So many art forms require well-recorded vocals to reach their maximum potential. So you need good software for recording, editing, and mixing vocals if you’re making podcasts, music, or voiceovers for video.
A popular DAW nowadays is Ableton Live, so let’s look into its capabilities to understand if it’s a good choice for these types of recordings.
Is Ableton Live Good for Recording Vocals and Podcasts?
Ableton Live is a great digital audio workstation for recording vocals for music, podcasts, and voiceovers. It’s simple to use, so you can quickly record, edit, and mix your vocal takes for a professional result. In addition, your tracks will be displayed in an order that is easy to understand and work on.
This software works well for recording entire bands, so working on vocal takes won’t put too much pressure on your CPU. It has many fantastic features for recording and mixing vocals, as well as adding sound effects or intro music to your podcast. So, let’s see what you need to do to start using Ableton in the best way.
How Can I Use Ableton for Podcasts?
If you want to use Ableton Live to create a podcast, you’ll need some gear for recording and a basic understanding of some plugins that will help your vocals sound clear. We will look into each stage of the process so you can clearly understand how using Ableton for podcasts works.
Gear for Recording Vocals
The best way to record vocals is with a microphone, a cable, an audio interface, and a computer. You’ll also need a digital audio workstation (DAW) for recording. That’s where Ableton comes in.
For those of you with a larger budget, you can invest in some sound insulation panels and a pop filter to reduce any plosives (harsh P sounds) from your speech before they hit the mic.
You can always choose a handheld microphone or cell phone if you don’t have the budget for all the gear mentioned above. These gadgets have improved drastically in the last few years and can give great results. Once you’ve recorded your vocals, you can transfer them to your computer and import them into Ableton.
How to Record Vocals
If you’ve chosen to record your vocals directly into Ableton, you’ll need to open the program’s Preferences window to select the input for the recording. You should be able to choose between your computer’s microphone or an external one connected to an audio interface or a USB mic.
Once you’ve selected the input, you must create an audio track. You can do this using the shortcut Ctrl+T (⌘+T) or by right-clicking on the Arrangement or Session views. Each audio track has its own input. When you’ve chosen one, you’ll see a green bar moving up and down. This means that the signal is entering Ableton.
You’ll need to set your gain level if you have an audio interface. This means you’ll let more or less signal-level enter through the microphone. As you turn up the gain, you’ll notice your voice getting louder in your speakers or headphones. On the Session view, you can check the gain meter to see how high you’ve set the level. For podcasts, you want to aim for around -6dB. Ensure you don’t hit 0dB, as the signal will start to distort and sound bad.
Next, you just need to press the arm track button so it’s ready to record. Then click on the record button at the top of the screen. As you start talking or singing, you’ll notice a waveform appear on the Arrangement view. This means you’re recording.
There are a few simple plugins that you can add to your vocal track to make it sound clearer. You don’t need to get too fancy; just add a few tweaks to give you a great vocal take.
Adding an equalizer (EQ) to your track and cutting some of the lower frequencies can remove any rumble that comes through the microphone. These frequencies aren’t necessary for your voice to be understandable. Sometimes, they can make your track sound boomy, and you’ll lose clarity in your voice. You don’t need to cut too high. A high-pass filter (HPF) cutting up to around 70Hz is plenty.
Next, you can add some very light compression. A compressor is a processor that reduces the loudest peaks and raises the lowest sounds on your recording. You can use one so that your voice isn’t too dynamic. If you move a bit while recording, your voice will be slightly louder or quieter in parts. Using a compressor will set the track to a more consistent volume.
Compressors can be difficult to understand, so here are a few simple suggestions for using one. First, check for the controls that say Ratio, Threshold, and Output. The ratio should be set between 1:1 and 2:1. This will give it a subtle effect that is good for podcasting. Then you need to lower the threshold so it will start acting at a certain level. The further you drop this control, the quieter the track will get. You only need to drop it a little bit, then turn it back up to the original level using the output gain control.
One last part of the process that might be useful is setting your track to mono. If you’re recording using a phone, you might end up with a track that isn’t centered. You might notice your voice moving from side to side or playing exclusively on the left or right channels. Ableton has a plugin, Utility, that can set your track to mono so that your voice appears in the center throughout the whole recording.
You can change the order of these plugins if you want. Each variation can give you different results, so you can play around with them and find the best order. If you want, you can group the plugins and save the group so you can quickly access it next time.
Adding Music and Sound Effects
A good podcast needs some music to make it stand out. You can have an intro and outro theme, as well as some subtle background music or sound effects to accentuate what you’re talking about. You can add all these elements to your podcast using Ableton.
Each piece of music should have its own designated audio track so that you can control the volume of each to make them fit.
Extra Tip: Use a Template
Ableton Live can save templates. This means you can create and label all the essential tracks and add any plugins you may need. Then, when you’re ready to start working on another podcast episode, you can select the template and have everything ready for you.
The latest version of Ableton (Live 11) comes with a podcast template. It comes with three tracks that are ready to use:
Each track comes with plugin templates for different styles. This makes it even easier to make quick changes to the overall sound of your tracks.
These three tracks are grouped and have some extra effects that will glue them together. This group has everything you’ll need to make a great-sounding podcast, but you can still add more plugins and tracks if you feel it’s necessary. You can then save this new template, which will appear in the Templates category on the left side of the screen.
What Version of Ableton Live is the Best for Podcasting?
Ableton offers three versions of Live. They are:
If you’re only looking into Ableton for podcasting purposes, Lite might be the best choice for your needs. It’s the cheapest option as it has more limited features. However, these features are more than enough to create a great podcast.
For those of you that want a DAW for podcasting and making music, Standard and Suite are probably better choices. They’re more expensive but have amazing features, especially Suite.
Ableton Live: Pros and Cons
As with any decision, there are many pros and cons to consider when looking into Ableton as your DAW for recording vocals and making podcasts. Let’s look into some so you have the clearest view of Ableton being the software for you.
- Easy to use.
- Intuitive controls.
- Lite, Standard, and Suite versions for different price ranges.
- All the features you need for recording vocals and making podcasts.
- Podcast template included with Ableton Live 11.
- So many features can be confusing for beginners.
- Paid software. Some podcast editing programs are free.
- Not good for podcasts with video.
Ableton Live has all the tools you need to create a great podcast. You can record your vocal takes directly into the program or import them from another device or software. The same goes for any music or sound effects that you may want to use.
It’s also really easy to edit and add effects to your tracks. Your plugin chain can be saved for future use, or you can create a template that includes all the tracks and effects you need for your episodes.
If you’re creating a podcast with video, Ableton might not be the best choice. There are also cheaper audio editing programs that are great for podcasting. So, if you already have Ableton Live, choosing it as your podcasting DAW is a great choice. If you want to make music as well as podcasts, purchasing one of the versions of Ableton is a great choice too.