How to Copy Automation in Ableton

Automation is a must because it helps create dynamism! Dynamism refers to unique changes in volume energy and tone in productions. You will find yourself creating automation for different tracks, at different points, throughout your production.

In my write-up on Ableton Automation Greyed Out I explain the difference between dynamic and static automation. The copy automation process is implemented in the former, since dynamic automation has similar sections, where you do not want to create the same automation repeatedly.

There are 3 main ways to copy automation in Ableton:

  1. Segment duplication: this method is fast and simple to execute but can be a little tricky when copying because when you duplicate your track you may carry automation over an unwanted length. (Excellent for medium-length song segments)
  2. Copy and paste: this will be your primary automation copying technique as it is straightforward and accurate. (Good for shorter segments)
  3. Plug-in Duplication: if you are creating automation through your plug-ins, you can copy or move these plug-ins into a new track, and the automation will copy into the new track. (Perfect for longer segments)

Segment Duplication

This technique is best for more extended segments such as verses, choruses, or bridges. These segments have different dynamics and nuances to them that make them distinct.

For example, choruses tend to be louder than verses, where you want the volume to be louder. Bridges have a gradual volume increase or pitch sweeps and changes. This is where you implement segment duplication.

Here is how you execute this technique:

Step 1: Create the automation on whichever parameter you want.

create automation ableton

Step 2: Identify the segments with automation and highlight where this section repeats in your production.

highlight repetitive section ableton

Step 3: Now press Cmd + D on Mac or Ctrl + D on Windows to copy over the automation to the preferred segment

copy automation ableton

Warning! You will find issues with the accuracy of your automation copying if you do not accurately identify the length of the song segment and then duplicate the automation.

automation accuracy issues ableton

Copying and Pasting

This technique is best when working with small segments in your productions. If you want a dynamic change in your production in the beginning, middle or end of your song segments, you will find yourself making automation at very particular sections of these segments (specific bar lengths). This is where you need to copy and paste, when making ‘micro-automation’.

Step 1: Identify and highlight the bar or loop length of the effect of your automation

highlight bar loop length ableton

Step 2: Copy the automated segment by right-clicking on the segment, and selecting copy (Cmd + C on Mac or Ctrl + C on Windows)

copy automated segment

Step 3: Select the point you want to copy the automation, right-click on the bar and select paste (Cmd + V on Mac or Ctrl + V on Windows)

paste automation ableton

This is how your copied automation should look.

final copy paste automation ableton

Plug-in Duplication

This technique is incredibly simple and unintuitive, especially when working with similar-sounding tracks, or when you want your tracks to behave the same way. There are two different ways to duplicate the plug-in where the automation is created, copying and duplication, as well as dragging and dropping. Here is how you do it:

Copying Technique – Step 1: Select the plug-in with the automation.

select automation plugin ableton

Copying Technique – Step 2: Right-click on your plug-in and select copy (Cmd + C on Mac or Ctrl + C on Windows)

copy plugin ableton

Copying Technique – Step 3: Go to your chosen track and select paste (Cmd + V on Mac or Ctrl + V on Windows)

paste ableton track

Duplicating Technique – Step 1: Select the desired plug-in, right-click and select duplicate (Cmd + D on Mac or Ctrl + D on Windows)

duplicate technique ableton

Duplicating Technique – Step 2: Select the duplicated plug-in and then drag and drop it into the preferred track

drag drop duplication ableton

Final Thoughts

Learning how to copy automation between segments and tracks is an incredible time-saving technique. Each of these techniques has its own use case.

Copying and pasting is best for short automation, and segment duplication, depending on how you use it. I have found the most utility with this technique for medium-length song segments. Plug-in duplication lends itself more to full song length automation copying.

Experiment and use whatever technique suits you best. Have fun and keep learning!

Collins K