Music has been in my blood for as long as I can remember. When I was five years old, living in Greenwich Village in New York City,  I composed what I called the “typewriter song” to accompany my mother’s tapping away on her typewriter.

In fact, because of my love of music and composing of many simple songs, I was nicknamed the Mozart of Bedford Street by my mother’s music teacher. As time went on,  I was more and more interested in music, and I eventually formed a band where I was the lead guitarist, and I soon started to mix and master music semi-professionally.

Subsequently, I was introduced to the Ableton Live Program, which can be used not only for live performances and looping but for mixing and mastering. Read on to learn more about how the Ableton Live Program can be used successfully for mixing and mastering but with some limitations.

The Ableton Live Program Can be Used Effectively For Mixing and Mastering with Some Limitations

The Ableton Live Program is a popular software program for effective mixing and mastering. It is unique in that it provides the ability to write, arrange, record, edit, mix, and master your music all on one platform. It does have some limitations for mixing and mastering if you have either a large number of tracks or “heavy” or complex tracks that require mixing.  

Using Ableton Live For Mixing and Mastering

I have used  Ableton Live over the past six years and have found that even though Ableton was originally designed for live performances and composing, it can be used effectively for mixing and mastering but has several drawbacks.

As mentioned above, when mixing with high track counts with Ableton, if my track count was high or if the tracks were complicated, there were significant problems that were not corrected even with common fixes like freezing tracks or trying to alter the buffer size.

Another problem frequently encountered was when I was working with a large audio buffer. I found that increasing the buffer size actually made the overall performance much worse than it was originally.

I also found another problem in the fact that the automation in Ableton Live was not delay compensated, which caused the automation sounds to appear like they are coming in too late.

In addition, it became apparent that after finishing my sound mix and when I went to play it on iTunes, it was muffled even when increasing the gain.  

Tips for Using the Ableton Live Program for Mixing

The following are some tips for using the Ableton Live Program for mixing most effectively.

  • Be sure to declutter and to delete any unused tracks
  • Be sure to meticulously organize all tracks. For example, this can be done using color coding for all similar tracks or by grouping them together according to classifications such as vocals or percussion.
  • In order to save space, one or more tracks can be converted into one audio clip.

The History of Mixing

Mixing, which refers to the combining, organizing, and polishing of musical tracks, became more popular in the 1960s with the advent of 8 track recordings.

Historically, mixing engineers took separate recordings of individual instruments (tracks) and layered them on top of each other, adjusting their volumes and determining exactly where to place them within the overall musical composition.

In mixing, important techniques such as equalization balance out high, medium, and low-level sounds.

Compression, reverberation, and delays are all used to smooth out the musical piece.

In the modern-day, automation is used to automatically control volume level, and panning effects as the software program fades and pans into the different parts of the song.  

Mastering from the 1950s to the 1970s

Mastering refers to completing the final mix before transferring it to the master in order to reproduce finished copies. This involves maximizing the quality of the recording by balancing the dynamic range through the use of filters. 

Between the 1950s and the 1970s, mastering was essentially a mechanical process.

This involved initially recording on a multitrack tape, and once this was finalized, making a final mix, which was then dubbed to a master tape (which was either a one track or two-track stereo tape).

After this, a mastering engineer would then make any necessary fine adjustments in an attempt to balance out any widely varying amplitudes of sound.

Mastering in the 1990s and early 2000s

As technology advanced in the 1990s, digital audio workstations (DAW) evolved to use digital technology to download digital recordings onto hard disc drives with a digital tape then made, which was then mastered to a CD.

The process at that time consisted of:

  • Transferring the audio tracks into the DAW
  • Sequencing the songs onto the tracks
  • Adjusting the length of silence between songs
  • Maximizing the song quality
  • Applying noise reduction
  • Adjusting the volume
  • Expanding or Compressing the Dynamic Range
  • Inserting the CD text
  • Producing a Master CD-R

Innovations in Mastering in the 2000s   

  • DDP Images

In the 2000s, there was a further advance in digital technology to enhance the ability to make higher-quality masters. This involved producing a DDP image, also known as a Disc Description Protocol Image or a DDPi. 

A DDP image is a collection of individual files that has all of the necessary files to create a DVD or a CD, including the complete audio tracks, any pictures desired, the titles of tracks, and the order of tracks.

DDPI’s also contains what is known as a DD identifier or DDPID, a descriptor of the DDP Stream. DDPI’s also contain a subcode descriptor.

DDPI’s have the added advantage of not being able to be accessed by the public at large.

DDP’s also have the advantage of being able to be sent quickly electronically, and they also provide a more consistent CD copy.

In addition, the images contained in the DDP can be easily checked to make sure they are free of any defects or errors.

  • Bit Depth

Bit depth refers to the number of bits that are available to contain a certain piece of sound.

In essence, the higher the bit depth, the higher the number of available bits, and the better the sound quality. 

  • Replicating CD’s 24 bit /native Sample Rate WAV files

The ability to replicate CD’s 24 bit /native Sample Rate WAV files was another important innovation that improved mastering in the 2000s and which allowed for uploading to outlets such as iTunes. 

  • Producing a 16-bit/44 44.1k WAV

The innovation of the production of a 16-bit/44 44.1k WAV has allowed for distribution to services such as iTunes, Spotify, Tidal and Online Stores, and Streaming Services

  • Producing Mp3 files

Producing Mp3 files allows for the transmission of files containing metadata for promotional use and for the use of some download card services.

The Future of Mastering

The future of mastering involves mastering that is completely automated and utilizes AI (Artificial Intelligence).

This includes cloud-based systems that start with a “raw” mix, which is submitted to an online service and which emerges as a finished master without any involvement with professional audio mastering engineers or with any interaction with humans at all.

For example, LANDR is an innovative online audio mastering platform that provides instant results at a lower rate than studio rates.

It was developed after eight years of research and used Artificial Intelligence to mimic the processes that human mastering engineers would typically use to produce a professionally mastered track.

The first step in this process is to analyze the track provided to compare it to a vast collection of music in order to provide an accurate rendition of the music provided.

Next, in response to the analysis performed, LANDR uses various enhancers and compressors to enhance the track as would normally occur in a post-production studio.

Finally, programs such as LANDR render a final production track utilizing its mastering software.

 Cost of the Intro, Standard and Suite Ableton Live 10 Options and Warranties

There are three editions of Ableton Live 10, which include Intro, Standard, and Suite, which have the following costs and warranties:

  • The Intro option of Ableton Live 10 is available for 99.00 US dollars per year or for 16.50 US dollars per month for six months
  • The Standard option of Ableton 10 is available for 449 US dollars per year or for 74.83 dollars per month for six months
  • The Suite option is available for 749 US dollars per year or for 124.83 dollars per month for six months
  • Ableton Live does have a free 90-day trial that is available without any restrictions
  • Students and Teachers are eligible for a 40% discount on any of the Ableton Live Options
  • Ableton Live comes with a one year warranty on all products and accessories, certifying they are free of any defects in material or workmanship

Ableton Push

Ableton Push is an additional Ableton product that is compatible with Ableton Live and which allows for other composting options.

It is available at an additional cost.