Ableton Arrangement View: 5 known issues (Explained)

Ableton Live is a powerful and popular Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) in that it offers features and tools such as the non-linear Session View and a unique approach to loop-based writing and production.

Ableton also has its Arrangement view, which offers a more traditional approach to writing and arrangement. The arrangement view works linearly, meaning it follows a song from left to right, from start to finish.

Although Ableton’s Arrangement View is widely popular and commonly used, it can also be known to have some issues that hold back your creative process.

Let’s dive into 5 known issues within Ableton’s Arrangement View, and explain what you can do to solve the problems.

Ableton Arrangement Can Be Visually Confusing

When it comes to learning a new DAW, it can be confusing to learn the ins and outs of the user interface, especially for a DAW like Ableton Live where the layout is pretty different from others.

Ableton’s Arrangement View, although powerful, can look convoluted and busy, making the creative process a little tricky.

This view can be incredibly overwhelming when you have a lot of tracks and clips in your project, making it difficult to see where each clip begins and ends.

The clips are also displayed as rectangles with different colors, making distinguishing between them challenging if they are placed close together.

Ableton also has a lot of windows and sidebars which means your main clip window can often be quite small, especially when you’re working on smaller screens like laptops often have.

This can take some getting used to when switching between DAWs, which can be frustrating and inconvenient.

For specific tasks like automation or clip looping and resizing, Ableton tends to work quite differently from other DAWs. In the same vein, this can be a frustrating process, as no one wants their creative process slowed down.

Although perhaps annoying to get used to at first, Ableton’s Arrangement View still packs a punch.

Though it looks a little like a spreadsheet, this view allows musos to set our loops like building blocks as they compose tracks.

Once you’ve spent time and effort to get used to the interface, you’ll find you’ll be back to working quickly and efficiently in no time.

Ableton’s Session View Has Right of Way for Clip Playback

Ableton Live is known for its unique interface in the Session View, a great way to explore a different creative approach through looping and clip arrangement.

When you’re using Ableton Live’s Arrangement and Session View together, it can make for some confusion if you’re unfamiliar with the natural order of things.

Ableton Live’s Session View Clips have the right of way during playback.

This means that if you are playing a song in Arrangement View and launch a clip in Session View, the just-launched clip will play in the Scene View, and the other tracks will continue playing in Arrangement View.

To stop this clip, you need to press the “Back to Arrangement” button in the Control Bar, which lights up orange whenever one or more clips in Session View are playing. It makes Live resume playback in Arrangement View, stopping all of your clips.

This can feel restrictive at first, especially when you’re not looking to stop all of your clips at once. The workaround is to, instead of controlling all tracks with the “Back to Arrangement” button, rather control each track individually.

You can do this in the Arrangement View by selecting the “Play Button”, which is directly under the “Back to Arrangement” on the right side of your Ableton timeline.

This is a great workaround, as it means that you can control a clip via Session View, and then switch to Arrangement View to control other clips individually, without interfering with playback.

You May Be On Live 11’s Automation Mode

Ableton has introduced a lot of powerful new features and tools in Live 11, a lot of which makes its Arrangement View much stronger.

One of these features is Ableton’s Automation Mode, which allows for simpler and more intuitive automation within Ableton’s arrangement view.

Automation mode can be toggled on and off by a small button on the top right of your Arrangement View, or by pressing the “A” key.

If the A key doesn’t work to turn on Automation Mode, make sure that the “Computer MIDI Keyboard” button on the top right control bar is deactivated.

Some problems can arise if you’re not used to the new Automation Mode, as certain shortcuts and actions have different effects when the mode is toggled on and off.

When you’re trying to adjust or manipulate audio and MIDI clips within the Arrangement View, there are lots of actions that will be second nature for any Ableton user.

These actions change when Automation Mode is activated, as the focus switches from a more general arrangement to automation within each track in your Live project.

It’s important to note whether Automation Mode is activated when working on your selected clips, as it can be annoying when your actions aren’t having the effect that you want them to.

If Automation Mode is turned on in Ableton when you move a MIDI clip with automation data to a different section of the arrangement, the automation data stays with the clip, and the automation is played back from the clip’s start time.

In this way, Ableton’s use of automation can be positive, as moving, copying, or duplicating clips is an easy process, and you won’t have to redo all of your automation for specific sections of your song.

Your Project is Too Full

Anyone who’s ever worked in a DAW knows how easy it is for a project to become too full, especially when you’re using third-party power-hungry plugins and other processor-intensive effects.

An important tool when using Ableton’s Arrangement View is to incorporate Groups into your workflow. Groups are highly beneficial for multiple reasons, namely the ability to affect multiple tracks at the same time and allow for a much neater and less convoluted space.

If you’re looking to create a grouping of tracks in Ableton, let’s use guitars for instance, you can add one audio effect onto the master group, which will affect the entire cluster of different tracks.

Say you’ve got 5 different tracks, with 5 different guitar parts, all running through one plug-in. That means a more congruent sound throughout, all while being much lighter on your CPU.

Ableton Live 11 has also introduced Groups within Groups, which makes it even easier to manipulate multiple tracks at once, without the need for extra effects or plug-ins.

Here’s how to create groups within Ableton Live:

  1. Firstly, re-order your tracks in the track list by dragging them next to each other.
  2. Next, hold the “Command” key on Mac or the “Ctrl” key on Windows, and click on each track that you’d like to include in the group.
  3. Finally, to group Audio or MIDI tracks, choose the ones you want to group, then either right-click on one of the selected tracks and choose ‘Group Tracks,’ or press “Command” +”G” on Mac or “CTRL” + “G” on Windows.
  4. You can then rename the group, ungroup each track, or modify track colors by right-clicking on the group title.

From here, you can adjust and manipulate the group as a whole or each track within the group independently. You can also automate any parameters or particular plug-ins on the group chain, which is really helpful for groupings of vocals, guitars, or even drums.

You aren’t using Ableton Shortcuts

Workflow within Ableton’s Arrangement View is paramount, as efficiency and freedom when writing, recording, and arranging help for a better creative outcome. Getting used to Ableton’s Arrangement View interface can be tricky, and time-consuming.

Let’s jump into some helpful shortcuts that’ll make your Ableton life much easier. Windows options are shown in brackets:

Insert Audio Track

Command+T (Ctrl+T) or MIDI track – Command+Shift+T (Ctrl+Shift+T)

This will probably be one of your most used shortcuts, as creating tracks within Ableton Live’s Arrangement View is always a must!

Simply hold down “Command+T” for an audio track or “Command+Shift+T” for a MIDI one.

Loop Selection

Command+L (Ctrl+L)

To loop a section in the arrangement view, highlight the desired duration and hold down “Command+L”.

A useful tip for this feature is to use it in mastering. You can quickly loop the loudest part of your song, allowing you to make uninterrupted adjustments to your mastering chain.

Split Clips

Command+E (Ctrl+E)

Splitting Clips in Arrangement View is a very handy tool to use, as resizing MIDI or audio in this way saves a lot of time.

Simply select the position at which you want to cut, and hold down “Command+E”

Solo Selected Track(s)


Soloing individual or groupings of tracks is a very important part of mixing and writing.

When you’re looking to solo an individual track or even a group, click anywhere on the try hold down “S”.

Toggle Automation Mode


Automation is a wonderful tool when looking to provide interest and excitement to your track!

To toggle Automation Mode on and off, simply hold down “A”.

Toggle Draw Mode


Often used in conjunction with Automation Mode, Draw Mode is a helpful way to quickly pencil in automation as well as add or remove notes within the piano roll.

To toggle Draw Mode on and off, simply hold down “B”.


Command+D (Ctrl+D)

Duplicating notes within the piano roll, or even whole MIDI or audio clips, is a trusty way to speed up your workflow.

To duplicate notes or clips with the Arrangement View, select what you want to duplicate and hold down “Command+D”.

Countless other shortcuts will help you save time and energy, making you work faster and not harder.

Shortcuts are an essential tool for any producer or musician and should be considered a mainstay in the production process.

General Pros and Cons of Ableton’s Arrangement View


Ableton Live’s Arrangement View has a powerful and intuitive format, offering lots of tools and features for producing your music.

The Arrangement View provides efficient and intuitive automation capabilities, allowing for various techniques like copying and pasting automation.

Ableton also offers a unique and fast workflow and a host of shortcuts that can speed up production and make life easier.

Your music can be realized quickly, meaning your next big hit is just around the corner!


  • The interface can be visually confusing and unnecessarily busy.
  • Working between Ableton’s Session and Arrangement View can be clumsy if you’re not careful.
  • Automation mode, although helpful, can cause problems with workflow.
  • Very processor intensive, meaning you have to find workarounds to build your songs.
  • It can be time-consuming to understand all of Ableton’s ins and outs as well as shortcuts.


Unable to Edit Automation

Ableton Arrangement View