Creating and managing your music library of samples is one of the most worthwhile things that you can do as a producer. It’s ultimately up to you to set things up in a unique way that makes sense to you. That being said, let’s take a look at some general guidelines to keep in mind when developing your custom library of samples on your computer.
1. Make A Plan
Make a game plan for exactly how you’d like things to be organized within Live’s Browser and on your computer. Try drawing a file tree like the one below and experiment with several configurations to represent possible structures for how your folders and file paths should nest within each other.
2. Back Everything Up
Before you begin and start rearranging your local files, it’s essential that you back everything up. You will save yourself a world of pain in the future with missing files. Try storing your songs and samples either in the cloud (Checkout Dropbox HERE) or on an external hard drive.
3. Build a File System
Moving forward, create the new file system that you’ve designed within a central Production Library folder. It could contain any number of broadly categorical sub-folders such as Instruments, Samples, Presets, Effects, or anything else that you might require based on your own personal production needs. Don’t forget, you can add a new folder directly in Live’s Browser (Right-click, create new folder) and organize your User Library. Any custom devices or instruments you save in Ableton will be saved in the User Library.
4. Clean Up Your Existing Library (If you have one)
Creating a new and improved music production library is the perfect time to do some much needed purging. A good next step before filling up your brand new file structure with largely mediocre samples is to DELETE samples that don’t meet your criteria for sound quality or usefulness.
Consider spending one session to focus on snare samples, another to focus on kick samples, and so on. It’s not uncommon to end up keeping just 10-20% of the samples that you run through during this process, but you can be sure that what you’re left with are truly the best of the best. Think quality over quantity.
5. Organize Your Samples
Now that you have a collection of hand-selected samples that you know fairly well, your next task is to place them into the file structure you’ve designed so that you can access them without even having to think about it. Keep things as simple as possible, and create folders within folders in a way that makes sense to you.
6. Organize Your Plug-ins
The same sorting logic that applies to samples also applies to plug-ins and utilities; while it’s certainly wonderful to have hundreds of plug-ins available to you, do you really need twenty or more compression plug-ins available at arms length at all times? Try creating a designated Plug-ins folder that organizes all of your favorite and most frequently used tools categorically rather than by brand or manufacturer.
7. Consider relying on an online platform like Splice to manage samples for you.
Splice is an awesome computer desktop app that automatically manages all the samples for you when you download them from the cloud at Splice.com. You can easily filter samples on their desktop app based on BPM, Key, Genre, etc, and drop it directly into Ableton Live. This makes for faster producing and getting quick inspiration while making tracks.