Ableton Live 11 is a powerful digital audio workstation (DAW) that allows you to record, edit, and produce music. One of the core editing features in Live 11 is the ability to cut audio clips to remove unwanted sections or create shorter clips. In this article, we’ll walk through the different ways you can cut audio in Ableton Live 11.
Understanding Audio Clips in Live
Before diving into cutting audio, it’s important to understand how audio clips work in Ableton Live. When you import an audio file into Live, it will create an audio clip which functions as a container for that audio file.
The audio clip provides a representation of the audio file that you can view as a waveform. It also contains warp markers that allow you to sync the clip to the tempo of your Live Set.
When you play an audio clip, you’re not actually playing the original audio file – you’re playing Ableton’s decoded and warped version of that file. This means you can edit the audio clip non-destructively without altering the original file.
Cutting audio in Live is done by slicing up these audio clips. The original file remains intact, but the clip itself is divided into different sections.
Splitting Clips with the Razor Tool
The simplest way to cut up an audio clip is by using the Razor Tool. This allows you to split a clip at specific points along the waveform.
To use the Razor Tool:
- Click on the Razor icon in the toolbox to select the Razor Tool
- Hover over the waveform where you want to split the clip and click to insert a split point
- You can insert multiple split points to divide the clip into sections
When you play the clip back, it will now be divided into separate pieces based on the split points. You can treat each segment as its own clip by moving it around in the Arrangement or Session View.
The Razor Tool is useful for quickly splitting clips but doesn’t offer much flexibility. The split happens exactly where you click on the waveform. For more options, you’ll want to use the other cutting techniques covered below.
Using Crop to Trim Clips
Crop is one of the most precise ways to cut audio in Ableton Live. The Crop command lets you trim the start and end points of a clip by specific amounts.
To crop a clip:
- Click and drag the left or right edge of the clip to highlight the area you want to crop
- Go to the Edit menu and select “Crop” or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+E (Win) / Cmd+E (Mac)
The clip will be shortened to only the highlighted section. You can use Crop to remove dead air at the beginning or end of a vocal take or tighten up a loop to focus on the best part.
Cropping is non-destructive, so you can use Ctrl+Z to undo it or crop again to rescind the changes. Get precise with cropping by adjusting the clip start/end values in the Inspector panel while using the Crop command.
Cutting Clips with the Split Function
The Split function is another fundamental way to cut audio clips in Live 11. Split divides a clip at the point you place the playback cursor.
Here are the steps to split a clip:
- Click within a clip to place the playhead where you want the split to occur
- Go to Edit > Split or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+E (Win) / Cmd+E (Mac)
- The clip will now be split into two separate clips divided at the playback cursor
You can continue to use Split multiple times to divide a longer clip into many smaller pieces. Split is useful when you want to quickly isolate short segments of a recording.
When slicing up clips, you may end up with lots of tiny audio fragments. To clean this up, you can consolidate multiple clips into a new single clip.
Here’s how to consolidate clips:
- Select the clips you want to consolidate
- Go to Edit > Consolidate or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+J (Win) / Cmd+J (Mac)
- A new clip will be created containing all the individual selections as one clip
Consolidating is helpful for managing and organizing your clips after chopping them up in the editing process. You can consolidate clips across multiple tracks or only selected clips on a single track.
Cutting Clips with Fades
When cutting clips, you’ll often want to apply fades to the edges to prevent pops, clicks, and abrupt transitions between segments.
There are a few ways to add fades when cutting audio in Live:
- Fade command: Highlight the area you want to fade in/out and go to Edit > Fade to apply a fade of the default slope and shape
- Fade handles: Hover over the lower left or right edge of a clip to reveal the fade handles. Click and drag these up or down to fade the clip in or out.
- Crossfader automation: Automate the crossfader on an audio track from -inf to 0 dB to create a fade in or 0 dB to -inf to fade out.
Fades help smooth out the transitions when audio clips are split and rearranged in your track. Quickly fading clips as you cut can make a big difference.
Cutting Clips with Legato Mode
Ableton Live includes a Legato mode that extends the length of clips to create smooth transitions between segments. This avoids gaps when cutting and rearranging clips.
To enable Legato mode:
- Click the Legato button next to the Quantization selector at the top of an audio track
- Split and move clips normally while Legato mode crossfades between the segments
Use Legato when you want to chop up longer phrases or musical lines that need to transition smoothly without gaps interrupting the flow. The fade time is set with the crossfade parameter in Legato mode.
Cutting Clips with Automatic Warping
If you want to cut up musical audio like beats, vocals, and instruments, you’ll want to enable warp markers on the clips first. This makes the transients and tempo stay locked when slicing clips.
Here’s how to automatically add warp markers:
- Right click on an audio clip and select “Auto-Warp”
- Adjust the settings in the Auto-Warp dialog box
- Click “Warp” and warp markers will be added to sync the clip to the project tempo
Now when you slice this clip, the different sections will remain in time regardless of where they are moved in the track. The warp helps align all your cuts.
Automatic warping before cutting audio with musical timing avoids tempo/rhythm issues when rearranging and editing clips.
Cutting MIDI Clips
In addition to cutting audio clips, you can also slice MIDI clips containing note data in Live 11. The editing methods are essentially the same:
- Use the Razor Tool to split a MIDI clip at specific note locations
- Highlight and Crop a MIDI clip to trim off excess material at the beginning or end
- Split a MIDI clip at the playhead position with the standard Split command
The workflow for cutting MIDI is focused on removing or isolating desired notes within a clip. This allows you to rearrange phrases and jazz up your MIDI performances.
Additional Cutting Tips
Here are some additional tips for effective audio cutting in Ableton Live:
- Use the Consolidate command periodically to clean up clips after heavy editing
- Add fades to prevent popping when playback crosses split points
- Zoom in fully when cutting clips to visually align edits to waveforms
- Name and color code clips when isolating specific sections for organization
- Use the Legato mode crossfade parameter to increase smoothing between cut clips
- Click and drag clip edges to quickly trim starts/ends without needing to Crop
The key techniques covered in this guide include:
- Razor Tool – Click to split clips at precise points
- Crop – Trim clips to highlighted sections
- Split – Divide clips at the playback cursor
- Consolidate – Combine multiple clips into one
- Fades – Add fades to smooth transitions when cutting
- Legato Mode – Crossfade between clips for gapless playback
- Warp Markers – Ensure timing of musical clips stays locked
Mastering these methods provides a solid workflow for slicing, dicing, and rearranging audio clips in Ableton Live 11.
FAQs About Cutting Audio in Live
Here are some frequently asked questions about cutting audio clips in Ableton Live:
What’s the quickest way to split a clip in Live?
The Razor Tool allows you to split clips by simply clicking on the waveform where you want the cut point. Quick and easy.
Can I crop clips from the Arrangement View?
Yes, you can highlight and crop clips directly in the Arrangement View timeline. This works the same as cropping in the Session View.
What happens if I split a warped clip?
When you split a warped clip, the warp markers will stay attached to each new clip segment. The timing will remain warped in all the sliced clips.
Is there a keyboard shortcut to crop clips?
Yes, you can use the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+E (Win) / Cmd+E (Mac) to invoke the Crop command after highlighting the area to crop.
What’s the benefit of using Legato mode when cutting clips?
Legato mode crossfades between clips to create smoother, gapless transitions when arranging and splicing audio segments.
Cutting up audio is one of the core tasks in Ableton Live. Learning tools like the Razor, Crop, Split, Consolidate, and Legato functions will give you extensive options for slicing audio quickly and precisely.
Mastering clip cutting opens creative possibilities for remixing loops, tightening performances, isolating vocal lines, and more. Use the techniques outlined in this article to cut clips like a pro in Ableton Live 11.
The key is understanding how to apply non-destructive edits so you can freely experiment with chopping clips while retaining access to the original file. Use fades and warp markers to enhance the playback of your edited arrangements.
With a little practice, you’ll be slicing and sequencing audio clips into brand new patterns in no time. Cutting audio is the foundation for building unique tracks by recontextualizing and repurposing original sounds.
Ableton Live provides a fantastic workflow for cutting, editing, and arranging audio clips. Make the most of these powerful tools to push your productions to the next level!