Another bit from the Slightly Dull but Incredibly Important category is knowing how to set the audio buffer properly. Take a look in the Audio tab of Live’s Preferences screen:

Here are a few things you’ve got to know:

The bigger your buffer, the more latency you’ll experience when using MIDI controllers with Live. It’s impossible to record a good performance using a keyboard or drum pads with your buffer too high.

The smaller your buffer, the greater the strain on your computer’s CPU. With the average computer, it’s impossible to run a complex Set with a lot of virtual instruments and effects with your buffer too low.

In the studio, start out with your buffer as low as possible (try 64 or 128 samples to start). This will make response nice and snappy for recording new MIDI tracks. If the strain on your processor gets too great, you’ll hear audio dropouts and other weird artifacts. Freezing tracks or doubling the buffer size will relieve the CPU strain and correct this problem.

For live performance, practice, practice, practice. I like to keep my CPU usage below %50 for a live performance. Depending on your setup, this may not be possible. Buffer size for live performance is usually a bit of a compromise. Err towards the safe side: keep your system happy and stable with a slightly bigger buffer and practice at home to make sure you’ve got a feel for how much latency is in the system.

How the buffer affects audio recording is another can of worms. We’ll talk about that another day!