Creating default “Master Racks” in Ableton

One thing about Ableton Live is that it is extremely flexible, but that can be a downfall. I realized this after using Ableton for a few months with my APC40. My early Ableton sessions had knobs mapped all over the place, and once I left the session for a week or so I could not remember which knob controlled which effect.

The APC40 (as well as other hardware control surfaces) can automap to “Macros” within Ableton. These 8 Macro knobs can control midi instruments, midi effects or audio effects, which is great because you can assign almost any parameter to a macro knob. Your hardware can then directly control those knobs in real-time. Great. Again though, the problem comes in when you create racks for each track which differ slightly.

I prefer “hardwired” knobs to reach for. My “Master Rack” is placed on all my tracks. The APC40 is set to control those racks whenever I select the appropriate track. One important thing to keep in mind is that the APC40 will automatically control the macro knobs for whatever the last selected rack on a particular track was. It is key that you select each track and make sure that the Master Rack is highlighted.

This Master Rack has only on “chain” with Beat Repeat, Dynamic Tube, Redux, Phaser, Grain Delay, Simple Delay and then Auto Filter. The on/off switch for each effect has been assigned to the knob which controls that effect. Whenever a knob is moved beyond the default value, the effect turns “on”. This is useful, because otherwise the effect is “on” all the time, draining CPU and effecting the sound. Look at the second picture with the Macro Parameters, and you will see how to achieve this. For instance, the Auto Filter (a low pass filter) only becomes engaged when I turn the knob below it’s maximum position. You need to set the minimum to 127 and the maximum to 126. The other knobs react opposite of this, so their minimum and maximum values are 1 and 0 respectively.

Secondly, I had to decide which parameters to map to the macros. On some of the effects I wanted to control more than one parameter, for instance the Drive. Both the Dynamic Tube and Redux become engaged when I turn the value above “0”, then each sweeps through a range which sounded suitable to me. Or the Delay, as you can see the one knob controls the effect on/off, the feedback and the dry/wet.

As I said, this is a solution that I came up with so that every time I selected a track, I always knew exactly what each knob was supposed to do. Consequently, I created a second Master Rack similar to this for the Master Channel. It has a few other bells and whistles, but I have found that 90% of the time, this rack has all I need to help add interest to my individual tracks.

Each one of you might have their own favorite effects that you always apply, so your Master Racks might look different, but this is what I came up with for my main Master Rack…

Ableton Master Rack

Ableton Master Rack

These are the Macro parameters for the Master Rack

These are the Macro parameters for the Master Rack

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