Track organization is a key technique for staying focused and productive.
This is especially important in the later stages of a track, when your tracks have many channel strips and sections.
It’s also a good idea to keep your tracks organized when collaborating with other artists.
Stepping into another person’s session is difficult, and when the project is a mess, understanding what’s going on becomes even harder.
Organizing your projects before you pass them off to a collaborator is both the polite and productive thing to do.
And just to make sure everybody’s on the same page, here are before and after photos of a recent Makr project, both pre and post cleaning. This is a good example of what track organization can do.
Pro Tip: Organize your tracks when you’re stuck on a song. Reorganizing helps keep you productive, while also giving you a better sense of the elements of the track. Also, it’s likely you’ll come up with new ideas in the process, which helps to once again turn on your creative mode.
Below are some essential tips to help ensure your projects stay logical and organized.
Use empty midi clips
Using dummy midi clips is a great way to keep our sections organized.
To do this, simply Insert an empty midi track at the top of your project. Then, insert midi clips (⌘+shift+M/CTRL+shift+M) that correspond with the length of each section of your track.
Color coordinating these sections is also helpful.
Below is an example of what this may look like.
As producers we instinctively understand that one loop of a midi clip corresponds to a section, so in a sense we are tricking our brains into organizing our tracks with this method.
2. Name sections with track locators
You can also add track locators in the arrangement view of your project to help keep your sections organized and navigate between sections.
The play button on locators is useful for quickly jumping around your project.
To add a locator, simply right click the scrub section (i.e. the section where the mouse switches to a headphone) and click add locator.
Next, type in the name you’d like. You can also drag the locator left and right to alter its position.
3. Organize with colors
Ableton’s color schemes are a great way to help keep your tracks organized and logical.
We can utilize this by coloring both the Audio/Midi Tracks, as well as the individual Clips.
To do this, simply right click on a track/clip and select its colors.
You can also color multiple tracks/clips at once by highlight several tracks/clips, right clicking any one of them, and selecting a color.
This is an extremely useful time saver.
Grouping together like sounds is efficient from a mixing perspective, and keeping everything color coordinated helps you to stay organized.
Note that it’s important to have your own color scheme.
It doesn’t matter what that scheme is, as long as you remember what it is.
I’ll give you ours as an example – feel free to use it yourself. I make sure to keep the same vertical organization in every project.
Ableton also has an option to set a default track color.
I find it useful to set my default color to white.
That way, if it’s colored white I know it’s unorganized.
You can change this in Live’s Preferences under the Look/Feel Tab.
4. Cycle through channels with tab when renaming
The tab shortcut is an easy way to name multiple tracks in succession.
Begin by renaming the top track.
Then, instead of hitting enter the finalize the name, hit Tab switch to next track.
You can do this multiple times to speed up the track naming process
…and there you have it. 4 easy ways to keep your tracks organized.
These tips are simple, yet easy to overlook. If you already knew these techniques, let this serve as a reminder to always stay organized. An organized production session is a productive one, and the mark of a good producer.
If you liked this article, stay tuned for our upcoming Ableton Workflow eBook! In it, we dive into organization and productivity hacks for intermediate to advanced producers.