If you’ve ever been working on a project in Ableton and it keeps on lagging or crashing, it can be a frustrating experience. The main reason for all these stutters and slow-down is that your computer just can’t handle all the processing it’s being asked to do. Ableton Live is a very powerful bit of software and, as such, can really take a toll on your computer’s CPU (central processing unit). If you are finding your Ableton projects keep on slowing down, try out these methods for getting the most out of your computer and maximising your experience.
How to Save CPU
Ableton has the ability to freeze tracks which means that you can temporarily render down a MIDI or audio track. This is similar to bouncing down a track to audio but you can have the option to come back and unfreeze it to edit it again. This is super useful if you’ve got a very intensive software instrument combined with a load of effects. To do this, just right-click on the track and pick freeze from the drop-down menu.
Reduce the sample rate
The sample rate is the number of samples of audio recorded every second. A higher sample rate will mean higher quality but also a more intensive drain on your processing. You can lower it down to 44.1kHz but we wouldn’t recommend going any lower than that. If you’re still having issues at that rate, try some of the next solutions. It’s also better to set the sample rate before starting the project than switching it mid-way through. You can find these options under the audio section of the preferences tab.
Also in the audio preferences, you can adjust the buffer size. Turning this up to a larger value will reduce the CPU usage but will also increase the latency. If you’re recording in something live, it’s best to have a low buffer size so you can hear what you’re doing properly. But when you’re just working on the rest of the project, you can turn it up.
Putting a different reverb effect on each of your tracks is going to put a massive strain on your computer. What it’s better to do is create a return track and put the reverb on that. You can then send all of the different tracks you want to use reverb on to one place and cut down the number of different plugins you need. This is generally a good habit to get into anyway as it can give you more control over your reverbs and can create a more cohesive sound by having multiple things in the same ‘space’.
On the topic of reverbs, Ableton’s built-in reverb has an ‘eco’ mode which reduces the quality of the sound and cuts down on the power. You can turn it onto eco while working on your project and set it back to high quality when exporting.
Filters and EQs
Ableton’s EQ can be a bigger drain on the CPU load than you might expect. The main culprit is the spectrum analyser which, while it looks cool and can be useful, takes a toll on your computing power. Make sure to turn this off when you’re not actually using it for something specific.
Make sure that oversampling is turned off for the EQ too. This makes the quality of the EQ much higher but at the expense of taking up double the processing power. You can turn it back on when it’s time to render the track.
Also, check that you don’t have any EQs loaded onto tracks that aren’t doing anything. Even if you haven’t moved any of the parameters on the EQ, it will still use CPU power.
When it comes to Ableton’s filters, there are a few different options you can pick that emulate classic hardware filter systems. All of the other modes take up slightly more power, so you might want to just use the basic one instead.
Other ways to optimise CPU
Close all other applications
Even if you’re not using them, applications open in the background can still use a fair chunk of your computer’s processing power. Make sure that all of the applications you’re not using are fully shut down when you’re working in Ableton.
Keep it plugged in
Make sure that your battery is always connected to power if possible as when it’s unplugged, the CPU will be throttled by intensive programs like Ableton.
Keep it cool
All computers can start to get a bit hot as they work. The hotter they get, the more the system's power is throttled by thermal limits. To combat this, make sure your computer is well ventilated and the fans are able to get a good flow of cool air in. It's also a good idea to make sure the fans are kept clean. This can be a bit trickier on a lot of laptops which aren’t as easily user-serviceable, so if you’re not so comfortable taking things apart, take it to a professional to give your computer a once–over.
Want to know more about how to use Ableton? Check out our comprehensive Ableton Live courses with certified trainer Poppy Roberts where you’ll learn everything you need to know to get started making incredible music in Ableton Live.