Ableton Live – File Management Notes & Tips

Live’s User Library Folders

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File management with Ableton Live, well, it can be what you make it. In my case, it’s made for a big impact on workflow, especially going from creative to utility modes of production. The creative part is fun, and easy to focus on, but the utility part eventually catches up. Catches up? If you aren’t capturing, sorting, archiving, and managing all your sounds, then you lose a big part of the path to cementing those creative moments into finished product. And if you’re spending minutes to set up/recall/find/organize etc., each time you step into your studio, you’re spending that precious creativity.

As with all things Live, there’s plenty of resources, and the oft-flouted manual to get us up and running with file management. A quick soapbox moment tho ~ memories and manuals are incomplete, as are the presentations of information.

For example, as we go along with production, all the following questions come up, and require addressing:

  • What are the Live File Types
  • Where are the Live Files Stored
  • What happens when I change the storage location of (different) types of files
  • Can I use external, or networked drives for Live’s files or Instruments, or VST’s?
  • What’s the best way to manage Presets?
  • What’s the best way to integrate the User Library with the Categories
  • What naming conventions should I use for Presets, samples, and other files?
  • What formats should files be saved in for future editing, or external mastering?
  • If I need to reinstall Live what is saved? What do I need to protect?
  • What’s the optimal way to maintain redundancy, archive, and protect my files?
  • What shortcuts, tips and tricks are most useful for file management?

What follows are my collection of Tips related to the above questions. Many of my tips are straight from the Live Reference, but are hopefully helpful here organized out from the entirety of related material from the Live Reference.

Live Reference Manual Chapter 5 – Managing Files and Sets

Obvious starting location! Much of the chapter, however, contains details outside file management, so let’s parse some of the info directly related to the above bullet points.

  1. Terminology is important. Sidebar, Content Pane, Categories, and Places are crucial, as is their respective functionality. For example, if you add a folder to the User Library, Live analyzes it, but does not copy its contents. So if you later move the folder, you’ll have to update your User Library by pointing Live to the new File location.
  2. Another important tip is the Category naming conventions. By using proper naming conventions Live will add those elements to the Categories. By doing this you don’t have to use multiple locations for all the overlapping elements, making it easier to centrally access those
  3. Install Locations – All installed Pack content appears in the Pack’s Folder in Places, And in the appropriate matching Categories section. User-installed Packs and Live’s default packs appear in Places in Live’s Browser.
  4. Brief note on Sample Caches. Live does a great job of analyzing imported samples. After analyzing, these decoded samples are kept in a Cache, to save system resources as they are recalled. You can adjust this cache size. If you Clear this Cache you’ll delete all decoded samples not in your current Live set. So depending on the length, amount, and frequency you use samples, this file-type consideration is worth mentioning.
  5. Sample Caches II – These decoded samples will append a .asd to the Sample. Now here’s a bit of confusion I had. With analysis files, you can actually save Defaults – like Warp Markers, to the .asd file. This is a nice convenience, but, separately Clips can be saved with their own Defaults. But when a Clip is Launched, the .asd file will have its defaults, while the Clip has its own.
  6. Sample Caches III – Lastly, you can disable the creation of .asd files in Live’s preferences, which is a good idea if you’re not using many samples, and don’t have a need for a large cache of analysis files. Live really gives a bounty of file options!
  7. Clip Tip – Live Clips contain all their settings, and devices. However, if you drop a Live Clip on a Track already containing instruments, the Clip itself will attach to the track, without its native instruments. This is great for auditioning Live Clips onto tracks with different instruments, rather than having to separate everything out.
  8. Clip Tip #2 – You can select any Clips in your Set and Drag them to the User Folder to save those Clips as a new Live Set. Think about this in conjunction with the Save a Copy option Live has. You can quickly create entire Set Presets, new sets of Clips, by using these together. And within Live’s Browser, Set Folders can be unfolded down to the Track Level, and include Grooves – so you can quickly access your entire set from its location in Live’s Browser.
  9. Template Tip – In Live’s Preferences you can save a set as the Default Template, the blank set that loads up. Once you’ve made a custom Template, you might want to still access the Default – so in Live’s File menu, when you select “Create new Set” hold the Shift Key – and Live will load the factory Default Template.
  10. Template Tip #2 – To create multiple Live Templates, create a new Folder in Live’s Browser in the User Library titled “Templates” ~ then save as many Live Sets there as you’d like, you can give them Custom Names, but when they load they’ll be “Untitled” template Sets. Remember, Live’s Templates contain MIDI & Key mappings, so this is a great way to quickly set up multiple default sets, that are already mapped to their Live elements, or external hardware etc.
  11. Projects Tip – As you know, you can save Live Projects, revise, and save multiple .als (Ableton Live Set)s under a single Project. Where things can get confusing is due to Live’s efficient sample management. So if you have multiple .als under a Live Project, the projects will reference the original Project samples, thus preventing duplicating the files. However, if you later make changes to either the parent Samples, or subsequent sets saved under the Project, you’ll need to manually reconcile those. One solution is to use the Collect All option for each .als. Ultimately, a stable Project management strategy is the best way to ensure managing your ever-increasing collection. Oh yeah, might as well add-in, if you decide to save an .als outside of the existing Project location, you’re going to want to Collect Samples, or you’ll have to again reference those original samples from the parent Project.
  12. Use the File Manager – in Live’s File menu. This is a great way to swap samples, see what is in a set, recover lost files and the like. Straightforward – but one tip is that if you drop a new sample in, it will retain the warp markers in the Set, presuming the Sample is equal or greater length than the original Sample, otherwise the markers will be deleted.
  13. Preset Tip – Your presets get saved in their Project. But you can drag a Preset, or Instrument, to any Folder in the User Library, where you can rename it, or use Live’s suggested name. If Collect Files on Export is selected in Live’s Preferences, your Samples will be copied to the new location as well. If not, you’ll need to map your Samples to the new location using File Manager.
  14. Create Your Own Live Pack – Go to File Manager –> Project File Manager to find this option. I’m putting it here because it took me a while to find it – this can happen if you don’t have a photographic memory, just don’t tell anyone.
  15. Default File Locations on the Mac – I’m not putting Windows here, too many custom options and variances. Obviously, if you’ve customized your folder locations, then you’ll already know where these are:Live Project File Location: /Users/**/Music/Ableton/User Library/, which of course contains all the User Library locations. Handy if you want to work outside of Live to access and make changes to your Library.:
  16. External Resources / Advanced – Check out this article via Performodule aka Animus Invidious – How to Organize User & Plugin Presets Like a Boss in Ableton 9 using the Hidden Architecture The article gives instructions on getting your Presets to show up in Live’s native Categories, so you can manage them from a single location, and better organize them together, which is great for hot-swapping and the like.
  17. Live’s File Types:











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