Podcasts & Voice Overs

Create a podcast on Ableton Live 11

How to record, edit and produce podcasts like a pro with Ableton Live

Ableton Live is a digital audio workstation (DAW). Its primary function is for music production, however it is also a fantastic tool for podcast editing and podcast production. With their most recent update, Live 11, Ableton have introduced more tools for podcast post-production. That’s great news if you’re a podcast producer!

Here, we’ll talk you through how you can use Ableton Live to edit your podcast.

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What is a podcast?

A podcast is kind of like a radio show that can be streamed and listened to anytime, by anyone. You can think of them like a YouTube video, but in audio form.

Podcasts come in many shapes and sizes. They can range from 5 minute daily news briefings to long form interviews hours in length. They can cover topics from sports, to true crime, to fashion — you can make a podcast about literally anything. 

Podcasts can be easily uploaded to services such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts, and as a result many people have started podcasts recently. Even the Obamas have jumped on the trend!

Making a podcast is really easy, so read on for the ultimate Ableton Live podcast tutorial.

Can you use Ableton for podcasts?

Ableton Live is well suited for podcast editing and recording. Though it is designed primarily for music production, it has all the tools and capabilities that you’ll ever need to edit a professional sounding podcast.

Ableton is also a very functional piece of recording software. Recording in Ableton is a breeze and you can record on several different tracks at once. We go over how to record a podcast in Ableton Live later in this article, click here to be taken straight there.

Do professionals use Ableton?

Every professional podcast producer and editor will have their preferred software to use, but yes, many podcast professionals do use Ableton Live.

Other popular podcast recording and editing software includes: Logic Pro X, Adobe Audition, Pro Tools, Studio One, Hindenburg and Reaper.

Some professionals may use different audio editing and audio recording software for different purposes. For example, I prefer recording audio in Logic Pro X as I find it has a very simple recording workflow, however, I prefer editing and mixing podcasts in Ableton Live as it has an excellent selection of built in effects and tools.

What are Ableton templates?

Ableton templates are blank projects that are formatted to be used in a certain way. When you open a new Ableton Project you can select a template to start with. This can save a lot of time if you make similar projects on a regular basis.

For example, if you record your podcast with the same microphone setup every time, it makes a lot of sense to have a template with tracks set up ready to record your microphones.

Templates were introduced to Ableton Live in its latest version (Live 11). You can create your own templates, however Live comes with a few stock templates. One of those templates is called ‘Podcast Template’ and it offers a great starting point for recording and editing templates.

The stock podcast template has tracks for voice, music and ambience. It also has easy to use effect racks that let you do stuff like voice ducking, compression and de-essing by just turning single dials.

How do I save multiple templates in Ableton?

Saving a new template in Ableton Live is as simple as saving a regular project.

Step 1: Create your template

The first step is to design your template, this could be anything you like. Here we’ve gone for a simple two channel template with an EQ and compressor loaded on each track. This will be ideal for recording a two microphone podcast set up.

Step 2: Save the template

To save this new template go to File > Save Live Set As Template. You will then be able to name the template however you like.

After you have named your template you will be able to access it via your User Library, and the Templates panel in your Browser.  

How to make a podcast in Ableton

Here we’ll take you through how you can record a podcast with just one USB microphone in Ableton live. This technique will also work with an XLR microphone plugged into an audio interface or mixer.

You can also use this technique to record with multiple microphones at once. This will require an external audio interface or mixer.

Step 1: Plug in your microphone

The first step is to connect your microphone to your computer. If you’re using a USB microphone this is as simple as just plugging it into a USB port. If you are using a microphone or multiple microphones with an audio interface/mixer, plugin your microphone(s) into your mixer or interface, and then your interface/mixer into your computer.

If you don’t have a microphone you can also use your computer’s built in microphone.

Step 2: Set you microphone as your audio input

Go to Ableton Live’s audio preferences via Live > Preferences > Audio. From here select your microphone or mixer/interface from the Audio Input Device dropdown menu.

If you want to listen to what your microphone is recording via your microphone or mixer/interface, select your microphone/mixer/interface from the Audio Output Device dropdown menu.

It is good practice to listen to the audio being picked up by your microphone. This is referred to as ‘monitoring’. Monitoring is a good thing to do because you can pick up on any recording problems as you are recording. There’s nothing more annoying than finishing a recording, listening back, and realising you’re going to have to record again!

Step 3: Set up an audio channel

Make sure you are in Arrangement View rather than Session View. Session View is more useful for musicians, Arrangement View is better suited for recording and editing audio such as podcasts. To switch between the two views press Tab.

Once in Arrangement View create a new audio track and head over to the track header. You will see several dropdown menus. The first drop down menu allows you to select the audio input for that channel. Select Ext. In.

If you are using an interface or mixer with multiple inputs you can select which input to use from the second dropdown menu in the header. 

If you want to record multiple microphones at once running through the same mixer or interface repeat this process for each input you wish to record.

Step 4: Record!

Before you can record, you have to arm the tracks you want to record. This just means that when you press record only the tracks you have armed will record, and not every single track in the project. Each track has a little record symbol in its track header. Click on this to arm each track.

Now simply press record in the top panel of Ableton and start speaking. You’re recording your first podcast! 

How do I process a podcast audio?

How you process your podcast audio is entirely personal. Different podcasts have different styles of voice processing, music, sound effects and more. However, there are some general rules that are good to follow. Below we have outlined several processes that will help your podcast sound great!

Process 1: Editing

The first process you should perform when working on podcast post production is editing. This simply means cutting down your podcast so that only the bits you want to keep are in there. 

This could mean cutting out umms and ahhs, or it could mean removing entire sections. You can also rearrange the order of your podcast so that it flows in the way you want it to.

To cut sections of audio simply drag across an audio clip in your timeline to highlight it and then press Delete. To move audio just click and drag clips. You can also highlight multiple audio clips across several audio tracks and move them together.

One tip to make editing podcasts easier is to turn off Ableton’s grid. The grid snaps audio edits like cuts to a rigid grid. This is useful for musicians who want to edit in time with their tracks, but not for podcasters. 

To turn off the grid, right click on the timeline. Under the section of the right click menu called Fixed Grid select Off.

Process 2: EQ

An EQ is a tool that allows you to alter the levels of different parts of the frequency spectrum. This means you can balance the tone of your voice recordings to get a pleasant sound. To access Ableton’s in-built EQ go to the Audio Effects section of the Browser, open the EQ & Filters drop down menu and drag EQ Eight on to the audio track you want to process. You can now EQ your voice. 

EQing is delicate art, we have a guide to voice equalization on our blog, but it can take a long time to learn and master. An alternative option is to use an auto EQ such as the ERA Voice AutoEQ. This plugin listens to your voice recording and applies a pro grade EQ curve that is specifically tailored to your voice. You can also tweak the sound to add more air, clarity and presence.

Process 3: Compression

Compression levels out the volume of your audio recording so that all parts of your podcast are audible. You can find Ableton’s compressor under Audio Effects > Dynamics > Compressor. Like the EQ, compressors are quite difficult tools to master. A detailed explanation of how to use a compressor would be a whole article in itself. Sound On Sound has a great guide.

However, you don’t have to learn how to use a compressor in order to get consistent audio levels in your podcast. One solution is Voice Leveler from Accusonus. This powerful but easy to use plugin automatically listens to your voice recordings and achieves perfectly consistent levels every time.

→ Save hours of editing time with automatic breath sound removal. Try De-Breath for free

Of course there is a lot more that goes into creating an excellent podcast, but the techniques we’ve outlined in this article are a great starting point. If you’re looking for royalty free music and sound effects for your podcasts, be sure to check out our Music and SFX Cellars. Like any creative pursuit it will take time to discover your personal style, but the only way to develop that is to get stuck in and get creative! 

May 12, 2021
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