How to Normalize in Ableton Live – The Best Method

As I covered in my overview of what is normalize audio in mixing, normalizing audio refers to adjusting the volume of a track or tracks to be more uniform. There’s average volume normalization which is more of a mastering concept as this involves getting all of the songs which make up an album to be the same perceived loudness on average. Alternatively, there’s peak normalizing which you can easily do in most DAWs. It’s not quite as obvious how to normalize in Ableton Live, so let’s cover that now.

How to Normalize in Ableton Live

There are two primary ways to normalize in Ableton. Let’s begin with the more obvious but less practical.

Normalize While Rendering

You may have noticed that when you render your project that there’s an option labeled “Normalize”:

normalize render ableton

Turning this on will turn up the volume of your exported track so that its loudest peak hits 0dB. If you use the “All Individual Tracks” or “Selected Tracks Only” option, you can output multiple tracks, each of which will have their respective loudest peak hit 0dB.

Here are three tracks before and after this setting in the rendering has been applied. I pulled in the normalized tracks and set them beside the un-normalized tracks for comparison purposes:

normalization effects

You can use this setting on with the default “Master” export, meaning it’s exporting your master bus as one track, to bounce your entire mix to be as loud as possible without clipping (and without using limiting or compression). Just keep in mind that intersample peaks can push the true peak above 0dB and into the point of clipping when the track gets played outside of the safe realms of your DAW/mix, so 0dB isn’t really 0dB unless true peak limiting is applied.

But I digress! That’s one way to normalize in Ableton, but there’s a lesser known option which doesn’t require you to render/bounce tracks and pull them back into your mix if you just want to apply this to a number of tracks.

Consolidate to Normalize (The Best Way)

The other more practical/faster/better but less obvious way for how to normalize in Ableton Live is to use the “Consolidate” feature on one or more clips.

This method carries a few advantages. Most notably that it can be applied to specific clips rather than entire tracks, and you don’t have to render then leave your DAW to pull back in these tracks. It’s also a lot faster.

Step 1 – Select Clip(s) and Consolidate

To normalize via the “Consolidate” feature, let’s select the un-normalized versions of the three tracks from the earlier example. Select consolidate after selecting all of the clips at once and right clicking.

ableton live consolidate

Depending on the number of tracks you’re applying this to, it can take a couple seconds to a couple minutes.

Step 2 – Return Clip Gain(s) to Default

Once it’s finished, you’ll notice the tracks look exactly the same. There’s one notable difference: they’ve been normalized, but the gain was turned down to match the level before normalization occurred.

To get all of these tracks to the 0dB peak from the other example, simply right click the clip gain slider while all the tracks are still highlighted and select “Return to Default”.

clip gain ableton live

You can see there are multiple arrows on the clip gain.

Whenever you have two or more clips selected with different clip gain levels, this will show the minimum and maximum clip gain levels of the clips involved. Because the three tracks all had different amounts of gain between their respective loudest peaks and 0dB, they were all turned down different amounts to match the same respective level each track had pre-consolidation.

You don’t need to worry about that, just know that if you right click and select “Return to Default”, each track will have its respective peak max out at 0dB just like we did with the first method.

Thankfully this method is a lot faster and more granular in that it allows us to just select specific clips rather than the entire track.

Step 3 – Adjust Clip Gain(s) to Whatever Normalized Peak You Want (Optional)

Lastly, if we want to set a different peak other than 0dB (possibly for the reason I gave earlier in that 0dB isn’t really 0dB when converting a digital signal to an analog signal and will likely still result in clipping), we can simply pull down the slider to the peak that we want.

If we want a peak of -6dB, simply make sure all the clips are selected and pull that clip gain slider down to -6dB:

-6 db peak normalization ableton

Now every single clip at their respective single loudest peaks will max out at -6dB. If you want to use this as a kind of blunt form of gain staging, give each track a little more headroom and aim for -10dB peaks.

Admittedly with gain staging it’s more about the average level you’re feeding into plugins/processing in the chain, but this can be a start especially when you’re working with a ton of tracks and clips which are way too hot coming in.

But there you have it, the two methods of how to normalize in Ableton.

I recommend the former, render based method if you want to bounce an entire mix to be as loud as possible without clipping (though there are MUCH better ways for how to make your music louder).

Conversely, more often than not the “consolidate and reset the clip gain” option is more efficient when dealing with a lot of tracks and clips and you want all of their (one-off loudest) peaks to be the same, relative to the point of clipping as well as one another.

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