Editing projects and tracks in Ableton Live, like in any other DAW, can get quite complex. Organizing your projects becomes very important when you don’t want to spend too much time managing your files, especially when you want to remember the things you wrote months ago.
Thus, it may be helpful to keep things organized in “standardized” way. With a focus on the visual presentation of my projects, I decided to document the color format of tracks and groups I’m using in Live.
Actually, I was inspired by the project-file-standard of Mr. Bill. His standard goes way beyond coloring, but I’ll start with that for now.
Colors in Ableton Live
The context menu of every track shows a color picker with 70 colors (14 columns x 5 rows). The colors per column seem to follow a certain palette or theme (actually I have no clue, I’m not an expert here).
In contrast to Mr. Bill’s format, which looks “hand-selected”, I’m using a more straight-forward approach. Groups and their tracks inside, use the colors from one column, from top to down. In the picture below you’ll notice the Drum Group uses the pinkish color from the 1st row/1st column. To have a better contrast, the Bass Group uses colors from the 4th column, the Guitar Group from the 7th and the Synths Group from the 9th column.
Another obvious reason not to use just the next column of colors, is the number of tracks inside of a group. The example below shows the Drum Group expanded with various channels for the drum kit, midi tracks, room and overheads. Colors of just one column wouldn’t be enough
Similar like for the Drum Group, I’m coloring Guitar tracks starting with the green-ish palette from 7th column. The first exception to the rule are guitar tracks labeled “…DI”. To find the unprocessed guitar recordings fast and to prevent me from deleting them (i.e. for later re-amping), I like to keep them visually separated. Hence, I use the brightest color available => white last column, first row of the color picker.
Bass & Synth Group follow the concept without any specialties. Yellow flavors from the 4th column for bass tracks and synths tracks in blue, 9th palette.
The only remaining exceptions are a special purpose track (i.e. to trigger special side chaining) in black, and return and the master channel in dark and light grey (from the last column and 2nd & 4th row).
I hope this helps :-)