Turning the master fader down [ableton]

So recently I’ve started to dig myself a hole while mixing. I start a project with the faders down at -6 and near the final stages of a track they’ve all jumped up to between -2 and above 0. They jump up because throughout the track I’ll be like “Oh this needs to be slightly louder” and then “O wait this needs to be slightly louder” and it slowly progresses until every track is getting pretty loud on each fader and I have no headroom. I want to bring all the tracks down but keep the ratio of the fader’s level the same and it’s really annoying to do that when there’s volume automation on the track because ableton doesn’t scale it. In fact you can’t turn the fader down at all - you have to go into arrange view and manipulate the automation there.

Ultimately I want to bounce the track into stems and put the stems in a new project for some final mixing. If i have a shit-ton of tracks and some of them have volume automation it’s a real chore to go through each track and manipulate the automation or do some simple subtraction and lower the fader. If my faders are loud when im finished with the pre mix, is it safe to just turn down the master fader and then bounce the tracks I want? Or will this cause some digital clipping?

first of all instead of thinking “Oh this needs to be slightly louder” think 'oh everything else needs to be slightly quieter’
leave the master fader at 0 and put all trackchannels down as already done by u at the start.
manipulate automation not with the channel volume (exactly for the reason mentioned) but with the utility device

lastly, leave your channels low and your soundsystem loud

1 BigUp

This is the first rule of mixing that you have to learn…if something needs to be louder you have to do everything EXCEPT increase a volume fader.

Sometimes a volume fader bump is needed but 95% of the time you need to MIX better in order to get a part to stand out more. This is why I like to work in templates that are psuedo mastered…most importantly my groups are limited to set db levels so that I know if something needs to come through more, it needs saturation, EQ, distortion, stereo field adjustment, more compression…ect…ect…

Another good rule is that sometimes you have a piece that just won’t mix because you already have something taking up that frequency range \ spot in the stereo field. Mixing starts at the sample selection or vst patch so if you have a part that seems like it needs to be volume boosted, try changing the timber of it in your vst like using a different waveform or pick a new sample that sounds better.

1 BigUp

ah shit doing automation with utility device is genius… i gave up on doing little volume automation bits cos it was too much tweaking hah

1 BigUp

@Henry_Schaefer You’ve got all you need in that answer.

Your soundsystem can take it, never have to touch those volume knobs once set.
Set your loudest track (usually kick or bass) and never go over it.

Also if you’re already bouncing, use some limiter if it’s too late.

+1 on utility plug. also, i find a good practice is to use groups, and feel free to automate volumes on tracks within those groups but leave the group fader alone and only work with that. then you can safely do what you’re doing, and just turn down all your groups at mix/mastering phase.

New to this site but I usually turn my master up 6 db and then turn it down during the mix down and have 6db of head room. Idk if anyone has said that before

Hey there, I just made you [and everyone] an audio effect rack. You can just drag n drop then save as you would, or just drop in your library folder- say

C:\Users\NAEM\Documents\Ableton\User Library\Presets\Audio Effects\Audio Effect Rack

While it may be comical how simple it looks, but its optimized specifically for automation or fine tuning. Use your ctrl-click skills to automate nice 'n slow. Works great on outros, modulation, gimmicks- whatever. This .adg gets a lot of use.

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Me personally, I turn the master -6 and keep all of my “faders” at zero using only utility at the END of my chain. This is my gainstaging habit.

Here’s another tip, if try to roll off some 30hz- you’re going to add this weird color and ultimately perk up the volume. Example

Bounced stem hits -3db, good.
Added EQ8, hits 0.39db, no good and clipping.

The “problem” with fader ish is only when you’re working with maximized audio, or squash. Pushing it’s not the problem, but taking away feels like you’re taking too much. Be careful with that limiting shit.

1 BigUp

Another trick to consider before volume automation is to make an EQ automation or more specifically an EQ on / off switch. Automate an EQ to just enable when a part comes in ( I use this for vocals usually) so that the EQ scoops out conflicting frequencies of a melodic or existing part. This is a little more transparent than a vol automation. It is essentially a vol automation but a little more transparent and targeting the overlapping freq that stack up and make you want to get into the fader war.


don’t automate the levels. use utility if you need to and rest your ears often and you won’t feel the need to raise the gain on everything.

This is a good point to better mixing. If you pop an EQ on a track, notice that you get about +3db of noise (EQ8 or 3). I don’t know what that noise is but I imagine that it adds up track by track and EQ by EQ. Your goal is to have a very clean mix…the cleaner, the harder you can push it before it sounds like fuzzy turds. You might have inaudible noise on the mix level but when you start to compress everything for mastering, it comes out.

I think that overall you want to shape your sounds within your vst and post process bare minimally so that you aren’t stacking up your noise. Some fx chains need to be long but keep in mind that every fx adds noise so make sure every fx has a purpose. For example, I have seen people EQ multiple times in a chain where they really just need one at the end.

1 BigUp

i hope that doesnt motivate anyone to touch EQs even less

what do you mean by “adding noise?”

the noise floor on almost all vsts and plugins is so low that people spend large amounts of money and time trying to reintroduce noise into the mix.

Yeah this is only my opinion here but I don’t like doing that and I think it is a slippery slope…that’s just what I have experienced while trying to get a thick clean sound. I used to use that trick to brighten up the high end but I often go back and removed it because it weakens the bass. I have landed on using a multiband distortion like trash 2 to lightly distort the top end. It seems to work well to brighten and keep the lower bass range strong and clean.

Just curious…where did that trick come from? I first saw it in a BA tutorial.

I really appreciate everyone’s replies - thank you!

I understand that it’s better to turn everything down when you want something louder, but in the final stages of arranging when you have like 40+ tracks it’s really annoying.

I guess I’m still a bit confused. When you guys start a project, you have all your faders at like -6 or whatever and you never touch them? You use a utility for whatever kind of volume automation you want. It’s much better to get volume out of compression/limiting/eq than it is volume, correct?

If I want something to pop through the mix, it’s much better to use compression/limiting/eq and maybe a volume boost, right?