Ableton Live Quick Tip – Decluttering Your Arrangement With “Consolidate”

Visual Chaos In The Arrangement

Today’s Ableton Live tutorial is all about keeping your arrange view neat and uncluttered.  After moving, splitting, and rearranging clips on the timeline, it can start looking pretty messy.  This gets especially bad when you’ve shifted the start point of a clip to overlap either the start or end of a natural loop or phrase.

While this messiness is OK while you experiment with changing the phrase, when it comes time to start laying out the structure of the entire track a messy arrangement view can wreak havoc with your organization, leading to mistakes in copying clips and notes to other parts of the song.  Since arrangement is generally agreed upon to be the most challenging part of completing a track, why make it harder on yourself than it needs to be?

For instance, if you try to copy a clip that doesn’t start at an easily identifiable beginning of a phrase, there’s a good chance you might accidentally paste that clip at the wrong start position in what is supposed to be an identical phrase further on in the composition.

The Same Arrangement, Cleaned Up Considerably

All of these mistakes are even easier to make when you’re zoomed out and looking at your piece from a bird’s eye perspective.  From here, any mistakes you make in selecting ranges in the timeline will be an order of magnitude harder to identify.  If you take the time to visually organize the chaos that you created during a rush of creativity with the simple “consolidate” command that I illustrate in the video below, your arrangement will be much easier to pull off successfully.

Using “Consolidate” To Declutter Your Arrange View:

Ableton Live Quick Tip - Decluttering Your Arrangement With "Consolidate" by

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9 Responses to “Ableton Live Quick Tip – Decluttering Your Arrangement With “Consolidate””

  1. ChrisAugust 20, 2010 at 8:27 pm #

    Nick,

    I just found you today. I’ve been producing with Ableton since Live 3 and I find your site very useful. I’ll be checking back often. Consolidate is definitely an under-utilized feature. The only trade-off with the methodology is that you lose color coded place markers. For example, I’ll stretch out 32 bars and then go to the end of the eighth bar and spice it up with a drum fill or bass variation. I’ll then go through much later in the arrangement process and decide I want an alternating fill at the end of the sixteenth bar. Sometimes consolidation makes it difficult to find slight variation. Although, you are totally right about a clip that does not start on the down beat, creating confusion. Sometimes it can take me a half hour to get the groove back… lol

    • NickAugust 20, 2010 at 8:42 pm #

      Good call on losing the color on the clips, Chris, this was something I neglected to mention in the video. I rarely use this feature of Live, although I probably should start doing so in the name of keeping my arrangement straight.

  2. Kevin VirulentSeptember 24, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

    “…arrangement is generally agreed upon to be the most challenging part of completing a track…”

    Amen!

  3. Mark DMarch 28, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

    Hey Nick!

    Awesome analysis, I’m actually a big fan of the consolidate command, it really helps bring the mixes together. I was wondering, though, are you aware of a way to make the resulting clip automatically loop after consolidating?

  4. MrMooApril 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

    I have to second the color-coding aspect of ableton live. I religiously color-code everything from tracks, to clips, whatever I can. I also stick to a certain hue for common elements within my song structure: red for drums, purple for melody, green for synths, etc. etc.
    This helps me look at a song at a glance and see where things are going (much like looking at a master score). I also wonder if this is me subconsciously yearning for my LEGO days…

    I also insert locators while arranging. I use these little notes to tell myself where the song is going or where i need to add something.

    Just my 2 cents.

  5. Emma PartnowJuly 12, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

    Hello Nick 🙂
    This is a Fabulous Tutorial; and something I will Definitely be Following 🙂
    But Please could you answer a Query Please;
    I have heard elsewhere that by Consolidation clips we are Losing some Sound Quality ?
    I Hope this isn’t True as I Always Consolidate when Cutting up Clips for DJ’ing; but am now Concerned that I am Destroying Sound Quality ?
    With Kind Regards;
    Emma 🙂

    • NickJuly 12, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

      Thanks, Emma! Re: your question, I have never heard this before. I’ve never heard any kind of degradation in sound quality myself, and it would be really unfortunate to pass up this useful functionality in Live 🙂

      • Emma PartnowJuly 12, 2011 at 11:57 pm #

        Hello Nick; Thank You for your Reply 🙂
        That is Great News 🙂
        It was on a DJ Vespers Video on YouTube who gave this information regarding the Degradation in Sound Quality; I could Certainly find the Video for your tomorrow if you wish; but Personally he has moved away from his Ableton Trainer days into someone who has Opinions that could or could not be Exact; that is why I wanted to ask you the Question 🙂
        You have Reassured me; Thank You 🙂

        • NickJuly 13, 2011 at 12:04 am #

          No problem, Emma. These debates about sound quality in DAWs are largely a waste of time in my opinion. Better to use the time writing music 🙂

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