Volume automation creates rises and fade-aways at the beginning of the song, and adds room between tracks at different parts of the song. There are three ways to automate volume in Ableton. For a brief overview of what you need to know before automating volume, have a look at my tutorial on Automation Lanes in Ableton. It will give you the basic skills to start with volume automation.
These are the best ways to automate volume in Ableton:
- Fader Automation: most industry professionals will advise against touching your volume faders when mixing audio, keeping them at 0.0Db. I, on the other hand, recommend you use this technique as a volume rebalance once you have your mix complete.
- Sample Edit View: this technique is good for automating the volume of individual clips. It is useful during the composition process, and in the arrangement stage of your production. It will get tiring if you use this technique for all your individual sample clips, that is if you are working on many individual samples.
- Plug-in Volume automation: this technique is executed the same way as the fader automation technique because you will be creating volume automation in the arrangement view, but helps you avoid touching your volume fader control.
Let us begin!
Fader automation is an unorthodox method of volume control, simple in execution. I do not recommend using this technique after you are done mixing your track. It must be your last resort to volume control in my opinion.
Here is how you execute this technique:
Step 1: show your automation lanes by using the shortcut Function (fn) + A on both Mac and Windows or the automation view toggle.
Step 2: Select the volume control fade in the arrangement view.
Or in the mixing view
You will notice that this fader control is now automatable
Step 3: Create automation
Sample Edit View
This sample edit view is ideal if you are working with individual sample clips and want to add micro-automation to your production. The good thing about this technique is that it acts as a bridge between the other two techniques, allowing you to automate volume on both the volume faders and the plug-in volume controls. I will give you a tip when using this technique on MIDI clips shortly. So how do you execute this technique?
Step 1: Double-click on your sample clip in either the mixing or arrangement view to open the sample edit view
Step 2: Select the automation tab view
Step 3: Select which parameter your volume control is located (mixer or a specific plug-in)
Step 4: Select the volume control parameter you want to automate
Step 5: Automate
Tip! If you are using MIDI clips, you can somewhat control the volume by automating the velocity of your notes. This attack velocity makes your notes play softer (quieter) or harder depending on your velocity control values.
Plug-in Volume Automation
In my experience, I have learned that the technological reality of ‘garbage-in-garbage-out’ (GIGO) is a reality when recording. Luckily, this does not have to be the reality when dealing with recording and volume. If you are recording into a VSTi or VST effects plug-in, you can automate volume using the plug-in’s volume controls and that is where this technique comes in. You can use both techniques discussed above to automate the volume of your tracks. This is how you do it:
Step 1: Open your plug-in and select the volume control.
Step 2: go to your arrangement view as the parameter controls are now selected.
Step 3: Automate
Sample Edit View
Step 1: Double-click on your sample clip to open the sample edit view
Step 2: Go to the automation tab
Step 3: Select your plug-in
Step 4: Select the volume control
Step 5: Automate
Volume automation is a must for your productions. I cannot say I use it every time in my productions, but I use it whenever I need volume control or audible dynamism. I mostly use these techniques when creating rises, and fades or to create room for other instruments or vocals. I also use it as a sidechaining technique sometimes. Experiment with these techniques in your productions, and most importantly, have fun!