When I make songs I almost use all the same insert effects on every track. The settings will be different depending on the nature of the sounds but I tend to use the same key effects. In order to save time while loading up the same effects I saved a default Channel Strip as an Effect Rack and mapped the macros of features I use regularly. My default Channel Strip consists of a Utility, an EQ Eight, a Glue Compressor and a Limiter.
I use Utility to tighten the stereo field on certain tracks like my kick drum and sub bass or to spread out other tracks like a pad or an effect sweep. Use the grey macro on the effect rack labeled “Width”, 100% is no change while 0% is only Mid signal and 200% is only Side signal. Another benefit of Utility is its ability to invert the phase of any given track (grey macro labeled “Invert Phase”). Changing the phase of a track shouldn’t change how the track sounds on it’s own but if you have two tracks causing problems due to phase cancellation, inverting one of the tracks phase of can do wonders in terms of your mix.
Most of the time my EQ will be high passed to eliminate any low frequencies that are not important to the character of the sound. This has the added benefit of freeing up valuable headroom in the mix and removing low-end junk that tends to mud up your mix and take the “power” out of your bass and kick. I use the red macro knob labeled “High Pass Freq” to remove unwanted frequencies from the low end. My strategy for setting the cutoff point is to start turning the knob until I can hear the effect, then I roll the knob back just a little. In addition on certain tracks, I low pass (red macro labeled Low Pass) around 20 kHz to free up some additional headroom (unless you’re a dog you probably won’t be picking up many frequencies above 20 kHz).
Another effect I end up using quite often is the oh-so-trendy compressor. Compressors are dynamic processors that can help you reduce or expand dynamic range on a given sound. Compressors have many uses, conventionally they are used to clampdown on stray transients, which increases the “average” or perceived volume of a track. Sounds like magic right? Not so fast. If you drive your compressor too hard it can suck the life and sparkle out of sounds. There are times when I don’t feel I need to use a compressor to squeeze the dynamic range and just use it as a gain control. Most of the essential compressor parameters are assigned to the blue macro knobs on the “Basic Channel Strip”.
Last but not least I include a Limiter. I like to have it in my chain as my last resort to catch any transients that may sneak through while I record audio (if I’m paying attention to my gain I should never have to use the Limiter). Sometimes I like to use the limiter as a creative effect. To do this, I drive the limiter by increasing the gain knob to utterly squash my track. The sonic result is a form of distortion that sometimes sounds good in my tune but not always so be critical of how the sound changes.
The link below allows you to download the effect rack described above. In Live you can save default effect chains to appear anytime you load up a new Audio or MIDI track. It’s really easy, once you download the FX chain drag it onto an audio track. Next right click on the audio track and select “Save as Default Audio Track.” Repeat the process with a MIDI track. Next time you load up either an audio track or a MIDI track the channel strip you saved will be there. The video above shows you how it’s done. Doing little things like creating/setting defaults and building production templates will help you save time and finish tunes more quickly.