30 Must Know Ableton Shortcuts to Speed Up Your Workflow
“Be quick, but don't hurry.”
— John Wooden
Your creativity is a precious resource. A sound or cool melody idea pops into your head and you need to get it out FAST before it flies away.
Ableton is a powerful tool among producers but many underutilize the strength of its keyboard shortcuts. You can cut your production time by HALF (or more) by learning and mastering them.
Here, we will show you the top 30 Ableton shortcuts that will speed up your workflow in the short term. Your creativity is a precious resource and doesn’t deserve to be bogged down.
Before we begin, I want to skip over the universal shortcuts (ex. ⌘+S (Ctrl+S) for save, ⌘+C (Ctrl+C) for copy, etc.)
You’re a smart and capable producer. So let’s dive into the best shortcuts to learn.
1. Insert Audio Track: ⌘+T (Ctrl+T)
This and the next shortcuts are probably one of my most-used shortcuts. Quickly insert a new audio track below your selected track by pressing this command.
Press this command rapidly in sequence or hold it down to create many new tracks in a short period.
Use this command to quickly create new tracks for each of your percussion elements or another track for a new vocal take.
2. Insert Midi Track: ⌘+Shift+T (Ctrl+Shift+T)
Just like inserting a new audio track, simply adding ‘shift’ to the mix will add a midi track.
Pro tip: You can save a track or midi track default preset to load a specific instrument or plugin every time you create a new track. For example, I have Keyscape and a Utility pop up every time I create a new midi track. For an audio track, I only have a utility load by default.
3. Insert Midi Clip: ⌘+Shift+M (Ctrl+Shift+M)
Quickly insert a midi clip by highlighting a cell in the session view or by highlighting a length of an area in the arrangement view for your midi clip. You can adjust the length in the clip view or you can highlight the desired clip length in the arrangement view.
4. Loop Selection: ⌘+L (Ctrl+L)
You can loop a selection in the arrangement view by highlighting the length of time you want to loop and pressing this command.
You can extend the length of the loop selection by pressing ⌘+↑ (Ctrl+↑) or ⌘+↓ (Ctrl+↓)
One way to use this command is when mastering. Quickly loop the loudest part of your song so you can adjust your mastering chain uninterrupted.
5. Split Clips: ⌘+E (Ctrl+E)
If you ever wanted to at a cut line or split a midi or audio clip at a specific point, here is your shortcut to doing so.
Select a point where you want to split the clip and press this command. If you like to make vocal chops, this will save you a ton of time. Make splits between notes or syllables and move around the clips to create a masterpiece.
6. Consolidate Clips: ⌘+J (Ctrl+J)
After making tons of splits and edits using the shortcut above, you might want to consider joining all of those clips together into one audio clip.
Highlight several slips in one track and press this command to join them into one clip.
This shortcut comes in handy if you’re using a midi pack for instance and want to piece different chords together into one midi clip progression.
7. Solo Selected Track(s): S
Instead of clicking that blue S button on the end of the track, click anywhere on the track and click the S key.
Select multiple tracks and press this key to solo multiple tracks.
Give this shortcut a try while you’re mixing down your song. Solo an element and toggle it back and forth to see how it relates to the mix.
8. Toggle Automation Mode: A
All modern music production typically encompasses a degree of automation. You can quickly switch to the automation mode in the arrangement view by pressing the A key.
This is the fastest way to get started on creating automation. Use this shortcut when you want to automate the volume of the track or (the VST) Endless Smile as you create more tension before your next verse.
9. Toggle Draw Mode: B
To complement the automation mode, pressing the B key will change your cursor to a pencil and allow you to draw in automation or add/remove notes from the piano roll.
This will save you a click or two when drawing in notes to a midi clip. Without this mode active, you would have to double click each time to add or remove a note. I’m getting Carpal Tunnel just thinking about that.
10. Show/Hide Ableton Browser: ⌘+Alt+B (Ctrl+Alt+B)
The Ableton browser is the area where you select samples and plugins from. This shortcut will be the most useful for those with limited screen space.
Press this command to enlarge your viewing area without the Browser present.
11. Activate/deactivate Selection: 0
Ever wanted to mute a specific clip but not the whole track? Rather than drawing automation to turn the track off, you can select the clip (or multiple clips) and press the 0 button.
This also works for midi notes too. Select at least one midi note and press 0.
One way I use this is to mute specific midi or audio clips in a drum loop to change the feel or build tension.
12. Clip View - Device View: Shift+Tab
One of my biggest sticking points with my Ableton workflow was having to double click on a track to switch from the Clip view to the Device view. Once I learned to press Shift and Tab together, my workflow leveled up.
Now yours will level up too. Quickly switch between your plugins, effects, and piano roll using this command.
This can be useful when you’re trying to dial in a supersaw when the note spread and post-fx matter a lot.
13. Fine Tune Parameters: ⌘+Drag (Ctrl+Drag)
Ever find yourself getting frustrated trying to move a note or clip and it keeps snapping to the grid? Or do you want to get the track volume just right but keep missing the mark?
Holding down the command key (on Mac) or the control key (on Windows) will allow you to adjust a parameter in smaller increments.
Make your piano midi sound more human by finely moving notes off the grid.
14. Search in Ableton Browser: ⌘+F (Ctrl+F)
While visiting a producer friend in LA, this was the single biggest lesson I took away from our sessions. This alone sped up my workflow the most out of any other command.
By pressing this shortcut, you can then type the name of any VST, plugin, sample, and preset and it will show up in the browser.
Need to find Decapitator by Soundtoys? Just type it in and it’s right there. No need to click into the VSTs, open the folder dropdown(s) and find it while squinting at the list.
This may be your biggest time-saver like it was for me.
15. Transposing Octaves: Shift+↑ or Shift+↓
Ever hear a note or chord play and think that it would sound better either up or down an octave?
Select the midi notes you want to shift and press this command to either bump them up or down an octave.
Bonus: If you select one or more midi notes and press the copy and paste commands. Then try shifting the notes up or down an octave. The original notes will stay in place while a new note will be created in a new octave. Very useful for creating chord spreads.
16. Rename Selection: ⌘+R (Ctrl+R)
One part of keeping your session organized is naming tracks and clips appropriately. Select the item you want to rename and press this command.
If you are renaming a track and want to rename the next one, press the Tab key and it will bump you to renaming the next track, without having to click and press this shortcut again.
Another tip: if you put a “#” symbol before your track name, Ableton will auto-number the track based on its placement in your session. This can come in handy when you want to export all of your tracks to send to a mixing engineer.
17. Grid Shortcuts: ⌘+1,2,3,4,5 (Ctrl+1,2,3,4,5)
Normally, to change the beat grid settings in Ableton, you would need to right-click and select from there. This shortcut can quickly allow you to switch between grid modes on the fly.
⌘+1 (Ctrl+1) will narrow the spacing between the gridlines.
⌘+2 (Ctrl+2) will widen the spacing between the gridlines.
⌘+3 (Ctrl+3) will switch to the triplet grid.
⌘+4 (Ctrl+4) will toggle on and off the snap to grid mode.
⌘+5 (Ctrl+5) will fix the grid to 1/32 note spacing.
This shortcut can come in handy when you want to move a clip or note to a finer (or broader) gridline without having to zoom in or out.
18. Duplicate: ⌘+D (Ctrl+D)
If I had to pick a “number 2” for top shortcuts that have sped up my workflow, this one might be it.
If you made the first sequence of an arpeggio, you can highlight those notes and press this command to duplicate them throughout the rest of the piano roll. Saving you from redrawing each note or even copy/pasting.
You can use this command to duplicate tracks, sends, clips, plugins, and more. Give it a try and see how it improves your workflow.
19. Nudge Left or Right: ← or →
This works for clips, midi notes, and more. If you want to nudge a selection left or right to the next gridline, press the left or right arrow keys.
If you want to nudge something more finely, hold ⌘ (Ctrl) before pressing the arrow keys.
Quickly add a more human element to your midi notes by nudging them slightly off of the grid. Or nudge a clip in the arrangement view so it lines up better with your percussion.
20. Zoom In or Out: + or -
A faster way to zoom in and out of things is using the plus and minus keys.
Click where you want to zoom in or out and press the plus or minus keys.
This saves you from having to move your cursor to the top of the screen to zoom in and out.
21. Zoom to Selection: Z
If your session is zoomed out too much and you want to focus on a clip, selection of clips, or area, you can highlight the items you want to zoom to and press the Z key.
Ableton will then zoom straight to what you’ve selected.
After you’re done honing in on the clip you just zoomed to, press the X key to zoom back out again.
Never again will you waste time zooming into a clip so it fills the screen just right.
22. Optimize Arrangement View Height/Width: H / W
There’s nothing more satisfying than finishing a song. One of my favorite things to do is to zoom out and see the whole session.
Pressing the H key, you can optimize the view to fit everything within the height of the screen. This can be useful if you want to quickly see what other sounds are layered together.
Press the W key to optimize the session for the width of the screen. This can be useful if you want to see the whole structure of the track(s) you focus on.
Or use this command to take a step back and enjoy what you have created.
23. Group Tracks or Devices: ⌘+G (Ctrl+G)
Buss processing and grouping plugins are common in most producers’ workflows. By selecting the tracks or devices you want to bundle together, you can press this command to quickly create a group.
You can ungroup tracks or devices by pressing ⌘+Shift+G (Ctrl+Shift+G).
Group all of your percussion so they can be side-chained to the kick.
24. Show or Hide: + or -
I mainly use this command to fold devices but it can also be used for grouped tracks. Pressing these keys while having a track group or devices selected will fold them to take up less screen space.
This can be useful if you want to collapse all of your devices for better viewing if they start to push off-screen and out of view.
25. Fold or Unfold Selected Tracks: U
Sometimes, you want to fold some tracks to increase focus on the tracks you’re still working on.
You can close/fold tracks by selecting them and pressing U. This also works when you select multiple tracks or groups.
To fold all tracks in a single swoop, press Alt+U.
I find this useful when folding tracks I’ve finished processing in a mix as like a ‘checklist’ of what tracks are done and which are not.
26. Create Fade or Crossfade: ⌘+Alt+F (Ctrl+Alt+F)
By default, Ableton adds fades to all audio clips in a session. You can turn this off in the preferences and add fades yourself.
When I produce, I like to lean on vocal chops for my main melodies. I find it easier to have the automatic clip fades off. If you’re like me, you will find this shortcut handy.
What’s great about this shortcut is you can click on the whole clip and add fades to either end, or you can highlight a custom length at either end of the clip and quickly create a fade at that length. No need to drag the fade to your desired length.
27. Reverse Audio Clip: R
This shortcut heavily upgraded my workflow when I learned it.
When you click on an audio clip and then press the R key, the audio gets reversed.
This is perfect for reversing sweeps to create impacts and more.
Note: There’s a delay in the processing when you first press R so be patient.
28. Show Take Lanes: ⌘+Alt+U (Ctrl+Alt+U)
This shortcut is prime for vocalists or producers who record vocalists.
Take lanes can add visual clutter to the arrangement view and can make it hard to keep track of what’s going on at times. It’s useful to be able to quickly hide the lanes so you can see what’s playing.
You may also find it oddly satisfying to hide all of those take lanes after a long and grueling comping session.
Bonus: Press Shift+Alt+T to add take lanes while take lanes are in view.
29. Arm Selected Track(s) for Recording: C
Ableton’s buttons are small and can appear even smaller on larger screens. It also takes time to move your mouse cursor over to the arm/record button to be able to prep a recording or activate your midi keyboard.
Your creativity is a precious resource. The quicker you can activate and capture your ideas, the better.
Click on the track (or tracks) you want to arm and press C.
30. Midi Mapping Mode: ⌘+M (Ctrl+M)
Last but not least, this command will activate the midi mapping mode.
I saved this command for last because you can take your workflow efficiency a step forward by mapping custom shortcuts in this mode.
One way I use midi mapping to improve my workflow is by mapping Sonarworks Reference to my ‘Shift+S’ key.
Whenever you freeze tracks in Ableton with Sonarworks active, Sonarworks will alter the EQ balance of the frozen track. You get a popup warning whenever you’re about to freeze a track with this plugin active too. So being able to turn this off with a button press is a huge timesaver.
Note that midi mappings you make in a session will only be applied to that session. To make a midi map universal in all sessions, create the midi mapping in your default session (or another template) and resave the session as your default template.
Now every time you open a session, the midi mappings will come along with it.
If you made it this far, congrats! You now know the top 30 Ableton Live shortcuts to supercharge your workflow.
I recommend adopting one shortcut at a time. Keep a cheat sheet on your desk or put a sticky note on your monitor. Then move on to the next shortcut, and then the next, until you don’t have to think about it anymore.
Eventually, you will impress your artist friends with your lightning production speed. Not to mention all of the awesome musical ideas you will be creating too.
Check out the Hyperbits Masterclass to turbocharge your skills even more.
Your creativity is a precious resource.