you will need to cycle through your hardware connections to make sure everything is connected properly.
Let us begin!
I/Os (ins and outs)
Whether you are starting a new session or opening one that you are actively working on, the first thing you will need to do is to set us your audio ins and outs. If you don’t hear audio playing when you press play, or when you are recording, then this is going to be your first step to resolve this issue.
Step 1: Open Ableton’s preferences
On Mac, go to Live in your control panel and select preferences
On Windows, go to options and select preferences
Or simply use the shortcut Cmd + , on Mac or Ctrl + , on Windows
Step 2: select the ‘Audio’ tab
Step 3: Select the Audio Input Device drop-down menu, and select your input device
Step 4: Select the Audio Output Device drop-down menu, and select your output device
Keep the steps of this technique in mind for the second technique.
Track Muting and Routing
This technique is double-ended. You will first need to check if your track or your sample clips are muted, and if they are not then the issue might be the input or output routing. Let us begin with muting:
In my tutorial on fixing deactivated clips in Ableton, I discuss muting and un-muting clips and these techniques carry into solving this issue. Your audio won’t playback if you have either your sample clips or your tracks muted. Let us tackle both cases:
Muted clips: identify the muted clip in your session, right-click and select ‘Activate Clip’ or use the shortcut Num 0 on both Mac and Windows
Muted tracks: if you look at your track numbers in the arrangement or mix view, some will glow orange, and others will be greyed out. The greyed-out tracks are muted. If you want to unmute them, simply click on the track number.
This technique is double-pronged. If recording, this is where the ‘I/O’ technique comes in. Once you have set up your input devices you will need to configure the track inputs and enable recording. When listening back, you must ensure that your tracks are routed correctly to your master, bus, or track. This is how you do it:
Input Routing 1: go to the ‘Audio from’ menu of your track and select the correct audio input track.
Input Routing 2. a: if recording from an external device select the drop-down menu and repeat the input configuration of the I/Os technique
Input Routing 2. b: select the appropriate channel input.
Input Routing 2. c: select the monitor option to hear the input audio.
This technique is very simple to execute. Note that once you group tracks, all the grouped tracks will be routed to the track group. But when sending one track into another, or a grouped track directly to the master track, a grouped track to a track outside the group, or a send track (reverb, delay etc.) you will need to route the tracks appropriately. This is how you do it:
Step 1: identify the track you want to send out, to the ‘Audio Out’ drop-down menu and select the correct track you are sending to.
Step 2: Go to the receiving track’s ‘Audio From’ menu and in the menu select the correct track.
Step 3: Select the ‘In’ option.
Now this technique is the final option for dealing with no audio playback. You will need to make sure that all your input and output cables are connected firmly, your hardware is responsive and that your cables are not damaged. Once the previous steps are not fruitful then resort to this technique, and cycle through your audio system, from input to output (audio interface/ MIDI controller to headphones/monitors)
Going through this tutorial, you will see that no sound in Ableton can be a quick fix. From the moment you open your session to a more in-depth sample clip and track inspection and finally a more critical examination of your hardware step-up. I recommend that you get familiar with your audio setup and how to set up your audio devices and track routing, but most importantly, have fun!