If you want to record real instruments or vocals, you should get a decent audio interface as a built-in sound card won't give you good quality and may give you high latencies which means you'll hear an annoying delay while recording. This tutorial will walk you step by step through the recording process in Live.

  1. First make sure your audio interface is set up correctly. If you don't know how, I wrote tutorials about this for Windows and Mac.
  2. Connect your guitar or microphone to a cable and that to an input of your audio interface.
  3. In an Audio Track choose 'Ext. In' under 'Audio From' as well as the Input that you've connected the cable to on your interface, e.g. 1. Most input sources are mono so if you can only choose 1/2 you need to go to the Preferences > Audio > Input Config and activate the Mono Inputs first. Otherwise you'll end up with the recorded signal playing back only on one side.
  4. Arm the Audio Track. Plug your headphones into the headphones output of your audio interface.
  5. Now test the input levels by playing/singing. You want to get a properly loud signal without having the meters go into the red. Red means it's too loud and you'll get nasty digital distortion. If your audio interface has a knob next to the input, you can adjust the input level there. If not, you should have a mixing software in which this can be set. If in doubt, refer to interface's manual.
  6. Once you've established a good level for your recording you should set the Tempo and Time Signature. You can either enter the BPM directly or tap out the tempo by hitting the Tap Tempo button for each beat. You can click on the Time Signature to change it.
  7. To record in sync with the tempo, turn on the Metronome.
  8. You can also set a count-in to have some time to get ready before the recording starts. For this open the Preferences > Record/Warp/Launch and choose 1, 2 or 4 Bars for the Count-In.
  9. You can either record into Session or Arrangement View. The former is good for jamming and trying out ideas in loops, the latter for continuous recordings.
  10. If you want to record into Session View, you only need to click on the Record button in a Clip Slot to start recording.
  11. To record into Arrangement View, you need to click the Global Record button, then hit Play by either clicking the button for it or using the Spacebar.
  12. Press the Spacebar again once you're done with recording. The Clip View at the bottom of Live includes the Sample Editor that now contains the waveform you've recorded. To see the Clip View of a clip, it needs to be selected. If it's not, double-click the clip to make it visible.

Any questions, suggestions or other comments? I'm happy to read them. :)

There are plenty more Ableton Live tutorials where this one came from.