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Ableton Live 8
Power!: The
Jon Margulies
Course Technology PTR
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Ableton LiveTM 8 Power!:
The Comprehensive Guide
Jon Margulies
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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 11 10 09
To the music makers and dreamers of dreams.
You know who you are.
I would first like to acknowledge the authors who worked on earlier editions of this book: Dave
Hill, Jr., Chad Carrier, and John Von Seggern. I’m honored to be keeping such good company,
and hope to live up to the high standards that all of you set.
Many thanks as well to everyone whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with on this book:
Marta Justak for editing me and making sure I make sense, Brian Jackson for really knowing his
stuff and being a great technical editor, and Mark Garvey for giving me the chance to do this
book and overseeing the project.
My deepest gratitude to everyone who has worked on making Hobotech a reality: Twin A, Tara,
Ray, and everyone who has played at, helped out with, and come to the parties. Finally, a big
shout to the whole Dubspot crew—Dan, Adam, Kelly, and Sabrina for running the show, and
my teaching colleagues, Kiva, Mike, Heinrich, and Chris. I’m fortunate to get to kick around
ideas with such a fun and knowledgeable group of people.
About the Author
Jon Margulies is a New York-based musician and the founder of Hobotech (www.hobo-tech
.com), a genre that would not exist without Ableton Live. He has been performing professionally
since he was 11 years old and has worked with some of the best musicians around in a dizzying
array of styles. When not composing and performing, he keeps busy teaching and writing curriculum for the cutting-edge music school, Dubspot. Jon’s latest album, Too Big To Fail, is available at heatercore.net and many popular download sites.
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvi
Chapter 1
Live 8
What Is Live? .................................................................................................................. 1
Why Was Live Developed?........................................................................................ 4
The World of Live .................................................................................................... 4
How Does It Work?.................................................................................................. 5
What Sets Live Apart?............................................................................................... 5
Possible Applications....................................................................................................... 8
Goals of This Book ......................................................................................................... 9
The Online Files.............................................................................................................. 9
Chapter 2
Getting Live Up and Running
System Requirements..................................................................................................... 11
Ableton Live’s System Requirements for Macintosh................................................ 12
Ableton Live 8 Power!’s Mac Recommendations .................................................... 12
Ableton Live’s System Requirements for PC............................................................ 12
Ableton Live 8 Power!’s PC Recommendations ...................................................... 12
Installing, Running, and Updating Live 8...................................................................... 12
Live Installation Tips (Mac OS X 10.4.11 and Up)................................................. 13
Live Installation Tips (Windows XP and Vista) ...................................................... 13
Updating Live.......................................................................................................... 14
Basic Computer Specifications................................................................................. 15
Audio Interface Specs .............................................................................................. 15
What Do You Need to Know About ASIO Drivers?............................................... 17
Choosing a MIDI Controller ......................................................................................... 18
Setting Preferences in Live............................................................................................. 20
The Look/Feel Tab.................................................................................................. 20
The Audio Tab........................................................................................................ 23
The MIDI/Sync Tab ................................................................................................ 27
The File/Folder Tab................................................................................................. 29
The Record/Warp/Launch Tab ................................................................................ 31
The CPU Tab .......................................................................................................... 34
The User Account Licenses Tab .............................................................................. 35
Library .................................................................................................................... 36
Chapter 3
Live Interface Basics
Session View ................................................................................................................. 39
Clip Slot Grid.......................................................................................................... 41
The Scene Launcher ................................................................................................ 42
The Session Mixer................................................................................................... 42
Track Input and Output Routing ............................................................................ 50
Arrangement View ........................................................................................................ 52
Track Settings and Contents.................................................................................... 54
Relation to the Session View ................................................................................... 55
Overview................................................................................................................. 56
The Live Control Bar .................................................................................................... 56
Tempo and Time Signature Controls ...................................................................... 57
Transport, MIDI, and Quantization Controls ......................................................... 58
Punch In/Out and Loop .......................................................................................... 59
Computer Keyboard, Key and MIDI Assigns, System Performance, and MIDI I/O....59
Live’s Custom Views ..................................................................................................... 60
The Browser.................................................................................................................. 60
File Browsers........................................................................................................... 60
The Device Browser ................................................................................................ 66
The Plug-in Browser................................................................................................ 66
The Hot-Swap Browser ........................................................................................... 69
Saving Your Work ........................................................................................................ 69
Saving the Live Set .................................................................................................. 69
Collect All and Save ................................................................................................ 69
Managing Files.............................................................................................................. 70
Manage Set ............................................................................................................. 71
Manage Project ....................................................................................................... 74
Getting Help ................................................................................................................. 76
The Info View ......................................................................................................... 76
Getting Help Online................................................................................................ 77
Chapter 4
Making Music in Live
Working Methods ......................................................................................................... 80
Using Live to DJ ..................................................................................................... 80
Using Live with a Band ........................................................................................... 81
Multitracking .......................................................................................................... 82
Producing and Remixing Music .............................................................................. 82
Scoring for Video .................................................................................................... 82
Live’s Musical Building Blocks: Clips............................................................................ 83
What Are Clips?...................................................................................................... 83
What Do Clips Contain?......................................................................................... 85
Where Do Clips Come From? ................................................................................. 85
The Clip View......................................................................................................... 86
Clip Name and Color.............................................................................................. 87
Time Signature ........................................................................................................ 88
Clip Groove ............................................................................................................ 88
Commit ................................................................................................................... 91
Clip Nudge Controls ............................................................................................... 91
Quantize ................................................................................................................. 92
Launch Controls ..................................................................................................... 94
Velocity................................................................................................................... 95
Follow Actions ........................................................................................................ 96
Tempo Settings........................................................................................................ 99
Tempo Master/Slave.............................................................................................. 100
Clip Start/End ....................................................................................................... 100
Loop Settings ........................................................................................................ 101
Loop Start Offset .................................................................................................. 102
Editing Multiple Clips ........................................................................................... 103
The Track ................................................................................................................... 104
The Audio Track................................................................................................... 104
The MIDI Track ................................................................................................... 105
The Group Track .................................................................................................. 105
The Return Track ................................................................................................. 106
The Master Track ................................................................................................. 107
Track Freeze.......................................................................................................... 107
The Session ................................................................................................................. 108
Adding Clips to the Session................................................................................... 108
Drag-and-Drop Techniques ................................................................................... 109
Editing Commands................................................................................................ 109
Using Scenes.......................................................................................................... 109
MIDI and Computer Keyboard Control................................................................ 112
The Arrangement ........................................................................................................ 115
What Is an Arrangement? ..................................................................................... 115
Recording from the Session into the Arrangement ................................................ 117
Adding Clips to the Arrangement.......................................................................... 118
Editing the Arrangement ....................................................................................... 119
Automation ........................................................................................................... 121
Fades..................................................................................................................... 124
Locators and Time Signature Changes .................................................................. 126
Looping and Punching .......................................................................................... 127
Export Audio ........................................................................................................ 129
Scoring to Video ......................................................................................................... 133
Importing Video .................................................................................................... 133
The Video Window ............................................................................................... 134
Keeping Sound and Video In Sync ........................................................................ 134
Saving/Exporting ................................................................................................... 135
Summary ..................................................................................................................... 135
Chapter 5
The Audio Clip
Audio Clip Properties.................................................................................................. 137
Buttons.................................................................................................................. 138
Transpose and Detune........................................................................................... 140
Gain ...................................................................................................................... 140
Warp Controls ...................................................................................................... 142
Warp Modes ......................................................................................................... 143
Warp Markers............................................................................................................. 147
Purpose of Warping .............................................................................................. 147
Auto-Warping ....................................................................................................... 147
Warp Markers, Transients and Pseudo Warp Markers.......................................... 148
Quantize ............................................................................................................... 150
Setting Warp Markers for Multiple Clips.............................................................. 151
Saving Warp Markers ........................................................................................... 152
Beat Slicing ................................................................................................................. 152
REX File Support.................................................................................................. 153
Slice to New MIDI Track...................................................................................... 153
Clip Envelopes ............................................................................................................ 155
Volume ................................................................................................................. 155
Pan........................................................................................................................ 157
Transpose.............................................................................................................. 158
Sample Offset........................................................................................................ 159
Sends and More .................................................................................................... 160
Unlinking Envelopes.............................................................................................. 161
Breakpoint Editing ................................................................................................ 162
Recording New Audio Clips ....................................................................................... 163
In the Session View ............................................................................................... 163
In the Arrangement View ...................................................................................... 165
Editing Audio Clips..................................................................................................... 167
Clip Timing and Rhythm ...................................................................................... 167
Editing in the Arrangement ................................................................................... 167
Tips for Great Loops................................................................................................... 168
Chapter 6
The MIDI Clip
MIDI Clip Properties................................................................................................... 173
Recording New MIDI Clips ........................................................................................ 175
In the Session View ............................................................................................... 176
In the Arrangement View ...................................................................................... 177
Overdub Recording ............................................................................................... 178
Step Recording ...................................................................................................... 179
Editing MIDI Clips ..................................................................................................... 179
Adjusting the Grid ................................................................................................ 180
Editing Notes and Velocities ................................................................................. 181
Quantizing Your Performance............................................................................... 184
MIDI Clip Envelopes .................................................................................................. 186
MIDI Ctrl Envelopes ............................................................................................. 186
Mixer Envelopes ................................................................................................... 187
Virtual Instruments and Effects ............................................................................. 187
Importing and Exporting MIDI Files........................................................................... 187
Importing Standard MIDI Files ............................................................................. 188
Exporting Standard MIDI Files ............................................................................. 188
Using the Live Clip Format ................................................................................... 189
Chapter 7
Using Effects and Instruments
Using Effects in a Session ............................................................................................ 191
The Track View .................................................................................................... 191
The Device and Plug-In Browsers.......................................................................... 192
Plug-In Types ........................................................................................................ 194
Reordering and Removing Effects ......................................................................... 198
Managing Presets .................................................................................................. 198
Signal Path .................................................................................................................. 202
Using an Effect as an Insert................................................................................... 203
Using a Send Effect ............................................................................................... 204
Control and Automation ............................................................................................. 206
Controlling Live’s Devices with MIDI................................................................... 206
Controlling Plug-In Devices with MIDI................................................................. 207
Using Control Surfaces with Devices..................................................................... 208
Modulating Devices with Clip Envelopes .............................................................. 209
Automating Devices Within the Arrangement View .............................................. 210
Racks .......................................................................................................................... 210
Creating Racks...................................................................................................... 211
Rack Basics ........................................................................................................... 211
Chain List ............................................................................................................. 211
Rack Devices......................................................................................................... 213
Macro Controls..................................................................................................... 214
Managing Rack Presets ......................................................................................... 214
Creative Ideas for Using Racks.............................................................................. 215
Chapter 8
Live’s Instruments
Impulse ....................................................................................................................... 217
Overview of the Interface...................................................................................... 217
Importing Sounds .................................................................................................. 220
MIDI Control........................................................................................................ 221
MIDI Routing ....................................................................................................... 223
Audio Routing ...................................................................................................... 223
Simpler........................................................................................................................ 225
Overview of the Interface...................................................................................... 226
MIDI Control........................................................................................................ 230
Operator ..................................................................................................................... 230
Overview of the Interface...................................................................................... 230
Creating and Shaping Sounds................................................................................ 231
Sampler ....................................................................................................................... 243
The Zone Tab ....................................................................................................... 244
The Sample Tab .................................................................................................... 245
The Pitch/Osc Tab ................................................................................................ 248
The Filter/Global Tab ........................................................................................... 249
The Modulation Tab............................................................................................. 250
The MIDI Tab ...................................................................................................... 251
Importing Third-Party Instruments........................................................................ 252
The AAS Instruments .................................................................................................. 252
Global Parameters ....................................................................................................... 253
Electric ........................................................................................................................ 254
Mallet ................................................................................................................... 254
Fork ...................................................................................................................... 255
Damper ................................................................................................................. 256
Pickup ................................................................................................................... 256
Global ................................................................................................................... 256
Tension ....................................................................................................................... 257
Excitator ............................................................................................................... 257
Damper ................................................................................................................. 258
String .................................................................................................................... 258
Termination and Pickup........................................................................................ 259
Body...................................................................................................................... 259
Filter/Global .......................................................................................................... 260
Analog ........................................................................................................................ 260
Oscillators and Noise ............................................................................................ 261
Filters and Amplifiers ............................................................................................ 262
Filters and Amp Envelopes.................................................................................... 263
LFO ...................................................................................................................... 264
Global ................................................................................................................... 264
Collision...................................................................................................................... 265
Excitators .............................................................................................................. 266
Resonators ............................................................................................................ 267
The LFO and MIDI Tabs...................................................................................... 269
Drum Racks ................................................................................................................ 269
Pads and Chains.................................................................................................... 270
MIDI Routing ....................................................................................................... 272
Choke Groups....................................................................................................... 273
Sends and Returns................................................................................................. 273
Chapter 9
Live’s Audio Effects
EQ and Filters............................................................................................................. 276
EQ Eight ............................................................................................................... 276
EQ Three .............................................................................................................. 279
Auto Filter............................................................................................................. 281
Frequency and Resonance ..................................................................................... 282
LFO ...................................................................................................................... 282
Envelope ............................................................................................................... 283
Sidechain ............................................................................................................... 283
Quantize Beat........................................................................................................ 284
Dynamic Processing .................................................................................................... 285
Auto Pan ............................................................................................................... 285
Compressor ........................................................................................................... 288
Gate ...................................................................................................................... 295
Limiter .................................................................................................................. 296
Multiband Dynamics............................................................................................. 297
Delay Effects ............................................................................................................... 299
Simple Delay ......................................................................................................... 299
Ping Pong Delay.................................................................................................... 301
Filter Delay ........................................................................................................... 302
Grain Delay .......................................................................................................... 303
Modulation Effects...................................................................................................... 305
Chorus .................................................................................................................. 306
Phaser ................................................................................................................... 307
Flanger .................................................................................................................. 309
Reverb................................................................................................................... 310
Distortions .................................................................................................................. 313
Overdrive .............................................................................................................. 313
Saturator ............................................................................................................... 314
Dynamic Tube....................................................................................................... 316
Erosion.................................................................................................................. 317
Redux ................................................................................................................... 318
Vinyl Distortion .................................................................................................... 318
Miscellaneous.............................................................................................................. 320
Beat Repeat ........................................................................................................... 320
Corpus .................................................................................................................. 322
Frequency Shifter .................................................................................................. 323
Resonators ............................................................................................................ 324
Vocoder ................................................................................................................ 325
External Audio Effect.................................................................................................. 327
Looper ........................................................................................................................ 328
Chapter 10
Live’s MIDI Effects
Arpeggiator ................................................................................................................. 331
Style ...................................................................................................................... 332
Groove .................................................................................................................. 333
Hold...................................................................................................................... 333
Offset .................................................................................................................... 333
Rate and Sync ....................................................................................................... 334
Gate ...................................................................................................................... 334
Retrigger ............................................................................................................... 334
Repeats ................................................................................................................. 334
Transposition Controls.......................................................................................... 334
Velocity................................................................................................................. 335
Chord.......................................................................................................................... 335
Note Length ................................................................................................................ 336
Pitch............................................................................................................................ 337
Random ...................................................................................................................... 338
Scale............................................................................................................................ 340
Velocity....................................................................................................................... 341
Chapter 11
What Is ReWire?......................................................................................................... 345
Masters ................................................................................................................. 345
Slaves .................................................................................................................... 346
Using ReWire with Live .............................................................................................. 346
Using Live as a ReWire Master ............................................................................. 346
Using Live as a ReWire Slave................................................................................ 349
ReWire Power ............................................................................................................. 352
Chapter 12
Playing Live…Live
The Hybrid DJ ............................................................................................................ 355
Assembling Your Audio Files ................................................................................ 355
Warping Your Songs ............................................................................................. 358
Performance Techniques........................................................................................ 363
Band............................................................................................................................ 369
Click Track ........................................................................................................... 369
Tap Tempo ........................................................................................................... 370
Live Effects ........................................................................................................... 370
Improvisation .............................................................................................................. 371
Elastic Arrangement .............................................................................................. 371
Real-Time Loop Layering...................................................................................... 371
Theater........................................................................................................................ 372
Chapter 13
Live 8 Power
Getting Your Groove On ............................................................................................ 375
Beat-Wreckin’ Clinic ................................................................................................... 376
Harnessing Follow Actions.......................................................................................... 378
Minimizing Performance Strain ................................................................................... 380
Templates.................................................................................................................... 381
Share ........................................................................................................................... 382
Max For Live .............................................................................................................. 384
Parting Thoughts......................................................................................................... 387
Index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 389
Ableton Live 8 Power!: The Comprehensive Guide is an all-inclusive guide to making music
with Ableton’s revolutionary live performance and studio software. Written for all Live users,
from beginners to seasoned pros, this book explores each fundamental feature in Live, although
it does presume a basic familiarity with music making and digital audio. This book is intended to
supplement and expand on the information included in the Live manual and built-in lessons,
so don’t forget to take advantage of these great resources. Finally, this book also includes downloadable example sets, which can be found at www.courseptr.com/downloads.
What You’ll Find in This Book
You’ll find the following areas covered in this book:
Installing, running, and updating Live 8 on your computer
Creating and arranging music with Live
Using Live instruments and effects, including the newest members of the Live family:
Collision, Corpus, Vocoder, and Frequency Shifter
Performing with Live on stage
And much more!
Companion Web Site Downloads
You may download the companion Web site files from www.courseptr.com/downloads.
Live 8
very so often, a new piece of technology or software application makes an indelible mark
on the way things are done. Ableton’s Live has instigated a revolution in the audio software world by transforming computers into playable musical instruments, real-time
remix stations, and the world’s most dexterous audio environment. Live is the culmination of
years of studio software development and the infusion of DJ and electronic music-making
instincts. Live is also a labor of love born out of the desire of a few software-savvy musicians
to take their elaborate computer-based recording studio on the road.
With its flexible recording and MIDI functionality, Live is a full-blown music production environment suitable for any artistic style. You’ll find all the features you’d expect from other digital
audio workstations, such as multitrack audio and MIDI recording, nonlinear editing, quantization, pitch shifting, freezing, delay compensation, and more. Live’s advantage is that all these
common features are implemented within its unique sequencing interface.
Live is also a digital DJ performance tool and has begun to replace MP3-based DJ units, CD
spinners, and turntables. It is also becoming increasingly common to see laptop performing
artists utilizing computers as their primary sound source or record collection. This makes perfect
sense when you stop to think that for the past couple of years, synthesizers, samplers, and their
sounds have been purchased en masse via Web download or e-mail, instead of as a separate
hardware component or sound module. In the next couple of years, more and more musicians,
bands, and solo artists will be using Live’s technology to realize their artistic visions from the
comfort of their own laptops.
What Is Live?
In January 2000, Berlin-based Ableton knocked the audio software world on its ear by releasing
Live 1.0. Since its inception, Live has evolved into a real-time music production system allowing
users to integrate samples, MIDI, effects, and live audio data quickly and musically enough for a
live performance.
Similar to modern software MIDI sequencers or production suites, Live (see Figure 1.1) allows
you to create and modify musical elements, such as guitar riffs, bass lines, and piano parts,
which can be arranged and played from a large, customizable grid. The grid can be thought
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
Figure 1.1 Here is a quick peek at the Session View grid in Live 8. The rows make up musical sections
called scenes, and the columns function as virtual mixer channels.
of as both a music organizer and sonic palette. Once elements have been placed into a cell on the
grid, you may designate MIDI or computer keyboard triggering options for these pieces, alter
their playback parameters, add effects, and more. After enough cells for the song are filled, it is
time for “the take” or live performance.
This grid/sonic palette makes up the improvisational sequencer component of Live and can be
used to trigger groups of musical elements, like sections of a song. For instance, during a live
performance, you might want to progress from the verse to the chorus and back to the verse—
something you’d never done in practice. You can do so by triggering a specified row (scene) in
Live’s grid matrix that, in turn, directs Live to play the second group of elements (the chorus)
and ceases play of verse parts. To go back, you would merely click on the preceding row. The
song arrangement is under full real-time control. This makes it easy to jump around through
various subsections of the song, break down important song sections, and come up with new
possibilities. In addition, any individual piece contained within a slot can be played independently, in similar fashion to an “old school” phrase sampler (like Roland’s Dr. Sample). It is quite
possible to make new parts and original ideas by playing these parts as one-shot samples or to
overdub a previously made arrangement. Keep in mind that these pieces can be tweaked to oblivion, much like the sounds in a hardware sampler or synthesizer, only more flexibly with Live.
Chapter 1
Live 8
The true power housed within Live is the software’s capability to play, or play with, sound. Live
can be played in a “jam” situation or simply used as a creative tool for building a song in layers.
Live specializes in stretching audio alongside MIDI to any desired tempo or pitch. What’s more,
Live can bend audio within itself so that a sound may start at one tempo or pitch and end up in
an entirely different place (all within the same performance). The editing possibilities are nearly
infinite. Ableton has made recording and editing the performance a main function of Live, so
that a single software application turns your laptop (or desktop) PC or Mac into a live performance system, a multitrack audio and MIDI recording studio, a powerful loop and song editor,
and a full-blown remix factory. Live enables you to map the cells of your grid palette (full of
musical parts) to a MIDI controller or computer keyboard. In essence, you can record a live
improvisation or band performance for later editing, further arranging, overdubs, and added
automation. If the final mix isn’t to your liking, you can always take another pass. To get an
idea of what we’re talking about, look at Figure 1.2, which features a screenshot of Live’s
Arrangement View.
Figure 1.2 If you are familiar with desktop audio, Live’s Arrangement View may remind you of many
different programs.
Musically speaking, Live is a one-two punch whose focus is spread equally between live performance and recording/editing, all in one application. As you learn how to play (jam) in Live, you
will also be gradually setting up your song’s arrangement and learning new tactics to apply to
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
your live performance. In other words, Live is quite unlike any other software application currently on the market, and it fills a certain void that has been overlooked by the majority of
developers—the needs of the performing and recording musician.
Why Was Live Developed?
One of the greatest advantages for musicians employing Live is that it is a program written for
musicians by musicians—they actually use the very software they create. Initially, Robert Henke
and Gerhard Behles (paired in the Berlin-based electronica group Monolake) were looking for a
better way to create their own music through the use of a computer. Both were experienced
sound designers and had spent time working for Native Instruments, one of the industry’s
chief authorities on virtual or “soft” synthesizers and sound design software. At the time, the
industry lacked a user-friendly software application conducive to creating music as a musician
would—both intuitively and spontaneously. There were plenty of “loop-friendly” applications
and more than a couple live jamming programs, but most audio software was built for studio use
and lacked the interface necessary to create music the way a musician does: live.
Since the drawing board days of development, Behles, Henke, and the Ableton team have honed
Live’s interface and functionality with the performing artist in mind. Not only does it allow for
improvisation and all sorts of on-the-fly decision-making, but it also contains professional-grade
audio tools and software compliance, such as VST/Audio Units plug-ins and ReWire softwarestudio synchronization. These tools will be discussed in greater detail as we progress. For now,
recognize Ableton’s commitment to the performing artist and to the end user. Don’t just take my
word for it; jump out to Ableton’s closely monitored user forum at www.ableton.com, where
you can anonymously enter your own wish list of ideas for future development of Live. Don’t be
too surprised if Ableton CEO Gerhard Behles, conceptualist Robert Henke, or any of the other
Ableton developers chime in to discuss how your idea might better the world of Live.
The World of Live
Over the past several years, the idea of music creation and live performance on a PC or Mac has
become increasingly attractive. With the increase in processing power and audio storage capacities, even relatively inexpensive computers have become powerful audio editing and recording
studios. Producers using audio software have enjoyed exponential improvements in performance
and the number and types of tasks that computers can perform. Also, the customization and
potential for add-on software and hardware as new technology emerges have made jumping
into the fray less intimidating. For less than $2,000 (U.S.), you can acquire a decent laptop, a
sound card, and Live, the most powerful and flexible music creation and performance software
on the planet. For just a bit more, it is quite possible that your bedroom studio could compete
with the pros, not to mention the fact that an investment in an Ableton Live performance rig is
cheaper and easier to maintain than a stack of hardware samplers, rack-mounted sound modules, outboard mixers, and, well, you get the point.
Chapter 1
Live 8
How Does It Work?
Live allows you to sort your music into easy-to-define sections, called scenes, while maintaining
all the flexible effects and routing options made possible only via PC- or Mac-based software.
These scenes, which are spread horizontally across the screen, look like the rows of a spreadsheet
or graph. The columns that are formed correspond with mixer channels. Within each column,
only one sound—be it a MIDI sequence or an audio sample—can play at a time. So to play
through your song, you can literally run down the rows, letting each row represent a musical
section. Live also enables you to trigger sequences, loops, and samples; tweak effects; and change
mix settings from a MIDI controller, MIDI keyboard, or computer keyboard. You can preview
any audio loop in real time at any tempo from within your project. Not only can Live match the
tempo of all of your loops, but it also has a variety of modes for time-adjusting samples for
optimal sound quality.
You may also turn off Live’s time-correcting Warp feature to make your loops behave more like
standard multitrack recording software. Live encourages plenty of manipulation in terms of feel,
tempo, and pitch, but how Live really works is up to you. Never before has software been so
intuitive and musical after a few basic principles are understood. Live works with your audio
loops, MIDI sequences, hardware synthesizers, recorded material, and other software applications to make music. You can create new music from scratch or build a remix from previously
recorded material. When it comes to making music in Live, the creative possibilities are limitless.
What Sets Live Apart?
If you are an audio software enthusiast, you’ve certainly heard of powerful digital multitrack
studio applications such as Digidesign’s Pro Tools, Apple’s Logic, MOTU’s Digital Performer,
Cakewalk’s Sonar, and Steinberg’s Cubase (and Nuendo). These programs, and their hardware
counterparts, are often referred to as digital audio workstations, or DAWs. Their main task is to
ensure that music is recorded and played back properly in a studio situation. Other more looporiented products such as Propellerhead’s Reason, Arturia’s Storm, Sonic Foundry’s Acid Pro,
Cakewalk’s Project5, or Sonic Syndicate’s Orion Pro are also touted in the media for their originality and have become popular along with the self-contained studio paradigm. Each of these
programs allows for use of the computer as a stand-alone music composition center and loop
factory. Like the aforementioned products, Live can operate by itself, record multiple audio and
MIDI sources, integrate loops, and handle other basic studio functions. But Live also introduces
the idea of performing with software and editing your improvisation afterwards, and automation has never had a better platform.
To fully understand why Live is such an innovative program, it helps to take a look at Live 8’s
feature set.
First, Live works on both Mac (OS X 10.3.9 or later) and PC (Windows XP or Vista)
platforms and takes advantage of all current industry standards, such as ASIO drivers, VST
and Audio Units effect plug-ins and instruments, and ReWire synchronization technology.
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Ableton was one of the original innovators in the area of real-time time stretching and pitch
shifting. With the release of Live 8, Ableton has brought the game to a new level with the
introduction of automatic transient detection and Complex Pro mode.
In addition to generating MIDI Time Code and MIDI Beat Clock, Live can also be synced to
another program’s MIDI clock.
As mentioned previously, MIDI-note information can be used to trigger sounds or
MIDI-controller info for knobs and sliders. Even your laptop computer keyboard can trigger
parts. Better still, all MIDI-controller and keyboard-triggering information can be
assigned while Live is in Playback mode, so the music doesn’t have to stop.
In terms of routing, Live is constrained only by the limitations of your sound card and MIDI
interfaces. And ReWire-compatible software applications (such as Reason, Max/MSP, FL
Studio, and Numerology) can be directed through Live’s mixer in a variety of ways. Live’s
output may also be ReWired to another program’s inputs. You can record audio from
an outside source straight into Live or render (record) Live’s own output to a fresh track (for
later use) while you play.
Another distinguishing feature of Live is the customizable DJ-style crossfader built right
into the performance mixer. Just like the DJ mixer pictured in Figure 1.3, you can assign
Figure 1.3 Live can be set up to function as a DJ system that will blow the doors off what a standard
mixer can do, as you’ll see in Chapter 13, “Live 8 Power.”
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mixer channels to A, B, or both channels and mix between the two. This subtle tool can be
configured for anything from gradual song transitions to DJ-style fader-flipping tricks.
And while all of these elements make Live sound attractive, Ableton’s not-so-secret weapon,
the Warp Engine, is the feature that has caused many a jaw to drop. Live uses what’s
called elastic audio to time-stretch or compress your audio files so they can be played back at
any tempo.
Confused? Here is an example: Live can speed up a 25-second sample so that it will play
in 5 seconds or vice versa (slowing down the 5-second sample to take up more time). Taking
it a step further, you could resize select portions of the sound, causing the first half of the
sample to play faster than the last, for instance. Amazingly enough, Live can do this with just
a couple of mouse clicks, while you monitor the results. More common examples include
matching up bass and drum loops, correcting sloppy takes, fixing near-perfect ones,
humanizing a drum machine part, and the list goes on. For more on the power of elastic
audio, see the section on Clip View in Chapter 4, “Making Music in Live.” You can also
truncate the loop’s end points, move the loop reference (starting point) anywhere you like,
and fine-tune the pitch in either half-step or cent increments.
To give us even more flexibility and elasticity, the Slice to New MIDI Track command
can cut a loop into multiple samples and generate a MIDI file to play them back in order,
much in the way Propellerhead’s ReCycle would. And speaking of ReCycle, Live natively
supports REX files as well!
The elastic audio concept has been expanded in Live 8 to the “elastic groove.” The powerful
new Groove Engine can be used to apply variations in timing and dynamics to change
the feel of any clip you want, be it audio or MIDI. Not only that, but the Groove Engine can
be used to apply quantization to audio clips as well, straightening out a swinging rhythm or
simply being used to correct timing.
Thanks to the crafty implementation of Racks, Live lets you build customized groupings of
effects and virtual instruments to your heart’s content. With powerful routing options and
programmable key zones, you can create layers, splits, and complex effects like never before.
Drum Racks take this concept to a whole new level, allowing you to build drum banks with
combinations of synthesized and sampled sounds along with built-in effect returns and choke
groups, while workflow enhancements make putting everything together a breeze.
Because Live has been engineered for live performance, Ableton has created a powerful studio
ally, almost by accident. After all, if Live makes it so easy to handle music in front of a stadium
audience, it will be able to keep pace easily with the creative flow in a studio session. While most
applications are focused on a specific task, such as sound design or the recording process, Ableton has zeroed in on the concept of making music, from the first iota of inspiration to the perfected performance, while still catering to the studio all the way.
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Possible Applications
As a Live user, you will be joining an incredibly diverse crowd of composers, DJs, instrumentalists, and producers. Each uses the program in a slightly (or dramatically) different way. Part of
the fun of Live is discovering how it can work for your musical process, as either a production
tool, an instrument to perform with, or both.
Super New York session drummer Shawn Pelton (The Saturday Night Live Band, House of
Diablo), whose setup is pictured in Figure 1.4, has taken to using Live onstage for creating
music in ways he had only dreamed of previously. DJ superstar Sasha is a Live user as well,
for production and performance—he’s even gone so far as to make a custom MIDI controller
for Live!
Figure 1.4 Shawn Pelton incorporates a laptop running Ableton Live by triggering additional loops
with foot pedals and a controller. This is just one imaginative way to use Live.
Here are some other possible Live scenarios:
Stage: Live thrives as a live looping device for recording loops on the fly or mixing, mashing,
and mangling prerecorded loops on stage. It’s also the perfect tool for filling out your
band’s sound with prerecorded loops or backing tracks.
Studio: I have already mentioned why Ableton Live is a perfect addition to any studio. It can
function as a high-powered drum machine, a flexible loop remixer, or a versatile musical
sketchpad. While some may use Live as their only studio application, bigger Pro Tools
studios may simply enjoy Live for its ability to take bits of a project and let artists,
producers, and engineers hear some different arrangements quickly and easily.
Bedroom: With a nice audio interface and a decent computer running Live, platinum hits can
be fashioned while you’re still in your shorts. If professional studios can benefit from the
power of Live, a solo musician can reap the rewards 10 times over. Recording a simple guitar
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and vocal demo or producing a full-blown masterpiece is all within the scope of Live’s
Club: The laptop DJ trend has been building steam for several years now. The benefits
include less wear and tear on your vinyl, lightweight transport, and the many possible
software tricks for enhancing the sound. To be fair, there are a few compromises to
recognize, such as the time it takes to digitize vinyl and the look and feel of the performance.
While paradigm shifts are always tricky, one thing is for sure: Vinyl weighs a ton (and that’s
one paradigm that doesn’t seem to be shifting!).
Goals of This Book
Like Live, Ableton Live 8 Power! was written by a performing musician. I’ve spent plenty of
time performing with Live and have been recording and remixing in Live for years. Live is built
to be musical, and this book will aspire to be the same. It is my hope that you will have many
long hours of enjoyment using Live while creating some interesting new music. Although this
book is designed to be a “power user” book, don’t be deterred if you are new to Live, new to
music, or new to computer-based production. This book will serve as a basic guide to interfacing
with Live and an advanced tips and tricks collection for taking advantage of Ableton’s industryrocking technology.
If you are already familiar with Live, this book should feel like a souped-up reference manual
with some powerful tips and musical ideas for you to incorporate into your Live vocabulary.
This book should help you optimize Live’s settings for speed and sound, which should translate
into maximum musical output. Ableton Live 8 Power! covers some sticky but rewarding topics,
such as Live’s MIDI implementation, editing Live’s mix automation, and using virtual EQs and
compressors for professional audio results.
The Online Files
To get you going as quickly as possible, you can find online files included with this book containing custom-built Live Sets to illustrate the topics as you read about them. After all, what fun
is it to read about music? It’s much more fun to hear music.
To use these as you follow along in the book, you’ll need to copy the Sets and presets from the
Web site at http://www.courseptr.com/downloads onto your computer. I recommend simply
creating a folder on your desktop labeled “Live 8 Power” and copying the entire contents
into it.
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Getting Live Up
and Running
f you are accustomed to buying studio hardware gear, you may be like me—get the sucker
home, tear open the box, and start making noise. Manuals are for other people, after all,
and, well, who’s got the time? When it comes to software, however, there is one fundamental difference: It is almost always up to you, the end user, to set up and configure the hardware
properly, install the software the way it was designed, and set up the preferences so that the new
application won’t interfere with any legacy applications, cause strange hardware issues, or
impair general functionality. In short, you become the final manufacturer. It is this sort of engineering control that is both the advantage and the disadvantage of personally transfiguring your
computer into a recording studio, a performance sampler, or a Live sequencing instrument.
Before you dive in and start producing hits, it is important to take a moment to verify that your
computer system is up to speed and that you’ve installed Live properly to ensure maximum
performance potential. This chapter will provide more than a few recommendations to help
you through the installation process, along with rarely mentioned tips for fine-tuning your Ableton Live studio. I’ll cover both Mac and PC setup and talk about several methods for optimizing
your system. Also, remember that Ableton’s technical support is an excellent way to get to the
bottom of anything not covered in this book, as is Ableton’s online user forum (found at www.
ableton.com/forum), which is usually rich with tips, tricks, and advice.
System Requirements
Listed in the pages that follow are Ableton’s posted system requirements, dependent upon system make, and followed by my recommendations. As mentioned previously, every computer is
customizable, and this can lead to unforeseen problems. If Live is acting strangely—for example,
if the audio is stuttering or if each edit is taking a very long time—try running Live completely by
itself, with no other programs running on your system at the same time. Make sure that you are
not running any other applications in the background, such as MP3 players, office suites, or
third-party plug-in effects (which we will cover in Chapter 7, “Using Effects and Instruments”),
as this can cause CPU performance problems.
Keep in mind that the vast difference between system requirements versus recommendations could
mean the enviable difference between functioning and flourishing with your Ableton product.
Ableton’s recommendations should be considered the absolute bare minimum for your system.
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Ableton Live’s System Requirements for Macintosh
1.25GHz G4/G5 or faster
1GB or more RAM
Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later
Ableton Live 8 Power!’s Mac Recommendations
Intel Mac processor
2GB or more RAM
Mac OS X 10.5 or later
Soundcard with MIDI interface
Ableton Live’s System Requirements for PC
Pentium 4 or Celeron compatible CPU or faster
Windows XP or Vista
Windows-compatible soundcard (preferably with ASIO driver)
Ableton Live 8 Power!’s PC Recommendations
As fast a CPU as you can afford
2GB or more RAM
Windows XP
ASIO-compliant soundcard with MIDI interface
QuickTime 7 or later
Installing, Running, and Updating Live 8
If you are brand new to Live and haven’t yet picked up a copy or have never installed audio
software before, then this section is for you. Sometimes, a little background information helps
make for a more rewarding software experience. Here are a few general tips about getting your
hands on Live 8.
Live can be purchased as a download or in a boxed retail version. The download version is
sold only through the Ableton Web shop (www.ableton.com/shop).
The boxed version of Live 8 includes the Essential Instruments Collection 2 (EIC2), a library
of sounds for the Simpler (Live’s built-in sampler instrument) or Sampler (a more
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sophisticated sampler, available as an add-on) containing piano, woodwinds, strings, drums,
and more. If you decide you don’t need this (or the printed manual), you can save some
money by purchasing the download version instead.
Live 8 can also be purchased as part of the Ableton Suite, which gets you all six add-on
instruments (Operator, Electric, Tension, Analog, Sampler, and Collision), the Drum
Machines sample library, and the Latin Percussion library. The boxed version of the suite
also includes Session Drums, a beautiful collection of multisampled acoustic drums, as well
as the EIC2.
All Live users receive the Solid Sounds pack, which contains about 400MB of loops and
construction kits, downloadable from the Ableton Web site. Owners of the boxed edition of
Live Suite will receive an additional 400 loops and samples from Zero-G, as well as a
440MB set of experimental loops from Sound Wizard’s Cycling ’74.
Live Installation Tips (Mac OS X 10.4.11 and Up)
Installing Live 8 on Mac OS X is a breeze. Insert the Live installation disc, open the disc dialog,
and drag the Live 8.x folder to the Applications folder on your hard disk. All pertinent files,
including Live 8’s manual, will be contained here. For quicker access to Live, you may want to
install a shortcut onto the OS X dock (if you are using it). To do this, simply open your Applications folder or the location on your drive where you decided to install Live and drag the
program icon to the dock. An instant shortcut is made. To remove the item from the dock,
drag it to the Trash or to the desktop, and watch it go “poof” and disappear.
Live Installation Tips (Windows XP and Vista)
Installing Live onto a Windows machine is much like installing any other Windows-based application. After you click Setup and follow the instructions, Live’s installer will ask you where you
would like to place the Ableton folder and its files. I recommend using the installer’s default
setting, which will place Live in an Ableton folder in your computer’s Program Files folder.
You will want to pay special attention to where your VST plug-in folder exists. It is common
practice to keep all VST plug-ins stored in one common location so that every VST-compatible
application will be able to use them. For instance, if you have Steinberg’s Cubase SX installed on
your computer, you can instruct Live to look for plug-ins in the Steinberg shared VST folder,
which is commonly located at Program Files 4 Steinberg 4 Vstplugins. Then you can set Live to
use the same plug-in folder. After the installation, you will want to customize your preferences
(see the “Setting Preferences in Live” section later in this chapter).
Mac Users Take Note The centralizing of plug-in folders is useful in both Windows and
OS X, although OS X audio applications typically take care of this for you by installing VST
plug-ins at the location Library 4 Audio 4 Plug-ins 4 VST.
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Updating Live
To check what version of Live you are currently running under Mac OS X, click Live 4 About.
On a PC, go to Help 4 About Live. Both the version and serial number will be displayed (see
Figure 2.1). Click anywhere on the pop-up screen to close this window. To see if there is an
update for Live, you will need your serial number, although once you’ve created a User Account
at ableton.com, you’ll be able to get updates just by logging in. You can also use Check for
Updates in the Live Help menu if your computer is currently online. I recommend checking
for updates as often as your time and interest allow. Ableton remains ambitious about tracking
down bugs in Live and posting software updates. Their user forum (click “forum”) is also of
value and is a great place to pick up new tips, suggest ideas to Ableton, trade songs, and network
with other Live users. Be sure to sign up for Ableton’s newsletter to be alerted to all major
updates and general Ableton news and events.
Figure 2.1 This screen will confirm which version of Live you are currently working in. After you update
your copy of Live, follow the steps described in this section to make sure that the new version is running
properly. You may need to swap out old desktop or dock shortcut icons because they will continue to
point to (launch) the old version of the product.
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Basic Computer Specifications
When buying a computer, you’re often faced with a dilemma centered on brand, timing, processor
speed, and a ridiculous number of options. You can spend your entire life chasing processor speeds.
My feeling is that it is more important to get a functional machine rather than bleeding-edge technology that may or may not be 100 percent stable. In any event, here is a list of the most important
considerations when buying a computer for using Ableton’s Live software.
Processor Speed
It is in our very nature to want the fastest and most efficient processor available. Business folks
want to spend less time waiting for massive data crunching, and musicians want to hear fewer
digital “hiccups” in their music. However, although faster may be better, don’t spend all of your
time chasing processor speeds. Trust me, it can be an expensive proposition. Instead, try to set
your sights just below the industry top dogs. Ableton Live doesn’t necessarily require the fastest
processor on the market to perform basic functions. Sure, there are limitations, and contrary to
popular belief, there always will be. So instead of spending $3,500 (or more) on your next industry champion, take a step back, save several hundred dollars, and invest in a quality soundcard
and a pair of professional speakers instead. Your music will be better for it.
Hard Drives
Fast hard drives, on the other hand, are essential. Say what you want about processor speeds;
when recording audio, your hard drive spin and data throughput are terrifically important. One
of the most important factors is RPM. 7,200 RPM is ideal. 5,400 RPM will work for live performances and many other applications, but may struggle with big Sets with lots of edits. In an
effort to conserve energy, some laptops ship with fairly slow internal hard drives, usually in the
neighborhood of 4,200 RPM. This slow hard drive speed will limit the number of audio clips
that you will be able to play simultaneously in Live.
In Live, most of your short samples (less than 5MB) will sit in RAM rather than on the hard disk.
Any samples used in your virtual instruments must also occupy memory space. To start out, 2GB
should be adequate, but Live likes memory, so get 4GB if at all possible. You can make it with
less RAM for a short while, but more memory will help to ensure stability during live performances, and it will help if you have other applications running simultaneously with Live.
Audio Interface Specs
Almost invariably, the audio capabilities that come standard with your PC or Mac are lacking
in many ways. Without a specialized audio interface (see Figure 2.2), sometimes called a
soundcard, you’ll find yourself hitting limitations in terms of routing flexibility, connectivity,
and sound quality. Choosing an interface can be tricky since there are so many choices on the
market. What will help you the most is to understand your needs so you’re armed with some
good questions before you hit your local music store or Internet megastore. Here are some items
to consider when purchasing an interface.
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Figure 2.2 The RME Fireface 400 is a powerhouse, with loads of connections and great sound.
What Type of Audio Interface Should You Get?
Desktop computer users have the greatest number of choices when shopping for audio interfaces. These computers can normally accept internal PCI and PCIe audio cards, external USB and
FireWire interfaces, and hybrid internal/external audio solutions. PCI and PCIe cards, which fit
into slots inside your computer, will offer the best performance of any format available. PCI
offers high bandwidth and bus speeds, which allow greater amounts of data (digital audio) to
be passed back and forth between the CPU and interface.
The increase in speed and reliability of laptop computers has made them very attractive candidates for hosting Live. By running live from a portable computer, you have the convenience of
taking your instrument wherever you go, just like guitar, bass, saxophone, and harmonica players can. Also, since Live is a robust multitrack recording environment, a laptop gives you the
ultimate remix and recording studio for the road or a bedroom studio. The laptop allows for and
encourages spontaneous creativity, since your studio is never far from reach.
Laptops do not have room to accept PCI and PCI-X audio interfaces. Laptops generally have
USB and FireWire ports which can be used to connect a variety of interfaces. CardBus also
provides an excellent high-speed connection for audio, but there are very few choices on the
market in this format.
How Many Outputs Do You Need?
The advantage to multiple outputs is increased integration with the world outside your computer. For example, multiple outputs give you the ability to send drums to outputs 1 and 2 while
sending the vocals to output 3. Then you could send these outputs to different channels on a
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hardware mixer to apply EQ and outboard effects. If you just have a single stereo output on your
soundcard, all mixing has do be done inside the computer. Is this something you should necessarily be worried about? Not at all! If you are just getting started, or you are not sure what all of
this is about, then chances are there’s no need for you to concern yourself too much about it at
this point.
The exception to this rule is if you plan on performing with Live, in which case you will want to
have a minimum of four outputs (two stereo pairs), which allows you to use one pair as your
main output and the other for cuing (prelistening) to tracks or clips in your headphones, just like
a DJ.
After you’ve decided whether you need 2, 4, 6, 8, or more outputs, you may also want to consider what types of connecters the interface uses. For example, if you’re always connecting to DJ
mixers, it may be more convenient to have RCA outputs on your interface, rather than 1/4-inch
or XLR. Ultimately, though, this shouldn’t be a deal breaker, since you can always connect with
the proper cables or adapters.
How Many Inputs Do You Need?
Like outputs, the number of inputs you need will narrow the list of interfaces to consider. Multiple inputs are a must if you’re planning on recording multichannel sources, such as live drums.
Generally, soundcards have a minimum of two input channels, a right and left input, used
together as stereo. These can be RCA, XLR, digital (S/PDIF or AES/EBU), or others (such as
ADAT Lightpipe). With digital formats, you’ll want to be sure that the interface you get will
work with the other gear you are using or plan to use. For example, if you have a keyboard with
a coaxial S/PDIF connection, you won’t want to buy an interface with an optical digital input—
the two are not compatible.
A-D and D-A Converters
You may have heard a lot of chatter about the quality of an interface’s converters. This is where
the rubber meets the road, so to speak, where real-world vibrations are converted to zeroes and
ones (and vice versa). While the esoteric aspects of this topic are outside of the scope of this
book, it’s important to understand two basic principles.
Digital to analog converters are important because they affect the quality of your monitoring.
With poor converters, the sound coming out of your speakers will be less accurate and getting
pristine mixes will be more difficult. Analog to digital converters are only important if you are
recording external sources such as guitars, keyboards, and vocals, or you are mixing with outboard hardware processors. If all of your sound is generated inside your computer by samples
and virtual instruments, then A-to-D conversion isn’t a big deal.
What Do You Need to Know About ASIO Drivers?
ASIO (Audio Stream Input/Output) was first invented by German software-slinger Steinberg
(www.steinberg.de or www.cubase.net). Originally, ASIO drivers were created to help musicians
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and producers using Cubase to record multitrack audio digitally with a minimal amount of time lag
within their digital system. This time lag can be a real buzzkill, and it is called latency. Latency
occurs because the sound you are recording is forced to travel through your operating system, your
system bus, and host application to end up on your hard drive. Like bad plumbing, the signal may
be coming down the pipe, but there are unnecessary clogs and corners that must be navigated along
the way. The gist is that your computer is performing calculations (remember, it’s all numbers for
the computer) and, though they are blazingly fast, it takes a moment for the processor to finish, and
the result is latency.
Live 8 supports ASIO on PCs. (ASIO is unnecessary on Mac OS X, thanks to Core Audio.)
You’ll be happy to know that most popular consumer- and professional-grade audio cards support the format, too. It has become an industry standard and can cut latency down to barely
detectable levels. Properly installed, ASIO drivers will make Live as responsive as a hardware
instrument with less than eight milliseconds of audio delay—practically unnoticeable. ASIO
helps Live users hear the instantaneous results of MIDI commands, audio input/output,
mouse moves, and keyboard commands. Someday, we’ll all look back and laugh that latency
was ever an issue, but for now, count your blessings that there is ASIO. See the “Setting Preferences in Live” section later in this chapter for more on the infamous “L-word.”
ASIO for All If you’re stuck using the internal soundcard of your PC or have an audio card
that doesn’t support ASIO, there still may be hope for you. Michael Tippach has programmed a freeware driver called “ASIO4ALL,” which is available at www.asio4all.com.
If you use it, you will have solved your latency problem, but you’ll still want to consider a
new audio interface because the converters in a pro interface will sound much better than
those used in standard soundcards.
Choosing a MIDI Controller
Nothing makes playing Live more rewarding than cranking real knobs, watching virtual faders
move, and hearing the results. You can move virtual knobs and faders, adjust the amount of
effects and their settings, modify the tempo, and do just about anything else you can imagine, all
by using a MIDI interface. Those people who want to exploit the power of Live’s MIDI sequencing features will also require a good MIDI control device (see Figure 2.3). Even more so than
with audio interfaces, choosing a MIDI interface can be overwhelming because there are so
many different devices with wildly different designs.
Again, the most important thing is to understand your needs. This can be tricky if you are totally
new to production. If that’s the case, the best thing I can recommend is to get something affordable and push it to its limits—it’s the one guaranteed method for discovering what your needs
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Figure 2.3 The Korg Nano controllers are a very inexpensive way to explore different types of MIDI
Here are some factors to consider:
Keys: Even if you don’t play piano, you’ll probably want to have at least two octaves of
piano keys to play with. Some keyboard controllers come with many extra controls and may
be all you need, while others may require that you supplement the controller with another
controller for knobs and buttons. There’s nothing wrong with the latter approach. In fact, it
can be quite convenient to have several small controllers. After all, you might not need one
of them for gigs, and you’ll save space in your gig bag over a larger, fully featured controller.
Drum Pads: Some people can’t live without them. If you like to bang out your beats, drum
pads can make it much more fun. That said, I know folks who have no problem playing
great beats on a piano keyboard or simply drawing in every note with the mouse.
Knobs: Some knobs have a nice smooth feel and have a limited range, just like a knob on an
old synth. Others turn endlessly and click as you turn them. (These are usually referred to
as encoders.) The former are better for musical tasks (such as filter sweeps), while the latter
can be easier to use for scene navigation. Make sure that you know what kind of knobs
you’re getting and what you’ll be using them for.
Faders (and Crossfader): For many of us, volume controls just make more sense on faders
rather than knobs. For precision studio work, a nice big fader with a long throw (range of
motion) is handy, but not essential. Motorized faders are great in the studio but probably
not necessary on stage. In the world of MIDI, a crossfader is just a sideways fader. Whether
or not you need one depends entirely on your style. Live’s crossfader can be controlled
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by any MIDI input, so you can get the functionality of a crossfader from a variety of
nontraditional controls.
Buttons: Some light up, and some don’t. Some have a nice chunky feel, while others are
downright wispy. For use in the studio, turning the metronome on and off, or controlling
Live’s transport, these issues probably aren’t so important. But during a gig, having nice
buttons that light up when you click them can make all the difference.
Joysticks and Touchpads: These are often referred to as X-Y controllers since they can be
moved along two axes. From a MIDI standpoint, a joystick or touchpad is seen as two
separate controllers: one for the horizontal axis and one for the vertical. As you move one of
these controllers, two different control messages are simultaneously transmitted.
Another factor to consider when picking a Control Surface is whether or not it is a supported Control Surface for Live. In Live’s MIDI preferences (see “The MIDI/Sync Tab,” later in this chapter),
there’s a menu that will show you a list of controllers that can be plugged into Live and start remote
controlling it immediately without any mapping. My experience is that Control Surface support is
most useful in the studio because for performance use, I tend to heavily customize my controller
setup and need to map everything manually anyway. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Because there are so many different styles of controllers, this Instant Mapping technology varies
widely from device to device. To see how it’s implemented for various controllers, open up Help
View from the Help menu, then scroll all the way down to the bottom of the Help View and
click on Control Surface Reference Lesson.
Setting Preferences in Live
Optimizing Live’s preferences is essential for smooth operation. Preferences are more than
merely your personal whims about how you would like Live’s interface to be colored, or
where your files are automatically saved. Preferences are your primary control center for finetuning Live’s ability to work in your particular computer/audio environment. From the Preferences menu, you will be able to control default loop traits, audio and MIDI interface settings,
and audio latency settings. Does it sound like too much to manage? Read on, and let’s tame this
beast. To call up the Preferences dialog box on a PC, select Options 4 Preferences; on a Mac
running OS X, select Live 4 Preferences. When you first open the preferences, you will see a
small pop-up window with a number of tabs marked on the side, including Look/Feel, Audio,
MIDI/Sync, File/Folder, Record/Warp/Launch, CPU, User Account Licenses, and Library. We’ll
have a look at each of these in turn.
The Look/Feel Tab
On the Look/Feel tab (see Figure 2.4), you’ll find a number of settings having to do with Live’s
appearance and the way it presents information to you. Let’s look at all the settings.
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Figure 2.4 The Look/Feel tab in Live’s Preferences.
The Language setting chooses the language to use for Live’s menus and messages. The internal
help menus, interface text, and informational messages can be set to read in French, Spanish, and
German, as well as English.
The “Don’t Show Again” Warnings setting deals with the various warnings that come up when
you first perform certain actions in Live. Typically, these warnings will only be seen the first time
you perform a particular action, and then you won’t see them again. If you want to bring back
all these messages and restore Live to the state it was in when you first installed it, click Restore
The third option, Follow Behavior, determines the graphical style used when following the song
position in the Arrange and Clip Views. When set to Scroll, the playback cursor will stay in place
while the window moves smoothly under it. When set to Page, the window will stay stationary
while the cursor moves. When the playback cursor reaches the right edge of the screen, the window jumps ahead so the cursor appears again on the left. The Scroll option is much harder on
your CPU, so if you are experiencing dropouts or sluggish response, set this option to Page.
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The next option here, Hide Labels, helps give you a little more screen real estate once you’ve
memorized all of Live’s components and don’t need the labels anymore. When set to Show, the
Live interface will look normal. When set to Hide, all of the little labels on the interface (such as
Track Delay and Audio To) will disappear.
The next two options are new to Live 8. Permanent Scrub Areas turns on or off the scrub area at
the top of the Arrangement View or the lower half of the waveform display in the Clip View. With
this preference turned on, your mouse will automatically turn into a speaker icon in either of these
locations and can be used to jump to any location. With it turned off, you’ll have to hold down the
Shift key to see the Scrub tool. Zoom is used to scale the entire Live interface larger or smaller.
In this next section of the Look/Feel tab, you’ll find various settings dealing with Live’s color
scheme and appearance.
The Skin setting chooses the skin for Live and sets the overall color scheme. To find the scheme
you like best, simply click the drop-down menu and use the up and down arrows on your keyboard to scroll though the options.
Under the Skin drop-down selector, you’ll also find the Auto-Assign Colors toggle switch and the
Default Clip Color selector. With Auto-Assign Colors on, Live will randomly choose a color for
each new clip or recording. (These color assignments can also be changed at any time for each clip
in a screen called Clip View, which will be covered in depth in Chapter 4, “Making Music in
Live.”) If Auto-Assign Colors is off, the Default Clip Color comes into play to determine which
color Live will default to for all new clips. Of course, color will not affect the sound and is strictly
a matter of preference.
Plug-In Windows
The three options in the next section of the Look/Feel preference tab determine how Live will
display a plug-in’s custom display window.
When Multiple Plug-In Windows is activated, you can open more than one plug-in window at a
time. When this is off, open plug-in windows will be closed any time a new one is opened.
Keeping this option off can help minimize screen clutter. With this preference turned off, you
can still open multiple plug-in windows manually by holding down the Ctrl (Cmd) key.
The second option, Auto-Hide Plug-In Windows, will make plug-in windows appear only for those
plug-ins loaded on a selected track. For example, if you have a MIDI track loaded with an instance
of Native Instrument’s Battery and another MIDI track with LinPlug Albino, Battery will be hidden when the Albino track is selected, and Albino will be hidden when the Battery track is selected.
This can also help minimize screen clutter and thus is especially useful for laptop users.
The third option here is the Auto-Open Plug-In Custom Editor box. When active, the plug-in
window will be opened immediately after the plug-in is loaded onto a track. This makes perfect
sense since you’ll usually need to make some modification to the plug-in after you load it.
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The Audio Tab
The next tab in Live’s preferences, the Audio tab (see Figure 2.5), chooses an audio interface to
use in Live and makes various adjustments to its performance. This tab’s pull-down menus and
options will depend largely on what kind of soundcard you have, whether it is correctly
installed, and what operating system you are using. You will see that I am using a PreSonus
FireBox on a Mac.
Figure 2.5 Live’s Audio Preferences tab.
Audio Device
The first section of the Audio tab is labeled Audio Device. The first setting you can choose here is
the Driver Type you want to use for your audio interface. On the PC, options will include MME/
DirectX and ASIO, and in Mac OS X, you will see just one choice, Core Audio. After you select
the driver type you want to use, you will have a selection of audio devices to choose from in the
subsequent drop-down menus. As noted previously, you will always get better performance with
ASIO drivers, so you should always choose ASIO on PC if this option is available.
Next after Driver Type is the Audio Device setting, where you actually choose the specific soundcard you want to use. In Windows, you will see only a single menu choice here; in Mac OS X, you
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will see separate settings for Audio Input Device and Audio Output Device. Theoretically, you
could choose different devices for input and output; in practice, however, you will probably get
the best performance by using a single audio interface at a time, so you’ll probably want to choose
the same device for both input and output. (If you are not recording, you don’t need to choose an
input device at all.)
Note that you may not find the audio device you want to use when using certain driver types.
For example, the built-in audio cards on laptop computers don’t support ASIO, so you’ll only
find these cards listed when MME/DirectX is selected for Driver Type.
The Channel Configuration settings include two buttons, Input Config and Output Config.
Clicking one of these opens another small pop-up window that activates various inputs and
outputs on your soundcard for use in Live. Only those inputs and outputs that you activate
here will appear in Live’s other menus and selectors. If you don’t need to use all of the inputs
and outputs, you may want to leave them inactive here, as doing so will save you a bit of computing power. (In Chapter 12, “Playing Live…Live,” we will talk further about how to capitalize
on Live’s cueing capability using multiple outputs.)
Please note that Live will always seek out the audio interface last saved in the preferences
each time the program launches. If Live cannot find the soundcard—if, for instance, you
have unplugged it or swapped it out—Live will still launch, but with no audio enabled. In
this instance, you will see a warning message telling you that Live cannot find the audio
card and that audio will be “disabled” upon startup. You will also notice a second red
warning on Live’s actual interface (after the program launches) that says, “The audio engine
is off. Please choose an audio device from the Audio Preferences.” In this case, you won’t be
able to play any sound in Live until you go to the Audio Preferences and select a new audio
Sample Rate
The In/Out Sample Rate setting in the Audio Preferences tab will determine the recording quality
of both Live’s output and recorded input. A good basic sample rate to start out with is
44,100Hz, or 44.1kHz, which is the sample rate for CDs. 48,000 is the sample rate for digital
video, so use this if your target media is DVD. There is much debate regarding the use of higher
sample rates, the details of which go beyond the scope of this book. I never recommend using
anything lower than 44.1kHz.
There is also another setting here labeled Default SR & Pitch Conversion. When set to High
Quality, Live will set the Hi Q switch to its On position for all newly created clips. This causes
Live to use a cleaner algorithm when converting sample rates and transposing clips. Unless
you’re really strapped for CPU power, leave this in the Hi Quality position. You can always
turn this off for individual clips, which you may want to experiment with when using transposition for sound design purposes.
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Latency Settings
The next section of the Audio tab adjusts a number of settings relating to the buffer size and
latency of your soundcard. You may need to experiment with these settings a bit to get the best
possible performance on your particular computer system. Before we get to the experimentation,
though, let’s make sure we understand the problem.
First, recognize that there is both output latency and input latency. There is a minimum amount
of latency that must occur as signal passes through your A/D converters into your computer, just
as there is also a certain amount of time that it takes for your computer to send audio to your
soundcard and through the D/A converters. While this is a very short period of time, things are
complicated somewhat by the fact that we need our audio to play back without interruption,
while at the same time our CPU is being interrupted constantly, handling myriad other tasks
while our audio is playing back. This is where buffers come into play.
Whether you realize it or not, you’ve almost certainly dealt with digital audio buffers before.
When you listen to music on an iPod, there is a slight lag between when you select the song you
want to play back and when you start to hear it. That’s because before you hear anything, a
certain amount of audio is loaded into the device’s memory (the buffer), and then the audio is
played back from the memory rather than directly from the hard drive. This ensures that if you
knock the player around and cause the hard drive to skip, audio will continue to play back from
the buffer while the device finds its way back to the place where it skipped. As long as the device
can keep filling the buffer with data before it’s all been played back, you’ll never hear any problems, no matter how hard you whack it!
The same concept applies to your computer. A very small buffer necessitates a very fast CPU. It
needs to work very fast in order to keep audio playback consistent while it also carries out
background tasks for the OS, updates the display, and does whatever else it has to do. Occasionally, something will cause your CPU to spike momentarily, and if you don’t have a big
enough buffer, audio mayhem will ensue! This is why, for live performances, you want to
make sure you’ve got a big enough cushion to deal with whatever comes up. In the studio,
you can go for lower settings because not only is latency more irritating when recording, but
you also have the flexibility to experiment and correct things as you go along.
The first setting we’ll look at is Buffer Size, displayed as a number of samples, tiny bits of
sampled sound. The lower your Buffer Size setting is, the less latency you’ll experience, but
the more potential problems can arise. In other words, too much buffer will increase the amount
of undesirable latency, yet too little latency can result in your system choking and experiencing
digital pops, audio dropouts, and the like.
You may or may not be able to adjust your soundcard’s buffer size from this Preferences menu.
While in Mac OS X you can usually just click here and drag up or down to adjust the buffer size,
in Windows you will probably need to open your soundcard’s own proprietary driver interface
or control panel, which can be launched with the Hardware Setup button.
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Next, we see the Input Latency and Output Latency values. Output latency is the amount of lag
time between when you trigger a sound or action and when you hear it. Or if you add an effect,
such as distortion or reverb, the extra time that it takes to actually hear that sound is Output
Input latency arises for the same reasons as Output latency. Audio is buffered on the way into
the computer, so Live receives this audio a little later than it should. Fortunately, Live knows it is
behind, and it takes this into account when recording. The result is a take that is recorded in
time. When Input latency starts becoming a problem, though, is when you try to monitor audio
through Live. Now the audio has to pass through the input buffers, through Live and any potential effects that may be loaded, and back to the output buffers before it can reach your ear.
Keeping your buffer settings as low as possible will keep this “double” latency to a minimum.
Round It Off While some soundcard drivers will adjust the buffer in increments of one
sample, Ableton recommends that you set your buffer to one of the binary “round numbers” that we see so often on our computers: 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, and so on.
You may well be able to set your latency time extremely low and have no discernible latency. It
is there all the time, but it is often unnoticeable when using ASIO, WDM, or Core Audio drivers,
which is why these driver types are preferred.
Most professional audio cards, like the ones mentioned above, also feature “direct monitoring,”
which helps alleviate some of the problems of recording with latency. Instead of having Live
blend your input signal with its output signal and buffering it to the audio card, the audio
card will blend your input signal with the output from Live so the input signal doesn’t have
to travel all the way through the computer and back out again. The result is instantaneous monitoring of your input signal—no latency. The drawback is that you will not be able to use effects
on a direct monitored signal because the audio signal is not being sent through the computer.
The audio interface simply routes the input directly to the output.
Audio interfaces are designed to report their latencies to Live so it can offset its operations properly. However, in practice, the reported amount is usually not completely accurate, and there is
some additional latency that you must manually enter into the Driver Error Compensation box.
The last parameter here, Overall Latency, shows the sum of the Input latency and Output latency.
This is the total amount of latency you would hear from an input signal coming into Live.
Beating Latency To find out the exact amount of unreported latency that must be compensated for, look under the Help menu and select Lessons Table of Contents. Scroll down
in the pane that opens up and find Driver Error Compensation under the heading Hardware Setup. This will provide you with superb step-by-step instructions and a custom Live
Set for testing your hardware’s latency.
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The Driver Error Compensation value will only be used to correct the timing of recordings
that are made with Live’s monitor switch set to Off. (Using your interface’s “direct
monitoring” feature is one way to hear what you’re doing when you don’t monitor
through Live.) What this means is that you will have to adjust manually the latency of
recordings made while monitoring through Live. This can be done either by entering the
Driver Error Compensation value into the Track Delay or by adjusting the clip’s start point
by that same amount.
The Test section of the Audio Preferences generates a test-tone sine wave so you can test your
system. You can also adjust the volume and frequency of the test tone using the other parameters
in this section. Here are the steps for testing your system:
Turn on the test tone.
Set the CPU Usage Simulator to its maximum value (80%).
Decrease the buffer size until you start to hear crackling or dropouts in the test tone.
Increase the buffer size until these artifacts go away.
This test will yield a buffer size that will guarantee smooth audio performance in almost all
situations. This will be a good value to use for live performance where stability is paramount.
For situations where you need lower latency, you can test with a lower simulated CPU usage, or
as long as you are working in the studio, just lower the buffer size as low as you want it and
increase it if you have problems.
The MIDI/Sync Tab
This brings us to the third Preferences tab, the MIDI/Sync tab, shown in Figure 2.6. This is where
you can specify which of your MIDI devices will serve as remote controls, MIDI inputs and
outputs, and sources for synchronization.
The first part of this tab contains options for setting up natively supported Control Surfaces in
Live. If you are using an interface that Live supports, you can use one of the drop-down choosers
in the first column (labeled Control Surface) to select it from a list. Once selected, Live will have
all the necessary information to support the device. You can also select the MIDI input and
output ports for the device, although many MIDI controllers these days connect directly to
your computer via USB. Depending on which controller you are using, Live may need to do a
“preset dump” to the device after you have selected it, in order to initialize it with the correct
control values. In this case, the Dump button at right will become active (not grayed out), and
you will need to click it once to do the dump.
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Figure 2.6 The MIDI/Sync tab found in Live’s Preferences box.
The second part of this window shows a list of the MIDI input and output devices available on
your computer. There are columns for the names of each MIDI port found by Live, plus columns
named Track, Sync, and Remote. In order for a MIDI device to be usable, it has to be enabled as
a Track input or output, as a Sync source, or as a MIDI Remote Control.
Enabling Track for a MIDI input device means that you can use it as an input to a MIDI track.
This would be enabled for something like a control keyboard that you use for playing notes on a
virtual instrument. Enabling Track on a MIDI output sends MIDI data from a MIDI track output to an external piece of hardware, such as a sound module.
The Sync option enables the port as a MIDI Sync source or destination. This will have to be
turned on for at least one port for any of the Sync functions to work. When using Sync input, the
EXT switch will appear in the Control Bar and can be used to force Live to slave to an external
tempo source.
The last column, Remote, is especially nifty. By enabling a remote input, you can map any of
Live’s on-screen controls to a physical controller. Live also provides the ability to send feedback
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messages back to MIDI controllers with motorized MIDI knobs and faders, or those with lightup encoders, buttons, and so forth. If you have a Control Surface with these types of controls,
you can enable Remote in the Output table for that device. Once you map a fader or knob to a
MIDI control, Live will move the control anytime its value or position changes on-screen.
The File/Folder Tab
Next you can see the File/Folder tab (see Figure 2.7). Here you can set preferences for how your
various files and folders are handled in Live. This tab also includes some preference settings
dealing with effect and instrument plug-ins.
Figure 2.7 The File/Folder tab.
The first setting here, Save Current Set as Template, is used to save the current Live Set as the
default or template Set that will be loaded each time Live is launched. This can be helpful for
preconfiguring commonly used settings, such as MIDI assignments, input and output routings,
and common effect patchwork (such as EQs on every channel). Note that you can save only one
template in this Preferences tab. For additional templates, you can create additional Sets and
store them in the Templates folder of the Live Library. (More on this in Chapter 13, “Live 8
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The Create Analysis Files option lets you determine whether Live will save audio analysis data
for quick loading in the future. The first time an audio file is used in Live, the program will
create a waveform display and analyze the file for optimal warping. When this option is enabled,
Live will store this information in a file on your computer’s hard disk. The file has the same
name as the sample it is associated with and uses .asd as its extension. The next time the audio
file is used in a Live Set, you won’t have to wait for the graphical display to be rendered again
because the file analysis has been saved.
The Sample Editor setting is for defining the location of your favorite wave editor, such as Sonic
Foundry’s Sound Forge, Steinberg’s Wavelab, Bias Audio’s Peak, or the excellent freeware program, Audacity. Your preferred editor will launch when you press the Edit button in an audio
clip. For a more detailed look at wave editors, please refer to Chapter 13.
Temporary Folder sets a location to temporarily store any files Live needs to create in the course
of its operation. Again, in most cases, you won’t need to change this from its default setting. This
is the folder into which Live places all new recordings made before a Set is saved for the first
Decoding Cache
In order for Live to play MP3-format files, they must first be decoded/decompressed into standard WAV files. These resulting files are stored in the Decoding Cache. The parameters in this
section determine how Live will handle the creation and cleanup of the decoded files.
The first option, Minimum Free Space, is the amount of free space that you always want available on the hard drive. If you set this to 500MB, Live will stop increasing the size of the cache
once there is only 500MB available, which can be extremely important if you only have one hard
drive on your entire computer system (this is frequently the case for laptop users). This setting
will ensure that a minimum amount of space is available on the drive for swapping files and
other housekeeping tasks. Alternately, Maximum Cache Size can be used if you would rather set
a hard limit for the Decoding Cache. For example, you might want to make sure that the cache
never gets bigger than 10GB, regardless of how much drive space you have left. When either of
these limits is met, Live will begin to delete the oldest decoded files to make room for new ones.
You’ll notice that if you add an MP3 to your Set and Live decodes it, Live will not have to
decode the file again if you drag the same MP3 into a Set at a later time. This feature works
this way because the decoded file is still in the cache. If the decoded file gets deleted, you’ll have
to wait again for the previously decoded MP3 to be decoded again. The larger your cache is, the
less this will happen.
Active Sources
The VST plug-in folders can be set to any folder on your machine that holds VST effects
and instruments compatible with Live. Audio Units (Mac OS X only) are stored in Library 4
Audio 4 Plug-Ins4 Components. The only sure way to know if Live is compatible with a plug-in
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is to try it out. To do this, place the plug-in in the appropriate folder and click the Rescan button. If
you can see the new device listed in the plug-in section of Live’s Browser, then chances are that Live
will at least be able to load the plug-in. If it doesn’t work properly, remove it from the VST folder
and drop a friendly note to both Ableton and the plug-in developer about the problem you
Browser Behavior
This section contains settings relating to the search and export functions of Live’s Browser.
If the Automatic Rescan on Each Search option is activated, Live will do a new indexing and
rescan of files in the search location every time you do a search. This feature can be useful if the
contents of a folder have been changed since the last search by an application other than Live, in
which case Live may no longer see the contents correctly.
Collect Samples on Export affects Live’s behavior when clips are dragged from the Session or
Arrange View into the Browser in order to create new Sets or Live clips (see Chapter 3, “Live
Interface Basics.”). If it’s set to Yes, Live will always copy the underlying samples into the new
location, along with the new Sets or Live clips you are creating. Otherwise, these new files will
just refer to the original locations of the samples. If you’re not sure what all of this is about, I
recommend setting this preference to Ask so you can learn by doing.
The Record/Warp/Launch Tab
As you might guess, this tab contains settings dealing with Live’s recording, launching, and clip
launch functions (see Figure 2.8). Let’s look at each of these in turn.
The Record section makes various default settings relating to how Live records audio.
Any time Live attempts to record, either through resampling or from a live input, it will use the
record parameters you set here. First, you can record in WAV or AIFF format. I usually prefer
the WAV format because it is readable by both Mac and Windows applications.
I also recommend setting the bit depth to 24 when recording (the Record Bit Depth option) if
your audio interface supports it. This setting ensures the maximum detail for newly recorded
sounds. You can always render a file downward (to 16-bit), but you cannot upsample later to
add detail that is not there. Think of it this way: A color photo can be degraded to black-andwhite easily, but the reverse—changing black-and-white to color—is much more difficult!
The next option in this section is Count In. When set to None, Live will begin to record immediately when the transport is engaged. If you select a value here, such as 1 Bar, Live will provide
one bar of count-in time (the metronome will sound, but Live will not be running) before it
begins to record. This feature is useful if you’re recording yourself and you need some time to
get to your instrument after you’ve engaged recording.
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Figure 2.8 The Record/Warp/Launch tab.
The Exclusive buttons are used to determine Live Mixer’s behavior when engaging solos and
arming tracks for recording. For example, when Solo Exclusive is on (yellow), only one track
may be soloed at a time. If you click the Solo button of another track, the previous track’s solo
status will turn off. The same is true for Arm Exclusive. Only one track can be record enabled
when this button is active. To solo more than one track at a time in Live, simply hold down the
Ctrl (Cmd) key and click away. You can also arm more than one track at a time for recording by
using the very same method.
The Clip Update Rate is the frequency with which Live recalculates changes to the clip. For
instance, if you transpose a clip in Live while the Clip Update Rate is set to 1/32 note, you
will hear nearly instant changes to the pitch of the loop in the clip. Conversely, choosing a
Clip Update Rate of 1/4 note or the even slower rate of Bar (meaning one update per measure)
will result in changes occurring more slowly.
This section includes various settings relating to Live’s Warp functions, used to warp the time
flow of a given clip.
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The Loop/Warp Short Samples menu determines the default state of a new audio clip, be it a
loop or a one-shot sound. The Auto setting will cause Live to try and determine the nature of an
imported loop on the fly and set its loop and warp settings accordingly.
The next option relates to Live’s Auto-Warp feature. When the Auto-Warp Long Samples option
is on, Live will attempt to determine the tempo of the imported audio file and will place Warp
Markers into the audio clip automatically. This will only happen on long samples—files that
Live assumes to be complete songs. Auto-Warp works better with some kinds of material than
others (for example, dance music with clear tempo and transients), so what you do with Live
will determine whether or not you want this setting enabled.
Default Warp Mode, the next item on this tab, is another story entirely. There are five Warp
modes. Here is a DJ-style breakdown of the five Warp modes in Live. This is a topic central to
understanding how Live works and will be revisited in chapters to follow. Remember, these are
merely the defaults; all can be changed after the clip is loaded in Live.
Beats: Beats mode is the original Live Warp mode. The program automatically breaks up the
loop into sections determined by the Transients settings. For instance, Live can divide a loop
into 1/32 notes, 1/16 notes, 1/8 notes, 1/4 notes, 1/2 notes, and full measures. As long as the
sound is rhythmic, Live does an excellent job of making the loop sound as though it were
recorded at your project tempo. Drum loops, dance grooves, and percussive instrument
loops (bass, short synth, turntables, or funk guitars) can all be stretched convincingly in
Beats mode.
Tones: This is the mode for bass and keyboard lines, melodies, and pitched sounds that are
not necessarily grooving in perfect time with a metronome, such as a legato horn line, a
harmonic chord progression, or even vocals.
Texture: For sounds more complex than melodies and rhythms, Ableton has brought us
Texture mode. This is the mode to use for ambient effects, atonal pads, and indefinable
sounds. Texture mode bears the distinction of further tweaking possibilities with Grain Size
and Flux (fluctuation) controls. These two parameters determine the intensity, severity, and
randomness of Live’s resynthesis. Texture mode can be an excellent sonic deconstructing
tool for any kind of loop, in addition to the ones mentioned.
Re-Pitch: If you’re not looking to adjust the speed and pitch of your samples independently,
Ableton’s Re-Pitch mode defeats all pitch correction and adjusts the tempo as you would
with a turntable’s pitch control or an old-school hardware sampler.
Complex/Complex Pro: These last two modes utilize a high-quality algorithm for warping,
optimized for signals that contain multiple characteristics of the other Warp modes. The
benefit of the Complex modes can be heard best when applied to a fully mixed song. Both
modes are quite CPU intensive, with Complex Pro utilizing the most CPU power and
yielding the cleanest results.
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Also, you can turn all of the above modes off entirely. This means that the sample/loop is played
back exactly as is, at its original tempo and pitch. This no-warping mode can be activated by
deselecting the Warp button in the Audio Clip View.
Finally, the Create Fades on Clip Edges preference can be turned on or off. In its On position, the
Fade switch will be turned on for all new Session View clips (which creates a 4ms fade at the
start and end) and will cause an editable fade to be created for all Arrangement View clips every
time a clip is created or split. For more about fades, see Chapter 4.
When triggering a clip to play, Live gives us some options called Launch modes. The full rundown on these modes can be found in Chapter 4. For now, I recommend leaving the mode on
Trigger or Toggle.
The next setting, Default Launch Quantization, determines the default point at which new clips
will be launched in relationship to the time grid. Any time you launch a clip in Live, you have the
option of launching it on the first beat of the next bar or every second bar, every fourth bar,
every eighth bar, or by picking a note quantifier to begin playback on the very next 1/32, 1/16,
1/8, 1/4, or 1/2 note after you trigger the clip. Of course, this is a grand selection of choices, and
the right selection can depend upon the type of sound you are launching. For instance, an orchestral or ambient guitar sound might not need to be quantized as strictly as a conga or cowbell
loop. You can also opt to turn off Quantization entirely by selecting None from this drop-down
dialog box. When set to Global, the clip’s quantization will automatically follow the global
quantization value in the Control Bar.
The Select Clip on Launch setting will cause the Clip View or the Track View (effects) of a clip to
be displayed immediately when it is played. Otherwise, the view at the bottom of Live’s screen
will only be updated manually (i.e., by double-clicking a clip or a track’s title bar).
Select Next Scene on Launch greatly simplifies the performance of Live sessions. Any time a scene
is launched by keyboard or remote control, Live will automatically advance the scene selector to
the one below it. If you’ve already laid out the sections of your song in a top-to-bottom arrangement on the Session Grid, you can progress through the song with just one button.
Start Recording on Scene Launch determines if clips will begin recording when launched by a
scene. Having this option off will allow you to launch scenes without recording, even if some
tracks are armed. Having this option turned on can be useful for recording several clips simultaneously or starting recording in one track and clip playback in another at the same time.
The CPU Tab
The CPU section of Preferences has only two settings (see Figure 2.9).
The first, Multicore/Multiprocessor Support, should be turned on if you are using a Mac or PC
that has multiple or multicore processors, such as the MacBook Pro with its Intel Core 2 Duo
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Figure 2.9 The CPU tab.
chip. There is also another option to enable Multicore/Multiprocessor support when you are
using Live in ReWire mode.
The Plug-In Buffer Size setting sets the buffer size used when Live passes audio to and from
external plug-ins. Normally, this option should be left on As Audio Buffer. Setting this option
lower will result in your plug-in responding a little more quickly but can easily overburden your
CPU. Make sure to save your work before changing this value, in case you choose a setting too
low for your computer to handle.
The User Account Licenses Tab
The User Account Licenses tab in Preferences shows you all of the Ableton products that are
authorized on your computer (see Figure 2.10).
To authorize products, you can use the link below, which will take you directly to your licenses
page on ableton.com. If the serial number of the product is already in your account and you just
need to authorize it on your computer, use the Authorize This Computer button. Otherwise, you
can use the Add a Serial Number button to type in a new serial number that you’ve purchased.
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Figure 2.10 The User Account Licenses tab.
At the bottom of User Account Licenses tab is the Account section. Click Log In to log in to
ableton.com. Next time, you’ll be logged in automatically. This will be particularly useful if you
use Ableton’s new Share feature, which is discussed in Chapter 13.
The Library tab (see Figure 2.11) shows you the location of the Live Library, which contains all
of the samples, presets, clips, Sets, and grooves that ship with Ableton Live. Third-party developers can create Live Packs that install new content into your Library, and you can save content
there as well. The Live Packs list below tells you all of the content packages that are installed.
Clicking in the list reveals more information about that particular Live Pack and provides you
with an Uninstall button to remove it.
The Change Location button can be used to switch between different copies of the Library or to
create a new Library in the location of your choice. This feature is useful because the Library can
become very large, particularly if you’ve purchased the Ableton Suite, and you may want to
spread it across multiple hard drives. For example, you might want to keep the standard factory
Library on your laptop’s internal drive but store a complete Library with Session Drums and
Essential Instruments Collection 2 on an external drive.
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Figure 2.11 The Library tab.
Let’s say you’ve already got the standard Library installed on your internal drive. To create the
new larger Library, the steps would be as follows:
Click Change Location and browse to a folder where you would like the new Library to
be created. Make sure to name it something meaningful, like Live Library. All necessary
subfolders will be created automatically.
Live will offer you the option to create a new Library or move your existing one.
Choose Create New Library. Live will install all necessary files and select the new
location as the current Library.
Install your additional Live Packs. Use the Change Location button whenever you need
to switch between the two copies of your Library.
The goal of this chapter has been to get you up and running with Live and to give you a general idea
about how the Preferences settings will affect your workflow. As you move through this book,
I will direct you back to the Preferences discussion in this chapter again and again. In Chapter 3, we
will complete your introduction to Live’s two primary views.
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Live Interface Basics
ne of the crowning achievements of Ableton’s software development is the creation of
Live’s simple but elegant interface. Only two views are needed to accomplish everything in Live: Session View and Arrangement View. Session View is geared for use in
live performance, for loop experimentation, and as a quick multitrack recording sketchpad,
while Arrangement View facilitates automation editing, audio and MIDI sequencing, and
song arranging. Each subsection of Live’s pared-down interfaces is intuitive and easy to maneuver and contains built-in help to remind you of any on-screen buttons or features that might be
unclear in the heat of a mix. Ableton’s Zen-like approach to audio software provides solid relief
in a world full of gargantuan multitrack applications that have gaggles of resizable pop-up windows and confusing setup and routing schemes. Instead, Live is a breath of fresh air, boasting
streamlined controls with easy-to-read menus and discernible mixer and effect settings. Even
with the fog machine blowing and lights down low, Live lets you get into the mix, rather
than trying your patience with unnecessary system customization.
In the next few sections, we will break down each section of Live’s two primary landscapes, as
well as point out some timesaving ways to maneuver in Live. Later in the chapter, we’ll look at
some of Live’s more customizable viewing features, a few pertinent file-saving schemes, and the
permanent parts of Live’s screen real estate. Feel free to skip around if you need help in a particular area.
Session View
Live’s Session View (see Figure 3.1) is where you will spend the greater part of your performing
and composing time. Once you’ve had some practice with it, Session View can take on a musical
life of its own and may well be the software world’s first “jam-friendly” songwriter’s sketchpad.
Even better is that after the jam, Live permits an infinite amount of additional recording, editing,
and arranging, which we will get to later in this chapter. There are four main sections contained
within the Session View:
Clip Slot Grid
Scene Launcher
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Figure 3.1 Pictured here is Live’s Session View. This is the window used for live performance. Each clip
slot is a placeholder for audio samples, loops, and MIDI sequences.
Session Mixer
Input/Output Routing Strip
The grid-like display in the upper portion of the screen is the actual Session View, while the side
and bottom retractable rectangle views (such as Browser Info and Track/Clip View) are present
in any view when you want them to be. Session View is where most people experience the creative spark in Live, so if you should create something worth saving while you are working
through this chapter, go to File 4 Save Live Set As and name your new sketch. We should
also point out that while we will cover each element in the interface, the Browser and Info View
will be explained later in the chapter, while Track and Clip Views will be saved for Chapter 4,
“Making Music in Live.”
This ordinary-looking grid will be the launchpad for many a Live jam. Each cell—Ableton calls
them clip slots—can contain a clip. A clip is a musical part that can be triggered to play or stop
via the mouse, computer keyboard, or MIDI controller, depending upon your settings. Each clip
can even be played in similar fashion to an Akai MPC, drum machine, or similar phrase sampler.
For example, you can lay out several sampled drum hits across the 16 pads of a drum controller
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like the M-Audio Trigger Finger and then play them with the comfy rubber pads. Live’s clip slot
grid, which we will explain in detail next, is similar in design and can house an unlimited number of loops, samples, one shots, and MIDI parts.
Clip Slot Grid
Session View’s clip slot grid (see Figure 3.2) is actually the first tool you will use to organize your
musical parts (clips) into a song. Live uses these rows and columns, referred to as scenes and
tracks, respectively, to give you different levels of control. What’s important is that you begin to
think of Live’s clip slot grid as a palette upon which to place your sonic colors (in this case,
musical parts composed of audio files and MIDI data) for later sonic “painting” and further
color exploration (sound combining).
Figure 3.2 The clip slot grid with a few clips loaded in some slots.
Along the bottom of the clip slot grid are the Clip Stop buttons. Clicking the square in one of
these slots will cause any clip playing on the track above it to stop. Also, there is another box
labeled Stop Clips in the Master track at the right. This button, as its name implies, will stop all
clips—both audio and MIDI—when triggered.
Space Out The spacebar starts and stops audio in Live as it does in most other audio soft-
ware applications.
By loading clips into the clip slot grid, you are arming Live with musical ammo. Next steps could
be anything from firing off parts in a live performance to creating new musical combinations
(songs) to switching to the Arrangement View for more editing.
Knobby Digital To adjust any of the virtual knobs found in Live, click the knob and move
the mouse forward and backward just like a fader. In other words, moving the mouse
sideways is a waste of time. Don’t feel silly practicing how this feels; after all, it’s your
“sequencing instrument.”
Some Live users prefer to build their entire song in Live by starting with a Set full of loops and
then using Live’s Session View to organize, improvise, or compose. Other artists may show up to
the gig with a blank slate, along with a stash of well-organized clips and practice building their
mix from the ground up in a more gradual, yet still improvisational way.
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The Scene Launcher
As mentioned previously, the rows in the clip slot grid are referred to as scenes. Since Live can
play only one clip at a time in each track, it makes sense to put each one you want to play in a
horizontal line across the grid. Live then offers you a way to launch all of the clips in the scene
using the Scene Launcher (see Figure 3.3) found on the right side of the clip slot grid in the
Master track. As you get deeper into the program (especially in the next chapter), you’ll see
how using scenes offers you a quick way of arranging and performing a song.
Figure 3.3 Click the triangle to launch all the clips in the scene (row).
The Session Mixer
Live’s Session Mixer, seen in Figure 3.4, approximates a hardware mixer in both concept and
design, but since it’s a software mixer, it is also completely automatable, MIDI mappable, and
expandable. Similar to its hardware cousins, Live’s Session Mixer utilizes a set of individual
channel controls and a Master section.
Figure 3.4 Live’s Session Mixer looks similar to most other virtual mixers. Each vertical strip represents a
channel, with individual values for volume, panning, and routing.
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If you click and drag on the top edge of the Session Mixer, you can resize the mixer so as to
better see what you are doing when editing and mixing. Ableton calls this enlarged view the Pro
Session Mixer (see Figure 3.5). When you make the mixer a bit bigger than the standard size, you
will also see level meters, tick marks, and legends appear, all of which scale with the height of
the mixer. You will also see a Peak Level/Overload button that indicates the maximum level
reached during playback. Widening the mixer by dragging at the upper right-hand corner of a
track’s title bar also reveals a numeric decibel scale next to the meter.
Figure 3.5 The Pro Session Mixer gives you additional controls and readouts for better control of your
final mixdowns.
Audio Tracks and Their Controls
The track shown in Figure 3.6 is an audio track. This type of track has been with Live since the
beginning. You can use audio clips and audio effects (both described in detail later) on this type
of track, and you can use it to record new audio clips.
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Figure 3.6 The audio track can house audio clips and process them with audio effects. The controls
available on audio track are Volume, Pan, Mute, Solo, Record Arm, and Sends.
The audio track outputs an audio signal that is fed into an audio channel of the Session Mixer
below it. The audio channel controls give you control of the output volume, pan position, and
effect sends for the track. The buttons include the Track Activator (the large button containing
the track’s number), which enables the track when it’s yellow and can also be used to mute the
track; the Solo/Cue button, which mutes all other tracks when in Solo mode and allows prelistening of tracks when in Cue mode; and the Record Arm button, which enables the track for recording, as well as monitoring for tracks set to Auto (monitoring will be explained in a few sections).
MIDI Tracks and Their Controls
A MIDI track without a virtual instrument inserted (see Figure 3.7) does not output audio; thus,
there are no Volume, Pan, or Send knobs for them in Session Mixer. You still have the Track
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Activator, Solo/Cue, and Arm buttons, which function the same way as their audio track counterparts. When a virtual instrument is loaded onto the track (see Chapter 7, “Using Effects and
Instruments”), the full audio track controls explained previously will appear instead.
Figure 3.7 The MIDI track does not have a Volume or Pan control if there is no virtual instrument
loaded into its Track View.
Return Tracks and Their Controls
The Return tracks (see Figure 3.8) output audio, but unlike their audio track cousins, they can’t
hold any clips. What good is a track that can’t hold clips? While they may not add new parts to
your song, they can still hold effects and can receive input from both the Send knobs and Audio
Output routing. These can be used for send-style effects like reverbs and delays or to group
tracks together by routing the individual track outs to the Return track. Since clips can’t be
used on Return tracks, there is no Record Arm button. See Chapter 7 for a full explanation
of Return tracks and their uses.
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Figure 3.8 The Return track is basically an audio track without clip slots.
You Send Me Notice that even Return tracks have sends. However, by default, the sends
on Return tracks are disabled. To enable them, right-click the Send knob and select Enable
Send. Any send in Live can be disabled by right-clicking (Ctrl+click Mac) it and choosing
Disable Send. The Send control will now appear grayed out.
Function’s Function Your computer’s first eight function keys (F1 through F8) double as
channel-mute shortcut keys for Live’s Session Mixer. F1 works for channel 1, F2 for channel 2, and so on up to channel 8. This is an exceptionally handy tool for live performance
when you are looking to mute and un-mute parts in a hurry—a technique employed by
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many DJs and electronica artists. Those using Mac laptops will need to hold the Fn key to
use the function keys in this fashion or enable Use the F1-F12 keys to Control Software
Features in the Keyboard & Mouse System Preferences pane.
Master Track and Its Controls
The Master track, shown in Figure 3.9, is the granddaddy of them all. All tracks outputting to
Master will pass through this track on their way to your speakers. You can’t make or destroy the
Master track, and like the Return tracks, it cannot house clips. In place of the clip slots are the
Scene Launchers explained earlier. The Master track provides you with one final place to treat
your mix: It has a Track View that can be loaded with effects such as mastering EQ and
Figure 3.9 Your entire mix will pass through the Master track, so it’s a good place to add any final
effects to your song.
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compression. You’ll also find the Preview/Cue volume knob here, which adjusts the pre-listen
level for browsing audio files and also sets the volume of the metronome.
Solo/Cue The Solo/Cue switch and the Preview/Cue volume knob are both here in the
Master track. The knob controls the volume of all pre-listening functions, such as cueing
tracks and previewing audio files in the Browser. If you’ve selected unique outputs for your
Cue Out (also set in the Master track when the In/Out section is showing), the Solo button
above the knob may be switched to Cue. When Cue is active, the Solo buttons on the
audio tracks will turn to Cue buttons (little headphone icons). When you press one of
these Cue buttons, Live will route that track to the Cue output without muting the
other tracks. You can use this feature to listen to a track before bringing it into the mix.
Track Delay
The Track Delay feature (see Figure 3.10) is a godsend when synchronizing loops and external
MIDI gear. With this feature, you can manually nudge entire tracks ahead or behind of the
current play location. This is handy if, for example, you have a piece of external MIDI gear
that responds sluggishly. (This is more common with older MIDI devices.) If you dial in a negative Track Delay value for the MIDI track, Live will send the MIDI data to the external device
just a little earlier than normal. The result is that you’ll hear the external device play in time
instead of sounding a little late. This parameter can also be used creatively to make a part rush
or drag a bit.
New to Live 8, Track Delay can be set in samples as well as milliseconds, allowing for extremely
minute adjustments. This may be particularly useful when correcting for inaccurately reported
latency from plug-ins. Note that in order to hear the effects of Track Delay, Delay Compensation must be activated under the Options menu. To make the Track Delay setting visible at the
bottom of each track, select the Track Delay option under the View menu.
Figure 3.10a The Track Delay feature is a handy way to compensate for sluggish MIDI gear.
Figure 3.10b To view the Track Delays, you’ll need to make sure that the D switch at the far right-hand
corner of Live’s main window is highlighted.
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The Crossfader
Live also features a MIDI-mappable DJ-style crossfader. (Live calls it just a plain old crossfader.)
For over 20 years now, analog crossfaders have been making magicians out of DJs by enabling
them to mix two or more tracks together, juggle those mixes, and break up monotonous loops
with one simple gesture. Scratch DJs have also taken crossfader technique to incredible levels.
The Live adaptation of the analog crossfader is the humble-looking horizontal slider just below
the Master Volume section (see Figure 3.11). To make the crossfader visible if you can’t see it,
select Crossfader from the View menu.
Figure 3.11 Live’s crossfader adds a whole new set of performance (and mix) tools to Live’s Session
View. The A and B buttons assign their respective tracks to one side of the crossfader or the other.
To use the fader, you will have to assign Session Mixer channels to either the A (left) or B (right)
side of the crossfader. If you are new to crossfaders, think of it as a double-sided volume fader.
As you move to the right (to increase the volume of all channels set to B), you decrease the
volume of all channels set to A. The reverse holds true when you come back to the left—A
channels get louder, while B channels get quieter. Any tracks assigned to neither A nor B will
be played back regardless of the crossfader position. To get an idea of what you can do with this,
try assigning a drum groove to A and an alternate groove to B, while leaving all other parts
unassigned. Now gradually flip back and forth on the crossfader.
By mapping a MIDI controller to control Live’s crossfader, you can add a whole new performance element (see Chapter 4 for instructions on mapping). If you don’t have a controller with a
crossfader, you can use the modulation wheel on a keyboard, a standard fader, keys, buttons, or
even your computer keyboard. When you enter one of the Map modes (by pressing the Key or
MIDI button in the upper right-hand corner), you will see that the crossfader has three sections
(see Figure 3.12). Mapping the center section to a MIDI controller will give you access to the
entire range of the fader, while the outer edges let you map the absolute left and right positions
for fast cuts. This way, you can have a crossfader that is controlled by a single MIDI fader, three
individual keys, or any combination thereof. Welcome to the future!
Figure 3.12 The crossfader is different than most of Live’s controls in that it has three separate areas
that can be mapped to MIDI controllers or the computer keyboard.
Right-clicking (Ctrl+click Mac) on the crossfader will reveal the crossfader modes. These control
the volume curve that will be used when transitioning between A and B. Constant, Dipped, and
Intermediate are curves that slowly change the volume across the entire range of the crossfader.
With all three of these modes, you will notice a gain reduction to both sides in the center position
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(Dipped reduces gain the most, Constant the least). This compensates for the volume overload
you get from mixing together two powerful sources like dance tracks. Fast Cut, Slow Cut, and
Slow Fade have both sources at maximum amplitude before the center position is reached. Slow
Fade provides the largest amount of transition between the two, with Fast Cut providing almost
none, and Slow Cut is in between the two.
Who Hid My Crossfader? Having a hard time finding some of the interface elements
shown in the previous figures? You can show or hide sections of the Session View by
clicking the small icons to the right of the Master Volume slider. You can also turn the
same sections on and off by selecting them in the View menu.
Track Input and Output Routing
Live’s Session Mixer is even more flexible once you get under the hood. The Input/Output Channel
Routing is capable of routing any input imaginable into a Live track from external audio and MIDI
sources, ReWire clients, and other Live tracks by merely clicking the menus (see Figure 3.13) and
Figure 3.13 The Input/Output Channel Routing strip. In Live, you have the choice of configuring input
type and channel, as well as output type and channel for audio and MIDI tracks. Return tracks only have
the output options.
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picking your source. The input source is labeled Audio From, and the output destination is labeled
Audio To. Any multichannel input, such as an eight-channel sound card or multiple-output software such as Propellerhead’s Reason, can have inputs routed to correspond with any given channel. If, for example, you want Microphone Input number one to be recorded on Session Mixer
channel one (or any other), the drop-down menus will accomplish this.
Mixer routings have been made even more flexible by the addition of Pre FX, Post FX, and Post
Mixer options (see Figure 3.14). These options will appear in the mixer’s input section whenever
you have selected another track as the track input.
Figure 3.14 The Pre FX, Post FX, and Post Mixer options give you more control over internal mixer
Any ReWire applications currently residing on your computer will also be seen in the Audio
From drop-down menu. (ReWire is a software-linking technology invented by Propellerhead
that allows Live to run, control, or be controlled by programs such as Reason, SONAR, Cubase,
and Pro Tools. See Chapter 11, “ReWire,” for the lowdown.) By routing a ReWire application
through Live’s inputs, you will be able to monitor and record that application’s audio output as
you would another audio source.
You will also see Resampling in the Inputs section. This is available in case you want to send
Live’s own output to itself—for instance, if you have finished a track and want to render your
song in real time, or if you want to make a quick submix of more than one track. These various
inputs and methods will be covered in the next three chapters.
Cloning and Grouping Tracks Live’s Input/Output section can be used to feed audio or
MIDI from one track to many other tracks. For example, you could send one MIDI clip
to multiple tracks and trigger different instruments to create a layered sound. It’s also
possible to send the output from multiple tracks into a single track. This could be useful
for creating a submix from a group of individually miked drum tracks.
Splitting one track’s output into multiple tracks is done by setting the input source on the
receiving tracks to the source track. To send a group of tracks into a single track, set
the output destination of each track to the track you want to group them into. Set the
monitor switch to In on the destination track in order to have the audio or MIDI from
the source pass through it.
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Arrangement View
Beginners may think of it as merely Live’s “other” window, but Arrangement View (seen in
Figure 3.15) is the place for recording and editing your Live Session View jams, performing
overdubs, automating additional effects, and rendering your final track. If Session View is the
spontaneous right-brain-tickling creative screen, Arrangement View is the analytic left-brainstimulating, “finishing touches” side of Live. You may notice that Live’s Arrangement View
closely resembles many other multitrack applications’ Arranger screens. Many other programs,
such as Digital Performer, SONAR, Cubase, Logic, and Pro Tools, are based on horizontal, leftto-right audio arrangers (also called linear-based arrangers). If you like this method of working,
you will be right at home making music in Live’s Arrangement style.
Figure 3.15 Live’s Arrangement View will contain the results of your recorded Session View songs. Each
horizontal line in Arrangement View represents a track that corresponds to a vertical channel in the
Session Mixer.
For those who didn’t read the figure caption, here it is again: Each track in Session View corresponds precisely to its track counterpart in Arrangement View. If you have eight tracks in Session
View, you will have eight tracks in Arrangement View. You can add a track in either view, and it
will appear in the other as if you were working on the same project—because you are.
There is, however, a very important distinction between Session View and Arrangement View.
Once you record your music from Session View into Arrangement View, you will hear your new
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arrangement (playing from Arrangement View) until you override it by executing a control in
Session View or by actively moving a previously automated control.
This is actually a great feature, but it can baffle those making the switch from a traditional linearbased sequencer application. The idea rests on Session View being a palette for musical “painting”
in Arrangement View. You can record a single run-through (a take) and then move to Arrangement
View to edit your song to completion. Or you can do multiple takes or punch-ins by again activating Global Record and overdubbing additional song parts into Arrangement View from Session
View. This is also a great method for touching up previously recorded automation data.
This is an extremely important concept to grasp, so let’s look at it a bit more closely by loading
up the example Set titled Automation.als. After you have loaded the file, which can be found in
the Examples 4 Chapter 3 folder in the online examples (see www.courseptr.com/downloads),
follow the steps below.
When you load Automation.als, you will be looking at a simple song in Live’s
Arrangement View. Press the Tab key on your computer keyboard to switch to Session
Take a look at the Session Mixer and notice all the red markings. These markings mean
that the knob, fader, or button has associated automation data in the Arrangement
View. (Automation data consists of the recorded movements of every fader, knob, or
button you moved when you did your Live recording.) Press the spacebar and watch all
these controls move automatically as the song plays.
Now move the volume slider on Track 2. Notice that the red blip on this control turns
gray, and the red light on the Back to Arrangement button (in the Control Bar) lights up.
You have now told Live to ignore that specific fader’s automation and use your manual
setting. This fader will no longer move automatically as you play the song.
To reinstate the automation—so you can listen to the song’s original recording settings—
simply press the red Back to Arrangement button on the Control Bar to the right of the
Record button. Notice how Track 2’s fader level jumps back to its original position.
Session or Arrangement? Important: Any time you move a control that has been auto-
mated, Live ceases playback of that particular control’s automation. The same holds
true for clips: Any time you launch a clip from Session View, it will override the clip that
was playing back on the corresponding track in the Arrangement View. If you flip to the
Arrangement View, you’ll see that the clip on the corresponding track is now faded out,
indicating its inactivity.
Bear in mind that you can only be sure that you are hearing the mix from Arrangement
View when the Back to Arrangement button is unlit (Figure 3.16). You should always
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double-check exactly what you are hearing (either your recorded arrangement as-is or
Arrangement clips and automation combined with Session clips and manual settings) if
Live seems to be “misbehaving.”
Figure 3.16 Whether you are in Arrangement View or Session View, you can always revert to the
Arrangement View’s mix settings, which usually contain automation, by pressing the Back to Arrangement button.
This view-dependent mixer setting concept constitutes a drastic difference from other recording
applications you may be used to. The reasoning here is simple: You will want to hear entirely
different settings on your improvised remix or jam than you will on a finished piece of music. It
can be handy to remove the automation or, if you are in Session View, to hear the automation at
a moment’s notice. For this reason, and others we will delve into later, remember that Arrangement and Session View track settings are not always the same mix—hence, they will not necessarily sound the same.
Icon Flip In the upper-right corner of the Live window are two icons: one with three ver-
tical lines and one with three horizontal lines. These icons can be used to switch between
the Session and Arrangement Views. You access the Session View using the icon with the
vertical lines (tracks in the Session View are oriented vertically) and the Arrangement View
using the other icon with its horizontal lines.
Track Settings and Contents
The Arrangement View’s track settings are located on the right side of the screen and take up
about one-third of the working portion of the Arrangement View, as seen in Figure 3.17. To
maximize (view) a track, click the downward-pointing triangle. Any clips on that track will
reveal their contents and several hidden track settings.
Each Arrangement track is still bound by the same rules as the tracks in Session View. Only one
clip can play at a time in an Arrangement track. You can add clips to Arrangement tracks the
same way you added them to the Session View. Simply drag the desired file from the File
Browser into an Arrangement track. The clip will appear, and you will be able to move it,
copy it, lengthen or shorten it, and perform other editing features described in the “Arrangement”
section of Chapter 4.
Volume, Panning, FX Sends, Solo, Mute, Arm for Recording, and the same track routing features found in the Session Mixer are still accessible in Arrangement View. The only difference is
visual: The controls have been turned on their sides and are represented by values instead of
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Send B
Send A
Figure 3.17 Each track in Arrangement View has the same controls as the tracks in Session View. This
makes sense since the Arrangement tracks and Session tracks are actually the same.
graphical controls. The Session Mixer’s Master Settings are located on the bottom line of Live’s
Arrangement View.
Relation to the Session View
Though the Arrangement and Session Views seem like two different sections in the Live environment, they are actually closely related to one another. In Live, there are two places to arrange
and play clips: the Arrangement View and Session View. However, there is only one mixer in
Live, and this means that the Arrangement and Session Views need to share it. Just as only one
clip can be playing on a track at a time, only one track—either from the Session or Arrangement
View—can be fed into a mixer channel at a time.
If you are playing clips on a track in the Session View, they will override any clips in the associated track of the Arrangement View. When you press the Back to Arrangement button, the
tracks in the Arrangement View will take over, and all clips in the Session View will stop.
This relationship between the two views means that you can arrange a song in the Arrangement
View but begin improvising in the Session View. When your improvisation is done, press the
Back to Arrangement button, and your preset Arrangement View will take over.
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Standing tall above Live’s Arrangement/Session Views and just below the Control Bar is the Overview of your Live Arrangement (see Figure 3.18). The Overview, which resembles a musical staff,
is there purely for navigation and reference to show you where you are in your Arrangement. So
long as you have clips in Live’s Arrangement View, it offers a bird’s-eye view of your entire composition. You will see tiny colored lines representing your clips in the Arrangement View. You
can hide the Overview by pressing Ctrl+Alt+O on a PC or Option+Cmd+O on a Mac.
Figure 3.18 Live’s Overview is a view from above.
To use the Overview to move to a new location, place the cursor over the portion of the Overview bar you want to move to, and the magnifying-glass icon will appear; click once, and you
will be moved to the corresponding location in the Arrangement. To zoom in and out, hover
over the Overview bar, depress the mouse button (left on PC), and move the mouse up and down
to zoom in and out, respectively. Clicking and moving the mouse left or right will move the
visible area of the Arrangement. You can skip quickly from the beginning to the end with
one click of the mouse—though we should point out that you will still need to place your cursor
in the desired location and then press your spacebar to start playback. Try this a couple of times,
because it takes some getting used to.
Tab = Flip To see Live’s other screen, simply press the Tab key; for example, if you’re in the
Session View, press Tab, and the Arrangement View window will appear. Press Tab once
again to return to Session View and then, just for fun, hit F11 to see Live’s full screen view
(or F11 again to go back to Live’s previous dimensions).
Note that Mac users with Exposé enabled will have to use Ctrl+F11 to enter full screen
view. Or you can enter your Exposé settings (in the System Preferences) and reassign the
F11 function to another key.
The Live Control Bar
Headlining each of Live’s two working views (Session and Arrangement) is Live’s own version of a
transport bar. Typically, transport bars function as the start/stop mechanism and song position
finder all in one. Although transport bars are often free-floating in many other applications, in Live
the Control Bar (see Figure 3.19) is fixed to the top of your screen. Still, most power users default
to keyboard shortcuts such as the spacebar for starting and stopping playback, rarely using the
icons at the top of the screen. Also, many Live aficionados map Live’s Control Bar functions to
MIDI or computer keyboard controls. We will cover this in detail later in this section.
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Figure 3.19 Live’s Control Bar remains constant at the top of both of Live’s main views. Here you will
find standard symbols for Stop, Play, and Record, as well as time/tempo information and other project
In the Control Bar, you will find pertinent song information, such as time signature, tempo, and
processor load (a vital stat for the computer-based musician). The Control Bar will also help you
pinpoint your exact location within the song and determine Live’s Master Quantize settings, and
Tap Tempo and a metronome make recording your Live projects from scratch just a tad more
Tempo and Time Signature Controls
On the left side of the Control Bar, you will find settings for song parameters (see Figure 3.20).
The buttons are (from left to right): External Sync Switch, External Sync Indicators, Tap Tempo,
Tempo, Tempo Nudge, Time Signature, and Metronome.
Figure 3.20 This subsection of the Control Bar is devoted to time, including MIDI Sync, Tempo, and
Time Signature.
You won’t see the external controls unless you’ve already set up an external sync source or
destination in the MIDI/Sync Preferences tab (see Chapter 2, “Getting Live Up and Running”).
You’ll need to do this if you want Live’s tempo to be set by an external device or if you want
Live to control the tempo of a drum machine, synth, or sequencer. The External Sync switch
engages or disengages Live’s MIDI synchronization to an outside source, while the monitoring
lights announce that the MIDI sync signal is being sent or received.
The Tap Tempo button is a handy song-starting feature in Live. For a quick test drive of one of
Tap Tempo’s features, click the button four times, and your project will begin at that tempo.
This is a handy feature if you need to sync up with your drummer or match another device such
as a turntable or CD player. You can also use Tap Tempo to help map out songs and align
groove clips better. Sound confusing? Don’t worry, Chapters 5 and 6 will clear it up.
Next up are Live’s project Tempo and Time Signature settings, which are found just to the right
of the Tap Tempo button. Live can handle tempos ranging from 20 to 999 BPM (beats per
minute) and time signatures with numerators ranging from 1 to 99 and denominator choices
of 1, 2, 4, 8, and 16—a huge range of possibilities.
Moving to the right of Time Signature, you come to Tempo Nudge Down, followed by Tempo
Nudge Up. These controls are used to momentarily change Live’s master tempo in order to bring
it into sync with another source, much the way a DJ beat matches two tracks by physically
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dragging the record back or speeding it up slightly before letting go of it. Tapping these controls
will yield very slight tempo changes (less than 1 BPM), while holding them down can be used to
slow the tempo to a third of its original value or speed it up by as much as two-thirds. Releasing
either control immediately returns Live to its original tempo.
Finally, we come to Live’s Metronome button. When this button is engaged, you will hear a click
(metronome) that can serve as a guide for new recordings and help with loop editing. The volume of the click can be adjusted by using the Preview/Cue volume knob in Live’s Master track
(the same knob you use for adjusting the preview volume when browsing for samples).
Data Entry All numeric controls in Live, such as the tempo, can be adjusted in two ways.
You can click on the control and type in a value, or you can click and drag your mouse up
or down. The Tempo control also has a nifty shortcut available. To adjust the Fine Tempo
(the values to the right of the decimal point), hold down the Cmd key (Ctrl on the PC)
while dragging.
Transport, MIDI, and Quantization Controls
Most starting and stopping in Live is best handled with the spacebar (tap it once to start, tap it
again to stop); however, the second area of Live’s Control Bar (Figure 3.21) has Start and Stop
buttons. You will also find the Arrangement Record, MIDI Overdub, and Back to Arrangement
buttons here, which you will use during the track-editing process.
Figure 3.21 Here is the second element of Live’s Control Bar. Keep your eye on the Quantization menu.
This is the key to sounding like a pro when you fire off your loops.
Other points of interest include the Arrangement Position box and the Global Quantization
menu. The Arrangement Position box provides a continuous readout—in measures, beats, and
subdivisions—of where you are in the song, whether you’re listening or recording. You can manually enter a start time value into this box or drag up and down with the mouse to change the
The Quantization menu, to the right of the Record button, sets the launch timing for clips that
are set to Global Quantization (more on this in Chapter 4). You have the option of selecting
1/32, 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and multiples of the full bar. What this means is that each clip triggered
in the Session View will “fire” at the very next subdivision you have selected. For instance, at the
Bar setting, your “fired” clip will not begin to play until the first beat of the very next measure. If
your setting is 1/16, your clip will begin playing at the next 1/16 note. You can imagine how this
quantitative correction tool will clean up your performance. This can be a huge help and a very
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cool trick for guiding rapid-fire sample sections or just ensuring that your next scene launches
right on the first beat.
If you want your music to breathe more, or you’re working in a context where referring to a
master tempo is undesirable, you can also set this menu to None for no quantization at all. Any
clip (set to Global) will sound the instant it is launched.
Punch In/Out and Loop
This section of Live’s Control Bar, shown in Figure 3.22, is used in conjunction with the Arrangement View. The outermost controls are the two loop points: the start and the end. They also
double as the punch-in and punch-out locations. In the center of this section is the Loop switch.
When depressed, Live’s playback will loop (the defined start/end length) continuously, as opposed
to playing though to the end of the song. If the two punch points (located next to the start/end
controls) are activated, Live can be set to record a select length of audio or MIDI without you
having to worry about accidentally going over sections you want to leave alone. We will cover
recording in detail in later chapters, so don’t worry if this description seems a little brief.
Figure 3.22 Live’s Loop Start and Loop End controls also double as the punch-in and punch-out
Computer Keyboard, Key and MIDI Assigns, System Performance, and MIDI I/O
The fourth segment of the Control Bar (see Figure 3.23) is the system-monitoring and Key/MIDI
setup area. The keyboard icon on the left turns MIDI input from the alphanumeric computer
keyboard on and off; this is a feature that allows you to use your computer’s keyboard as a MIDI
input device, which can be handy when working on a laptop on the go. We will discuss MIDI
and computer-keyboard remote control in Chapter 4; however, we should point out that the Key
(Key Map mode switch) and MIDI (MIDI Map mode switch) buttons are your entrance points
to controlling Live without using your mouse. Ableton was ingenious enough to make sure that
all MIDI and keyboard mapping could be done on the fly, without ever stopping playback—no
small feat.
Figure 3.23 Pictured above is the fourth segment of Live’s Control Bar. From here, you can monitor
your hardware (CPU load and MIDI input/output action) and set up your Key and MIDI controls.
Knowing how much gas is left in the tank—or whether you’re running on fumes—is important
in the computer world. Here to help, Live’s CPU Load Meter continuously shows the amount of
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strain on your system for audio processing. If this bar approaches 100 percent, you may begin to
experience performance degradation or audio dropouts. The Hard Disk Overload Indicator (the
letter “D”) just to the right of the CPU meter will flicker red if your computer is not able to get
data from the hard drive quickly enough. This will also result in dropouts and usually occurs
because your hard drive is too slow for the number of audio clips you are trying to play back
MIDI Prognosis The last two indicators, just right of the Disk Overload Indicator, represent
MIDI input and MIDI output signal presence by lighting up (turning colors) when Live is
sending or receiving MIDI signals.
The two similar indicators between the MIDI Map mode and Key Map mode buttons will
illuminate when an incoming message is assigned to a MIDI remote function.
Live’s Custom Views
Live also hosts several windows that can be hidden and are accessible in both Session and
Arrangement Views. These secondary windows enable you to explore your loops and files,
Live’s devices, plug-in effects, grooves, and Live’s Info View, which is an integrated help system
that displays information about whatever you move your mouse over. These windows pop up or
close with the click of a single triangle-shaped icon, except for the Groove Pool, whose icon is a
pair of wavy lines (see Figures 3.24 and 3.25). For instance, if you are working on a song arrangement, you will not need to have the File Browser open; or, if you are familiar with Live, you can
close the Info View to give more space to the Clip and Track Views. After some experimentation,
you will discover your favorite working views in Session or Arrangement View. The idea is that
you may want to hide collapsible windows in order to maximize screen real estate.
The Browser
The Browser window (see Figure 3.25) provides the means to access all of the prefab elements you
will add to a Live Set: audio files, MIDI files, and Live clips. It’s also used to access Live’s built-in
devices (instruments, MIDI effects and audio effects) and third-party plug-ins. When you’re in
MIDI or Key Map mode, the Browser displays mappings and allows you to perform some editing
functions. The Browser is retractable and located in the upper-left section of either the Session or
Arrangement View. By clicking the leftward-pointing triangle-shaped arrow, you can hide this window. Conversely, if the arrow is pointing toward the right, simply click once to view the Browser.
File Browsers
The folders numbered 1, 2, and 3 give you access to Live’s File Browsers, which are used to
access files on your hard drives, much the way you would with Windows’ Explorer or the Finder
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Figure 3.24 Live’s Session View with the Browser, Groove Pool, Info View, and Clip View (see Chapter 5,
“The Audio Clip”) maximized (open). With these optional views closed, you’ll be able to see a greater
number of tracks and clips.
in OS X. The three browsers are identical in functionality but can be set to three different locations on your drive for quick access.
Warning! Do not underestimate the power of Live’s Browser (see Figure 3.26). With it, audio
and MIDI can be previewed in real time at the project tempo. Previewing can be toggled off and
on by clicking the miniature set of headphones in the lower left-hand corner of the Browser, next
to a small display showing the contents of the file. In the case of audio, this will be a waveform
display; for MIDI, the display will read Click to Preview.
When Preview is on, simply click a file in the Browser, and Live will begin previewing it on the
next downbeat. If you want to play back the file from a location other than the beginning, float
your mouse over the preview display until it turns into a speaker. Now you can click to play
back from any point in the file. You can also force a clip to play back at its original tempo by
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Figure 3.25 Located on the far and upper left-hand side are switches to display Live’s internal Device,
Plug-in, and File Browsers.
Figure 3.26 The Browser’s Preview allows you to listen to audio or MIDI clips from any point at either
the current project tempo or their original tempo.
clicking the Raw switch next to the preview display. Be aware that there are some cases where
Live won’t be able to play an audio file back at the current master tempo, and the speaker icon
won’t appear to allow navigating through the file. In these cases, you’ll need to warp the file
manually. Don’t worry, warping will be discussed in detail in Chapters 5 and 12.
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Cuing the Mix You can adjust the volume of loops heard via Live’s pre-listening feature by
rotating the virtual Preview/Cue volume knob on Live’s mixer. In Session View, you will
see this control near the bottom of the master channel in the lower-right corner of your
mixer. In the Arrangement View, the Preview/Cue volume appears as a number in a blue
box located to the right of Master channel output.
When the Solo/Cue switch is set to Cue, the pre-listen output will be routed to the Cue
Out instead of the Master, enabling you to preview files during a performance. Whether
you choose to do this or not depends on how you like to work. Some people don’t use
the Browser during a performance at all—they already have all of their files in the Session
Drag and Drop
If you happen to like the sounds you are hearing when previewing loops, simply drag and drop
the part(s) into either the Session or Arrangement View. You can place the loop in a clip slot in
Session View or onto a track (at any point you like) in Arrangement View. The sound file can
then be accessed immediately in Live’s Clip View.
Conversely, if you like a clip that you’ve created using Live’s clip settings and effects, you can
drag the clip from Live back into the Browser to store a new Live clip there. You will then have
access to this new clip in any project you work on in the future. When you drag it back into an
empty track in another project, the original effects and instruments associated with the clip will
automatically be loaded into the track. You can also perform this trick on multiple clips simultaneously. If you select a group of clips and drag them over to the Browser, Live will create a
new Live Set in this location with tracks for all the clips you’re saving.
Another feature of the File Browser is the ability to drag portions of Live Sets, or even entire Live
Sets, into your current project. When you see a Live Set in the Browser (indicated by the Live
icon and the file extension .als), you will see a small triangle in front of it, just like you see in
front of the folders. You can click this triangle to “unfold” the Live Set so you can see the individual tracks in the Set. You can drag any of the tracks or the entire Set right into your current
project. Additionally, if you drag these new elements into empty tracks or into the empty space
in the Session or Arrangement View, Live will reload all of the effects and instruments associated
with the parts.
On top of all this, the Live Browser works almost identically to Explorer (on the PC) or Finder
(on the Mac). You can drag and drop files and folders from one location into another, use the
Copy, Cut, and Paste commands (Ctrl/Cmd+C, Ctrl/Cmd+X, and Ctrl/Cmd+V, respectively), as
well as rename and delete files. Right-clicking (Ctrl+clicking on Mac) on a Live Set or other file
in the Browser will bring up a contextual menu with options for searching, renaming, deleting,
and creating folders and clips.
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Navigating the Browser
The default position of Live’s File Browser will be the same position that you were searching
when you last closed Live. To facilitate faster manual searches, Live enables you to set up shortcuts within three different File Browser placeholders (seen in Figure 3.27). These will save you
time, as well as aid in the time-consuming process of organizing your loops for a live show.
Figure 3.27 The File Browser placeholders. They may be tiny, but they are a mighty big time-saver.
At the top of the Browser, just below the Tap, Tempo, and Time Signature information, is the
title bar (Figure 3.28). You will see a set of headphones at the upper-left corner; this is Live’s
Preview button, which allows you to preview clips (see above). The title of the window will be
either one of Live’s default locations, such as the Library (Live’s preloaded library of sample presets) or the path of the folder you are currently browsing. This is followed by a small down arrow;
click here to view a list of other locations on your computer and jump to them quickly. In addition
to the default locations, you will also see a list of folders you have bookmarked, allowing you to
jump to them quickly. You can bookmark a folder in the Browser by right-clicking (Ctrl+clicking
on Mac) and choosing Bookmark Folder from the context menu that pops up.
Figure 3.28 The Browser’s header bar and drop-down menu.
Further to the right in the title bar, you will also see a small magnifying glass symbol; clicking
here will cause the Browser’s search box to appear, allowing you to search the folder you are
viewing for a particular file or clip.
You can navigate the Browser more easily by setting important locations in advance. Since you
have three separate File Browser Choosers, you can set three different locations. Here’s how to
do it:
Open Live’s Browser and click one of the File Browser Choosers (the file folder icons
numbered 1, 2, and 3).
Next, click into the folder you would like to browse sounds from by cycling down
the file folder tree. You may need to click through several folders to get to the one you
are after.
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Now double-click on the folder you would like Live to default to for this File Browser.
You can also right-click on the folder and Set as Root from the context menu. This
location will now be opened whenever you select this Browser. The path to this folder
will also appear in the title bar of the Browser.
If you change your mind or want to go back to a folder that you cannot see, double-click
Parent Folder at the top of the Browser to work your way up through the hierarchy.
Alternately, you can click the small down arrow just to the right of the path name and
select All Volumes to work your way down from the top.
Searching for Files
You can also search for files in Live 8 using the Search function in the Browser (see Figure 3.29).
This will allow you to find files in your collection by typing in keywords for your search. You
can search within the current root folder by clicking the small magnifying glass at the upperright of the title bar; you can also search within a given subfolder by right-clicking (Ctrl+clicking
on Mac) on the folder you want to search and choosing Search in Folder. In this case, Live will
only search within that folder for your desired sounds. This can help speed up or narrow your
search by limiting the scope.
Figure 3.29 Setting the Automatic Rescan setting on makes your searches slower but ensures that they
are always up to date.
The first time you try to search for something, it may take longer than usual because Live is
building an index of your files. On subsequent searches, Live will reference the index file and
render faster search results, as long as Automatic Rescan on Each Search is turned off in the File/
Folder tab of your preferences. Live can keep the index up to date as long as files are moved to
and from the search location through the Browser, but if files are changed outside of Live, the
index will be out of date, and new files will not be found. When Automatic Rescan is turned off,
the Stop/Go button next to the search field becomes the Rescan button, so you can force a full
rescan of the search location and find any files that may have been missed.
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Organizing Your Files
In an effort to keep workflow smooth, you can rename your clips and samples right inside the
Browser. This can be an enormous time-saver and creative tool when composing in Live. To
rename a loop, simply highlight the loop in the Browser and then press keyboard shortcut
keys Ctrl/Cmd+R. You may also do this via the menu by highlighting the loop and selecting
Edit 4 Rename or by right-clicking on the file and choosing Rename from the context menu.
Press Return to complete renaming the file or Esc to cancel and revert to the file’s original
It is a good idea to develop a system of organizing your loop/sample collection that works effectively for you. It is important that your naming scheme is informative and promotes creativity.
For instance, if you name every drum loop sequentially, drumloop1, drumloop2, drumloop3,
etc., this may be definitive, but it will ultimately not be inspiring to work with. We try to come
up with short titles that give us a brief idea of what we were thinking when we first made a given
group of loops. For instance, bigloudDR1 and bigloudDR2 would be a couple of big loud drum
loops. A method I like to use is to create folders for each category of samples and MIDI clips. I
have folders titled Bass, Drums, Chords, Effects, and Vox. This makes it easy to find the parts
I’m looking for.
The Device Browser
Live’s Device Browser (see Figure 3.30) contains Ableton’s own brew of effects and instruments.
Each device type has its own folder in the Browser, one each for instruments, MIDI effects, and
audio effects. Each device also has its own folder(s) containing presets. The Device Browser is
accessed through the button with the box icon at the left edge of the Browser window.
We will explain each of Live’s devices in Chapters 8, 9, and 10.
The Plug-in Browser
The Plug-in Browser allows you to access your third-party software effects and plug-ins. You can
use a wide variety of third-party plug-ins with Live, in either VST (PC/Mac) or AU (Mac only)
On the PC side, all of your VST plug-ins need to be in the VST folder that Live searches at each
startup. If you’ve been following along, you already set this folder up when you read the Preferences chapter. We recommend giving Live its own VST folder and simply copying all VST
plug-ins you would like to run in Live into that folder. Any Live-compatible plug-ins in this
folder will be visible when you click on the small power-plug icon to the left of the Browser
window, as shown in Figure 3.31. See Chapter 8, “Live’s Instruments,” for the rundown on
using external plug-ins in Live.
If you are using a Mac, you don’t need to worry about the location of your plug-ins, because the
Mac OS will always store them in the same default location. You can find your plug-ins and see
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Figure 3.30 Live’s Device menu. To add an effect or instrument, drag it out of the Browser and drop it
onto a track.
what you have installed by checking the folder Macintosh HD 4 Library 4 Audio 4 Plug-ins.
Within this folder, the Components subfolder holds your AU (Audio Unit) plug-ins, and the VST
folder contains your VST plug-ins (duh!). If you delete a plug-in from one of these folders, you
won’t see it any longer in Live.
Note that there is also a small magnifying glass in the top bar of the Plug-in Browser, enabling
you to search for a specific plug-in by name. This can be a helpful feature if you have a very large
number of plug-ins installed on your system!
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Figure 3.31 The Plug-in Browser will look different for everybody since it reflects your own unique
collection of effects and instruments.
I Want My VST If a particular VST plug-in cannot be seen via Live’s Browser, then it cannot
be used in Live—even if it is located in the correct directory on your PC or Mac. Be sure to
move (delete) these plug-ins out of the VST folder that you told Live to look in when you
set up Live’s File/Folder preferences. As a result, Live will start up faster. Also, if you notice
a plug-in not working properly in Live, you should also take it out of the plug-in directory,
write down the settings or combination of events that created the error, and send Ableton
and the third-party plug-in manufacturer the feedback. By doing so, you may just help
some small software developer zero in on a problem that would otherwise take them
months to figure out on their own.
Chapt er 3
L ive Interface Basics
The Hot-Swap Browser
The switch with the circular arrows icon displays the Hot-Swap Browser, which is used for
loading instrument and effect presets and locating sample files. This Browser is generally displayed by using the Hot-Swap switch in Live’s built-in effects and instruments. (This will be
explained further in Chapter 7.) It’s also invoked when browsing grooves and sometimes
when using the File Manager.
Saving Your Work
If you are a Pro Tools or Logic veteran, you know that calling up last week’s session from a CD
you burned that night might not be so simple. Live features an enhanced file-saving scheme sure
to reduce at least some of the frustrating missing file searches and “which version am I working
in?” blues.
Saving the Live Set
Live offers four ways to save project files: Save Live Set, Save Live Set As, Save a Copy, and
Collect All and Save. If you are familiar with common computer documents, such as word processor applications, Save and Save As work in exactly the way you’d expect. Save, which can be
done by pressing Ctrl/Cmd+S, saves the document (in this case a Live song file called a Set) in its
present state, under its present filename. This is the most common way you will save while you
are working on a new song, especially when you like the results.
Save Live Set As, done using Ctrl/Cmd+Shift key+S, is the command for saving the current song
file in its current state under a different name and is usually done only when you want to begin a
new song or modify an existing song without changing the original version. To do this, select
File 4 Save Live Set As, select the location where you would like to place the file, and type the
song’s newest name.
If you are modifying a song but would like to preserve a copy of it in its current state, use File 4
Save a Copy. This command is the same as Save As in that it allows you to save the file under a
new name, but instead of opening the newly named copy, the Save a Copy command will keep
the version you are currently working on open, while simply saving the new copy to disk.
The first time you save a set under a particular name, Live 8 will automatically create a folder
with that name + Project to hold all the files associated with the Set.
Collect All and Save
The most comprehensive save method is undoubtedly Collect All and Save. (For you Live veterans, this is the same as Save Set Self-Contained in earlier versions of Live.) It is a terrible
inconvenience (to put it mildly) to lose a file. Collect All and Save eliminates this problem by
guaranteeing that all files related to a given project are copied into a new folder labeled (Your
Song Name) + Project. This includes all the audio and MIDI files you may be using.
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Sounds great, doesn’t it? Imagine never ever having a problem again locating a file, opening a
song on a different computer, e-mailing a track to a buddy, or just coming back two days later
and not having any trouble recalling your song just as you had left it.
To save your Live Set this way, select File 4 Collect All and Save and then navigate to the folder
where you would like to place the song (and all of its related files).
Even though saving your files this way does sound all encompassing, and it does work wonders
for keeping all your files in the same easy-to-locate folder, keep in mind that any external plugins (VST and AU) used in a given song will not be saved inside your file. This means that if you
transport your song to a different computer, all of the plug-ins used on your song must be present on that computer as well. Unless you know you’ll have all the necessary plug-ins on the
system you are moving to, it’s a good idea to freeze plug-in–dependent tracks before moving
your session (see Chapter 4).
Collect All and Save is the best method for saving any Live song. You can try just saving the file
and keeping your audio where it is, but my experience and that of many expert audio users is that if
you do so, you will inevitably be referring to the next section of this chapter at some point.
Saving multiple versions is an essential part of any experienced producer’s process. How often
you save a new copy is up to you. The important thing is to leave a “breadcrumb trail”—a
record of what changed when. Having done this, you can recover previous settings in case
they are accidentally lost, or you can simply decide you don’t like the direction you’ve gone
in and go back and try again.
Managing Files
No matter how careful you are, it’s going to happen—files will get lost or misplaced, or you’re going
to occasionally get confused about where all those great sounds from last year’s project came from.
The good news is that Live’s File Manager is here to help you get a handle on what’s going on.
Select Manage Files from the File menu to open the File Manager. When it opens, you’ll be given
the option to manage either the current Set, the current project, or the Live Library.
Manage Set: This will present you with options and information pertaining only to the
current Set. You can locate missing samples, collect external sample files into the project
folder, or simply view all of the samples in your Set.
Manage Project: Remember what we just said about saving multiple versions? When you’ve
done this, the Manage Project feature is very useful. For example, it can tell you how many
external samples you have for every version of your Set and collect them into the project
folder, so you can make sure your project is self contained for each and every version of your
Set that you have saved.
Manage Library: This feature will give you information about all of the presets and samples
stored in your Live Library. It can be used to get your Library back into shape if files have
gotten moved or lost.
Chapt er 3
L ive Interface Basics
Manage Set
Let’s take a look at what happens when you choose Manage Set. Figure 3.32 shows the window
entitled Current Live Set that opens when you choose this option. Like all of the File Manager’s
windows, it’s broken into several sections, each with a small triangle to the left that can be used
to hide or show the section. The first section is View and Replace Samples. Clicking the View
Samples button will reveal a list of all of the samples used in the Set (see Figure 3.33). The
Location column next to the sample name will tell you if the file is located within the project
folder, in an external location, or is missing. Clicking the Edit button to the left of the sample
name will open the file in the audio editor you have specified in the File/Folder tab of the Preferences screen.
Figure 3.32 Manage Set gives you information about the locations of the files in your set.
Figure 3.33 You can unfold a sample to reveal all of the clips that contain it.
View Samples reveals the sample list, which shows you all of the samples in your Set and all of
the clips that contain them. You can replace samples or open your audio editor from here.
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Clicking the Hot Swap button to the left of the sample name will reveal the file’s location in the
File Browser. While the Hot Swap button is highlighted, any file you double-click in the File
Browser will be used to globally replace that sample in your Set. That means that any clip that is
based on this sample will be updated to use the new sample. All of the other properties (such as
loop points and transposition) of the clip will be retained. Another way to globally replace samples
in your set is simply to drag a file out of the File Browser and drop it into the File Manager—
directly onto the sample you want to replace.
Looking at the title bar of the File Manager (refer to Figure 3.32), you’ll notice a set of three
Web Browser–style buttons in the upper right-hand corner. You can use the Back button (the
left-pointing arrow) to return to the Set Management overview. If at any point you want to
return to the main File Manager window, you can use the Home button on the far right.
Finding Lost Files
Below the View and Replace Samples section of the Manage Set window (refer to Figure 3.32) is
the Missing Samples section. Clicking the Locate button in this section will bring up a list of
missing samples in the Set (see Figure 3.34). Instead of having a Hot Swap button next to these
samples, there is a Search button, which can be used to execute a search for the file in the
Browser. Before you use the Search button, make sure to select the Hot Swap Browser first
(see the section on the Browser earlier in this chapter) and navigate to the location where you
want to search for the file.
Figure 3.34 The Missing Files window can be used to identify and replace individual samples or automatically search for all lost audio files.
The other way to replace missing samples is to use the Automatic Search feature in the Missing
Files window (see Figure 3.34). What’s nice about this feature is that it lets you search for all of
your missing samples in one shot, instead of one at a time. Here’s how it’s done:
Chapt er 3
L ive Interface Basics
Set the Search Folder switch to Yes, unless you only want to search your project folder
and the Live Library, in which case you can skip to Step 3.
Click the Set Folder button and navigate to the folder you want to search. Any subfolders in this location will be searched as well.
Set the Search Project and Search Library switches to Yes if you believe your files may
be in the current project folder or the Live Library.
Click the Go button at the top of the window.
When the search is completed, Live will tell you how many “candidates” (how many potentially
correct files) were found and how many samples it was able to automatically replace with the
candidates it found. The missing samples list will now be updated to show the replaced files,
changing their location status to either Project or External. There will be two main reasons a file
does not get replaced automatically. Either the missing file cannot be found at all, or more than
one file has been found that matches the name of the missing file. In this case, the location will
read Candidates, and the number of possible replacement files found will be listed in the Candidates field (see Figure 3.35).
Figure 3.35 When more than one file with a matching name is found, Live needs you to intervene and
pick out the right one.
Clicking on the ? button will reveal a list of all the matching files in the File Browser. You have a
few choices to determine which is the right one. First, you could simply enable the Preview button and decide by ear. Another option is to view the Path and Date Modified columns in the
Browser (see Figure 3.36). If these aren’t visible, you’ll need to right-click in the header column
and select them from the context menu to show them. You’ll probably also want to make the
Browser a bit wider, so you can see everything you need. Once you’ve found the right file, you
can double-click or drag and drop as described earlier.
Figure 3.36 Showing additional columns in the Browser can help you identify which files to use.
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External Samples
The final area of the Current Set window is the External Samples section (refer to Figure 3.32). If
all of your samples are already within the current project folder, this section will be empty. If
not, the first Show button will allow you to view all samples that exist outside of the current
project folder, but that are within the main folder of other projects. The other Show button will
reveal samples in other locations. Note that Live considers the Library to be a “project,” so any
files from the Live Library are considered to be contained in another project.
Below the two Show buttons are switches that will allow you to collect (copy) these external
samples into your project folder. These differ from the Collect All and Save command, in
that they allow you to specify what samples should be copied into the project. You can differentiate between files that are in other project folders and files elsewhere. To actually copy
the samples and save the current Set, use the Collect and Save button at the bottom of the File
Manage Project
Manage Project contains several features that are identical to Manage Set (except that they act
on all Sets in the project), so I’ll just focus on the features that are different here.
The first area of the Manage Project window is the project location—it just shows you the path
of the current project. After that is the Project Contents section, which tells you the number of
Sets, Live Clips, Preset Files, and Samples in the project. Clicking any of the Show buttons will
reveal the referenced files in the File Browser (see Figure 3.37).
Figure 3.37 Project Contents tells you about all sorts of different files that exist within your project.
Chapt er 3
L ive Interface Basics
Upper Management What if you want to manage files for a project or Set other than the
one you have open? Fear not. Even though the Manage Files command opens the current
Set/project by default, there’s a way to get to others without closing your current Set.
Simply navigate to a Live Set in the File Browser and right-click it. Select the Manage
File option that appears in the context menu, and it will open in the File Manager. If
you want to manage a project instead, right-click the project folder and choose Manage
Project from the context menu.
Here’s another trick that may save you some time. The next time you want to replace a
sample, right-click the waveform in the Clip View and choose Manage Sample File from
the context menu. The File Manager will open with that sample highlighted in the
samples list.
The next area of interest is the Unused Samples section (see Figure 3.38). When working on a
project, it’s possible to generate many extra audio files that don’t end up getting used. These
could be multiple takes of a live performance or earlier versions of a loop before you effected and
resampled it to perfection. This section differentiates between files that were recorded into the
Set, created with the Freeze command, created with the Consolidate command, and files not
created by the current project. Clicking the Show button will reveal these unused files in the
File Browser, where you can choose what you want to do with them. While I heartily recommend getting rid of unnecessary files to recover disk space, I strongly recommend backing up the
entire project first, extra files and all, before deleting anything. Bad things can happen. Like a lot
of what I have to say, this recommendation is based on a true story!
Figure 3.38 Getting rid of unnecessary audio files can reclaim a lot of disk space.
The final two sections of the Project Manager window contain one button each. The Packing
section lets you create a Live Pack from your project. A Live Pack is a convenient way to
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transport your project (see Figure 3.39). It’s a compressed archive file containing everything in
the project folder. The final option, Export to Library, will copy all of the files from your project
into the Live Library so they can be easily accessed from other projects. This isn’t something
you’re going to use a whole lot, but if you end up with a project containing a bunch of useful
presets and loops, you can use this to get them into the Library.
Figure 3.39 The Info View can be hidden or expanded to give you quick bits of pertinent Live wisdom.
In this case, the mouse is hovering over a Track Activator.
Getting Help
The software world is big on searchable help menus, online help files, and gazillion-page PDF
manuals. Between Google.com and online forums (such as Ableton’s), the challenge is in the
The Info View
The quickest way to get help in Live is the Info View, a retractable and informative window in
the lower-left corner of the Live window that will discuss whatever topic correlates with the
control your mouse is hovering over (see Figure 3.39). You can show or hide this window by
selecting Info from the View menu or clicking the small triangle icon in the lower-left corner of
the Live screen. This won’t always provide enough information to satisfy the power user you are
becoming, but in a pinch or sudden memory lapse, it is the perfect thing to remind you: “Oh
yeah, that’s what this button is for.”
Feel free to pop this baby open any time you are unsure about a specific element of Live. You can
easily hide it again, to protect your reputation when your friend looks over your shoulder.
Chapt er 3
L ive Interface Basics
Getting Help Online
We all know the Internet holds an amazing amount of random and erroneous content. Precisely
what you are after can be more elusive than Elvis’s ghost. Thankfully, Ableton knows this better
than most and remains faithful to its customers by providing the Live user forum and reliable
technical support. You can also feel free to drop corporate headquarters a note and tell them
what a great job they’ve done.
All you need to do is click on Live’s Help menu, and you will see these options:
Lessons Table of Contents: This will open up the Live Lessons View and will present you
with a list of the excellent interactive tutorials.
Read the Live Manual: The manual is in Adobe PDF format and only takes up about 11
megabytes of hard drive space.
Visit ableton.com: Ableton’s Web site is easy on the eyes and full of neatly organized
goodies. If you are looking for some helpful distraction, the Artist page hosts scores of
interviews, loops to download, and insightful hardware and setup tips. You’ll also notice
that Ableton prides itself on acknowledging bugs as they are reported instead of denying
their existence. After all, bugs are a part of software, and Ableton’s admissions and frequently provided workarounds will tell you that you are not alone with your problem.
Join the User Forum: Ableton Live users are some of the most savvy audio software heads on
the planet. Try posting your question and set the option for e-mail notification. (You’ll get
an e-mail message when someone responds to your post.) Nearly all sensible inquiries are
answered, even if they are repeats or misnomers. In fact, once in a while, real live Ableton
employees will jump in on the discussion. Now that’s team spirit!
Get Support: Every so often, the user board isn’t fast enough, or a problem is just plain weird
enough that you really need a direct line to the author. Realize that Ableton, like most
specialized software houses, is small, and they may need a couple of days to get back to you.
Check for Updates: How handy is that? Ableton puts a shortcut right to the download
section of their Web site so you can check if you have the latest version of Live. For added
convenience, Live will automatically enter your serial number into the Web site, saving you
the tedium of tracking down the serial number and typing in the string of hexadecimal
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Making Music in Live
t last, the time has come to begin making music in Live. In this chapter, we’ll cover how
to analyze and prepare files for use in Live. We will explain the common areas of the
Clip View and, through practical examples, discover some of the most common ways
music is made in Live. We’ll also take a look at software configuration and general working
methods for the Live-based computer musician.
Whether you are playing a popular hot spot or working in the privacy of your own home, the
basic Live configuration and performance concepts are the same. However, upon examining the
working methods of either power-users or casual dabblers, you’ll discover that nearly everybody
is using Live just a little bit differently, depending upon musical style and live performance needs.
DJs demand different things out of Live than producers working in studios do. Film and television
composers may be looking for different kinds of sounds than a musician playing Live in a band.
As you read this chapter, think about how you want to use Live and focus on the areas that make
sense for your situation. After all, there is no reason a DJ can’t borrow techniques from a film
composer and vice versa. As we proceed through the various ways to work in Live, take a minute
to try some of the provided examples. As with learning any musical instrument, discovery will
lead to inspiration, additional detail will bring delight, and a little practice never hurts, either.
I will warn you now that this is a long chapter covering a lot of information. You’ll find it
interesting, though, as each concept I explain will introduce the next. This parallels the way
Live’s working process is based on a hierarchical structure of principles, starting from smaller
musical pieces and working up to a finished masterpiece. The basic procedure goes like this:
Create individual musical parts: Record bass parts, guitar riffs, keyboard lines, drum grooves,
and MIDI instruments, or import samples and MIDI sequences. These become clips.
Create song sections: Arrange the clips side by side in the Session View to make scenes. Each
scene represents a section of your song, such as intro, verse, chorus, bridge, and outro.
Record an Arrangement: Live will record your actions in the Session View while you trigger
the scenes on the fly to record your song into the Arrangement View.
Finalize the song: Edit the Arrangement, add effects to the mix, layer additional parts,
finalize the automation, and render the song to disk.
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Each element of Live’s interface is optimized for one of these tasks. You’ll see that clips are
manipulated in the Clip View, scenes in the Session View, song arrangements in the Arrangement View, and mixes in the Session Mixer and Track Views. This logical approach and use of
only one window make Live a streamlined composition environment. Furthermore, the same
tools you use for writing are available for performing—there’s a blurry line between composing
and performing in Live.
You’ll notice that the steps above are not numbered. This is because the creation process can
always be in flux when using Live. You can record multiple layers of a part in the Arrangement
View and bounce the results to a clip in the Session View. You may begin mixing the song as
you’re composing it. In any case, Live is flexible enough to suit your style.
Working Methods
One of the remarkable things about Live is that no two people use it the same way. Some musicians come to use Live as a quick and flexible multitrack recorder that allows them to explore
their own music in deep and original ways. Other artists use Live as a way to integrate their
samples and loops quickly into a performance or group environment. Some use Live for the
entire production process—concept to mixdown. DJs like Sasha and Gabriel & Dresden are
using Live to play their favorite tracks, as well as to integrate their own material and preproduced loops. In other words, DJs are producing and remixing full-length tracks on the fly, while
producers are acting more and more like DJs all the time by mixing unusual textures, rhythms,
and styles into a single track. Live is quite popular with remix and dance music producers, who
take a preproduced track, break it down, and rebuild it in another musical style. Let’s take a
closer look at each of these methods to better understand each perspective and see how Live can
be the perfect application for each of these approaches.
Using Live to DJ
Today, DJs play music using CDs, MP3 players, turntables, and computers. Their artistry
involves selecting their own mix of music or musical components (beats, samples, etc.) to entertain, explore, or make something altogether new. Live fits into the DJ world perfectly, as it
allows for songs to be synchronized to other tracks and other playback devices. Additional
parts, such as beats and bass lines, can be made on the fly using MIDI instruments, which
also lock perfectly to the beat. Many DJs use Live in conjunction with turntables, CD players,
and other computers. Often, they will spend a good deal of time configuring their songs for use
in Live. This can involve editing tracks in a wave editor, mapping any necessary Warp Markers
(see Chapter 5, “The Audio Clip”) in Live’s Clip View to time-align the track, or merely cropping their favorite portion of a larger track to be used as one in a collection of many time-synced
loops. The bottom line is that DJs are benefiting from the flexibility and choices Live offers. DJs
can use different parts of the same song looped against one another at the same time or take
advantage of multiple tracks (as opposed to being limited to a finite number of turntables, CD
Chapter 4
M aking Music in L ive
players, or mixer channels). Besides, a digital DJ doesn’t ever have to worry about wearing out
precious vinyl and irreplaceable acetates or scratching a CD surface.
Using Live with a Band
The organic nature of bands may seem like an unfit environment for computers. Every gig has a
different energy, and playing to the same old backing track every time could end up sucking the
life out of a stage performance. Many bands have a free-form approach that doesn’t follow a
preset number of bars in a song arrangement. Whatever the case, Live has some exciting news
for you: The parts from the computer can be different every time and can be placed under full
control of the band.
Some performers feel that using a sequencer removes a level of freedom that is essential to
live music. Many times throughout this book (with more to come), we’ve referred to Live as
a sequencing instrument. Live can be played in a live setting, and it leaves the musical
arrangement completely under the user’s control. Perhaps your band always practices a song
with an eight-bar solo section for your guitarist. When you are playing the show, your
guitarist catches fire, and you all feel that the solo needs to be longer. By having the song
arranged as scenes in the Session View, you can extend the solo section by doing nothing,
thus allowing the solo section clips to loop and naturally extend the section. You finally
trigger the next section once the guitarist signals to move on.
The Tap Tempo features of Live will keep Live playing to the band, rather than the band
playing to the sequence. A drummer could assign a trigger pad or foot pedal (anything that
outputs MIDI) to the Tap Tempo button and could tap out quarter notes from time to time
to keep Live in time with the band. Starting a song is also under the drummer’s control since
he can issue four taps while he counts off the song, resulting in the band and Live starting
When playing a gig, it may be necessary for some of the musicians to hear a click track from
Live, possibly when the song calls for two bars of silence with everyone (including the
computer) then coming in together. Live can provide this by means of its cue and multichannel output functions (see the following note).
Click Track A click track is nothing more than a metronome that a band or musician plays
along with, just like the one in Live’s Control Bar. Usually, the click is piped into the headphones of whoever is recording. By playing along with the click track, the musician performs the musical parts in sync with parts of the track that have been previously recorded.
In the studio, click tracks are sometimes replaced by percussive loops, which are less
monotonous and often more musical. This can easily be accomplished with Live by assigning a track with a fitting loop to Cue (see “The DJ Mixer” in Chapter 12, “Playing Live…
Live,” for more info on cueing tracks).
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Crafting songs by multitracking can be one of the most rewarding and creative activities a songwriter can take part in. Whether you are a solitary artist composing a demo in your bedroom or
a band with limited input channels, multitrack recordings allow you to add many layers of music
to the same piece without erasing previous tracks. In today’s age of unlimited audio tracks, you
might take for granted the power of layering ideas on top of one another and auditioning different digital arrangements. Live can be a perfect composition tool or arrangement auditioning
tool. When songwriters see Live’s ability to rearrange a song easily and musically (whether it
was recorded to a click or not), their eyes often grow wide with disbelief.
Producing and Remixing Music
Since the beginnings of computer-based music, remix and dance music producers have been the
driving force behind many of the industry’s most impressive innovations. Of course, “producer”
is a loose term that usually refers to any remix artists, consultants working with bands or vocalists, or musicians with a penchant for hard disk recording and editing. Whether they are set up in
a fancy studio or holed up in their college dorm room, producers using Live may be the largest
and most feature-savvy group of them all. Many producers have already tapped into the exciting
prospect of remixing another artist’s work and creating new music when using Live’s instant
time-stretching and unprecedented sample-manipulation ability. Producers want to compose,
make music, put together unusual elements, and find the “right” hooks. Live gives them the
creative freedom to stick to the task at hand while keeping the process simple enough to remain
focused on the music.
Scoring for Video
They say timing is everything. Nowhere is this more evident than in scoring music for the moving image. Whether you are adding sound effects or mood music or creating a complete soundtrack, Live’s ability to stretch audio in sync with MIDI makes it the perfect tool for the job. Live
8 brings the capability to import QuickTime video files directly onto a track in Live, so this has
become much easier. As we begin to discuss Live’s unique “elastic audio” ability in the next few
sections, you will see how Live is built to make sound behave in ways that were simply not
possible before. Film and television music composers often run into problems when trying to
synchronize audio and video. For instance, the audio track may need to speed up and then slow
down, so the music must reflect this tempo change. Movie and TV music also needs to be done
quickly, and Live’s ability to be played, rather than just programmed, is a huge advantage.
While we have pointed out some of the typical ways creative people like you are making use of
Live, we have by no means covered them all. New uses for Live continue to emerge. In fact, you
will invent a few of your own. Check out “Fair Use,” a brief excerpt from an interview with film
composer Klaus Badelt from the Ableton Web site.
Chapter 4
M aking Music in L ive
Fair Use New ways to use Live are popping up all the time. Here are a couple of ideas by
film music maestro Klaus Badelt.
”Ever since Live came out, it changed my life. It enabled me to use our whole library of
percussive loops. I’m not talking about loops (only) in the sense of just electronic loops,
but all kinds of orchestral or ethnic percussion loops. I’m finally able to use them all very
quickly and try them out in tempo. It makes it possible to work much faster, especially
when you only have a few days to write a whole score.
”I don’t actually use (Live) in the way it was originally intended. I’m playing it from my
sequencer. I trigger the program from the other computer as Live runs on its own
machine. It holds the library. I drag in the loops I’m using and trigger them from the
keyboard. I use the effects in there, but basically submix and then send them to the
mixer. I basically use it as a synthesizer.”
—Klaus Badelt is credited with The Thin Red Line, Mission Impossible 2, Hannibal, Pearl
Harbor, Pirates of the Caribbean, and many other award-winning films. (Taken from
In the next section, we are going to take a brief but important sidestep to explore the more
practical side of Live’s interface, Clip View and Track View, and several tips for working
with loops and samples. Later in the chapter, we will return to different approaches for using
Live. The combination of both practical knowledge and tried-and-true examples should put you
well on your way to discovering your own particular way of harnessing the power of Live.
Live’s Musical Building Blocks: Clips
Within a musical composition, the parts involved can be broken into smaller pieces, such as
verse 1 bass line, chorus backing vocals, intro percussion, or whatever terms you might use.
Each of these pieces is suited perfectly for a clip—the basic musical building block in Live. Everything in Live is based on the creation, editing, arrangement, and playing of clips. By having the
pieces of your song assembled in clips, you can then arrange the song on the fly and intermix
different sections, whether for a live performance or as a means for programming the Arrangement View.
What Are Clips?
Clips are the colored rectangles scattered throughout the Session View (see Figure 4.1a) and the
Arrangement View (see Figure 4.1b). Each one plays an audio file or MIDI sequence. Playing
clips in the Session View is done by clicking the small play triangle at the left side of the clip.
Clips in the Arrangement View will be played when the playback cursor (the thin vertical line
that moves from left to right when Live is running) passes over them.
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Figure 4.1a Clips as they appear in the Session View.
Figure 4.1b Clips in the Arrangement View can be resized to change how long they will play.
Think of clips as small, independent MIDI sequencers and audio samplers that all play in relation to one another. This is similar to pattern-style sequencing, except that the patterns can all be
different lengths. This offers the convenience of creating anything from small musical units to
larger evolving parts and using them together in any combination.
While a clip can be copied from one place to another, either by copying it from the Session View
to the Arrangement View (or vice versa) or by creating multiple instances in both views, each
resulting clip is independent from the others, even if they contain the same musical data and
share the same name and color. This means that a clip that was recorded into the Session View
can have its parameters modified in the Arrangement View while leaving the original Session
View clip intact. This separation will become clearer as you look more closely at the Session and
Arrangement Views later in this chapter.
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What Do Clips Contain?
Clips come in two forms: audio and MIDI. Audio clips (see Figure 4.2a) contain references to
audio files, while MIDI clips (see Figure 4.2b) contain MIDI data for playing MIDI instruments
(either virtual or hardware instruments).
Figure 4.2a An audio clip plays an audio file on the computer. A graphical representation of the audio
can be seen in the Clip View waveform window.
Figure 4.2b MIDI clips contain sequences of MIDI notes and data, which can also be seen in the Clip View.
What Audio Clips Don’t Contain While you can easily think of all the little clip boxes as
containing audio loops and such, remember that the audio file used in those clips is not
actually part of the clip or Live Set. A clip merely contains the information necessary for
Live to play an audio file from disk—it is a pointer to your sample.
Should that file (sample) become altered by another application, such as a wave editor,
each clip that used that file will now play with the same alteration. If you delete the
sample that is referenced by a clip, the clip and any other clips that used that file won’t
play anymore! See Chapter 3, “Live Interface Basics,” on how to save your set as a selfcontained project using the Collect All and Save commands to keep the audio files you
use in a safe location.
Where Do Clips Come From?
Clips are created in two ways: either by adding an audio or MIDI file from disk to the Session or
Arrangement View or by recording new audio and MIDI performances into Live. When first
learning how to use Live, you’ll more than likely begin with audio clips created from pre-existing
audio files on your computer. If you need to get your hands on some loops, there are sample
libraries from companies such as East West, Big Fish Audio, Native Instruments, M-Audio, and
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more, to arm you to the teeth with audio loops for musical inspiration. Of course, Live can work
with audio files that aren’t loops—any audio file (in WAV, AIFF, SDII, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, Ogg
FLAC, or FLAC format) on your computer is fair game for manipulation in Live.
What’s also great is that you can make new clips by recording audio from external sources. If
you’ve found a drum loop and bass loop that you want to use as the foundation for your song,
you can plug in your guitar and record your own riffs on top, which are instantly turned into
The same is true for MIDI clips. Tracks from MIDI files can be added from file browsers, or new
performances can be recorded directly into the Session or Arrangement View. Unlike audio clips,
the MIDI information in a MIDI clip is saved in the Live Set file itself. Even MIDI clips created
from MIDI files will be independent from the original files.
Because the methods for recording audio and MIDI clips are different, they will be covered separately in the next chapters. What’s important to understand at this point is how clips work and
how they integrate into the production process in Live. Whether they came from a sample CD,
your own voice, a General MIDI file, or from your MIDI controller, both audio and MIDI clips
behave the same; most importantly, once you fully understand how to use clips, you’ll be able to
record better clips yourself.
The Clip View
While there are two distinctly different types of clips in Live (MIDI and audio), there are a
number of behaviors and settings that are common to both types of clips, all of which will be
discussed next. The common behaviors of MIDI and audio clips help blur the line between audio
and MIDI in the Session and Arrangement Views. After all, when you’re performing, you don’t
really care whether a piano part is coming from an audio file or being triggered by a MIDI
instrument. When you launch the piano clip, you expect to hear the piano part with nothing
else to worry about.
Obviously, your understanding of clips will have a tremendous impact on your ability to use
Live. If clips are not set up properly, many of Live’s other functions, such as the capability to
play multiple clips in sync, will be compromised. The settings determining clip behavior are
accessed and edited through the Clip View (see Figure 4.3), which appears at the bottom of
the Live window whenever you double-click a clip.
There are different sections within the Clip View that can be accessed with the icons in the
lower-left corner of the window. A few of these sections are common to both MIDI and
audio clips. Those common properties will be explained in this chapter, while the type-specific
parameters and features will be explained in detail in their own chapters (see Chapters 5 and 6).
The sections you’ll be concerned with at the moment are the Clip and Launch sections, as well as
the Loop settings found in the Sample window (for audio clips) or Notes window (for MIDI
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Use these three icons to hide or show the different sections of the Clip View.
Figure 4.3 The Clip View contains multiple sections that can be shown and hidden using the icons at
the lower-left corner of the window. Turn them all on now so that you can see all the options in Clip
Clip Name and Color
The first two settings in the Clip section (see Figure 4.4) are purely cosmetic—they have no
impact on the behavior or sound of the clip. The first field is the Clip Name, which can be
any name and as many characters as you want. You’ll see only about the first nine letters in
Session View clips when using the default track width, but you may see more of the name if you
widen the track or extend the clip in the Arrangement View.
Figure 4.4 The Clip box is where you give your clips meaningful names and colors to organize your set.
This is also where you apply grooves to your clips, as explained below.
Clips are automatically named when they are created, and they are given a color based on your
default preferences. If you create a clip by dragging a file in from the Browser, the clip will be
named the same as the file. When you record a new clip, it will be given the name of the track it
is created in. To help keep multiple takes (recordings) in order, Live tacks a number on in front
of the clip (and file) name as each new one is created.
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You can change the name of a clip by selecting it in the Session or Arrangement View and
clicking the Name field at the top-left corner of the Clip View. You can also simply rightclick the clip or Ctrl+click on the Mac to select Rename from the context menu. Using this
technique, you’ll be able to rename the clip right within the Session and Arrangement Views,
speeding things up tremendously.
When changing the name of an audio clip, you should be aware that the name of the associated
audio file is not changed. If you drag a file from the Browser called DnB Loop07 (168 BPM) into
the Session View, the resulting clip will have the same name. If you change the clip name to
something more useful, like MainBeat, the original audio file on your hard drive will still be
named DnB Loop07 (168 BPM).
Time Signature
The clip’s Time Signature (labeled Signature) determines the numbering of the grid markers and
Quantizing Grid (discussed separately in Chapters 6 and 7, respectively). It also affects the
Launch Quantizing behavior, which we’ll explain in a moment.
Clip Groove
The Groove section is probably one of the more mind-blowing features you’ll use in an audio
program. Using the Clip Grooves and the Groove Pool, you can modify the timing and dynamics
of your clips in unlimited ways. Users of Live 8 will notice that the Global Groove Amount is
gone from the Control Bar. It used to sit between the metronome and the time signature—now
it’s been moved to the Groove Pool (see Figure 4.5b) to accommodate the new Groove Engine’s
enhanced functionality. Understanding grooves requires a fair amount of knowledge of audio
and MIDI clips, so if you’re new to Live, you might want to read over Chapters 5 and 6 first.
Before we get too far into discussing Live’s new groove features, let’s talk a little bit about the
concept of groove in general. Simply put, musical parts that have a certain amount of rhythmic
variation or imprecision, as well as changes in dynamics, often have a more compelling feel than
parts that are perfectly quantized and even in volume. This is not to say that absolute precision
always sounds bad; sometimes, it’s useful to contrast extremely tight, even tracks against looser
ones. There are also cases where a robot-like beat is just the thing. It all depends on the musical
Using music technology to adjust the timing of a beat automatically is not new. Many classic
drum machines, like Roland’s TR-909, have a shuffle control. The shuffle control delays certain
beats of a sequence to create a shuffle or “swing” feel. A swing is a very simple type of groove.
To create a 1/8th note swing, all you have to do is slightly delay every other 1/8th note in a beat
(starting with the second). The more you delay the alternate 1/8th notes, the more intense the
swing will be.
While a swing control on a drum machine isn’t news, Live 8’s new Groove Engine does a few
things that are downright futuristic. Not only can Live apply a traditional shuffle to both MIDI
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and audio clips, but it can also quantize audio to correct timing or remove swing, as well apply a
whole variety of other grooves, such as those associated with samba and rumba. Far from simply
being able to delay certain beats to add swing to a loop, the Groove Engine can shift individual
beats in either direction and add some randomization to the timing as well. Dynamics in a
groove can be a simple matter of making the downbeat of a bar slightly louder than the other
beats, or it could be a complex flow, rising and falling throughout the bar.
To apply a groove to a clip, press the Hot Swap switch next to the word Groove in the Clip box
(refer to Figure 4.4). This will cause the Browser to display the groove files in Live’s Library, as
seen in Figure 4.5a. Now you can browse until you find the groove you’re interested in. If you’re
new to working with grooves and shuffles, open up the Swing folder and select one of the groove
files contained within to get started. If you’re an experienced percussionist, or perhaps a user of
Apple’s Logic Pro or Akai’s MPC-series drum sequencers, you’ll be happy to find all sorts of
familiar grooves contained within the other folders.
Figure 4.5a Using the Hot Swap Groove button enables you to browse through Live’s Groove Library.
After you select a groove, you can customize it in the Groove Pool.
After you’ve selected a groove by double-clicking it, you should hear it take effect immediately,
and it will appear in the Groove Pool (see Figure 4.5b). The Groove Pool displays one row for
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Figure 4.5b Click the wavy lines above the Clip View to open up the Groove Pool. Any time you apply a
groove to a clip, it gets added to the pool. You can also drag grooves directly from the Browser into the
Groove Pool.
each groove that’s used in the current Set. For each groove, the following parameters are
Base: In order to shift the timing of certain beats in a clip, Live needs a point of reference. For
example, if Base is set to 1/16, it will examine every 1/16th note chunk of a clip and evaluate
how much (if at all) the accents within it need to be moved to match the timing of the groove.
Quantize: This setting determines how much real-time quantization is applied to the clip,
based on the setting of the Base parameter. In other words, if Base is set to 1/16, then Live
will first quantize the clip to 1/16th notes, before making the timing adjustments contained
in the Groove file. At percentages lower than 100%, Live will move each accent only a
portion of the way to the nearest 1/16th. Doing this allows you to keep some of the clip’s
original timing before applying the groove to it.
Timing: This is where you tell Live how much to apply the groove’s timing to the clip. At
values lower than 100%, the clip’s accents will be moved only part of the way to the
locations specified in the groove. At 0%, no timing adjustments will be made.
Random: By increasing the Random value, you add timing randomization to the clip. A little
randomness can emulate the natural timing variations that occur with live musicians. Unless
you’re looking to create some serious chaos, this setting is best used at low values.
Velocity: This setting determines how much any volume fluctuations in the groove should be
applied to the clip. Be aware that some grooves in the Library don’t contain any velocity
information, so changing this value won’t have any effect. Note that this value can be set
to negative values as well. This inverts the volume settings so quieter notes will be made
louder and vice versa.
Amount: This is the Global Groove Amount. It sits at the top of the Groove Pool and is
applied to all grooves in the Set. It acts as a global control for the Timing parameter in each
of the grooves. Note that Amount can be set to values greater than 100% to move all Groove
Timing percentages above their specified amount.
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When you’ve applied a groove to a clip, not only does it appear in the Groove Pool, but it also
becomes available to every clip in your set. To apply the groove to additional clips, just select it
from the Groove menu in the Clip box. In Figure 4.4, the Groove menu appears as a grayed-out
box that reads None. When there are grooves in your Groove Pool, this turns into a menu.
Behind the Groove If you want to examine the contents of a groove, just drag it out of the
Browser or the Groove Pool and drop it into a MIDI track. What you’ll find is that a groove
file is really just a MIDI clip that Live uses as a template for timing and dynamics. Try it!
What’s great about the way Live’s new Groove Engine works is that the groove is applied in real
time as the clip plays. In other words, no direct changes to the clip itself are made, and adjustments to the groove can be made continuously as you work on a track, simultaneously tweaking
any number of clips that utilize that groove.
However, there may be cases where you want to apply a groove to a clip in a more permanent
way. To do this, hit the Commit switch directly below the Groove menu in the Clip box. In the
case of a MIDI clip, This will actually move individual notes to conform to the groove and apply
any necessary changes in velocity. For audio clips, Live will adjust the Warp Markers for individual beats to apply timing variations and create a Volume Envelope to create changes in
Analyze This Want to create your own grooves for use with Live’s Groove Engine? Just
drag an audio or MIDI clip into the Groove Pool. Live will analyze the clip and create a new
groove file based on the timing and dynamics of the clip. If you want to save this new clip
to the Library, right-click in the Groove Pool and select Browse Groove Library. Now, you
can drag the groove from the pool into the Browser, and it will be saved for use in future
Clip Nudge Controls
Next are the Clip Nudge controls, which are composed of two buttons in the lower-left corner of
the fully opened Clip View. These controls allow you to offset a clip easily by a quantized value
or to sync clips manually without quantization. These work differently than the Tempo Nudge
controls. Clip Nudge changes the offset of a single clip relative to Live’s master tempo, while
Tempo Nudge momentarily changes the master tempo and thus the playback tempo of all clips.
Pressing the two arrow buttons (the Nudge buttons) will perform the shift. (The clip should be
playing when you do this.) Each time you press an arrow, the start and playback positions of the
clip will change by an amount determined by the Global Quantize setting. (Don’t confuse this
with the clip’s Launch Quantization, which will be explained next.) If Global Quantize is set
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to 1 Bar, the clip’s start location will be shifted by one bar with every click of the Nudge buttons.
If you want to offset by a smaller amount, select a smaller Quantize value. With Global Quantize set to None, the Nudge buttons will offset the clip by minute increments, allowing you to
make your clip sit just the tiniest bit ahead of or behind the beat.
For an example, let’s say you’re DJing with Global Quantize set to 1/16, rather than 1 Bar, in
order to occasionally offset a track to create a new groove. The Clip Nudge controls could be
used while pre-listening to correct the placement of a track that was launched a little too early or
too late, or to experiment with different offsets before bringing the track in. Or you could launch
a track with Global Quantize set to 1 Bar and then change it to None and nudge the clip until it
feels just right.
The Third Control While it looks like the Nudge controls are limited to only two buttons,
there is a third control that can be accessed only through MIDI assignment. When you
enter the MIDI Map mode (Ctrl [Cmd]+M), you’ll see a tiny box appear between the
arrow buttons. Click this box and twist a knob on your MIDI controller. Now you can
twist the knob to perform the nudge. We recommend using an endless encoder knob
for this, allowing you to offset the clip over a wide range of time.
Keep the Groove After you’ve nudged a track to perfection, you may want to be able to
recall exactly how much you’ve nudged it so it can be played back exactly the same the
next time you launch it. To do this, select Capture and Insert Scene from the Create menu.
This will make a copy of whatever clips you currently have playing back and create a new
scene with just those clips in it. Any tracks that you’ve nudged will have their Start Markers
moved by the amount they were nudged.
You can perform two types of quantizing with Live. One method lines up stray notes in a MIDI
clip. This is called Note Quantization, which will be explained in the “Quantizing Your Performance” section of Chapter 7, “Using Effects and Instruments.” The other method is Launch
Quantization, the topic of this section. (Note: In order to see the Launch controls of the Clip
View, you must click the small L icon (Show/Hide Launch Box) at the bottom of the Clip control
Launch Quantization determines when a clip will start playing or recording after it has been
triggered. Proper Launch Quantization settings ensure that clips will start on time and in sync
with each other, even if they are triggered a little early by us sloppy humans. The default setting
for this value is set in the Preferences. Most people choose either Global or Bar as the default value.
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The available choices for Launch Quantization range from 1/32 notes up to eight bars and are
selected from the drop-down menu shown in Figure 4.6. There are also two additional settings,
Global and None, which will cause the clip to follow the Global Quantize setting (in the Control
Bar) or ignore quantization, respectively. Any clips set to Bar will only start playing on the
downbeat of a measure, even if they were triggered before that. This means that you can
click (launch) a number of new clips, but they won’t start playing until the next measure.
You can therefore launch a new bass line, drum part, and guitar riff halfway through the bar,
and Live will wait until the downbeat before playing them all.
Figure 4.6 The Quantize settings for a clip.
When you trigger a clip before its quantize setting will allow it to start, its green play triangle
(the Fire button or Play button) will start to blink, indicating that the clip is standing by to play.
Once the beat for the quantize setting is reached, the Play icon will turn solid green, and the clip
will begin playing. It’s at this point that the previous clip playing in the track (if there was one)
will be cut off in favor of the new one.
Of course, you may not want to start a clip on the downbeat of a measure. In these cases, a
smaller quantize setting can be selected. A setting of 1/4 will force a clicked clip to start on the
next beat rather than waiting for the bar. Any clip set to None will start playing the instant it is
Bar Length Bar is another term for measure, which is the length determined by the time
signature. In the case of 4/4 time, a measure (bar) is four beats long, with the 1/4 note
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equaling one beat. 12/8 is 12 beats long with the 1/8 note equaling one beat. This means
that the length of time determined by a Bar quantize setting depends on the time
If the time signature is 3/4 and Quantize is set to Bar, you’ll be able to launch new clips
every three beats (each measure is three beats long). When the time signature is 4/4,
you’ll be able to launch the clips every four beats.
A special condition can arise when you’re using clips with time signatures different from
the Live Set. If your project is set to 4/4 but your clip has a time signature of 3/4, a setting
of 1 Bar in the Clip View will allow the clip to launch every three beats. This means that
while 4/4 clips will launch on the downbeat, the 3/4 clip will launch on bar 1, beat 1; bar
1, beat 4; bar 2, beat 3; and bar 3, beat 2. In this case, the length of the Bar setting is
determined by the clip’s time signature.
If, on the other hand, the 3/4 clip has Quantize set to Global, the quantize setting in the
Control Bar will be used. If this value is set to Bar, the 3/4 clip will launch every four beats
(on the downbeat with the other 4/4 clips) because the length of the Global Bar setting is
determined by the project’s time signature (4/4 in this case).
Launch Controls
To add more creative possibilities when using clips, Ableton has given you four Launch modes
(see Figure 4.7) to add extra control to your performances. In all of our descriptions so far,
launching a clip has caused it to start playing (once the quantize time has been reached), at
which point it continues to play indefinitely (if looped) or through its entirety (when unlooped).
This is the default behavior for clips, and one that makes quite a lot of sense, but times may arise
when you want a different level of control.
Figure 4.7 Launch modes: Choose, but choose wisely…
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Launch modes will change not only the clip’s playback state when the clip is launched (either by
clicking with the mouse or pressing an assigned key or MIDI note), but will also determine the
action taken (if any) when the mouse or key is released. If you’re new to the various Launch
modes, try setting your launch quantization to a value smaller than 1 Bar before experimenting.
This will help you understand the differences between them. The four available Launch modes
are as follows:
Trigger: The most common Launch mode for use in most performance situations is Live’s
Trigger mode. Each time you fire a clip, it will launch. Once a clip is launched and playing,
you will be able to stop its playback only by pressing one of the Clip Stop buttons located in
the same track. This mode ignores the up-tick (release) of the mouse button, computer
keyboard key, or MIDI note. Each clip can be fired as rapidly as the quantization will allow,
and each time the clip is fired, it will restart the clip from the beginning, even if it was already
Gate: When triggering a clip in Gate mode, you will hear the sound only for as long as your
mouse or keyboard key is depressed. This is an excellent setting for dropping in snippets of
sound without playing the entire clip. In short, holding down your left mouse button (or
MIDI/computer-keyboard key) will play the clip continuously until you let up.
Toggle: With Toggle mode engaged, the Fire button basically turns into an on/off switch for
the clip. If you launch a clip that is playing, it will stop. Launch the stopped clip, and it will
begin playing. This also works at the scene level if you trigger a scene with clips set in Toggle
mode. Each time you trigger the scene, clips that are playing will stop, and stopped clips
will start. Bear in mind that stopping of the clip will respect the current quantization, just the
way launching does.
Repeat: Repeat mode is a way of retriggering a clip by holding down the mouse or assigned
key/MIDI note. Any time the mouse or key is held, the clip will continuously restart itself
at the rate specified by the clip’s Quantize setting. If the setting is 1/4, holding down the
mouse/key will cause only the first beat of the clip to play over and over again. When the
mouse or key is released, the clip will play through its entirety like normal. This mode can
create fun stutter effects but should be used sparingly—probably not a good choice for
default behavior.
Just below the Quantization box is the Clip Velocity scale setting (see Figure 4.8). This value
works only for clips launched by MIDI. It uses the incoming velocity level of the MIDI note to
set the playback volume of the clip. At 0%, the velocity has no effect on clip playback volume—
it plays at its original level. At 100%, the clip will respond as a velocity-sensitive clip. For settings in between, lower velocities will have less of an attenuating (quieting) effect. This works for
both audio and MIDI clips.
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Figure 4.8 Velocity scaling based on the MIDI velocity of the clip’s trigger note.
Follow Actions
Live’s Follow Actions allow an amazing level of automation within the Session View. Basically,
using Follow Actions, you can set rules by which one clip can launch another. Any particular clip
can launch clips above and below it, replay itself, or even stop itself—all based on odds and a
time period that you can program. You can think of Follow Actions as a virtual “finger” that
presses Clip Launch buttons for you. While that may not sound that impressive yet, it’s just
another example of Ableton’s ingenuity in bringing simple, generalized tools to its users that
can unleash the imagination. In fact, Follow Actions open up so many creative possibilities
that you’ll find a long list of potential applications listed in Chapter 13, “Live 8 Power.”
Follow Actions work on groups of clips, which are clips arranged above and below one another
in the same track (see Figure 4.9). An empty clip slot inserted between two clips divides them
into separate groups. Follow Actions will allow automatic triggering of other clips in the group
and cannot be used to trigger clips in different groups or tracks.
Figure 4.9 The track on the left features one group of clips, while the track on the right has two
The time and conditions for a Follow Action are set in the three sections at the bottom of the
clip’s Launch window (see Figure 4.10). The first section, the Follow Action Time, determines
how long the clip plays before it performs the Follow Action. If the time is set to 2.0.0, the clip
will play for two bars before “clicking” on another clip.
Instead of just doing the same action over and over again, Ableton gives you the ability to create
two different possible Follow Action scenarios for each clip. Live will randomly choose between
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Figure 4.10 These parameters determine the Follow Action behavior of the clip.
the two actions selected in the drop-down menus in Figure 4.11 (one on the left and the other on
the right). The possible Follow Actions and their effects are the following:
No Action: The empty menu selection refers to No Action, and it is the default action for all
new clips. In fact, clips are always performing Follow Actions; however, with No Action
selected in both menus, Live will never trigger any other clip.
Stop: This action will stop the clip (after it has played, of course).
Play Again: Essentially retriggers the clip just as if you’d clicked it again with the mouse.
Previous/Next: These options will trigger the clip either above or below the current one. If
the clip at the top of a group triggers the Play Previous action, it will “wrap around” and
trigger the bottom clip of the group and vice versa.
Play First/Last: These will trigger the top or bottom clip in a group, no matter how many
clips are in the group. If the top clip in a group triggers the Play First action, it will retrigger
Any: This action will trigger a randomly chosen clip from the group. Live might retrigger the
same clip with this option.
Other: This action will trigger a different randomly chosen clip from the group. The same
clip will not be triggered.
These two menus select
the possible Follow Actions
for the clip.
Figure 4.11 The left Follow Action will trigger the clip above this one, while the right Follow Action
will trigger the clip below this one.
Which Follow Action the program chooses to perform is based on the odds set in the numerical
boxes below each Follow Action. By default, the odds are 1:0, meaning that the Follow Action in
the left menu will always be performed. Odds of 0:1 will cause the right Follow Action to always
be performed. Odds of 1:1 will give you a 50-50 chance of either the left or right Follow Action
being performed. You can put in any values you like, such as 2:3 or 1:200.
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Above the action drop-down lists is the Follow Action Time. This specifies how soon after a clip
is launched the Follow Actions are evaluated. By default, this is set to one bar, meaning that one
bar after the clip is launched, the odds will be calculated and the Follow Action performed.
Playing the Odds Note that odds are calculated afresh every time a Follow Action is per-
formed. If you have a clip with Follow Action odds of 1:1 and Live chooses the left Action
the first time, it does not mean that Live will choose the right Action the next time. Just as
it is possible to roll the same number on a die time after time, it is quite possible for Live to
choose the left Follow Action five times in a row, even with 1:1 odds.
When looking at the Follow Action choices, some of you may be scratching your heads at the
Play Clip Again selection. What is the point of this one? To explain, let’s look at a practical
You have two drum loops. One is the standard beat, while the second is a variation of the first.
You really like the standard beat, but from time to time, you want the variation thrown in to
keep things from getting too repetitive. Consider Figures 4.12a and 4.12b. Both may appear to
be the proper setups for this situation, but one has a flaw.
Figure 4.12a Here, if the left Follow Action is chosen, the clip will loop indefinitely because Follow
Actions will stop being evaluated.
Figure 4.12b In this example, when the left Follow Action is performed, it will relaunch this clip, causing the Follow Action to be performed again after the specified time.
Follow Actions are performed only after the Follow Action Time has passed since the clip was
launched. Thus, in the case of Figure 4.12a, the clip performs the Follow Action one bar after the
clip was launched. If the option on the left (No Action) is chosen, no Follow Action will be
performed, and the clip will keep playing (infinitely if it’s set to loop). Since the clip hasn’t
been relaunched, the Follow Actions never get evaluated again, because the Follow Action
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Time has already elapsed. In Figure 4.12b, when the left option is performed, the clip will be
retriggered, causing the Follow Action Time to start counting down again. After the specified
time, Live calculates the odds and performs the appropriate Follow Action. Using Play Clip
Again loops the Follow Action.
Tempo Settings
A clip’s tempo is what Live uses to keep clips in sync with each other. If Live doesn’t know the
original tempo of an audio clip, it won’t know the proper amount to speed up or slow down the
clip to match the rest of your project. For MIDI clips, tempo is used primarily for reference. It’s
useful if you want to double or halve the playback speed, but it doesn’t have the same relevance
because MIDI clips always play back at Live’s master tempo.
The tempo settings work a little differently in the audio and MIDI Clip Views. For one, tempo is
available in audio clips (see Figure 4.13) only when the Warp feature (see next chapter) is
engaged. If Warp is off, Live will simply play the audio at its original speed and perform no
time-stretching on the clip; therefore, its original tempo is irrelevant. However, with Warp
engaged, Live will be able to warp the audio to match the tempo of the Set. Second, an audio
clip’s tempo and the position of the Warp Markers are related. As you make timing adjustments
with the Warp Markers, you may notice the Seg. BPM change to compensate for the change in
file playback speed. We will delve into this further in Chapter 5.
Figure 4.13 A clip’s tempo setting is crucial to the proper operation of Live. Without the proper value
here, the clip will not match the speed of other clips in the project.
MIDI clips do not have Warp Markers, so the original tempo is controlled solely by the user.
When you create a new MIDI clip, it will take on the current tempo of the Live Set. This is
usually sufficient, and you probably won’t need to change it; however, if you do need to (perhaps an imported MIDI clip is playing at the wrong speed), changing the tempo value will scale
all of the MIDI data in the clip accordingly to make it play back faster or slower.
Below the tempo value are two icons. The left Divide by 2 and the right Multiply by 2 buttons
will quickly double or halve the playback speed of both audio and MIDI clips. These are particularly useful when Live guesses the tempo of a new clip wrong. For example, sometimes when
you drag in a 170 BPM drum loop, Live mistakes it to be 85 BPM. You’ll hear this right away—
if Live’s Master Tempo is set to 170, then instead of playing back the loop at its original speed as
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you would expect, it will play it back twice as fast. A simple click of the *2 button brings the
tempo of the drum loop back up to 170 BPM and corrects this problem.
Tempo Master/Slave
If you are in the Arrangement View, you will see another control just above the Seg. BPM: the
Tempo Master/Slave switch. (Note that this control is not present in the Session View.) This
allows you to designate any clip as the tempo master by toggling its Master/Slave switch to
Master. You can set as many clips as you want to as tempo masters, but just as in the world
of Christopher Lambert’s Highlander films, “there can be only one” when it comes to being the
tempo master in a Set. If more than one currently playing clip is set as the tempo master, the
bottom-most, currently playing clip in the Arrangement View will take precedence.
The current tempo master clip will always play as if Warp were off, and all of the other clips in the
Live Set will be warped so that they play in sync with the master. The Warp Markers set in the
current tempo master clip will act as tempo automation to the entire Set while the tempo master
clip is playing. (You will also notice that Live disables the Tempo field in the Control Bar.)
If you toggle the Master/Slave switch back to Slave or delete the clip, the Master track tempo
automation will stop, and the former tempo will resume. If you want to keep the tempo information from the clip, right-click (or Ctrl+click) on the Control Bar’s Tempo field and choose the
Unslave Tempo Automation command. All clips will then be set to Slave, but the tempo automation will remain in place.
When Live’s EXT switch (visible only when an external tempo source is enabled) is enabled, the
Master/Slave switch has no effect and will appear disabled in all clips.
Clip Start/End
The size of the data in a clip versus the size of the portion that you actually choose to use can be
vastly different. In other words, you may have a four-bar clip but decide to use only the first bar
of the part. You may have a five-minute song from which you isolate a great drum fill in the
middle. Clip Start/End defines the area and length of the sound played within a clip. In the following example (see Figure 4.14), I am using only a portion of a larger sample. To do this, I
Start marker
End marker
Figure 4.14 You can define a smaller section of a clip to use by setting the Clip Start and End Markers.
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constrained the playback region by setting the Clip Start and End Markers (shown as markers
with little triangular flags) to the locations I wanted. You can make these adjustments while you
are listening, or even recording, in Live.
Remember, Live is streaming audio files from disk, as opposed to playing them from RAM. This
means that using 10 seconds of a 10-minute file is no different from using all 10 seconds of a 10second file. Don’t worry about chopping off the ends of an audio file that you’re not using—
those sections are never loaded into RAM (like a sampler would do), and you may want to use
those parts in another song in the future. Moving the Start and End Markers around your
desired section is all that’s necessary.
Loop Settings
While the clip’s Start and End Markers are shown as small left- and right-facing triangles, the
Loop region is shown with a pair of connected markers (see Figure 4.15). If a clip’s Loop button
is on, the clip’s play position will jump to the Loop Start every time it reaches the Loop End
Marker. When Loop is turned off, the clip will be allowed to pass the Loop End Marker and
play until it reaches the Clip End Marker.
Clip start
Loop start
Loop end
Clip end
Figure 4.15 There are four markers in a clip: Clip Start, Loop Start, Loop End, and Clip End.
This means that you can have a clip that plays normally through its first three bars before it
begins to loop infinitely on its last bar (see Figure 4.16). I find this to be particularly useful with
drum loops that begin with crash cymbals. Instead of looping the entire clip, resulting in the
crash cymbal sounding every time the clip repeats, you can specify a loop area after the crash
cymbal. This way you’ll hear the crash the first time you trigger the clip, but you won’t hear it
again until you relaunch the clip.
As you’ll discover, this loop procedure is quite handy when DJing. That’s because Live not only
lets you set these loop points by hand within the Clip View, but also lets you define these loop
points on the fly by pressing the Loop Position Set and Loop Length Set buttons while the clip is
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The clip starts here . . .
. . . and loops here.
Figure 4.16 You can loop a subsection of a clip.
Click a Set button to move the marker
to the current play location within a clip.
Figure 4.17 The Set buttons will cause the associated markers to jump to the current play position.
playing (see Figure 4.17). This makes the clip behave like a DJ’s CD player where you can
instantly grab perfect loops out of songs or other types of clips.
Red Digits When loading new clips, you may find that some of the numbers in the Loop
Setting’s display are red. This means that the number displayed is not exact. For example,
if a clip length is listed as 1.4.4 with the last 4 in red, the clip may actually be 1.4.45 beats
long. Since Live cannot display values smaller than the sub-beats, the digits show up red
when there are further numbers that can’t be seen. Resetting the Warp Markers (see
Chapter 5) will fix these red digits by defining the exact size and timing of the clip.
Loop Start Offset
Like a sentence, the point from which you start a musical phrase can make a huge impact on
getting your meaning across. Because the clip’s start and end points are completely independent
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of the clip’s loop points, it is entirely possible to start a looped clip from a point other than the
beginning. If you place the clip’s Start Marker after the Loop Start, the clip will begin playing in
the middle of the loop when launched. By offsetting loops from each other, a great deal of rhythmic variation is possible (see Figure 4.18).
Figure 4.18 This loop will start playback on beat 2.
Clip Transport You can start playing a clip from any point you choose without having to
move the Start Marker. To do this, simply hover the cursor over the waveform or MIDI
data of the clip until it turns into a speaker icon (this will happen in the lower-half of the
waveform). When you click the waveform, the clip will begin playing from the closest
location allowed by the clip’s Launch Quantization. In other words, if the clip’s Quantize
setting is set to 1 Bar, you’ll be able to start playback from the beginning of any bar in the
clip. This makes it easy to jump to any point in a track, even during a performance, since
the jumps are quantized.
Editing Multiple Clips
You can also edit multiple clips simultaneously. When you select multiple clips, part of the Clip
View will be hidden from view. The controls that remain are those that can be changed for all of
the selected clips.
Some of the options, such as Clip Name and Clip Color, will be set identically for all clips—if
you change the Clip Name to Hot Drums, all of the selected clips will take on the same name.
This same behavior is true for nearly all of the available fields when editing multiple clips.
There are a couple of settings, however, that aren’t copied identically to all of the clips: the
Transpose, Detune, Velocity, and Volume settings. Changing these controls will change all of
the selected clips by the same relative amount. For example, if the Transpose setting of one clip is
2 and another is +3, turning up the Transpose knob 2 ticks while selecting both clips will result
in the first clip being set to 0 while the second clip is set to +5. This is extremely handy because
you can select multiple clips and transpose them all at once while maintaining their relative
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tunings. If you decide to change the key of your song or need to create a section that is modulated a full step higher, you can do it in a snap.
What the ****? When selecting multiple clips, you may see that some of the fields contain
an asterisk (*) instead of a value. This means that this value is different for each of the clips
selected. (This is more than likely what the Clip Name and Clip Color fields look like, as
most clips have different names and colors.) When you change one of these settings to a
specific value, all of the selected clips will inherit the same value, and the asterisk will
The Track
Moving up the totem pole from the clip is the track. The track is a pathway for signals, audio or
MIDI, to enter a channel of the mixer and is also a place to arrange related clips for playback.
There are four different types of tracks in Live (see Figure 4.19), and each one serves a specific
purpose in the way audio flows through your Live project.
Figure 4.19 The Session View with one of each type of track.
The Audio Track
An audio track (see Figure 4.19) is where you will place audio clips so they can be routed
through effects and fed into the Session Mixer. As we’ve mentioned before, only one clip can
be playing at any time on a track, therefore it is wise to place similar clips that won’t need to
play simultaneously on the same track. For example, Verse Gtr and Chorus Gtr are two guitar
parts from different sections of the song. They won’t be played at the same time, so putting them
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on the same track makes sense. You can trigger the verse guitar part, and it will play until you
trigger the chorus part. This gives you instant control of the arrangement since you can switch
between the verse and chorus parts with a click of the mouse (or push of a button, if you’ve
assigned external control).
To create a new audio track, choose Insert Audio Track from Live’s Create menu. You can also
press Ctrl (Cmd)+T for the same results. Double-clicking an audio track will display its Track
View. It is here that you’ll place plug-in effects for processing the clips as they’re fed to the
Session Mixer. (Chapter 7 explains the usage of effects in Live.)
The MIDI Track
A MIDI track is the same as an audio track, except it holds MIDI clips, MIDI effects, and virtual
instruments. When you create a MIDI track (Create 4 Insert MIDI Track or Ctrl (Cmd)+Shift+T),
it will output MIDI information, which can’t be fed into the Session Mixer directly. Instead of
seeing the normal volume and pan controls in the Mixer, you’ll see only a status meter. These
MIDI tracks can send their data to external devices, such as sound modules, or to other MIDI
tracks using the Input/Output Routing section.
Double-clicking a MIDI track displays its Track View. MIDI effects can be added to this view
for performing operations on the incoming MIDI data. More important, virtual instruments,
such as Live’s built-in Simpler and Impulse, can be placed on the track to convert the incoming
MIDI data to audio. Once an instrument has successfully been added, you’ll see that the MIDI
track now has audio controls in the Session Mixer. This essentially turns the MIDI track into a
hybrid MIDI/audio track, one that functions as MIDI from track input through the clip slots and
into the Track View, but functions as an audio track from instrument output through the Session
Mixer. This means that audio effects can be added to the Track View anyplace to the right of the
virtual instrument.
The Group Track
Group tracks are new to Live 8. Think of a group track as a track that contains other tracks. The
audio from any track in a group flows to the Group Track instead of directly to the Master
(although this can be customized if you want). Unlike audio, MIDI, and return tracks, group
tracks are not created from the Create menu. Instead, they are created by first selecting existing
audio or MIDI tracks (by using Shift+click or Ctrl [Cmd]+click in the track’s title bar) and then
right-clicking on those tracks and selecting Group Tracks from the context menu.
One use of Group Tracks is for traditional bussing or submixing, such as you might with drums.
For example, let’s say you have each of your drums on an individual track. In this case, it’s very
helpful to be able to adjust the volume of all of the drums simultaneously, as well as to be able to
process the drum mix with some compression. Traditional mixing boards and most multitrack
sequencers (including earlier versions of Live) contain methods for doing this, but Live 8 has
made the process incredibly easy.
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Not only has Live 8 simplified submixing, but Group Tracks offer other advantages as well.
First, notice the Fold switch (the small triangle) in the title bar of the Group Track. This allows
you to hide or show the tracks as desired. And, of course, since this is Live, there’s also a twist
for a live performance. If you look closely at the Group Track in Figure 4.19, you’ll notice that
some of the slots contain triangular play buttons, just like the Scene Launchers in the Master
track. These can be used to launch an entire row of clips contained within a group. Group
Tracks also contain stop buttons that can be used to stop all clips in the group.
If you ever want to add an additional track to a group, just drag the track until it is adjacent to
the other grouped tracks. Also, be aware that if you delete a Group Track, all of the tracks
within it will get deleted as well. What you probably want to do rather than delete a group is
ungroup the contained tracks. To so so, right-click on the title bar of the Group Track and select
Ungroup from the context menu.
The Return Track
A return track does not hold any clips, audio or MIDI, but can host audio effects. Each return
track is fed by a mix of the Send knobs corresponding to the return track (see Figure 4.20). As
you’ll discover in Chapter 7, “Using Effects and Instruments,” the return tracks allow you to add
additional effects to multiple tracks without overly taxing your CPU.
Figure 4.20 The return track has a corresponding Send knob in each audio channel of the Session
Mixer. Here we have three Send knobs for three return tracks.
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By default, there are two return tracks in a new Live Set. You can add more, up to 12, by choosing
Create 4 Insert Return Track from Live’s menu or by pressing Ctrl (Cmd)+Alt+T on your
computer keyboard.
The Master Track
The final track, the Master track, is created automatically with every new Live Set and cannot be
deleted. By default, new tracks send their output to the Master, although it is possible to route
audio directly to physical outputs on your interface and bypass the Master track.
The Master track has its own Track View, and this is a fitting place for master compression or
EQ to put the final touches on your mix (see Chapter 7). Also, the Master track will not hold
clips but instead houses the Scene Launchers, which we’ll explain in a moment.
Track Freeze
The Track Freeze function will help you manage your CPU load by “freezing” tracks so that they
can still be launched but don’t require all their processing to be performed. Live does this by
rendering the clips on the track through all its instruments, effects, and whatever else is on the
track and placing these clips back onto the track. To do this, simply right-click or Ctrl+click the
name of the track you want to freeze and select Freeze Track from the context menu. You’ll have
to wait a moment while Live processes all the clips through the track’s effects—obviously, longer
clips will take longer. When finished, the track will turn an ice-blue color. Now, when you
launch one of these frozen clips, you’ll be playing an audio file from disk, as opposed to the
CPU-intensive instruments and plug-ins that were running before.
What’s so great about this is that, after rendering the new clips, Live automatically disables all
the plug-ins on the track, thus freeing up valuable CPU resources. It does not, however, delete or
remove these plug-ins—they merely lie dormant.
So what’s the catch? Saving CPU must come at some sort of cost, right? Indeed it does, but a
manageable one. Since Live has rendered the clips into temporary audio clips, you can no longer
make most real-time tweaks to your sounds. You can, however, launch the various clips in the
Session View, do all of the usual cut, copy, and paste editing, as well as altering the mixing
controls on frozen tracks, such as Volume, Mute, Pan, Solo, and In/Out Routing. You can
even consolidate clips (Ctrl [Cmd]+J) and drag frozen MIDI clips into audio tracks to create
new clips!
If you find that you do need to tweak the sound, you can unfreeze the track (again, right-click or
Ctrl+click the track and select Unfreeze Track), at which point Live will discard all of the temporary audio clips and will re-enable all of the plug-ins on the track. You can now use the track
as normal. When you’ve completed your tweaks, you can refreeze.
This means you can make more parts in your song than would normally be possible by running
everything in real time. Furthermore, it means that slower computers now have the ability to
create more complex compositions, using sounds from instruments and effects that normally
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wouldn’t be able to run simultaneously. In the Arrangement View, each track will keep playing
until any effects you may be using, such as delay or reverb, die out. This is represented in the
arrangement as a crosshatched region immediately following the clip.
Finally, when right-clicking on the name of a frozen track, you’ll see the Flatten command. This
turns the frozen track into a standard audio track and populates the track with the temporary
audio clips that were created when the track was first frozen.
The Session
You’ll quickly find the Session View to be the most spontaneous section of Live. It is here that
tracks are arranged side by side and broken into tiny cells called clip slots. This clip slot grid (see
Figure 4.21) becomes a huge organizer for your musical ideas (all nicely encapsulated in clips),
where you can begin to create the structure of your songs, as well as perform live arrangements.
Clip Stop Buttons In Figure 4.21, you’ll see that only some of the empty clip slots have
small squares in them. These are the Clip Stop buttons. If you click or trigger one of these
buttons, it will stop the clip playing on that track. The clip will stop according to the Global
Quantize setting. Removing Clip Stop buttons from a scene will leave any playing clips on
the track untouched when the scene is launched. (No new clip will start, and any playing
clip will continue.) You can toggle a Clip Stop button on and off by selecting it (or a group
of them) with the mouse and pressing Ctrl (Cmd)+E.
Figure 4.21 Launching the second scene in this Session View example will allow the first clip (ChillyBeat)
to keep playing, while launching new synth and bass parts.
Adding Clips to the Session
Adding new clips to the session is as easy as dragging a file from the Browser into one of the clip
slots. Audio files are dragged into the clip slots of audio tracks and MIDI files into the clip slots
of MIDI tracks. You can also grab multiple samples from the Browser (hold Shift to select an
area or Ctrl (Cmd) to select individual files) and add them as a group to the Session View. By
default, the clips will be created on the same track. In fact, you’ll see transparent versions of the
clips as you drag them into the session. To have Live arrange the samples in the same scene, press
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and hold Ctrl (Cmd). You’ll see the transparent clips change their arrangement into a horizontal
fashion, and you can then choose their final destination.
You can also drag parts from the Browser and drop them onto empty areas of the Session View
(where there are no tracks). When you do this, Live will automatically create the appropriate
type of track and will place the new clip there. And you can create new clips directly in the
session by recording your performances, either audio recordings or MIDI recordings. Recording
new clips is covered in the recording sections of Chapters 5 and 6.
Drag-and-Drop Techniques
Clips can be added, moved, and duplicated in the Session View by using a variety of key and
mouse combinations. You can move a clip already on the grid to other slots just by clicking and
dragging it and then releasing the mouse button once the clip is in the desired location. Move
groups of clips by first selecting the area of clips you want to move and then dragging your
chosen group to a new location in the grid. You can select groups by dragging an area around
the clips with the mouse. If there isn’t any room around the clips, you can click one corner of
your desired area (selecting the clip) and then click the other corner while holding the Shift key.
Defining the corners of the area you want selects all clips within that area.
You can also duplicate a clip by selecting it (click once) and dragging the new copy to the desired
location while holding the Alt (Option) key. This is the same as selecting a clip, choosing Edit 4
Copy from the menu, clicking the destination, and choosing Edit 4 Paste. This duplicating technique also works with groups of clips as above.
Editing Commands
The clips in the Session View (and Arrangement View, for that matter) all respond to the standard Cut, Copy, Paste, and Delete editing commands. You can select a group of clips, choose
Cut (Ctrl [Cmd]+X) to remove them, and then paste them (Ctrl [Cmd]+V) in a new location.
You can also copy (Ctrl [Cmd]+C) clips and paste new versions elsewhere in the session. If you
merely want to create a new copy of some clip to be moved later, you can use Duplicate
(Ctrl [Cmd]+D) to instantly create a copy of your clips below the originals. Of course, you
can always select clips and press Delete to erase them.
Using Scenes
Scenes are horizontal rows of clips in the Session View you can trigger all at once, meaning that
you can trigger several clips with a single action. Musical arrangements in Live often work best if
you think of your music as starting in Scene 1 (the top row) and then progressing downward,
scene by scene (row by row). In other words, Scene 1 may be an intro section, Scene 2 may be a
verse, Scene 3 may be a chorus, and so on. Of course, don’t get caught up in the idea that your
song has to work this way—you can set up and skip scenes in any manner you see fit. As you
read on, this concept will begin to make sense.
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Notice that in Live’s Session View, the Scene Launcher is located just to the right of the clip slot
grid. By pressing the sideways triangles in the Scene Launch strip (under the Master Track column), you can launch simultaneous playback for all clips in a given scene. If there are any Clip
Stop buttons in the scene, they will stop any clip in their track. The Scene Launch buttons prove
useful when composing live, on-the-fly arrangements, during which you may want to jump from
one song section to the next and then back again. Figure 4.22 shows a single scene (row) in
Live’s Session View.
Figure 4.22 Scenes can be used as song sections, such as the verse, chorus, or bridge.
Two Scenes Are Better than One When working on a song arrangement, it can be really
useful to make a copy of an entire scene and use it to create some variations. The Duplicate command will insert a new scene directly below the scene you are working in and will
copy all present loops—a huge timesaver! To do this, select a Scene Launcher and press
Ctrl (Cmd)+D.
Inserting and Naming Scenes To insert an additional scene (row) in Session View, or to
insert a scene at a given point, select the scene above the desired location where you
would like the new scene to appear and press Ctrl (Cmd)+I. You can also add additional
scenes by choosing Edit 4 Insert Scene. If you create a new scene in the wrong place, see
the “Moving Scenes” Tip. You can name or rename a scene by right-Ctrl-clicking it next to
the Launcher button, accessing a pop-up context window.
Moving Scenes To move a scene, simply grab the scene’s title with the mouse and drag it
up or down to the preferred location. All clips in the scene will be included in the move.
Each row can house whole musical sections, new song directions, or merely a slight modification
in the piece currently playing. Many Live users think of their songs from top to bottom, advancing their song as they move down the grid, one row at a time. The fact that a track can play only
one clip at a time, rather than being a limitation, is actually a tool you can use to your advantage
in a couple of different ways. For instance, by using variations of the same drum loop—each in
its own clip slot, stacked in the same track—you can make interesting drum fills and rhythmic
turnarounds. This is also a great method for organizing other instrument tracks that change
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parts when moving from scene to scene (such as two different bass guitar loops, one for the
verse, the other for the chorus). By dedicating a single track to variant clips of one particular
instrument (one track for drums, one for bass, one for piano, etc.), you will create a more common mixer setup, one that feels more like an actual recording studio.
Channel Strip Live’s Session Mixer approximates its analog cousin in a couple of important
ways. For starters, any mix, panning, or effect settings on a given channel will be applied
to any sound on that channel. If you plan carefully, you can take advantage of this by
keeping similar instruments on the same track. For instance, if you apply an EQ to Track 1
and boost the highs, all highs on all clips on this channel will be boosted. As you move from
scene to scene, verse to chorus, the settings remain the same. You will see in later chapters
that Live’s Arrangement View allows you to automate effects or toggle them on and off in
the middle of a song, among other options.
You can therefore set up Live’s Session Mixer to resemble an analog studio mixer: Track 1 is
designated for drums, Track 2 is designated for guitar, and so on. The difference is that you
will have several drum clips vertically aligned on the same track in each scene. Here is a
more complete song (see Figure 4.23). Notice how the same loop is copied multiple times on
each track (in multiple scenes).
Figure 4.23 This more complete-looking clip slot grid shows how a more developed song might work.
You will move through the song sections by clicking the scenes, which are named in the Master column.
As you can see, you don’t need to use every row—scenes can skip rows if you like.
RAM Tough All of these copied loops will not strain your CPU more than the one instance
of the loop playing. Live “knows” that the clips all reference the same file for playback.
There are a number of different ways to launch and move between scenes. In addition to pressing
the Scene Launch button (with mouse, computer keyboard, or MIDI keyboard), you can also
trigger a scene by pressing the Enter (Return) key, so long as the scene number/name is highlighted.
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Changing the highlighted scenes can be done with the arrow keys and then triggered again with
the Enter (PC) or Return (Mac) key. Live also features a Preferences setting (Select Next Scene on
Launch—see Chapter 2, “Getting Live Up and Running”) that will automatically move down one
scene every time you press the Enter key. Note: If you select another clip slot or parameter on the
mixer, you will need to highlight the scene again to begin triggering with the Enter/Return key.
Capturing Scenes
When experimenting with random combinations of clips in the Session View, you’ll come across
combinations that work well together. You can press Ctrl (Cmd)+Shift+I or Create 4 Capture
and Insert Scene to create a new scene that is populated with the currently playing clips. You can
quickly build a collection of potential scenes this way that you can experiment with to build a
song arrangement.
Naming Scenes
Scenes can be named and renamed as many times as you like (the default name is simply a number). Many Live users label their scenes by song section, such as verse, chorus, bridge, or breakdown, in order to remind them what section they are triggering. To rename a scene, click its
current name or number, press Ctrl (Cmd)+R, or choose Edit 4 Rename; then type in whatever
you like. Press Enter (Return) to accept the new name or Escape to leave it as it was.
Programming Scene Tempos and Time Signatures
From time to time, you may want to make instantaneous jumps to different tempos while in the
Session View. By naming a scene using a special convention, you can cause Live to change tempo
when the scene is triggered. To switch the tempo to 85 BPM, just include “85BPM” in the name
of the scene and launch it. The scene can be empty; you don’t need to trigger any clips when you
launch this scene if you merely want to change tempos. You can remove all the Clip Stop buttons
(select them and press Ctrl (Cmd)+E) so that none of your clips are stopped.
One instance where programming scene tempos is particularly helpful is when you’re organizing
a large batch of clips into a Set so that a single Live Set contains multiple songs. One group of
scenes may belong to one song at a given tempo, while another group of scenes represents a
different song and tempo and so on.
Scenes can also be named to create changes in the time signature. Time signatures are represented as fractions, with the numerator (number of beats per bar) being any value from 1 to 99
and the denominator (type of beats) being 1, 2, 4, 8, or 16. Scene names can contain both time
signature and tempo changes as long as the two values are separated by at least one character
(see Figure 4.24).
MIDI and Computer Keyboard Control
There sure is a lot of mouse clicking going on in Live. Thankfully, you can offload a lot of these
tasks to a much more intuitive interface, such as your MIDI keyboard or your computer’s
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Figure 4.24 Live is smart enough to recognize tempos and time signatures in scene names. Launching
these scenes will cause the indicated changes to take effect immediately.
keyboard. Once you get Live under external control, you’ll really be able to feel the musical
power at your fingertips.
Controlling Live from external devices is called remote control. Before you start, select your
desired control devices in the Remote Control section of the MIDI/Sync Preferences pane (see
Chapter 2). Live will remember these settings, but loading Live without one of your devices
connected may require you to reselect it when it’s available again.
First, click the MIDI Assignment button in the upper-right corner of the Live window or press
Ctrl (Cmd)+M (see Figure 4.25). You’ll see a bunch of blue squares and rectangles appear above
Live’s clip slot grid, Session Mixer, effects, and a variety of other parameters, such as Tempo and
Metronome in the Control Bar. You’ll also see a MIDI Mappings window appear at left, containing a list of all MIDI mappings currently active in your Live Set.
Click here to enable MIDI mapping.
Figure 4.25 Clicking the MIDI Assignment button exposes the MIDI layer where control can be assigned
to elements of Live.
The superimposed blue squares indicate controls that can have a MIDI message assigned to
them. If you click on one of your clips in the clip slot grid and press a key on your MIDI keyboard, you’ll see a white box appear in that clip slot, showing the MIDI channel and note
assigned to that slot. Clicking the MIDI Assignment button again will exit Assignment mode
and return Live to normal. Now, when you press the assigned key on your MIDI keyboard, the
clip will launch, just as if you’d clicked it with the mouse.
You can also assign knobs and sliders on a MIDI controller to the knobs and sliders you see on
Live’s screen. If you like, you can assign a knob to control a slider and vice versa—whichever
suits your style. To assign MIDI controllers, press the MIDI Assignment button, click on the dial
or fader you want to control, and then twist or move the control you want to use. Exit MIDI
Assignment mode, and you’ll be ready to go.
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With the Push of a Knob Live will allow you to assign MIDI knobs and sliders to its buttons,
as well as assign MIDI buttons to its sliders and knobs. In the first case, the button in Live
will turn on when your MIDI control passes 64. It will switch off when you move the
control back under 64. If you assign a MIDI button or key to a slider or knob, pressing
the button or key will make the slider or knob toggle between its lowest and highest
Just to the left of the MIDI Assignment button is the Keyboard Assignment button. This works
the same way as the MIDI button, except it assigns Live’s controls to keys on your computer
keyboard instead of the keys on your synthesizer or other MIDI control device. Press Key (or
Ctrl [Cmd]+K), and orange highlight boxes will appear, and a Key Mappings window will be
displayed at the left. This window shows all of your currently active key mappings. Click and
press a key to assign it a task and then exit Key mode.
Take It to the Min (or Max) Live allows you to constrain the movement of MIDI knobs to a
smaller range of values. Normally, the relationship between a MIDI knob and a knob in
Live is 1 to 1. This means the knob on-screen will follow the same movements of the
associated MIDI knob.
This can prove troublesome from time to time, however, if you want to make only minute
changes to a parameter. For example, if you assign a MIDI control to the volume of the
track, you may not want the track ever to pass a certain volume because it would
overpower your mix. To prevent this, you can assign minimum and maximum values to a
control while making a MIDI assignment. After you’ve clicked on the knob while in MIDI
Map mode, you’ll see two number boxes at the bottom of the screen. Here, type in the
minimum and maximum volumes you desire. When you leave MIDI assignment mode
and attempt to crank up the volume of the track using the MIDI control, you’ll find that
the volume goes up to your maximum value only when the MIDI control is moved to its
maximum position.
For even greater creativity, Live will allow you to place a higher number in the Minimum
field and a lower number in the Maximum field. This essentially switches the polarity of
the MIDI control, where turning up the MIDI control lowers the value of the control in
Live and vice versa.
Also note that these minimum and maximum values affect only the way in which a MIDI
knob or slider controls a value in Live. If you use your mouse on the Live control, you’ll
still have full range of motion.
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Key and MIDI assignments are saved in each Live Set, so every song can have a different control
scheme. If you find yourself always making common assignments, such as buttons for the transport, you can assign them and save them as part of your Live template (see Chapter 2 for more
on creating templates).
The Arrangement
Even though we’ve been touting Live’s unique on-the-fly arranging style possible in the Session
View, you still have the Arrangement View to consider. We’ve hinted a few times at what the
Arrangement View does and how it shares channels on the Session Mixer with the Session View,
but how does the Arrangement View augment your compositional workflow in Live? Some of
you may think that the Arrangement View is a step in the opposite direction from Live’s realtime capabilities; however, because of the unique interrelationship between the Session and
Arrangement Views, you’ll find the Arrangement View is just as creative a space to work in
as the Session View, and it can be used to enhance a live performance.
Look Both Ways You can zoom and scroll through the Arrangement View using the same
method as navigating the waveform display of the Clip View.
Anytime your mouse turns into a magnifying glass, you can click and drag to change your
view—dragging up and down changes the zoom setting, while dragging left and right
pans the view.
You can also use the condensed Overview, located at the top of the Arrangement View,
to locate sections of your Arrangement. You can drag the left and right edges of the
Overview box to choose the area you want to view.
What Is an Arrangement?
Briefly, an arrangement is a predetermined playback scheme of clips and mix automation (to be
explained in a moment). The Arrangement View (see Figure 4.26) has horizontal tracks (unlike
the vertical track layout of the Session View), and clips are placed in these tracks so they can
be played in order from left to right. The Arrangement View is almost exactly like the timeline
views of other sequencer packages such as Pro Tools, Logic, and Cubase. For those with experience in those programs, the Arrangement View will be instantly familiar.
Just like other sequencer programs, the Arrangement View has a playback cursor that shows the
current playback location. When you press the Play button in Live’s Control Bar, it will start the
arrangement running. In fact, anytime Live is running, even when just playing clips in the Session
View, the arrangement will be running as well.
When you start Live’s transport, the arrangement will start playing from the beginning of the
song. If you want to start from a different position, click on an empty spot in the arrangement to
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Figure 4.26 The Arrangement View is where you can start putting the arrangement of your song into
place the Start Marker (see Figure 4.27). Now, when you start the transport, Live will begin
playing from the Start Marker. If you press Stop and then press Play (or if you press the spacebar
once to stop, followed by another press to start again), the arrangement will restart from the
Start Marker. If you double-click Stop, the Start Marker will be removed, and the arrangement
will play from the beginning. If you want to have the arrangement restart from the point where
you stopped it, you’ll need to hold down Shift while you press the spacebar. The Shift-spacebar
command means continue instead of start.***
Click on an empty spot in the arrangement
to place the Start Marker.
Figure 4.27 The Start Marker is signified by the small orange triangle at the top of the Arrangement
Another method for changing the start location of the arrangement is to type in a new start time
in the Control Bar. Also, if you click on a clip in the arrangement, the arrangement will start
playing from the beginning of that clip the next time you start the transport.
The final method for controlling the transport involves mousing over the Scrub Area of the
Arrangement (see Figure 4.28). When your mouse turns into a speaker icon, you can click,
and Live will immediately begin playing from this location. You can even do this while the
transport is running to jump to a different position in the arrangement.
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Click in this area to jump to different places in the arrangement.
Figure 4.28 Click in this lane to make the Arrangement jump to that location.
Recording from the Session into the Arrangement
Because the Session and Arrangement Views are so closely related, it’s possible to program the
arrangement by recording your performance from the Session View. With the Session View
open, press the Global Record button in the Control Bar (see Figure 4.29) and then perform
your song as usual. When you’re finished, press Stop and take a look at the Arrangement
View (press Tab). It will now be filled with an arrangement of clips. Press Play, and the arrangement will begin to play. You’ll hear your entire performance played back for you exactly as you
recorded it, including all control movements, such as tempo changes, volume adjustments, and
effect tweaks. Easy!
Global Record button
Figure 4.29 Global Record captures your every move into the Arrangement View.
Back to Arrangement Since the Session and Arrangement Views share the same channels in
the Session Mixer, it is possible to override what has been programmed into the arrangement by launching clips in the session. These newly launched clips will play in place of what
you’ve programmed into the arrangement. When this happens, the Back to Arrangement
button (see Figure 4.30) will light up red. Clicking this button (turning it back to gray) will
stop any clips playing in the Session View and will re-engage the tracks in the arrangement.
If you’re working on an arrangement and find you’re hearing something different from
what you see in the Arrangement View, check this button and be sure it’s gray.
In the case of an empty Arrangement View, anything you do in the Session View will
cause the Back to Arrangement button to light. This is because you’re hearing something
different from the arrangement—which is silence. You’ll see that if you click the Back to
Arrangement button in this situation, all of your clips will stop in order to play the silence
programmed into the arrangement.
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Back to Arrangement
This track is being overridden by something in track 3 of the Session View.
Figure 4.30 You can see that the Back to Arrangement button is lit. You can also see that Track 3 of the
arrangement is not playing because the track is slightly transparent. Clicking the Back to Arrangement
button will make Track 3 solid again so you can hear it.
If you find you like a different selection of clips in the Session View better than what you’d programmed into the arrangement, you can press the Arrangement Record button, and the Session
clips will begin replacing the contents of their Arrangement tracks. This is just another way Live
makes it easy to experiment and capture your ideas quickly without stopping the flow of music.
Adding Clips to the Arrangement
While recording from the Session View is one way of quickly filling the Arrangement View with
clips, you can create new clips manually by using the same methods employed in the Session
View. You can either drag files from your Browser to create new clips, or you can record new
clips from external sources.
Drag a file from the Browser into an Arrangement track. Voilà! A new clip appears. This is
exactly like dragging a file into one of the clip slots in the Session View. You can doubleclick this clip to see its Clip View where you can make all of your adjustments just like in the
Session View. Indeed, clips in the Session View and Arrangement View are identical. One does
not have more functions than the other; however, one thing you can do with an Arrangement
clip is determine its play length. When a clip is added from a file, it will appear as only one
repetition of the file (e.g., a one-bar drum loop will appear as a clip that is one bar long). By
clicking and dragging the right edge of the clip, you can lengthen it, which will cause the clip to
repeat as it’s played. This works only for clips with Loop engaged. If your clip is not extending
past a certain point, check the Clip View and make sure that Loop is enabled.
Session to Arrangement (and Back Again) As you work on your masterpieces, you’ll some-
times want to manually drop a Session clip into the Arrangement View. To do this, click a
clip and hold down the mouse button while pressing the Tab key. Now you can drag that
clip to wherever you want it in your arrangement and drop it in. The same technique also
works for dropping clips from the Arrangement into the session.
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Editing the Arrangement
By editing the contents of the arrangement, you can fix mistakes you may have made while
recording your performance. Perhaps you launched a clip a bar early when recording from
the Session View. Maybe you coughed during the middle of a vocal take. You can remedy these
mishaps using the techniques explained below.
You can also use the tools of the Arrangement View as a step in the creative process as well. You
can use the meticulous editing and manipulation available at this level as a stylistic element of
your music. In fact, the Arrangement View often serves as a “cutting table” for assembling new
clips for use in the Session View. You can splice together beats to create new clips or roll multiple vocal takes into one perfect take.
Viewing Tracks
There are two ways to view tracks in the Arrangement View: folded and unfolded (see Figure 4.31).
A track can be unfolded by clicking on the downward pointing triangle next to the track name.
Holding down Alt while clicking here will fold or unfold all tracks in the arrangement. The
unfolded track can be resized easily by dragging up or down at the bottom edge of the track’s
Mixer section. While keeping tracks folded is convenient for getting an overview of your arrangement, many editing operations require that the track be unfolded. When you move your cursor over
a clip in an unfolded track, it may change into a pencil tool, indicating that Draw mode is enabled.
For the editing features we’re about to discuss, you’ll want to turn off Draw mode by clicking on
the pencil icon in the Control Bar so that it’s not highlighted.
Figure 4.31 Fold and unfold tracks by using the arrow button next to the track name.
Cut, Copy, Paste, Duplicate, Delete
The standard Cut, Copy, Paste, Duplicate, and Delete commands work as expected in the
Arrangement View. Copy (Ctrl [Cmd]+C) will copy the selected clip(s) to the computer’s clipboard. You can then place a copy of the clip(s) at a new location on the timeline by first clicking
the destination location for them in the desired track. Use Paste (Ctrl [Cmd]+V) to copy the clip(s)
from the clipboard to this new location. You can also copy clips by holding down Alt while dragging a clip to a new location.
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The Cut command (Ctrl [Cmd]+X) works like the Copy command, except that it removes the
selected clip(s) from the source pane. You can then use Paste to place the clip(s) in a new location in the Arrangement. Duplicate (Ctrl [Cmd]+D) simply takes the selected clip(s) and makes
a new copy directly to the right of the selection. This is handy for repeating a section. If you
want to remove a clip or clips without copying to the clipboard, select the clip(s) and press the
Delete key.
If you want to perform one of the above actions on just a portion of a clip, you’ll have to unfold
the track first. Once the track is unfolded, you can click and drag in the clip’s overview to highlight just a portion of it and then perform the editing action you want.
Dragging and Resizing
When a track is folded, you can move a clip (or group of clips) by clicking anywhere in the clip
and dragging it to a new location. When a track is unfolded, you’ll have to click on the title bar
(above the waveform display) of the clip before dragging it. Select a group of clips and click-drag
one to move the whole group. You can even drag the clip(s) to a different track if you want.
Furthermore, you can change the length of a clip by moving your mouse to its left or right edge.
When your mouse turns into a bracket ( ] ), click and drag the clip to your desired length. You’ll
be able to extend the clip beyond its original length only if the Loop button for the clip is on.
Splitting and Consolidating Clips
You can break a clip into smaller clips using the Split function. To do this, you’ll need to unfold
the track first. Once the track is unfolded, you can find the point at which you want to split the
clip. Now click the location for your cut and press Ctrl (Cmd)+E. The clip will be split into two
clips (see Figure 4.32). These new clips will be completely independent of one another, meaning
they can have their own unique Transpose, Gain, Warp, Loop, and Envelopes.
Figure 4.32 Just click and split to break clips into smaller ones for independent editing.
After breaking clips into smaller ones for editing purposes, you can rejoin the clips into one clip
for easier use. Select the clips that you want to join and select Consolidate from the Edit menu,
or press Ctrl (Cmd)+J. Live will quickly render a new clip containing all the parts you had
selected. When Live consolidates a clip, it creates a new audio file in your project folder, in
Samples 4 Processed 4 Consolidate.
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Cut, Paste, Duplicate, Delete, and Insert Time
While copying and manipulating clips are achieved with the Cut, Copy, Paste, and Delete functions, you can use the Cut Time, Duplicate Time, Delete Time, and Insert Silence commands to
make broad edits to the whole arrangement. When using these commands, you need to select (by
click-dragging) only the area of time you want to manipulate. These commands work on all
tracks simultaneously, selected or not.
The Cut Time command (Ctrl [Cmd]+Shift+X) works like the regular Cut command, except that
it cuts an entire section of the Arrangement away to the clipboard and moves the rest of the
arrangement over to fill the gap that would be left by the clips that were cut. You can place the
Cut Time in a new location if you want by clicking the desired insert point in the arrangement
and selecting Paste Time (Ctrl [Cmd]+Shift+V). Just like the Cut version, the Paste Time command will move everything over to make enough room for the section of time you are pasting in.
Duplicate Time (Ctrl [Cmd]+Shift+D) will duplicate a section of an arrangement and insert it
directly to the right of the original. Delete Time will remove a section from the arrangement
without copying it to the clipboard.
Insert Silence (Ctrl [Cmd]+I) will insert an amount of silence where you click-drag an area.
Selecting the first two bars of an arrangement and executing Insert Silence will shift the entire
arrangement to the right by two bars, thus giving you two bars of silence before the song starts.
In addition to all of the clip editing described above, tracks can also display automation. Automation is programmed or recorded movements for controls in Live’s mixer, devices, and plug-ins.
For example, if you want to fade out the volume at the end of your song, you would automate the
Master Volume so Live will perform the fade every time it reaches the end of the song.
Just about every parameter in Live can be automated. One exception is the Solo/Cue switch in
the mixer. Ableton conceived of this control as a tool for isolating tracks in the studio, or prelistening on the gig, so automation for this control has never been possible.
Recording Automation
The simplest and most intuitive means of automating your arrangement is by recording the
desired control movements in real time while the song plays. For example, to program the
fade-out explained above, you’d activate the Arrangement Record button in the Control Bar
and press Play. When the song reaches the point where you want to fade out, start moving
the Master Volume control downward. You can either click and drag with the mouse or use
an external MIDI controller—both methods will be recorded the same way. When you’re done
with the fade, press Stop. You’ll now see a red dot in the Master Volume control. This red dot
appears over any control that has recorded automation in the arrangement. You can go back and
repeat the recording process as many times as you like to build your automation in layers. For
instance, you can control the volume of a synth part on the first pass and then make another
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recording to automate the pan. Live will perform the previous pass of volume automation while
you make the new recording of pan movements.
Viewing Automation
You can see the automation for a track by first unfolding the track and then selecting the parameter you want to view. The parameter is selected by using the two menus in the track: The first
menu (the Device Chooser) selects the general category of automation, such as Mixer, Send, or
any of the track’s plug-ins. The second menu (the Control Chooser) selects a specific parameter
from the general category selected. For example, to see the track’s volume automation, you’d
select Mixer in the first menu and Track Volume in the second menu. If an Auto Filter effect is
loaded onto the track, you can view its Cutoff automation by choosing Auto Filter and Cutoff
Automation is displayed as a line-graph superimposed over the clip’s data (see Figure 4.33). The
meaning of the line shown in the automation track is determined by the parameter being controlled. In the case of level controls such as Volume or Send, volumes increase as the line moves
toward the top of the track. For other controls, such as Pan, a line in the center of the track
represents a center pan position. Lower values move the pan left, while higher values move the
pan right.
This envelope is fading the Master Volume.
Figure 4.33 You can see the final fadeout of the song represented by the downward-sloping line in the
Master track of the arrangement.
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Since Live 7, it has been possible to view more than one lane of automation at a time. The easiest
way to view all of a track’s automation is to right-click on the track name and select Add Lane
for Each Automated Envelope from the context menu (see Figure 4.34). Note that Ableton uses
the terms Automation and Automation Envelopes interchangeably. Clip Envelopes are a different entity and will be discussed in Chapter 5.
If you want to view only certain envelopes, you can click the plus sign below the track name.
This will add a new lane for whatever envelope you are currently viewing on the track. To add
additional lanes, select a different envelope from the Device and Control Choosers, and click the
plus sign. Conversely, each automation lane has a minus sign that can be used to remove
the lane. Instead of removing lanes, you may just want to hide them. This can be done with
the additional Fold button that appears at the bottom of the track’s title bar.
Figure 4.34 Use the plus and minus icons in a track’s title bar to add and remove automation lanes. The
Add Lane for Each Automated Envelope command will automatically create a new lane for each automated parameter.
Editing Automation
You can change the shape of the automation graph by using two techniques. When Draw mode
is off (toggle Draw mode with Ctrl [Cmd]+B), you will be creating breakpoint envelopes (see
Figure 4.35). The automation will be displayed as lines with little circles at each “elbow,”
known as breakpoints. You can click and drag these breakpoints to new locations to reshape
the graph. You can double-click a circle to delete it, or you can double-click a line to create a
new breakpoint in that location. You can also select an area of the automation graph (click and
drag the desired area) and then move a whole section of automation around with the mouse.
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Maintain Ctrl When editing automation curves, you’ll frequently be making only small
modifications, such as increasing volume by 1dB or making a mute happen a little sooner.
By holding the Ctrl (Cmd) key while moving points of the graph, your mouse movements
will be minimized, allowing you to make subtle and specific changes with ease.
By switching Draw mode on, you will be working with Live’s Pencil tool. By drawing with the
Pencil in the automation graph, you’ll create flat “steps” that are each the same width as the
current grid setting (see Figure 4.35). This will allow you to create tempo-synced automation
effects, such as volume gates or timed effect sends. The Pencil will overwrite any ramps that may
have been made in the breakpoint mode in favor of its flat-step style.
Figure 4.35 Using the Pencil tool, you can create tempo-synced steps in your automation graphs.
Quantize Keys You can change the value used for the quantize grid with these keystrokes:
(Cmd)+1: Makes the quantize units smaller.
(Cmd)+2: Makes the quantize units larger.
(Cmd)+3: Toggles triplet mode on and off.
Ctrl (Cmd)+4: Toggles the quantize grid on and off. When the grid is off, you will
be able to draw values anywhere.
You can also select different Adaptive or Fixed Grid modes by right-clicking (Ctrl+clicking)
a track in the Arrangement View.
Another major feature introduced in Live 8 is Fades. Unless you’ve done a lot of audio editing,
you may not realize what a big deal it is to be able to fade and crossfade audio clips automatically. Well, if that’s the case, let me tell you—it is. While Live’s Fades feature can be used for
what is commonly thought of as a fade (a song slowly decreasing in volume or smoothly transitioning into another song), fades are also important to anyone who has to chop up audio. First,
with digital audio there is always the “zero-crossing” problem. If a digital audio file is ever
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suddenly cut off anywhere other than the exact center of the waveform display (as seen in
Figure 4.36), there will be an unpleasant popping sound.
Figure 4.36 Without a fade, this audio clip will pop when it ends.
In the real world, it’s simply not possible to make every single edit at a zero crossing (and ever
get anything else done, that is). To address this, most DAWs and audio editing programs have
the ability to create fades to prevent popping when audio files are silenced or cut together. Live
has always had the ability to automatically create a very short fade at clip boundaries, but up
until now, these fades were not editable, and there was no way to automatically crossfade two
audio regions into each other.
This can be particularly important when “comping” together takes (such as multiple passes of
a vocal track). When doing this, it’s sometimes necessary to make extremely precise edits—
sometimes placing an edit in the middle of a word, for example. In these cases, crossfades are
essential. By simultaneously fading out one piece of audio while fading in the other, these minute
transitions can be made far more smooth and convincing.
Fades are not automation, but they appear in the Arrangement View as if they were (see Figure 4.37).
They are automatically created at every clip boundary, so depending on your workflow, you may not
find yourself viewing fades very often. However, in cases where you’re doing some intense editing, or
you want to experiment with some creative crossfading, you’ll need to view your fades so you can
customize them.
Figure 4.37 When a clip is followed by silence, a fast fade is automatically created to avoid clicks and
pops. When two clips are adjacent to each other, a crossfade is created, causing the sounds to overlap
and fade into each other.
Fades have two adjustable handles. The top handle controls the length of the fade. In the first
fade shown in Figure 4.37, the top handle could be dragged to the left to create a longer, more
gradual fade. The center handle controls the fade’s slope, changing it to more of a “scoop” or a
“bump” shape.
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No Fades on Me Don’t like fades? In Live’s Preferences, there’s a setting called “Create
Fades on Clip Edges” in the Record/Warp/Launch tab. If you turn this off, not only will
Live stop creating fades at clip boundaries, but it will also allow you to delete existing fades
by selecting them and pressing Ctrl (Cmd)+Delete.
Locators and Time Signature Changes
In simple terms, locators can be used to mark different sections, such as flagging the start of a
verse, chorus, or bridge. However, Ableton did not stop there—it has given you the ability to
jump around to different locators in your arrangement, thus allowing you to perform custom
arrangements right in the Arrangement View.
Creating Locators
Creating a locator is about as simple as it gets: Click the Set button in the upper-right corner of
the arrangement at the point where you want to drop the marker (see Figure 4.38) Like all things
in Live, the locator will be placed at the nearest beat specified in the Quantize menu. Locators
can also be created by right-clicking in the Scrub area (the area directly above the topmost track)
and selecting Add Locator from the context menu.
Four Locators
Click Set to create a Locator
Figure 4.38 Every time you click Set, a new locator will be created at the current play position.
Moving and Renaming Locators
Each time you make a locator, it will be given the name Locator followed by a number. To give
the locator a more useful name, right-click (Ctrl+click) on the locator and choose Rename. You
can also click the locator to select it; then press Ctrl (Cmd)+R to rename.
You can change the position of locators after you’ve made them by clicking the locator and
dragging it to a new location in the timeline. If you want to remove the locator, click to select
it and then press Delete.
Jumping to Locators
The best part about locators is the ability to jump between them seamlessly while the arrangement is playing. All you have to do is click on a locator (it will begin to flash green), and playback will jump to that location, subject to global quantization. You can also use the two arrow
buttons to the left and right of the Set button to jump to the previous or next locator.
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Ableton really hit the mark, though, by allowing you to assign MIDI messages and computer
keys to these locators, just like any other control in Live. This means that the arrangement is
now nearly as flexible as the Session View in that you can repeat sections of the song at will or
jump to other areas as you see fit. Even the most complex of arrangements is now opened up for
your experimentation, thanks to these locators.
Time Signature Changes
Time signature changes can be created by right-clicking in the Scrub area, choosing Insert Time
Signature Change from the context menu, and typing in the time signature you want (see Figure 4.39). Editing and deleting a time signature change is done from the context menu as well.
Just right-click on the time signature change and select Edit to alter the time signature or
Delete to remove it.
Figure 4.39 Time signature changes in the Arrangement View.
Looping and Punching
The Loop Start and Loop Region Length values serve two purposes. In addition to specifying the
Arrangement loop points, they also mark the start and stop points for automatic recording
Creating a Loop
You can loop, or repeat, a section of the arrangement by placing the Loop Brace around the
desired area and clicking the Loop button in the Control Bar (see Figure 4.40). You can start the
arrangement anywhere you like, but if playback reaches the right Region Marker, it will jump
back to the position of the left Region Marker. To the left of the Loop button is a numerical
display indicating the bar and beat that the region begins, while on the right you will see another
numerical display showing the length of the region. If you prefer, these values can be edited
directly instead of moving the Loop Brace.
You can move the Loop region while the arrangement is playing. Playback will not follow the
Loop Brace as you move it, but the song will begin to loop again once it reaches the new end
point of the loop. This means you can loop one section and then just move the Loop Brace to the
new location after all the desired repetitions are played. This can help you zero in on problem
spots, automate mix settings, or merely give a section a good listen. If you happen to move the
loop to a position to the left of the current playback location, playback will continue until the
end of the song.
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Loop/Region Markers
Arrangement Loop button
Figure 4.40 Playback will loop repeatedly between the Region Markers while the Loop button is engaged.
Instant Loop Often, you’ll find that you want to set your loop points to match the exact
length of a clip, or a series of clips, in your arrangement. To do so, select the clip(s) and
then press Ctrl (Cmd)+L, which is the shortcut for Loop Selection. This will automatically
set the Loop Brace to the position and length of the selected clip(s).
Punching In and Out
In the next two chapters, we will discuss recording audio and MIDI into Live. The process is
nearly identical for both audio and MIDI clips. We will cover how to record both into the Session View and the Arrangement View.
When recording to the Arrangement View, Live can be set so that it automatically begins recording at a specified point in the arrangement and stops at another. This is the second function of
the Loop Brace. This auto-recording function is referred to as punching and is enabled by the
two buttons on either side of the Loop button (see Figure 4.41). Punching in occurs when you
Arrangement Record button
Punch-in and Punch-out
New recording
Armed track
Figure 4.41 Here we’ve placed the Loop Brace around the bar right before the last chorus. With the
Punch-In and Punch-Out buttons, we can start playback before the bad measure, but Live will only record
the section in between the markers.
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start recording; punching out occurs when you stop. Normally, punching is used when you need
to replace only a section of a recording, as you might after recording a good take with a few
weak passages.
As you can see, the Punch-In and Punch-Out buttons can be set independently. This means you
can have Live start recording at a specific point and continue until you stop it. This will allow
you to punch in partway through the song and record until the end. You can also have Live stop
recording in the same spot every time. This is helpful when trying to nail down a tricky intro
Export Audio
After you have finished your Live song—and you like the way it sounds—it is time to get it out
of your computer, burned to CD, or made available for download online. Before you can start
burning CDs, though, you need to render your arrangement to a stereo audio file. Figure 4.42a
shows the Export Audio/Video dialog (formerly known as Render to Disk) that appears when
you press Ctrl (Cmd)+R. Figure 4.42b shows the only difference in this dialog when it is invoked
from the Session View: the Length value.
Figure 4.42a The Export Audio/Video dialog in Arrangement View.
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Figure 4.42b The Export dialog in Session View differs only in that the length of the output file must
be specified in the Length field.
In both the Session and Arrangement Views, the Export Audio/Video menu presents several
important decisions to make. To begin, you will need to know the exact length of the section
of audio you are rendering. If you are rendering from Session View, then you are likely rendering
only a four-, eight-, or sixteen-bar section, whereas in the Arrangement View, you may well be
rendering an entire song and can select the amount of desired rendering time by highlighting the
portion of the arrangement you want to render (or its entirety). For instance, if you want to
render a four-minute song, simply drag (highlight) the entire length of the song on any track.
Note that you also need to select which output to render, selected in the Rendered Track box.
For creating a final mix, you would select the Master output. You also have the option to render
any of the individual tracks or the Render All Tracks option, which will render each of your
tracks individually all at the same time. This last option can be extremely useful if you want to
export individual tracks for mixing in another audio sequencer such as Pro Tools or Logic.
Remember that rendering the Master output will include only the output that is routed to the
Master track. If you want to create a submix of a few tracks, you can solo those tracks, and only
those will be heard in the final mix. Also, don’t forget that if you have any tracks bypassing the
Master and being routed directly to outputs on your audio interface, they won’t get included
at all.
To render from Session View, the steps are as follows:
Determine how long you want your loop or rendered audio section to be. There is no
need to render more than one repetition of the audio segment; however, you can
often make your music more interesting by embellishing the repeated loop and then
rendering both the original and the varied loop as two loops.
Launch all of the clip(s) you want to be rendered. Once you’ve got them all playing, stop
the sequencer.
Select File 4 Export Audio/Video to call up the Export Audio/Video dialog and type in
the length of the file to be rendered, as determined in Step 1.
Click OK or press Enter, and select the drive/folder where you want to save your
new loop.
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To render from the Arrangement View, do the following:
Select the portion of the arrangement that you want to render. This selection can be
made by click-dragging on any track, clicking on a clip, Shift-clicking to select a series of
clips, or adjusting the loop brace to the desired length and clicking on its top bar.
Select File 4 Export Audio/Video to call up the Export dialog. Note that the range you
have selected in Step 1 is displayed at the bottom of the dialog.
Select the Rendered track. Select Master to create a final mix, select an individual track,
or select All Tracks to export all tracks individually.
Click OK or press Enter, and select the drive/folder where you want to save your new
When the Normalize setting is set to On, Live will raise the level of the highest peak to the
maximum level possible without distortion. I recommend leaving this setting off for full songs
and relegating all mastering/normalizing tasks to your wave editor (or mastering engineer!).
Most wave editors, such as Sonic Foundry’s Sound Forge, Bias’s Peak Audio, and Steinberg’s
Wavelab, have a good deal more flexibility than Live in the matter of normalizing; however, if
you are merely rendering a quick loop or small selection of audio, you may switch on Live’s
Normalization setting to save time.
Render as Loop
Upon first glance, Render as Loop may seem like an insignificant option; however, this is a very
important box if you have used any reverbs or delays in your soon-to-be-rendered loop. Typically, you want to render any audio file with delay or reverb such that you can hear the entire
“tail” of the effect. In other words, you want to hear the reverb or delay decay until the sound
completely dissipates. In a looping context, this creates a problem because the very end of the
decay actually needs to occur at the beginning of the loop. By activating the Render as Loop
option, Live will render the file twice—once placing in the effect tails, and twice to actually
render the sample(s). Without this option enabled, delays and reverbs will be heard to end
abruptly when the audio loops back to the beginning.
File Type
When rendering, you have a choice between saving your audio in either AIFF or WAV file
format—either of which is capable of being burned to CD. When in doubt, stick with WAV
files—they are readable by both Macs and PCs, while AIFFs are not natively recognized by
Windows. When it comes time to actually burn your music onto a CD, you will need to use
Apple’s iTunes, Microsoft’s Windows XP burning utility, or a third-party CD-burning utility.
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Sample Rate
Always render at the sample rate of the audio with the highest sample rate in your set. In other
words, when rendering, don’t have Live reduce the sample rate of your audio unless absolutely
necessary. If you have recorded or imported audio with a sample rate of 96,000, you should
render at 96,000 and use a program optimized for sample rate conversion to reduce the sample
rate to 44,100 (the CD standard rate).
Typically, you will use sample rates only of 44,100Hz and up. For most applications, a sample
rate of 44,100 is adequate, while rates of 48,000 and 96,000 will provide more accurate sampling at the expense of hard disk space and CPU drain. The lower sample rates (22,050 and
32,000) are most often used for creating lo-fi special effects popularized by older first- and
second-generation hardware samplers.
Bit Depth
The Bit Depth drop-down menu gives you three choices: 16-, 24-, or 32-bit. If you are making a
CD, your audio will eventually have to get down to 16-bit, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you
should always render to 16-bit. Live’s internal architecture is 32-bit, which means that even if
you start out with a 16-bit loop, once you’ve added effects and automation, the resulting audio is
32-bit. Therefore, strictly speaking, 32-bit is the safest bet for maintaining maximum audio
quality when rendering.
However, rendering 32-bit audio is not always practical. Not only does it take up a lot of disk
space, 32-bit is not currently a common standard and may not be supported by other audio
software, not to mention the fact that you can’t burn a CD from it. The bit depth you choose
will end up being based on what you are going to be doing with the resulting file. If you are
going to have your audio professionally mastered, render at 32-bit or ask the mastering engineer
what format is preferred. If you’re rendering audio that’s going to be imported back into an
arrangement, go with 32-bit to avoid any loss in quality. If you are going straight from Live
to CD, then 16-bit is the way to go. But 24-bit is the safest bet when rendering tracks to be
imported into another sequencer such as Pro Tools or Logic.
Dithering Options
Dithering is a process that adds low-level noise to digital audio to hide the distortion that occurs
when reducing bit depth. While it is outside of the scope of this book to have an in-depth discussion of dithering, there are a few things you need to know. First, whenever you are rendering
below 32-bit, some sort of dithering should be used. The three POW-r dithering modes are for
final mastering. Use one of these when you are preparing your audio for CD, but never when
there is going to be additional processing done to the audio. The rule of thumb is that dithering
should not be applied more than once. However, there are cases where this is necessary, such as
rendering 24-bit audio to import into another sequencer. Eventually, this audio will be dithered
to 16-bit. In this case, you should use Triangular dither when rendering at 24-bit.
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Create Analysis File
Each time Live sees a WAV or AIFF file, it has to draw a visual waveform, determine the positioning of the Warp Markers, and analyze the pitch and tempo. To do all this, Live uses a small,
pertinent secondary file called an Analysis File that will retain the master sample or loop’s file
name with the added file extension .asd. When this setting is activated, Live will also create an
ASD file in addition to the rendered audio file. This is helpful when creating loops that will be
reimported back into Live. Otherwise, it is really not necessary to create the added file.
Convert to Mono
Although this heading is fairly self descriptive, I want to point out its usefulness. Many Live
musicians have found that mono loops/samples are preferable when working in a limited environment, such as a laptop computer setup. The reason is that stereo loops are actually two
channels of audio running on a single track. Therefore, they require roughly twice the system
resources of a mono file—I say “roughly” because Live can forego all Warp Marker and file
analysis since it has already been done for one side/channel of the file.
Watch the Levels As you are adjusting and automating your mix, pay close attention to
Live’s Master Level meters. They will tell you when your overall levels are peaking. (As an
added visual cue, the meters turn red any time a wave gets clipped.) Any peaking on the
output channels will result in a nasty digital glitch or distortion. To remedy the problem,
simply decrease the Master Volume. Don’t worry if you see other channels in your Session
Mixer entering the red. Live has an extreme amount of headroom that will allow your
individual channels to enter the red without distorting. The only channel you really
need to be worried about is the Master.
Scoring to Video
While Live 6 created a lot of excitement by adding video support, Live 7 took things a step
further by giving us the option to export video as well. Here’s how it all works.
Importing Video
Getting video into Live is simple: Just locate the video file you want to import in the File Browser
and drag it into your Live Set. The audio will be loaded on an audio track in Live, and the video
will appear in a special floating video window. Only video files in QuickTime format (.mov,
.mp4, or any other format playable by QuickTime) are supported.
You can only work with video in the Arrangement View. If you drop a movie into the Session
View, the clip will load as audio only. Once loaded, the video clip will look like any other audio
clip in Live, except that you will see virtual “sprocket holes” in the top of its title bar to show
that it has video associated with it (see Figure 4.43).
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Figure 4.43 A video clip in the Arrangement View; you can also see the associated video window.
Video clips in the Arrangement View behave more or less just like audio clips. Thus, by dragging
a video clip into the arrangement and aligning it with the beginning of the first measure, you can
quickly start scoring to picture and creating a soundtrack. You can use Live’s FX and audio
editing tools to edit the video clip’s associated audio in the Arrangement View, just like any
other audio clip. (You will find that Consolidate, Crop, and Reverse operations will cause
your video clip to be replaced by an audio clip.)
The Video Window
The Video window will always be visible, as shown in Figure 4.43, as long as you are using the
video clip in your arrangement, and the video will follow playback when activated by Live’s
transport. You can drag the Video window around wherever you want. You can resize it by
clicking on the lower-right corner or expand it to full-screen mode by double-clicking on the
video itself.
Keeping Sound and Video In Sync
The most common application for video in Live will probably be creating a new soundtrack for a
video clip of a given length. In this application, the most important thing is not to disturb the
timing of the video inside Live. To maintain sync, simply drag your video clip to the beginning of
the Arrangement View and then make sure that you have the video clip’s Master/Slave switch set
to Master. This makes the video Live’s tempo master, meaning that any changes to the Warp
Markers in the video will change Live’s master tempo—not the playback speed of the video. This
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enables you to define hit points in the video, which will affect the playback speed of the other
clips in your session. Changing the speed of the video to match your music will not make you a
very popular film composer!
After you have finished your new soundtrack, you will want to save your work either as a new
movie or as an audio file to be turned over to a film editor. If you’re just exporting audio, there
are a few things to bear in mind. First, the safest bet for turning in your soundtrack to an editor
is to make an audio file the exact length of the video you were given, so the start points line up
exactly and there won’t be any confusion about where your sound cues go. Second, if you’re
exporting audio only, don’t forget to mute the audio on the video track; otherwise, you’ll get a
file containing both the dialog and the music.
To create a video, select File 4 Export Audio/Video and turn on Create Video File in the bottom
section of the dialog. The menu below allows you to choose the type of video encoding you
desire. If you need to customize the video settings in any way (to optimize it for Internet streaming, for example), use the Edit button next to Encoder Settings.
As you will probably notice once you start working with video clips, any audio editing commands that you apply to the audio track hosting your video clip will affect the video playback as
well. In other words, you can use all of Live’s warping and editing functions to create video as
well as audio edits. So get busy taking advantage of Live 8’s video export capabilities to create
some warped video mashups—YouTube awaits!
We covered quite a lot of topics in this chapter—everything to bring your song from the tiniest
musical fragments to fully arranged compositions. It is appropriate, therefore, to summarize the
process once more just to help solidify it in your mind.
Here is a general idea of how a song is built in Live:
You start, for example, in the Session View by making a MIDI track named Drums.
You load an Impulse instrument (see Chapter 8, “Live’s Instruments”) onto the track
and quickly build a drum kit from samples on your hard drive. You program a MIDI
clip for the main groove of your song and let it loop.
You might then make an audio track titled Bass. You pull out your P-Bass and plug it
into the instrument input 1 of your audio interface. You select input 1 of your interface
on the Input/Output Routing strip and arm the track. You can now hear your bass
blended with the drums, although you’re not recording anything. You fool around for a
moment on the bass until you come up with a part you like. You click one of the record
buttons in a slot on the track and start playing on the next downbeat. You put down the
jam along with the drums. When you’re done, you click again on the clip, and it begins
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to play. You move the clip’s right Loop Marker to the left since you didn’t stop the
recording on the downbeat (your hands were full playing the bass).
You keep recording new clips, such as guitar and MIDI synth parts. You search your
loop libraries for things that augment the song. Once you find a good combination, you
use Capture and Insert Scene. You now have one scene in your Session.
You record a new bass part for the next section of your song. You write some new drum
clips. You record the parts of other members in your band. You start tweaking clips
with envelopes. You keep building more and more sections and capturing them as
Once you have a pretty good set of scenes to build a song from, you start listening to
them and reordering them on-screen into a songlike structure. (It’s okay if you don’t use
all the scenes you captured.) You enable Record in the Control Bar and start performing
the song as it’s arranged in the Session View. You can, of course, trigger any scene in
any order that you want (you don’t have to go top to bottom) and can also launch any
clip you want individually.
You’ll have a skeleton of your song in the Arrangement View. You now start making
multiple passes over the song to program volume fades, mutes, pans, effect modulations,
and any other automation you want in your song. You also edit the clips in the
Arrangement View, changing their length, volumes, and so on and splitting and
rearranging them.
Throughout this process, you are adding effects to the mix and bouncing the results to
new clips when necessary.
You then start to experiment with new parts against your arrangement by launching
new clips in the Session View. You try out some new synth loops and record new guitar
riffs—they’ll all play synchronized with the arrangement. When you want to hear your
original arrangement again, you click Back to Arrangement.
You finalize your song’s arrangement, putting the last tweaks on your mix. You render
the final arrangement to a WAV file. In Wavelab, you apply mastering plug-ins and
maximize the quality of your song. You render the results to a 16-bit, 44,100Hz stereo
file, which you burn to CD. You take the CD and put it in your car and drive all around
town with it turned up as loudly as possible!
Of course, the process of creation in Live is entirely up to you. You may decide that, instead of
building the song from little pieces, you’re going to multitrack your whole band playing at once,
thus capturing the song in one pass. You then use the creative editing and mixing features of Live
to finalize the mix. Afterwards, you may take those large recordings and split them into small
clips so you can make a live remix in the Session View. The creative flow is all up to you. Isn’t
that nice?
The Audio Clip
he audio clip has been the basic building block in Live since version 1 and is basically a
reference to an audio file on your hard drive. When you trigger an audio clip, it plays the
referenced audio file according to the settings contained in the Clip View. The parameters available to you are plentiful yet simple to understand. Using the tools of the audio clip, you
can make any audio file play back in perfect sync with your song, as well as play it in the proper
key. You can also use the audio clip settings to mangle your sounds and generate new ones.
In addition, you can record new audio clips from virtually any source. You can use the inputs of
your audio interface for recording vocals, guitars, drums, pianos, horns, and synths—anything
that can be picked up with a microphone or connected directly to the audio interface is fair
game. You can also record from other computer programs or other tracks in your Set, or
even re-record Live’s own output. Live’s Launch Quantizing allows you to play around with
sounds precisely, such as recording perfect loops on the fly.
Before you start recording hordes of audio clips, take a moment to familiarize yourself with their
unique parameters. Drag an audio file from the Browser into a Clip Slot, or load one of Live’s
Demo Sets so you can follow along and try tweaking some of the parameters that follow.
Audio Clip Properties
The properties of an audio clip are edited through the Clip View (see Figure 5.1). Double-click
an audio clip to see its contents at the bottom of the screen. The properties of an audio clip are
organized into four boxes: Clip, Launch, Sample, and Envelopes. Every clip in Live has the Clip,
Figure 5.1 The Clip View for an audio clip.
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Launch, and Envelope properties, but the Sample box is unique to audio clips. In this chapter, I’ll
explain those areas unique to audio clips. You’ll get the rundown on MIDI clips in the next
In the Sample window (Figure 5.2) is a group of six buttons that are used to manage the sample
used in the audio clip.
Figure 5.2 The Sample window contains controls concerning audio file playback speed, pitch, volume,
and loop region, plus the settings for the Warp Engine. In the Arrangement View, you’ll notice that the
Fade switch does not appear, and there’s an extra switch marked Slave.
Clicking the Edit button will open the audio file in the sample editor you have selected in File/
Folder preferences. Audio editors are useful for performing a variety of operations on your audio
files, particularly when you want to edit destructively. Now, this may not sound very appealing
at first, but there are times that you want to make a change that permanently affects the audio
file itself. Modifying the Sample properties in Live only changes that audio file’s playback characteristics. In other words, it is what is called non-destructive editing. If you have a file that has
an ugly digital click that you never want to hear again, you may want to go chop it out with an
audio editor.
While you are editing your sample file, the Clip View’s waveform display will say Sample Offline. When you finish editing, just save your changes and return to Live. The newly edited sample will be loaded into the clip.
When adjusting the parameters of a clip, you may want your changes to become associated with
an audio file. For example, if you have to warp a certain beat every time you drag it into Live,
wouldn’t it be nice if Live could remember the Warp Markers the next time you import the file?
By pressing Save, information regarding the playback settings of the audio file will be saved in a
Ch apter 5
The Audio C lip
special file with the extension .asd. By default, the ASD file contains the information used to
create the waveform display, but once you click Save, it also contains information regarding
Warp Markers, Tempo, Tuning, and Warp mode. Next time you create a clip from the file
(by dragging it from the Browser), the Warp Markers will already be in place, and the proper
Tuning and Warp modes will be set.
Live’s Sample Reverse feature (the Rev. button) is not instantaneous—don’t expect it to be. It is,
however, a whole lot of fun when used properly. Click the Reverse button and Live will create a
new audio file—a reversed version of the original. This new audio file will be named the same as
the original but will have the letter “R” added to the end.
Okay, so it’s not truly a Reverse button, as in “play the sample backwards.” Instead, the Reverse
button means “play a backward version of the sample.” This means you’ll have to wait for the
“R” file to be made the first time you reverse, but from that point on, Live will just choose the
original or reversed file to play, allowing you to switch directions almost instantaneously.
Because of the nature of the Reverse feature, you may want to avoid using this button during
live performances. Instead, I recommend you make two clips: one normal and one reversed.
This button simply switches the audio clip between high-quality and low-quality interpolation
(used for transposition). If this button is on, the clip will play using better pitch shifting and
resampling algorithms, but it will also place a slightly heavier strain on your CPU. I recommend
leaving this option on for all clips (setting it to “on” in the Default Preferences) and turning it off
only if you have a slower computer, and you need to save every bit of CPU power.
To help an audio file loop seamlessly (no clicks or pops when the file loops around), Live can
perform a quick (4ms) volume fade at the end of the clip. I recommend leaving this option on as
the default, unless the downbeat transient seems too quiet. It is possible that the fade can soften
the initial attack of the downbeat (for instance, shaving the attack of a one-shot sample), so you
may need to turn this off from time to time. Because the arrange view contains a more sophisticated set of tools for creating fades, this option is not available there.
As I’ve mentioned before, Live streams audio files from disk as they play. With each additional
audio clip that plays, the computer will have to stream another file from disk. Your hard disk
can stream only a finite amount of data per second, and when Live requires more than the
disk can provide, you get audio dropouts. When you hear audio problems, check to see if the
Hard Disk Overload Indicator (the letter “D”) in the right-hand corner of the Control Bar is
lighting up.
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To alleviate this, you can load audio clips into your computer’s RAM, which is accessed much
faster than the hard disk, by pressing the RAM button. The clip will cease streaming from the
hard disk.
Remember to be conscious of the size of the files you’re loading into RAM. If you have five clips
that are four minutes long and two clips that are loops of only a few seconds, it would be better
to load the short clips into RAM. Even if you’re using only 10 seconds of an eight-minute file,
Live will still load the whole file into memory if you press its RAM button!
Transpose and Detune
When adding a previously recorded audio clip to your Live Set, more than likely it will not be in
the right key. If you’re writing a song in the key of E but you import a clip that’s in B-flat, the
new clip will be out of tune with the rest of the Set, even though it’s playing in sync tempo-wise
with the song. The Transpose and Detune controls (see Figure 5.3) change the playback tuning
of the clip (without changing its playback speed) so that it matches the key of the song.
Figure 5.3 The large Transpose knob will shift an audio clip up or down in semitone amounts. The
Detune value below the knob can make microadjustments to the tuning by moving it up or down
within 50 cents (100 cents = 1 semitone).
You’ll use the Transpose knob to shift the playback pitch of the audio clip. In case the audio clip
is still slightly out of tune, the Detune knob can be used to fine-tune the pitch by raising or
lowering it in small steps known as cents. Cent means one-hundredth, which is why a centimeter
is one-hundredth of a meter. In music, a cent is one-hundredth of a semitone.
Going Way Out Although the tuning features of an audio clip are generally used to make a
loop match the key of your song, don’t forget that new sounds can be found by tweaking
the tuning up or down by multiple octaves while playing with different Warp modes. Once
a sample is altered this much, new textures and sounds can emerge. Take time to
The Gain slider is used to adjust the individual volume of a clip. If you grabbed three different
drum loops for a song, it’s possible that the loop for the bridge is quieter than the other two.
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Instead of trying to automate a volume change at the bridge, you can simply turn up the volume,
or gain, of that clip to match the others. This is a very convenient way to balance audio levels.
When you adjust the gain, you’ll see the waveform display change to reflect the new playback
volume. Know that the original file has not changed. You’re just telling Live to play the file at a
different volume. Keep an eye on your levels as you increase the gain of the clip, since it’s possible to turn the volume up so much that the audio will begin to distort.
Cranking up the volume also provides you with a way to zoom in vertically on a waveform. You
can always extend the Clip View window vertically (see Figure 5.4), but it still may not show
enough detail.
Figure 5.4 You’ll see the waveform in better detail if you drag the top edge of the Clip View upward.
Raising the gain of a clip can be used to make a waveform larger, too, but it also makes it louder!
If enlarging the Clip View still doesn’t show enough detail, turn up the gain to get a larger waveform to edit in the waveform display. When you’re done editing and adjusting, don’t forget to
turn the gain back to its original level, or the clip may be very loud (watch those ears!).
Tweak That Clip You can assign MIDI and key controls to various parameters of the audio
and MIDI Clip Views. Engage either MIDI Map or Key Map mode, and boxes will appear
over various controls in the Clip View. Click the control; then move or press the desired
control to link them.
One thing to be aware of is that your MIDI and Key assignments in the Clip View do not
stay stuck to a particular clip. Instead, the assignments work on whatever clip, or clips,
you have selected. Therefore, if you use a MIDI knob to transpose a clip, you can click on
another clip, and the same MIDI knob will now transpose the new clip.
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Warp Controls
Warping is the term used to describe Live’s time stretching and compressing technique. The
technique of warping an audio file to match the tempo, groove, and pitch of a song involves
many parameters, but the most important of these is the Warp button (see Figure 5.5). With
Warp off, the clip plays at the audio file’s original tempo and pitch unless you tweak the speed
with the Transpose knob (which will adjust the tempo and pitch simultaneously, like a record).
However, once Warp is engaged, a whole world of possibilities opens. You can change the playback speed and pitch of the audio clip independently, as well as make adjustments to its timing
and groove.
Figure 5.5 Here are the Warp controls. Depending on the Warp mode, different controls appear.
Notice that the Master/Slave switch only appears for clips in the Arrangement View.
Seg. BPM
This value box is similar to the operation of Warp Markers, which I’ll explain in the “Warp
Markers” section later in this chapter. “Seg” is short for segment, which is what Ableton uses to
refer to a section of audio between two Warp Markers. When you have multiple Warp Markers
in a clip, the Seg. BPM window will display the BPM from the selected Warp Marker to the next
one to its right. If you have four Warp Markers in a clip, and you click on the second one, the
Seg. BPM window will show the tempo between Warp Markers two and three. When you click
on the third Warp Marker, you’ll see the tempo from marker three to four.
You’ll see that when adjusting Warp Markers, the tempo listed here will change. This is helpful
because, after setting the Warp Markers appropriately, Live will be able to determine the exact
BPM of the clip. Sometimes, this is not a round number, like 120 BPM, but more like 119.72 BPM.
This value is used by Live to set the playback speed of an audio clip in BPM. If the Project tempo
is 120 BPM and the clip’s Seg. BPM is 120, then Live will not change the playback speed of the
clip. If the project tempo is 100 BPM, Live would know from looking at the Seg. BPM value that
it needs to slow down the clip so that it will match the rest of the song.
Half/Double BPM
The two buttons below the Seg. BPM window will either double or halve the tempo of the clip.
Pressing the *2 button will multiply every Segment BPM by two. The result is that the clip will
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play at half speed. This may be counterintuitive, but remember that you’re not telling Live to
“play this clip at twice the speed,” but rather you’re telling it “this audio was recorded at twice
the speed you thought it was.” Pressing :2 will have the opposite effect and make the clip play
back twice as fast. This is helpful when Live incorrectly guesses the length and tempo of a new
audio clip. Loops at a drum and bass tempo of 170 BPM will frequently import as 85 BPM clips.
A click of the *2 button will fix this immediately.
Warp Modes
Choosing the correct Warp modes is essential for clean, musical warping. The Warp mode
affects the way in which Live approaches stretching and pitch-shifting your audio clips. Six different Warp modes are available in the audio clip’s Warp section: Beats, Tones, Texture, RePitch, Complex, and Complex Pro. Each mode also features a special set of controls that will
appear below it in the form of a Transients drop-down menu, Grain Size box/knob, and Flux
box. We will cover these below. Also, don’t forget that you can simply turn off Live’s Warp
Engine altogether and play the sample at its default speed and pitch. Here’s a list of what kinds
of different sounds you can expect when choosing among these six Warp modes.
Beats mode is a great mode for rhythmic loops, percussive samples, and even entire songs. You
will usually want to use Beats mode with percussion, drums, drum machines, and sounds characteristically containing minimal sustain. This includes samples that you might not think of as
beats, such as a funk rhythm guitar part or a an entire techno track. When Beats mode is used
with sounds that are too textured or lack rhythmic definition, you may hear artifacts.
Definition of Transient The Transient setting is a critical element of Live’s beat-warping
functionality. But what is a transient to begin with? A transient is the short, sharp attack
portion of a sound. An acoustic snare has a huge transient, which is the “crack” you hear
right when the stick hits the drum. The soft attack of strings has no transient. In warping
terminology, transient is often used to mean a chunk of audio (such as an entire snare hit)
with a transient at the beginning.
Figure 5.6 The small gray triangle above each beat in this drum part indicates that Live has detected a
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Beats mode looks at your audio as a series of segments, the size of which is determined by the
Preserve menu. The default value in the Preserve menu—Transients—is new to Live 8 (see
Figure 5.7). For the first time ever, Live automatically detects the location of each transient in
an audio file (see Figure 5.6) and is able to use this information to time compress or stretch the
file. Conceptually, the way this works is quite simple. When Live detects transients in a drum
loop, it’s identifying each hit in relationship to its position in the bar: This kick drum occurs on
beat 1, this snare drum occurs at beat 2, etc. Live knows where to put each drum hit regardless
of the tempo, just like it does with a MIDI file.
Figure 5.7 The default settings for Beats mode. For most percussive material, these settings will work
just fine as-is.
For most rhythmic material, preserving transients will produce the best results. The other
options in the Preserve menu provide compatibility with earlier versions of Live and allow
you to tell the Warp Engine to look at the audio as a series of evenly spaced segments (such
as 1/8ths or 1/16ths). If you have a one-bar loop with the Transient value set to 1/16, Live’s
default behavior will be to treat the file as if it were 16 equally sized segments (see Figure 5.7).
Live then plays these chunks back as if they were 1/16th notes at the current tempo.
Next, let’s further examine what happens to your audio when you speed it up or slow it down. If
the beat being warped needs to be sped up to match the tempo of Live, the segments will be
moved closer together. As this happens, Live will time compress the end of each segment, making the duration of each drum hit slightly shorter, so the decay doesn’t get cut off due to the
faster tempo. If the beat is getting slowed down, Live has to either stretch out the playback of
each segment or leave a space between segments, since the original decay of the hit won’t be long
enough to fill the space at the slower tempo.
To stretch out the decay, Beats mode loops the last portion of the segment—the fading sound of
the transient. If you’re thinking that this might end up sounding a little strange, you’re right. It is,
however, the best solution, given that Live is doing all of this time stretching in real time. That
said, it is generally easier to speed beats up without noticeable artifacts than it is to slow them
Live 8 gives you full control over how this looping is done via the Transient Loop Mode menu.
Loop Back-and-Forth (bidirectional arrows): Live loops the decay of the segment forwards
and backwards in order to fill empty space at slowed-down tempos. Generally speaking, this
mode will yield the most artifact-free stretching.
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No Loop (single arrow): Live plays each segment to its end without doing anything to fill the
space until the next segment plays. This yields extremely clean results (because there’s no
looping), but it may leave audible spaces in between each note or drum hit. Let your ears
decide whether or not this is acceptable or desirable.
Loop Forward (double forwards arrows): loops the decay of each segment forward. This
mode tends to produce glitchier results and works more like an effect.
The numeric box next to the Transient Loop mode is the Transient Envelope. This value determines if a fade should be applied to each audio segment. In Loop Off mode, reducing this value can
be used to create dramatic gating effects even when you’re playing the audio at its original tempo
(see Figure 5.8). Playing with this value is highly recommended! In the other modes, it tends to
produce less dramatic results but can be very useful for smoothing out time-stretching artifacts.
Figure 5.8 Try these settings to transform any audio into a choppy 1/16 note pattern.
Check out the “Beats mode” example in the Chapter 5 folder of the CD-ROM materials to hear
how this is done.
Tones mode is standard granular resynthesis. As a file is played back, it is broken into grains.
The idea is that when you loop a grain, you get a continuous tone that represents that sound
“frozen in time.” By splitting the audio into grains and spreading the grains apart, Live slows
down the tempo of the audio playback; however, since each grain is still played at its original
pitch, there will be empty space between each grain. Looping each grain fills space to timestretch the file.
Of course, looping each grain isn’t necessary when speeding up playback of a file. As the grains
are brought closer together, they will overlap one another. Each grain will therefore cut off the
one before it, resulting in a continuous sound, but one playing faster than before. For this reason,
you’ll probably find that you have better success speeding up loops or transposing them down
(both methods use the same process) than slowing them down or pitching them up, which
requires looping the grains.
With careful setting of the Grain Size value, you can achieve nearly transparent warping. Tones
such as bass guitars, synthesizers, vocals, keyboards, or other long-sustaining instruments will
usually sound much less processed when playing in Live’s Tones mode. You can adjust Live’s
Grain Size to help reduce undesirable audio artifacts.
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Texture mode is built for using orchestral samples, field recordings, thick keyboard pads, and
similarly dense audio textures. Like Tones mode, Texture mode is based on granular resynthesis.
In an effort to cloud the repetitive artifacts from looping grains, a Flux value is added that, when
increased, allows Live to randomly change the grain sizes used in the process. This also adds a
sense of stereo imaging to mono files.
Re-Pitch mode is more like true vinyl DJing—Live will alter the pitch of the sample, depending
upon the playback speed. This mode produces no artifacts and thus usually sounds the best,
especially if the warped, looped, re-pitched sample is played close to its original tempo. RePitch basically turns off the granular resynthesis and merely alters the file playback speed,
which results in pitch changes. Since resynthesis is off, you will not be able to use the Transpose
adjustments in this mode.
Complex and Complex Pro
Complex mode is another enhancement aimed straight at DJs but has value for all types of users.
The Complex mode employs an extremely high-quality algorithm to stretch and shift audio clips.
This requires more effort from your CPU, but the end results can be excellent. Designed for use on
entire songs, this Warp mode will match the audio clip with minimal artifacts. While Complex
sometimes has negative impact on the transients of an audio file, Complex Pro can often pull off
the job seamlessly by using even more of your computer’s CPU. If your computer is having a
tough time keeping up with the added load of the Complex mode, you can use the Freeze
Track option from the Track Context menu (right-click on PCs or Ctrl+click on Macs to open
it), or you can resample the warped clip into a new clip that doesn’t need Complex mode.
The Master/Slave button (available only in Arrangement View) allows you to select whether this
clip will act as the Tempo Master for Live. What this means is that Warp Markers added to a
Master clip will affect the tempo of the set rather than the playback speed of the clip.
Let’s say that you have a piano recording that you want to add some additional programmed
parts and loops to. It’s a well-played part with a mostly steady tempo, but since it wasn’t
recorded to a click track, there is some natural variation to the time. One way you could use
warping in this context is to straighten out the timing of the piano track by adding Warp
Markers so the piano lines up perfectly with the sequencer tempo. However, if the piano has
a nice feel, this could make the whole recording feel rigid and dull.
Instead, you could add a Warp Marker to the downbeat of each bar in the piano part and set the
clip to Master. Now, Live’s tempo will breathe with the pianist’s rhythm, and all of your MIDI
clips and warped loops will breathe along with it! Bear in mind that if you set more than one clip
to be the Tempo Master, the bottommost one will be in control and the others ignored.
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Warp Markers
I’ve mentioned Warp Markers time and time again throughout this book, so it’s about time we
explain what they are. The principle behind Warp Markers is simple but still manages to confuse
some longtime users; however, using them properly has a profound effect on Live’s ability to
lock your audio clips together and your ability to unlock Live’s creative potential.
Purpose of Warping
In a nutshell, you use warping to alter the playback timing of an audio file, so it matches the
tempo of your song. At it’s simplest, warping is just a matter of making sure that Live knows the
original tempo and the location of the first downbeat. At its most complex, warping will allow
you to radically reshape audio, changing the timing and duration of numerous individual segments. Or, if you have an audio file that has sloppy timing (see Figure 5.9), you can use Warp
Markers to move individual hits to just where you want them.
Figure 5.9 The snare drum hits at 1.2 and 1.4 are late. Curse those human drummers!
Setting up Warp Markers can be done manually or using Live’s Auto-Warp technology. If you’re
a DJ and will primarily be warping entire tracks so they play back in sync with each other, you’ll
probably be using Auto-Warp extensively. For rhythmically imprecise material or material that
you want to change dramatically, you’ll be creating and moving Warp Markers manually.
One occasion that may require numerous Warp Markers is synchronizing an entire song to your
Set. DJs have to do this with all of their files before playing them in Live. A function called AutoWarp will save you a lot of time, although it is not perfect and often requires adjusting the Warp
Markers’ timing by hand to get the beats to sync just right.
Whenever you import a long audio file, Live will run it through its Auto-Warp scheme, thus
making the file immediately ready for use in your Set. (If you don’t like this behavior, you can
turn it off in Preferences.) The process of auto-warping is fairly quick, and you can initiate it
manually if you desire. Right-click (Ctrl+click) a marker and select one of the Auto-Warp
options from the context menu:
Warp from Here: This tells Live to auto-warp the clip starting at the selected Warp Marker
and continuing to the right. Everything to the left of the selected marker will remain intact.
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Warp from Here (Start at Tempo): This option is the same as above but uses the current
project tempo as a starting point for the auto-warping algorithm. If you’ve already determined the approximate tempo of the audio file using the Tap Tempo, this option should
yield good results. Identifying a ballpark tempo is helpful because Live can calculate BPMs
that are twice as fast or slow as they should be. For example, a one-bar loop at 62 BPM is the
same length as a two-bar loop at 124 BPM. By providing a starting tempo in the neighborhood of 60 or 120 BPM, Live will know how to evaluate the clip.
Warp from Here (Straight): This mode attempts to set the tempo of the clip using one Warp
Marker only. This should be used only when warping electronically produced music that has
a fixed tempo.
Warp Tempo from Here: This simply sets the current Warp Marker to the project tempo. If
there are any Warp Markers to the right, they will be erased in the process.
Warp as X-Bar Loop: If you already know that the file you’re working with has an even
number of bars, you can select this option to automatically turn the clip into an even loop.
The number shown here will depend on the current project tempo. If Live determines
that it will have to do the least amount of warping to turn the clip into a one-bar loop, as
opposed to a two-bar loop, the program will display “1” in place of “X” in the menu
item above. If you increase the project tempo by almost double, Live will see that it is now
easier to make the clip a two-bar loop and will suggest that by showing “2” in place of “1”
in the menu option.
Note that there are also a number of other options in this context menu to help you work with
your sample files, including:
Set 1.1.1 Here: This command will reset the very first Warp Marker at the point indicated
and renumber the grid to start from 1.1.1 at the selected point.
Crop Sample: This command will crop your sample to the length you have set with the Loop
Brace in the waveform display. You will see a progress bar at the bottom of the screen as the
truncated sample file is written to your hard drive.
Manage Sample File: This will show you the audio file in the File Manager (see Chapter 2,
“Getting Live Up and Running”).
Warp Markers, Transients, and Pseudo Warp Markers
When a piece of audio requires manual adjustment to get it to sync up (or to get it mangled to
perfection), these are the tools you’ll be working with. First, let’s get our terms straight:
Transient: Transients appear as small gray triangles above the waveform display. They are
automatically created by Live for any audio clip with its Warp switch turned on. Transients
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can be manually inserted or deleted by right-clicking on a transient or anywhere in the
waveform display.
Warp Marker: Locks a segment of audio to a location on the timeline. They appear as yellow
markers directly above the waveform display. Warp Markers can be created by clicking
anywhere in the waveform display or sometimes by dragging Pseudo Warp Markers (see
Pseudo Warp Marker: When the mouse is moved over a transient, a gray Pseudo Warp
Marker temporarily appears. When dragged, these markers will become permanent Warp
Markers if they are followed by any existing Warp Markers. Otherwise, they can be dragged
to adjust the timing of the clip and will return to being normal transients when released.
Figure 5.10 There is always at least one Warp Marker in an audio clip when the Warp mode is
engaged. It’s the marker at beat 1. You can make others by double-clicking in or above the Sample
Ableton describes Warp Markers as being “pins” that can be used to attach a piece of audio to a
certain point in time. This is a great way of looking at it. So in order to correct the timing of the
audio shown in Figure 5.9, the first thing we’d do is create a Warp Marker above the late snare
hit, as seen in Figure 5.10. Dragging the hit so it lands on beat 1.2 moves not just the snare hit
but also all of the audio before and after it (see Figure 5.11). The first hit, however, stays locked
in place because of its Warp Marker, although its decay gets compressed slightly to compensate
for the fact that the snare hit has gotten moved earlier.
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Figure 5.11 When the snare hit is moved to beat 1.2, the hits to either side are also moved slightly
Now, let’s say we want to move the hi-hat accent between beats 1.1 and 1.2 so it lands right on
1.1.3. Just grab the Pseudo Warp Marker that appears when you mouse over the transient and
drag it to 1.1.3. You’re done! The existing Warp Markers keep the other hits locked down while
you move the hi-hat into place (see Figure 5.12). There’s a great new shortcut in Live 8 that
allows you to create three Warp Markers in one click for just this purpose. Just hold down Ctrl
(Cmd) before double-clicking to create a new Warp Marker.
Figure 5.12 With the hits at 1 and 1.2 locked into place, we can move the hit in between without
throwing anything else off.
This process can be repeated indefinitely to put every hit just where you want it. In this case, if
we were just looking to get every hit perfectly lined up with the grid, it might be easier to use
Quantize (see the section on Quantization below). Another possibility when we’re working manually with Warp Markers, though, is to create a completely new rhythm by dragging hits to
locations other than those for which they were originally intended. Figure 5.13 shows the
same audio clip warped to play a completely different rhythm.
One of the developments that has come along with Live 8’s transient detection is the ability to
quantize audio clips, much the way you can with audio. While viewing a clip’s waveform display, select Quantize Settings from the Edit menu. The Quantize To setting specifies the location
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Figure 5.13 Warping can be used to turn a boring beat into a syncopated masterpiece.
on the grid to which transients should be moved. In other words, if this value is set to 1/16, Live
will find each transient most closely adjacent to the 1/16 note divisions of the grid and automatically move them there. Setting Amount to a value less than 100% will yield partial quantization. In the prior example, 70% quantization would cause each accent to be moved 70% of the
way to the nearest 1/16th, rather than all of the way.
Once you’ve got your Quantize settings set, just click OK. You can also use the Quantize
command Ctrl+U (Cmd+U Mac) to apply quantization to a clip using the previously set
Quantize settings. Figure 5.14 shows a clip that’s been quantized to 1/16ths. For more information on quantization, make sure to read the Quantization section in Chapter 6, “The
MIDI Clip.”
Figure 5.14 This clip has been quantized to 1/16.
Setting Warp Markers for Multiple Clips
If you have two or more clips based on audio files of exactly the same length, Live will allow you
to set Warp Markers across multiple clips simultaneously. This is especially convenient when
you are working with a multitrack recording of a performance, and you want to give all the
tracks exactly the same warp timing. You can do this quite easily by simply selecting all of the
clips you want to work with in the Arrangement View before making your warp adjustments.
The Warp Markers you set here and their timing will automatically apply to all of the other clips
you have selected.
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For example, here’s a good technique you can use for syncing up a live band recording with
Live’s tempo. First, import each track from your original multitrack recording onto a separate
audio track in Live, and then make sure that they are all exactly the same length. Select all of
them in the Arrangement View. Then find the track that is rhythmically simplest and clearest to
insert your Warp Marker settings. Using a separate bass drum track often is the easiest way to
go; a stereo drum mix will work as well. Once you have set the timing of this track, all of the
other tracks also will follow.
Warping Workaround You can still warp multiple clips, even if the underlying audio files
aren’t of the same length. You just have to generate new audio files first. Line up the files
in the Arrangement View and trim them until they are the same length. If you need to
make a clip longer, hold down Shift and highlight both the clip and the necessary amount
of empty space in the timeline. Then use the Consolidate command to write a new audio
file of the specified length.
Saving Warp Markers
When you save a Live Set, all of the clip’s properties, including Warp Markers, get saved along
with the Set. However, sometimes you’ll want to save your Warp Markers separately, so the
next time you drag an audio file into Live, all of the Warp Markers show up right where you
want them. To do this, click the Save switch in the Clip View (see Figure 5.15). This will write all
of the warping information into the .als file (sample analysis file) that Live automatically creates
when samples are brought into Live. As long as the .als file stays located in the same location as
the audio file on your hard drive, all of your settings will be intact whenever you use this file in
Live. Note that this command can be executed on multiple clips simultaneously by selecting
multiple clips first (by dragging to highlight them or using Shift+click).
Figure 5.15 Use the Save switch to keep your Warp Markers and other clip settings ready to go the next
time you use a sample.
Beat Slicing
As if Warp Markers weren’t enough, Live offers two other totally different ways to change the
playback tempo of your source audio. REX file support gives us the ability to work natively with
files generated by Propellerhead’s ReCycle software, and Beat Slicing allows us to chop up and
play back our audio at different speeds without using Live’s Warp Engine at all.
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REX File Support
REX files are a special type of audio file developed by Propellerhead Software for their revolutionary program ReCycle. ReCycle was developed as a tool for chopping up loops so they can be
played back at different tempos. REX files contain slicing information that specifies where each
transient in the file occurs, as well as rhythmic information indicating when each slice should be
played. You could think of a REX file as a package containing a bunch of samples (the slices of
the loop) and a MIDI file that’s programmed to play the samples back.
Since the introduction of Live 7, you can drop a REX file (they have an extension of either .rex
or .rx2) directly into Live. When REX files are played back, they are not processed by Live’s
Warp Engine, so rather than seeing a choice of Warp modes, you’ll just see REX displayed in the
Clip View (see Figure 5.16). The REX file’s self-contained slice and timing information will be
used to match it to the current tempo. Even if you don’t use ReCycle, this is a great feature, as
there are numerous loop libraries in REX format available.
Figure 5.16 A REX file in the Clip View. The transient markers are determined by data in the REX file
and cannot be moved.
Slice to New MIDI Track
Okay, strictly speaking this isn’t just about audio clips. Instead, it’s a technique for turning audio
clips into MIDI clips. Slice to New MIDI track works very similarly to ReCycle, creating a new
track containing a MIDI clip that triggers an instrument containing the slices of your loop.
To invoke this new command, right-click on a clip and select Slice to New MIDI Track from the
context menu. Next, you’ll be presented with a dialog offering a couple of options (see
Figure 5.17). The first menu allows you to choose how many slices your audio should be divided
into. A good value to start with here would be whatever value you would use for the Transients
setting in Beats mode. If the beat is based on 1/8th note divisions, try slicing at this value. There’s
also an option to slice at Warp Markers. This means that anywhere you’ve created a Warp
Marker, a slice will be created. In other words, you can control how many slices are generated
by adding Warp Markers before doing the slicing.
The next menu gives you a few presets that will affect the MIDI track that gets created. To
fully understand these options, you’ll need to know a bit about Drum Racks, so you
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Figure 5.17 The Slice to New MIDI track dialog. Make sure to experiment with the different slicing
may want to explore Chapter 8, “Live’s Instruments.” Here are definitions for a few of the
Built-In: This is the standard procedure for slicing. The end result is a MIDI track containing
a Drum Rack. Each slice of the loop will be mapped to a pad in the Drum Rack, and a MIDI
file will be generated to play the slices back.
Built-In 0-Vel: Same as Built-In, but the Drum Rack is configured such that the pads are not
velocity sensitive. This is useful if you want to preserve the exact dynamics of the loop you’ve
sliced, regardless of MIDI velocity.
Chord & Stutter: This preset also slices to a Drum Rack and generates a MIDI file. The
difference here has only to do with the configuration of the Drum Rack itself. Some MIDI
effects have been included in the rack, and some nifty macros (the eight knobs at the lefthand side of the Drum Rack) have been set up to control these devices to generate chords and
create some weird stuttering.
Slice to Single Sampler: For owners of the Sampler instrument, this will map each slice to a
zone in a Sampler instrument instead of a Drum Rack.
The other presets (Ableton has continued to add them since this feature was introduced) all vary
in terms of the effects and macros that are created for manipulating the resulting sequence. Make
sure to experiment with them all and play with the macros.
After you’ve clicked OK and waited for a few seconds, you’ll have a brand new MIDI track all
loaded up and ready to go (see Figure 5.18). Just launch the new MIDI clip, and you’ll hear your
loop playing back just as if it were the original audio clip. This is where things get interesting.
Try rearranging, deleting, or adding MIDI notes, or try creating a brand new clip and using
individual slices to program a beat! Also make sure to check out the macros that have been
programmed for you in the new Drum Rack.
For most rhythmic material, selecting Transient in the top menu will yield good results. Occasionally, you might find that Live is chopping the audio into too many slices. For example,
sometimes Live will place a transient in the middle of a drum hit, causing it to be chopped
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Figure 5.18 A newly created MIDI clip, and a Drum Rack full of loop slices—all courtesy of the Slice to
New MIDI track command!
into two separate drum pads in the resulting MIDI track. If this happens, examine the transients
and right-click on any that you think are unnecessary and use the Delete Transient(s) command.
For completely customized beat slicing, use Warp Marker as the slicing division after placing a
Warp Marker at each segment you would like sliced.
Clip Envelopes
The final window in the audio Clip View is the Envelopes window. To see the Envelope View,
you must click the small icon underneath the Clip properties (bottom-left)—the Show/Hide
Envelope Box button.
Before we go too far, some of you may be wondering what an envelope is. To start with, it’s
nothing that you will put in a mailbox. Rather, it’s a graphical representation of values, such as
positions of knobs and faders, which change over time. The envelopes appear as a line graph
superimposed over the audio waveform and represent anything from volume and pitch changes
to effect tweaks. To understand how envelopes function, it helps to actually manipulate them
and hear the results, so play along here by opening the Clip Envelopes example in the Chapter 5
folder of the CD-ROM materials.
The easiest Clip Envelope to understand is the Volume Envelope (see Figure 5.19). The envelope
is the ramp that rises from the bottom-left corner of the display window to the upper-right corner. When you play this clip (labeled Volume Up in the example Set), its volume rises over its
two-bar length. When the clip repeats, the volume immediately jumps to silence and begins to
rise again.
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Figure 5.19 The upward ramp causes the clip’s volume to rise over two bars as it plays.
To access the Volume Envelope for your clip, press the Volume shortcut button in the Envelope
window. The Volume Envelope will superimpose itself over the clip.
When you first make a clip, its Volume Envelope will look like the one in Figure 5.20. Clip
Envelopes are always working, so this “fully up” envelope allows you to hear your clip. This
means there’s no such thing as a clip without a Volume Envelope—it’s just set to full level so it
appears to have no effect. In other words, all the envelopes are always present, but by default
they’re set to do nothing.
Figure 5.20 This is the default Volume Envelope for a new audio clip.
You can freely edit this envelope to hear the effect it will have on the clip. Click on the pencil
icon in the Control Bar to turn on Draw mode. Then click in the Envelope window to create
some steps like those shown in Figure 5.21. You’ll hear Live adjust the volume of the clip according to these steps when you play it.
It’s important to realize that the Volume Envelope (as well as any other Clip Envelope) is affecting the playback volume in a relative way. If you look closely at the Gain slider in the Sample
window, you’ll see a small dot by it that moves up and down along with the volume changes.
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Figure 5.21 These steps change the playback volume of the clip.
This dot shows the volume of the clip based on the Volume Envelope. I like to think of this dot
as the envelope’s “finger” on my controls, showing me what it’s doing. If you change the Gain
amount, you’ll hear an overall volume change while the steps drawn in your Volume Envelope
continue to incrementally change the volume. You’ll notice that the volume didn’t jump back up
to its previous location because of the envelope. Instead, the envelope scales its range based on
the location of the Gain slider. This is because the Clip Envelopes work relative to a control’s
current position. This way, you can create repetitive volume patterns but still adjust the overall
level of the clip in the mix.
Another simple envelope to master is the Pan Envelope, which is accessed with the Pan button in
the Envelopes window. Instead of seeing a “full up” envelope like you saw for Volume, you’ll
see a flat line going through the middle of the window (see Figure 5.22).
Figure 5.22 The Pan Envelope doing nothing, meaning a track would play evenly from right and left.
Remember how we said that Clip Envelopes work relative to a control’s current position? In the
case of the Pan Envelope, the flat line down the middle means no panning left or right. If the
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envelope is above this center line, the pan position of the track will be moved right. The track
will pan left when the line is below center. This means creating a ramp from the upper-left
corner of the window to the bottom-right (see Figure 5.23) will cause the clip to pan from
right to left as it plays. Launch the Ramp Pan clip to hear this in action.
Figure 5.23 This ramp causes the track to pan from right to left during playback.
If you turn the Pan knob in the Session Mixer to the left, you’ll hear that the panning doesn’t
start fully on the right. It now starts partway to the left and continues fully left. This is because
the Pan Envelope is changing the pan position relative to the current location of the Pan knob. In
fact, if you look closely, you’ll see a colored indicator appear around the Pan knob as the envelope changes its position (see Figure 5.24). This is how the envelope’s “finger” is represented on
a knob.
This track is being panned
left by a Clip Envelope.
Figure 5.24 The colored section of the Pan knob shows the actual output position as a result of the Pan
The third envelope accessible through shortcut buttons is the Transpose Envelope. This envelope
will modulate the location of the Transpose knob, allowing you to program pitch changes,
slides, or entire harmonic progressions for the clip.
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The envelope begins as a flat line, just like the Pan Envelope. Every line above zero is one semitone up, while every line below zero is a semitone down (see Figure 5.25).
Figure 5.25 The Transpose Envelope transposes the clip up and down as it plays.
The envelope affects the Transpose knob in a relative way, meaning that after you’ve programmed in your progression, like Figure 5.25 above, you can still select the root note of the
scale with the Transpose knob.
Sample Offset
There are only three shortcut buttons in the Envelopes window, yet there are many more envelopes available for you to program. In fact, there’s a Clip Envelope for nearly every parameter of
the clip and its containing track.
To select an envelope other than the three available as shortcuts, you use the two drop-down
menus at the top of the Envelopes window. These menus work in a similar fashion to the pairs
found in the Input/Output Routing section. In the top menu, you can choose the device you want
to view, and in the bottom menu, you can select the parameter. One of these additional Clip
Envelopes takes a little explaining—the Sample Offset Envelope. This envelope can be found by
selecting Clip in the top menu and then choosing Sample Offset in the lower menu. This option is
available only for clips in Beats mode. If this option is grayed out, switch to Beats mode or find
another clip that’s in Beats mode already.
The Sample Offset Envelope (see Figure 5.26) is another one of those flat-liners like the
Transpose and Pan Envelopes above. You can think of it as a step sequencer for your beat.
Each line above zero is worth +1 1/16 note. Each line below is worth -1 1/16 note. Compare
the two clips named Normal and Offset in the CD-ROM example Set to hear how the Sample
Offset works.
Remember how Beats mode treats an audio file as if it were multiple segments? Well, when
playback of an audio clip reaches a non-zero value in the Offset Envelope, it signals Live to
jump to a different segment of the file relative to the current location. In Figure 5.26, there is
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Figure 5.26 The Sample Offset programmed above in the Offset clip will cause the snare drum on beat
2.2 to play on 2.1.4 as well. The snare at 2.4 will play at 2.3.3, 2.3.4, 2.4, and 2.4.2.
a value of +1 at beat 1.1.4. When playback reaches this point, Live will play the segment of
audio located 1/16 note ahead of the current position, which is the segment for beat 1.2. So,
when playback reaches 1.1.4, you’ll hear the snare that occurs on beat 1.2. On the next beat,
1.2, the Offset Envelope is zero. This means Live plays the audio segment at its current location.
In this case, you’ll hear the snare on beat 1.2 again. The additional steps around beat 1.4 will
cause two hits before 1.4 and one after. By creating patterns of offset motions, you can rearrange
the segments of an audio file into any order you want. Try it—take the Pencil and scribble all
over the Sample Offset Envelope and listen to the random results.
Since the Sample Offset Envelope rearranges the segments in a Beats mode clip, the Transient
setting for the clip will determine the smallest offset that can be performed. If Transient is set to
1/4, you will be able to offset the beat only on the quarter note. This also means that the finest
possible resolution for the Sample Offset is 1/32 (the clip’s Transient setting can’t get any
smaller). However, if you’re looking to do some meticulous micro-editing of your beats, using
the Sample Offset Envelope may not be the best solution, but it can definitely get you started.
Really tight and complicated edits are still better suited for the Arrangement View (see Chapter 13,
“Live 8 Power,” for the “Beat-Wreckin’ Clinic”).
Sends and More
Another fun Clip Envelope is the Send Envelope. Select Mixer in the top Device menu and then
choose Send A in the lower menu. With this envelope, you can control the level of signal sent to
the various return tracks.
The Send Envelope (see Figure 5.27) is a “full-on” envelope like Volume. This makes sense
because the Send knobs are just special volume controls themselves. Editing the envelope will
scale the output level of the associated Send knob. In the envelope below, the Send works only
on beat 2.4. In the example Set, we’ve already placed a reverb on Return A. Turn up Send A on
the Drums track and launch the Send A clip to hear what happens.
To hear this work, you’ll need to have an effect loaded onto the return track (see Chapter 7) and
the Send knob for the track turned up. Since the Send Envelope is relative, the track has to have
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Figure 5.27 The Send Envelope sending on beat 2.4 only.
its Send turned up at least a little before the envelope can scale the level. The result is that the
Send knob will actually send on beat 1.4 only. The rest of the time, it will be muted, even though
the Send knob is up.
You’ll find even more Clip Envelopes as you explore the drop-down menus in the Envelopes
window. In fact, as you add effects to the track (see Chapter 8, “Live’s Instruments”), envelopes
for the plug-in’s parameters will also appear in this list so you can modulate them. That’s quite a
lot of modulation available at your fingertips!
Unlinking Envelopes
Until this point, we’ve been talking about editing loops of a given length. After all, a loop is, by
definition, a repeating sample or phrase. That is just what loops do—they loop. And by default,
each envelope in a clip is the same length as the clip itself, allowing you to create repetitive
modulation patterns that recur every time the clip repeats itself.
Sometimes, you may want to extend a given loop beyond its original borders. For instance, you
have a repetitive two-bar drum loop, and you really wish that you had an eight-bar loop to make
it sound more lifelike and less repetitive. One way to accomplish this is by unlinking the clip’s
envelopes. By changing the length of a Clip Envelope so that it is different from the length of the
clip that contains it, you can introduce just this kind of variation to your loops.
Anytime you click the Unlink button (see Figure 5.28), the audio peak data is removed from the
waveform display. This is because the envelope is now an independent entity with its own Start,
Stop, and Loop points. These points are adjusted using a Loop Brace and the familiar looking
Start and Stop Markers—but in this case you’re affecting the envelope only, not the sample. Feel
free to make an unlinked envelope of eight bars over a two-bar loop, or one that starts on beat
one, goes for four bars, then goes into a two-bar loop. You can also create some very unusual
envelopes using the technique described next.
If you have a one-bar clip and you unlink its Volume Envelope, then set its envelope length to
three beats, you’ll end up with a Volume Envelope that repeats sooner than the clip itself. If
you’ve muted the volume at any place in the envelope, as in Figure 5.27, this mute will begin
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Figure 5.28 Unlinking the Clip Envelope will allow you to create more random-sounding modulations
because the various envelopes can repeat independently.
to occur at different places as the clip loops. The envelope shown above will remove one 1/16
note every three beats. This means that beat 1 will be missing, and then beat 1.4 (it’s three beats
later, see?), followed by beat 1.3 the next time through the clip. The third time through the clip,
beat 1.2 will be muted. With the fourth repetition, the pattern starts again. It therefore takes
three bars for the Volume Clip to repeat itself; thus, the resulting clip also repeats in a pattern
three bars long. Launch the Unlinked clip to hear this firsthand.
To make things more complicated (and fun), other Clip Envelopes can be unlinked and set to
their own unique lengths. If a Pan pattern is programmed into an envelope that is set to be 3.3
beats long, it will take seven bars for the pattern to repeat itself. Most of your listeners would
probably think the motion was totally random, especially with mutes occurring every three
Breakpoint Editing
In these examples, you edited the envelopes using Draw mode (the Pencil tool). Draw mode
creates steps that are as wide as your quantization setting. Alas, step-style modulation is not
always proper. For example, you may want to make a smooth panning ramp to create the effect
of swirling sound. You can create ramps by turning off Draw mode and editing the envelope
Breakpoint style.
When in Breakpoint mode, each “elbow” in the envelope will be marked with a tiny circle, or
breakpoint. Breakpoints are created by double-clicking on the envelope. Double-clicking an
existing node will remove it (see Figure 5.29). By moving the nodes around, you can create
complex modulation curves.
It’s possible to select an area of the breakpoint curve by click-dragging across the envelope and
moving all the selected nodes together as one unit. You can also click and drag segments of the
envelope by dragging the lines instead of the breakpoints themselves, causing its attached nodes
to move as well. With a little clicking around, you’ll quickly learn how to create your desired
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Figure 5.29 Double-click to create and remove nodes. Click and drag to reposition them. The clip
shown here is the Breakpoint clip in the example.
Control the Levels If you like the timing of your envelope and you just want to change the
level of a node or segment, hold down the Ctrl (Cmd) key while dragging it. Your moves
will be restricted to the vertical plane and will also be more precise.
Recording New Audio Clips
Now that you’ve got a grip on audio clips, you can really start putting them to use. While audio
clips will sometimes be created by dragging an audio file into Live from the Browser, you can
also record audio input directly into a new clip.
In the Session View
You can record new audio clips in the Session View, even while the others are playing. First,
select the source you’re recording from in the track’s Input menus. The top menu lets you select
the source device, which includes options such as Ext. In (the inputs of your audio interface),
Resample (for recording Live’s Master output), ReWire applications (for recording the output of
external programs such as Reason), and the outputs of the individual tracks in your Live Set.
When you arm the track for recording, all of the Stop Clip buttons in the track’s clip slots will
turn to circles (see Figure 5.30). These are individual Clip Record buttons—click one of them to
start recording a new clip in that location. You do not need to use the Global Record button in
the Control Bar to record new clips in the Session View. You can stop recording by either clicking the clip again (if you’ve set Toggle as your default in Record/Warp/Launch Preferences),
clicking the Stop button in the Control Bar, disarming the track, or stopping the sequencer.
What’s fantastic about recording in the Session View is that Live can create perfect loops from
the recordings with ease. Just as a clip will wait for the Launch Quantize setting before playing,
clips will also wait for the same setting before recording. If you have Bar selected as the Global
Quantize value, Live will wait until the downbeat of a measure before it begins to record. If you
click the red Play button in the clip while it’s recording, it will stop recording on the downbeat of
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Figure 5.30 Select an active audio input, arm the track, and then click one of the circular Clip Record
buttons in the Clip Slot Grid. Recording will commence at the time specified by the Global Quantize
setting in the Control Bar.
the next measure. Furthermore, if your default Launch mode is Trigger, the clip will immediately
start looping when recording ends.
Please keep in mind that recording will stop following the Global Quantize setting only if you
click the clip’s Play button while recording. If you press Stop in the Control Bar or disarm the
track, the recording will stop immediately, and you’ll probably end up with an odd-length clip
that will have to be cleaned up to loop properly. So generally this last method is the least desirable way to stop clip recording.
Sound on Sound Since Live makes recording perfect loops so easy, you can build sections
by doing multiple layers of recorded loops. For example, you can begin by recording some
congas for four bars. When you stop recording, the clip immediately starts to loop. Move
the clip to an empty audio track, and it will continue to play. You can then trigger another
recording in the first track and play along with the congas. Perhaps you want to record a
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shaker part for the second loop. When you stop recording, the congas and shaker will both
be looping in sync with one another. You can keep layering additional clips in this fashion
and then resample the output into one final clip when you’re done.
Doing multiple takes (repeated recordings of the same part of the song) is as easy as triggering
additional Clip Record buttons in the track. Every time a new recording starts, the previous one
ends. You can then go back and listen to each take individually to find the best one. You can also
move the clips to the Arrangement View to combine the best parts of each take into one perfect
Of course, the nicest thing about this workflow in the Session View is that it allows you to
quickly build layers and sections of a song without ever stopping Live. You can then audition
all of your new clips and capture Scenes to start arranging the sections of your song.
On the Level Before you start recording, check your input signal level to make sure it’s not
too high or too low. The track’s meters will show the volume of any incoming signal as
soon as the track is armed. Play as loud as you plan to play during the recording while
watching Live’s meters. If the signal is too loud (the meters reach the top), it could distort,
or clip, the recording. If the level is too low, your sound may become grainy when turning
it up to match the rest of your song. If you’re recording at 24-bit or more, you can record
at lower levels and still have excellent audio quality. At 16-bit it’s more important to get
the highest level possible without clipping.
In the Arrangement View
To record an audio clip directly into the Arrangement, select the channel input and arm the track
just like setting up recording in the Session View. This time, instead of pressing one of the Clip
Record buttons, press the Arrangement Record button in the Control Bar (see Figure 5.31).
When you start Live’s transport, it will begin recording a new clip into the corresponding
track of the Arrangement while playing back the other tracks in the Live Set. Stop the transport,
disarm the track, or turn off the Record button in the Control Bar to end recording.
Get Ready, Get Set, Go! The Count In feature is found on the Record Warp Launch tab of
the Preferences. When this is active, Live will wait the specified number of bars before it
starts recording. This works only if the Live transport is stopped when you initiate recording. (If the transport is already running, Live will ignore the Count In setting.) During the
count off, the metronome will sound so you can “get into the beat” before it’s time to
play. This feature works in both the Session and Arrangement Views.
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Figure 5.31 To record a new audio clip in the Arrangement, you need to arm the track for recording
and enable Record in the Control Bar.
You can also automate Arrangement recording using the Punch-In/Punch-Out values in the Control Bar. Set the Start and End Markers around the area you want to record. Engage the PunchIn and Punch-Out buttons (see Figure 5.32), and press Record and then Play in the Control Bar.
Live will start running but will wait for the Punch-In time before it starts to record. It will continue recording until it reaches the Punch-Out point. You may, of course, use either Punch-In or
Punch-Out by itself if you choose.
Figure 5.32 Live will automatically begin recording at bar 3 and then stop recording at bar 7. This
leaves your hands free to play your instrument instead of trying to trigger the recording.
Recording Effects If a track’s monitoring is set to Auto while it’s armed for recording, Live
will play the incoming audio through the Session Mixer and out to your speakers or headphones. You can place effects onto the track for real-time processing of your input, but
Live will still record the part without these effects.
If you want to record the sound of your incoming part with the effects, you’ll need to use
another audio track. On the second track, set its audio input to the first track. The sound
of your incoming audio will be processed by the effects on the first track, which you can
then record on the second track.
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Editing Audio Clips
After you’ve recorded your new clips, you may need to edit them. Perhaps you rushed a part or
breathed too loudly between your vocal lines. There are a variety of ways to alter your clips after
recording them, and these are a few you’ll want to check every time.
Clip Timing and Rhythm
Whether you create an audio clip by dragging a file into Live or by recording something new, the
method for fixing the timing of the file is the same: Warp Markers. After you’ve recorded your
part, you may be inclined to first look at the waveform and the grid markers to determine if the
timing needs adjusting. Don’t do this. First, listen to the file and make an assessment, based on
how it sounds and feels. If it sounds off, then look it over to see where the warp adjustments
need to be made. Later, when you are matching your recording to other loops and recordings,
you may hear discrepancies in the timing that you will want to correct, but always lining everything up to the grid can make music feel rigid and lifeless.
After you’ve fixed any mistakes, check your Warp mode and set it to something appropriate
for the audio file, as explained at the beginning of this chapter. Press the Save button in the
Sample window so your markers and tunings are saved with the audio file, in case you use it in
another project. Make a habit of doing this now to help keep future creative sessions running
Editing in the Arrangement
While you’re in the Session View to record new pieces of audio, you can also use the Arrangement as a “splicing block” for editing multiple clips together. If you want to use the first two
bars of Vox A and the last bar of Vox B, you can arrange them as such on an Arrangement track
and then consolidate the clips into one new one (see Figures 5.33a and 5.33b).
The resulting clip will contain the parts from Vox takes A and B all wrapped up in one convenient audio clip. You can copy this clip from the Arrangement to the Session View for use in the
Figure 5.33a You can arrange and edit an assortment of clips on a track.
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Figure 5.33b Choose Consolidate from the Edit menu to render the track into one new clip, which can
be moved back to the Session View.
developing song structure. If you need to re-edit, the original audio clips remain, so you can
always do it again.
Tips for Great Loops
Looping audio files is an art form all its own. You’re trying to make something that was played
once sound natural and in perfect time with the rest of the parts in your song. While Live does an
exceptional job of looping imported files (especially loops that are already cut to the right
lengths), there may be times when Live is unable to determine the proper tempo and length
of a file, especially in the case of long audio files containing several different samples, or unusual
source material like spoken word or bluegrass. When Live fails to identify a loop, you can
quickly tell it where the loop points should be and figure the original tempo. The tools to do
this are simple, and the concepts are just as easy:
Set the start of the loop: Always be sure that the loop is actually beginning on the downbeat
of the sample. Zoom in at the beginning of the sample (see Figure 5.34) to make sure the
Start Marker and the very first Warp Marker are located at the first downbeat. If not, rightclick on the transient located above the first downbeat and select Set 1.1.1 Here from the
context menu. Also make sure that the left side of the Loop Brace is perfectly lined up with
the Start Marker.
Set the end of the loop: Turn on the Loop switch, and set the loop length to 1.0.0. Visually
locate the very end of the loop (see Figure 5.35). Drag a Warp Marker (or a Pseudo Warp
Marker) into place so the audio fits properly into the one-bar loop. Play the audio back while
you’re doing this. Use your ears and your eyes. Turn on the metronome if you find it helpful.
When working with drums, this is often pretty easy because you’ll know you’ve got the end
of bar 1 right when the next beat lines up with the beginning of bar 2. When the loop sounds
about right, drop a Warp Marker right at the beginning of bar 2.
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Figure 5.34 Make sure there’s no dead air before the sample starts.
Figure 5.35 Lock down the end of the loop.
Fine-tune the loop: Even if the start and end of the loop are just right, there’s still no
guarantee that every beat of the loop will be locked in with the rest of your parts the way you
want them to (see Figure 5.36). Check all the major beats and be sure that the sounds are
lined up properly. Create Warp Markers to compensate when necessary.
Make sure that the Fade button is on: This will perform a quick fade at the beginning and
end of the audio loop to remove any “clicks” that can occur at the loop point.
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Figure 5.36 You can see that the sub-beats of this loop are not lined up, even though the first and last
markers are in the right place. Use your ears to determine if additional Warp Markers are necessary.
Don’t assume that every beat should always be perfectly lined up with the grid!
Experiment with all of the Warp modes: While Beats mode will be rhythmically accurate, it
may cause sonic artifacts that outweigh the rhythmic precision. You may find that some of
your loops sound better in Tones mode. Don’t forget to check Re-Pitch mode as well—this
will often sound better and clearer for some kinds of material.
Play with the Warp Markers: The elastic audio possibilities of the Warp Engine are staggering. While you can fix timing errors with Warp Markers, try messing things up a bit by
“shifting” some beats. Is there a Warp Marker on beat 1.2? What happens if you put the
1.1.4 marker there instead? The sound will now play a 1/16 note early! Use this in combination with the Sample Offset Envelope in Beats mode to reorder the slices in your loop.
Then layer a Transpose Envelope, then an unlinked Pan Envelope, and then whatever other
parameters you dare to experiment with.
If you want to create longer loops, you can now expand your 1 bar loop. For audio with strict
timing, you’ll probably just have to change the loop length from 1 bar to 2 (or more). For audio
with irregular timing, move the loop brace so that it now starts from bar 2 and repeat the process
above. Once you’ve created a series of properly timed 1 bar loops, you can make loops of any
length you choose.
WHO’S USING LIVE? Sub Swara Sub Swara (www.subswara.com) is a live electronic
crew with a sound that explores a wide variety of bass heavy genres, from Dubstep and
Dancehall to Breakbeat and Glitch Hop. Their live shows used to rely heavily on
traditional DJ tools and hardware processors, but now Ableton Live has become the
backbone of their musical universe.
The Audio C lip
Hannah Thiem
Ch apter 5
“With Live, we have complete control over what energy we create on the dancefloor—
we can rearrange, remix, and edit material on the fly—knowing that tempo and pitch are
never going to be the constraints that box us in. For our own productions and remixes,
we’re able to break them into stems and rebuild to suit a particular time and space, which
gives us amazing freedom as electronic artists; we may play the same song at different
events, but it’s almost never the same.”
Dave and Dhruva, who are both percussionists as well as DJ/producers, are finding loads
of uses for Live. On stage, Dave has foregone his hardware setup and is now running his
tabla rig entirely through Live, controlling effects and Looper directly via the Akai APC40
controller. In addition, Dave and Dhruva are both using Live as a sound source to trigger
electric and acoustic samples and loops in the set with their Alesis ControlPads. “More
amazing than the fact that we can do this at all is the fact that it’s so easy to set up—the
only thing that can hold us back is finding the time to dig deeper into Live.”
Ableton’s is proving to be a beast in the studio for Sub Swara as well, particularly for
remixing. “We’re able to isolate the elements of an original tune that have the most
emotion and use them entirely independent of the time and pitch constraints that they
were created in. Overall it’s the LIVE aspect of Live that keeps us exploring. As software,
it responds to you, rather than you having to change your processes or plans based on
your tools.”
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The MIDI Clip
s you might expect, the implementation of MIDI in Live is based on the concepts
embodied in Live’s audio clips. Just like audio clips, every MIDI clip has launch properties, envelopes, and groove settings, as well as independent start, stop, and loop points.
Just like audio clips, MIDI clips are completely independent of one another, allowing you to
generate collections of infinitely varied clips effortlessly.
The good news is that MIDI clips are actually simpler to manipulate than their audio clip cousins. MIDI clips don’t use any files on the hard drive for playback. Instead, the MIDI data for the
clip is saved in the Live Set project file itself. Unlike audio files, MIDI data does not need to be
fed through any sort of Warp Engine when matching its playback speed to the project tempo, so
you won’t have to worry about Warp modes or any of the related settings, such as Warp
Markers, nor do you have to worry about Hi-Q interpolation, RAM modes, locating audio
files, or hard drive speeds.
However, you’ll soon see that the apparent simplicity of the MIDI clip actually belies an extreme
amount of power. In addition to all of the typical MIDI commands you would expect to be able
to execute, MIDI clips also have much of the power of their audio cousins, since they both
behave the same in regard to Launch modes, Launch Quantization, Follow Actions, and envelopes. For this reason, using a combination of audio and MIDI in a Live Set is a pleasure—audio
and MIDI clips look and respond the same in both the Session and Arrangement Views. The
differences aren’t apparent until you start digging into the Clip and Track Views. In Chapter 4,
“Making Music in Live,” we discussed a good portion of the Clip View, such as naming and
coloring clips, defining loops, and using Follow Actions. These properties exist for both audio
and MIDI clips. We also covered the additional areas of the Clip View that were unique to audio
clips in Chapter 5, “The Audio Clip.” Now it’s time to look at the unique sections of the Clip
View for MIDI clips.
MIDI Clip Properties
The list of unique properties for a MIDI clip is abbreviated compared with audio clips. As
explained previously, manipulating MIDI information is not limited to the same constraints
found when dealing with audio files. In the MIDI world, pitch is not related to time. You can
speed up a MIDI clip without causing the MIDI notes to rise in pitch. The opposite is also true—
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you can transpose the notes in the MIDI clip without changing its playback speed. Because all
these changes are possible by editing the MIDI data, there is no need for special functions in the
MIDI Clip View like the Transpose and Warp functions in an audio clip.
Furthermore, MIDI and audio clips approach controlling sound differently. While audio clips
manipulate an existing sound (an audio file), MIDI clips are simply containers for MIDI messages that will only create sound if used to trigger a sound-creating device—be it an external
device or a virtual instrument.
Best of Both Worlds If there is an audio clip–specific function that you want to perform on
your MIDI part, such as reversing the sound, you can record the output of the MIDI instrument into an audio clip in an audio track and then tweak this new clip.
The MIDI Clip View is somewhat smaller than the audio Clip View. The only properties that are
unique to the MIDI clip are the Bank, Sub-bank, and Program selectors (see Figure 6.1). Bank
and Program Changes are used to recall particular sounds on the destination MIDI device. If
you’re going to be working mostly with virtual instruments, you may not need to mess around
with these parameters too much. However, if you’re working with hardware synths, or you want
to have the greatest amount of flexibility with your software synths, you’ll need to understand
how these parameters work.
Most MIDI devices have the ability to save their settings, such as filter parameters, LFO speeds,
and modulation sources. These saved settings are referred to as programs, patches, presets,
sounds, or instruments, depending on the manufacturer’s nomenclature. Regardless of what
the company calls its saved sounds, they are almost always accessed with MIDI Program and
Bank Change messages. By setting the Program and Bank values in the Clip View, each clip can
recall a different patch from the same instrument when it is launched.
A Program Change is a MIDI message with a value between 0 and 127 and refers to a memory
location in your MIDI device’s sound bank. The way a manufacturer maps the Program message
to the memory slots is entirely up to them, but generally a Program Change of 0 will cause the
first sound on the instrument to be loaded. In the case of a General MIDI synthesizer, this will
load a piano patch. (The General MIDI specification includes a predefined list of standard
instruments and their associated program numbers that manufacturers should adhere to.) So,
using the Program Change message, you can recall a sound from your instrument’s 128 choices.
But what if your device has more than 128 sounds? That’s where the Bank Change message
comes into play. A bank holds 128 programs. So you can recall any sound in your MIDI device
by first specifying the containing bank followed by the program number.
Remember that the way instrument manufacturers choose to assign sounds to banks and programs is entirely up to them. You will probably have to consult the manual for your MIDI
instrument to find out how the manufacturer is using the Bank and Program Change messages.
Chapter 6
The MIDI Clip
The Bank and Program selectors
Figure 6.1 These settings will recall the twentieth sound in the ninth bank of the associated Wavestation instrument. When you’re using the factory default sound bank, these settings will load the Sub
Stick sound.
Some will even require that the Bank Change be done with two numbers, thus the presence of the
Sub-bank setting in the MIDI clip properties.
While this may sound confusing, figuring out how your MIDI instruments respond to these
messages will open up a level of flexibility where any clip in a MIDI track causes a new
sound to be loaded when it gets launched. If you do not want to change the patches of your
virtual instruments during a Set, there’s no need to worry about programs and banks. You can
just load the patch you want directly in the instrument’s interface, and Live will recall it each
time the Set is loaded.
Recording New MIDI Clips
To harness the power of MIDI clips, you’ll need to make some first. The easiest way to make a
new MIDI clip is to double-click an empty slot in the MIDI track. You can also create a MIDI
clip by recording it from a MIDI device, such as a keyboard, EWI (electronic wind instrument),
MIDI guitar, or a controller. It’s also possible to record the MIDI output of other MIDI tracks
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and external sequencers. You’ll need to have a MIDI interface (discussed in Chapter 2, “Getting
Live Up and Running,” to record an external MIDI source. Some audio interfaces include MIDI
ports, making them especially handy in this situation. After you have your MIDI device connected and selected in the Preferences, you’re ready to record.
In the Session View
In the Session View, recording a new MIDI clip is almost identical to recording an audio clip.
The fact that the procedures are similar means there is less for you to learn and remember about
Live. It makes the composition process more transparent because you’ll use the same motions
every time you record, be it in audio or MIDI.
To begin, make a MIDI track (Ctrl [Cmd]+Shift+T). Then specify the MIDI input you’ll be
recording. This is done in the Input/Output Routing strip, shown in Figure 6.2, by selecting
the MIDI input device followed by the channel you want to record. Live has a setting called
All Ins that will record any MIDI data entering the selected input, regardless of the MIDI channel assigned to the data. If you have only one device connected to the MIDI device you selected,
then All Ins will be an appropriate setting. If you have multiple controllers connected to your
computer, you may want to specify a specific device (see Figure 6.2) and possibly a specific MIDI
channel to prevent data from another controller being recorded in your clip. In order to hear
your MIDI data, you’ll have to load a virtual instrument or select an output destination for the
MIDI track and route it to an external hardware device.
Figure 6.2 The Korg MicroKontrol keyboard has been selected as the MIDI input device. On the first
track, the keyboard will end up controlling Channel 1 of whatever external synth is hooked up to the
MIDI Out port of the FireBox. The second track has an FM8 softsynth loaded. Notice how this track
shows an audio output instead of MIDI.
In Figure 6.2, we see an example of a track set up to play an external hardware synth
(Waldorf) and another configured with a virtual instrument (FM8). The Waldorf track receives
input from the MicroKontrol and routes it directly out of the computer to the Waldorf synth.
Both tracks are ready to begin recording. All that remains to be done is clicking on the Arm
Record switch.
Chapter 6
The MIDI Clip
When armed for recording, you’ll notice that all the Clip Stop buttons in a track change to
circles. Clicking one of these circles will begin recording a new MIDI clip in that slot. Just
like audio clips, MIDI clips will wait to record until the time specified by the Global Quantize
setting. After recording has commenced, start playing. Everything you do, including pitch bends,
aftertouch, knob tweaks, and so on, will be recorded into the MIDI clip. When you’re done,
click the Play icon in the clip to stop recording. (If your default Launch mode is Trigger, the clip
will begin playing back your new recording.) You can start recording additional takes by clicking the circles in any of the other clip slots.
In the Arrangement View
If recording MIDI clips resembles recording audio clips in the Session View, you can probably
already guess how to record MIDI clips in the Arrangement View. Indeed, it is the same procedure used with audio clips in the Arrangement View. You’ll need to set up your MIDI input and
output first, as explained in the Session View above. You’ll also arm the track, but instead of
using the circles in the clip slots to start recording, you’ll click the Record button in the Control
Bar. When you press Play in the Control Bar, Live will start playing your arrangement while
recording your new MIDI clip (see Figure 6.3). If Live is already playing, recording will begin the
instant you press the Record button. By arming multiple tracks, you can record multiple clips
simultaneously, allowing Live to work as a multitrack MIDI recorder. You can also record multiple audio clips at the same time, too.
Figure 6.3 Recording clips in the Arrangement View.
Multirecording Can’t seem to arm more than one track at a time for recording? Don’t
worry, you’re just being stopped by Live’s “arm-exclusive” behavior. To arm multiple
tracks, hold down the Ctrl (Cmd) key and then click the Arm buttons. This is just like
selecting multiple files on your computer. If this behavior annoys you, you can turn it
off in Preferences (see Chapter 2).
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Overdub Recording
Overdub Recording is a function available only for MIDI clips; it records additional MIDI data
into a clip without erasing what’s already there. This is an awesome feature when it comes to
programming drumbeats, since you can build them one piece at a time. You can make a two-bar
loop with a hi-hat and then play the additional parts (kick drums, snares, cymbals) layer by layer
as the clip continues to loop.
To enable MIDI Overdub Recording, click the OVR button in the Control Bar (see Figure 6.4).
When you launch a clip, it will start playing, and its play triangle will be green. After you arm
the track for recording, the MIDI clip will keep playing, but its play triangle will turn red. This
color signifies that the clip is playing and recording at the same time. Anything you play at this
point will be added to the current MIDI clip (and quantized on the fly, too, if you enable Record
Quantization), and each iteration of the loop will contain the new data you recorded.
Oberdub is on.
This clip is playing
and recording at the
same time.
Figure 6.4 MIDI Overdub Recording allows parts to be built in layers while a MIDI clip is playing. Note
that recording occurs for any clip playing on an armed track.
Chapter 6
The MIDI Clip
Combined with the drag-and-drop techniques of the Session View, programming variations of
beats can be accomplished in moments instead of minutes. You can start with a simple drum
pattern (perhaps just kick drum and hi-hat for the intro of your song), drag-copy (use the Ctrl
[Cmd] key while dragging) the clip to a new location, and then use the MIDI Overdub to layer
the snare hits on top of the kick and hi-hat. Now you’ll have two MIDI clips: one with just kick
and hats and the other with a snare added. You can drag-copy the new MIDI clip and layer on
an additional part, such as a shaker or congas. Using this technique, you can build a collection of
drum variations quickly for your song that you can then trigger on the fly.
Of course, you can use Overdub Recording for more than drums. If a piano part is really tricky,
you could record the left-hand and right-hand parts separately. Perhaps you’ll perform the lefthand part on the first pass and then overdub the right-hand part on the next pass.
Step Recording
Live 8 has added a new (but conceptually very old) way of creating MIDI clips: step recording.
Step recording allows you to place notes into a MIDI clip from your controller keyboard without
having to perform them in real time. This technique can only be used to add notes to an existing
MIDI clip, so you’ll be using it either to overdub notes into a clip you’ve recorded or with empty
clips that you’ve created by double-clicking in an empty clip slot.
To do step recording, you need to arm the MIDI track for recording and turn on the Preview
switch in the MIDI editor. Now, notes or chords can be added by holding down keys on your
controller and then pressing the right arrow key to determine the length of the notes. The right and
left arrow keys are also used to navigate through the clip, so pressing the right arrow without
holding down any notes allows you enter rests or skip ahead to another part of the clip entirely.
When in the MIDI map (see “MIDI and Computer Keyboard Control” in Chapter 4), you’ll
notice two arrows appear below the fold switch. These can be remote mapped to allow you
to step back and forth through your MIDI clips from your controller, without using the
arrow keys on your computer’s keyboard.
Editing MIDI Clips
One of the most attractive features of MIDI is the capability to edit the MIDI data in order to
create a perfect part. Recorded notes can be effortlessly transposed to different pitches, extended
or shortened, and moved to a different location in time. This can make recording MIDI parts a
little easier because you don’t have to worry about getting the part exactly right. You just need
to get it close so you can make final adjustments to the MIDI data.
When you edit MIDI clips in Live, you not only have the ability to change the notes that are
recorded, but also to create new ones by hand. In fact, many producers prefer to draw parts
directly into the clips instead of playing them, when programming drum parts, for example. It
allows them to create specific performances, such as perfectly repeating 1/16 notes that are all
the same duration and velocity. Editing data by hand also allows you to create precise automation, such as perfect volume fades and quantized filter modulations.
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Adjusting the Grid
All editing in a MIDI clip is governed by the timing grid. Anytime a note is created or moved, it
will snap to the grid values. If your grid is set to 1/4, you’ll be able to align the MIDI notes only
to the 1/4 note of the clip. You can also change the grid settings, allowing you to make more
precise rhythmic adjustments. You can even turn the grid off completely for free-form editing.
Live has two grid modes: Adaptive and Fixed. The grid mode can be selected by right-clicking
anywhere in the Note Editor and selecting from the context menu. Adaptive mode, the default,
simply changes the grid value according to the zoom level. The grid values get smaller the more
you zoom in on your MIDI notes. Fixed grid keeps the resolution at the value you select, regardless of the zoom level. Changing the Fixed grid resolution can be done with the key commands
outlined below. As you execute these key commands, you’ll see the grid value change in the
MIDI data window (see Figure 6.5), reflecting your modification. Note that before using the
following key commands, you must click on the grid to select it; otherwise, you might be adjusting the Quantize menu in the Control Bar.
This is the current
grid resolution.
Figure 6.5 The current grid setting is 1/16. This means that all notes you manipulate will snap to
1/16-note timing.
Ctrl (Cmd)+1: This will decrease the value of the grid. If the grid was set to 1/16 before,
it will be 1/32 after using this key command.
Ctrl (Cmd)+2: This has the opposite effect of the command above. A grid value of 1/16
will change to 1/8 after using this command.
Ctrl (Cmd)+3: This key command toggles Triplet mode on and off. A previous setting
of 1/8 will turn to 1/8T (1/8-note triplet) after pressing these keys. Use this key command
again to switch Triplet mode off.
Ctrl (Cmd)+4: This turns the entire grid on and off. When the grid is off, the grid value
display will turn gray. You will be able to place MIDI data anywhere you like while the grid
is off. To re-enable the grid, use this key command again.
Chapter 6
The MIDI Clip
Editing Notes and Velocities
After you’ve got your desired grid timing selected, you’re ready to start manipulating MIDI
notes. Live displays MIDI notes in a style known as a piano roll. This term comes from the
old player pianos that were programmed using rolls of paper. These rolls had small slots cut
into them, each representing a specific note on the piano keyboard or one of the other instruments mounted inside. A note that played for a long time was triggered by a long slot in the
paper. As the paper rolled by mechanical sensors, it triggered servos to play notes on the piano.
Viewing MIDI Data
The Piano Roll View in Live features a lane for each note on the MIDI scale. When looking at
Figure 6.6, you’ll see an image of a piano keyboard at the left side of the window. From each of
these keys is a lane extending to the right where notes can be placed. Notes placed in these lanes
trigger their corresponding keys in the scale.
Figure 6.6 The MIDI data here is a C-major scale. You can see that only the white keys are being triggered by the MIDI notes.
You can zoom in and out of the vertical piano keyboard, thus allowing you to see more or less of
the 128 possible notes in the MIDI scale. Zoom in by moving your mouse over the piano keyboard at the left of the window. When the mouse changes to a magnifying glass, you can click
and drag to zoom. Since the view is vertical instead of horizontal, the zooming moves have also
been turned on their side. Dragging the mouse left and right will now adjust the zoom, and
dragging up and down allows you to scroll through the piano keyboard. If you zoom out too
far, the piano keyboard will disappear. Zoom in to see it again.
Into the Fold Live’s MIDI display has a unique feature that hides any lanes that don’t contain MIDI data. When the Fold button (located just above the Piano Roll display) is activated, the display will be condensed, and you’ll see only the lanes that contain notes in the
clip. This is perfect for programming drums since many synths and keyboards map their
sounds over a wide range of octaves. You may be using a kick drum sound at D1 while
using a hi-hat sound three octaves higher at E4. So, instead of scrolling up and down
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repeatedly to see the two parts, you can press Fold, and you’ll see only the lanes for D1
and E4, making editing a snap. Turn Fold off to see all the lanes again.
Previewing MIDI Notes
You will see a tiny little headphone icon right above the keyboard shown in the piano roll. The
headphone icon looks like the Preview icon found in the Browser and has a nearly identical
function. When this button is on, each MIDI note that you click in the editing grid will also
be sent out to the connected MIDI instrument. This allows you to hear every note that you add
and edit, which can help keep you from editing the wrong note or placing a note in the wrong
lane. Additionally, you can click on the keys at the left edge of the grid to preview the sounds.
Editing MIDI Data with Draw Mode
There are two methods for editing MIDI data: with or without the Pencil. When the Draw mode
is on (activate it in the Control Bar or press Ctrl [Cmd]+B), you can add notes quickly to the
MIDI note window and set their velocities. Clicking in the grid will cause a note to appear that is
the length of the current grid setting. If you continue to hold the mouse button after you create
the note, you can drag up and down to set its velocity. If you click and drag horizontally (see
Figure 6.7), the Pencil will create a series of notes in that lane, which is great for hi-hat patterns.
(You can also drag up and down to set the velocities of the whole group.) Clicking an existing
note with the Pencil will erase it.
Figure 6.7 Draw mode makes it easy to quickly draw in a series of 1/16 notes.
Editing MIDI Data with Draw Mode Off
While writing notes in Draw mode can be extremely efficient, there are a few things that can’t be
done this way, such as changing the start time and length of a MIDI note. These advanced edits
can be performed by switching the Draw mode off (click the icon in the Control Bar or press Ctrl
[Cmd]+B to toggle it). When the Draw mode is off, your mouse will appear as a standard arrow.
To create a MIDI note in this mode, double-click an empty slot. After the note has been made,
you can click and drag it to a new location. This will let you change the pitch and time for the
note in one maneuver. When you move the mouse to either end of the MIDI note, the mouse will
Chapter 6
The MIDI Clip
change to a bracket (it will look like [ at the beginning of the note and ] at the end). Clicking and
dragging in this location will stretch the MIDI note, making it either longer or shorter. Doubleclicking the note again will erase it.
Directly below the MIDI Note Editor is the Velocity Editor. This area can be folded or unfolded
and resized by dragging the lower boundary of the Note Editor (see Figure 6.8). When Draw
mode is turned off, the velocity of each note is represented by a vertical line with a small circle at
the top. The To adjust the velocity, just drag the circle up or down. With Draw mode on, the
circle disappears, and you can draw velocities directly into the Velocity Editor.
Figure 6.8 By dragging the bottom border upward, we’ve enlarged the velocity lane.
Since multiple notes can occur in different lanes at one time in a MIDI clip, it’s possible for the
velocities of multiple notes to be stacked on top of one another. As you move your mouse over
one of the circular handles at the top of the velocity lines, you’ll see its corresponding note
become highlighted in the upper window, showing you which note you’re about to edit. It’s
actually easier to do the reverse, however, by selecting the note in the Note Editor first to ensure
that you’re editing the right velocity. If you decide to use the Draw mode in the velocity lane, you
will not be able to specify which note to edit when two or more occur at the same time (vertically
aligned). Instead, you’ll end up setting these notes to the same velocity.
Fortunately, there’s also an easy shortcut for editing velocity that works whether or not Draw
mode is turned on. Just hold down Ctrl (Cmd) while holding the mouse pointer over a note, and
it will change into a splitter. Drag the splitter up or down to change the velocity. Since Live
color-codes notes to show their velocity, you may not have to use the velocity editor at all
and can just fold it to save space on your screen.
Another benefit of using the standard mouse pointer instead of Draw mode is that you can select
groups of MIDI notes to edit. You can click and drag around the area of notes you want, or you
can select them individually by holding Shift and clicking. Once you’ve selected them, you can
perform edits on multiple notes at once. You can drag the notes to a new location, changing their
pitch and timing. You can lengthen or shorten them as a group. You can copy them using all the
standard Cut, Copy, and Paste commands (even the dragging techniques of the Session View
work here), or you can scale their velocities all at once in the lower window.
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Quantizing Your Performance
Nobody’s perfect. We can’t always play our instruments with the rhythmical precision of a drum
machine, but with judicious use of quantizing, Live can make you sound like you’re dead on the
beat. Quantizing is the process of aligning events to a timing grid. In the case of Launch Quantizing used in the Session View, you’re making sure your clips start playing on a division of your
timing grid. When quantizing a MIDI clip, you’re making sure that every note is aligned to the
grid. Quantizing can be done either while you record or after the fact.
If you want to quantize while recording, you’ll have to visit the Record Quantization submenu
(under the Edit menu). After you select a quantization value here, any recording you make will
be perfectly aligned to the rhythmic subdivisions you have selected. Figures 6.9a and 6.9b show
how this works. This is a dream come true when programming drumbeats, since every recording
will be rhythmically tight. Live can quantize notes to a grid of 1/4 notes, 1/16-note triplets, or
anything in between.
Figure 6.9a Here are some unquantized MIDI notes.
Figure 6.9b The same part recorded with quantizing. Notice how each note’s left edge is aligned with
one of the grid lines.
Chapter 6
The MIDI Clip
Of course, not every style of music demands strict rhythmic quantization. In fact, many musicians prefer to keep the natural feel of their performances in their takes. You can turn off Live’s
automatic quantizing by choosing No Quantization from the Record Quantize menu.
The Undo Two-Step When Live is set to quantize a recording automatically, you’ll still be
able to undo the quantizing in case you left it on by accident. The first time you press Ctrl
(Cmd)+Z after recording, the recorded notes will move to their original, unquantized locations. The second Undo will erase the clip, allowing you to make another.
If you decide later that you do want to quantize the part, press Ctrl (Cmd)+Shift+U to open
Live’s Quantize dialog box (see Figure 6.10). You’ll have to be in the Clip View for the clip
you want to quantize before trying to open this dialog. The first value at the top sets the quantize
grid. You must set this to the smallest subdivision that occurs in the part. If you have played a
part with 1/16 notes, you’ll need to select 1/16 here. If you select 1/8, the Quantize function will
move the 1/16 notes to the closest 1/8 note, therefore messing up the part. The Current Grid
option will quantize to the size of the grid shown in the MIDI editor.
Figure 6.10 Live’s Quantize dialog box will tailor the method by which Live quantizes your notes.
Below the Quantize selection is the Adjust Note selection, with two buttons labeled Start and
End. By default, only Start is enabled. This means that Live will change only the start location of
a note when it quantizes—the length of the note will remain the same. If you enable End as well,
Live will make sure that the note ends on a grid subdivision, too. This is handy for rapid-fire
synth bass sequences, because each note will be on beat and the same length. If you wanted, you
could deselect Start, making Live fix only the end of each note.
The last parameter in the dialog box is the Amount value. Normally, this is set to 100%, which
forces every note to the nearest grid subdivision. If you set this value to 50%, Live will move the
notes only halfway to the proper place. The result is a tighter performance, but one that is not
completely rigid.
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Partial Quantizing Sometimes you may not want to quantize an entire clip. Maybe part of
it feels just right, but one passage is a bit off, or maybe one section needs to be quantized
to straight 16ths and another section to 16th-note triplets. In this case, just select the notes
you want to quantize by click-dragging over them in the Clip View or Shift-clicking on
individual notes. Now quantization will be applied to these notes only.
After you’ve set up your Quantize settings, you can immediately apply them to any MIDI clip
without opening the Quantize window by using the Ctrl (Cmd)+U keyboard shortcut. This
shortcut when combined with the Current Grid setting in the Quantize dialog can be a real
time saver!
MIDI Clip Envelopes
After your MIDI notes are straightened out, it will be time to look at your Clip Envelopes. These
envelopes will be used for creating controller data to be sent to your MIDI devices. When effects
and instruments are loaded onto the MIDI track, the Clip Envelopes will be able to control those
devices, too.
MIDI Ctrl Envelopes
In a MIDI track with an empty Track View, the only category of envelopes that will be available
is the MIDI Ctrl Envelopes. These are controllers such as Pitch Bend, Modulation, Volume, Pan,
and Sustain, and all are shown as graphical envelopes in the Clip View (see Figure 6.11). These
envelopes generate values that are translated to MIDI data and then sent to the destination MIDI
device. Remember, you can view the envelopes for your MIDI clip by clicking on the tiny E icon
to show/hide the Envelope box.
Figure 6.11 The movements of the mod wheel are represented by an envelope that bears a striking
resemblance to a roller coaster.
When you look through the list of available MIDI controllers, you’ll see some of them have
already been named, such as Volume, Breath, Pan, and Expression. This is because part of
the MIDI standard defines certain controller numbers for certain musical tasks. Controller 10
Chapter 6
The MIDI Clip
is generally Pan. Controller 7 is usually Volume, and so on. Whether these controllers actually
have any effect will be determined by the MIDI device on the receiving end. If you have an old
analog synth with MIDI, it may respond to notes and pitch bend, but it might not be able to pan.
Other devices may not respond to Controller 7 for volume. You’ll need to look at your MIDI
device’s manual, specifically the MIDI implementation chart (usually at the end of the manual),
to see a list of the MIDI controllers and messages for the instrument.
Mixer Envelopes
If you happen to load a virtual instrument onto your MIDI track, a few more envelope categories
will be available for your tweaking. Once the virtual instrument is in place, the track now
behaves like an audio track. You’ll see that you have a Mixer category available with Volume,
Pan, and Send Envelopes. There will also be a category for the virtual instrument you loaded.
This means that you can modulate the parameters of the virtual instrument while it plays. Furthermore, any audio or MIDI effects loaded into the track will be available for tweaking.
Shortcut to Confusion The Volume and Pan shortcut buttons do different things, depend-
ing on whether you are working with a virtual instrument or a hardware synth. If there’s a
virtual instrument loaded, these buttons will link you to the Volume and Pan Envelopes for
the Mixer. If you are routing your MIDI track to an output port, however, the buttons act
as shortcuts to MIDI Volume (CC 7) and MIDI Pan (CC 10).
Virtual Instruments and Effects
You can draw and edit envelopes for parameters of the Live devices and plug-ins loaded onto a
track by selecting them from the Clip Envelope menus. The top menu will select the device or
plug-in, which can be an instrument or an effect (both audio and MIDI effects). For each device
selected in the top menu, you’ll get a list of parameters that can be edited. The exact list you’ll
see here depends on what instrument or effect you have loaded.
Is This Thing On? All controller values are represented as envelopes in Live. If the param-
eter you are controlling is a switch, values above 64 usually turn it on, and values below
turn it off. You’ll need to make sure that your envelope passes above 64 only when you
want your parameter on.
Importing and Exporting MIDI Files
Live stores all MIDI data and parameters for MIDI clips within the Live Set. You can see the
individual MIDI clips and tracks within the Browser. While audio clips must play a specific
audio file stored on a hard disk, the MIDI clips don’t require any sort of external support file
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that you need to keep track of. When you import a MIDI file, Live copies the data from the
MIDI file into the Live Set. Live will never use the original MIDI file again, so should that file be
changed or lost, the Live Set will still play perfectly.
Importing Standard MIDI Files
Live imports MIDI parts from Standard MIDI Files (SMFs), which come in two flavors: Type 0
and Type 1. Unless your MIDI file has only one part in it, Type 0 won’t do you any good in
Live—all the parts are squished into one track. Type 1, on the other hand, has the MIDI parts
split into separate tracks for each instrument. There will be a track for the bass, some for the
drums, and tracks for any other part in the song, all of which will be displayed below the MIDI
file when you open it in the Browser (see Figure 6.12). Live lets you import these tracks into new
clips by dragging the tracks into your session or arrangement like regular clips.
Figure 6.12 This MIDI file has multiple tracks that can be added to the Live Set individually.
If you’ve got a song in another software, or perhaps something stuck in an older hardware
sequencer, and you want to transfer it to Live, SMFs will usually take care of the job. The format
has been around for a long time, so you can be assured of compatibility; however, SMFs don’t
necessarily retain everything from a computer project. When exporting songs done in other programs, you may have been utilizing application-specific features that are beyond the scope of
MIDI. These could include mixer and effect automation, as well as the port and channel assignments of the MIDI tracks. This kind of information gets saved in the application’s native file
format but usually won’t appear in an SMF export.
Exporting Standard MIDI Files
If you need to take the MIDI part from a clip and send it to another Live Set or a different
program, you can export the MIDI data as an SMF. Select the clip and choose Export MIDI
clip from Live’s File menu. You’ll be prompted to give a name and destination for the exported
data. Choose a location and name and click Save.
Chapter 6
The MIDI Clip
Using the Live Clip Format
Note that you can save your MIDI clips along with the virtual instrument you used for it, including any MIDI and audio effects that were in use. This allows you to save your MIDI part easily
as a musical idea in your collection of clips. When you add the clip to a new track in another
song, it will load up the instrument and necessary effects automatically.
To export this kind of clip, simply click the clip and drag it into a Browser. It will appear there,
and you will immediately be able to give the clip a new name. Press Enter when you’re done
renaming to save the clip.
You can differentiate these enhanced clips from regular clips by the icon that precedes the clip in
the Browser (see Figure 6.13). Additionally, these clips have an .alc file extension, which stands
for Ableton Live Clip.
Figure 6.13 You can see that the top two files have a special icon in front of them that indicates they
are Live Clips.
Now that you have a handle on the ins and outs of audio and MIDI clips and how to arrange
them, it’s time to start adding effects. The next chapter will show how effects, if used properly,
can add another dimension to your music by introducing elements of sound design. You’ll also
learn how to use virtual instruments and put them fully under hardware control.
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Using Effects and
ffects can profoundly change the impact of your music. They can be used in a variety of
ways: to remove unwanted frequencies from an audio track (EQ), to create the sound of a
room for a vocalist (Reverb), or to mangle a sound into something totally new (Frequency
Shifter). Effects put a lot of power at your fingertips. As with all things, practice will help you
determine which type of effects will help your mix the most. Don’t forget that sometimes having
no effect on a sound is the best decision.
In this chapter, I’ll be introducing you to the use of Live’s built-in devices: audio effects, MIDI
effects, and instruments. We’ll also have a brief look at how to use plug-in effects and instruments as well. For a complete reference to every device in Live, see the following two chapters.
Using Effects in a Session
In the simplest sense, an effect is a device that takes an input signal—either audio or MIDI
data—performs calculations upon it, and spits the result out the other end. For example, a
delay effect will take a sound into its input and then wait a specified amount of time before
sending it to the output. A filter effect can take a sound and remove all the frequencies below
500Hz. You can chain multiple effects together for even more power by having the output of one
effect feed the input of another, and so on.
The Track View
In Live, the graphical layout of an effect chain is surprisingly simple and logical. Double-click a
track name—either at the top of the Session View or at the right side of the Arrangement View—
and you will see its Track View appear at the bottom of the Live window. Effects are placed in
the Track View side by side to form a chain (see Figure 7.1). A signal enters the leftmost device
and proceeds through each until it comes out the right-hand side.
The Big Picture As you can probably see from Figure 7.1, it’s very easy to add enough
devices to a track that they can’t all be seen at one time. When this happens, the devices
will simply scroll off to the right. At the lower right-hand corner of your screen, you’ll see a
miniaturized image of all of the devices in the track, with a black rectangle indicating the
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devices that are currently in view. Just like in the Arrangement View, you can slide the
rectangle around to view different parts of the device chain.
My favorite trick for keeping devices in view, however, is folding them. Just double-click
in a device’s title bar, and it will collapse sideways, taking up a fraction of the screen
space it did before. It’s easy to keep your devices folded and just unfold the one you’re
working with at the moment.
Figure 7.1 An arbitrary arrangement of audio effects in the Track View. The input signal is processed
by each device in order from left to right.
The Device and Plug-In Browsers
You gain access to your collection of effects through the two Browser icons seen in Figure 7.2.
The top icon activates the Live Device Browser (the built-in effects and instruments), while the
lower icon activates the Plug-in Browser (your external VST and Audio Units effects and
Figure 7.2 These two buttons are located in the upper-left corner of the Live window. Click the top
button to gain access to Live’s built-in effects and instruments. The bottom button displays a list of all
the plug-ins, both VST and Audio Units, currently available to Live.
The Live Device Browser contains three folders, which can be opened to view the built-in audio
effects, MIDI effects, and instruments. We’ll discuss those individually later. The folder layout of
the Plug-in Browser, on the other hand, depends on the current configuration of your system and
the plug-ins that are available to Live.
Adding an effect from one of the Browsers is as easy as it gets. In fact, there are four different
ways to load these devices onto a track, all of which may be used interchangeably:
Chapter 7
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Click and drag a device from the Browser to the desired track, as shown in Figure 7.3.
This will add the new effect to the right side of the effect chain if there are any preexisting devices on the track.
...and drag to here.
Click here...
Figure 7.3 Click and drag an effect from the Browser to the title of a track. When you release your
mouse button, the effect will be loaded into the track.
Select the destination track by clicking the track’s name and then double-click the
desired device or plug-in shown in the Browser. Just as above, the selected effect will be
loaded into the far-right position in the track’s effect chain.
Double-click the name of a track to expose its Track View. You may then drag and drop
effects from the Browsers directly into the Track View (see Figure 7.4). The benefit of
this method is that you may choose where in the device chain the new effect will be
loaded instead of always defaulting to the last position, as in the previous two methods.
If you decide that you need some EQ before your compressor, you can simply drag it
into this location.
Use any of the methods mentioned above, but instead of dragging the device out of the
Browser, click on the triangle to the left of the device to reveal its presets. Now, drag or
double-click the preset instead of the device. (There’s more on presets next).
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Figure 7.4 By dragging devices straight into the Track View, you can choose to insert them at any point
in the chain that you want.
All four methods explained previously work identically in both the Session View and Arrangement View. Just remember that in the Session View, the track names are found at the top of the
window, while in the Arrangement View they are found on the right side.
Plug-In Types
There are three types of plug-ins in Live: audio effects, MIDI effects, and instruments. As you
would assume, audio effects process and alter only audio signals, while MIDI effects perform
calculations on passing MIDI data. MIDI effects can’t be used on audio tracks. Audio effects
can, however, exist on MIDI tracks—as long as the MIDI track is being used to host an instrument (see Figure 7.5). The only way you can have an audio effect on a MIDI track that’s controlling external hardware is if the hardware is being accessed via an External Instrument device.
Don’t worry, external devices will be discussed in Chapter 8, “Live’s Instruments.”
Figure 7.5 Here’s a compressor sitting on a MIDI track. Notice the “Drop Instrument Here” message
before the device.
Chapter 7
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Audio Effects
Audio effects have existed in Live since the program’s first release. Audio effects can be used to
correct tone problems, add ambience to sounds, or shape noise into completely new textures—
the possibilities are staggering. Audio effects include equalizers, delays, choruses, pitch shifters,
flangers, compressors, phasers, gates, distortions, and limiters. There may be a few more esoteric
effects not categorized here for sure, but the majority of audio plug-ins will be of these types.
Live 8 includes a collection of 30 audio effects for your perusal, use, and abuse. A complete
dissertation on these audio effects appears in Chapter 9, “Live’s Audio Effects.”
When Live tells you to “Drop Instrument Here,” it’s not directing you to drop your keyboard.
Instead, it is referring to a virtual instrument. This can be one of Live’s built-in instruments, such
as Operator, or a third-party plug-in instrument, such as Native Instruments Absynth. Instruments reside in the Track View alongside your effect chain (see Figure 7.6). Think of a virtual
instrument as an extremely lightweight sound module. It takes MIDI input and spits out audio,
but it lives inside your computer and doesn’t require a power cable!
Figure 7.6 Here we’ve added Live’s Impulse instrument to the track. The compressor will now compress
the output of Impulse.
The basic version of Live comes with two built-in instruments of its own: Impulse, a simple drum
sampler, and Simpler, a very basic sampler that can play back and manipulate individual samples. Ableton also makes six additional instruments for Live 8, but in order to use these you have
to purchase them separately or buy Live Suite, which includes them all. (See Chapter 8 for the
scoop on these.) Live will support any plug-in instrument conforming to the VST standard, while
Mac OS X users also have the ability to use Audio Units instruments.
By adding an instrument to a MIDI track, you end up converting it into a hybrid audio/MIDI
track. You can see the result when looking at the I/O routing section of the Session Mixer (see
Figure 7.7).
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Figure 7.7 The MIDI track on the left has an instrument loaded. Notice that the bottom menu in this
track is labeled Audio To, indicating that this track now outputs audio. The track on the right does not
have an instrument loaded, so it still outputs MIDI.
MIDI Effects
The last type of effect used in Live is the MIDI effect. Placing one of these on a MIDI track will
alter the MIDI messages being passed through the effect chain. These alterations can range from
subtle, such as smoothing out velocity response, to drastic, such as remapping notes to different
pitches or using the Arpeggiator. Keep in mind that MIDI effects alter what you hear by changing what an instrument is told to play. For example, consider the following example.
You load your favorite piano plug-in onto a MIDI track. You record a short riff into a clip and
set it looping. You then load the Pitch effect onto the track right before the piano plug-in. As you
turn up the Transpose knob on the Pitch effect, the notes being sent to the piano plug-in are
shifted upward. The result is that the piano plug-in now plays the part in a higher register. You’ll
also notice that as you continue to turn up the Transpose knob, the piano will play higher and
higher while still sounding natural. This is because you are not shifting the sound of the piano
upward—you’re moving the MIDI notes used to trigger the piano upward. It’s exactly as if you’d
moved your hands to a different part of the keyboard and played the part again.
Now imagine that you are changing the pitch of an audio recording of a piano. As you transpose
the audio clip higher, it will begin to sound artificial fairly rapidly. This is the difference between
changing pitch in the MIDI and audio domains. The Pitch effect changes what the instrument
plays, which results in a more pleasing transposition.
This distinction also has “gotchas,” which can result in seemingly confusing behaviors for MIDI
effects in certain scenarios. If you use the Pitch effect (see Figure 7.8) to transpose up the MIDI
messages sent to the Impulse by one semitone, you won’t hear the drums sounding higher in
pitch—you’ll hear different drums playing the same pattern. That’s because each drum in the
Impulse is mapped to a single MIDI note. If you transpose the incoming MIDI up by more than
an octave, you won’t hear any drums at all! You’ve raised the pitch of the MIDI notes to the
point where it’s outside of the range of notes the Impulse responds to.
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To get a better handle on this, take a look at the MIDI Pitch example provided in the downloads
for Chapter 7. When you first run it, the beat will play normally. Try adjusting the Pitch knob in
the MIDI Pitch effect, and you’ll hear the result.
Figure 7.8 The Pitch device is transposing the MIDI data out of the operating range for Impulse. You
can see the MIDI data entering the Impulse on its left, but there’s no audio exiting on its right.
Third-Party Plug-Ins
While Live offers an impressive collection of 51 devices right out of the box, you may still prefer
to use plug-in effects and instruments from other manufacturers. Live fully supports the VST and
Audio Units (Mac OS X only) plug-in standards, allowing limitless expansion possibilities for
your virtual studio.
While all of Live’s plug-ins can be edited entirely from their graphical interfaces in the Track
View, the nature of VST and AU plug-ins and their fully customizable graphical interfaces
requires that a separate window be used to display the effect. When you load an external
plug-in, Live displays a generic X-Y object in the Track View (see Figure 7.9), the axes of
which can be set to any of the plug-in’s parameters via the menus below. Clicking the wrench
icon opens up the plug-in’s custom graphical interface.
Click here to open the
plug-in’s editor.
Figure 7.9 A VST or Audio Units plug-in shows up as a generic placeholder.
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Reordering and Removing Effects
Live enables you to change the order of effects easily within a chain. This capability provides a
way to experiment with different device arrangements. Does it sound better to run a vocal
through a reverb and then into a delay or the other way around? To find out, just drag and
drop the pre-existing effects within the Track View to change their order (see Figure 7.10).
You’ll hear the results immediately. When dragging an effect between existing effects, you’ll
see a dark line appear, indicating the insertion point for when the mouse is released.
...and drag to here.
Click here...
Figure 7.10 Click and drag the Simple Delay to the left side of the Track View. When you release the
mouse button, the two effects will switch positions.
With or Without You If you want to compare the sound of a track with and without an
effect, click the effect’s power button, located in the upper-left corner of the effect’s window. You can toggle the effect on and off without having to delete it. When the effect is
off, audio will bypass it and continue through any other effects in your chain.
If you no longer need an effect or loaded it by accident, click on the effect title bar to select it and
press Delete on your computer keyboard. The effect will disappear, and any effect that may have
been to the right will shift to the left to fill the space left behind.
Managing Presets
Software effects and instruments come with preset sounds and settings built into them, and in
most cases, you can save your own presets as well, once you have come up with a particular
combination of settings that you like. Live deals with these presets somewhat differently,
depending on whether the effect/instrument in question is one of Ableton’s built-in devices or
a third-party effect/instrument in VST or AU format. Let’s look at each of these types in turn.
Managing VST Plug-In Presets
The preset management scheme for third-party VST plug-ins is straightforward and similar to
the methods employed by other DAW programs. Live can store the current settings of a plug-in
using the preset icons at the top of the plug-in window (see Figure 7.11).
Chapter 7
Open an effect bank.
U sing Effects and Instruments
Save the current
effect bank.
Figure 7.11 Preset management buttons found in each VST plug-in’s title bar.
The drop-down menu in the plug-in window contains a list of previously stored presets for the
effect (or instrument), including those provided as starters from the manufacturer. Selecting a
preset from the menu will load it and replace the settings currently being used by the plug-in. If
this menu is inaccessible, it’s because the manufacturer has integrated preset management
directly into the graphic interface of the plug-in (accessed with the wrench icon in the upperleft corner of the plug-in window).
While presets for Live devices are automatically stored in the Library, VST presets can be saved
anywhere you want. Just click in the floppy disk icon (see Figure 7.11) and choose a location on
your hard drive. It’s probably a good idea to choose a centralized location for these preset files so
you don’t lose track of them.
Warnings. By using a third-party plug-in, you are incorporating a new piece of program code
into Live. This is very much like receiving an organ transplant—it may work just fine or it may
be rejected. Plug-ins are available from a wide range of sources. URS, Cycling ’74, and iZotope
are a few companies that make terrific effects. Native Instruments, LinPlug, and Arturia peddle
some of the most cutting-edge software instruments around. A curious Web surfer can find an
even greater offering of plug-ins to try, many of which are available as freeware downloads. Just
be aware that the quality of the programming will determine its effectiveness and stability within
Plug-ins from major companies are often quite stable because the companies have the resources
to develop, diagnose, and improve their products. Plug-ins that some guy developed in his basement may be the most imaginative of the breed, but might also suffer from lack of optimization
(use huge chunks of CPU power) and instability. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use these
freeware and shareware plug-ins—quite the contrary. Just be ready to take action if problems
arise (see below), and most importantly, save your work often and never use a brand-new plugin for the first time at a gig. Measure twice, cut once.
Tips. When experimenting with new plug-ins, there are a few precautions to take. These hints
can help keep you from losing your work, crashing the system, and destroying speakers.
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Save your Live Set before loading a new plug-in you’ve never tried before: Live is generally
very good at recovering from crashes, but better safe than sorry.
Back up the new Set: Once you have a new plug-in running, save a copy of the Set under a
new temporary name, possibly the name of the song with “-test” added to the end. Then quit
Live and start back up again. Try loading the test Set to be sure the plug-in initializes
properly. I’ve seen a few cases where the plug-in worked when added manually, but the
program crashed when trying to load the whole Live Set. After you are sure that the plug-in
will load dependably, you can then resave your Set under its original name.
Watch your volumes: Anytime you add an unproven plug-in to your Set, turn down your
speaker and headphone volumes. A bad plug-in initialization can leave your computer
outputting full-spectrum digital noise sometimes, which could rip both your speakers and
eardrums to shreds.
Organize your plug-in collection: We like to use the custom plug-in directory (in the File/
Folder tab of Preferences) to keep a collection of plug-ins that are confirmed to work with
Live separate from the slew of freeware and demo plug-ins that exist in the standard shared
plug-ins folders. By having only a small collection of plug-ins for Live to use, you will significantly reduce the boot-up time for Live, since the program performs a plug-in scan during
every startup. A shorter list is also easier to navigate.
Crash-Start If you find yourself trying to load a Live Set that keeps crashing, it could be
one of the song’s plug-ins causing the problem. Try removing (or at least relocating) the
plug-ins from your folders one at a time until the song loads successfully. When the song
does load, Live will tell you that it is unable to load one of the plug-ins (because you hid it),
but at least you’ll be able to open the Set and keep working. Try using a similar plug-in to
replace the problematic one (for example, try using Live’s Reverb if a third-party reverb
gives you problems).
Managing Presets for Audio Units and Live’s Devices
Live devices and Audio Units differ from VSTs in that preset management is done via the Device
Browser. For example, click the Live Device Browser icon and open the Audio Effects folder by
clicking the little triangle in front of the folder. You’ll find Live’s built-in audio effects inside. If
you look closer, you’ll see that there are little triangles in front of these effects, too. If you click
the triangle in front of Chorus, for example, you’ll see a list of the built-in presets for the Chorus
effect, as well as any new presets you may have made yourself.
You’ll find that the presets for Audio Units are handled very similarly to those of the Live devices. Any presets you save will appear just like presets for Live devices do. However, for factory
presets, the behavior varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. With most manufacturers, you
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won’t be able to see the factory presets in the Browser before you’ve added the plug-in to a track.
After that, the presets will show up in the Browser when you use the Hot Swap button. With
some plug-ins, however, this doesn’t work, and you’ll have to use the plug-in’s custom interface
to access the factory presets.
Hot-Swap Button. There’s a little icon located in the upper-right corner of each VST/Audio Unit
and Live Device window that looks like two arrows in a circle. This is the Hot-Swap button (see
Figure 7.12). When you click this button, you’ll see an identical icon appear in the Browser next
to the current preset, and the Hot-Swap button will turn into an X. You can now double-click
another preset to load it into the device. When you’ve found something you like, click the X in
the device to exit Hot-Swap mode.
Figure 7.12a The Hot-Swap button is just to the left of the floppy disk icon (the Save button).
Figure 7.12b After you’ve found the preset you want in the Browser, click the X in the device to exit
Hot-Swap mode.
Saving Audio Units and Live’s Device Presets. The other icon at the far right of the device’s title
bar, a tiny picture of a floppy disk, is the Save Preset button. When you’ve set the device the way
you like, click this button, and a new preset will appear in the Browser (see Figure 7.13). Type in
the name that you want and press Enter. If you make further edits to the preset and press the
Save Preset button again, you can just press Enter without typing a new name to overwrite the
preset with your new settings.
If you right-click in the title bar of one of Live’s devices, you’ll see an additional way to save a
preset: the Save as Default Preset command. If you select this, the device’s current settings will be
saved and used the next time that device is added to a Set.
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Figure 7.13 Saving a preset in the Browser. Type in a new name, or just press Enter if you want to
overwrite the preset Big Wash.
Organizing AU and Device Presets. You can probably see that the Device Browser is enhanced
with the capability to sort the presets into folders within each device. When you explored the
Impulse presets, you saw an Acoustic folder and an Electronic folder. If you right-click (Ctrl+
click) in the Device Browser, you can choose to create a new folder from the options in the context
menu. You can name the folder anything you like, and you can even drag it into another folder
after it has been made, thus creating further subdivisions to your preset categories. You can drag
and drop presets between the folders or copy them from one to another. These commands, plus
deleting and renaming, are all accessible through the right-click context menu. This same organizational method is also implemented for Audio Units devices within the Plug-in Browser
Signal Path
While all signals pass through the Track View from right to left, there are still a few ways you
can vary the flow of signals through Live’s mixer. Effects can be used as inserts, or they may be
used as part of a send and return. This routing is determined by whether you’re placing the effect
directly onto an audio or MIDI track or into a return track.
When an effect is placed in a return, it’s generally because you want to add the effected signal to
the original unprocessed signal. This is a very common way of using effects like Reverb and
Delay. Using an effect directly within a track forces the entire audio stream to pass through
the effect, allowing you to totally transform the sound. Some effects that are best suited for insert
use are EQs, compressors, gates, and filters. When you filter a signal, for example, you usually
want to replace the original signal with the filtered one, rather than blend in the filtered sound.
Chapter 7
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As with all things audio, exceptions to these rules abound, so be prepared to experiment to find
the best working methods for you.
Using an Effect as an Insert
When you drop an effect into an audio, MIDI or Group Track, you are literally inserting your
device into the normal signal flow of your track. In Figure 7.14, an EQ Eight has been added to
Track 1. All of the audio coming from the clips on that track must first pass through the EQ
Eight before it reaches the Volume and Pan controls in the Session Mixer.
Figure 7.14 Because Track 1 is highlighted, we know that we’re looking at its effect chain. This EQ
Eight only affects Track 1. Any signal coming out of Track 1 will pass through it.
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While all of the signals on Track 1 are forced to go through the EQ Eight, some plug-ins allow
you to set the balance of the original (dry) signal to the effected (wet) signal (see Figure 7.15).
Even though this reverb is being used as an insert, you can control the effect level, much as you
can in the examples of send effects below.
Use this knob to adjust the balance between
the effect and the original sound.
Figure 7.15 The Reverb device enables you to add only a small amount of effect to your sound, thanks
to the Dry/Wet knob. When the knob is fully clockwise (100% wet), you will hear only the reverb signal
generated from the original input. Setting the knob at 25%, as shown, will allow 75% of the original
signal to still pass through.
Using a Send Effect
Send effects are used when you want to add or blend in an effect to your sound, as opposed to
replacing it like an insert. This is achieved by sending a signal to an effect processor and then
blending its output with the Master track. In Live, you pull this off by using a return track
(choose Insert Return Track from Live’s Insert menu). A return track is a track that cannot
house audio clips; it can only receive input from other tracks in Live. When a return track is
created, a Send knob appears on each track. When this Send knob is turned up, audio is sent to
the return track. By placing effects on the return track, you can add this effect to any track in
your Set by turning up the Send knobs. In Figure 7.16, you’ll see a session with one return track,
as well as a row of Send knobs labeled A.
You use the Send knobs to dial in the amount of signal you want sent to the input of the associated return track. You can add effects to the Track View of the return track (double-click the
return track name) just as you would when adding them to a regular audio track. The portion of
the signal being sent from the Send knob will be processed by the effects and output to the
Master track via the return track’s Volume and Pan controls. You’ll see that the return track
itself also has a Send knob. This allows you to output a portion of the returned effect to another
return track for layering. The return track can also send back into itself, allowing you to create
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One Return track...
...yields one row
of Send knobs.
Figure 7.16 When the return track was added to this Set, it automatically created a row of Send knobs.
feedback loops (watch your volume!). Because of the feedback risk, the Sends on return tracks
are disabled by default. If you right-click on a Send, you can enable it from the context menu.
Pre or Post? On the right side of the Session Mixer, there is a button labeled Post for each
Send knob (see Figure 7.16). These buttons determine whether the Send knobs take their
signals pre-fader or post-fader. Post-fader is the default setting for each track, which
causes the amount of signal sent from the Send knob to vary based on the track’s volume
slider. If you’re fading down a vocal part that is sending to a reverb, the amount being sent
to the reverb will also diminish, causing it to fade out as well.
The pre-fader position (click the Post button to turn it to Pre) causes the Send level to
remain the same, even if the track’s volume is adjusted. This means, in the case of the
previous example, you would still hear the vocal reverb even after you had faded the
track volume fully down. That could make for an interesting way to end a song.
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Keep in mind that the Send knob does not divert signals to the return track—it copies the signal
to the return track. This means that the output volume of the source track will stay the same,
regardless of the Send knob position.
So why would you want to use a Send/Return? The primary reason is that it allows you to use
the same plug-in to add effects to multiple tracks. If you have a lead vocal with three harmony
parts, you can send all four vocals to the same reverb. The incoming vocal tracks from the Sends
will be mixed together as they enter the return track. The group vocals will then yield a group
reverb, which gets blended into the final mix; therefore, it takes only one reverb to affect four
independent tracks, which is great news for your CPU usage.
There are also some cases where blending wet and dry signals is easier when using a return track
instead of an effect’s Wet/Dry knob. Wet/Dry knobs have the disadvantage of turning down the
dry signal while increasing the wet (and vice versa). Sometimes, you’ll find it easier to have
completely independent volume controls for the effect and the original signal.
Keep ‘Em Going or Cut ’Em Off Normally, if you add a reverb effect to a hand-clap track,
your ears expect to hear the full decay of the reverb, even if you suddenly mute the handclap track. This is accomplished by placing the reverb on a return track and turning up the
hand-clap’s Send knob. When the hand-clap is muted, the signal stops being sent to the
reverb as well; however, the reverb output remains unmuted, so you still hear the full
decay of the reverb.
If you place the reverb effect directly onto the hand-clap track as an insert, you can use
the Dry/Wet knob to attain a similar balance of hand clap and reverb. Now when the
hand-clap track is muted, the reverb will be muted, too, since you’re actually listening to
the output of the Reverb device on the track. This can be extremely effective at the end
of a build that stops abruptly. Also give this technique a try with Delay effects.
Control and Automation
As you’ve probably discovered by toying with a few effects so far, it’s fun to tweak the knobs
and parameters while audio is playing. You’ll discover many new layers of musicality by carefully manipulating effects during a performance. Live gives you a number of different ways to
control plug-in parameters, either with real-time MIDI control or by automatic or preprogrammed automation. MIDI control is by far the most interactive way to control device parameters, and it offers an excellent way to program automation, too.
Controlling Live’s Devices with MIDI
Controlling Live’s devices with MIDI is as easy as assigning MIDI control to the Session Mixer
and clip grid (see “MIDI and Computer Keyboard Control” in Chapter 4, “Making Music in
Live,” if you missed this). If the device is on-screen, press the MIDI Assign button in the upper-right
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corner of the Live window. A bunch of colored boxes will appear over the device’s controls just like
they do for the Session Mixer. Click the control you want to assign; then move the control on your
MIDI device. Live will instantly assign the moved control to that effect parameter, and a small box
will appear on the control stating the MIDI channel and controller assigned; you will also see the
MIDI Mappings window appear at the left side of the screen, showing you all of the MIDI controls
currently assigned. After you turn off the MIDI Assign button (click it again), the device parameter
will now respond to the MIDI control. Piece of cake!
Some fun things to control with MIDI are the cutoff frequency of the Auto Filter and the Spray
parameter of the Grain Delay. You can also get great results controlling instrument parameters.
Try playing with the Sample Start and Loop Length in Simpler. You can create a morphing
sound by moving through different areas of a long audio file with these knobs. For the Impulse,
assigning a control to the global Transpose or Time knob will allow you to tweak the entire
drum kit on the fly. You can also assign MIDI to the individual drum sounds—try adjusting the
decay of the open hi-hat during a song.
Controlling Plug-In Devices with MIDI
Controlling the parameters of a plug-in device, such as a VST audio effect, is a little more difficult, due to the fact that each plug-in has its own unique graphical interface. Because of this,
Live cannot superimpose the little squares over the plug-in controls while in MIDI Assign mode.
To solve this problem, Ableton has included an Unfold switch at the upper-left corner of a plugin title bar. Press this small triangle, and the plug-in window will expand to the right. What is
displayed in this area depends on the plug-in. If the plug-in has fewer than 32 parameters, this
area will display all of the device’s parameters as generic sliders and menus (see Figure 7.17).
Figure 7.17 Pressing the small triangle in the corner of the plug-in reveals a generic display of the plugin’s parameters.
If the device has more than 32 parameters, this area will be blank, and you’ll have to configure it
to display the ones you want to manipulate. To add a parameter, just enable the configuration
switch (see Figure 7.18) and move any control in the plug-in window. The slider that appears
can now be used to adjust that parameter. When you enter the MIDI Map, you will see a box
superimposed over the horizontal slider in the Track View. This is where you will make the
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MIDI assignment. After you have clicked the slider and moved your MIDI control, disable the
MIDI Assign mode, and you’ll see that the plug-in parameter, including the control in its graphical window, is now under MIDI control.
Figure 7.18 For plug-ins with more than 32 parameters, you’ll have to configure the panel to display
the ones you want.
Switch and Slide You may find that a parameter you want to control in your plug-in is
actually a button, as opposed to a slider or dial; however, you will not find a button graphic
in the small plug-in window of the Track View. This is because the plug-in’s button is being
represented by a horizontal slider, too. You’ll see that after you drag the slider a certain
distance, the plug-in’s button will change state. When you move the slider back, the button will also change back to its previous state. This allows you to assign a MIDI control to
the slider to control the button.
Using Control Surfaces with Devices
Another great way to control your devices via MIDI is to use Live’s Control Surface support.
You can use this feature to change easily between different devices and work with them in turn
without having to individually reassign all of the controls. Here’s how it works.
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Assuming that you already have a supported Control Surface selected in your MIDI preferences,
just click on the title bar of the device you want to control (see Figure 7.19). You will see a small
hand icon appear, indicating that you are currently controlling it. Most Control Surfaces have
eight knobs that function as dedicated device controls. Turning these knobs will manipulate the
first eight parameters of the device you’ve selected. Your Control Surface will also have a button
that allows you to get to additional banks of eight parameters of the device, should it have more.
As soon as you click on another device, the Control Surface will instantly shift to that device
Figure 7.19 The blue hand indicates that the Auto Filter has been mapped instantly to your Control
If you want to see the details of how Ableton has mapped the controls of your particular Control
Surface into Live, there is a Control Surface Reference in Live’s built-in lessons containing a list
of all currently supported hardware devices and the details of their instant mappings. This lesson
also contains a guide to which parameters are controlled by which knobs of your MIDI controller. You can get to the lessons anytime by selecting the Lessons option from the View menu.
If you right-click (Ctrl+click) the title bar, you will see a context menu including the option Lock
to Control Surface for each of the designated Control Surfaces you have connected. This allows
you to lock a particular Control Surface to this device, enabling you to always control a specific
device no matter where your immediate focus is in Live.
Be There Now While in the MIDI map, make sure to notice that the title bar of a device
can be mapped just like any device parameter. This enables you to map a button on your
controller that will select the device, mapping it instantly to your Control Surface.
Modulating Devices with Clip Envelopes
While tweaking effects on the fly is a blast, creating patterns and predefined movements for the
effects can add a new layer of musicality to your songs. Perhaps you want the cutoff of an Auto
Filter to follow a sequence of movements that repeats every bar. Or how about a resonator that
retunes itself over four bars? Both of these and more are available to you by using Clip
The process of creating a Clip Envelope for devices is the same as modulating any other parameter, such as Volume and Pan. After you’ve loaded a device into the Track View, it will become
available in the Envelopes section of the Clip View (see Figure 7.20).
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Use these two menus to select the device and parameter to modulate.
Figure 7.20 It’s easy to create envelopes to control device parameters, just like you can for clip volume
and transposition.
The trick to understanding device envelopes is that they sometimes work differently, depending
on the parameter you are modulating. For example, the Auto Filter’s Frequency parameter has a
range of -50% to +50%, allowing you to change the cutoff frequency in either direction. The
LFO Amount parameter, however, goes from 0–100%, so whatever you manually set the LFO
Amount to becomes its maximum value—the envelope can only be used to subtract from it.
Automating Devices Within the Arrangement View
Just like the Volume, Pan, and Mute automation explained in Chapter 5, “The Audio Clip,” you
can define the exact values for your device’s parameters by creating envelopes in the Arrangement View. Every envelope shape you create in the Arrangement View will override the current
value of the associated parameter. If you have a sweet effect dialed in, you may want to save it as
a preset before drawing in automation so you can retrieve the original settings if you need them.
Just like the process in Chapter 5, effect automation can be created either by entering Record
mode in the Transport bar and performing the desired movements manually or by drawing them
into a track. Just like their Mixer counterparts, any plug-in control with recorded automation
will have a small red box in its upper-left corner. If you manually move a control, either with the
mouse or by MIDI control, the automation for that control will stop until you press the Return
to Arrangement button.
One of the most exciting features of Live is Instrument and Effects Racks. These allow you to
group together numerous Live devices to create a flexible “superdevice” that you can treat as a
single device. Not only that, but Racks also enable you to work with effects and instruments in
parallel as well as serial chains, blending together the output at the end. This makes it possible to
create an infinite variety of new sounds by layering instruments and effects from your collection.
You can then save these layered instruments or chains of effects as a single device that can be
recalled at any time.
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Creating Racks
There are two different ways to create Racks. Start a new, empty Rack by dragging one of the
generic Rack devices from the Live Device Browser into a track. You can then add your choice of
devices to the Rack by dropping them directly into the Rack’s Chain List or Devices View. If you
have already set up a chain of devices on a given track and you want to combine them into a
Rack, simply select the title bars (Shift+click to select multiple devices) in the Track View and
use the Group command from the Edit menu. Alternatively, you can right-click (Ctrl+click) in
one of the title bars and use the Group command from the context menu that opens there. To
break up a Rack into its component devices, repeat this operation and select the Ungroup command in the Edit menu or the context menu.
Rack Basics
Figure 7.21 shows a Rack that uses both Simpler and Operator to create a layered bass sound.
The Rack has three parts, which you can reveal or hide as necessary. Use the buttons at the left
edge of the Rack to hide or show the different sections. From top to bottom, the buttons are:
Show/Hide Macros, Show/Hide Chain List, and Show/Hide Devices.
The Macro controls
The Chain List
The devices
Figure 7.21 The three parts of the Rack window.
Let’s look at each of these three parts, and then we’ll introduce some creative ideas for using
Racks in your Live Sets.
Chain List
Audio and MIDI input signals come into the Rack from the left-hand side, and they will flow
first through the Chain List (see Figure 7.22).
Here you can see a separate line for each of the parallel device chains in your Rack. We refer to
them as being parallel because they process the incoming data simultaneously, rather than one
after another. You can name each of these chains here so you can remember what they are. Also,
you can see separate volume and pan controls, activation switches, and solo buttons for each
chain; use these to experiment with different ways of blending different chains in various combinations. In addition, there is a Hot-Swap button for each chain; you can use this to load a preexisting chain (or even an entire pre-existing Rack!) into your Rack as a new chain.
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Figure 7.22 The Chain List for a basic Instrument Rack.
The chains for an Instrument Rack can also be viewed directly within the Session View. The title
bar of a track containing an Instrument Rack will have an Unfold button next to the track name.
Clicking this reveals a mini-track for each chain in the Rack (see Figure 7.23). This provides a
convenient way to make adjustments to volume and panning, and it also makes it somewhat
easier to manage complicated Racks.
Figure 7.23 An unfolded Instrument Rack track. This Rack contains chains named Analog, 5ths, and
Ambient. The chain called Analog contains another Rack (!), so it can be unfolded as well, to show
the chains within.
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At the top of the Chain List, you will see buttons marked Key, Vel, Chain, and Hide. These are
used to view and work with zones. These are filters that enable you to separate or mix the MIDI
data going to multiple instruments and effects in a Rack (see Figure 7.24).
(Note that if you are working with a Rack made up only of audio effects, you will not see the
Key or Vel Zone type, as these deal with MIDI data only.)
Figure 7.24 Using Velocity Zones.
In Figure 7.24, we are using Velocity Zones to filter the MIDI data coming into the Rack and
determine which instrument it will trigger. In this image, the lowest velocity notes will trigger the
FM8 instrument, and the highest velocities will trigger Absynth 4. Notes within a middle range
of velocities will trigger both instruments simultaneously.
You can also set up zones based on Key Range (click the Key button) or the Chain Select parameter. Key Range allows you to designate zones across a certain range of your MIDI keyboard.
The Chain Select parameter is an independent control that can be automated or mapped to an
external MIDI knob or fader. You can use this to change between two different chains/sounds as
you turn a MIDI knob, for example.
The Hide button here will hide the various zone-mapping windows, allowing you to see more of
the actual devices in your chains.
Rack Devices
The devices in your Rack will appear farthest to the right, after the Chain List (see Figure 7.25).
You can see only one chain at a time, selected by clicking its name in the Chain List. The devices
will appear in the Rack in their usual order: MIDI effects first (if any), then instruments, then
audio effects.
Figure 7.25 Devices in one chain of a Rack. These effects will only process the output of the FM8. Other
chains in the Rack can have a completely independent set of effects.
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You can add additional devices here by dragging and dropping from the Device Browser. You
can also rearrange or delete devices here, just as you would if you weren’t working in a Rack.
Macro Controls
With the potential to include a large number of individual devices, a large Rack can become very
difficult to control, particularly in performance. The Macro Controls (see Figure 7.26) address
this issue by giving you a set of eight freely mappable controls. You can view or hide the Macro
Controls by using the Show/Hide Macro Controls button on the left-hand edge of the Rack, just
below the Rack power button at top left.
Figure 7.26 The Macro Controls.
Assign each of these eight knobs to control a crucial parameter of one of the devices in your
Rack; this will make shaping the sound of the Rack much easier. You can use the Map Mode
button at the top of the Rack to do this. Clicking this button highlights every controllable
parameter of every device in the Rack, and a list of Macro Mappings will appear in the Browser
at left, showing all mappings made in the entire Rack.
Click a parameter and then on the Map or Unmap button under one of the Macro Controls to
assign or unassign it. Once made, each assignment will be added to the Macro Mappings at left.
Just like MIDI controllers, a Macro knob can be mapped to control many parameters simultaneously. So it would be easy, for example, to control the filter cutoff of all of the synths in an
Instrument Rack with a single knob.
Then, after making your Macro assignments, click the Map Mode button again to exit Macro
Mapping mode. Once you’ve set these up to your liking, click the MIDI button at the top right of
Live to enter MIDI Mapping mode and assign knobs on your external MIDI controller to the
Macro Controls. Or, if you’re using Control Surface support, the eight Macro knobs will automatically be controlled by your MIDI controller.
Managing Rack Presets
You’ll see that there are Save and Hot-Swap icons available for the Rack as a whole, in addition
to those of its component instruments and effects. Click the Save button, and you’ll see a new
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preset appear in the Device Browser. You can name it as usual and press Enter. The thing to
notice, however, is the icon shown for this new preset. Instead of being a single box, it will be an
icon showing the edges of two boxes meeting together. This is the icon for a Rack.
To load a Rack preset, double-click it or drag it into a track as usual. If the Rack contains a Live
instrument, it will replace any other instrument currently on the track. The audio device groups
(groups consisting only of audio devices) can be added to the end of a track (or wherever you
drag them) as if they were single effects.
Racks are one of my favorite tools in Live because they allow you to create and save amazing
multi-effect combinations you can recall at the drop of a hat. You can create simple effects like a
Ping Pong Delay with a touch of Phaser. You can create a Simpler instrument with a MIDI chord
effect in front of it and a reverb tacked on at the end. Just make sure to save them with meaningful names so you can remember what they all are!
Creative Ideas for Using Racks
Racks open up a wealth of new creative possibilities. Here are a few ideas to get you started
creating your own Racks for recording and performance.
Layering Sounds in the Studio
The most obvious use of Racks is to layer together several individual sounds to create new sonic
combinations. You can use Live’s built-in instruments together with those of other companies to
create exciting new hybrid sounds. A familiar sound that you’ve been using for a while may take
on entirely new overtones when you blend it with a new instrument you’re trying out.
To experiment with new instrumental combinations, simply place an empty Instrument Rack
onto a MIDI channel and load two or three instruments into it. Use the Volume controls in the
Chain List to mix the individual sounds into an interesting blend.
You will probably find it easier to blend your sounds together using an external MIDI controller.
Assign a few knobs or faders to control the volume level of the separate chains using the Macro
or MIDI Mapping mode.
Saving Favorite Effect Chains
After working with Live for some time, you will probably come up with particular combinations
of audio effects that you like to use time and again. Using Racks, you can save these combinations as presets and recall them whenever you want in different Live projects.
Of course, you can also use this technique to save your favorite combinations of MIDI effects
and instruments as well.
Keyboard Range Splits for Live Use
If you are using Live to host MIDI instruments and play them in live performances using a MIDI
keyboard or other controller, you can use Key Range Zones to set up keyboard splits and have
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multiple independent sounds available to you simultaneously. In Figure 7.27, I have used these
zones to set up four distinct sections of the keyboard, each with its own MIDI instrument
assigned to it. In this case, I wanted to keep them separate and have designated no overlap
between the individual sounds.
Figure 7.27 Setting Key Range Zones for multiple sounds.
Morphing Patches with the Chain Selector
While Key Zones and Velocity Zones are probably familiar concepts to most keyboard players,
Chain Select Zones are a bit unusual. These are zones that are switched between one another
manually by using a control called the Chain Selector. This control appears as a vertical orange
bar located above the Chain Select Editor. Dragging it left or right causes the chains below to
become active as it moves over them in the Zone Editor.
For example, Figure 7.28 shows an effect Rack with two chains. As the Chain Selector moves
from left to right, the Redux effect fades in, while the Frequency Shifter fades out.
Figure 7.28 The Chain Selector is a powerful way to fade smoothly between effects or switch from one
effect to another with the turn of a knob.
Live’s Instruments
n addition to a plethora of MIDI capabilities, Live features eight software-based virtual
instruments: Collision is brand new to Live 8, while Impulse, Simpler, Operator, Sampler,
Analog, Electric, and Tension have all been around since earlier versions. Impulse and
Simpler come free for all Live users, while the others are included in the Live Suite or must
be purchased separately.
You may have noticed that the box of your Live Suite actually claims 11 virtual instruments.
While this isn’t exactly false, it is a piece of market-speak. Three of the instruments—Drum
Machines, Session Drums, and Latin Percussion—are really sample libraries customized for
use with Drum Racks. That said, these are some mighty powerful, highly usable sounds, so I
am certainly not disparaging them at all. However, I won’t be devoting the same time to them as
the other instruments, all of which have completely unique interfaces and capabilities.
These instruments have been designed with careful attention to the working process and creative
flow in Live. As such, you’ll find they permit many techniques and tricks not possible with thirdparty tools. These instruments are not merely demo software—they are full-fledged, high-quality
instruments that will have a place in the most professional of productions. They are also great
launching pads for musical ideas.
What loop-based production system would be complete without a drum machine? Live’s
Impulse instrument is a unique take on drum machine design due to its sparse controls but
instant usability. Open up the Live Set titled Impulse Demo 1 in the downloadable content
(Resources 4 Examples 4 Chapter 08) so you can follow along as I describe this instrument
(see Figure 8.1).
Overview of the Interface
The upper portion of Impulse is made of eight squares, or cells. Each can contain one sample,
triggered individually—either by MIDI or with the mouse—and edited for customizing
the sounds. The editing parameters are divided into five sections below the cells: Sample Source,
Saturation, Filter, Amplifier, and Global Settings.
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Figure 8.1 The clean and crisp Impulse interface sports eight cells for samples. Clicking the cell displays
its editable parameters.
The Impulse Demo 1 Set has eight sounds already loaded into Impulse. You can play these live
with a connected MIDI controller or your computer’s keyboard. Try tapping the A key on your
computer’s keyboard. You should hear a kick drum every time you press the key. Now tap the
S key. You should hear the snare drum loaded into the second Impulse cell. As you tap this key,
you’ll see a small green triangle appear momentarily above one of the sample cells in the Impulse
interface. This symbol shows you which cell is playing at the moment. You can click with the
mouse in the same area to trigger the sample. You can also play Impulse from a MIDI controller.
Impulse already has MIDI note assignments for each cell. MIDI note C3 will play the first cell,
D3 will play the second cell, E3 the third cell, and so on. In essence, you use the eight white keys
on a keyboard controller from octave 3 to octave 4 to play Impulse. Obviously, since Impulse
uses MIDI notes to trigger its sounds, you can play it with a MIDI clip, too. Go ahead and
launch the clip titled Simple 1 at the top of the MIDI track to hear an example of this.
Sample Source
Now that you know how to trigger the samples, let’s look at how to change the sound using the
playback parameters offered in Impulse. The first section of controls (the Sample Source controls) determines the playback nature of the selected cell. The sample in a cell may be retuned,
time-stretched/shortened, and have its front end cut off. Pitch can be randomized or modulated
by input velocity. The Soft button performs a fade at the beginning of the sample to soften its
Click the cell named 909 Kick. This selects the cell for editing. While the MIDI clip is playing,
click and drag up and down on the Transp dial. You’ll hear the pitch of the kick drum change as
you tweak this dial. Unlike the Transpose parameter found in an audio clip, the Transp control
in Impulse does not use Live’s Warp Engine. You’ll hear the sample play for a shorter amount of
time as the pitch increases and a longer time as the pitch decreases. If you do want to stretch or
compress the length of the sample after you have transposed it, use the Stretch knob. As you
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increase this value, you’ll hear the kick drum stretching in length. (Turning the Stretch knob
down will shorten the drum clip.) The Mode button, below the Stretch knob, changes the
stretching method. In Mode A, the default, Impulse, waits a brief moment before stretching
in order to ensure that the Warp Engine doesn’t distort the attack of the sound. For punchy
drum sounds, this is especially important. Mode B, on the other hand, begins stretching the
instant the sample starts to play. Ableton recommends Mode A for sounds that are lower in
pitch, such as kick drums, and Mode B for higher-pitched sounds like hi-hats.
Turning up the Start dial will cause the sample to start from a position later in the file. In the case
of this kick drum, increasing the Start value removes the drum’s attack, because Impulse starts
playing the kick drum sample after the attack sound of the drum. This can be used as an effect
but also has one other important use. Some of the samples you may want to use in Impulse start
with a momentary silence, so they start late every time you play them. (Impulse plays the silence
before playing the actual sound.) The Start dial can advance the start position so that Impulse
plays right at the attack of the drum, thus bringing it back into time. This saves you the hassle of
having to remove the silence manually by using an external wave editor.
The Soft button is somewhat related to the Start dial in that it affects how Impulse plays the
beginning of the sample. When Soft is off, Impulse simply plays the sample the instant it is
triggered. When Soft is turned on, Impulse will perform a short fade-in. The result is that the
attack of the sample is softened without changing the length of the sound. If you try this with the
kick drum, you’ll hear that the “snap” at the beginning of the sound is softened, while the beefy
punch of the drum remains.
The value boxes below the Transp and Stretch dials do not affect the sound of the sample directly.
These are used to modulate the Transp and Stretch settings based on velocity and randomness, and
the boxes fall below the dial they modulate. To hear how velocity affects these parameters, you’ll
need to play Impulse with a velocity-sensitive MIDI pad or keyboard. If you’re using the computer
keyboard, you can change its velocity using the Z and X keys, but you’ll get the best results from
MIDI devices. For simplicity, I’ve also included a clip titled HiHat Only, which has a lot of velocity
changes. Click cell seven (909 HiHat) to select it and turn up the value box below Transp. You’ll
hear the hi-hat begin to change pitch as it follows the velocity. Used in moderation, at about 15
percent, it adds a subtle touch of additional expressiveness to the hi-hat.
The Saturation section is the simplest to use of the five controls in Impulse. Engage the Sat button and turn up the Drive to achieve overdriven percussion sounds. If you apply saturation to the
kick drum, you’ll get a distorted “gabber-house”-style kick. Give it a try!
The Filter section offers a way to perform some additional sound design on a sample after it’s
already loaded into a cell. Click the Filter button to engage the section. The menu below the
Filter button chooses the Filter mode. You’ll find the usual suspects here: Low-Pass, High-Pass,
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Band-Pass, and Notch filters. The Freq knob sets the cutoff frequency of the filter, and the Res
knob determines the filter resonance. The last two parameters, Velocity and Random, use
incoming velocity or random values to modulate the filter cutoff.
The reason this section follows the Saturation stage is that distorting a sound can yield some
unwieldy high harmonics and noise. If it’s too much, you can apply a Low-Pass filter to the
sound to calm it down. Try it with the distorted kick drum and a Freq setting of 745Hz.
The Amplifier section sets the output volume and pan position for each individual cell. The Pan
knob can be used to move the hi-hat to one side of the mix, while the volume control pulls it
down to a quieter level. The Decay knob shapes the tail end of a sample. If the button below the
Decay knob is in Trigger mode, the Decay knob will dictate the fade-out time from the moment
the sample is triggered. In Gate mode, the fade-out won’t begin until a MIDI Note Off message
is received (when you lift your finger off a key). The Gate mode is fun, as it allows you to control
the length of your sounds as you play them, such as a long snare sound on beats 1.2 and 1.4 and
a short snare on beat 1.3.2. Switch the snare cell to Gate and set the Decay to 147 milliseconds
(ms) to hear what this sounds like. The two Vel values determine how much the incoming MIDI
velocity affects the output volume and pan position.
Global Settings
The Global section contains a master Volume knob, plus master Time and Transp (transpose)
knobs. These knobs are begging for MIDI control since they are wonderful performance parameters. The Time knob can be used to shorten or stretch out all the samples at the same time. The
Transp knob will transpose all the samples together as a group. Try tweaking these values during
a drum fill for extra expression.
Importing Sounds
It’s easy to get sounds into the Impulse cells with a couple of different methods. The easiest way
is to click the Hot-Swap button in Impulse, in the upper-right corner of the device interface just
to the left of the Save button; it’s the one with two tiny arrows going around in a circle. You
will see all the presets for Impulse open in the Browser. Double-click a preset to load it into
If you’ve just installed Live 8 and created a new Library, you may notice that there are very few
presets for the Impulse. This is because Ableton has started to favor the more powerful Drum
Rack in terms of developing Library content. Not to worry, though. If you like using the Impulse
and want some more preset content to work with, just visit the Live Packs section of the Downloads area of Ableton.com. Here you will find a Live 7 compatibility pack for the Library, which
contains the older presets.
You can also drag individual samples from your Browsers straight into the cells in Impulse.
Loading up eight drum sounds is super simple since you can pre-listen to the sounds in the
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Browser and then drag them directly into the cells. This is a great reason to create a folder on
your hard drive full of one-shot drum samples.
You don’t have to use premade, one-shot samples to make beats, though. A popular source for
drum sounds, pioneered by hip-hop producers, is to grab them right out of full drum loops. You
begin by loading a drum loop into a clip slot, isolating the portion of the sound you want to use
from the Clip View (see Figure 8.2a), and then dragging the clip into any one of the Impulse cells
(see Figure 8.2b). I’ve already placed a drum loop on Track 2 for this purpose.
Figure 8.2a Isolating a section of the audio clip to be loaded into an Impulse cell.
If you load a warped drum loop into the Session View, it is a painless process of isolating portions of the beat, since the sample region Start and End Markers snap to the beats. Isolate the
first sound you want (a kick drum) by placing the region markers around it. I’ve already done
this for you in the Kick Only clip. Drag it to the first cell of Impulse to replace the 909 Kick
sample. Then isolate the next sound (a snare, perhaps) in the same clip and drag it to another
Impulse cell. Again, you can just use the Snare Only clip if you like. Even though you modified
the clip that was used for the first cell, the cell’s sample will not change after you’ve added it to
Impulse. So you can repeat the process again and again using the same clip until you populate
the Impulse cells with all the parts of the loop that you want. Now, when you play the MIDI
clip, your new samples will play the kick and snare parts.
This process is similar to using the Slice to New MIDI Track command (see Chapter 5, “The
Audio Clip”). It’s far less automated, but this doesn’t mean it’s not useful. You may find it
satisfying to select each hit individually that you want to use. Give it a try.
MIDI Control
The MIDI notes assigned to trigger the eight cells are fixed to the white keys between C3
(middle-C) and C4 (one octave above middle-C). However, when you’re editing the MIDI
data of a clip driving Impulse, the normal piano keyboard will be replaced with the names of
the samples assigned to each line of the MIDI data. This is the kind of helpful integration that is
possible with Impulse because it is one of Ableton’s built-in devices.
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Click here...
...and drag to a cell to load a sound.
Figure 8.2b Switch back to Impulse in Track View and then drag the clip into a cell.
Has Anybody Seen My Keys? If you’re using a small MIDI controller, such as the M-Audio
O2 or the computer keyboard keys, you may find yourself bashing away on the notes
but hearing nothing from Impulse. This frequently occurs when the keyboard has been
transposed to another octave. Try adjusting the octave/transposition of your MIDI
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controller so it sends notes to Impulse in the proper octave. If you’re using the computer
keyboard for MIDI input, the Z and X keys will transpose the keys. When transposing the
keyboard, you’ll see the current key range listed at the bottom of the screen. You’ll want
to choose the C3 to D4 range to play Impulse properly. You can also use C and V to
change the velocity output of the computer keyboard. As you press the keys, Live will
display the new velocity at the bottom of the window.
The best form of MIDI control for Impulse comes from the use of drum pad controllers. Drum
pads are starting to pop up everywhere—you can even find them on some controller keyboards,
such as the Akai MPK series. Assigning MIDI Remote Control to the parameters in Impulse
follows the same method as any other control in Live. And, of course, you can also use a supported Control Surface to control the Impulse’s parameters (see Chapter 7, “Using Effects and
MIDI Routing
Drum parts are a collection of multiple parts, generally a kick drum part, a snare drum part, and
a hi-hat part, all playing together at the same time. Because the beat includes these smaller parts,
it may make more sense to you to build the drum parts out of multiple clips, such as a clip for the
kick drum and a clip for the snare. Live does this by routing the output of other MIDI tracks to
the input of Impulse.
Let’s try adding a hand-clap part to the Simple 1 beat in the example Set. First, create a new
MIDI track and set the top MIDI To box to the 1-Impulse track. Next, set the bottom MIDI To
box to 1-Impulse, as opposed to Track In. Set this way, the MIDI on the new track will be fed
directly to the Impulse instrument on Track 1. If the lower box is set to Track In, the MIDI data
will be routed to Track 1 itself—you will have to switch the track’s monitor to In in order to
hear the new part. (This would end up muting the Simple 1 clip, which you don’t want to do!)
Now, double-click in a clip slot in the new MIDI track to create an empty MIDI clip. Place notes
on beats 1.2 and 1.4 of the hand-clap lane (see Figure 8.3). When you play this new clip along
with the Simple 1 clip, you’ll hear an additional hand clap on beats 2 and 4. Set this way, you
can make additional variations of the hand-clap part, adding extra claps here and there throughout the clip. Then you can switch between these clips in order to change the hand-clap part while
the Simple 1 beat plays unchanged.
This is just one example of Live’s incredibly flexible routing system. Bear in mind that this same
technique can be used with Drum Racks or any other virtual instrument.
Audio Routing
From time to time, you may want to place an effect on one or more of the drum sounds in
Impulse, but you don’t want to affect all of the drum sounds at once. Separating the drum
sounds like this can be very important in getting the clearest overall mix, one in which each
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Figure 8.3 The hand-clap clips can be played one at a time on top of the Simple 1 beat.
drum instrument remains distinct. To solve this, each cell of Impulse has its own dedicated output you can use as a source for another audio track and load with any effect you choose.
To see this in action, make another audio track and set its Audio From to the MIDI track containing Impulse. In the channel selector below that, you’ll see a list of not only the Track Output,
but also the individual drum sounds (see Figure 8.4).
After you choose one of these channels as the input for another track, that sound will cease
its normal output on the Impulse track (which keeps the sound from being doubled). For this
example, select the snare drum from the channel list and enable monitoring on the audio track.
Nothing will sound different, but you’ll see that the snare drum is now sounding out of this new
audio track. Drag a reverb preset from the Device Browser onto this audio track, and now you’ll
hear reverb on the snare hits only.
No Static One factor that can make your drum parts sound dull is static loops, loops that are
exactly the same every time they’re played. To create some motion or subtle change in your
drum parts, try dropping a Velocity device on the hi-hat track and have it introduce random
variations in velocity (after you’ve routed it using the previous technique). The result will be a
more dynamic part in which the volume of the hi-hat varies continuously. See Chapter 10,
“Live’s MIDI Effects,” for the lowdown on how to use the Velocity device.
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Figure 8.4 Route individual drum sounds to other tracks in the Input/Output Routing section.
After creating separate tracks to process the individual sounds of Impulse, it is often helpful to
group them back together so they can be treated as a single drum part. Do this by selecting each
of the Impulse tracks (by Shift+clicking on them) and then use the Group command (see Chapter 4,
“Making Music in Live”). You can now use the volume fader of the Group Track to change the
volume of the whole drum part at once. You can also add additional effects (compression comes to
mind) to process the drum part as a whole (see Figure 8.5).
As a final note, open up the Live Set titled Impulse Demo 2. Here, you’ll find a Set utilizing nearly
every technique described earlier to create a house beat. Can you figure out everything we did?
When it comes to quick and imaginative sample playback and manipulation, nothing is simpler
than Simpler. What is Simpler? A simple sampler, of course. However, don’t be fooled. Simpler
offers a wealth of creative possibilities within its humble interface, such as independent Pitch,
Filter, and Amp Envelopes, as well as portamento and other effects.
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Figure 8.5 The Group Track not only makes it easier to work with the separated drum parts, but you
can also fold the group to save space on the screen.
Overview of the Interface
The Simpler interface looks quite similar to Impulse, but it has one large sample window instead
of eight sample cells (see Figure 8.6). Simpler works with only one sample at a time, and its
contents are displayed in this main window. You can zoom in and out on the waveform by
clicking it when you see the magnifying glass cursor appear and dragging up and down with
the mouse.
Figure 8.6 Ableton does it again with another deceptively simple interface.
Simpler can be loaded with a new sound either by dragging a sample from the Browser or by
taking an audio clip from the Session or Arrangement View. Just like Impulse, Simpler will play
the portion of the sound that is between the region Start and End Markers of the imported clip.
Since Simpler usually holds only one sample, any new sound dragged into the instrument will
replace the previous one. Or just click the Hot-Swap button to see all the presets in Simpler’s
Browser and choose from these.
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Note that Ableton has also given Simpler the additional ability to play multisampled instruments
based on a larger set of samples. Multisampling improves the sound of many sampled instruments, particularly those based on samples of actual acoustic instruments, such as those in the
SONiVOX Essential Instrument Collection (EIC), included with all boxed copies of Live 8. If
you are playing a multisampled instrument in Simpler, you will see the message “Multisample
mode” displayed at the top of Simpler instead of a sample waveform. Some controls in Simpler
(the Sample Start/Loop knobs and associated parameters) will be inactive (and appear grayed
out in the interface) in Multisample mode. To edit these parameters further, you need to use
Ableton’s Sampler instrument, sold separately. Right-click (Ctrlþclick) Simpler’s title bar and
choose the Simpler 4 Sampler command to open the multisampled instrument in Sampler for
further editing. We’ll learn a lot more about Sampler later in this chapter, but for now let’s get
back to seeing what Simpler can do.
Sample Source
There are seven sections in the Simpler interface: Sample Source, Filter, Envelopes, Pan, LFO
(low-frequency oscillator), Tuning, and Volume. The Sample Source section is where you’ll set
all the parameters for the sample playback. The effect of the four knobs can be seen and heard
immediately, as the changes you make will be shown graphically in the Sample Display window.
The Sample Play area is shown in dark green, while the Loop area (when the Loop button is
active) is shown in light green (see Figure 8.7). As you adjust the knobs, you’ll see the green areas
change. The first three knobs change the start position, loop length, and end position of the
sample. The loop length is based on a percentage from the end of the sample, which loops
the tail end of a sound to extend its length. The Fade knob applies a crossfade to the loop’s
connection points to smooth out any pops you may encounter when the sample starts over.
The Snap button helps prevent these pops by forcing the start and end points of the Loop
area to snap to a zero crossing.
Figure 8.7 Simpler will play only the sound located in the medium green-colored area of the Sample
Display window. Playback begins at the far-left edge of this section and plays all the way through to the
end of it. If the Loop function is activated, Simpler will then repeat the section in bright green until it
receives a MIDI Note Off message.
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The Envelope section (just to the right of the Sample Source section) is where you will shape the
sound as it’s being played. There are three envelopes in the new version of Simpler: Vol, Filter,
and Pitch, which can be edited individually by pressing one of the three tabs in the Envelope
section. Each of these envelopes is hard wired to the output volume, filter cutoff, and sample
Every time a MIDI Note On message enters Simpler, it triggers the envelope generators. As soon
as the MIDI note is received, the envelopes enter their Attack phase. This is where the output
rises from zero to full level. The amount of time it takes for this increase in level to happen is set
with the Attack knob, which displays its value in milliseconds. After the attack time has passed
and the envelope has reached full level, the envelope drops to the sustain level. The amount of
time it takes to drop is set by the Decay knob. The target level is set with the Sustain knob, which
shows a percentage of the full level. The envelope will stay at the sustain level until Simpler
receives a MIDI Note Off message (for example, lifting your finger off of the keyboard).
Once the MIDI Note Off is received, the envelope will drop to zero in the amount of time
specified by the Release knob.
The Filter section (which is engaged with the Filter button) is used to remove certain frequencies
in the sample. As usual, you’ve got your choice of Low-Pass, High-Pass, Band-Pass, and Notch
filters. The Freq and Res knobs are used to adjust the base cutoff frequency and the resonance
for the filter. The remaining controls are used to modulate the filter cutoff with the envelope,
velocity, key position, and LFO. All of these modulation sources can be used at the same time for
complex filter motions. The Env knob scales the amount of Filter Envelope signal used to change
the filter cutoff. As the envelope value rises, the cutoff will also rise. The Vel value will scale
the cutoff based on the incoming MIDI note velocity. If the value is 0%, the velocity will
have no effect on the cutoff. The Key value is used to change the cutoff value of the filter
based on the pitch of the incoming MIDI note. The higher the pitch, the higher the filter cutoff
will be. This helps emulate real sounds, which get brighter as their pitch increases. The LFO
knob determines the amount of LFO signal used to modulate the cutoff.
The LFO (engaged with the LFO button) can be used to modulate the filter cutoff, Sample Pitch,
and Output Pan. An LFO can be thought of as an automatic envelope that has a repeating pattern. The shape of the LFO is selected from the small drop-down menu right below the Filter
button. The Rate section changes the speed of the LFO. There are two modes here: Select Hz for
a free-running, unsynched LFO set in Hertz, or select the small musical note here for an LFO
synced with the project tempo and further adjusted into beat length below the LFO option. The
LFO speed can be further modified with the key value. Playing higher notes will speed up the
LFO when the key value increases. You can also use the Attack value to have the LFO gradually
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fade in instead of starting immediately when a key is pressed. This is great for lead sounds where
you’d like to introduce vibrato after you’ve held a note for a moment.
Set the Retrig function to on, and a new LFO cycle will start every time you press a MIDI key.
Looking now at the Pitch section of controls, the Transpose value transposes the pitch of Simpler
up and down. Detune adjusts the pitch in cents, like the Detune in an audio clip. The LFO box
sets the amount of LFO modulation to apply to the pitch of the sample, also known as vibrato.
Similarly, the Envelope box sets the amount of pitch modulation applied by the Pitch Envelope.
The Spread knob will perform an automatic detuning of the left and right channels to create a
wider sound from your sample.
Next to the Spread knob is the Glide feature. When set to Glide, Simpler slides from one note
into the next, allowing you to play only one note at a time. When set to Portamento, polyphonic
bending is allowed and bends up or down to each consecutive note that is played. The Time
value sets how long it takes Simpler to bend from one note to another.
The Pan controls specify the output location of the sound (done with the Pan knob) and modulate the pan with the LFO and randomness.
The Volume box obviously sets the output volume of Simpler, while the Vel value determines the
effect of velocity—the force with which a particular note is played—on the output volume. If the
value is set to 0%, the sample will ignore velocity information and use the same volume no
matter how hard you press a key. There is also an LFO box, which applies LFO modulation
to the sound, creating a tremolo effect. The Voices box determines the polyphony of Simpler.
Polyphony is the maximum number of simultaneous notes Simpler can produce. If the value is
set to 1, Simpler will be monophonic, playing only one note at a time. Any time you exceed the
polyphony limit, earlier notes will be cut off in favor of new ones. When this happens, the indicator next to the polyphony value will blink. Finally, the R button (short for retrigger) is used to
set whether the envelopes retrigger when played polyphonically. When this option is on, the
envelopes will restart with every new note played, even if you’re currently holding other
notes. When it’s off, the envelopes will restart only after all the keys have been released.
Analog Presets Ableton has provided a number of presets in Live’s Library to get you
started. Many are based on small samples that act similarly to the waveforms found in
analog synthesizers. Indeed, using a sawtooth wave in Simpler is quite similar to using a
saw wave in an analog synth. These tones are great for beefy basses and gnarly leads.
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MIDI Control
Simpler will respond to any incoming MIDI note to create sound. Just like the other devices in
Live, the Simpler dials and buttons can be assigned to MIDI controls, as described in Chapter 4.
Assigning the Sample Source controls to MIDI controllers is an extremely expressive performance technique. Altering the loop length and start positions on the fly can change the timbre
and tone of the sample in wild ways as well.
Under Control When using a Control Surface to control the parameters of a device with a
large number of parameters, such as Impulse or Simpler, you’ll have to get familiar with
navigating banks of controls. The implementation for every MIDI controller is slightly different, but in general, there are eight knobs dedicated to controlling parameters of the
currently selected device, along with a button or switch for changing banks (a different
group of eight parameters). In the case of the Simpler, bank one controls the Volume
Envelope and loop settings, bank two controls the filter, bank three the LFO, and so
on. Every time you select a new bank from your controller, Live’s status bar will display
a message telling you which parameters are controlled by that bank.
I’ve found that the Simpler presets provided by Ableton demonstrate best what Simpler is capable of. I suggest that you inspect each of the presets and experiment with the various parameters
to learn how they affect the overall sound.
Introduced in Live 4.1, Operator is Ableton’s first add-on instrument, an FM synthesizer instrument. Operator is included in all Live versions after 4.1, but only as a demo. You will need to
purchase an unlock code from Ableton (available separately or as part of the Live Suite) to use
this instrument to its full potential. And believe me, now more than ever, Operator is full of
potential. Live 8 includes a major update to Operator, including new filter types, additive synthesis, and a powerful new routing matrix.
Operator is basically three synthesizers in one. You can employ three different types of synthesis
to craft your sounds: subtractive, additive, and FM. Unless you are already a synthesis wiz, you
may want to check out the online chapter on these various synthesis types before looking at the
details of this synth.
Overview of the Interface
Operator represents a slight departure from the user interface scheme set forth by Live. While
Operator still conveniently sits within the Track View (see Figure 8.8), it does not display all
information and parameters at once. Operator is a deep and complex synth, so many of the
parameters have been consolidated into the center window of the interface.
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Figure 8.8 The Operator interface has two sections: the center window and the eight sections surrounding it—the shell.
Looking at the interface, you’ll see a large center window, called the display, surrounded by
eight sections, collectively referred to as the shell. The shell sections are (clockwise from the
lower-left corner) oscillator A, oscillator B, oscillator C, oscillator D, LFO, Filter, Pitch, and
Global. If you click on one of these sections, the display will change to show its associated
parameters. Try it—click anywhere within the oscillator A section. The display will show a
graphic envelope, as well as a myriad of values below it. If you click on the Pitch section, a
different set of information will be shown in the display.
Ableton has placed the most tweakable parameters of Operator into the shell so that you can access
them at all times. The more intricate details—parameters that you normally “set and forget”—are
neatly tucked away within the display. If you’d like, you can even hide the display, leaving only the
shell exposed, by clicking the little triangle in the upper-left corner of the interface (see Figure 8.9).
Also along the top title bar are the standard controls for recalling and saving presets.
Figure 8.9 Buy yourself some screen space by hiding Operator’s display.
Creating and Shaping Sounds
So how do you operate Operator? It depends on what type of synthesis you’re trying to achieve.
As you’re about to see, Operator can pull off both subtractive and FM synthesis, and it has some
additive synthesis features as well. It would therefore make sense to set up Operator to perform
your desired synthesis before going any deeper.
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The Algorithm
Click on the Global section in the lower-right corner of the shell. The global parameters will
now be shown in the display (see Figure 8.10). If you’ve been clicking around through the other
sections in Operator, you’ll notice that this display is different from the others. Gone are the
graphic envelopes, and in their place is a collection of colored squares.
Figure 8.10 The global parameters of Operator.
While the term algorithm may conjure up images of mind-bending calculus formulas, you’ll be
pleased to know that Operator provides a simple way to visualize an algorithm using the assortment of colored squares in the display. By default, the upper-left algorithm will be active (its
squares are solid colors, as opposed to outlines). Notice that the colored letters in the oscillator
section to the left are the same colors as the squares in the algorithm’s display. The colored
squares are therefore a map, or flowchart, of how the oscillators interact with each other.
You can read an algorithm from the top down, but I also like to look at it from the bottom up
from time to time. If you look at this first algorithm starting at the bottom, you’ll see that the
bottom square is a yellow A. This is oscillator A. You’ll also see that there is a little yellow line
extending downward from this square. This line shows that oscillator A will be outputting a
signal that you can hear.
If you look at the next block above A, you’ll see a green square with a B inside. This block has a
line extending downward from it, too, but it connects to oscillator A instead of being an output.
This means that the waveform created by oscillator B will be used to change the frequency of
oscillator A, which is output to your speakers. In this arrangement, oscillator B is a modulator,
and oscillator A is a carrier.
Knowing the above, you can now see what parts oscillator C and oscillator D play in this algorithm: They are additional modulators. Oscillator D will modulate oscillator C, which modulates oscillator B, which modulates oscillator A—the carrier.
Click the algorithm below the current algorithm. This new algorithm has the shape of a T. Can
you tell what will happen when you use this algorithm? Let’s read it and see: Oscillator A is
again at the bottom and has a line extending downward. This means that you will hear this
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oscillator, just like the previous algorithm. Where this algorithm differs, however, is in the
arrangement of the three modulators. Instead of being stacked such that D feeds C, which
feeds B, which feeds A, each of the three modulators will work directly on oscillator A.
Just to the right of the T algorithm is one shaped like a box. When you select this algorithm, you
will see the familiar arrangement of oscillator B modulating oscillator A. The difference this time
is that oscillator C is now a carrier—you will hear the waveform it generates, as well as hearing
the waveform generated by oscillator A. You can think of this as a dual-FM synth where you can
create two unique waveforms simultaneously, which can be used in layers to thicken your sound,
or to create two independent sounds that interplay with each other.
You should now be able to tell how each algorithm will make the oscillators interact. One algorithm of special note is the horizontal arrangement found in the lower right. When using this
algorithm, you will no longer be using any of the oscillators as modulators—they’ll all be carriers. This arrangement is one that you would use in Operator for subtractive synthesis. Each
oscillator will output its own unique waveform, which can be mixed together and filtered, very
much like in a classic analog synth.
Below the algorithms is the new routing matrix, which gives you enormous modulation flexibility. We’ll discuss this after we’ve gone over more of the basics of Operator.
The Oscillators
Leave the algorithm set to the horizontal arrangement and click on oscillator A in the shell. The
algorithms in the display will now be replaced with an envelope and additional parameters.
These are all of the control parameters for oscillator A. By default, each operator is set to produce
a sine wave with instantaneous attack and release. Try playing a few notes to hear this for yourself.
Tucked away in the display is a parameter named Wave. The option below it is currently set to
Sin—a sine wave. Click on Sin to open a menu with all of the operator’s waveshapes. Try out a
few of them to hear how they sound.
Normally, FM synthesis uses only sine waves. The additional waveforms here, such as the saw
and square, can be used as sources for subtractive synthesis. You can also use them for FM
synthesis, which will allow Operator to create sounds unlike other FM synths that have only
sine waves. Additionally, the saw and square waves have multiple shapes, denoted by a number
after the name. Remember our discussion of how periodic waveforms are composed of multiple
harmonics? Well, the number in the waveform name tells you how many harmonics were used to
create the waveshape. In the case of Sw3, only three harmonics were used: the fundamental, the
second harmonic, and the third harmonic. As a result, the Sw3 waveform still resembles a
sine wave more than a sawtooth wave. As you go further down the menu of waveforms,
you’ll see saws with greater numbers of harmonics. Sw64 uses 64 harmonics to generate the
sawtooth wave and therefore sounds like the kind of sawtooth wave you’re used to hearing.
This same numbering scheme is true for the square waves as well.
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A sine wave has no harmonics, so what are the other sine wave variations about? First, notice
that the sine wave variations are lettered, not numbered. This helps alleviate confusion regarding
harmonics. The sine variations are just that—slight tweaks to a sine wave that emulates the kind
of waveforms generated by analog oscillators. You may not be able to hear much of a difference
while listening to each of the sine waves directly, but they may cause more obvious changes to
your sound when used as modulators.
Along with selecting the waveform for the operator, you can also set its tuning and volume.
Tuning and volume have a tremendous impact on the sounds resulting from FM synthesis, so
these controls have been placed directly onto the shell so you can access them at all times. Furthermore, it is the tuning and volume relationships between the various operators that will
define your sound. As such, you can see all of the tuning and volume information for all four
operators simultaneously on the shell.
Tuning has two modes: Variable and Fixed. The Variable setting (the default) causes the operator to change frequency based on the notes you play. The Fixed setting (enabled by clicking the
Fixed box of an operator) causes it to ignore incoming note information and will instead sound
at a specific frequency that you set in the shell. When in Fixed mode, the two tuning options will
be Freq and Multi, which stand for frequency and multiplier, respectively. The operator’s frequency is determined by multiplying the Freq by the Multi value. If the frequency is 100Hz and
the multiplier is one, the resulting frequency will be 100Hz (100 Hz 1 ¼ 100Hz). If the frequency is 245Hz and the multiplier is 10, the operator’s frequency will be 2,450Hz.
When in Variable mode, the operator frequencies are no longer shown. Instead, you are presented with Coarse and Fine adjustments, which express the operator’s frequency as a ratio of
the base frequency. An operator with a Coarse setting of 2 will sound an octave higher than one
with a Coarse setting of 1. An operator with a Coarse setting of 0.5 will sound an octave lower.
You can use the Fine adjustment to create ratios that are fractions, such as 1.5 (Coarse 1,
Fine 500) or 2.25 (Coarse 2, Fine 250). When working in subtractive synthesis (with the horizontal algorithm), this will create chords where playing one note results in multiple pitches from
Operator. However, when using FM, this will create harmonic or inharmonic tones, depending
on the ratio.
The Oscillator Display
Remember how we were just discussing the harmonics of various waveforms a few pages ago?
Wouldn’t it be cool if there were a display that could show you all of the possible harmonics and
allow you to view or even edit Operator’s waveforms by graphically adding and subtracting
harmonics? As of Live 8, Operator gives you the capability to do just that.
Above the Envelope display, click on the box marked Oscillator, next to the box marked Envelope. This changes the display to show you the harmonics of the waveform being used for the
currently selected operator. If Sine is selected from the menu below, you’ll see exactly one gray
bar all the way to the left of the display. This tells you that the wave is composed of a simple
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fundamental pitch with no higher harmonics. Now try selecting Saw3 from the menu. This is
the sawtooth wave we discussed earlier, composed of only three harmonics. With Saw64, you’ll see
harmonics cascading across the display, illustrating the complex sound of a true sawtooth wave.
Once you have a basic understanding of what you’re looking at here, things get really interesting. When your mouse floats above the harmonics display, it turns into a pencil, allowing you to
freely alter the wave’s harmonics. Try it—start slowly, increasing or decreasing the rightmost
harmonics to make the sound brighter or darker. Then go crazy with it, drawing or deleting
harmonics as you please. Notice that as you do this, the waveform display below changes as
well, and the Wave menu now reads User.
This makes for a truly overwhelming number of options for programming this synth. If you’re
new to Operator, it might make more sense to get a handle on simple FM before you start building all sorts of custom waveforms. However, the mad scientist in you may win the day and
demand a purely experimental approach to sound design. That’s OK, too!
FM in Action
Enough talk, already. It’s time to hear what all of this sounds like. Load up the preset Sine Bass
from the (AL8P Presets) list in Live’s Browser. Play a note, and you should hear a single
sine wave. You are hearing oscillator A by itself. While holding the note, turn up the level of
Oscillator B. You’ll notice that instead of hearing a second pitch as you turn up this operator,
you will hear the sound of oscillator A change. This is because oscillator B is modulating
oscillator A (which you can see if you look at the active algorithm), resulting in side
bands. Oscillator A becomes more and more brilliant (more upper harmonics) as you increase
the level of oscillator B (the level control is essentially the FM modulation amount). If you turn
oscillator B back down again, oscillator A will revert to a sine wave.
This phenomenon is the reason why FM synthesizers traditionally don’t have filters. As I mentioned at the beginning of this section, when a waveform is passed through a low-pass filter, it is
possible to remove all the upper harmonics, leaving only the fundamental behind—a sine wave.
By turning down oscillator B, you’re also left with a fundamental sine wave. In this case, the
level of oscillator B acts in a similar fashion to the cutoff frequency of a filter. So if your sound is
too bright, instead of reaching for a filter, decrease the amount of modulation so that the carrier
will stay closer to its original sine waveform.
A moment ago, I mentioned that the ratios of the operators in an FM system will result in harmonic (tuned) or inharmonic (untuned) sounds. The patch you were just playing with used a
modulator and carrier that were at a 1-to-1 ratio—the modulator had the same frequency as the
carrier. The result, as you heard, was a constant pitch that changed timbre. For your next experiment, turn up oscillator B again and then play with the Coarse knob. The result will be another
constant tone, but one with a different harmonic structure. As you turn up the Coarse knob, you
will be changing the ratio between oscillators A and B but in whole numbers (for example, 1 to 2,
1 to 3, 1 to 8, and so on).
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Things start to get strange, however, when you begin to change the Fine adjustment. Hold a note
and slowly increase the Fine setting. Almost immediately, the sound will go “out of tune,” or
more precisely, will become “without tune.” This is because the frequencies of the modulator
and carrier are no longer at a whole number ratio. If oscillator A is at Coarse 1, Fine 0, and
oscillator B is at Coarse 2, Fine 20, then the ratio between the two operators is now 1:2.02,
which is not a whole-number ratio.
But why does this sound so weird? When performing subtractive synthesis, slightly detuning an
oscillator is a great way to fatten up a sound. Why doesn’t this same principle work in FM?
The answer lies with the squished/stretched waveform and our ears’ ability to detect repetitions.
In the examples so far, the modulator completes a cycle at the same point the carrier does. While
a modulator might cycle twice for every cycle of the carrier, they will still repeat at the same
If you’ve ever heard two records playing together but out of time, this is analogous to the relationship between a carrier and a modulator. When the modulator has a frequency that is not
double (or some other whole-number multiplier of) the carrier’s frequency, it will cycle around
at a different point each time the carrier cycles. The result is that the squish/stretch pattern your
ears were hearing is now happening at a different point in each of the carrier’s cycles. Thus, your
ears can no longer determine the pitch of the waveform.
This phenomenon can be exploited in the FM world by offsetting the phase of an operator such
that its waveform begins at a different point in its cycle. You’ll still get pleasing harmonic tones,
but the timbre will change slightly as you adjust the phase. While the difference is subtle, it may
introduce a tonal quality that you prefer.
A Hidden Modulator While the Operator algorithms select which oscillators will be
modulators for others, there is another hidden modulation you can perform as well.
Click on an oscillator’s section to show its parameters in the display. If it’s not currently
being modulated by any other oscillators, you’ll notice that the Feedback parameter
becomes enabled. This uses the output of the oscillator as a modulation input for itself.
If you start with a sine wave and turn the Feedback parameter up to 50 percent, the result
will be nearly identical to a sawtooth wave. If you have a waveform other than sine
selected, the result will be extremely strange. Try it out!
The Envelopes
So far, the experiments with FM have concentrated only on designing a waveform using a modulator and carrier. All of our examples have been fairly static sounds—press a key and hear the
sound; release the key to stop the sound. The envelopes in Operator will help bring the synthesizer to life by offering ways to automate and animate the waveforms over time.
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Each operator has its own Volume Envelope. The LFO also has its own envelope. The Filter and
Pitch sections also have their own envelopes. That’s seven envelopes for a single voice! That’s
quite a lot compared with Simpler, which has only three envelopes per voice.
You heard in the experiments above how the volume of a modulator would affect the timbre of
the carrier. Therefore, using an envelope to change the volume of a modulator will allow you to
change the harmonic content of a sound as it plays, like using a Filter Envelope in subtractive
Load the Operator preset titled Techno Bass and play some notes. This sound now has some
motion to it—it has an aggressive attack that quickly decays into the fundamental sine wave.
Played in low octaves, this is a great bass sound, similar to a subtractive bass synth. Click on
oscillator B and look at its envelope. It has a quick attack with a fairly fast decay and a long
sustain. This makes oscillator B play at full volume when you strike a note, but it quickly fades
out after the initial attack. This is what creates the harmonic complexity at the beginning of
every note.
This is a pretty simple implementation of the envelope—just attack and decay. However, the
Operator envelopes are much more powerful than this, even more powerful than the envelopes
in Simpler. Most synthesizers, including Simpler, use ADSR Envelopes, which stands for Attack,
Decay, Sustain, and Release. The Operator envelopes, on the other hand, are composed of six
parameters: Initial level, Attack time, Peak level, Decay time, Sustain level, and Release time
(IAPDSR). This offers much more flexibility when designing your sounds because you can
break many of the constraints set forth by an ADSR Envelope. For example, it is possible for
the Sustain level to be higher than the Attack level. In an ADSR Envelope, the Attack always
reaches maximum level, and the Sustain can be set only to this same level or lower.
Furthermore, the Operator envelopes can be looped, either based on time or based on the tempo
of the current Live Set. This means that you can use the envelopes as pseudo-LFO sources as
well, since you can create a modulation that can repeat again and again. The ability to synchronize the repeats to the tempo of the song allows you to create interesting rhythmic patterns with
How easy? Click on the oscillator B section and switch the Loop parameter to Beat. Now hold a
note. You’ll hear your bass sound retriggering every 1/16 note! You can change the loop rate by
changing the Repeat value. Furthermore, the looping will follow Song Tempo if you change it in
real time. If you really want these repeated notes to be locked in with your composition, select
Sync as the Loop mode. When it’s active, you can play notes at any time you’d like, but the
envelope will repeat only in sync with the beats in your song. (This works only while Live is
playing.) This ensures that the triggered bass sound plays in time whether you’re early or late.
The remaining parameters in the display for an operator govern how velocity and key-follow
will affect the operator’s pitch and level. For starters, the Vel parameter will modulate the operator’s volume based on velocity—positive values will cause the operator to increase in volume as
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you play harder, while negative values will attenuate the operator the harder you play. If you use
this setting on a modulator, it will have a similar effect to applying velocity scaling to a Filter
Envelope in subtractive synthesis. The harder you play, the more FM modulation will result,
thus causing a brighter sound. The Key parameter will cause the operator to play louder or softer
(depending on the value you use) as you move into the higher registers of your keyboard. This is
similar to the key-follow found in the filter sections of many subtractive synths.
The Osc 4 Vel parameter determines the impact of velocity on the tuning of the operator. Playing harder will cause the operator to increase in pitch, provided you use a positive value. Of
special interest is the Q button next to this value. When active, the incoming velocity will affect
only the Coarse tuning of the operator. This is handy because it will ensure that you have a
harmonic interval (a whole-number ratio between the modulator and carrier), no matter what
velocity you play. If you turn this button off, your velocity will affect the Coarse tuning and the
Fine tuning, resulting in tunings that can have inharmonic results.
The final parameter, Time 4 Vel, is really great for adding expressiveness to your sounds. When
set to a positive number, it will cause the envelope to run faster as you play with more velocity,
with a heavier style. Set to a negative value, the envelope will run slower as your velocity
increases. This can be used to mimic the performance of acoustic instruments whose envelopes
change naturally as a result of dynamic changes.
We’ve covered quite a lot so far, so much that you actually have enough knowledge to create
some killer FM tones, even though we haven’t even touched on the sections on the right side of
the shell (save for the algorithm setting). For a quick sampling of what can be done with just
operators and their envelopes, take a look at the downloadable presets provided with this book.
Moving on to the right side of the Operator interface, we find the LFO section right at the top.
On a synthesizer, an LFO is used to create repetitive automations for other parameters of the
synth. On a subtractive synthesizer, LFOs will often be used to modulate the filter cutoff or the
volume. The LFO of Operator can do this and much more.
For starters, the LFO is not relegated to low-frequency operation in Operator. You can actually
goose this one up into the audio range, thus making it available as another audio oscillator for
your FM experiments. This is done with the tiny drop-down menu next to the waveshape. The
options are L for low-frequency mode, H for high-frequency mode, and S for sync. After that,
select your Rate and Mod amounts with the dials in the shell.
In order for the LFO to work at all, you’ll need to turn it on with the little box to the left of its
Waveform menu in the shell. Once it is Active, you’ll see all the parameters light up in its display. The display looks like the other operators, except that it has Destination boxes in place of
the waveform and phase parameters. By default, the four operators will all have their pitches
modulated by the LFO. You can turn these off individually, and you can also use the LFO to
modulate the filter cutoff.
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If you’re using the LFO at audio rates to modulate the operators, you’ll probably want to turn
up the Rate < Key value to 100 percent. This will make the LFO track the keyboard so that you
will get consistent harmonic results with every key you play.
Other than those parameters, the remaining settings for the LFO function like the settings for an
operator. The envelope will control the modulation amount of the LFO (whose upper limit is set
with the Mod dial in the shell), and the Loop parameter can be used to retrigger the LFO Envelope. With this arrangement, you can create an envelope loop that will modulate the LFO while
it runs at audio rates—the looping envelope essentially becomes another LFO!
The Filter
So here we are: an FM synth with a filter. With all the tonal control possible by adjusting the
modulation amounts of the operators, why would Ableton put this here? The best explanation I
can offer is that it offers something familiar to those new to FM synthesis. Coaxing your desired
tone from an FM synth is not easy, especially for beginners. However, generating a complex
waveform with FM is easy. The filter therefore allows you to treat this complex FM waveform
as the starting waveform for subtractive synthesis. Thanks to Operator’s FM capabilities, your
subtractive experiments won’t be based merely on simple waveforms like sawtooth and square.
Your arsenal of waveforms is nearly limitless. Once you get a complex wave you like, you can
then run it through the standard rigmarole of filters and envelopes you’re used to using.
Another reason for the filter has to do with bandwidth—digital audio has a limited frequency
range determined by the sampling rate. According to the Nyquist Theorem, the highest frequency recordable by a digital system is equal to half the sampling rate. If the sample rate is
44,100Hz (which is the CD standard), the highest recordable frequency is 22,050Hz. In practice,
however, this top frequency is usually limited to roughly 20,000Hz (which is the upper limit of
human hearing). FM synthesis is capable of producing hundreds of side bands, some of which
could exist above the 20,000Hz limit. If these frequencies are left unchecked, they will create
foldback frequencies that will distort the sound. The filter removes these high frequencies so that
they will not interfere with the limits of digital sampling.
Like the LFO, the filter must be turned on before it will have any effect. Do this by clicking the
box just to the left of the Filter-Type menu. You’ll see the center display spring to life with color,
indicating that the filter is active. The filter contains the same six-parameter envelope as the
operators and LFO that will modulate the filter cutoff frequency. The amount of envelope modulation is set with the Envelope parameter. The other parameters in the display determine how
key position and velocity will affect the filter.
Operator has a total of 14 filter types, eight of which are the standard Ableton filters: low-pass,
band-pass, high-pass, and notch, in both 12dB/octave and 24/dB octave flavors. The updated
Operator in Live 8 also includes the Ladder and SVF filter types in low, band, and hi-pass versions. These filter types both offer distinctly different pleasing tonal qualities, with the SVF
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offering the capability to self-oscillate with high-resonance values, and the Ladder type producing a sound modeled on some classic analog filter designs (Moog comes to mind).
In addition to the new filter types, Operator’s filter now includes a saturator/waveshaper. The
Shaper menu offers you four types, two of them being classic saturation (Soft and Hard), and
two being more unusual digital-sounding effects (Sine and 4-bit).
The Pitch Settings
Below the Filter section is the Pitch section, which contains an envelope, as well as some other
unique pitch-related controls. Not only will you have to switch on the Pitch section to make the
envelope work, but you’ll also have to turn up the Pitch Env dial in the shell. You can use both
positive and negative values here, so it’s possible to reverse the effects of the envelope.
As with the LFO, you can choose which operators will be modulated with the Pitch Envelope.
Often, it’s not necessary to modulate all the operators. Of course, if you don’t modulate them
all, you might get inharmonic results. However, this can be desirable on the attack of a sound,
such as when making drum sounds.
The Spread dial in the shell will instantly turn your synth creations into stereo patches by using
two voices instead of one, each panned to either side of the stereo field and detuned slightly. This
is similar to the fattening technique on analog synths where multiple matching oscillators are all
slightly detuned from each other. The result is a full, lush sound similar to a large group of
singers, which is why this effect is sometimes referred to as chorus. Since Operator must create
two slightly detuned tones when using the Spread, your CPU load will be much higher as a
result, nearly double. Use this control wisely.
Cut it Short Make sure to explore Operator with your mouse’s right button—it’s jam-
packed with all sorts of shortcuts. For example, the Frequency knob’s context menu
includes a Play by Key option that configures the filter to track the keyboard perfectly,
while the oscillator display has an Export AMS option that exports a custom user waveform to an audio file with an .ams extension that can be used as a sound source for
Next to the Spread knob is the Transpose knob, which will shift the pitch of Operator up or
down by the specified number of semitones. This is a real-time control, so you can tweak it while
a sound is playing.
There are two important Pitch parameters in the display that we haven’t discussed yet. The first
is PB (Pitch Bend) Range, which determines the amount of modulation resulting from using the
pitch wheel on your MIDI controller. By default, this is set to +5 semitones. This means that a
pitch of C will be bent up to F if you turn the pitch wheel all the way up. The same C will bend
down to G if you move the pitch wheel downward.
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The last group of settings is the Glide parameters, found in the lower-right corner of the display.
These work only when used in conjunction with the Voices parameter on the Global Settings
display, explained in the next section, so we’ll get back to Glide parameters in just a moment.
The Global Settings
The last section of Operator contains Global Settings for the instrument. You’re already familiar
with the algorithms contained there, but there are still a few more things you should know.
First, the Time control. This knob adjusts the speed of all of the envelopes in Operator simultaneously. You can slow them down dramatically or speed them up to a point where you hardly
notice them. I’ve found that after you dial in a tone, you can get a sound that you like a little
more by adjusting this parameter. Also, if you make a sound whose envelopes are timed to the
tempo of the song, you can adjust their timing as a whole should you change the tempo of the
song. Other than that, this can be a great dial to tweak while Operator is playing a programmed
synth pattern—it can add expressiveness beyond tweaking the oscillators and filters.
To the right of the Time knob is the Tone knob. This knob behaves like a low-pass filter, even
though it’s not. This knob can be used to reduce the number of high-frequency overtones generated in FM. Often, a sound will sound okay at one pitch, but may sound strange when played
an octave or two higher. This is because at the higher pitches, the harmonics of the sound cross
the theoretical limit imposed by the Nyquist Theorem. Those high overtones then fold back into
the regular audio spectrum, which can sound unpleasant. The Tone knob can be used to keep
those high harmonics in check.
The last control in the shell is the Volume knob. If you’re not sure what this does, then you
should probably put down this book and back slowly away from your computer!
Within the display for the Global Settings, below the algorithms, is Operator’s new routing
matrix. This allows many different parameters to be modulated in a variety of ways, making
this synthesizer dramatically more powerful than it was before.
Running vertically along the left side of the display are the various modulators that Operator can
be made to respond to: Velocity, Key, Aftertouch, Pitch Bend, and Mod Wheel. The menus and
numeric values that appear across each row are for routing these modulators to specific parameters. For example, let’s say we want the velocity of incoming notes to control the overall volume
of Operator. To do this, just set Connection A in the Velocity row to Volume and set Amount
A to specify how velocity sensitive you want the volume to be (70% is a good default value).
Now, what if you want the velocity to control the waveshaper, too, so as you play harder, the
notes also become more distorted? No problem, just set Amount B to Shaper Drive and set the
amount as desired. Get the idea? You can use any of these five modulators to control two different parameters of your choice simultaneously.
Below the routing matrix you’ll see seven more parameters. The three parameters on the right
are merely used to set the pan position of Operator’s output. The Pan value lets you position the
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sound in a specific location of the stereo spectrum. The Key value makes the key position influence the pan. When you use it, your sound will pan to the right as you play higher notes, as if
you were sitting in front of an acoustic piano. The last value, Rnd, will cause the pan position to
change randomly with the specified depth.
To the left of the Pan parameters is Time < Key. This parameter is also helpful in mimicking
acoustic instruments in that the envelopes can be set to run faster (or slower if you use a negative
value) as you play higher notes. If you think about a piano, you’ll know that the lower notes can
sustain much longer than the higher notes. This setting lets Operator behave in the same way.
Continuing left, we come across the Hi-Q parameter. This is the same as the Hi-Q found in the
Audio Clip View and determines the quality of interpolation used when Operator renders its
sounds. Turning this on will result in a more polished sound, but at the price of CPU load.
The RTG button sets the Retrigger mode for the envelopes. If this is on, the envelopes will reset
to their initial values every time a note is played. So if you play a note that has a long release
phase, playing the note again before the release has completed will cut it off abruptly as the
envelope jumps back to its initial value. If this button is off, retriggering the same note will
cause the envelope to enter its Attack phase but start from the current level of the release
phase. This is most useful for pad sounds where there should be no abrupt changes in volume
as notes are played.
The last parameter at the far left of the display is Voices. This setting determines the maximum
number of notes that Operator can play at once. When it’s set to 2, you’ll be able to play only
two notes at the same time. If you play a third note while still holding the other two, the oldest
note will be replaced by the new note, a technique referred to as voice stealing. By default, this
value is 6, which is usually sufficient. However, if you are using a sound that has a long release
time, it becomes quite easy to have more than six sounds playing at once, even if you aren’t
holding any notes. The voice stealing will cause the oldest note to stop immediately in favor
of the newest note. This will ensure that you hear every note you want to play, but it can
sound strange if you keep hearing these beautifully sustained notes being cut off. In this case,
you’ll want to increase the number of voices. Be careful, though, as each simultaneous voice
requires additional CPU processing.
The other way to use the Voice parameter is to set it to 1, which turns Operator into a monophonic synth, able to play only one note at a time. If you play one note followed by another, the
first note will be stopped in order to play the second. While this may not sound like such a hot
feature, it definitely heats up when paired with the Glide parameters mentioned in the previous
section. If you engage the Glide function (click on the G in the Pitch section), notes will now
bend automatically to each new note as they are played. This works only when you’re playing in
a legato fashion, where each note is started before the previous one ends. If you’re playing in a
staccato fashion, Glide will have no effect, since there will be no overlapping notes. The Glide
Time, also found in the Pitch section display, sets the time it takes for Operator to bend to the
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new note after it has been triggered. This effect is also known as portamento, and it is quite
useful for synth leads and basslines.
If you’re feeling ready to get into programming your own sounds with Operator, you may want
to read the additional online content at www.courseptr.com/downloads, which gives guidelines
on how to create different types of sounds, from pads to snare drums.
Sampler is Simpler’s big brother: a fully featured multisampling instrument with a full complement of modulation, filtering, and mapping options (see Figure 8.11).
Figure 8.11 Ableton’s Sampler unfolds to show a layer/zone editor.
Although Live has had basic sampling functions since the introduction of Simpler, Sampler, as
we saw earlier in this chapter, vastly expands Live’s sampling capabilities by introducing support
for multisampling, as well as a wide range of sound-design and modulation options. What does
this mean? Put simply, with multisampling you can use multiple samples to define the sound of a
single instrument. Instead of simply transposing a single sample up or down the keyboard, multisampling uses many samples to capture the sound of an instrument at multiple points in its
frequency and dynamic range. In the case of acoustic instruments, Live takes samples at many
different pitches and dynamic levels. A multisampled instrument includes a sample map that
defines at what pitch and velocity each of these samples is played and how they are blended
together. In combination with various filters and modulation sources, this allows for a much
more realistic simulation of “real” instruments.
Sampler gives you the capability to load and edit patches from Ableton’s Essential Instrument
Collection 2 (shipping with each boxed version of Live 8) and import instruments from a wide
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range of common sample formats, including AKAI, GigaStudio, Apple EXS24/Garageband,
SoundFont, and Native Instruments’ Kontakt. Of course, you can also create your own multisampled instruments, incorporating any number of sample zones, and modulate the sounds with
Sampler’s built-in LFOs and filters. You’ll find that Sampler has many of the features of other
popular sampling applications; it is also well integrated with the rest of Live and has a classic
Ableton-style interface.
The theory and practice of multisampling could fill an entire large book on its own. Setting up
the intricate sample mapping required to accurately re-create the sound and feel of a complex
acoustic instrument like a violin is an advanced topic that we can’t really cover here in any
depth. If you are interested in manipulating and creating your own sampled instruments, consider getting a more general book on the topic. In this section, we’ll try to give you a brief intro
to Ableton’s Sampler and the specific functions that set it apart. We’ll also try to give you some
creative ideas for how you might want to use Sampler in your own Live Sets and productions.
Looking at the Sampler interface, you’ll see that its functions are organized into a number of
different tabs, including Zone, Sample, Pitch/Osc, Filter/Global, Modulation, and MIDI. Let’s
have a look at each of these and see how they work. Open up the Live Set titled Sampler Demo 1
in the Resources 4 Examples 4 Chapter 8 folder of the downloads so you can follow along as I
describe this instrument.
The Zone Tab
Clicking the Zone tab brings up Sampler’s Zone Editor. It’s used to map samples across key and
velocity ranges and can be seen earlier in Figure 8.11. The Zone Editor opens in its own special
window, directly above the Track View.
On the left side of the Zone Editor is the sample layer list. All of the individual samples belonging to a given instrument will appear here, referred to as layers. For very large multisampled
instruments, this list might be hundreds of layers long. (Note that selecting any layer by clicking
it will load its sample into the Sample tab for examination.)
Figure 8.12 The Zone Editor showing key zones with crossfades.
The next thing we’ll look at is the Key Zone Editor, which is shown by selecting the Key switch
above the list. In Figure 8.12, I have created a custom instrument by importing four “kitchen
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bowl” samples; you can see here in the Zone Editor how the different samples are mapped across
the keyboard. Samples are triggered only when incoming MIDI notes lie within their key zone.
By default, the key zones of newly imported samples cover the full MIDI note range. Zones can
be moved or resized by clicking and dragging in the middle or from their right or left sides.
Zones can also be faded in or out over a number of semitones at either end by clicking and
dragging the narrower small line above (see Figure 8.12). This makes it easy to set up smooth
crossfades from zone to zone.
The Zone Editor can also be used to trigger samples according to velocity range. In Figure 8.13,
we have a pad sound composed of three long samples, overlapped by velocity. The combination
of samples we will actually hear when a note is played depends on the velocity of the triggering
MIDI notes.
Figure 8.13 Velocity mapping in the Zone Editor.
The last option is the Sample Select Editor, which is shown by clicking the Sel switch. This is a
very Ableton touch and works like the Chain Selector in an Instrument or Effect Rack. As the
sample selector (the horizontal orange bar above the editor) is moved from left to right, it enables the sample in the range shown in the editor. The Sample Selector has 128 steps, so it’s
perfect for mapping to MIDI CCs. In the example shown in Figure 8.14, the selector can be
moved to enable one of the three layers shown. Currently, it is enabling the layer 487-chama
to be played across the entire range of the keyboard.
Figure 8.14 By using the Sample Select Editor, you can have loads of different samples at your fingertips just by turning a knob on your MIDI controller.
The Sample Tab
The Sample tab is where you can set the playback characteristics of individual samples. A large
part of this tab is devoted to displaying the waveform of the sample you currently have selected
(see Figure 8.15). The name of the sample is displayed below in the Sample drop-down chooser
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box. You can select a particular sample to edit by clicking it in the Zone Editor window, by
using this chooser, or by clicking the Hot-Swap button next to the chooser, which will take you
to the Browser and show you a list of samples used in the current instrument.
Figure 8.15 The Sample tab.
At first glance, the Sample tab appears similar to the display of Simpler, and it serves a similar
function. However, Sampler gives you more power to control how each of your samples plays
back and loops. Note that the settings in the Sample tab will affect only the sample (or multiple
samples) that are currently selected in the Zone Editor.
RootKey sets the reference pitch for the current sample. When a given sample is triggered by
an incoming MIDI note matching the RootKey, it will be played back at its original pitch.
MIDI notes higher or lower than the RootKey will transpose the sample accordingly.
Detune makes fine adjustments to the sample tuning, þ/50 cents.
Volume adjusts sample volumes individually.
Pan adjusts the left-right position of individual samples.
The Reverse button causes the entire multisample to play backwards when triggered. In this
case, sample playback begins from the sample end point and proceeds backward to the
sample start point.
When the Snap button is engaged, the start and end points of your sample will snap to the
waveform zero-crossing points in order to avoid clicks or pops in playback.
To the right, the rest of the controls in the Sample tab work together with the Global Volume
Envelope in the Filter/Global tab to determine how your samples should be played back.
The Sample Start setting determines where the playback of the sample will begin when triggered,
while the Sample End setting determines where playback will end.
Sustain and Release
The various Sustain and Release modes, selected by clicking one of the buttons, as shown in Figure 8.16, specify a loop in playback to sustain your sound longer in a wide variety of interesting ways.
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Sustain Loop Sustain Loop
Back and
Forth Sustain
Loop Enabled
Release Release Release
Enabled Loop Enabled
Figure 8.16 The Sustain and Release mode buttons.
These buttons toggle between any of the Sustain and Release modes.
When the No Sustain Loop button is selected, the sample will play from beginning to end, until
either it reaches the sample end or the Volume Envelope (on the Filter/Global page) comes to the
end of its release stage, whichever comes first.
With the second button, Sustain Loop, enabled, the sample will play from the beginning until the
loop end, at which point it will revert to the loop start and begin looping.
The Back-and-Forth Sustain Loop button, the third button, plays the sample from the beginning
until reaching the loop end point, and then it will start playing backward until it reaches the loop
start, continually “looping” back and forth. Toggling the Link button automatically sets the
sample start to the same point as the loop start.
Activating Sustain Loop also allows you to enable Release Loop, a second loop that will occur
during the release portion of the sound. Like the Sustain Loop, the Release Loop has several
different modes. If the Release mode is off, the default, then the Master Volume Envelope’s
release stage will affect the sound during the Sustain Loop, and the sample will stop playing
at the end of the loop. When you toggle the Release Enabled button, the sample will play
through to the end once the Master Volume Envelope reaches the release stage.
Changing to the next button, Release Loop Enabled, means that the sample will play straight
through to the end and then jump back to the beginning of the Release Loop; it will keep looping
until the Master Volume Envelope reaches the end of its release.
Alternatively, with the next mode, Back-and-Forth Release Loop, enabled, the sample will play
until reaching the end of the Release Loop, and then it will start playing backward until it
reaches the Release Loop’s start and keep looping back and forth like this until the Master Volume Envelope reaches the end of its release.
In addition to these looping functions, there are also a few more helpful controls on the Sample tab.
The Sustain- and Release-Loop Crossfade (labeled Crossfade) settings set loop crossfades in
order to help remove pops and clicks in your audio that you may hear when you play back
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the sample loops. Experiment with different settings here to find the best results for a particular
You can also use the Sustain- and Release-Loop Detune (labeled Detune) parameters here to
make small adjustments in pitch as desired.
The Interpol (interpolation) control lets you decide which algorithm you want Sampler to use
when transposing samples. You can choose from No, Normal (the default), Good, Better, or
Best Interpolation. Your choice here can have a significant impact on the overall quality of
sound coming out of Sampler, but you also need to remember that selecting Better or Best
will increase the hit on your CPU.
You can engage the RAM mode switch if you want to load the entire multisampled instrument
into your computer’s RAM memory instead of streaming it from disk in real time (the default
mode). This will give you better performance when manipulating a sound in Sampler, but if you
have many samples loaded into RAM, this will eat up your available memory quickly and affect
the performance of your computer/software adversely. (By default, Sampler will load only the
beginning of each sound into memory at first and then stream the rest of the sound from your
hard drive as it plays.)
The next tabs include a number of controls that shape and modify the sound of your samples.
Let’s look at what you can do with them.
The Pitch/Osc Tab
The Pitch/Osc tab (see Figure 8.17) contains a range of controls for Sampler’s Modulation
Oscillator and Pitch Envelope, used to modulate the audio output from the playback in the
Sample tab.
Figure 8.17 The Pitch/Osc tab.
The Modulation Oscillator
The upper part of the Pitch/Osc tab is occupied by the controls for Sampler’s Modulation Oscillator. This oscillator makes no sound of its own, but it is used instead to modify your samples via
frequency or amplitude (FM or AM) modulation. You can toggle between these two modes
using the FM and AM buttons on the left side of the interface. If you use the Modulation
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Oscillator for amplitude modulation, you are affecting the volume; you can use this to create
interesting tremolo effects or other more radical changes in volume. Used for frequency modulation, the Modulation Oscillator can transform your samples by creating FM-style effects
reminiscent of Ableton’s FM-based synth Operator, described in the previous section.
The Modulation Oscillator’s control interface features an image of an envelope at left, showing
the ADSR Envelope stages for the oscillator. If you select a long attack time here, then the effect
of the oscillator will fade in slowly. You could use this with AM oscillation to create a tremolo
effect that slowly fades in after a note is struck, for example. You can change the envelope
settings by moving the breakpoints of the envelope itself or by adjusting the values in the
There is a range of waveforms to choose from for the Modulation Oscillator, including a selection of basic sine, sawtooth, and square waves. You can choose these in the drop-down chooser
labeled Type. You can also adjust a number of parameters here to affect the speed and synchronization properties of the waveform, whether or not it is synced with the tempo of your project.
The Pitch Envelope
The lower part of the Pitch/Osc tab contains an additional set of controls for a separate Pitch
Envelope. There is a Breakpoint Envelope here, as well as numerical controls. This envelope can
be used to create pitch changes in your samples. The setting just to the left of the envelope,
labeled Amount, will adjust the total amount of pitch-shifting effect in semitones.
The Filter/Global Tab
The Filter/Global tab (see Figure 8.18) contains the controls for Sampler’s powerful morphing
filter, as well as a Global Volume Envelope. Both of these affect the master output of Sampler.
Figure 8.18 The Filter/Global tab.
The Filter
The filter in Sampler has a number of different modes available, including a Morphing filter (M)
with 12dB and 24dB varieties, as well as standard low-pass, band-pass, and high-pass types. The
Morphing filter is interesting in that it can smoothly morph from one filter type to another, for
example, from low-pass to high-pass, sweeping across the frequency spectrum. Try routing the
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Morph control to an external MIDI controller and automating it for some very interesting filter
effects. The SVF filter type is new to Live 8 and behaves like the morphing filters but with a
different tonal characteristic.
The Volume Envelope
The Volume Envelope is a global envelope; it will affect how the final output of Sampler is
heard. You have standard Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release controls here, as well as Master
Volume and Pan controls. Use this to control the articulation of your entire multisampled
The Modulation Tab
The Modulation tab (see Figure 8.19) gives you four different modulation sources you can use to
continuously modulate and change nearly any parameter in Sampler. There is a Modulation
Envelope here, as well as three separate LFOs and a familiar range of controls.
Figure 8.19 The Modulation tab.
Modulation Envelope
The leftmost section of this tab is the interface for the Modulation Envelope. It can be switched
on by using the Aux button on the left edge of the interface. If you click the drop-down choosers
labeled A and B at the bottom of this part, you will see a long list of other parameters in Sampler.
Any of these can be selected as a destination to be modulated by the envelope. The A and B
choosers enable you to select two simultaneous modulation targets to be affected.
There are three LFOs here you can also use to modulate a wide variety of parameters in Sampler.
The first one, labeled LFO1, has four particular global parameters: Volume, Filter, Pan, and
Pitch. The other two, LFO2 and LFO3, can be freely assigned to a list of parameters in Sampler;
just as with the Modulation Envelope, the A and B choosers enable you to select two simultaneous modulation targets to be affected by each LFO.
Each of these LFOs can be set up to sync to the tempo of your Live Set or be timed in cycles per
second. You can choose which of these behaviors you want from each LFO by clicking on the Hz
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(Hertz) button or on the small button with a picture of a musical note just to the right of it. Then
use the control to the right of this (labeled Freq or Beats, depending on which mode you have
selected) to set the exact frequency of the oscillator. You can select from a variety of standard
waveforms for each LFO, such as square, sawtooth, and sine waves.
Additionally, the LFOs can be forced to start from the beginning of the cycle every time a key is
pressed by enabling the Retrig switch. With this turned off, the LFO will run freely. The Offset
control is particularly useful when using a synced LFO. For example, let’s say you’re modulating
a low-pass filter so that it rises to its peak value on every quarter note. By changing Offset to 90,
you’ll invert the pattern, so the peak frequency occurs on every offbeat instead.
The MIDI Tab
I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you that the MIDI tab (see Figure 8.20) is the place
where you set up MIDI modulation routings for Sampler. Here, you can use various MIDI
parameters as modulation inputs and use them to affect various parameters in Sampler. Let’s
look at how to do this.
Figure 8.20 The MIDI tab.
The interface here allows you to take the MIDI input from a number of specific parameters. The
MIDI parameters available as sources for modulations are listed along the left-hand edge of the
tab, including Key (pitch), Velocity, Off Vel (release velocity), Chan Pres (aftertouch), Mod
Wheel, and Pitch Bend. Any of these input sources can be mapped to two different modulation
destinations simultaneously, using the Destination A and Destination B drop-down choosers.
You can set the amount of modulation with the Amount A and Amount B controls. By routing
the Velocity parameter to control volume, you can make your samples play back more loudly or
softly when those channels receive higher or lower MIDI velocity messages, or for example,
when you play harder or software on your MIDI controller keyboard. (Note that you can
also do this with the Vol < Vel control on the Filter/Global page.)
These assignments can make a big difference in how responsive the sampled instrument is to
your touch. Have a look at the MIDI assignments in some of the SONiVOX instruments or
quality instruments from third-party companies to get some ideas about how these assignments
can be used to imitate the behavior of acoustic instruments or give you more control over purely
electronic sounds.
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Importing Third-Party Instruments
As mentioned previously, if you already own any collections of multisampled instruments in
AKAI, GigaStudio, Apple ESX24/Garageband, SoundFont, or Kontakt format, you can import
these into Sampler for easy access in Live. To import a third-party instrument into Sampler, find
the file in Live’s Browser and double-click it to import it. The third-party instrument will be
converted to a Sampler preset. You can see all of your imported instruments in the Device
Browser under Sampler 4 Imported (see Figure 8.21).
Figure 8.21 Looking at your imported third-party sample instruments in the Browser.
Some more complex multisampled instruments will be converted to Instrument Rack presets
using multiple instances of Sampler in order to better translate the sound of the original. For
most multisample formats, Live will import the audio samples into the Library, where they will
appear as new samples under Samples 4 Imported. However, note that in the case of Apple
EXS24/GarageBand and Kontakt multisample formats, Live will create new Sampler presets that
reference the original WAV or AIF sample files. This means that they will not work if you
remove the original WAV or AIF samples. (However, Live’s File Manager also offers the option
to collect and save these external samples into the Library if desired.)
The AAS Instruments
Live 7 was a big release for Live Instruments. This is when Ableton partnered with Applied
Acoustic Systems to deliver three new synthesizers based on physical modeling technology.
With Live 8, they’ve taken this partnership further with the introduction of Collision. Physical
modeling concerns itself with creating mathematical equations that imitate or “model” the
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behavior of real-world acoustical events. Three of these synthesizers—Collision, Electric, and
Tension—are based on familiar physical processes: hammers hitting tone bars and guitar
picks plucking strings, for example. Analog, on the other hand, models behavior that goes on
under the hood of an analog synthesizer, so from a synthesis standpoint, it’s going to be a bit
more familiar.
While this may sound fairly pedestrian, get ready for a major paradigm shift if you’ve never
worked with a modeling synth before. Because you’ll be working with controls that model physical events, you’ll need to be aware that many of the parameters affect each other dramatically.
Especially in the case of Tension, it’s possible to create patches that don’t create any sound at all!
You’ll need to think more in terms of inventing and playing an instrument, rather than twiddling
knobs. (Will a very smooth bow moved very quickly across a violin string with very little force
produce any sound? What if you move it slowly?)
With Live now sporting so many instruments, we could spend an entire book on them alone. By
necessity, we’ll focus on getting at the essential concepts to each instrument and give you some
ideas about how to dig in and create your own sounds.
Global Parameters
Analog, Electric, and Tension have a Global section that gives you control over the overall characteristics of the device. The parameters offered here are ones such as polyphony and pitch bend
range that aren’t particular to the type of modeling that the instrument does. So instead of covering them with each instrument, we’ll start out with this handy reference that can be applied to all
of them. Just bear in mind that each synth does not have every single one of these parameters.
Voices: Controls how many notes can sound at once. Reducing the number of voices will
save CPU power.
Semi: Transposes the entire range of this instrument in semitones.
Detune: Makes fine pitch adjustments to the entire range, to a maximum of 50 cents (one
half of a semitone).
Stretch: Allows the adjustment of the instrument’s temperament. Increasing this value will
change the tuning such that higher notes are slightly sharper and lower notes are slightly
flatter, which for pianos can result in a more natural and brilliant overall sound.
Pitch Bend: Controls how much the instrument will respond to pitch bend messages.
Adjustable from 0 for no response at all to 12 for a full octave of pitch bend.
Error: Introduces a random amount of tuning variation to each note (as might happen with
an unfretted string instrument like a cello).
Priority: Determines how the instrument handles the maximum number of voices (set by the
Voices parameter) being exceeded. When more notes are sounded than Voices permits,
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Priority will tell the instrument which notes to prioritize (and which to cut off): High (cuts
off the lowest notes first), Low (cuts off the highest notes first), or Last (cuts off the oldest
notes first).
Unison: The Unison switch copies the final output of your instrument, creating a stack of
either two or four voices. Unless used in conjunction with the Detune and Delay parameters,
all this does is make the signal louder. Slight detuning will create a chorusing effect, while
larger values can be used to create strange, out-of-tune harmonies. Increasing the Delay
amount will cause each of the additional layers to be delayed up to 100ms.
Portamento: Causes each note to slide into the next at a rate determined by the Time
parameter. With Legato enabled, only notes that overlap will slide together. The Proportional setting will automatically adjust the portamento time so that larger intervals slide
longer than shorter ones.
Electric, the simplest of the new Live instruments, is an electric-piano modeling synth (see
Figure 8.22). Instead of reproducing actual electric pianos through sampling, physical modeling
is used instead. This means that sound is produced via mathematical equations representing the
various physical aspects of the instrument itself.
Figure 8.22 Ableton’s new Electric gives you the power to design a wide array of electric pianos.
Electric’s interface is divided into four sections dedicated to different aspects of how an electric
piano produces sound: the mallet, the metal fork that gets struck by the mallet, the damper that
controls the tine’s resonance, and the magnetic pickup that converts the sound into electricity.
The fifth section, Global, deals with overall instrument settings that aren’t electric piano specific.
This section controls the characteristics of the mallet, or hammer, that causes the metal fork to
vibrate. Stiffness represents how hard the surface of the mallet is, so lower values will produce a
gentler attack, while higher values will tend to make the sound more percussive and less full
bodied. Force is the speed at which the mallet hits the fork, with higher values tending to produce more overdrive and “growl.” Since both of these controls affect how much the fork is made
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to vibrate, they interact with each other closely. For example, both values affect the overall
volume of the sound, but in different ways. A very hard mallet hitting the fork with a small
amount of force will tend to produce a hard attack, but a relatively weak overall sound. A
soft mallet hitting a fork very hard will produce a much fuller sound at a similar volume to
the first setting, but with a much weaker attack. Both of these parameters can be modulated
by both the velocity and the pitch of incoming MIDI notes. This is where physical modeling gets
interesting. It’s fairly intuitive to see that modulating the force with velocity will create a realworld situation whereby more force is applied as you strike the key harder. However, we are
also given the option of making our electric piano’s hammers get harder as we play louder (or
softer if you want).
The Noise subsection models the noise of the hammer hitting the fork, so it also affects the
attack of the piano sound. Noise, however, is independent of the tone that the fork produces.
Think of it as an additional percussive attack that you can blend in using the Level control to
give the sound more definition. To get a better understanding of how Noise affects the sound,
turn both of the Level controls in the Fork section down to 0% and play with the Noise Pitch
and Decay.
Some electric pianos, such as those made by Yamaha, use actual strings to produce sound—just
like an acoustic piano. The most familiar electric piano sound, however, is the sound of a hammer striking a metal tuning fork—the design of the famous Rhodes piano. The tuning fork consists of two distinct parts: a stiff metal wire (the “tine”) and a tuned metal resonator (the “tone
bar”). The tine is struck by the hammer, and it causes the resonator to vibrate, creating a distinct
To understand how the Tine and Tone subsections of the Fork work, start by turning the Level
control for Tone to 0% and the Level and Decay for the Tine to 100%. This will allow you to
hear clearly only the Tine portion of the sound. It sounds very much like you might imagine a
hammer hitting a stiff wire—a high frequency “ping” with very little body to the sound. Increasing the Color control will bring out more of the high frequencies, while reducing it will make the
sound darker. The Decay control can be used to make the sound range from a short percussive
hit to a drawn-out ring.
Once you have a handle on the Tine part of the sound, the Tone section is fairly self explanatory.
This is obviously the sound of the tuned resonator that produces the lion’s share of the piano’s
tone. Again, you can get familiar with this aspect of the piano’s sound by turning down the Level
control in the other sections and listening to it by itself. The Decay control adjusts how long the
note rings out while the key is held down, while the Release determines how long the note rings
after the key is released. Don’t expect to hear long release times like you would with a synth,
however. Because we’re modeling the behavior of a vibrating piece of metal in contact with a
damper (see the following section), the release time is necessarily fairly short.
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In a real electric piano, the dampers are what control the sustain feature of a note. When a key is
struck, the same mechanism that moves the mallet also moves the damper away from the fork so
it can resonate. When the key is released, the damper moves back into place, causing the tone
bar to stop ringing. In the Damper section, you can control both the hardness of the damper
surface and the noise made by the dampers moving back and forth.
As the Tone value is increased, harder dampers are modeled, and the damper noise becomes
brighter and more pronounced. The Att/Rel knob controls whether damper noise is heard on
the attack or the release of the note, with -100% being attack only, 100% being release only,
and 0% being both. To hear what the Damper section is doing, it’s easiest if you crank the Att/
Rel knob to 0% or greater so it sounds when the note is released. The damper noise on the attack
is much harder to hear since it’s masked by the attack of the piano. Also, it’s important to note
that the amount of damper noise heard can be affected greatly by the Pickup settings.
Much like an electric guitar, the vibrations produced by a mallet-striking fork are converted into
an electrical signal through the use of a pickup, so they can be amplified. The Pickup section
customizes the design and position of the pickup, which has a huge impact on the final sound.
Before looking at the knobs, you’ll want to turn your attention to the pickup type (the R and
W buttons in the lower left-hand corner of the Pickup section). When set to W, the pickups have
the high-end bite typical of the electrostatic pickups in a Wurlitzer piano. The R setting has the
pronounced mids and full low-end associated with a Rhodes piano’s magnetic pickups.
To get familiar with the Symm and Distance controls, start out with Distance at 100% and
Symm at 0%. Symm controls the pickup’s symmetry in relation to the fork. At 50%, the pickup
is centered directly in front of the tine. Moving the knob to the left moves the pickup increasingly above the tine, emphasizing the higher harmonics, while moving it to the right shifts the
pickup position lower, emphasizing lower harmonics. Note the dramatic change as you sweep
symmetry from 0 to 100%.
Distance controls how far from the fork the pickup is. The farther away the pickup is from the fork,
the more spectrally balanced the sound will be, while moving it closer will emphasize the frequencies
produced by the part of the fork it is closest to and will produce more overdrive. Adjusting the distance
has a different effect, depending on what type of pickup you are using. In the case of the W pickup,
decreasing the distance will increase the high-end bite and decrease the amount of bass overall. The R
pickup works a little differently. First, watch your speakers and your ears because decreasing the
distance of the R pickup increases the volume of the sound. As the R pickup is moved closer, there
is an overall increase in drive and intensity in the highs and mids without much low-end attenuation.
The Global section gives you control over the overall characteristics of Electric. For information
on this section, see the “Global Parameters” section, earlier in this chapter.
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Tension is the most interesting and unusual beast of the new Ableton instruments (see Figure 8.23).
As a “string-modeling” synth, it takes the modeling concepts that we saw in Electric to a whole
different level. Where Electric models a specific type of instrument, Tension applies modeling
generically to the entire range of stringed instruments, ranging from cellos to pianos. The many
parameters offered by this instrument also give us the opportunity to create some bizarre sounding instruments that could never exist in the real world.
Figure 8.23 Tension allows you to create stringed instruments of many different types, including oddities such as a violin played with piano hammers.
The Tension interface is broken into several sections modeling different aspects of a stringed
instrument: the Excitator that causes the string to vibrate; the Damper that reduces the string’s
vibrations; and the Termination, which emulates the effects of fingers and frets, the type and size
of the instrument’s body, the pickup for emulating electric instruments, and finally the string
itself. Tension also features a second page of parameters for the filter and other aspects of the
instrument not related to string modeling.
Note that each section has an on/off switch next to the section name, allowing you to bypass a
set of parameters completely. While learning how to use Tension, it’s going to be helpful to turn
off other sections while learning a new one. It’s a necessary evil (or benefit) of modeling that
many parameters closely interact with each other. For example, a bow that is applied to a string
with very little force will only produce sound if the bow is moved very slowly. There are many
such interactions in this instrument.
This first section deals with one of the most fundamental aspects of any stringed instrument: the
physical relationship between the string and the object that “excites” it into motion. Here we
can choose to use a bow, a piano hammer, or a plectrum (pick) to get our sound going. Depending on the Excitator you choose from the menu, you’ll be presented with different parameters for
defining the object you’ve chosen and the way that it’s used. With this section turned off, you’ll
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probably get no sound at all out of Tension, although it is possible to create sounds that consist
of damper noise and the string’s decay.
For a bow, you’ll first see the parameters for Force (how hard the bow is pushed against the
string) and for Friction (the amount that the bow material naturally resists the string). Velocity
determines the speed at which the bow is moving, while Position moves the bow all the way
from the string’s end (0%) to its midpoint (50%).
Hammers have a totally different set of parameters. You can adjust the mass and stiffness of the
hammer, followed by the speed at which it hits the string (Velocity) and the hammer’s location
(Position). The final control, Damping, controls the stiffness of the mechanism that brings the
hammer into contact with the string. At higher values, the action is very “springy,” so the hammer bounces right off the string, allowing it to vibrate loudly. At lower values, the hammer
action is very stiff, muting the string somewhat as it lands firmly upon it.
Hammer (bouncing) simulates a hammer that is dropped onto the string and allowed to bounce
multiple times. Again, here you see a complex interaction of forces. Generally speaking, the
velocity is going to have the largest effect on how much the hammer bounces, with low values
producing little volume, a series of rapid bounces that can become as subtle as a slight buzz, and
the highest values emulating the behavior of a hammer dropped from a very great height, producing a long trail of bounces with several seconds between the initial attack and the first
A plectrum is a fancy name for a guitar pick. It has the same set of parameters as a hammer, with
the exception of protrusion, which replaces mass. Protrusion specifies the amount of the surface of
the pick that comes in contact with the string. Lower values mean just the tip of the pick is being
used to pluck the string, while higher values use more of the pick and result in a louder sound.
The Damper section controls how the string is made to stop vibrating. In the case of a piano, it
emulates the behavior of the felt dampers coming into contact with the strings when the key is
released (and the sustain pedal is off). In the case of a guitar, the damper could be the guitarist
reducing the pressure on the string with the fingering hand or using the palm of the strumming
hand to mute the strings.
Looking at the Damper’s controls, you’ll see that they are the same as those of the Hammer in
the Excitator section. This makes sense, because the sound produced by the damper is affected
by all of the same qualities—the overall mass, the stiffness of the damper’s surface, the velocity
with which it comes into contact with the string, and its position along the length of the string.
The final control, Damping, determines how stiff the damper mechanism is.
Here is where we set the properties of the string itself. The Decay and Ratio work closely with
one another. The Decay setting controls both the string’s initial decay time (right after the
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attack) and the release time (after the key is released). With Ratio set to 0, the string’s decay will
begin after the note is struck and continue to decay naturally, regardless of how quickly the key
is released. At 100, the note will decay naturally as long as the key is held down but will cut off
abruptly as soon as the key is released. To get a better sense of this, set Decay to a high value and
then experiment with different Ratio values, making sure to test each value with both a long key
press and a short one.
The Key value can also be used to control how much note pitch will modulate the decay time. The
trick here is that since we’re modeling real-world strings, lower notes will always decay longer than
higher ones. (Just imagine what happens when you hit the lowest note and the highest note on a
piano with the sustain pedal on.) The Key control modulates this natural behavior. So by raising
this value you can make the higher notes ring longer and the lower notes shorter than they usually
would. Lowering the Key value will exaggerate the instrument’s natural decay behavior.
The Inharmonic and Damper controls both affect the tone of the instrument in dramatic ways.
Inharmonic controls how much the upper partials of the string are out of tune with the harmonic
series. As opposed to a theoretical perfect string that produces a perfectly pure tone, strings in
the real world have inharmonic qualities. Depending on the Excitator you are using, you’ll
notice different effects from increasing this value. With a bow, the upper frequencies of the
sound will become more like noise, whereas a hammered string will simply begin to sound
more out of tune with itself as the higher harmonics are detuned.
Termination and Pickup
Termination applies to stringed instruments that are fingered. In other words, an individual string is
“terminated” or ended on one of its ends by a finger, and possibly a fret, as opposed to a piano or a
dulcimer, where the strings are fixed between two pegs and tuned to the desired pitch.
The Finger Mass refers to the force that is being applied with the finger. At lower values, the
pitch becomes less distinct as the string is terminated in a less stable fashion. If Fret Stiffness is
increased with a low Finger Mass setting, you will hear the string buzzing against the fret, much
like it did during your first guitar lesson! With a low Frett Stiffness, you’ll generally get a less
distinct pitch from the string—unless, that is, you increase the Finger Stiffness to compensate for
the lack of clear frets on the neck.
Switching on the Pickup section changes the sound from that of an acoustic instrument to the
output of a magnetic pickup. The Position control changes the location of the pickup. At 0, the
pickup is placed at the string’s termination point, much like the bridge pickup on an electric
guitar. As the value is increased to 50, the pickup is moved closer to the midpoint of the string,
more like an electric guitar’s neck pickup.
The Body serves two purposes in the creation of our modeled string instruments. First, the
instrument body acts as an amplifier of the strings’ vibrations, which can add additional fullness
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and a longer decay to the sound. The Body also filters the frequencies that it radiates, further
coloring the final sound.
To get an understanding of the different body types, try experimenting with different ones, first
setting High and Low Cut to 0 and setting the Str/Body ratio to 100 (all body sound, no direct
string sound). Turning up the Decay as well will tend to exaggerate the effect of the body and
make its effects even clearer. As you might expect, a piano body offers the smoothest response
across the frequency spectrum, while the violin body tends to bring out the higher frequencies
more. Next to the Body Type menu, there is a menu to select the size, ranging from extra small
to extra large. Larger body sizes tend to make the instrument sound more diffuse and further
away, while smaller sizes make the instrument sound closer and more present.
The Filter section (see Figure 8.24) is located on Tension’s second page of parameters and consists of a multimode filter that can be modulated with both an envelope and an LFO. In addition
to the common filter types, you’ll also find a formant filter (F6 and F12 in the Filter menu),
which is a filter modeled on the resonance of the human vocal tract. Adjusting the resonance
of this filter sweeps through the vowel sounds A, E, I, O, U and is capable of producing some
very powerful resonant frequencies, so be prepared to lower the output volume, or you may find
yourself running into some nasty distortion. Below the Frequency and Resonance controls, you’ll
find additional controls to specify how much you want these values to be modulated by the
envelope and the LFO.
Figure 8.24 The Filter section can be used to give some additional flavor to your modeled string
For the Global parameters, see the “Global Parameters” section, earlier in this chapter.
Analog is Ableton’s take on a classic subtractive synthesizer (see Figure 8.25). Two oscillators
and a noise generator feed two filters and two output amplifiers. There are two independent
LFOs that can be used to modulate nearly any aspect of the sound, and each module has its
own Envelope section as well. So much has been written about the principles of subtractive
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syntheses that instead of covering all of this ground for the millionth time, we’re going to focus
most of our energy in this section on what makes this little synth unique.
Figure 8.25 Analog is a powerful analog-style subtractive synthesizer.
Analog’s interface is similar to Operator in that it is divided into a series of modules that surround a center window that will be updated to provide additional parameters for whichever
module is currently selected. Again, here we will use the terminology shell to refer to the
basic controls in the outer ring of the interface and display to refer to the center window.
The modules for Analog are as follows: two oscillators, a noise generator, two filters and amplifiers, the LFOs, and finally the Master. Clicking anywhere in any of these modules will change
Analog’s display to show its envelopes, LFO routing, or any other parameters that may apply.
Finally, also note that the name of each section (for example, Osc1) is also a switch that can be
used to turn the module on or off.
Oscillators and Noise
The oscillators are where the sound begins. In the Osc modules, you can select the shape of the
waveform, adjust its volume and tuning, and set whether it gets routed to Filter 1, Filter 2, or
both. The default value for filter routing is 50/50, meaning the signal is split equally to both
filters. Dragging up or down in this control will show the ratio of how much signal is distributed
to each filter until the display reads F1 (Filter 1 only) or F2 (Filter 2 only), at which point the
signal is no longer split between the two filters.
With the Osc1 or Osc2 module selected, the display contains controls for adjusting the oscillator’s
pitch, pulse width, and optional sub or sync oscillator. A graphical display on the left can be
used to make the oscillator’s pitch rise or fall into its target pitch. This display corresponds to the
Pitch Env Initial (the starting pitch) and Time (how long it takes to reach the final pitch) controls, seen to the right. Below, you can determine if the pitch is to be modulated by the LFO. The
LFOs are “hard wired” to their corresponding oscillators—Osc1 can only be modulated by
LFO1, and Osc2 can only be modulated by LFO2.
The Pulse Width section is only enabled when a square wave is selected as the waveform shape.
Try sweeping this from 0 to 100, and you’ll hear the tone go from being narrow and pinched to
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big and fat. Modulating the Pulse Width with the LFO is a great way to add some subtle movement to your sound. Note that unless the LFO is actually switched on, the LFO modulation
amount will be disabled.
Hidden within each Oscillator module is a second oscillator that can be controlled via the Sub/
Sync section. When Mode is set to Sub, an additional note will sound one octave below the pitch
of the main oscillator. The volume of the Sub tone is set by the Level control. If you want some
real nastiness, however, try setting Mode to Sync. When set to Sync, the additional oscillator is
not heard directly. Rather, it is used to control the main oscillator by forcing it to restart from
the beginning of the waveform for each cycle of the sync oscillator. This changes the harmonic
content of the main oscillator, with the pitch and intensity increasing as you increase the Ratio
(the frequency of the sync oscillator).
Finally, in between the two oscillators is the Noise module, a sound generator that produces white
noise. Noise has many uses—not only in producing percussion sounds, but also for adding a bit of
extra attack or texture to an otherwise dark sound. All of the controls for Noise are located in the
shell. The filter routing works just like it does for the oscillators, and the Color control is a simple
low-pass filter that can be used to reduce the high-frequency content of the noise.
Filters and Amplifiers
Once the sound wave leaves the Oscillator module, it proceeds on to the filters. While filters are
an essential part of most sounds, strictly speaking they do not need to be used. Both Filter modules can be turned off, and Analog will work just fine. Which filter(s) will be used to shape your
sound is determined by the filter routing in the Oscillator modules.
While the two filters are essentially identical, they do have a few subtle differences. Both have
menus for selecting a filter type and the usual frequency and resonance controls. The first difference between the two is that Filter 1 has a control called “To F2,” which can be used to send
the output of Filter 1 to Filter 2. This gives you the option of running the two filters in series (one
after another) instead of in parallel. To fully understand what is possible here, it’s also important
to understand that the filters and the amps are hard wired to each other—in other words, Filter 1
automatically is passed to Amp 1, while the same holds true for Filter 2 and Amp 2. So, even if you
route Filter 1 to Filter 2, it will still be going to Amp 1.
Let’s look at an example. For starters, we’ll assume that we have both filters and both amps
turned on, and that both of our oscillators are routed to Filter 1 only. Filter 1 is set to send 100%
of its signal to Filter 2. This causes the output of Filter 1 to be sent both to Amp 1 and Filter 2,
because the To F2 control is a send—it taps the signal and passes it to the second filter without
interrupting the signal flow to Amp 1. This means that if you want to truly hear the filters operate in series, you need to turn Amp 1 off completely. Now the signal will flow from Filter 1 to
Filter 2 to Amp 2 and then on to the master output. If you leave Amp 1 turned on, you’ll hear a
combination of the output of Filter 1 along with the output of Filter 1 and Filter 2 running in
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Filter 2 features a Slave switch, which allows its cutoff frequency to be controlled from Filter 1.
With Slave enabled, the Frequency control of Filter 2 controls the difference between the two
cutoff frequencies. This could be used to create a dual filter with two peaks that are always the
same distance apart. Then, whenever Filter 1 is modulated, whether manually or by an LFO,
Filter 2 will follow it.
With either of the filters selected, Analog’s display will display options for the envelope (see
below), as well as a few other options. Selecting a drive mode will cause the filter to overdrive,
with the Asymmetrical modes tending to create a more harmonically rich-sounding distortion
and the Symmetrical modes being a bit on the nastier side. The Frequency Mod and Resonance
Mode sections specify how much the filters are modulated by the LFOs, the pitch (Key), and the
envelope. The display looks nearly identical when the Amp modules are selected, the only difference being there is no Drive control, and the Modulation section applies to Volume and Pan.
Filters and Amp Envelopes
Since the Envelope sections for the filters and the amplifiers are identical in design, we’ll discuss
them both together. The envelope is an ASDR (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release) Envelope that can
be adjusted either by dragging the breakpoints in the graphical display or by changing the values in
the numerical display to the right. In the numerical part of the Envelope display, you’ll see one
special value in addition to the usual ASDR values: Sustain Time. The standard Sustain value is a
decibel level—the volume that the note sustains at while you hold the key down. By default, Sustain
Time is set to “inf,” meaning that the note will sustain indefinitely as long as the key is held. Sustain
Time specifies a length of time that the note will decay over, even if the note is held down.
At the far right of the Envelope display, you’ll see the Loop menu, which creates some very
interesting variations to your sound. By selecting one of the loop modes, you’ll be telling Analog
to repeat a part of the envelope instead of playing it through start to finish. AD-R will repeat the
Attack and Decay portions of the envelope until the key is released, while ADR-R will repeat the
Release portion as well. This makes it possible to use the envelope as more of an LFO, cycling
through a series of values. When ADS-AR is selected, the envelope works normally until the key
is released, at which point the Attack portion repeats before the Release, which could be used to
create an additional swelling or short attack at the end of each note.
Looking to the left, there are a few switches above the graphical display that are worth mentioning. First, the Linear and Exponential switches are used to control the type of slope that occurs
between the envelope’s breakpoints. Linear slopes are increments or decrements in value that
change at a constant rate over the time of the envelope segments (which is a fancy way of saying
they are straight lines!). Exponential slopes start out as straight lines but curve more dramatically
toward their destination point as they get closer. Because exponential curves tend to approach
their target value very quickly before curving, they sound shorter than linear envelopes.
The Legato switch can be used to make your envelopes sound more, you guessed it…legato! In
practice, this means that instead of the envelope starting over every time a new note sounds, the
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envelope will continue if the two notes overlap. In other words, if a new note is played while
another is held down, the new note’s envelope will start at the existing note’s envelope position
instead of beginning from the Attack phase. Finally, the Free switch can be used to bypass the
Sustain portion of the envelope. Since the envelope will now jump from the Decay to the Release
phase, it will always be the same, regardless of how long the note is held. The most common
example of a Free Envelope is a percussion sound—a short Attack and Decay phase immediately
followed by a Release.
Making Filter Envelopes Work If you’re finding that adjusting your Filter Envelopes isn’t
doing anything, it’s probably because you haven’t entered a value in either of the envelope (Env) fields for the filter. Unlike the Volume Envelope (which works automatically),
you have to specify how much the Filter Envelope should be modulating the filter’s frequency or resonance, or it won’t do anything at all! In the display, enter an envelope
amount under Freq Mod or Res Mod to specify how much the filter should be modulated
by the envelope. Bear in mind that the frequency or resonance value shown in the shell is
the starting value for the filter. The Env field can then be set to a positive or negative value
to indicate whether the envelope should be increasing or decreasing that value as the
envelope plays.
The two LFOs are completely independent of each other and can be used to control a variety of
other parameters, as discussed in the previous sections. The only control here is the Rate, since
the LFO amount is controlled within the module that it is being used to modulate. The rest of the
controls for the LFO are located in the center window.
Use the Wave and Width selectors to control the shape of the LFO. When the Triangle wave is
selected, the Width control can be used to change the wave shape to ramp up or ramp down.
With Rectified selected and Width at 50%, the LFO is a square wave, while modulating Width
in either direction changes the pulse width. Retrig (the R switch) controls whether or not the
LFO starts over (is “retriggered”) with each key press.
Offset is used to adjust the phase of the wave. With a tempo-synced LFO, this could be used to
move the peaks of the wave that occur before or after the beat. Delay will wait a specified length
of time after a keypress to begin the LFO, while Attack will cause the amplitude of the wave to
fade in over the amount of time specified.
Most of Analog’s Global parameters are covered in the “Global Parameters” section, earlier in
this chapter, but a few things warrant special attention. The first switch in this section turns
Vibrato on or off. Vibrato is a simple LFO that modulates the pitch of the oscillators. Only
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two controls are available here: the Amount, which controls the depth of the modulation, and
the Rate, which controls the speed. The last switch in this section is marked “Gli” for Glide. For
information on Glide, refer to the “Portamento” section, earlier in this chapter.
At the left-hand side of the display, you’ll see some colored boxes. These are Quick Routing
schemes, which can help speed the process of setting up a new patch. Unlike the similar-looking
algorithms in Operator, these shortcuts are just timesavers—all they do is set the filter routing
and turn the amplifiers on and off. For example, clicking on Quick Routing 4 (in the lower righthand corner) sends both oscillators into Filter 1, the output of Filter 1 into Filter 2, and turns off
Amp 1 so that only the output of Amp 2 is heard.
New to Live 8, Collision takes the concept of designing percussion sounds to a whole new level.
Just as Tension can be used to create either familiar stringed instruments or otherworldly beasts,
Collision is just as much at home producing the sound of a marimba or, let’s say, a hybrid hand
drum/metal tube with a decay of 25 seconds!
Figure 8.26 Collision: Ableton’s new percussion powerhouse.
Before getting too deeply into the unique details of Collision, I recommend that you at least read
over the section on Electric. It’s a far simpler instrument that covers some of the important
concepts of physical modeling, and since an electric piano is essentially a percussion instrument,
it’s particularly relevant here. Tension also contains some important concepts that we’ll be discussing here, too. In particular, Tension uses the concept of a designable Excitator—namely, an
object with changeable characteristics that is used to strike a resonating object. In the case of
Tension, the struck object is some sort of string. In Collision, it’s a variety of different objects
associated with different kinds of percussion instruments. For the initial experiments below, find
the menu in the Resonators section that contains the different resonator types and set it to Plate.
The first similarity to Electric that you’ll notice in Collision is the presence of percentage boxes
marked Key and Vel (sometimes K and V to save space), located below a number of the controls.
These are here to map the controls so they follow the velocity of the incoming MIDI messages or
the pitch. Negative values are allowed here as well, so you can have controls change in inverse
proportion to velocity and key.
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The Excitator section of Collision is broken into two parts: Mallet and Noise. Mallet is fairly
straightforward. Looking at the far left, you’ll see Volume and Stiffness. Stiffness controls the
relative softness or hardness of the mallet. You’ll find that as you increase it from 0%, the sound
generally gets louder and brighter up until around 60%, after which the sound continues getting
brighter, but the overall loudness is decreased as it starts producing fewer low harmonics. The
Volume control simply controls the overall level of the Mallet excitator. The only reason this is
needed is because there is a second, entirely independent excitator, and you may need to balance
the relative levels of the two. For now, just make sure that it is turned up loud enough for you to
hear Collision’s output clearly.
Moving over to the next column of knobs, you see Noise and Color. Noise refers to the sound
that is made by the mallet coming into contact with the resonating object. So, for this to make
sense, you have to think of the sound as containing two distinct sounds—the initial impact of the
objects colliding, followed by the resonance of the struck object. Like the Mallet’s Stiffness control, the Noise parameter tends to decrease low harmonics and overall volume above 60%. Try
this experiment: Park the Stiffness and Color controls at about 50% and Noise at 0%. Slowly
increase the Noise control until you can start to hear a flinty “chiff” sound in the initial impulse.
Now, turn down the Stiffness. You’ll hear the fundamental pitch of the resonator get less distinct, and the noise component of the sound will become much clearer and more noticeable.
Next, sweep the Color control back and forth, and you’ll be able to clearly hear how this adjusts
the harmonic content of the noise.
The next section over is the Noise excitator, which can be turned on by clicking in the box next
to the word Noise. This is a slightly strange beast because, while it acts as a physical object that
causes the resonator to vibrate, it does not have any real-world counterpart. Rather, it’s an imaginary object that consists only of a burst of noise. It can be used in conjunction with, or instead
of, the Mallet excitator. Just bear in mind that you must use one or the other if you want Collision to produce any sound at all.
For now, turn off the Mallet excitator so you can hear the Noise section on its own. You’ll find
that this produces a similar sound to the Noise control we worked with previously, but is far
more customizable. When you first turn it on, you may not notice much sound coming out. If
this is the case, increase the Volume control and also have a look at the Filter section immediately to the left. As you increase the cutoff frequency of the low-pass filter (using either the
graphical or the numeric display), you’ll be able to hear the noise more clearly, and you’ll
also notice the sound of the resonator getting brighter as well. The Filter section contains
your basic filter types, along with an LP+HP filter, which combines a high-pass and a lowpass filter to produce a very flexible band-pass type filter.
What makes the Noise section really interesting is the envelope below. By adjusting the phases of
the ADSR Envelope, you can create a completely different pallet of sounds as a long sustained
noise signal vibrates the resonator, more like a bow than a mallet or stick. Try increasing the
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Attack to one or two seconds, and you’ll hear what I mean (Figure 8.26 shows this configuration). Also, take a look above the Envelope display, and you’ll see that there’s a percentage box
marked E below the Filter display. This applies the envelope to the filter frequency as well. If you
need more info on ADSR Envelopes, brush up on them in the sections on Simpler and Analog.
Continuing over to the right, we get into the Resonators section, which has the biggest impact on
the overall sound. First, we come to the Pitch section, which contains some controls that should
be relatively familiar. Tune controls the overall tuning of the instrument in semitones, while Fine
tunes Collision in cents (100ths of a semitone). Notice that below the Tune knob it is mapped
100% to Key, which makes it fully responsive to the notes on your MIDI keyboard. Adjusting
this value will allow you to make some more unusually tuned instruments. For example, with
Key set to 50%, a movement of a semitone on your keyboard will only produce a change of a
quarter tone in Collision, and so on.
The Pitch Envelope controls determine whether or not Collision reaches its target pitch immediately after it receives note input, or if it slides into the final pitch. Time determines the length
of the slide, while Pitch controls how much higher or lower than the target the initial pitch is.
If you’re new to synth programming and really want to get a handle on this instrument, this
would probably be a good time to stop reading for a bit and make sure that you really know how
to get around the controls we’ve dealt with so far. The rest of the controls in the Resonator
section are very important because they’re going to introduce a lot more complexity, and it’s
often easier to digest this sort of material in chunks.
The next section over determines the physical properties of the Resonator, in other words, the
primary component of the instrument itself. If you’ve followed along with the previous experiments, this would be a good time to switch back to the Mallet excitator and turn the Noise
section off, just to keep things simple. The easiest aspect of the Resonator to set is the type,
which is specified in the menu we set to Plate at the beginning of this section. Six of the resonator
types fit into three categories: beams, planes, and cylinders. There’s also a string type resonator,
which in terms of its parameters is identical to the beams.
Beams are not what get emitted from your light saber—instead, think of the beams in your ceiling. These are the bars that you strike when playing a xylophone or vibraphone. Marimba is
simply a special type of beam that has a deep arch cut out from the bottom. Membrane and Plate
are two types that I’m describing as planes because they are both thin, flat surfaces—membranes
being a flexible material stretched tightly, such as a drum head, and plates being flat pieces of
metal. Finally, Tubes and Pipes are both cylindrical objects, the only difference being that Pipes
are open at both ends, while Tubes are closed.
The controls below vary somewhat, depending on the type of resonator you’ve selected. The
simplest resonator is Tube, so let’s look at that first. The only controls available here are
Decay and Radius. Decay is common to all the resonators and is probably the simplest to
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understand: This is how long it takes for the resonator to decay to silence. Radius determines the
width of the Tube and has a major impact on the high harmonics produced. A low Radius
produces a subtle subby sound that could sound great layered in with a kick drum or bass
sound. Switching over to Pipe, you may not notice much of a difference in the sound. The
only difference in the controls available here is Opening, and when this control is at 100%,
it’s nearly identical to Tube. As you decrease Opening from 100%, you’ll hear a high-frequency
buzzing in the sound get louder and more complex.
For all of the other resonator types, the Radius control is replaced by Material. While this control represents a different physical property, in practice, it is very similar. Going from low to
high values takes you through a range of tonal possibilities from dark and deep to extremely
bright. You’ll also notice that when selecting a resonator other than the two cylinders, the Quality menu becomes enabled. This feature controls how complex the harmonics generated by Collision are and therefore the CPU usage.
The remaining physical property controls are as follows:
Ratio: This control only exists for the Membrane and Plate types and controls the overall
shape and size of the resonator. Higher values produce much more complex harmonics and
produce a less distinct pitch. This control interacts heavily with the Quality menu, which
determines how complex the overtones can get.
Brightness: Acts like a master tone control. Low values heavily favor low harmonics and can
produce some serious volume, so watch your ears!
Inharmonics: This is a pitch control for the overtones produced by the resonator. The most
important thing to know about this control is that it is extremely sensitive (especially with
Quality set to Full) and sometimes produces unexpected results. Try adjusting this control
using your arrow keys, 1% at time.
Listening: Labeled ListeningL and ListeningR, these controls are easiest to understand if you
think of them as controlling the placement of a pair of microphones being used to record
your virtual percussion instrument. They both affect the tonal characteristics of the sound
and the stereo field. When they are set to the same value, you’ll get a mono sound, while
adjusting them to opposing values gives you a much wider sound.
Hit: If you’ve ever played drums, you know that they produce a very different sound,
depending on where you hit the skin. The Hit control moves the point of impact from the
center to the edge as you increase its value. This produces a minimal change for all of the
resonators except Membrane and Plate.
Bleed: Increasing the Bleed mixes in more of the unprocessed sound of the excitator. With
Quality set to full, this doesn’t have much impact since the excitator tends to get lost in the
harmonics. With Quality set to basic, however, turning this value up can create some very
interesting timbres.
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The only other controls that you may find unfamiliar here are the Structure switches, which
brings us to an important aspect of Collision. You actually have two resonators (selectable
via the tabs at the top of the interface) to work with when designing your sound. Structure
determines whether the output of Resonator 1 will be sent to Resonator 2 for further processing
(142), or if both resonators will act in parallel as if they were being struck simultaneously by the
same excitator (1+2).
By default, Resonator 2 is turned off, so you’ll have to click on its on/off switch in the tab if you
want it to be used. Also, you can edit both resonators simultaneously by clicking the link icon in
between the two tabs or make both identical by using the Copy button above the Ratio control.
Be aware that using both resonators (especially when running in series) can produce some serious gain, so be careful when you turn on Resonator 2.
The LFO and MIDI Tabs
You may think of LFOs as primarily being useful for sounds, like strings and pads, where you
can use them to give a sound motion. But for designing traditional percussion sounds, LFOs
offer some interesting options. For example, with Retrig off and a nice slow Rate, you can
use an LFO to modulate a resonator’s Pitch or Hit parameter, so that every time you strike a
note it has a slightly different quality (see Figure 8.27).
Figure 8.27 An example of Collision’s LFO in action.
The LFO and MIDI sections of Collision are very similar to those of Sampler, although the MIDI
mapping implementation for Collision is much simpler. Please refer to the “Sampler” section,
earlier in this chapter, for a further discussion of these controls.
Drum Racks
For many of us, Drum Racks are one of the best things to happen to drum programming in a
long time. A Drum Rack is an Instrument Rack that is customized for … drum roll please … programming drums. While Drum Racks have much in common with standard Instrument Racks,
they have a number of unique features. We’ll focus on those features in this section.
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What’s particularly interesting about Drum Racks is that they have no built-in synthesis or sample playback capabilities. As opposed to powerful, complex plug-ins like Battery 3 and Stylus
RMX, a basic Drum Rack is incredibly simple. The beauty of the Drum Rack is that it can be
powerful and complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Instead of having to deal with piles of
features from day one, you get to decide how involved your Drum Racks are. When you’re
learning, you can keep them simple. As you get more comfortable, you can turn them into programming monsters using Macros, nested Racks, effects, and MIDI devices.
Pads and Chains
When an empty Drum Rack is dropped onto a track, it appears as 16 pads, each one displaying
the name of the MIDI note it is mapped to (see Figure 8.28). While only 16 pads can be displayed at a time, there are actually 128 pads available—one for each possible MIDI note. The
grid to the right of the pads shows an overview of all 127, while the black square highlights
which 16 are in view. Drag the square to show a different group of pads.
Figure 8.28 An empty Drum Rack.
Pad Control If you use a pad controller that’s listed as one of Live’s supported Control
Surfaces (such as the Akai MPD32 or the M-Audio Trigger Finger), you’re in for a treat.
Set up your controller as a Control Surface in the MIDI tab of the Preferences dialog. Then
record-arm your Drum Rack track, click in the title bar, and Live will hand over control to
your Control Surface.
If your Control Surface is set up properly, the 16 pads on your controller will always stay
mapped to the 16 pads that are in view for the Drum Rack. If it’s not working, make sure
that you are on the default preset for your controller (try preset #1). If it still doesn’t
work, you may need to do a preset dump. Check the documentation to determine how
your device receives dumps; then click the Dump button next to your controller in the
MIDI Preferences tab. Live will transmit the data to configure your controller properly.
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Creating a basic drum kit with a Drum Rack is easy. Just drop a drum sample from the Browser
onto any pad. Once you’ve dropped the sample, the pad will be updated to display the sample
name instead of the note name. A play button for previewing the sample will appear, as will
mute and solo switches. To see what’s going on under the hood, you’ll need to look at the Chain
List and the Devices of the Rack. The buttons for showing these are to the left side of the pads
and look and function identically to those on a standard Instrument Rack. After you’ve clicked
the Show Chains button, a few buttons that are unique to Drum Racks appear in the lower lefthand corner (see Figure 8.29).
Auto Select Chain
Show Chain I/O
Show Sends
Show Returns
Figure 8.29 These buttons give you access to the custom features of Drum Rack Chains. They are only
visible when the Show Chains button is highlighted.
The first button, Auto Select, makes it easy to find and view the chain you want by automatically
showing the chain for the last pad that was triggered. The next shows additional Input and
Output options for the chains. With this turned on, you can view the MIDI routing options
and choke groups for each chain (see Figure 8.30). The Audio To setting is used only for Return
Chains, which we’ll discuss later. The bottom two buttons, marked S and R, are for viewing the
sends and returns. Yes, Drum Racks have their own Send/Return bussing system!
Figure 8.30 Our new Drum Rack with the chains, devices, and I/O shown.
First, notice the far right-hand side of the Rack. As I mentioned a moment ago, Drum Racks
have no built-in sample playback capability, so here you’ll see that Ableton’s solution to this is to
automatically create a Simpler when a sample is dropped onto a pad. The Simpler offers loads of
options for tweaking the playback of the sample, so this is an excellent solution. There’s no
reason, however, that you need to use the Simpler to play back your samples, nor is there
any reason that your Drum Racks need to be based on sample playback. You can just as easily
drop a synth onto a pad and use synthesis to create your drum sounds.
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Once you’ve picked out some samples or synths and gotten a basic drum kit together, you can
start customizing your sounds with effects. Drop a Saturator into your snare chain to add some
extra bite, or a Velocity device into your hi-hat chain to generate some random velocity variations. See where this is going? Your Drum Racks can become completely customized beasts with
features that can rival any drum program out there. Your imagination is really the only limit.
It’s also important to note here that a pad isn’t limited to triggering only one sampler or synth.
Want to create a sound that consists of several layers of samples, or synths, or both? No problem. You can create a layered sound out of several samples in one step, if you want. Simply select
a group of samples in the Browser and hold down Ctrl/Cmd while dropping the samples onto the
pad. Live will automatically create a nested rack with one chain for each sample (see Figure 8.31).
Triggering the pad will play all of the samples simultaneously.
Figure 8.31 Here’s a chain in a Drum Rack that triggers both a kick drum sample and an Analog instrument, for some low-end madness.
If you want to create layered sounds manually, just navigate to the device you want to add
additional layers to and use Ctrl/CmdþG to insert the device into an Instrument Rack. Now
you can create layers by adding chains to the new Rack. If you own Sampler, or you want to
design your drum sounds in a plug-in like Native Instrument’s Kontakt, you can add additional
layers directly within the Sampler without adding additional chains.
MIDI Routing
When the I/O section of the Chain List is in view (refer to Figure 8.30), it’s possible to adjust the
MIDI routing of the chain. The Receive menu specifies what MIDI note triggers the chain. This
is determined automatically when you drop a sound source onto a pad. If you change this value,
you’ll see the change reflected in the pad display. In other words, if you’ve dropped a sample
called Kick1 onto pad C1 and then change the MIDI Receive for this chain to D1, you’ll
see Kick1 jump to that pad. Each pad is hard wired to its note and location.
The Send setting is much more flexible. Here you can choose what note is sent to your sound
source. By default, it’s set to C3, which is the Simpler’s default root note. So a C3 will play back
the sample at its original pitch. Modifying this setting could be particularly useful if you want to
use a pitched sine wave as a kick sound. Change the Send note so the pitch matches the key of
your song.
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Choke Groups
Occasionally, it’s necessary to configure some of the sounds in your kit so that playing one stops
or “chokes” the other. The classic use for this is hi-hat. With a real-world drum kit, you cannot
have an open and closed hi-hat sound happening at the same time. Whenever the closed hi-hat
plays, the open one should stop immediately, and vice versa.
If you’ve used the Impulse drum machine, you may already know that it has one choke group
hard-wired to cells 7 and 8. Just hit the Link switch on pad 8, and the two pads automatically
choke each other when played. Drum Racks offer the flexibility of 16 different choke groups,
which can be assigned to any group of pads. To set up the choke group, choose a choke group
number from the Choke menu (refer to Figure 8.28) and assign it to all of the sounds you want
included in the group. It doesn’t matter which number you use—just make sure to use the same
number for each sound. Now triggering any of the sounds in the group will automatically cut off
any of the others.
Sends and Returns
To use the built-in sends and returns of a Drum Rack, you first have to create a Return Chain
(just like in Live’s mixer, where you created a return track, and the Send knobs were automatically created). First, show the Return Chains by clicking the button marked R at the lower lefthand corner of the Drum Rack. Now, you can drag an effect in to create a new chain, or you can
right-click in the drop area and select Create Chain to create an empty Return Chain. More on
why you would want an empty Return Chain in a minute. Just like Live’s main mixer, you can
create as many Return Chains as you want.
After you’ve created a Return Chain, you can view the sends (see Figure 8.32). Now you can dial
in as much effect as you want for each drum individually. By default, the output of your returns
will be mixed in with the output of the Drum Rack. This, however, can be changed so that the
output of the returns is routed to a return track in Live’s Mixer. This could simply be for convenience, or this routing could be used to send your drums to an effect in one of the Mixer’s
return tracks.
Figure 8.32 In this example, the closed hi-hat is being sent to the Simple Delay.
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For example, let’s say you have a reverb on return track A in Live’s Mixer. You have a Drum
Rack in which you want to add a bit of this reverb to just the hand claps and nothing else. To do
this, just create an empty Return Chain and send the hand claps to it. Then, in the Audio To
menu of the Return Chain, set the output to return track A, where your reverb is located.
As things get more complicated with your Drum Racks, you may want to start working with
them using the Chain Mixer (as seen in Figure 8.33), rather than the Drum Rack interface. Here
you can access everything we’ve discussed so far from a much less cluttered interface. Doubleclicking on the title bar of any of these mini-tracks will display the devices of that drum’s chain
as if it were a regular track.
Figure 8.33 Just click the triangle in the title bar of the track, and all of the Drum Rack’s chains become
mini-tracks in the Mixer.
Extraction Team Once you’re finished programming your drums, you may want to split
each drum out to its own individual track. To do this, just right-click in the title bar of a
drum in the Chain Mixer or the Chain List and select Extract Chains. Now you’ve got a
new track with just that one drum and a new MIDI clip containing just the part for that
drum. This technique is particularly useful if you need to render each drum to an individual
audio track for mixing in another program.
Live’s Audio Effects
deally, when you mix down a song, you are creating a sonic picture, a three-dimensional
landscape of sound in which every instrument, voice, and noise has an individual place yet
blends with the others in a cohesive fashion. This is not a simple task, as there are many
obstacles to overcome in the process. Instruments may have similar timbres and occupy the same
area of the frequency spectrum, making them hard to differentiate from one another. Some parts
may vary in volume so greatly that they are inaudible at times while overpowering at others. You
may be suffering the consequences of poor gear—cheap mics, audio interfaces, cables, and more
all could be contributing to the degradation of your recorded sound. Audio engineers
have devised a number of tools over the years to overcome these problems and help you achieve
the ultimate mix.
Effects first manifested themselves as hardware boxes that could be connected to a mixing console. Normally, when dealing with hardware effects, you get to use each box only once. If you
use an effect processor to generate a reverb, you will need to find another hardware box to
generate a chorus. This can become quite costly if you need to use a large palette of effects in
your mix. In fact, you’ve probably seen pictures of large recording studios with walls of rackmounted devices for this very reason. Thanks to the increasing power of computer processors, it
is now possible to re-create these effects using software. Software effects, commonly referred to
as plug-ins, are extremely useful since one effect program may be used multiple times in a
On a computer, you can use multiple instances of effects with ease. This means that if you use a
reverb plug-in to add some space to a voice, you can use another instance of the plug-in to create
a different reverb for a snare drum. In fact, you can use as many instances of the plug-in as you
want, as long as your computer’s CPU can handle the work.
The number of effects available to those with even a modest computer system can be staggering.
There are truly hundreds, perhaps thousands, of effect programs available from a myriad of
developers and hobbyists. The quality of these plug-ins can be astounding; many software emulations rival their hardware counterparts. For convenience and power, Ableton has included a
suite of effects integrated into Live to help bring your projects to life.
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As you go through these explanations, please don’t just look at the pretty pictures and take our
word for it—drop these effects on a track and listen to how they alter your sounds. You will
learn by doing.
We now present you with the ultimate guide to Live’s built-in audio effects, all 30 of them.
EQ and Filters
The first batch of effects we’ll dive into are the filters and equalizers (EQ for short). These types
of signal processors are used to attenuate (reduce in volume) and amplify (increase in volume)
only specific frequency ranges within an audio signal. Engineers will use filters and EQs to finely
craft the frequency distribution of their mixes, resulting in beautiful, rich, and detailed masters
(final mixes). Of course, these tools can also be used to radically distort sound, creating unique
effects in their own right.
EQ Eight
A parametric EQ is a powerful frequency-filtering and timbre-shaping tool. While many hardware and some software mixers have some type of equalization available on every channel, you
will need to add an EQ plug-in manually to a track anytime it’s needed in your Live project.
The goal when using an EQ is to either boost or diminish certain audio frequencies in order to
overcome problems arising from poor recordings, reduce muddiness from overlapping frequencies in other sounds, or emphasize certain characteristics of the sound to make it cut through the
mix. The frequencies are often referred to as lows, mids, and highs or other subdivisions such as
low-mids or high-mids. High frequencies are found in the register called treble, while low frequencies are referred to as bass. Low-mids, mids, or high-mids make up the middle section (from
left to right) of the sonic spectrum. Live’s EQ Eight features up to eight adjustable bands, or
filters, each of which can be individually enabled or disabled (see Figure 9.1).
Figure 9.1 Live’s powerful eight-band EQ. In this example only bands 1-4 are in use. Turning off the
bands you’re not using saves CPU power.
Each filter can be used to cut or boost frequencies ranging from 30Hz to 22kHz, using one of a
variety of different filter types, also known as curves. Each filter can be turned on or off using
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the eight switches running vertically across the left side of the interface. Next to each On/Off
switch is a tab, which, when clicked, will cause the frequency, gain, and Q (resonance or bandwidth) for that band to be shown on the knobs to the right. Adjustments to these values can be
made by either using these knobs or moving the numbered circles in the graphical display. The Q
can be adjusted by dragging vertically while holding down the Alt key.
The filter type for each band is specified by first selecting a band and then using the switches
along the bottom to specify the filter type. For example, to make band 3 a notch filter, first click
on tab number 3 and then click on the notch filter switch. Then you can move on and select
other bands to specify their filter types.
The filter types, from left to right, are as follows:
Low-cut: Also known as a high-pass filter. Removes almost all frequencies below the
specified frequency. For this filter type, Q adjusts the resonance (how much the cutoff frequency is emphasized or reduced). Gain has no effect for this filter type. Using these to
remove unnecessary low frequencies from as many tracks as possible can really clean up your
Low-shelf: Reduces or boosts all frequencies below the specified frequency. With a low Q
setting, the gain change will be a gentle linear slope. At high Q values, the change becomes
more drastic, and you get an additional emphasis around the filter frequency. (For example,
if you’re cutting with a high Q, you get a boost right above the filter frequency and the
greatest gain reduction directly below it.) This is the style of EQ that you’ll find behind most
home stereos, bass and treble knobs.
Bell: A parabolic-shaped boost or cut of a given range of frequencies. For this filter type, the
Q adjusts the bandwidth of the filter—how much the adjacent frequencies are affected. This
is where the most surgical adjustments in a mix occurs. Cut a little here, boost a little there…
Notch: Like a bell curve with extremely high Q and extremely low gain. Gain has no effect
for this filter type. Especially useful for removing problems such as resonant room
High-shelf: Same as low-shelf, but acts on high frequencies.
High-cut: Also known as a low-pass filter. Same as low-cut, but cuts low frequencies.
Perhaps the most misunderstood power that EQ holds is its ability to preserve headroom in a
mix. By reducing less important frequencies in a sound or cutting frequencies that conflict with
other instruments, you end up with mixes that sound louder and clearer. For instance, if the
meat of a sound is in the bass, such as a bass guitar or synth, you may want to reduce the
high-frequency content of this sound to make space for your singer’s voice and your drummer’s
hi-hat. In this case, you’d use the EQ to reduce the highs and possibly to boost the lows in the
bass track.
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Conversely, you can often benefit by using a high-pass filter on vocals and other instruments that
don’t have a lot of low-frequency content. Especially when working with voices and real instruments, there are often low frequencies, such as rumble from air conditioners and the like, doing
nothing but consuming headroom and muddying up your mix. In addition to solving problems,
EQs can also do a lot to sweeten certain sounds. Using a high shelf to boost 10k can help acoustic guitars sparkle, and a bell to boost 60Hz can give electronic kicks the extra power you’re
looking for.
Double Stack For more drastic cuts, boosts, and effects, try stacking EQs by assigning the
same parameters to two or more bands. For example, two low-cut bands both set to
150Hz and a Q of .75 will cut low frequencies more steeply than one band will.
EQ Eight can be run in a variety of modes, selectable from the Mode menu. Stereo is the standard
mode for all stereo and mono signals. L/R differs from Stereo in that it allows you to equalize the
left and right channels of a source separately (see Figure 9.2). Select L in the Edit switch to EQ
the left side, then hit Edit again to switch over and EQ the right side. Bear in mind that L/R mode
can be used to create stereo effects on mono sources by EQing left and right differently. M/S
mode allows you to separately EQ the “middle” of a mix (material that is purely mono) and the
“sides” of a mix (material that is purely stereo).
Figure 9.2 In L/R mode you can EQ left and right channels separately. While you can see both EQ curves
simultaneously, you can only edit whichever band is shown in the Edit switch.
The Scale control is an ingenious bonus that changes the gain of all EQ bands simultaneously.
So if you’ve created the perfect EQ curve but decide that you’ve laid it on a bit thick, you can
scale it back a bit and apply less EQ overall (see Figure 9.3). The Scale control goes all the way
up to 200%, so you can use it to increase gain as well. Finally, the Gain control should not be
overlooked. Remember that boosting and cutting frequencies changes the overall gain of your
signal. If you’re doing a lot of boosting, then you’ll probably need to bring down the gain to
avoid clipping.
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Figure 9.3 This is the same EQ curve shown in Figure 9.2, but Scale has been reduced to 50%, halving
the gain of every band.
Kick Me! (Part 1) Sometimes, cutting frequencies is more effective at getting something to
stand out in a mix than boosting. Take acoustic kick drums, for example.
Many people will try to add bass with an EQ to get it to cut through the mix—it is the
“bass” drum after all. The end result is that you end up feeling the kick more (your
subwoofer will really be bumpin’) but not really hearing it cut through any better. The
reason the drum is muddy in the mix is because it is occupying the same frequency bands
as other instruments in the mix.
To get that deep yet punchy tone that will slice through the mix, try using a bell filter with
a high Q setting to cut frequencies in the 150 to 200Hz range. What you’re looking to
cut here is the drum’s resonant frequency. Once you’ve pulled it out, you’ll be left with a
sound that’s punchy without overwhelming the low end. The resonant tone may not be
very strong on your kick, so experiment with how much gain to cut it by—a little may do
the trick. By cutting this tone, the bass now occupies its own space (the low frequencies
where you feel it and the high frequencies where you hear it) and cleans up the sonic
image. (The range from 150Hz to 250Hz can be extremely problematic in many mixes.)
Apply some compression (see below), and you’ve got your kick tone.
EQ Three
While EQ Eight specializes in precision frequency crafting, the EQ Three is designed for more
drastic EQ effects. Modeled after the EQ banks found on many DJ mixers, the EQ Three allows
you to “cut holes “ in the frequency spectrum and make broad adjustments to the overall sound
of a track.
The EQ Three is concerned only with three frequency bands: lows, mids, and highs. As you can
see in Figure 9.4, the EQ Three has three main dials: GainLow, GainMid, and GainHi. The
frequency range of these dials is determined by the FreqLow and FreqHi knobs at the bottom
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of the effect. The GainMid knob will boost or cut all frequencies between FreqLow and FreqHi.
The GainLow will adjust all frequencies below FreqLow, and the GainHi knob will handle
everything above FreqHi.
EQ Gains
Kill Buttons
EQ Slope
EQ Ranges
Figure 9.4 Lows, mids, and highs are under your complete control with EQ Three.
What makes the EQ Three uniquely different from other EQ plug-ins, including the EQ Eight, is
its ability to completely remove, or kill, entire frequency ranges from your audio. You’ll see that,
as you turn the Gain knobs down, they’ll eventually reach infinity, meaning the frequencies are
completely cut. If you want, you can use the green kill buttons (labeled L, M, and H) located
below each Gain knob to toggle that frequency range on and off with ease.
The 24 and 48 buttons determine the slope, either 24dB/octave or 48dB/octave, at the edges of
the frequency bands. This setting will be most apparent when using the Kill feature of the EQ
Three on a full song. For example, drag a whole song (an MP3 with lots of bass) into a clip slot
and place an EQ Three on the track. Click the 48 button, place the FreqLow control at 200Hz,
and kill the low band—you’ll hear the bass disappear from the song. Now try clicking the 24
button. You may notice that you can hear a little more bass.
When set to 48, the EQ Three reduces the volumes of all the frequencies below 200Hz at a rate
of 48dB per octave. If your song has two tones in it with matching volumes at 100Hz and
200Hz, the 100Hz tone will sound 48dB quieter with the EQ Three settings above. Reducing
a sound by 6dB results in the sound being half as loud as it was originally, so cutting a sound by
48dB nearly removes it entirely. When you switch the EQ Three to 24, it now reduces the 100Hz
tone by only 24dB, thus making it slightly more audible than before.
Using the kills of the EQ Three when set to 24 will result in a smoother sounding cut, while the
48 setting will sound a little more abrupt and synthetic. You can use whichever setting suits your
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The EQ Three is especially useful on the Master track in Live. Assign MIDI controllers to the EQ
Three’s controls and have fun sucking the bass out of the mix right before a huge drop, or slowly
remove the upper elements of the music until only the gut-shaking bass is left.
Sonic Jigsaw Puzzles Try placing three different drum loops on three different tracks, each
armed with an EQ Three. Then isolate the bass in one track, the mids in another, and the
highs in the remaining track. You’ll now have one hybrid beat consisting of kicks, snares,
and hi-hats from different loops. Try swapping or automating the kills for other rhythm
Auto Filter
One of Live’s greatest live performance effects, Auto Filter (seen in Figure 9.5), is a virtual,
analog-style filter with four selectable classic filter types (high-pass, low-pass, band-pass, and
band-reject). Each of these can be controlled via the effect’s X-Y controller and modulated by an
envelope and any of seven different low-frequency oscillator (LFO) shapes. As you may have
gleaned from the EQ Eight explanation, suppressing certain frequencies allows you to carve out
specific problems or overcooked frequencies. The Auto Filter can do this as well, but it shines as
a creative effect capable of a wide variety of sounds.
Figure 9.5 Live’s Auto Filter device. If you’ve just been reading so far, you really need to get up and try
this one. No, really.
Filter Frenzy Low-pass, high-pass, band-pass, band-reject…what does it all mean?
Low-pass simply means that the low frequencies pass through the filter, but nothing else
does. For instance, your bass guitar and kick drums will be audible, though a little dullsounding due to the lack of highs. Some sounds may disappear completely, such as hihats. Conversely, a high-pass filter will allow shimmering cymbals and sparkly guitars and
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synths to pass, but will suppress basses and any other instruments in the lower frequency
range. How low is up to you. Band-pass filters are basically high-pass and low-pass filters
put together; thus, only frequencies falling between the two filters will pass, sounding
similar to a telephone at times. Band-reject filters work opposite of band-pass—only
audio lying outside of the cutoff frequency can pass.
Frequency and Resonance
To get going with Live’s Auto Filter, you will want to select a filter type—low-pass is a good
starter—then use the X-Y controller to dial in Frequency (X-axis) and Q (Y-axis). The frequency
range for the Auto Filter is adjustable between 46.2Hz and 19.9kHz. Increasing the Q (resonance) control will increase the intensity of the filter by adding a resonant peak to the curve,
while lowering it will cause the filter to roll off more smoothly. If you really crank up the Q, you
can get some very intense effects as you move the filter frequency. This can be lots of fun, but be
sure to watch your volume!
To the right of the X-Y controller is the LFO, which can be used to modulate the filter frequency. The Amount knob controls the amplitude of the modulation, while the Rate controls
its speed. Next to the Rate knob is the Shape menu. These waveshapes are fairly self-explanatory—
the sine wave at the top creates smooth changes, while the square wave creates choppy ones.
(The “Auto Pan” section, later in this chapter, contains a more thorough discussion of wave
shapes.) The best way to get a feel for the different waveshapes is to crank up the Amount,
add a bit of resonance, and listen. The bottom two waveshapes are random (sample and
hold), the first one being mono, while the second generates separate random values for the
left and right channels.
When the Phase control is set to 180 degrees, the LFO will generate opposite modulations for the
left and right channels, creating a stereo effect. In other words, as the frequency of the left channel is increased, the frequency of the right channel is decreased. Increasing or decreasing the
Phase will bring the phase relationship of the left and right LFOs closer together until eventually
they become identical.
The Rate control can be adjusted in Hertz by clicking the Hz switch or synchronized to the
tempo by clicking the switch with the note icon. Depending on which you select, there are different options available for the Phase control. When Rate is set to Hertz, two switches appear
near the Phase knob. When the lower switch is clicked, the Spin knob appears. Spin changes the
speed of the left and right LFOs relative to each other, creating a swirling effect. When Rate is set
to tempo sync, the Offset knob appears. This can be used to create some interesting rhythmic
effects. As you increase the Offset, you shift peaks and troughs of the LFO off the beat instead of
right on it.
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The Envelope knob determines how much the input signal’s volume will modulate the filter
frequency. This type of modulator is commonly known as an “envelope follower” because
it creates an envelope that “follows” the signal’s amplitude. Positive values cause the filter
frequency to be turned up, while negative values turn the frequency down as the volume
The effect can be fine-tuned by using the Attack and Release controls. Attack determines how
long it takes for the frequency to reach its maximum value, while Release determines how long it
takes for it to return to its original value. Crank the Envelope knob to get familiar with these
controls. Short Attack and Release times will tend to give you a funky, clucking effect because
you’ll get more of the filter sweep for each note. Longer times will tend to make the effect more
subtle since it takes longer for the filter to open up, and it tends not to release all the way back to
its original value before opening again.
DJ Magic A common DJ trick is to mix two beat-matched songs, one with a low-pass filter
and the second with a high-pass filter. Whether you decide to do this with an Auto Filter or
one of the EQs is up to you. The result is more than simply mixing two songs. The creation
of an entirely new song is made from the combined frequencies (highs from one, lows
from the other) of the two tracks. Without cutting some of the frequencies, the two songs
could sound like a jumbled mush when played simultaneously. Keeping the best frequencies does require some practice and will vary according to the musical content. If you are
new to this concept, it can be a huge ear opener.
In Figure 9.5, you may have noticed the Sidechain section of the Auto Filter to the left of the
Envelope section. This section is only displayed if you click the small triangle in the title
bar. Sidechaining was introduced in Live 7 and opens up a whole new world of possibilities
for the effects to which it has been added. (The Gate and Compressor have Sidechain sections
as well.)
Sidechaining refers to having an audio source other than the one you are currently
processing trigger the envelope for an effect. In other words, in the case of the Auto Filter,
you can have the envelope follow the dynamics of any track in Live, instead of following the
dynamics of the signal that you are processing with the Auto Filter. Let’s take a look at how this
If you tried out the Beat Quantize example earlier, you’ll want to keep working with the same
sustained pad for this example, too. We’ll also need another track to serve as the sidechain
source. This can be an audio or a MIDI track, but it should output something percussive
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Figure 9.6 Specify a sidechain input to have the envelope of your Auto Filter follow a different audio
with strong transients. Now, in the Sidechain section, set the Source to the percussion track, as
seen in Figure 9.6. Also, make sure the LFO Amount is set to 0. There’s no reason you can’t use
the LFO at the same time, but for learning purposes it’s best to keep it simple.
Now, play back both clips and slowly raise the Envelope control. As you do this. you’ll hear the
filter on the pad begin to rise and fall with the hits in the drum loop. If you’re not getting enough
of an effect even with the Envelope cranked, you can increase the Gain to feed more signal to the
Sidechain. The Wet/Dry knob controls how much the sidechain signal is mixed with the direct
signal before it is sent to the envelope. In the current example, a setting of 50% would mean that
the envelope would follow the dynamics of a 50/50 blend of the drum loop and the pad. At 0%,
the sidechain is bypassed completely.
Quantize Beat
The Quantize Beat parameter affects filter modulation (generated either by the LFO or the envelope) by forcing the filter frequency to change in tempo-synchronized steps. The steps are specified in 16ths ranging from .5 (32nd notes) to 16 (1 bar). To get a feel for what this Quantize
Beat does, load it on to a track with a sustained pad and configure the Auto Filter, as shown in
Figure 9.7. You may have to adjust the frequency so you hear a nice up-and-down sweep. Now,
try clicking the On switch a few times. As it goes on and off, you’ll hear the modulation go from
a smooth sweep to a choppier sound. This is the sound of the filter frequency jumping to a new
value once every 16th note. Now you can experiment with other Beat values and play with the
Phase as well.
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Figure 9.7 Quantize Beat can chop up and tempo synchronize an otherwise smooth filter sweep.
Pre or Post? In the sidechain example earlier, you may have noticed that the sidechain
source is set to Pre FX (refer to Figure 9.6). This is because we want to tap the signal before
it gets to the mixer. By using either the Pre or Post FX setting, we can mute the sidechain
track in Live’s Mixer and still have it reach the sidechain input. This way, you can get the
rhythmic envelope without having to hear the drum loop. Pre FX is especially useful if you
have some heavy effects on a track, but you want to use that sound unaffected to control
an envelope.
Dynamic Processing
What are dynamics again? Dynamics in audio refers to the volume or amplitude of a sound.
More specifically, it refers to the change in volume of a sound. The sound of a drum kit can
range from quiet ghost notes on a snare drum up to the thundering sound of the kick drum and
toms, and it is therefore considered to have more dynamic range than a distorted guitar, which
usually plays at a more consistent volume.
It therefore makes sense that dynamic processors would alter the volume of signals passing
through them. But why would you want to do this? Like EQing above, dynamic processing
can be used to compensate for problems arising in the recording process. It can also be used
to help parts stick out from a mix or to create dramatic, volume-based effects.
Auto Pan
Auto Pan is a conceptually simple but surprisingly powerful device. It will automatically pan the
position of the track from left to right in cycles. It does this by alternately turning down
the volumes of the left and right sides of the channel. When the left side is turned down, the
sound will be heard from the right, thus making it sound as if the track were panned to the left.
The mixer’s Pan control is not affected at all.
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The Auto Pan interface is split into two sections. The top section contains a graphical representation of the volume pattern being applied—for display purposes only. The Auto Pan is adjusted
by using the knobs and buttons on the lower half of the interface.
When the device is first loaded, it will have a flat line through the middle of its display, and you
will hear no effect. The reason you hear nothing is because the Amount knob is set to 0%. As
you turn this knob up, you’ll hear the sound begin moving left and right. The higher you set the
Amount knob, the “wider” the left-to-right movement will be.
As you increase the Amount knob, you’ll also see the graphic begin to change on the Auto Pan
interface. When the Amount reaches 100%, you’ll see two sine curves on the screen in different
colors. The blue curve represents the left channel, and the orange curve represents the right channel.
What these curves tell you is that when the left channel is at full volume (the highest point of the
blue curve), the right channel will be at its lowest volume (see Figure 9.8). As the left channel drops
in volume, the right channel will rise, and vice versa. The button below the Amount knob will
switch the left and right Pan assignments when it is activated; in this case, you’ll see the colors
of the two sine curves change.
Figure 9.8 By looking at the picture in the Auto Pan window, you can see the relationship of the left
and right channels over time.
The Rate knob next to the Amount knob will change the speed of the left-right motion created
by the Auto Pan. You’ll see that as you turn up this knob, not only does the left-right speed
increase, but you’ll also see the graphic waveform change in kind.
Below the Rate knob are two selection buttons. By default Hz is shown, meaning that you will
define the rate of the Auto Pan in terms of cycles per second. So, if you set the Rate knob to 1Hz,
the Auto Pan will complete one left-right cycle in one second. If you increase the value to 2Hz,
the left-right pattern will happen twice every second, and so on. If you click the button that looks
like a 1/16 note, you will be able to define the Auto Pan cycle time in terms of beats. For example, when set to 1/4, the left-right pattern will repeat every quarter note. If you change the tempo
of the Live Set, the Auto Pan will also change to maintain the cycle-per-beat relationship.
Next on the list of Auto Pan controls is the Phase knob. If you move this knob while watching
the waveform graphic, you should get a pretty good idea of what it does. The knob adjusts the
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phase relationship of the left and right curves, or the position where the waveforms start. When
set to 180 degrees, the two curves are out of phase, meaning one channel is at full volume while
the other is silent. If you twist this knob down to 0 degrees, the two curves will now be in sync
(you’ll see only one curve), resulting in the left and right channels’ changing volume in sync. The
Auto Pan will no longer pan the signal from left to right—it will simply turn the volume of the
whole signal up and down! This is where the Auto Pan device begins to function beyond what its
name implies. We’ll show you how to take advantage of this in a couple of ways.
There is a pair of buttons below the Phase knob. When you click the bottom one, the Phase knob
turns into a Spin control. What this does is alter the rates of the left and right waveforms. With
Spin at 0%, the left and right run at the same speed. As you increase Spin, you’ll see that the
right channel begins to increase in rate compared with the left channel. With this feature
enabled, the sound will no longer appear to pan back and forth between the left and right.
Instead, a strange wobbly pattern will result.
Before we get into the tricks, though, let’s finish looking at all of the Auto Pan’s controls. When
Auto Pan is synced to Live’s tempo, an Offset knob will appear below the Phase knob. This is
essentially a global phase knob because it changes the phase of both curves in relation to the
song. When you start the song and the offset is at 0, the Auto Pan will output only the left signal.
At the beginning of the song, however, you may want the pan to start in the middle. To do this,
turn the Offset knob until the graphic display shows the two waveforms crossing each other at
90 degrees at the left edge of the window, as shown in Figure 9.8 above.
The last knob on the Auto Pan is the Shape knob. As this knob is turned clockwise, the waveform will slowly morph into a square wave. When set to 100 percent, this will cause the Auto
Pan to flip-flop the audio between the left and right channels—there will be no motion through
the center. Of course, setting this knob at an amount less than 100% will allow you to hear some
of the left-right transition.
In real terms, we use this knob to make the pan “stall” at the left and right extremes. Sometimes,
even though the Amount knob is set to 100%, it doesn’t sound like the sound is fully panning
from left to right, especially when being mixed in with the other parts of the song. This is
because the sound is panned fully left and right for only an instant before the Auto Pan begins
to pan it back again. Turning up the Shape knob results in flat lines at the top and bottom of the
waveform, therefore causing the pan motion to sit at these extremes for a moment before panning back to the other side. The result is a more pronounced panning motion that can be heard
better over an entire mix.
The final controls of the Auto Pan are the Waveform Selection buttons. You’ve been using the
sine waveform thus far, so try clicking on some of the others to see what they look like. The
button in the upper-right is for the triangle waveform. As the name suggests, the waveform looks
like a triangle at the top and bottom. When using this waveform, the left-right pan motion is
linear—the left-to-right speed remains constant. This is different from the sine waveform, where
the pan motion would slow down as it reached the left and right extremes. The button in the
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lower-left is for the sawtooth, or ramp, waveform. This is a unique waveform in that it does not
create a smooth side-to-side panning motion. Instead, it will pan a sound in one direction (determined by the Normal/Invert button) and then immediately reset before panning again. This
means that the motion goes from left to right and then immediately to left before panning to
the right again. The last button in the lower right is for a random waveform where the volumes
of the left and right channels are changed at random. When this mode is selected, the Phase knob
adjusts the left-right deviation of the randomness. When set to 0%, the random pattern will
influence the left and right volumes identically, resulting in random changes to the sound’s
volume. When set to 100%, the difference between the left and right volumes will increase,
resulting in random panning patterns.
So what were all those secrets and tricks we were alluding to earlier in this section? The secrets
involve using the Auto Pan for something other than panning. This stems from the use of the
Phase knob. When Phase is set to 0 degrees, the Auto Pan will simply turn the volume of the
sound up and down. Try this out: Load a song onto a track and use Auto Pan. Set its Rate to 1/8,
Shape to 100%, Phase to 0 degrees, Offset to 270 degrees, and Waveform to sine. As you
increase the Amount knob, you’ll begin to hear the track volume jump up and down in 1/8-note
steps in sync with the song. Turn up Amount to 100%, and you’ll have chopped the song into
tiny slices!
Now that you’ve got the strobe effect going, start playing with the Rate knob to change the
speed of the strobe. Turning the Shape knob below 100 percent will also reduce the abruptness
of the strobing. For a really crazy effect, try slightly altering the Phase knob. When the two
waveforms are just slightly out of phase, you’ll hear each strobe zip across your speakers as
one side is turned on just slightly before the other.
This strobe effect is great to use during a DJ set, especially when mixing between two tracks.
You can use it to remove all of the sound between the beats (set the Rate to 1/4, and you’ll only
hear the 1/4-note beats), making the transitional mix smoother. This can also be a great effect to
use on vocals from time to time.
Compression can add clarity and power to your mixes if done properly. Done wrong, it can suck
all life from what once was a brilliant track. For audio engineers, compression is one of the
hardest things to learn to use properly and is one element that separates the big fish from the
little guppies. Live used to have two compressors: Compressor I and Compressor II. In Live 7,
both of these models were wrapped into a new device simply called Compressor, which contains
not only the functionality of both of its predecessors, but many new features as well. But before
we get into the details of this device, let’s spend some time discussing the basics of compression.
Compression Basics
In brief, a compressor is a device that will automatically turn down the volume of sound passing
through it. For example, have you ever noticed how the commercials on TV are louder than the
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show you’re trying to watch? This isn’t your imagination—it’s true. They play the commercials
louder as a way to get your attention. For most of us, it just makes us reach for the remote or run
from the room. Wouldn’t it be great if you could buy something that would turn down the TV
whenever something loud came on? It would keep the commercials at the same volume as the
TV show, and it would also keep loud things like car explosions from blasting your neighbors
awake in the middle of the night. Well, that something you’d buy would be a compressor.
So you go out and you buy this compressor for your TV. You hook it up, but there are a few
settings you have to choose before it will work. The first one is called Volume Trigger. You set
this one to the volume where the box should start killing the volume. You set this to a point just
slightly louder than the TV show you’re watching. This guarantees that the compressor doesn’t
turn down your show at all. However, when a commercial comes on, it will be louder than the
Volume Trigger, and the compressor will engage.
The next control you’re supposed to set on this thing is the Kill Amount. The deal is that, when
the compressor engages as a result of the Volume Trigger being exceeded, the volume will be
turned down by the Kill Amount. Setting this to infinity makes the compressor turn down the
volume to match the Volume Trigger. Thus, the commercial is turned down to the volume of
the TV show.
The third setting is the Cutout Time. This setting sets the time that the compressor takes to turn
down the volume once the commercials start. If this value is set to a long time, like five seconds,
the compressor will take five seconds to turn down the volume when the commercial comes on.
The point here is to cut the volume on the commercial the moment it comes on, so you set the
time to 10ms. Now, the commercial is turned down within 10ms of coming on.
The last value is Back-in Time. This is the opposite of the Cutout Time where you now specify
how long it should take for the compressor to turn the volume back up again after the commercials are over. You don’t want to miss any of the dialogue when the show starts, so you set this
to one second.
So that’s it. You’ve now mastered the compressor. It turns down commercials that exceed the
volume of your TV show within 10ms and then returns the volume to normal one second after
the commercials are over. Nice.
If you’ve looked at a compressor at all, hardware or software, you know that we replaced the
real names of the controls with fake, yet more descriptive, names in the television commercial
examples above. Here’s the decoder: The Volume Trigger is really the Threshold control. The
Kill Amount refers to the Ratio. Cutout Time and Back-in Time refer to Attack and Release,
respectively. You will see all of these controls on Live’s Compressor, shown in Figure 9.9.
Many people believe that a compressor makes sounds louder. But, as you can see in the illustration above, a compressor makes loud sounds quieter. Still, engineers do employ compressors
as part of a technique for making sounds louder. Compressors make the dynamic range of
audio smaller, so the overall level can be higher. Imagine that you have some audio that ranges
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Figure 9.9 Live’s Compressor.
from -30dB to 0dB. If we compress the audio such that every peak over -10dB is reduced to be no
greater than -10dB, we can then raise the level of the whole signal by 10dB. Now we have audio
that ranges from -20dB to 0dB, resulting in a much greater perceived loudness.
It’s not too hard to understand what a compressor does or what the various controls are supposed to do. What is difficult is to determine whether you need compression and how to set the
compressor when you do. You may have a hard time hearing a part in the mix, but sometimes
the fix is simple, like a little boost of an EQ band, or simply turning up the part. Other times,
compression is just what is called for. When learning, it’s best to work with dramatic settings on
your compressor (low Threshold, high Ratio) because it makes the compression easier to hear. In
your final mixes, however, it’s best to err on the side of less compression until you really know
what you’re doing.
Threshold, Ratio, Attack, and Release
Compression is useful in two main situations: keeping wily transients under control and smoothing out the overall dynamic content of a part over a length of time. Examples of parts with lots
of transients are drums and vocals. The “crack” created when a drum stick hits a drum can be
extraordinarily loud in comparison to the lingering tone of the drum. Vocals also tend to have
all sorts of sudden transients as singers change their volume, position, or occasionally overemphasize a consonant in the lyrics.
How do you properly compress a sound with a lot of transients? The technique involved is
nearly identical to the process used to set the compressor for the TV in the example earlier.
You need to identify the volume at which you want to start compressing, how much to compress
once the volume reaches that point, and how quickly the Compressor should respond. In order
to set the Threshold to the proper level, you’ll need to be able to see the point where the Compressor starts to work on your sound. To do this, set the Ratio (the Kill Amount) to the maximum, reduce the Attack (Cutout Time) to its minimum, and set the Release (Back-in Time) to
500ms. Place the Threshold (Volume Trigger) at its highest setting and start playing the sound.
With the Threshold at maximum, the sound will not exceed this level, and the Compressor will
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never engage. As you start to move the Threshold downward, there will be a point where you
notice that the Gain Reduction meter starts to respond. This means that you’ve found the
Threshold at which some of the transients are loud enough to trigger the Compressor. As you
keep moving the Threshold slider downward, the Gain Reduction meter will begin to respond
more often and will also show a greater amount of attenuation.
If you keep reducing the Threshold, there will come a point where nearly every element of the
sound you’re compressing, the transients and the quieter tones, will all be beyond the Threshold,
thus causing the Compressor to work nonstop—always in some state of gain reduction. This is a
sign that you are probably using too much compression, as nearly every element of the sound is
being attenuated. Back off the Threshold to a point where only the heavy transients are triggering the Gain Reduction meter.
The Compressor’s Ratio control determines the amount of compression expressed as a ratio of
the input volume to the output volume. For instance, 2-to-1 compression means that when a
sound goes over the threshold by 2 dB, you will hear only a 1 dB increase at the output. And
4-to-1 would mean that for a 2 dB increase, only a 1/2 dB change would be audible at the output. You may also notice that for larger Ratio settings, the sound may become muffled or muted
as a result of the volume squashing that is going on. As you dial in your compression for a given
track, you will want to watch the downward-spiking indicator on the Gain Reduction meter.
Extreme gain reduction, such as 12 dB and below, will often cut the life out of your sound,
although you may occasionally want to overcompress an instrument as a special effect.
Compressor’s other two controls, Attack and Release, determine how soon after a sound crosses
the Threshold the compression will begin to work and how long the compression remains active
after the sound has dropped below the Threshold. Typically, a small amount of attack time (5 to
10ms) is best for retaining some sense of dynamics (varying degrees of loud and soft in the
music). Short attacks are great for instruments like drums and percussion, as well as vocals.
Longer attacks are most often used with horns, bass, and longer sorts of sounds where the volume increase (crescendo) is also slower.
A Compressor’s release settings are often less noticeable when long. A long release time means
that the compression continues to work for a given length of time (in milliseconds) after it has
been engaged, and the signal level has dipped back below the threshold. Typically, a short
release time will force the Compressor to repeatedly engage and disengage (start and stop),
and a listener will be more apt to hear the repeated contrasts (sometimes referred to as pumping
or breathing) and low-frequency distortion. Short release times can still be a cool-sounding effect
for drums and diced-up pieces of audio (where the signal repeatedly crosses the Threshold).
If you’ve been experimenting with the Compressor, at this point you’ve probably noticed that
even though we’ve been applying all sorts of “gain reduction,” the signal isn’t getting softer—in
fact, it’s been getting louder. This is due to the Makeup switch (in the lower-left corner) being
activated. It’s automatically compensating for the amount of gain reduction being applied to the
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peaks and bringing up the overall level of the signal. While this works nicely, there might be
times where you just want to turn down errant peaks without bringing up the overall level. To
do this, just turn off Makeup. Whether or not it’s turned on, you can always tweak the output
level using the Level control.
The Knee control is called as such because it adjusts the point in the compression graph where
the line bends—ergo, the “knee.” As the Knee is increased, the bend in the line rounds out. What
this represents is the Ratio and the Threshold becoming more dynamic and gradually applying
gain reduction as the signal approaches the Threshold.
Especially with high ratios, the sound produced by compressors can be harsh and unnatural.
This effect is partly caused by a compressor leaving a signal completely unprocessed and then
slamming on the gain reduction every time the Threshold is passed—a behavior known as “hardknee” compression. By increasing the Knee, we can specify a range of decibels below the Threshold over which gain reduction should be applied. In other words, with a Threshold of 10dB, a
Ratio of 10:1, and a Knee of 10dB, a small amount of gain reduction will occur to signals hitting
20dB (the Threshold minus the Knee value). For signals between 20dB and 10dB, an increasing amount of gain reduction will be applied until the full Ratio of 10:1 is reached for signals
exceeding 10dB. The result of this “soft-knee” compression is that the dynamic structure of
the Compressor’s output is closer to the original signal, and a more natural sound is produced.
Kick Me! (Part 2) After you’ve used the EQ Eight to dial in a nice kick drum tone, place a
Compressor on the track. You’ll use the Compressor to shape the amplitude of the kick
sound, similar to using an ADSR Envelope on a synth.
The setting for the Ratio dial depends on the amount of attack already present in the kick
sound. If there’s already a decent amount of punch, a ratio of 4 to 1 may be all that’s
necessary. If the kick is flat and has no life, a 10-to-1 ratio may be in order.
You’ll need a fairly short attack time, somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 to 20ms. If
the attack is too short, the drum will sound short, snappy, and clipped.
Use a slightly longer setting for the Release, 25 to 50ms, depending on the bass drum’s
acoustics. If the drum has a long tone (perhaps there was no padding inside), a longer
release will keep the tail end of the tone from popping up in volume after the loud
transient of the drum has passed. If, on the other hand, the drum has a short tone, or if
the drum is played quickly, a short release time will allow the Compressor to open fully
before the next drum hit. If the release time is too long, only the first kick drum hit will
sound right, while the others that follow shortly after will not sound right because the
Compressor is still attenuating the signal.
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The Threshold should be at a point where every kick played at normal volume will trigger
the Compressor. But if the Threshold is too low, the Compressor will squash the volume
and never let go!
Compression Models
Along the bottom of the Compressor, you’ll see three different compression models. FF1 and
FF2 are the old Compressor I and II models, while FB is a new model that was introduced in Live
7. FB stands for feed back—the type of circuit design in the classic compressors upon which this
model was based. FF stands for feed forward, a more contemporary type of compressor design.
In brief, feed back compressors have their level detection circuit at the output of the Compressor
after the gain reduction circuit. While this may sound awfully strange, it resulted in a very pleasing sound that is still much sought after today. The Teletronix LA-2A, the UA 1176LN, and the
API 525 are all feed back compressors. Feed forward compressors offer more accurate attack
and release times, so they can be very useful in shaping transients (think kick and snare).
FF1 is an effect-oriented compressor. Use it when you want something to sound compressed. It’s
great at getting a squashed, overcompressed sound, and it can really make a drum loop pop out.
It should be used sparingly and deliberately. Too much of this sort of compression will probably
make your mixes sound lifeless and somewhat harsh. FF2 is a more refined Compressor and can
be used to shape transients with a much greater degree of transparency. FB is the subtlest of the
bunch. Try this one out on vocals, and you’ll be surprised at how much gain reduction you can
apply before it starts to sound squashed. The FB model is great for thickening and adding some
additional heft to your sounds.
Envelope Modes
This is where you control the behavior of the Compressor’s level detector. In Peak mode, the
Compressor will respond to any signal that goes over the Threshold, whereas RMS responds
more slowly and will have less effect on transients. The advantage to RMS is that when applying
compression to complex sources, such as an entire mix, you may not always want an overall gain
reduction in response to an individual transient. However, since RMS will allow transients
greater than the Threshold to pass straight through, it’s not well suited to anything where
you need very accurate control, such as drums.
Opto is a different beast entirely. This emulates the behavior of compressors that use a light
source and a photosensitive element to detect gain. Again, this tends to create smoother,
more natural sounding compression at the expense of accuracy. In conjunction with FB
mode, you can get some really wonderful, natural sounding compression. Try comparing
Opto to Peak with the FF2 model and a low Threshold/high Ratio combination. You’ll hear
some pronounced differences, with Peak mode likely being a bit evener, but Opto a bit more
lively—even to the point of breathing, or pumping, often in a musical way.
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Toward the lower left-hand corner, you’ll also see a menu called Lookahead. Because compressors are responding to audio in real time, they typically suffer from the attack by responding a
bit too late. By increasing the Lookahead amount, you can increase the Compressor’s accuracy
in responding to fast transients. Lookahead is disabled for the Feed Back Compressor model
because Lookahead just isn’t possible when you’re detecting gain changes from the Compressor’s output. Anyway, this isn’t the type of compressor you want to be using for ultra-fast and
accurate compression.
Expanding the Sidechain section (see Figure 9.10) reveals a more complex set of controls compared to the Gate and Auto Filter. To the left, you’ll see the familiar Sidechain controls that
work exactly as described in the “Auto Filter” section of this chapter. To the right is the Sidechain EQ section, which equalizes the Sidechain source before it triggers the Compressor. Please
note that the Sidechain determines only what the Compressor hears—EQ will not process the
output signal. A classic use of Sidechain compression is to use the kick drum to trigger gain
reduction in the bass track. This helps solve the problem of competing frequencies in the low
end of a mix.
Figure 9.10 The Sidechain section features an EQ so you can trigger compression using only certain
frequencies of the Sidechain source. The settings here show how you might trigger bass compression
using the kick drum in a drum loop.
But what if your kick drum is already mixed into a drum loop? No problem. After you’ve set the
sidechain input to the track that your drum loop is on, enable the EQ section. Now, solo the bass
track and click the headphones icon (Sidechain Listen) directly to the left of the EQ switch. Now
you’re hearing the Sidechain source (the drum loop) instead of the bass track. Select the low-pass
filter and bring the frequency down until most of the other drums disappear. Then you can turn
off Sidechain Listen and tweak the Compressor controls until you get the desired amount of gain
reduction. You can even adjust the Wet/Dry mix and boost the Sidechain Gain control so you’re
getting compression triggered by both the kick and the bass.
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The Sidechain EQ can also be used without an external Sidechain source. In this case, a copy of
the audio that you are compressing is used to feed the Sidechain. This technique is frequently
used for de-essing, which is the process of softening the sharp “sss” sound that can occur in vocal
parts. By filtering out all the lower frequencies or boosting the sibilant frequencies (often 8kHz
and higher), you can force the Compressor to respond only when a strong “sss” escapes the
vocalist’s lips. Typically, this will require some careful tweaking of the Threshold and a very
fast attack.
Gates can be thought of as upside-down compressors, and therefore the two are often discussed
(and used) together. Where compressors focus on reducing volume spikes above a certain threshold, gates help weed out low-level noise beneath a certain threshold. The result of using a gate is
usually a cleaner, less cluttered, and overall more pleasing audio signal. Gates are a tool for
reducing quiet hums, microphone bleed, and background. That said, Live’s Gate device is an
excellent utility for this kind of work.
A gate effect operates just like it sounds. Certain audio can make it through the gate, while other
audio cannot. The threshold, or minimum requirement, to get through an audio gating effect is
set by the Threshold slider. Any incoming sound quieter than the Threshold will cause the gate
to close, thus attenuating the signal. Gating can be an excellent effect to apply when attempting
to eliminate excess noise, hiss, hum, or undesirable reverb decay. You may find that a slight gate
effect can really clean up your drum loops. Many producers use gates on drums like toms or
snares so that they can capture the essence of the instrument at its highest volume point and
eliminate all weaker background sounds. Figure 9.11 shows Live’s Gate effect.
Figure 9.11 Live’s Gate effect.
The small triangle next to the Threshold bar can be dragged with the mouse to set the minimum
level of output required to pass through the gate. The lower the threshold, the more sound gets
through the gate. As sound passes through the gate, you will see the small circular LED light
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All or Nothing? So far, we’ve discussed a gate as a tool only for completely removing quiet
audio signals from your tracks. From time to time, you may desire more of a semi-gate
where some sound still gets through even while the gate is closed. This is commonly used
for toms so that part of the decay and tone from the toms still sits quietly in the mix even
after the initial attack has passed. If the gate closes completely, it may sound like the toms
are overdubbed or pasted into the composition as they pop in and out of the mix. To
remedy this, the Gate effect has a numerical value right below the Threshold slider. The
default setting is 40dB, which means the gate will reduce the incoming sound by 40dB
when it’s closed. Try raising this value while the gate is closed, and you’ll hear more of the
input signal bleed through. Of course, if you’re looking for a brick wall Gate effect, reduce
the range to inf.
The Attack, Hold, and Release settings determine how the Gate effect is applied. For instance, a
sharp/short attack will make the gate open quickly when the Threshold is exceeded, sometimes
resulting in harsh, audible clicks. A longer attack will sound more relaxed as the gate takes
longer to close on sound crossing the volume threshold. Be aware that having a long attack
time may cause the gate to open after the initial attack of the sound has already passed. Use
this setting judiciously.
Similarly, the Hold and Release functions affect how long the gate remains open after the signal
has fallen below the threshold. Think of Attack as how quickly the gate will open, and Release
and Hold as relating to how quickly the gate will close. The Flip switch turns the gate upside
down—only signals below the threshold will get passed. While not often the most practical
thing, the Flip switch can be used to generate some interesting glitchy effects on your beats
and can be very effective when used in conjunction with the Sidechain.
The Sidechain opens up loads of creative possibilities for the Gate. Its settings are identical to
those described in detail in the “Auto Filter” section in this chapter. Try the Auto Filter example
(involving a sustained pad and a drum loop) with the Gate. By opening and closing the Gate
using a beat, you can turn the pad into a chopped-up rhythm part.
Ever notice that when you complete a mixdown of your music it’s still not nearly as loud as
commercial tracks that you’ve bought? This is because after the mixdown phase, most tracks go
through a separate mastering process to balance the overall frequency characteristics and also to
increase the overall loudness of the track. In fact, volume has become such an obsession with
many artists and labels that it’s now routinely discussed in engineering circles as the “loudness
wars.” The number one weapon used to fight in this war is the Limiter (see Figure 9.12).
Live’s Limiter is the simplest of all of the dynamics processors. It simply prevents the signal from
ever going above the volume specified by the Ceiling parameter. In traditional audio engineering
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Figure 9.12 Live’s Limiter is great for getting your tracks a few dB hotter.
terms, a limiter is a compressor with a ratio of 10:1 or greater, although usually when you see a
“brickwall limiter” device, such as this one, its ratio is generally fixed at “inf,” meaning that the
signal is never allowed to exceed the threshold.
The Limiter has no threshold control. That’s because the Ceiling functions as the threshold. If
your Ceiling is set to -1 dB, and you feed it a signal that contains no peaks above -1, then the
Limiter will have no effect. To apply limiting, you would simply increase the Gain control until
the signal begins to exceed the Ceiling. Then you’ll start to see the Gain Reduction meter begin
to flash, and you’ll hear the overall level of the signal become louder without ever clipping. As
you continue to increase the gain, you’ll start to get some distortion and will eventually destroy
all of the dynamics in the signal, so listen carefully and go easy if in doubt.
The Release knob can be used to fine-tune the Limiter’s release characteristics, but for most
applications, Auto will work just fine. Lookahead functions like a simple Attack control. At
lower values it responds faster to peaks, which results in more limiting but also a potential
increase in distortion. This is always the tradeoff with increasing gain through limiting. The
more you apply, the less dynamic and more distorted the signal becomes. To find the right
amount, it’s a good idea to put on some headphones and crank up the gain until you can
hear distortion, then back off until you’ve found an acceptable level.
The switch marked Stereo should generally be left alone unless you don’t mind messing with the
stereo image of the material you’re working with. In Stereo mode, a peak in either channel will
cause gain reduction to occur on both sides, preserving the stereo image. By changing this to L/R,
you can treat each side separately.
Multiband Dynamics
If you’re still wrapping your head around what dynamics processors do, then you may want to
spend more time with Live’s basic Compressor and Gate before digging into the brand-new
Multiband Dynamics device (see Figure 9.13). If you’re already a seasoned engineer, then
you’re certainly familiar with the power of this type of processor. This section assumes you
know the basics of compression and gating, so make sure to read through the Compressor
and Gate sections if you need to brush up on these concepts.
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Figure 9.13 Live’s Multiband Dynamics.
Essentially, a multiband compressor (the most common type of multiband dynamics processing)
is what you get if you breed an EQ and a compressor. For example, in the case of the EQ three,
the signal gets spit into three different bands, each of which has its own volume control—one for
turning each of the bands up or down separately. Well, in the case of a multiband compressor,
each of the bands gets its own dynamics processor, capable of automatically turning the volume
of that band down, depending on the volume of that band in the input signal. For the Multiband
Dynamics device, Ableton has created a processor that is capable of both upward and downward
compression and expansion, which means that each band can be automatically turned either
down or up in response to the signal going either above or below a given threshold. There’s
an awful lot of functionality packed into this relatively small interface.
In the case of Live’s new Multiband Compressor, the three bands are laid out from top to
bottom instead of left to right. Each band has its Activator and Solo switches, while the high
and low bands each have an On/Off switch, which can be used to make the device use just two
bands or even one band (in which case it’s not a multiband processor at all!).
Below each of the On/Off switches, you’ll also see a number box for specifying a frequency.
These are the crossover points for the device, and they define the exact range of frequencies
that each of the bands controls. So you’ll see that the High frequency band includes everything
above 2.5kHz by default, but by changing this value, you can easily make the High band include
only frequencies above 5kHz. The Mid band then handles everything below 5kHz down to
whatever frequency is specified for the Low band.
As you play a signal through this device, you’ll see meters in the center display for each band,
showing the volume of the signal. The clear blocks at the far left and right of the display are a
graphical representation of the Threshold and Ratio settings. The left-hand block is used to display settings for either upward compression (making a signal louder when it dips below a given
threshold) or standard expansion (making a signal quieter when it dips below a given threshold),
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which is similar to gating. The right-hand blocks make settings for upward expansion (making a
signal louder when it exceeds a given threshold) or standard downward compression.
In any of these cases, the threshold is set by dragging the edges of the boxes left or right, making
them longer or shorter, and the ratio is specified by dragging up or down anywhere within the
boxes. You’ll see that, depending on the direction you drag, the box turns either orange or blue.
Blue signifies ratios of greater than 1, which means gain reduction, while orange signifies ratios
of less than 1, meaning there will be a gain increase when the threshold is crossed. To view these
values numerically, click the B (for Below) or A (for Above) in the lower right-hand corner of the
display. Below shows you the settings for the left-hand block, while Above shows the ones on the
right. The T (for Threshold) will adjust the Attack and Release times.
In practice, multiband processors are often used in mastering. For example, you might want to
leave the low end of a dance track big and uncompressed, while giving the mids more of a
squeeze so they don’t get painful at high volumes. When you’re learning to use Multiband
Dynamics, don’t be afraid to turn off the Activator switch for two of the bands and just
focus on one. For example, if you’ve got a part that sounds too crisp, but EQing it makes it
sound too dull, try turning the mid and low bands off and see if you can get what you want by
applying a little compression to the top.
Delay Effects
Ableton’s Delay effects group may just be the company’s most creative effects ever. Each effect
features solid tools for both assembling new rhythmic variations and creating innovative textures with repeated long sounds. While many of the delays have some similar controls, each
delay is also somewhat specialized and has some unique features. As you explore them one
by one, don’t be afraid to do lots of experimenting and get lost in your own creativity.
Simple Delay
While you may think we are starting simple, Live’s Simple Delay (seen in Figure 9.14) is still a
formidable stereo, tempo-syncable delay, with a rhythmic beat-division chooser.
Figure 9.14 Live’s Simple Delay plug-in.
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Looking at the device, you can see two separate beat-division choosers—one for the left channel
and one for the right. If you are in Sync mode—where the small Sync box is illuminated in
green—each boxed number represents a multiple of the 1/16-note delay time. For instance,
choosing a 4 would mean a four-1/16-note delay, or a full 1/4-note hold, before you would
hear the delayed note sound. An 8 would be two beats, and 16 would be four beats—typically,
an entire measure. In either of the beat-division choosers, you can select 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, or 16
for your delay multiple.
As mentioned, this beat dividing works only if the green Sync button is depressed for that channel (right or left). Sync means that the delay is set to synchronize with the song tempo (beats
per minute). If you disengage the Sync, you can manually set delay time with precision of up to
1/100 of a second by click-dragging (up or down) on the Time field box. Note: With Sync
engaged, this same box allows adjustment of the delay time by a percentage. This means that
you are slowing or speeding up the delay below or above the current project tempo. In other
words, you can add a little slop, or even approximate a triplet, if your delays are sounding too
Delay Relay By setting extremely short delay times (less than 30ms with the Sync off), you
can create some wild thickening, phasing, and metallic-sounding effects. To hear what I’m
talking about, try setting both delay times to 1, 10, and then 30ms, with the Dry/Wet set
to 30 percent and Feedback set to 70 percent. Although these effects may not result in a
lingering discernible delay, those flaming, buzzing, and biting sounds can be a creative
The Dry/Wet knob determines how much of the effect versus original sound you hear. Dry is the
term audio engineers use to refer to the original sound, while wet is the delayed or affected
sound. A setting of 12 o’clock, or 50%, for Dry/Wet will create a delay signal that is at the
same volume as the original. A 100% Wet setting means that you will no longer hear the original
sound, only the delay effect.
Feedback controls the duration and intensity of the effect. By increasing the percentage of
Feedback, you raise the effect’s signal output to its own input. The circular signal created by
Feedback will radically shape the delay, from slapback echo (short delay time, low feedback) to
a wild echo chamber potentially spiraling out of control (with large amounts of feedback).
All Wet When effects plug-ins are located in one of the return tracks, it is generally best to
set the Wet/Dry setting to 100% wet. Since the original source sound is likely still audible
through Live’s Mixer, there is no need to route this signal again through the effect.
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Ping Pong Delay
Like a game of Ping-Pong, Ableton’s Ping Pong Delay (pictured in Figure 9.15) plays a game of
stereo tennis with your sound by serving it up from left to right. In looking at this device, you
may notice that many of the controls are similar to the Simple Delay covered earlier. Like Simple
Delay, Ping Pong Delay is a stereo delay with built-in tempo synchronizing capability, and it
sports the same delay-time beat-division chooser boxes, as well as the same Dry/Wet and Feedback controls; however, Ping Pong Delay is a little more creative in terms of what frequencies
actually get delayed (repeated). You will find a band-pass filter, complete with an adjustable
X-Y controller axis to adjust both the cutoff frequency and the width of the frequency band
(the Q). You can select between 50Hz and 18kHz and a Q from .5 to 9dB.
Figure 9.15 Live’s Ping Pong Delay bounces a signal from left to right.
Notice that the same Sync and delay time boxes are also present in Ping Pong Delay. When Sync
is activated, Ping Pong Delay will rhythmically synchronize your audio delays from left to right,
according to your beat-division chooser. Once you deactivate Sync, you can set the delay time
manually from 1 to 999ms.
For those of you who have used Live for a while, you may have missed the update to the Ping
Pong Delay—a tiny little button labeled F. This is the Freeze button. When active, it will cause
the Ping Pong Delay to repeat indefinitely without fading away and without adding new audio
into the loop. Therefore, you can “freeze” what is repeating by activating this button. When you
deactivate it, the delay will continue to decay and repeat as normal.
Rub-a-Dub Thanks to the band-pass filter in the Ping Pong Delay, it’s possible to simulate
old tape-style delays. Every time a sound feeds back through the Ping Pong Delay, it
passes through the filter and has part of its sonic character changed.
Set the filter frequency to about 200Hz; then set the Q to somewhere around 5. Crank
the feedback up all the way and send a single sound, a snare for example, through the
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effect and listen to it bounce back and forth. As the sound is delayed repeatedly, you’ll
notice that it gets darker and darker. The reason is because the filter is removing the highfrequency character of the sound as it repeats. Try automating the band-pass filter as it
repeats for more dub-style goodness.
Filter Delay
Next in Live’s group of delay effects is the powerful Filter Delay. This effect is actually three
delays in one: one stereo delay and two mono delays—one on each stereo channel. Individual
delays can be toggled on and off via the L, LþR, and R boxes on the far left, seen in Figure 9.16.
Similarly, each high- and low-pass filter can also be switched on and off via the green box
labeled On (default setting) in the upper left-hand corner next to the X–Y controllers.
EQ/Delay Band
Filter Dots
(click and drag)
EQ Output
Pan & Volume
Delay Time
Dry Level
Figure 9.16 Live’s Filter Delay.
The Filter Delay device is made up of three individual delays, each with its own filter. The X-Y
controllers work in the same way as the Ping Pong Delay. The Y-axis determines the bandwidth
(Q), while the X-axis shifts the frequency. Each delay also features its own beat-division chooser
with tempo-syncable delay times.
On the right-hand side of the plug-in, you will see Feedback, Pan, and Volume controls specific
to each delay. Each feedback control will reroute the delayed signal back through that delay’s
input (just like all Live delays). Each delay’s Pan knob can be used to override its default setting.
For instance, if you pan the L delay (top delay) to the right side (with the top Pan knob), you will
hear it on the right. Volume controls the wet signal or delayed signal for each delay. Finally, a
lone Dry control knob is located in the upper right-hand corner. For a 100% wet signal, turn the
Dry setting to 0.
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Super-Spacey Echo To achieve truly cosmic delay dispersion, set the filter on the L delay
channel to approximately 7kHz, the LþR channel to 1kHz, and the R channel to 140Hz.
Set all Qs to 2.0. Pan the L channel hard-left, the R channel hard-right, and the LþR
channel in the center. Choose the same delay value for all three channels, but offset
the L channel by 1 percent and the R channel by þ1 percent. Leave the feedback at
0 for all channels at this point.
Now, when a sound is fed into the Filter Delay, the resulting slapback will happen in
stereo. The L channel, which is only high-frequency content, will sound first from the left
speaker. The LþR channel will happen next, providing the mid-range component from
both speakers. The R channel will follow all of this by giving us the low-frequency
content on the right. This makes the delay image in stereo, plus the image moves from
left to right as it happens.
Try experimenting with different time offsets to intensify the panning effect. Increasing
the feedback on the channels will cause the delay to trail off in three different directions.
Grain Delay
Grain Delay is among Live’s more complex and creative effects. The Grain Delay is the same as
Live’s other delays in that it has many of the same Delay Time, Feedback, Dry/Wet mix, and
Beat Quantize settings. While the other delays we’ve seen so far had a filter at the input stage, the
Grain Delay has a granular resynthesizer instead. The basic concept is that Grain Delay dissects
audio into tiny grains, staggers the delay timing of these grains, and then opens up a toolbox full
of pitch, randomized pitch, and spray controls for some far-out sound design results. While all
the common delay controls exist in this device, the lion’s share of the Grain Delay interface (seen
in Figure 9.17) is taken up by a large parameter-assignable X-Y controller.
Figure 9.17 Live’s Grain Delay takes audio apart and randomly reassigns the pitch before replaying the
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With Grain Delay’s X-Y interface, you can quickly control two parameters of your choosing
(one for X and one for Y), to allow for some wild interaction. Make sure that you choose
two different modifiers to achieve the maximum tweak factor. Hint: Try using Feedback on
one axis and then choose either Random P(itch), Pitch, or Frequency on the other.
This is the second parameter in the delay interface, but its setting affects all the others, so we’ll
explain it first. In the Grain Delay, small grains of sound are quickly dispersed. The Frequency
setting determines the size and duration of each grain that will be subsequently delayed and can
range from 1 to 150Hz. The default setting of 60Hz means that each second of incoming audio is
divided into 60 grains. This means that a low setting creates a large grain, while higher Frequency settings create smaller grains. High-frequency settings (lots of small grains) will help
keep sounds with rhythmical timing, such as drum loops, intact through the resynthesis process.
Low-frequency settings will sound more natural for long sounds, such as textures and pads. If
you are having trouble getting a desirable setting out of the Grain Delay, set the frequency to 150
and work backward from there.
The Spray parameter roughs up the sound, adding noise and garble to the delayed signal. This
setting will allow the Grain Delay to choose a random delay offset amount for each grain. If the
Frequency setting above is a high value, the effect of Spray will be more pronounced, as there are
more grains to randomize every second. The delay time for Spray can range from 0 to 500ms.
Small values tend to create a fuzzy-sounding delay effect, while a larger Spray setting will completely take apart the original signal.
Pitch versus Random Pitch
Like the Spray parameter, Random Pitch tends to throw sound around. The amount of randomness can range from 0 to 161 in terms of intensity (0 being the lowest intensity). The plain old
Pitch parameter ranges from 12 to 36 half steps, while allowing for two decimal-point interim
values. In other words, fine-tuning a delayed signal’s pitch to an actual, discernible tone would
be best suited for the Pitch control; trying to eliminate, destroy, or add movement to a pitched
signal is the strength of high Random Pitch values. You can use Pitch and Random Pitch in
tandem for some robotic and wild pitch modifications. As with the Spray control above, the
higher the Frequency setting, the more pronounced the Random Pitch effect will be because
there are more grains to be resynthesized.
Putting Grain Delay to Use
Now that you have some idea of just what kind of mischief the Grain Delay is up to, it’s time to
get familiar with using Grain Delay’s X-Y interface.
Along the X (horizontal) interface, lining the bottom portion of the effect, you will see the boxes
for Delay Time, Spray, Frequency, Pitch, Random Pitch, and Feedback. The vertical Y-axis can
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be set to control Spray, Frequency, Pitch, Random Pitch, Feedback, and Dry/Wet controls. Each
parameter’s current value will be displayed in the respective boxes on the left-hand side of the
device, regardless of which axis is set to adjust them.
Any parameters set to correspond to X or Y can be controlled by moving the yellow circle.
Vertical moves affect the Y-axis, while horizontal moves alter the X-axis. Exactly which parameters you control are up to you. To set feedback to be controlled by the Y-axis, simply click on
the vertically aligned box labeled Feedback just above the Dry/Wet setting. To enable the X-axis
to control the delay time (in terms of beat division), click the Delay Time box while Sync is
activated. To control actual delay time, disengage the Sync button by clicking it, and you can
set the delay from 1 to 128ms.
Shift My Pitch Up One of the more straightforward applications for the Grain Delay is to
provide an echo at a pitch different from the original track. Leave the Spray and Random
Pitch values at 0 and choose your delay time normally. If the Pitch value is at 0, the Grain
Delay will be working like the Simple Delay in that it delays only the incoming signal.
Change the Pitch setting to transpose the echo to a new note. For example, choosing a
Pitch setting of 12 will cause the delayed signal to come back an octave higher than the
original. This can be fun on vocal parts.
Chaos Is Good Another way to use the Grain Delay is to mangle a sound beyond com-
prehension. This is best achieved when using an impulse sound—something short like a
drum or cymbal hit, the last word of a vocal, or a horn stab. Place a bunch of random
values into the Grain Delay; then feed it your impulse sound. The Grain Delay will spit out
a rearrangement of all the little grains in the impulse sound. Increasing the Frequency
setting will add even more randomness to the mix. Try automating some parameters
for more movement as the Grain Delay runs its course.
Modulation Effects
The term “modulate” simply means “to change,” so by itself, it doesn’t really tell us much about
what these effects do. Generally speaking, when we speak about modulation effects, we are
talking about ones that are driven by an LFO, such that an inherent part of the effect is the
sound of it changing over time. Make sure that you’re clear on the role of the LFO in the
Auto Filter and Auto Pan effects, and you’ll have a much easier time understanding the ones
in this section. That said, some of these effects also produce quite useful results without using the
LFO section at all. As usual, carve out some time to explore each one fully.
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When you listen to a group of people singing, a chorus, each member of the group has slightly
different timing and intonation, even if they’re singing the same words with the same melody.
The result is a large and lush vocal sound achieved by the variations in all of the voices.
The Chorus effect attempts to re-create this phenomenon by taking the input signal, delaying it
by varying amounts, adding a touch of random Pitch Shift, and then blending the results with the
original. In other words, Chorus effects assume that two sounds are better than one. It is common to run synthesizers, guitars, vocals, and strings through a chorus. The doubling, or even
tripling, effect of a chorus makes solo voices sound more powerful, takes up more space in a
mix, and therefore sounds more “present.”
Live’s Chorus (see Figure 9.18) features two parallel delays that can be set for .01 to 20ms or
linked by activating a tiny equal sign (¼).
Input Filter
Delay Sync
Two Delay
Figure 9.18 Live’s Chorus effect. Note the tiny equal sign (=) sign between the delays. This button syncs
the two.
Delay 1
The effect’s first delay will always be active when the Chorus is on. To adjust the delay’s timing,
slide the fader. The adjustable Highpass filter knob bypasses chorusing low frequencies, which
can often become muddier and less defined when doubled. The definable range is 20Hz to
15kHz. Delay 1 can be used on its own or in parallel with Delay 2.
Delay 2
Chorus’s Delay 2 can add even more thickness and intensity to your sounds. Delay 2 can run in
two separate modes, Fix and Mod, and can be bypassed by selecting the top visible button
labeled Off. Fix mode will force Delay 2 to the timing specified by its slider. Mod mode will
allow the delay time to be modulated by the effect’s Mod source.
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The Chorus’s Modulation section is where the effect gets its movement. This section controls a
sine wave oscillator (an LFO), which can be used to change the timing of the two delays.
Whether you are going for completely unrecognizable new sounds or just looking for a little
more stereo spread, you will want to spend some time fiddling (click-dragging) with the Modulation X-Y controller. Horizontal moves change the modulation rate from .03 to 10Hz, while
the vertical axis increases the amount of modulation from 0 to 6.5ms. So, if Delay 1 is set to
1ms, and you have a modulation amount of 1ms, the LFO will continually change the delay time
between 0 and 2ms. The modulation rate changes the speed of the LFO from subtle movements
to bubbly vibrations. You also have the option of typing in values by simply clicking on the box,
typing a number within the allotted range, and pressing the Enter key.
The LFO will modulate both delays in stereo. This means that the delay times used for the right
and left channels will be different, which increases the stereo intensity of the effect. This also
means that if both delays are being modulated, there will be four different delay times at any
given moment. How’s that for fattening up a sound?
If you are looking for radical sonic redesign, the *20 button multiplies the Chorus’ LFO rate by
20. While this may not sound great all of the time, the *20 multiplier will push the envelope of
the dullest of sounds.
Feedback, Polarity, and Dry/Wet
For increased intensity, the Feedback control will send part of the output signal back through the
delays. The more feedback you elect to add, the more robotic and metallic your sounds will
become. The positive and negative polarity switch determines whether the signal being fed
back to the delays is added to or subtracted from the new input signal. To hear the greatest
contrast between the two polarities, you should use short delay times and increase the Chorus
Feedback. The results are often frequency and pitch related. For example, a low-frequency
sound becomes a high-frequency sound, a pitch may shift by as much as an octave, and so
forth. Finally, the Dry/Wet control determines the amount of original versus chorused signal
going to output.
The Phaser (see Figure 9.19) introduces phase shifts in the frequencies of a sound. When this
effect is in motion, it has a sort of whooshing sound that can give your sounds a smooth sense of
warmth and motion. It can also cut into your sounds if cranked up too far, thanks to some
unorthodox controls.
The Phaser uses a series of filters to create the phase shifts you hear in the sound. The Poles
control sets the number of filters, or notches, that are used in the Phaser. If you use a low number
of poles, the Phaser effect will not be as pronounced as when you use a larger number of poles.
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Figure 9.19 Star Fleet requires that you be equipped with a Phaser at all times.
Color and Mode
The button below the Poles knob sets the mode for the Phaser. The button toggles between Earth
and Space. Live’s manual is pretty ambiguous about what differentiates these modes, except to
say that they adjust the spacing of the notch filters. The Color control will further change the
relationships of the filters when Earth mode is active.
You should know what this knob does by now—it changes the mix between the original dry
signal and the phased signal. Blending the two together can soften the effect of the Phaser.
Frequency and Feedback
The large X-Y area in the middle of the Phaser is for adjusting the center frequency and the
feedback amount. Move the dot on the screen left and right to adjust frequency (or use the
number box in the lower-left corner). Vertical movement will adjust the feedback (whose number box is in the lower-right corner). You normally won’t find a feedback control on a typical
Phaser, but it’s a control that Ableton added to its Phaser to help emphasize the Phase effect.
This section is identical to the envelope follower you’ll find in the Auto Filter device. It works by
using the volume of the incoming signal as a means to modulate the frequency of the Phaser. The
speed at which the envelope follower responds to changes in input volume is governed by the
Attack and Release knobs. Use the top knob to increase the envelope’s influence on the Phaser
Again, this control is a duplicate of the LFO control found in the Auto Filter. You’ll use the
Speed controls to set the LFO rate either in relation to the current tempo or freely in Hertz. The
relation of the left and right LFOs is set with the Phase/Spin controls. Finally, the LFO’s overall
influence on the Phaser frequency is set with the Amount knob.
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Open the Phaser example in the Chapter 9 folder and launch the first scene. You’ll hear two
loops playing simultaneously: a drum loop and a hi-hat from Operator. Both of the sounds are
being run through Phaser devices in their Track Views. The hi-hat track is using the LFO to
slowly modulate the phase over two bars. The Drum Loop track has its Phaser controlled by
a Clip Envelope. Listen to each track individually and toggle the Phaser devices on and off to
compare with the original sounds. Also, try adjusting the Feedback and Poles of each Phaser.
The results can be fairly pronounced as these parameters are increased.
The Flanger bears an extremely close resemblance to the Phaser, both in design and use (see
Figure 9.20). A flanger works by taking a sound, delaying it by a slight amount, and blending
it back with the original sound. This introduces constructive and destructive interference
between various frequencies in the sound, producing a characteristic comb filter effect. The
Flanger has a much more metallic edge than the Phaser. Its sound can become quite abrasive
with high feedback settings, as you’ll see in a moment.
Figure 9.20 In the old days, flanging involved playing two identical recordings on tape machines, then
touching the flanges of one of the tape reels to subtly shift the timing of the two recordings. Live’s
Flanger makes the same effect easier and cheaper to achieve.
Hi Pass Filter
As mentioned above, the Flanger will make a copy of the input signal and mix it back in with the
original after a brief delay. This will result in flanging throughout the entire frequency spectrum.
Often, this can product inharmonic (unpitched) results, which can make melodic parts
“muddy.” To alleviate this effect, you can pass the input signal through a Hi Pass filter.
When the delayed signal is mixed back in with the original, the flanging will take effect only
on the higher frequencies, leaving the low frequencies intact.
You know this one already.
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Delay and Feedback
This looks quite similar to the X-Y control in the Phaser, doesn’t it? Functionally, it’s the same—
horizontal movements adjust the delay time, while vertical movements increase the Feedback.
Because the Flanger uses a delay, there will be a pitch to the effect, which is related to the Delay
Time parameter. As the delay time is shortened, the pitch will seem to rise. When you crank up
the Feedback, the pitch will become even more pronounced.
Envelope and LFO
These two sections are identical to the Phaser and Auto Filter, except they modulate the delay
time of the Flanger. To hear the Flanger in action, open the Flanger example in the Chapter 9
folder of the downloadable example sets. This is the same Set as the previous Phaser example,
except that Flangers have replaced the Phasers. We think you’ll agree that this sound is a little
more metallic and aggressive. To push things to the max, switch the Feedback polarity of the
Flangers by clicking the small + button next to the Feedback number box in the bottom-right
corner of the X-Y control.
Reverberation occurs when sound bounces off a surface, usually many surfaces, several times. In
the process of reflecting, the original sound dissipates, becoming diffuse and muddy and eventually disappearing altogether. Depending upon the shape and reflective qualities of the room,
certain frequencies will be more pronounced than others in the reverberated sound, or tail.
While Ableton’s Reverb device, added in version 1.5, may not be a full-fledged delay, it is certainly from the same echo-related family. The number of controls may seem daunting, but as we
step carefully through the signal path, you will see that each knob and X-Y controller is there
only for your benefit. Before we get carried away, take a quick look at Figure 9.21.
Filter frequencies
before they reverberate
Filter frequencies
during reverberation
Freeze the
Figure 9.21 Live’s feature-laden Reverb plug-in.
Diffusion Network
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Input Processing
The first link in Reverb’s signal chain is the Input Processing section. Here you have on/off
selectable Low- and High-Cut filtering, as well as a Predelay control. The Low-Cut and
High-Cut X-Y interface allows you to trim your input’s frequencies before they are reverberated.
Similar to Live’s other delays, the X-axis shifts the frequency of the cut (50Hz to 18kHz), while
the Y-axis changes the bandwidth (.50 to 9.0). You can also turn each filter off by deselecting its
green illuminated box. I recommend spending some time playing with this filter each time you
use this effect. Think of these filters as altering the acoustic characteristics of a room. For
instance, a concrete room may not reproduce low frequencies as well as an acoustically engineered studio room. Each room will favor completely different frequencies.
Also, check out the Predelay control for adding milliseconds of time before you hear the first
early reflections, or delayed sound, of the forthcoming reverberation. While the Predelay can
range from .50 to 250ms, to simulate a normal-sounding room, the Predelay works best
below 25ms. For large cannons, go long, baby.
Early Reflections
Early reflections are the first reverberations heard after the initial sound bounces off the walls,
floor, or ceiling of the room—yet they arrive ahead of the full reflection, or tail. At times, they
sound like slapback delays or mushy portions of the whole reverberated (diffused) sound. The
Reverb houses two early reflection controls: Shape and Spin. Spin’s X-Y interface controls,
Depth (Y-axis) and Frequency (X-axis), apply a subtle modulation to early reflections. Results
may range from shimmering highs to whirligig panning flourishes. For quicker decay of early
reflections, try increasing the Shape control gradually toward 1.00. Lower values will blend
more smoothly with the normal reverb diffusion.
Rethink Your Reverb Because Reverb is Ableton Live’s most processor-intensive effect
(actually, reverb is almost always the most CPU-hungry effect, Ableton’s or anyone
else’s), it’s often best to use it on a return track instead of putting it onto individual tracks.
This way you can use the same Reverb (instance) for multiple tracks. The added bonus
with this strategy is that by using the same Reverb, it will sound as if all of the instruments
were played in the same space. Of course, this may not be the best idea for every song, so
use this technique at your discretion.
Global Settings
In Reverb’s Global settings section, you can select the quality level of the reverb: Eco, Mid, or
High. The three settings will demand small, moderate, and large processor power, respectively.
You may also determine the size of the imaginary room via the Size control, which ranges from
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.22 (small/quiet) to 500 (large/loud). A Stereo Image control selects from 0 to 120 degrees of
stereo spread in the reverberation. Higher values will be more spread out, while lower ones
approach a mono sound.
Diffusion Network
The Diffusion Network is by far the most complex-looking area of the Reverb effect. These
controls help put the final touches on the actual reverberation that follows closely behind the
early reflections. From here, you will be able to decorate and control the finer points of the
reverberated sound. To begin with, High and Low shelving filters can further define your imaginary room’s sound. By shaving off the highs, for instance, your room may sound more like a
concert hall or large auditorium, while brightening up the diffusion (raising the high shelf) will
approximate a “bathroom” reverb. Similar to X-Y–interface-controlled filters, each filter’s Xaxis determines frequency, while the Y-axis controls bandwidth. Turning these filters off will
conserve some system resources.
Beneath the High and Low shelving controls, you will find the Reverb’s Decay Time settings,
which range from an extremely short 200ms to a cavernous 60-second-long tail. Long reverbs
are mesmerizing but can make audio sound muddy and jumbled if used profusely.
To test the coloring and sonic quality of your Reverb, you can use the Freeze control. Any time
you press Freeze, Reverb will indefinitely hold and reproduce the diffusion tail. This frozen
Reverb can be a handy diagnostic tool for shaping your overall sound or a creative trick to
make new sounds from a piece of reverb. Typically, we will freeze the Reverb when we are
first setting it up and then stop all other loops and sounds. After analyzing the reverberated
sound for a moment, we often tweak parameters to weed out extreme or obnoxious low or
high frequencies or change the Reverb’s modulation.
When Flat is activated, the low- and high-pass filters will be ignored. In other words, your frozen
Reverb tail will contain all frequencies. An active Cut command prevents further audio from
being frozen, even if it is passing through the Reverb. For instance, you may want to analyze the
tonality of the Reverb tail. To do this, you play your audio through the Reverb, then press
Freeze, and then press Cut (to cut off future audio from snowballing into a wall of useless
noise). Even if you stop playback, the frozen Reverb sample will continue to play. While Reverb
is frozen, you can make adjustments to the Diffusion Network settings and more acutely decipher their impact. Try starting and stopping audio a few times to analyze the differences between
your project’s audio and the reverberating audio. Is the Reverb tail adding unwanted mud? The
second X-Y interface in the Diffusion Network, labeled Chorus, can add subtle motion or wobbly effect to the overall Reverb tail diffusion. When not in use, deactivate the Chorus button to
save system resources.
The final section in Diffusion Network controls the density (thickness) and scale (coarseness) of
the diffusion’s echo. The Density control ranges from .1% (a lighter-sounding reverb), to a 96%
rich and chewy reverb, while Scale can run from 5 to 100%, gradually adding a darker and
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murkier quality to the diffusion. A high Density setting will diminish the amount of audible
change made by Scale controls.
The Output section is the final link in the Reverb signal chain. At this stage, just three knobs,
Dry/Wet, Reflect Level, and Diffuse Level, put the finishing touches on your Reverb Preset masterpiece. Dry/Wet controls the ratio of original, unaffected sound to affected, reverberated sound
that you hear coming from the effect’s output. When using Reverb in one of Live’s return tracks,
we recommend using a 100% Wet setting, as opposed to using Reverb on a regular track, where
settings between 10 and 45% sound more natural.
The Reflect Level control knob adjusts the amplitude (level) of the early reflections specified in
the Early Reflections box, from 30 to +6 dB. The louder you make the early reflections, the
more you will hear an echo of the true sound (which will sound even more like a slapback delay
as opposed to a reverb).
In similar fashion, the Diffuse Level controls the amount of Diffusion Network level in the final
Reverb output. A low diffusion level will diminish the tail of the Reverb, while a high amplitude
of Diffusion Network will increase the presence of Reverb in your mix.
This brings us to the third group of Ableton’s devices: the Distortion effects. While each of these
effects can quickly and drastically alter your audio content, taking time to learn the ins and outs
of these babies can take your mixes to a whole new level. Note that both Saturator and Dynamic
Tube have a Hi Quality mode to reduce aliasing artifacts in high-frequency sounds. This mode is
turned on by right-clicking in the device’s title bar and selecting Hi Quality from the context
menu. There’s only a small CPU hit for using this feature, so it’s generally recommended to turn
it on.
The newest of Ableton’s distortion effects is also the simplest. Instead of trying to be the most
flexible effect, Overdrive models the behavior of some popular effect boxes for guitar. As the
term is usually used to signify, Overdrive (see Figure 9.22) produces a warm, harmonically rich
effect that is useful on a wide variety of sources. Even at high settings, it does not produce the
harsh clipping that Saturator is capable of.
The heart of Overdrive is the Drive knob: Turn it up to get more distortion. There are two
different EQ adjustments as well: the bandpass filter above, which is applied to the signal before
the drive circuit, and the Tone knob, which adjusts the tone post-drive. This gives you a lot of
flexibility. For example, cutting some lows with the bandpass filter may clean up the mud that
you might get from distorting a bass, while the Tone knob can be used to control any harshsounding artifacts that the Drive circuit adds to the signal.
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Figure 9.22 Overdrive: Live’s “stomp-box” distortion.
To further customize the sound, use the Dynamics and Dry/Wet controls. Dynamics is a simple
compressor—high values preserve the original dynamics of the sound, while low values increase
the compression. Don’t underestimate the importance of the Dry/Wet control. In the example
above, you would use this control to make sure that you added in enough of the dry signal to
compensate for the low end that you’ve removed from the overdriven one.
If you like the sort of effect produced by Overdrive, but you need something more programmable, Saturator is where you’ll turn next, as shown in Figure 9.23. This effect has not only a
variety of analog distortion models, but is capable of producing digital clipping and has a flexible waveshaper.
Figure 9.23 The Saturator: Instant fatness or gateway to destruction?
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Waveform Display
The top of the Saturator interface is dominated by the large waveform display. Manipulating the
controls below the display will give you insight into how the effect modifies your signal by
looking at the resulting curve.
You can choose six different modes of signal shaping using the drop-down menu below the
display: Analog Clip, Soft Sine, Medium Curve, Hard Curve, Sinoid Fold, and Digital Clip,
each with its own distinct characteristics. The Waveshaper mode allows flexible control of
the waveform through the six adjustable parameters listed just below the drop-down menu:
Drive: Not to be confused with the Drive knob (see below), determines the amount of
influence of the waveshaping effect.
Curve: Adds harmonics to the signal.
Depth: Controls the amplitude of a sine wave superimposed over the distortion curve.
Lin: Alters the linear portion of the shaping curve.
Damp: Flattens the signal, acting as a sort of super-fast noise gate.
Period: Determines the density of the ripples in the sine wave.
These controls are specific to the Waveshaper and are not available in other modes.
On a dynamic distortion unit such as this, the Drive knob is where you’ll demolish your sound;
you’ll find this to the left of the waveform display. The higher the Drive amount, the more the
input signal is amplified. This forces more of the signal into the distortion range, slaughtering the
sound at high levels. If you’re getting too much distortion, you can reduce the Drive into negative amounts so that only a slight portion of the signal is distorted.
Below the Drive, you’ll see the DC offset switch, which removes extremely low frequencies that
can’t be heard. But it does consume headroom in your mix, especially when processed with an
effect that increases gain, such as the Saturator.
When the Color toggle switch is on, the four controls below it also become active. These controls
are similar to the tone controls on a guitar amp. The Base knob will increase or decrease the
amount of bass distorted by the effect. The last three knobs set a high-frequency EQ with specs
for frequency, width, and depth (gain).
As you increase the Drive amount, you will increase the volume of the distortion, often to the
point of overpowering other instruments in your mix. Pull the Output down a bit to bring the
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sound back where it should be. A Dry/Wet control here sets the amount of effect being heard.
When the Soft Clip button is activated, an additional instance of the Analog Clip curve will be
applied to the final output.
Open the Saturator example to hear how the Saturator demolishes both a drum loop and a bass
sound. Try the other shapes while the loop is running to become familiar with their sounds, and
don’t forget to check out the sounds with the Saturator turned off.
Quality, by Default Here’s a trick to make sure that you always use the Saturator and
Dynamic Tube effects in High Quality mode. After turning High Quality mode on (by
right-clicking in the title bar and selecting it from the context menu), right-click in the
title bar again and select Save as Default Preset. Now, every time you insert the device,
High Quality mode will be enabled. This same technique can be used on any device to
create any default values you want.
Dynamic Tube
The Dynamic Tube effect models the distinct effect that vacuum tubes can have on audio (see
Figure 9.24). It doesn’t really sound like most distortion effects. It can provide some extremely
subtle effects, somewhere between compression and distortion, while its more aggressive settings
sound like equipment malfunctioning!
Figure 9.24 The Dynamic Tube saturation effect.
This effect allows you to choose between three different tube models: A, B, and C, with C being
the most distortion-prone tube and A being the cleanest of the bunch. With Bias set at 0, tube A
won’t produce any distortion at all. It can, however, produce some very “hot” sounding
Open up the Dynamic Tube example set and listen to the drum loop with and without the effect.
Try sweeping the Tone knob to both of its extremes, and then listen to what happens when you
bring Envelope down to -300%. With a negative Envelope value, less distortion is produced for
louder sounds, bringing back more of the loop’s original punch.
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The Tone control determines what frequencies (higher or lower) are most affected by the tubedistortion effect.
The Drive control sets how much of the incoming signal is routed through the tube. Setting the
Drive control higher will result in a dirtier output.
The Bias control works in conjunction with the Drive control. It determines how much distortion the tube is capable of producing. As you turn this up to the top, the signal will really start to
break apart into dirty, fuzzed-out noise. You can modulate the Bias control with the Envelope
controls at right. The higher the setting of the Envelope knob, the more the Bias setting will be
influenced by the level of the input signal. You can use the Attack and Release knobs to adjust
how quickly the envelope reacts to the input.
As anyone who’s done any subtractive-synthesis or frequency filtering knows, deconstructing a
sound can be a creative endeavor. Erosion uses an unusual method for sonic degradation. By rapidly modulating a very short delay time, strange distortion artifacts are created. The modulator can
be Noise, Wide Noise, or Sine, as seen beneath the X-Y interface (pictured in Figure 9.25).
Figure 9.25 Live’s Erosion device window, primarily taken up by its unusual X-Y field.
Depending upon which mode you currently have active, Erosion will use either a sine wave or a
noise generator to modulate a very short delay. The only difference between the two noise modes
is that Wide Noise uses a separate noise generator for each channel, resulting in a stereo effect.
To control the degree of Erosion’s effect on a sound, move along the Y-axis to change the level
of the modulation signal and the X-axis to control the frequency. For Wide Noise, the Width can
be adjusted by holding Alt (Option) while dragging vertically.
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While you’re digging into tools for sonic decimation, you will definitely want to check out Live’s
Redux device. Redux (see Figure 9.26) is a bit-depth and sample-rate reducer that can make even
the prettiest of guitars, or anything else for that matter, saw your head off. Of course, results
need not be this drastic if you are capable of restraint. In fact, reducing the fidelity of a sample
is like a tip of the hat to old Roland, Emu, and Akai 8- and 12-bit samplers—or even old 2- and
4-bit computer-based samples (Commodore 64, anyone?).
Figure 9.26 Live’s Redux is a talented bit-depth and sample-rate reducer.
The controls for Redux are split into two tidy sections, with a Bit Reduction knob and On/Off
switch on top, and a Downsample knob and Hard/Soft switch on the bottom. The default position for Bit Reduction is 16-bit (off). As you reduce the bits, you will hear an increasing amount
of noisy grit infect the sample. Anything below 4 bits causes a dramatic increase in gain, so use
caution. The numerical setting will indicate the bit depth (e.g., 8 ¼ 8-bit, 4 ¼ 4-bit). Extremists
can try trimming it down to 1-bit—ouch, that hurts!
When it comes to sample-rate reduction, the settings are a little more inexact. In Hard mode,
downsampling will stick with whole integers such as 1, 2, and 3 (up to 200) for dividing the
sample rate, while in Soft mode you can adjust from 1 to 20 to the nearest hundredth of a point
(1.00 or 19.99). A setting of 1 means you are not hearing any sample-rate reduction—oddly, the
higher the number, the lower the resulting sample rate.
For a quick course, spend a minute perusing the Ableton factory presets, such as Old Sampler
and Mirage. This will give you a basic template to work from. Also, while you are in Playback
mode, try toggling between Hard and Soft Downsampling with different settings for a cool
Vinyl Distortion
The imperfections of vinyl have actually become quite lovable these days. Whether you are missing the dust pops and crackles of an old record or the warped vinyl sound of a record left out in
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the sun, vinyl has a certain retro charm. Though CDs and digital recordings are great, they are
hopelessly clean and free of these impurities. Of course, Ableton thought about this, too, and as
a result, we have Vinyl Distortion (see Figure 9.27).
Figure 9.27 Live’s Vinyl Distortion effect hopes to make you miss your turntable just a little bit less.
Vinyl Distortion is divided into three separate sections: Tracing Model, Crackle, and Pinch.
While the controls for Tracing Model and Pinch look identical, each section generates a totally
different sound. Also note that the Soft/Hard and Stereo/Mono switches are also a part of the
Pinch effect. If Pinch is off, these controls will remain grayed out (inactive).
Tracing Model adds a subtle amount of harmonic distortion to your audio as a means of simulating wear and tear on vinyl or an old stylus. To adjust the intensity of the distortion, increase
the Drive by moving the yellow circle along the Y-axis (which ranges from 0.00 to 1.00). Adjust
the frequency of the harmonic on the X-axis (which ranges from 50Hz to 18kHz), or input a
value manually by typing in the box. To adjust the size of the bandwidth you are affecting, hold
down Alt (Option) and click-drag forward or backward on the yellow circle.
The Pinch section of Vinyl Distortion is a more drastic and wild-sounding distortion at the input
level. The resulting richer stereo image is from Pinch’s 180 degrees out-of-phase harmonic
distortions. Like the Tracing Model, you can increase the intensity of the distortion through
the Y-axis. The X-axis will configure the frequency range. You will want to pay special attention
to the Soft/Hard boxes to the right of the X-Y interface in the Pinch section. Soft mode is engineered to sound like an actual dub plate (acetate), while Hard mode will sound more like a
standard vinyl record. Also, the Stereo/Mono switch applies to the Pinch effect only.
No vinyl simulator would be complete without a vinyl pop and crackle effect. Crackle provides
two simple controls: Volume and Density. Volume is obviously the level of the hiss and crackle
in the mix. Density adds a thicker amount of noise to the output. Note that you will hear the
crackle and hiss whether Live is in Playback mode or not, because effects are always running. If
you forget this, you might just take a screwdriver to your audio interface trying to figure out
where all the noise is coming from!
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This last section of devices covers Live’s more esoteric and hard to classify plug-ins. Some of
these could have been squeezed into other sections of this chapter, but they are all unique enough
that it made sense to give them their own section.
Beat Repeat
Glitch-heads, rejoice! Ableton brings you the Beat Repeat device (see Figure 9.28). Now you can
produce the stereotypical beat-stutter with just a few simple gestures—you can even program
repeats to happen automatically.
Figure 9.28 Th-Th-Th-This dev-v-v-v-ice is sw-ee-ee-ee-ee-t!
Open up the Beat Repeat example Set and launch the first Scene, titled Manual. This will start a
drum loop running. The beat will play without being repeated. Go ahead and click the Repeat
button in the Beat Repeat interface. Woo-hoo! There it goes, repeating away. Click the Repeat
button again to turn it off, and the regular beat will resume. Obviously, the Repeat button is
named well.
Grid and Variation
You set the size, or length, of the repeated segment with the Grid knob. Turn on Repeat and try
tweaking this knob. You’ll hear the Repeat size change in real time—an awesome effect for
remixing. The No Trpl button will remove the triplet values when scrolling through the grid
sizes, which is handy if you want to keep all the rhythmic repeats in sync.
The Variation knob just to the right of the Grid knob introduces randomness to the grid size.
When set to 0%, the grid will always be what you’ve set with the Grid knob. As this value
increases, Live automatically changes the grid based on the mode selected in the pop-up menu
below the knob. When you select Trigger in that menu, Live gives you a new grid size anytime
you start the Repeat function. It will hold the grid size until you stop or retrigger the Repeat. The
1/4, 1/8, and 1/16 settings will change the Grid setting at the specified time interval. The Auto
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setting will change the grid size after every repeat. This can get really hairy, as you can have a
single repeat of 1/64 followed by a repeat of 1/6, followed by 1/16, followed by 1/2, and so on.
The results are truly unpredictable!
Mix, Insert, and Gate
These three buttons control the output mode of the Beat Repeat. So far, you’ve been using the Insert
mode. In Insert mode the original drumbeat is silenced whenever repeats are occurring. Click the
Mix button and try using the Repeat button. In Mix mode, you’ll hear the original drum beat
while the repeats occur—the two are being mixed together. The final mode, Gate, always silences
the original signal and only outputs the repeats. This mode is useful when you’ve placed the Beat
Repeat on a return track, especially if you’ve chained additional effects after the Beat Repeat.
Volume and Decay
The Volume knob sets the volume of the repeated sounds. Note that the first repeat is always at
the original volume. We like to decrease the volume a little bit so that the music comes back in
heavier after the repeat. It’s almost necessary to turn this down when you’re using small grid
sizes because the repeats become so fast that they start to make a tone of their own.
The Decay knob will cause the volume of each consecutive repeat to be quieter than the first. This
means that your repeats will slowly (or quickly) fade away to silence each time you trigger Repeat.
The Pitch controls can be used to introduce pitch shifts into your repeats. The Pitch knob will
simply transpose the repeated sound down by the specified number of semitones. The Pitch
Decay knob works similarly to the Volume Decay knob above, except that it makes the pitch
drop further and further with each consecutive repeat. It’s possible to make the repeated sound
drop so low in pitch that it becomes inaudible. This is a neat tool to use in conjunction with the
Volume Decay because you can make your repeats drop in pitch and fade away at the same time.
This filter functions in the same way as the filter in the Ping Pong Delay, except that the repeated
sounds are not fed back through this filter. When Repeat is on, you can engage the filter and
choose a specific frequency range for the repeats. This can give your repeats a lo-fi sound in
comparison to the normal part. You can even change the filter frequency and width while
Repeat is running for even more animation.
Chance and Interval
So far, we’ve been showing you how to use Beat Repeat in a completely hands-on fashion, which
is how you’ll probably use Beat Repeat in a live situation. However, as we alluded to earlier, you
can set Beat Repeat to perform repeats automatically. This is the purpose of the Chance and
Interval knobs.
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In your experiments so far, the Chance knob has been set to 0%. This means there is no chance
that the Beat Repeat will automatically trigger itself. If you turn this value up to 100%, Beat
Repeat will automatically trigger at the rate specified with the Interval knob. If Interval is set to
1 Bar, Beat Repeat will activate itself every bar. If you set Chance to 50%, there will only be a
1-in-2 chance that the Beat Repeat will trigger.
Offset and Gate
These last two knobs determine when an automatic repeat will start and how long it will last.
When Offset is set to 0, the repeat will start the instant it is called by the Interval and Chance
knobs. If you turn this knob clockwise, you’ll see it count up in 1/16 notes—with the knob
turned up halfway, the value will be 8/16. This means that the Beat Repeat won’t start until
the third beat of the bar. You’ll also see the Repeat markers move in the display as a visual aid.
The Gate knob sets how long the repeats will last once triggered. If set to 4/16, the repeat will
last for a quarter note. If set to 8/16, the repeats will last for half a bar. Therefore, using Offset
and Grid, you can specify any location in the audio to repeat, as well as how long to do it.
To hear all these properties at work, launch the Automatic Scene. This will play the same drumbeat, but through a Beat Repeat on another channel.
Corpus (see Figure 9.29) is the effect version of Collision. It’s included when you buy Collision
(or the Live Suite), making it the only audio effect that doesn’t come with the basic version of
Live. The majority of the effect is nearly identical to Collision, so we’ll be focusing on the aspects
that differentiate it here. One thing that’s a little unusual about Corpus is that by default its Dry/
Wet control is set to 0, so make sure to turn that up before you get twiddling.
Figure 9.29 Corpus processes any sound source you want using Collision’s resonators.
The main difference between Collision and Corpus is that there is no Excitator section. This is
because the effect uses the input signal to get the virtual resonator vibrating. The area that would
be used for the Excitator is instead filled by an LFO, which controls the pitch of the resonator.
For more information on how Ableton’s LFOs work, please consult the “Auto Filter” and “Auto
Pan” sections of this chapter.
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What makes Corpus really interesting is its Sidechain section, which is displayed by clicking the
triangular unfold switch in the title bar. Unlike the other Sidechain sections we’ve looked at, this
one can only use a MIDI track as its source, because the Corpus actually uses the MIDI data to
control the pitch of the resonators. So, for example, I could use Collision to produce some unusual
resonance on a synthesizer sound and use the synth’s MIDI part to make sure that the resonance is
perfectly tuned to every note played by the synth. To get this working, pick the MIDI track from
the menu in the Sidechain section and then click the Frequency switch to enable it.
Since the Sidechain makes this device behave like a hybrid effect unit/synthesizer, the other controls in the Sidechain section are very synth-like. Last and Low determine how Corpus responds
to multiple MIDI notes being input simultaneously, with Last tuning the resonator to the pitch
of the last played note or Low choosing the lowest note. Pitch Bend determines how much the
resonance can be controlled by pitch bend messages.
At the bottom of the Sidechain section is the Off Decay switch, which causes the resonators to
stop resonating when Note Off messages are received via MIDI. When turned on, the speed with
which the resonators are silenced is controlled by the percentage box below. When off, the
Decay controls the resonator decay, without regard to the length of the incoming MIDI notes.
Looking to the right past the LFO controls, you’ll notice that the pitch controls are slightly different
than Collision. If you’re using the Sidechain, you’ll see Transpose and Fine controls, which can be
used to change the resonator pitch relative to the Sidechain input. Otherwise, there’s just a Tune
control. In either case, you can use Spread to detune the left and right channels.
Frequency Shifter
New to Live 8 is the Frequency Shifter, a powerful effect capable of creating some very subtle
modulation or massive sonic deconstruction. This device, shown in Figure 9.30, can do ring
modulation and frequency shifting, so it’s like two effects in one.
Figure 9.30 The Frequency Shifter—not for the faint of heart!.
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Frequency shifting adds a fixed amount in Hertz to the incoming signal, producing strange
inharmonic sounds. Start out by adjusting the Fine knob (leave Frequency alone). Try creating
a shift of about 3Hz and pull the Dry/Wet down to 50% to hear some really cool phasing effects.
Clicking the Wide switch will give the effect stereo depth, as it raises the pitch in the left channel
while lowering it in the right. (You’ll also notice that it changes the label of the Fine switch to
Spread.) Now move on to the Frequency control. This one requires very little explanation—it’s
not a subtle effect!
Switching into Ring mode changes the effect to ring modulation, which involves both adding
and subtracting a fixed amount, resulting in a slightly different but still bizarre-sounding effect.
In Ring mode, the Drive control can be enabled to add distortion to the signal. Use the numeric
box to dial in the right amount. The LFO is nearly identical to the LFO you’ll see in Live’s other
effects, with the exception that the Amount knob is labeled in Hz so you know exactly how
much the LFO will vary the frequency.
Since this effect can change pitch so dramatically, it often works well on sources where it is not
important to retain a specific tonality. Make sure to give it a workout on drums and percussion.
Similar to Corpus, when a sound is fed through the Resonators, it causes a set of virtual resonators to start vibrating, or creating a tone at their set pitches and volumes (see Figure 9.31).
Even though this effect has quite a few controls, it’s conceptually much simpler than Corpus.
Base Settings
Figure 9.31 The Resonators device will start generating pitches based on an input signal.
To begin, crank the Dry/Wet mix knob fully clockwise to isolate the sound of the resonators.
Turn off the Input filter so a full-range sound is feeding the device. Adjust the settings for Resonator I first, since the other four resonators base their tones and pitches on the first. You’ll see
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that you have control of the decay of the resonators (best heard on sparse percussion tracks), as
well as the color and pitch. Once the first resonator is set, engage the other resonators and use
the Pitch knobs to set their frequencies relative to the first. This makes it simple to create chords
using multiple resonators; then transpose them all using the first resonator’s Pitch knob.
Resonators II and III and Resonators IV and V can be panned apart from each other by increasing the Width knob. This can help create a lush tonal pad that blends well with a mix. You can
also use the Input filter to remove frequencies that may be overpowering or saturating the resonator banks. The Gain knobs are used to achieve a blend between the various resonators,
allowing you to emphasize certain pitches over others.
Tuned Reverb Try adding a Resonator effect right after a Reverb effect on your vocalist’s
return track. Build a chord with the dials on the effect and set it to fully wet. Now the
Reverb effect will cause the resonators to ring in tune with the song, adding an ethereal
sound to the voice.
Vocoders have a long and storied history. Originally popularized in the 1970s by artists from
Kraftwerk to ELO, the vocoder is famous for its ability to create talking synthesizers and singing
robots by applying the complex envelope of a the human voice to any sound source. Throughout
the years, many other applications have been discovered for vocoders, and Ableton has used
these developments to create a very useful, modern implementation of this classic effect (see
Figure 9.32).
Figure 9.32 Live’s amazing Vocoder.
A vocoder deals with two different signals: the Modulator and the Carrier. The effect is created
by splitting the Modulator (a vocal, or any other signal you choose to run through it) into an
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array of narrow frequency bands, then analyzing the amplitude of the individual bands in real
time to produce an envelope that can be applied to another sound, known as the Carrier.
In Live’s Vocoder, the Modulator is the signal being produced by the track into which the
Vocoder is inserted. So, if you were to drop a Vocoder into a vocal track, the clip playing on
that track would be the Modulator. The Carrier is selected from the menu in the upper-right
corner of the effect. The options are as follows:
Noise: This setting uses a built-in noise oscillator to generate the output signal. The X-Y
controller below modifies the sample rate and density of the noise to produce different
colors. This setting is particularly good for producing percussive sound effects.
External: This is the setting you use for classic Vocoder effects. Specify another track to use
as the source, such as a synth pad, and the vocal on the carrier track will appear to be
“singing” the synthesizer sound.
Modulator: The most unusual of the bunch, this setting uses the modulator signal as the
carrier. This allows you to create some very unusual effects by manipulating the other
controls such as Depth, Range, and Release. Or you can use this mode to use Vocoder as a
powerful EQ.
Pitch Tracking: This is Vocoder’s “auto-tune” mode, although that’s not necessarily how
you’ll use it. A monophonic oscillator tunes itself to the pitch of the carrier signal and
produces a wave chosen by the switches below. The accuracy of the tracking will vary
greatly, depending on the source material, with polyphonic material producing some very
unpredictable results.
At the top of this section is the Enhance switch, which can be used to restore high frequencies
that get lost during the vocoding process. At the bottom section of the interface are the Unvoiced
controls, which help the Vocoder handle unpitched aspects of the sound, such as consonants. To
deal with the fact that this sort of sound may not produce an audible result in the Vocoder’s
output, a noise signal is synthesized to compensate for this. To activate this feature, turn up the
Unvoiced knob to the desired level and adjust the Sensitivity until it responds to the Modulator
properly. When it’s all the way up, the Unvoiced synthesizer no longer responds to these sounds
and produces a signal continuously.
The center display is where you can really get into the nitty gritty aspect of manipulating the
filter bank. The mouse becomes a Pencil tool when it’s held over the graphical display and can be
used to partially or fully suppress a particular band. When Carrier is set to Modulator, you can
use this technique to use the Vocoder as a powerful filter.
The first control along the bottom of the display is Bands, which controls the number of bands
used to analyze the Modulator. More bands means more accurate analysis and a more naturalsounding output, which may or may not be what you want. (What’s “natural” about a singing
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synthesizer anyway?) Range specifies the upper and lower limits of the bands and can be used to
remove any excess frequencies at the extremes. BW stands for bandwidth and controls the width
of each filter. At values other than 100%, the filters either have gaps between them or overlap
each other, producing a variety of interesting effects. Use your ears.
The Gate control can be used to clean up the Modulator signal by suppressing any bands below
the threshold. By default, no gating occurs, as its setting is –inf. Level is a volume control for the
effect output. Use this in conjunction with Dry/Wet to get the perfect blend.
Depth determines how dynamic the resulting effect is. By default, the volume envelope of the modulator is applied to the carrier. This control can be turned down to reduce the dynamic range of the
output signal or increased to exaggerate it. The Attack and Release controls can be used to further
shape the Volume Envelope. Note that the Release control goes up to a whopping 30 seconds and
can be used in conjunction with the Noise carrier to create some really intense builds.
Finally, the Formant knob can be used to alter the frequencies of the filters that get applied to the
carrier signal. This can be used to create some unusual frequency shifting effects or can be used
to change the perceived gender of the modulator when voice is used.
This effect has so many uses, it’s well worth spending some time with. Try using the Noise
carrier to add some extra snap and depth to a snare drum sound, use a drum part as the modulator to create a rhythmic synth part by using a pad as the carrier, or try that same drum loop
Pitch Tracking mode to generate some unusual melodic material. The possibilities are literally
External Audio Effect
External Effect is in a class by itself. Instead of processing audio, it provides a flexible insert
point for interfacing with external hardware.
Using effect boxes in your Live productions has never been easier. Insert an external effect device in
a track and select the inputs and outputs your processor is connected to, as seen in Figure 9.33.
Audio from the track will now be routed through your external device. Then you can use the Gain
knobs to adjust levels to and from the device. What’s really cool, though, is that there is a Dry/Wet
knob for blending the send and return signals. This means that you don’t have to mess with the Mix
control on an external effect. You can just leave your effects set up with direct signal at 0% and
make fully recallable adjustments of the wet/dry balance from within Live.
The remainder of the controls in the External Audio Effect device deal with timing issues. The
Phase switch inverts the phase of the returned signal to correct phase cancellation problems that
could occur when blending dry and processed signals. The Latency control compensates for
delay incurred by routing the audio to and from the hardware device.
The benefits here become obvious quickly. If you have enough I/O on your audio interface, you
can keep external processors connected and create presets for them. Not only can you quickly
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Figure 9.33 The External Audio Effect shown above will route audio through whatever hardware is
connected to input and output #4 on your audio interface.
access your hardware in this fashion, but you can also insert your hardware devices anywhere in
a device chain or a Rack.
Ableton introducing an effect called Looper may sound like a strange and redundant thing. After
all, isn’t Live already known for being a looping monster? Well, Looper has been introduced to
deal with the fact that folks who record loops on the fly using instruments or voice have some
very specific needs that haven’t always been addressed by Live. Lots of people have used Live in
this way over the past few years, but it’s often required various hacks and workarounds to get it
to behave more like some of the popular hardware loopers. Rather than exhaustively document
every single feature of Looper (the Looper section in Live’s manual is outstanding), I’m going to
focus here on taking you through a few practical experiments so you can really understand what
this device is all about.
To get started with Looper quickly, drop it into an empty audio track and focus on the extra
large button called the Multi-Purpose Transport (see Figure 9.34). It starts by displaying a Record icon. Arm the track for recording (or set Monitor to In) and spend a moment picking a
tempo in your head. Do not start playback in Live, just click the large button while simultaneously starting to count your tempo into a microphone (“1,2,3,4…”). After a bar or two, click the
button again. Once you’ve done this, you should notice a few very interesting things. First, Live’s
sequencer is now running, and you should hear the loop of your counting. Take a look at Live’s
master tempo and turn on the metronome. Live has set its tempo by the length of the loop you
just recorded. Pretty cool!
Now, take a look at the big Multi-Purpose Transport button and the small row of icons just
above it. The small icons will always tell you what mode you are currently in. Right now, you’ll
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Figure 9.34 If you’re a fan of hardware loopers such as the Boomerang or Loop Station, you’re going
to have a lot of fun with Looper.
see a highlighted plus sign, letting you know you’re in Overdub mode. Any additional sounds
you make will get added to the loop. The big button is displaying a Play icon. Clicking it will
take you into Playback mode and stop the overdubbing. Clicking it repeatedly will toggle you
back and forth between Play and Overdub, allowing you to either add additional layers to your
recording or just listen to playback. Finally, double-click the large button, and Looper will stop
playback without stopping Live’s sequencer.
So, without digging too deeply into this device’s options, you should get a pretty good idea of
how powerful this baby is right out of the box. If you haven’t already guessed, the big reason for
putting so much functionality into one button is to make it really easy for instrumentalists to
control it via MIDI. Just map a single footswitch control, and you’re ready to begin recording
improvised loop odysseys with no further configuration. If you make a mistake as you go, just
hold down the footswitch for two seconds to Undo (or Redo). When stopped, holding the button
for two seconds will clear out Looper completely.
The configuration options are many. Before these next experiments, stop the sequencer and click
the Clear button to empty out Looper. Now, let’s say that you want the second press of the
Multi Function Transport to take you into Play mode, instead of directly into Overdub. Scan
your eyes over to the right where you’ll see “Record <x bars4 Then <þ4 ”. Click the plus sign.
You’ll see it change into a Play icon, and you’re done. Or try changing “x bars” to “2 bars.”
Now you can start up Live playing back a click or a drum loop, and a single-click of the big
button will record for two bars and jump automatically into the next mode.
Just below, you’ll see a menu labeled Song Control. Imagine that you want a double-click to stop
not just the Looper, but all clips playing back in Live. Change this menu to Start & Stop Song,
and you’re all set. With one footswitch, you can begin recording a loop, automatically have Live
start playing back prerecorded loops in time with your loop, overdub additional layers, and then
stop the entire song!
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By now, you may have also realized that some of Looper’s functions are quantized just like clips.
That’s what the Quantize menu below the Multi-Function Transport is for. This is very useful
because it can be used to make sure that loop recording or playback starts at the beginning of the
bar. The Quantization menu also affects the behavior of the Double & Half Speed buttons.
Next to the Speed knob, you’ll notice up and down arrow buttons. These are used to double or
halve the speed of your loop, a very common feature on looping pedals. Like these hardware
devices, changing the speed of a loop also changes the pitch (just like a clip in Repitch mode).
You’ll see this reflected by the Speed knob—its value is displayed in semitones. It’s possible to
make all sorts of crazy loop textures by recording elements at different speeds. Record a guitar
loop, drop it by an octave, and overdub a new layer over that. Now raise them both by two
octaves and hit the Reverse switch. Add additional material before returning to the original
speed and pressing the Reverse switch again. Rinse and repeat.
If you want to change the length of your loop without changing the speed, use the 2 and x2
buttons above. Since there are a couple of gotchas with these, back up the loop you’ve created
first. Just click and drag from the Drag Me area of Looper and drop into a clip slot. Now, while
your loop is playing back in Looper, use x2 to double the length of the loop, which duplicates
the loop and allows you to overdub new phrases twice the length of the original loop. Using 2
cuts the loop length in half and throws away the rest of it. Bear in mind that using x2 now will
not restore the loop. It just duplicates the newly truncated loop. Also be aware that Live’s Undo
command cannot be used to back out of these commands. You have to use the Looper’s Undo
instead, which only has one level of undo. Fortunately, you can drag the clip you made from the
loop back into Looper and get right back to where you started.
I’m pretty confident that there are many uses for Looper that have yet to be discovered. Spend
some time experimenting and see what you come up with!
Live’s MIDI Effects
IDI effects, like audio effects, allow you to alter data as it is passed from a clip to the
track output. A MIDI effect can be used by itself on a MIDI track whose output is
some external MIDI sound device, or one or more can be used before a virtual instrument in the Track View.
It’s important to understand the place of the MIDI effect in the chain of events that occurs on a
track. MIDI data in a clip is played through the MIDI effect, which alters the data in some way.
The altered MIDI data is then sent to the MIDI destination, which is either an external MIDI
device or a virtual one loaded in Live, which reacts accordingly. Note that MIDI effects do not
change the sound that is produced by an instrument the way audio effects do. MIDI effects
change the notes playing those instruments, resulting in an entirely new part. This is why, for
example, the Pitch MIDI effect won’t change the pitch of the drums coming from Impulse. If this
doesn’t make sense right off the bat, don’t worry—if you’re like me, you learn by doing. So pop
open the Chapter 10 folder in the Library and check out the Live Sets in there as we reveal the
wiring behind the six MIDI effects in Live.
Since we are discussing the MIDI effects in alphabetical order, we get to start with the coolest
MIDI device of them all, the Arpeggiator. Arpeggiators came into existence in the early days of
monophonic synthesizers. Monophonic means “only able to play one note at a time.” When
synthesizer technology was in its infancy, that’s all you could hope to get out of a synth—just
one note at a time. This isn’t much of a problem if you’re playing a lead or melody part. The
trouble arises when you try to play a chord (three or more notes at once), which a monophonic
synth is incapable of. The solution devised was an Arpeggiator that would quickly play all the
notes you held on the keyboard in series or other repetitive patterns. As a result, even though the
notes don’t play simultaneously, you can “hear” the chord being played because the notes are
played in such quick succession. You really have to play this one to understand it, so go ahead
and open the Arpeggiator Set from the downloadable examples for this book.
After the Set loads, press a key on your MIDI keyboard, or just use the computer keyboard to
play a note. What is this? You hold down a note, and a steady stream of eighth notes comes out.
Now try holding down two notes. Instead of hearing both notes playing eighth notes, Live will
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play each of the notes alternately. Now try holding three notes. Live will play each of the three
notes in series and repeat. That’s the Arpeggiator at work (see Figure 10.1), intercepting your
played notes and turning them into a sequence of notes before handing them over to the Simpler
loaded in the track.
Figure 10.1 The Arpeggiator on this track is creating instant sequences from the MIDI notes it receives.
There are many ways to tweak the performance of the Arpeggiator. You can change the note
order employed by the Arpeggiator, the speed at which the notes are played, the length of each
note, and the quantization in relation to the grid of the current Set.
The Style drop-down menu is used to select the note-order pattern employed by the Arpeggiator.
The default setting is Up, which means that the Arpeggiator plays each of the held notes in
sequence starting from the lowest note and working up to the highest before repeating. The
Down option is the exact opposite—the Arpeggiator starts with the highest note and works
down before repeating. The UpDown and DownUp patterns are simply hybrid patterns made
from the individual Up and Down patterns. The UpDown style will make the Arpeggiator play
up the note sequence and then back down again before repeating. The DownUp style does the
opposite. The Up & Down and Down & Up modes are the same as the UpDown and DownUp
modes, except that the top and bottom notes of the scale are repeated as the Arpeggiator changes
The Converge style works by playing the lowest note followed by the highest note. It will then
play the second lowest note followed by the second highest. The pattern will continue by playing
the third lowest note followed by the third highest note, and so on, until all the notes in the scale
are exhausted. The pattern will then repeat. The Diverge style is the opposite of Converge, and
Con & Diverge places the two patterns end to end.
The Pinky and Thumb styles are interesting in that they alternate the note order with the highest
and lowest note played, respectively. For example, when using the PinkyUp mode, the Arpeggiator will play the lowest note followed by the highest note (the “pinky note”). It will then play
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the second lowest note followed by the highest note again. The Arpeggiator will continue to
work up the scale of held notes, alternating each with the high “pinky note” until the pattern
repeats. The ThumbUp mode works in the same way, except that the lowest held note (the
“thumb note”) gets inserted between each step of the scale.
The Play Order style is nice in that the Arpeggiator works through the scale of held notes in the
exact order as you played them. For example, if you play the notes C, E, G, and A, the resulting
pattern will be “C E G A C E G A C E G A….” If you play the notes in a different order, like E,
C, G, then A, the pattern will be “E C G A E C G A E C G A….”
The Chord Trigger style breaks away from the traditional arpeggiator methodology in that it
plays more than one note at a time. In fact, it repeatedly triggers every one of the notes you held
down. The result is a stuttered chord.
The final style options are random modes that will generate unpredictable patterns from your
held notes. The Random mode simply chooses a note at random from your held notes for each
step it plays. In this mode, it’s possible for Live to choose the same note repeatedly—it’s truly
random. The Random Other pattern is a little more controlled. It will create a random pattern
from your held notes, play it, and then create another random pattern and play it. The result is
that you have fewer repeated notes because Live will play all the notes at least once before it
creates a new pattern. The Random Once pattern is like Random Other, except that it builds
only one random pattern. After the Arpeggiator plays the random pattern once, it will play it
again identically. The result is a new random pattern every time you play new notes, but a pattern that repeats while you hold the notes. Pretty cool, huh?
The Groove menu is used to add a swing feel to the Arpeggiator’s patterns. The intensity of the
swing is determined by the Global Groove Amount value, which is displayed at the top of the
Groove Pool.
The Hold button will automatically latch, or sustain, the notes you play so that you don’t have
to continually hold notes while a pattern plays. Switch this on and try playing a chord. When
you release the notes on your keyboard, the Arpeggiator will continue to play. Now, play
another chord. The Arpeggiator will stop the old pattern and will start the new one when it
receives your new notes.
This dial is used to offset the start point of the Arpeggiator pattern by the specified number of
steps. For example, if the style is set to Up and you play a C-major triad, the resulting pattern
from the Arpeggiator will be “C E G C E G….” If you set Offset to 1, the pattern will be “E G C
E G C….” The starting point of the pattern has been shifted to the right by one step; therefore,
the pattern begins on the second note of the chord (E) as it plays.
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Rate and Sync
The next two parameters, Rate and Sync, are related to one another. The Rate knob is used to set
the speed at which the Arpeggiator plays each step of its pattern. The default selection is
1/8 notes. When the neighboring Sync button is on, the Rate will be constrained to note values.
If you turn Sync off, the Rate will now be running free of the current project tempo and will play
at the exact rate specified here in Hertz. You’ll find that you can get the Arpeggiator running
quite fast when you turn Sync off, even to a point where the individual notes in the scale are
blurred. This is a neat special effect and is also reminiscent of SID-based synth music, like that of
the Commodore 64 of yore.
This dial is used to set the length or duration of each note played by the Arpeggiator. By default, this
value is 50%, which means that the notes are only half as long as the rate at which they are played.
Therefore, with Rate set to 1/8, the notes are only 1/16-note long. If you set this to 25%, each note
will only be 1/32-note long. This is a great parameter to tweak while the Arpeggiator is running.
The Retrigger parameters can be used to cause the Arpeggiator to restart its pattern when triggered with a new note or in rhythm with your song. The default Retrigger mode is Off, which
means that the Arpeggiator will never restart its pattern, even if you play new notes while the
Arpeggiator is running. The pattern will only restart when you stop all notes and play new ones.
If you set this to Note, the pattern will restart any time a new note is played. Therefore, if you’re
holding three notes and play a fourth note, the Arpeggiator will immediately restart, now including the fourth note in its pattern. The last mode, Beat, will cause the Arpeggiator to restart
automatically at the rate you specify with the neighboring knob. By default, this value is set
to one bar. If you hold a three-note chord while this is on, you’ll hear the Arpeggiator pattern
start over on every downbeat of a bar.
By default, Live will arpeggiate the notes you play for as long as you hold them. This is because
the Repeats amount is set to Infinity by default. If you change this knob to a numerical value, the
Arpeggiator will only run its pattern the specified number of times before stopping. Setting this
to a low value, such as one or two repeats, and choosing a quick setting for the rate will cause
the Arpeggiator to “strum” the notes of your chord. That is, they’ll play quickly and then stop.
This little burst of arpeggiation is reminiscent of old video game soundtracks.
Transposition Controls
Grouped together into a column near the center of the Arpeggiator are the Transpose controls.
These parameters will allow the Arpeggiator to shift the pattern in pitch as it repeats. Start by
turning the Steps knob to 1. Now play a single note. You’ll no longer hear a single note being
repeated. Instead, you’ll hear two notes: the note you’re holding, plus a note one octave higher.
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This is because the Distance knob is set to +12 semitones, which is an octave. By turning Steps to
1, you’ve instructed the Arpeggiator to shift its pitch by the Distance amount, once for each
repetition of the pattern. Turn Steps up to 2 and listen to what happens. Now the Arpeggiator
plays three notes for each key you press. This also works when holding multiple notes—the
Arpeggiator will play the pattern once and then play it again for each step indicated, transposing
by the Distance amount each time.
Now try this. Set Steps to 8 and Distance to þ1 semitones. Now when you hold a single note, the
Arpeggiator plays nine notes chromatically. If you hold C, the Arpeggiator will play C C# D D#
E F F# G G# and then repeat. This is because the Arpeggiator is shifting the pattern (which is
only the one note you’re holding) eight times after it has played the original pitch, transposing it
one semitone each time. Change the Distance amount to þ2 and listen to what happens.
Obviously, you can create some transposition patterns that will fall outside of the key you’re
working in. To remedy this, there are two menus that can be used to constrain the notes to those
of a selected key and mode. With the top Transpose menu, choose Major or Minor. After you
make your selection, you can choose a root note with the Key menu below it. For example, set
the Transpose menu to Minor and change the Key menu to D. Now press and hold D. All the
notes in the resulting pattern will be transposed to the nearest note within a D-minor scale.
The final controls in the Arpeggiator are for modifying the velocity of notes as they play. Normally, these functions are off, which makes each note of the arpeggiation pattern sound at its
played velocity. That is, if you press C lightly while striking G hard, the resulting pattern will
have quiet C notes and loud G notes.
The purpose of the Velocity controls here is to create a pseudo-envelope for the volume of the
arpeggiation. Of course, this will only work with sounds that are velocity sensitive. When you
turn Velocity on with the top button, the Arpeggiator will modify the velocities of the notes as
they repeat. The bottom dial sets the Target velocity, and the Decay knob above it determines
how long the Arpeggiator takes to modulate from the original velocities to the Target. For example, if you set Target to 10 and Decay to 1,000ms and play a note with full velocity, the Arpeggiator will reduce the velocity of each consecutive note it plays to 10 over one second. You can
invert this by setting a high Target velocity and playing quiet notes—the velocity will increase to
the Target over the specified Decay time.
The Retrigger button will cause the velocity scaling to restart with each new note that is added to
the chord. Otherwise, new notes will be constrained to the current values of the decaying velocities.
The Chord device (see Figure 10.2) will generate new MIDI notes at pitch intervals relative to an
incoming MIDI note. This will allow one MIDI note to trigger a chord on the receiving
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Figure 10.2 The Chord device builds a multinote (up to six notes) MIDI chord from one input note.
When the Chord device is first loaded, it will have no effect on incoming MIDI notes—they will
pass straight through. If you move the first Shift knob, it will become active. The knob sets the
interval in semitones for the new MIDI note. Setting the Shift 1 knob to þ4 and playing a C will
cause both a C and E note to be sent from the plug-in. Setting Shift 2 to þ7 will create a C-major
chord when you play just the C note. Playing G will result in a G-major chord (G, B, and D).
You can define up to six notes to be added to the incoming note using the dials. Just below each
dial is a value that determines the velocity of the new note relative to the velocity of the incoming
note. You can use this if you don’t want all of the notes in the chord to be the same volume. If
Shift 1 is set to .50 (50%), the E in the resulting chord will only have a velocity of 64 when the
incoming C has a velocity of 127. Try slowly changing this value while playing repeated notes to
hear how the additional note fades in and out of the chord.
Dance Chords Chord stabs and pads are a staple of electronic music. Originally, these
fixed chords were created by detuning some of the oscillators in a synthesizer so that
they sounded at musical intervals (usually +7—a perfect fifth) against the base oscillators.
The Chord effect can create the same sound on instruments that don’t have individual
tunings for their oscillators. There are a number of chords already built for your use in the
Note Length
The Note Length MIDI effect (see Figure 10.3) can be used to change the duration of incoming
MIDI note messages. This can be used in some cases to tighten up a drum part, for example, or
make a MIDI part sound more rhythmically consistent. It can also be used to trigger your MIDI
instruments with Note Off messages instead of Note On messages.
Chapter 10
Live’s MIDI Effects
Figure 10.3 The Note Length MIDI device.
The Note Length MIDI effect has two trigger modes, which you can toggle to Note On or Note
Off. In Note On mode, only the timing controls are active: Mode, Length, and Gate. You can
use the Mode toggle button to sync the durations to the song Master tempo, or not, as you like.
The Length knob selects the base length of the MIDI notes that the effect will output, and the
Gate modifies this base by the percentage you select. For example, as in Figure 10.3, if Mode is
set to Sync, Length set to 1/4, and Gate set to 50%, the Note Length effect will output eighth
notes (half a quarter note).
In Note Off mode, this MIDI device will output MIDI note messages when you release your
fingers from your MIDI keyboard. This will cause the notes to play through your MIDI instruments, and the length of the notes produced can be set using the timing controls below. You can
also use three other controls in Note Off mode: The Release Velocity control determines the
velocity of the output note (relative to the velocities of the notes you played on your controller),
and Decay Time sets the length of time it will take for an incoming note’s velocity to decay to
zero. The Key Scale control can be used to alter the length of the output MIDI note messages,
according to the pitch of the notes you play on your controller, from low to high. Set positive or
negative values here to invert the relationship of pitch to note length.
The Pitch device transposes the MIDI notes sent to an instrument, resulting in a higher or lower
part (see Figure 10.4). This can be very handy in a variety of situations, such as finding the best
key for a singer. Let’s say you have a MIDI track playing a piano accompaniment. Just drop a
Pitch effect on to the track and dial in the new key.
There is a situation in which the Pitch effect will have unusual results—when transposing MIDI
used to play drum parts. It is a standard convention to assign drum sounds to individual notes of
a scale. By transposing the MIDI notes going to a drum instrument, you are assigning MIDI
notes to new instruments. For example, if a kick drum sound is loaded into the first cell of
the Impulse instrument and a snare is loaded into the second pad, MIDI note C3 will trigger
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Figure 10.4 Twist the Pitch knob to transpose the MIDI data passing through the effect. Easy, huh?
the kick, and D3 will trigger the snare (see the Impulse section in Chapter 8). So if MIDI data is
programmed into a MIDI clip for the kick drum, the clip will contain a pattern of MIDI notes,
all C3. If we run this through the Pitch effect with the Pitch knob set to +2, the MIDI notes will
be transposed up to D3, and the kick program will trigger the snare. So instead of pitching up the
kick drum, the Pitch effect transposed the kick information up to the snare key range.
This situation may also arise when using patches on synthesizers that have splits. If you try to
transpose the MIDI information out of the appropriate key zone, the synth will start playing the
notes with the patch assigned to the other zone.
Midi Range The two values at the bottom of the Pitch device set the range of notes that
can be used with the effect. If the bottom value, labeled Lowest, is set to C3, only MIDI
notes C3 and higher will be allowed to enter the effect. The range value determines, by
interval, the highest note that can enter the effect. So if the range is set to þ12, notes C3
through C4 will enter the effect. Only after the incoming notes have passed the range test
will they be transposed up or down.
As the name suggests, the Random device will randomize the incoming MIDI notes. We can
determine how liberal Live is with its randomization using the controls shown in Figure 10.5.
The first control in the effect is the Chance value. This knob sets the odds that an incoming
MIDI note will be transposed. At 0%, the effect is essentially bypassed because there is no
chance a note will be transposed. At 100%, every MIDI note will be subject to randomization.
At 50%, roughly every other note will be randomized. Once a note is chosen by the effect to be
transposed, it will be shifted using the rules set up with the three remaining controls. The three
parameters make up part of a sort of formula that determines the transposition.
Chapter 10
Live’s MIDI Effects
Figure 10.5 The Random MIDI device will shift the pitch of incoming notes a different amount every time.
The Choices parameter determines the number of random values that can occur. If the value is
set to 3, a random number with a value of 1, 2, or 3 will be generated. This value is then passed
on to the Scale knob. The value of this knob is multiplied by the random value from the Choices
knob. The resulting number is the semitones to shift the MIDI note. So if the Scale knob is set to
2, the resulting random transpositions will be 2, 4, or 6 semitones. The final variables in the
formula are the Sign buttons. If Add is selected, the resulting random value will be added to the
MIDI note, causing it to move up in pitch. Sub will subtract the random value from the current
note. The Bi setting will randomly choose between adding or subtracting the value. The indicator lights on the plug-in panel will show when the note is being transposed up or down.
Let’s run some quick examples to make sure we understand the math behind the plug-in.
If the Choices knob is set to 1 and the Chance knob is set to 50%, about half the time a
transpose value of 1 will be generated by the Choices knob. If Scale is set to 12 and the Sign
mode is set to Add, the incoming notes will be transposed up one octave half of the time.
If the Choices knob is set to 4 and the Chance knob is set to 100%, a transpose value of
1 to 4 will be generated for every MIDI note. We then set the Scale knob to 3 and leave
the Sign mode on Add. In this situation, every note will be transposed (Chance at 100%)
by one of the following semitone amounts: 3, 6, 9, or 12 (1[Choices]3[Scale]¼3,
23¼6, 33¼9, and 43¼12).
If the Choices knob is set to 2, the Scale knob is set to 12, and the Sign mode is set to
Sub, the resulting transposition will be either 1 or 2 octaves down (112¼12 and
Above the direction switches is an additional switch for selecting Alternate mode instead of
Random mode. In Alternate mode, the effect will cycle through all of the possible values in
order. So, in example 2 above, the output will be transpositions of 3, 6, 9, 12 in order,
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Scale allows an incoming MIDI note to be mapped to another one. You can tell the plug-in that
you want every incoming D# transposed up to E. You can also tell it that you want incoming Es
to be taken down to Cs. Remapping pitches like this could be a great practical joke on a keyboard player, but it also has some very practical uses as well.
Don’t play keyboards well? Don’t know your scales? The Scale device will transpose all the
wrong notes you play to the proper pitches for the appropriate key. This mapping is achieved
with a 1213 grid of gray squares. The columns in the grid refer to the input notes, while the
rows refer to output notes. The Base knob determines the note in the bottom-left corner of the
grid. If the Base note is C, then the first column on the left is the input for C notes. The next
column over is the input column for C# notes, and so on. The row on the very bottom of the grid
is the output row for C notes. The next row up from it is the output row for C# notes.
If you look at Figure 10.6, you’ll see that the bottom-left grid square is on. This means that when
a C note enters the far left column, it runs into the orange indicator in the last row, which is the
C output row. So, in this case, all entering C notes will still exit as C notes. The next column over
is the input column for C# notes. As you look down the column, you run into the indicator light
on the third row from the bottom. If the bottom row is the output row for C notes, then this
third row is the output for D notes. This means that when a C# note enters the Scale effect, it
leaves as a D note.
The Scale effect can be a bit confusing and takes a while to get used to. Here’s another way to get
familiar with how it works. In the Chapter 10 example Set, select the Scale track and record arm
it. Play the note C, and notice the lower left-hand corner light up. Now, click a different box in
Incoming MIDI notes are fed into the columns...
...then exit on the rows.
Figure 10.6 The Scale effect lets you remap MIDI notes using a unique grid interface.
Chapter 10
Live’s MIDI Effects
the leftmost column and play the note C again. What note is being output now? Just count up in
semitones from the bottommost box (or turn your head sideways and imagine that you are
looking at the grid as a vertical piano keyboard!). If you’ve clicked four boxes up from the
bottom, you’ll now be hearing the note Eb.
You can use the grid to create musical scales. The pattern of indicators on the grid in Figure 10.6 is
that of a major scale. C is chosen as the Base, so you are working with a C-major scale. Any attempt
to play a black key on the keyboard will result in the MIDI note being transposed up to its nearest
neighbor in the scale. Changing the Base control to G will change the scale to a G major. Every key
played on the keyboard will now be forced to one of the pitches in the G-major scale.
NO SCALE? So you’re just starting out and don’t know all your musical scales? No problem. Ableton included the patterns of common scales in the Presets menu of the Scale
effect. You can load one of the patterns and then use the Base knob to adapt it to your
working key.
The Transpose box does what the Pitch effect does, transposing any incoming MIDI data by a
fixed value. The Range and Lowest controls can be used together to define the pitch range within
which the Scale effect will be applied. (The effective range starts at the Lowest setting and
reaches upward over the area of the keyboard set in the Range box.)
IN SCALE The Scale effect can keep you in key, and it can also keep the results of a Ran-
dom effect in key, too. If the Random plug-in is generating too many notes that are out of
key, load up a Scale effect and set it to the appropriate scale. Any stray note from the
Random effect will be knocked into key by the Scale plug-in.
By combining a Random and a Scale plug-in, you can make a random arpeggiator that
arpeggiates the pattern of notes entering the chain.
The Fold switch will prevent Scale from outputting any notes more than six semitones higher
than the input note. However, it doesn’t just make these notes disappear. Instead, it drops these
notes down an octave. In other words, if you’ve mapped an incoming D3 such that that a B3
would be output, enabling the Fold switch would cause B2 to be output instead.
The previous four MIDI effects in Live are concerned with controlling MIDI pitch information.
Velocity, on the other hand, deals with (can you guess?) velocity data. It’s very much like a
Compressor or Scale plug-in for velocities. The grid display is like the display used in the
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New velocities exit
on the right edge.
Velocities enter along
the bottom of the
Figure 10.7 The grid of the Velocity effect shows the effect of adjusting the various parameters in real
Scale device (see Figure 10.7). Input velocities are mapped across the X-axis (the bottom of the
grid), while output velocities are on the Y-axis (the right edge of the grid).
In its default setting, there is a straight line from the bottom-left corner of the grid to the upperright corner of the grid. This means that every input velocity maps to the same output velocity.
Increasing the Drive knob will cause the line in the grid to begin to curve. This new shape shows
that low input velocities (near the left edge of the grid) are mapped to higher output velocities.
This will raise the volume of notes played quietly while leaving the loud notes basically
unchanged. Decreasing the Drive knob below zero has the opposite effect, causing loud input
velocities to be mapped to lower output velocities. Only the loudest input notes will still leave
the plug-in with high velocities.
The Comp (“Compand”—meaning Compression/Expansion) knob is like the Drive knob,
except that it creates two curves instead of one. Turning this knob up past zero exaggerates
the velocity curve by making quiet notes quieter and loud ones louder. Lowering the Comp
knob below zero has the opposite effect, forcing more of the values to the middle of the
range. Be aware that, like the Pitch effect, the Velocity effect is changing the notes fed into an
instrument. Because of this, increasing the Comp knob will not make the part sound compressed
as it would if you placed a Compressor after the instrument. It will merely limit the velocities
sent to the instrument while the instrument continues to output an uncompressed sound.
The Random knob defines a range of randomness that can be applied to the incoming velocities.
As this knob is increased, a gray area will form on the grid, showing all the possible velocities
that may result from the random factor.
The Out Hi and Out Low knobs determine the highest and lowest velocities that will be output
from the effect. The Range and Lowest values work like their counterparts in the Pitch and Scale
effects. The Clip, Gate, and Fixed buttons determine the action taken when an input velocity is
outside of the operation range set by the Range and Lowest values. In Clip mode, any velocity
Chapter 10
Live’s MIDI Effects
outside of the range will be bumped into range. The Gate mode will only allow notes with
velocities within range to pass. Fixed mode will force every incoming velocity to be set to the
value determined by the Out Hi knob. Finally, the Operation menu can be used to specify
whether the effect should process the incoming note’s velocity, release velocity, or both.
Breath of Life Velocity randomization can add a human breath of life to a programmed
drum part. Humans can’t play with the consistency of a machine, so randomizing the
velocities of the drum parts can make the beat sound less repetitive. This is especially
effective on hi-hats and shakers.
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hile Live is an amazing audio production environment, you still may want to generate sounds using other software tools. Virtual instruments and plug-in effects give
you access to a plethora of third-party programs. But what do you do if the program
you want to use is “bigger” than just a plug-in or an effect? What if you want to harness the
power of another computer program? Well, you just ReWire it together with Live!
What Is ReWire?
Power users have been synchronizing sequencers and computers for years, since it was the only
way they could produce the various sounds they needed. The limited hardware solutions of yesteryear required that many be used simultaneously to achieve a fully orchestrated sound. Most of
the first synthesizers were monophonic (they could only play one note at a time), so multiple
units were necessary for achieving chords and other simultaneous sounds.
Synchronizing multiple computer systems is common as well. One computer can be playing back
audio files through effects while another computer is running virtual instruments. One could be
a Mac and the other could be a PC if you wished. The point is that each system doesn’t provide
the entire solution on its own and has to be augmented by another.
ReWire is the most common way of linking together multiple pieces of music software on a
single computer. With this technology, audio and MIDI stream seamlessly from one program
into the other, and the transports and tempos of the two applications are linked, making them
act like one mega-program.
In a ReWire setup, there’s actually no wiring that you have to be concerned with. ReWire functions transparently between compatible applications, allowing operation to be as seamless as
possible. In any ReWire setup, there is always one program designated as the ReWire Master.
The ReWire Master is the program that will be communicating with the computer’s audio hardware and will accept audio streams from other ReWire applications. You must open the ReWire
Master application before any of the other programs you want to use.
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Only one application can be the ReWire Master, so all the other programs running will be
ReWire Slaves. Slaves don’t actually communicate with the computer’s audio hardware at all.
Instead, their audio outputs are routed to the ReWire Master application. This rerouting of
audio happens automatically inside the computer after a program is launched as a ReWire
Slave. Since the audio is being passed through the Master application, you will not hear the
Slave application unless the Master program is set to pass the Slave’s audio to the computer’s
audio hardware.
Using ReWire with Live
Live can act as both a ReWire Master and a ReWire Slave. Not all programs have the capability
to function in both modes. For example, Steinberg’s Cubase SX sequencer can only function as a
ReWire Master. Propellerhead’s Reason can only be used in Slave mode. So if you wanted to use
Live and Cubase together, Cubase would be the Master and Live would be the Slave. If you
wanted to use Reason, Live would be the Master and Reason would be the Slave. How does
the operation of Live differ when running as Master or Slave? Since ReWire was designed to be
transparent for the user, little will change in Live’s operability either way. There are a few differences, and we’ll explain these next.
Using Live as a ReWire Master
When Live is used as a ReWire Master, it will operate exactly the same as when it’s used by
itself. When Live is the only ReWire application running, it will be in Master mode. This is true
of any ReWire application that is capable of Master mode. The way a ReWire application knows
it is the Master is that it has been launched without any other ReWire Masters running. In order
to run Live as a ReWire Master, launch it first and then launch any applications you want to use
as Slaves. The way an application knows that it’s a Slave is that it has been launched with a
Master application already running. This means that even a Slave-only application like Reason
must be launched after the Master application.
When Live is hosting a ReWire Slave application, the Slave’s audio outputs will be available as
inputs into the Session Mixer (see Figure 11.1). In the Input/Output Routing section, you’ll be
able to choose the ReWire application in the first box and the desired channel(s) from that program in the second box.
After you have selected the ReWire source for a channel, it will behave exactly like any other
audio channel with an input selected. You can hear the audio from the ReWire source by switching the channel’s monitoring to On or by arming the track for recording with monitoring set to
Auto. You can record the audio from the external application as a new clip in the track, either by
recording a clip in the Session View or by pressing Record in the Control Bar and recording
directly to the Arrangement. This is the same process for recording any other audio source on
an audio track, as explained in previous chapters.
Chapter 11
Figure 11.1 Here outputs 1 and 2 from Reason are inputs for Track 1 in the Session Mixer. We can hear
the audio output from Reason by switching Monitor to On.
If you don’t want to record the ReWire Slave as audio, you can still incorporate its audio streams
in a Live mixdown when you select Render to Disk from the File menu. If the ReWire Slave
applications are running, and their channels in the Session Mixer are being monitored, their
audio will be mixed in with the rest of your Live Set when rendered. Laptop owners who
have fast CPUs often prefer to run the ReWire applications in real time. Since laptops generally
have slower hard drives, it’s sometimes easier for the computer to run the ReWire applications,
as opposed to streaming more audio from disk.
While audio can only flow from the ReWire Slaves to the ReWire Master, it is possible for MIDI
to flow in the opposite direction. This allows you to control compatible ReWire Slave applications the way you would control a virtual instrument in Live. Just as you can select a ReWire
Slave application as an input to an audio track, you can select a Slave at the output of a MIDI
track (see Figure 11.2). You can select the Slave application with the upper box and the destination channel/device in the lower box.
A destination channel will be listed only if there are devices or elements in the Slave application
that are active and able to receive MIDI messages. For example, if you load an empty Rack into
Reason, there will be no output devices listed in the lower box. If you create a few devices, like a
Subtractor, ReDrum, and NN-XT sampler, these devices will be individually selectable in the
lower box of the MIDI track’s Input/Output section.
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Figure 11.2 These three MIDI tracks are being routed to the Subtractor, ReDrum, and NN-XT modules in
Reason. They can now be programmed and automated using the power and convenience of Live’s clips.
Not all ReWire Slave applications are capable of receiving MIDI input from the Master application. If a program is not able to receive MIDI, it will not be listed as an available output
destination in the MIDI track.
Remember, in order to hear the results of your MIDI messages sent to the ReWire Slave, you’ll
need to have an audio track set up to monitor the return signal from the Slave. So instead of the
MIDI track outputting the audio (as would happen when a virtual instrument is loaded onto a
MIDI track), you’ll need another audio track to hear the results. This means that the MIDI info
leaves on one track, and the audio returns on another.
External Instruments—Internally The External Instrument device handles sending MIDI to
a ReWire application and receives the audio back from that application in the same track.
It’s as easy as dropping an external device into a MIDI track and configuring it using the
same settings you would for a ReWire track. For a complete explanation of External Instruments, see Chapter 9, “Live’s Audio Effects.”
Chapter 11
Using Live as a ReWire Slave
The exact steps for opening Live as a ReWire Slave depend partly on the ReWire Master application you use. In some cases, you may need to enable ReWire channels in the Master application
before Live is launched as a ReWire Slave; otherwise, Live may be confused and try to configure
itself as the Master as well (which means it will not do what you want). Be sure to check the
ReWire Master application’s manual for recommendations on how you should do this. The only
hard and fast rule, though, is that the ReWire Master must be launched before Live. When launching Live, it will detect the presence of the Master application and therefore automatically load itself
in Slave mode. (You’ll see a little message about this on the Live splash screen during bootup.)
When using Live as a ReWire Slave application, you’ll notice many subtle differences in available options throughout the program. The first thing to be aware of is that like all ReWire Slave
applications, Live will be communicating with the ReWire Master program instead of the computer’s audio hardware. Because of this, Live’s Audio Preferences will not be available and will
instead be replaced with a message stating that audio is being handled by the Master application.
Also missing from Live in Slave mode are settings for MIDI output, MIDI Sync, and Remote
Control Surfaces. Only the MIDI input settings will be available as usual for Remote Control
and playing virtual instruments.
Another difference will be the available output routings for audio in the Session Mixer. When
looking at the Master track output assignment, you’ll find that the list is populated with Mix
and Bus names instead of the outputs of your audio interface. These buses are the pathways that
lead from Live into the ReWire Master. The ReWire Master will receive the buses individually,
allowing you to route one Live track to one channel of the Master’s mixer while routing a
different Live track to another. You can then process the channels separately in the Master application however you want.
Note that ReWire also gives you the capability to access your Ableton plug-in instruments in
Live when it is running in ReWire Slave mode. This means that you can program MIDI parts in
your ReWire Master and send the MIDI data to Live to control Live’s built-in instruments
(Impulse, Simpler, Operator, and Sampler). However, please note that this will not work with
any third-party VST or AU instruments, which will not load if you are in ReWire Slave mode.
This can still be very useful, though, in cases when you want to use the MIDI programming
facilities in another sequencer to control the instruments in Live.
Let’s look at how to set this up with Digidesign Pro Tools. (The procedure for setting up ReWire
varies from host to host, so consult your sequencer’s documentation if you’re working with a
program other than Pro Tools.) First, start Pro Tools and open a new session. Then make sure
that you have at least one audio track, instrument track, or aux input; ReWire input can be
received on any of these track types. Then insert the Ableton Live ReWire plug-in on
the track (see Figure 11.3a). When the plug-in window opens, select Ableton Live: Mix L Mix R, as seen in Figure 11.3b.
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Figure 11.3a Configuring a track in Pro Tools to receive ReWire input from Live.
Figure 11.3b Mix L – Mix R is the default output for Live’s Master track when running as a ReWire
Now you are ready to work with Live. Go ahead and open the application; you should see the
message Running as ReWire Slave in Live’s splash screen as it starts up. (If you get an error
about having two ReWire Master applications open at the same time, you missed something
when setting up Pro Tools, so quit Live and check the previous steps again before relaunching
it.) Looking over at the Master track in your Live Set, you’ll see that the Master output is set to
Mix L/R, the same input we selected in Pro Tools (see Figure 11.4).
Figure 11.4 Live’s Master Out is being sent to the same ReWire bus on which our Pro Tools track is
Chapter 11
Even before there is sound coming out, you’ll be able to see ReWire at work. Notice that pressing Play in either Live or Pro Tools causes both sequencers to start running, and that changing
the tempo in Pro Tools causes Live’s tempo to change as well. Now you can drop some
clips into Live or open an existing Set in Live, and you’ll hear Live’s Master output through
Pro Tools.
If you want to control Live’s instruments from Pro Tools, there are a few additional steps. First,
create a MIDI track and place one of Ableton’s instruments on it—for this example, we’ll use an
Impulse. Next, create a MIDI track in Pro Tools. (If you haven’t done so already, the order of
the steps isn’t important here.) Set the output of your MIDI track in Pro Tools to the Live track,
as seen in Figure 11.5. That’s it! Now you can program your Impulse from the MIDI track in Pro
Tools. Interestingly, you can simultaneously play a MIDI clip on the Impulse track in Live while
also sending MIDI data from Pro Tools—the setting of the Monitor switch is irrelevant.
Figure 11.5 Set up a MIDI track to control the Impulse on Track 1 in Live.
In the previous example, all of Live’s tracks were sent via the Master track to a stereo track in
the host. It’s also possible to route tracks from Live directly into individual tracks in the host. To
do this, just select a ReWire bus for a track’s output in Live (instead of the Master) and create a
track in your host to receive audio via this bus. Figures 11.6a and 11.6b show how to do this in
Pro Tools.
Figure 11.6a Choose a ReWire bus as the output for a track in Live.
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Figure 11.6b Receive audio from the same ReWire bus on a Pro Tools track.
ReWire Power
Using ReWire Slave applications with Live gives you an expanded list of sound sources to create
with. Frequently, you may just want to create some audio loops in a ReWire Slave application,
record them in Live, and then close the Slave program. The real-time nature of Live lets it load
ReWire Slaves, use them, and then close them, all while Live continues playing—without
glitches. This makes ReWire a viable live-performance tool, since Live’s ReWire hosting is
rock solid. Of course, as with all other procedures in Live, be sure to try this out a few times
before a show to confirm that your computer can handle running multiple audio applications at
once without causing audio problems. You’ll also want to make sure that any ReWire Slaves
you’re using are stable enough for live use as well.
In this chapter, we have looked at the most common ways to use ReWire with Live and other
ReWire Slave and Master applications. ReWire is an incredibly exciting, creative, and fun aspect
of Live. Many musicians and producers we have met come to Live because of its ability to
ReWire. Rest assured, once you begin linking software applications, you will be hooked.
Take time to explore your favorite ways of linking Live. In the next chapter, we will explore
some of our favorite power tips for working with Live.
Groove by Yourself While the tempo control in Live will have an effect on all ReWire applications, the Groove setting is solely for the use of Live. Increasing the Groove will cause
Live to start swinging while the other applications keep to a straight-time feel.
Chapter 11
Who’s Using Live? Raz Mesinai Composer/producer Raz Mesinai (aka Badawi) has been
making music that defies easy categorization for well over a decade. Equally at home
performing live dub mixes or composing for the Kronos Quartet, his music has been
heard at venues around the world and in the soundtracks of numerous films.
In recent years, Ableton Live has been central to Raz’ concert hall and club performances.
His piece for solo cello, “The Echo Of Decay” (which premiered at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel
Hall by cellist Maya Beiser in 2008), incorporated minimalist composition with Live used
as a processing tool.
“When working with live processing of acoustic instruments with Ableton, I use an RME
Fireface 400 as an interface. I keep the monitor for each channel on INPUT and the
returns set to Pre Fader so that I can lose the dry sound of the instruments and easily
work closer with the effect I’m trying to achieve with a few knobs on my MIDI controller.
I also use a variety of effect racks directly on whatever instrument I’m processing. I also
like to use EQs on each channel that I have set up to raise different harmonics and
overtones of the instrument with a knob from my EU 33 MIDI controller and then cause
the more complex effects to change and react to the different boosts of frequencies.”
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For years, Raz also did live dub performances using multitrack tape and hardware effects.
Not surprisingly, this has all migrated to Live as well.
“When I began composing I used tape, starting with mini cassettes, then upgrading to fourtrack cassette recording and eventually to 1/4-inch reel to reel. My biggest issue with that
setup was not just the massive weight of those 1/4-inch reel to reels, but I also wanted to be
able to improvise with the separate tracks and be able to mix and match them on the fly. This
seemed like a dream 15 years ago, but now Ableton has made it way too easy.”
“In a dancefloor setting, I use Ableton to do live dub mixing, using a MIDI controller and
some external effects (such as a Roland Space Echo), which I use the bus sends on
Ableton to route out of my Fireface and into the input of the outboard gear. There is
some latency but nothing I can’t live with.”
Playing Live…Live
ost books written about music-production software would not include a chapter like
the one you’re about to read. As you will discover, it’s a real treat to use the same
software to create your music and perform it. Because of its flexible control methods
and instant response to user input, Live is the perfect companion for a gigging musician. Live
performs wonders in all types of scenarios, ranging from DJ gigs to improvisational music and
theater. Regardless of what type of musician you consider yourself to be, I recommend reading
all the information presented in this chapter. Any technique relating to the use of Live is
pertinent—innovations can come from taking ideas from one musician’s style and applying
them to your own style.
The Hybrid DJ
DJ or not, every one of you reading this book should study this section. You already know that
Live can sync loops together using its Warp Engine. DJs use this powerful mechanism to sync
entire songs together. They also use an array of clips to manufacture new arrangements of the
songs, literally creating their own remixes right in front of the dancing masses. By learning the
techniques employed here, you’ll achieve a firmer grasp on Warp Marking and real-time control.
The reason this section is called the Hybrid DJ is that whether you perform original songs, tracks
you download, improvised multitrack loop jams or mashups, the techniques and concepts of
DJing hold some relevance for all of them, and they are the conceptual “glue” that can be
used to look at these varied approaches in a unified way.
Assembling Your Audio Files
The process of DJing with Live is twofold: First comes the work of downloading, ripping, and
warping songs, followed by the joy of putting it all together in a performance. Live supports
multiple compressed and uncompressed file formats: You can use WAV, AIFF, SD2, MP3, AAC,
Ogg Vorbis, Ogg FLAC, and regular FLAC, which means you can use most audio files you’ll
ever encounter.
That said, you should always work with WAV or AIFF if at all possible. Remember that Live
will decompress any compressed file into the Decoding Cache when you add it to a Set. Therefore, not only are you potentially compromising sound quality when using compressed audio,
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but you also end up using more disk space because you’re storing both a compressed and an
uncompressed version of the file.
If the song you want to use is on a CD, you will need to copy the music from the CD to your
computer using a process known as ripping. There are many programs that do this, quite a few
of which are free. While you can find a deluge of programs to try by typing “CD ripper” into
Google, I recommend Apple’s iTunes (www.itunes.com). It’s available for both Mac and PC, it’s
free, and it’s useful for organizing your music, especially since songs can be dragged directly out
of iTunes into Live.
Take It with You Before we get too far, we need to mention external hard drives. If you’re
a DJ compiling a collection of audio files for your performances, a big hard drive is a good
thing to have. It will keep all of your music in one place. And if you have multiple computer
systems that you use (a desktop at home and a laptop for gigs), you won’t have to store
the collection on both systems. The hard drive will become your virtual record case.
Before you start ripping CDs, consider a few setup options for the ripping software. First, you
should check the ripping format. Many programs these days default to MP3 or a similar compressed format for ripping so you can transfer the results to a portable player such as an iPod.
For ripping songs that you’ll be using in your DJ set, go into iTunes preferences and set WAV as
the format for importing, as seen in Figure 12.1.
Drag and Drop On a Mac, there’s no need to use a ripping program as long as you don’t
need to compress your audio files and you don’t mind having your music collection in AIFF
format. Pop a CD into your Mac and open it in the Finder. You’ll see all of the CD tracks as
AIFF files, and as long as you’re connected to the Internet, all of the track names will be
downloaded as well. Just drag the files to your hard drive, and you’re done.
The only concern with using AIFFs is that they are not natively supported by some
Windows applications. However, most pro audio applications can use or import them,
and utilities for conversion, such as AWave (www.fmjsoft.com), are readily available.
With the rise in popularity of online music stores, you’re probably downloading most of your
new music, so ripping isn’t an issue. While most files you download will work as-is, you may
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Figure 12.1 To get to this screen, you’ll have to press the Import Settings button on the General tab of
iTunes preferences.
have some that are protected with DRM (Digital Rights Management) to make sure that the
buyer of the file is the only person who can play it.
Unfortunately, Live does not have provisions for these protected files, so you will not be able to
play them natively. There are a few workarounds for this. One is to burn the files to a CD (which
iTunes will allow you to do, even with protected files) and then rip the CD back into iTunes.
Alternately, you can use a program like Soundflower (http://www.cycling74.com/products/
soundflower) or Jack (http://jackaudio.org/), which can be used to route audio between applications so you can record the protected files into Live.
If you don’t have your song on CD or as a digital music file, you’ll have to import it the hard
way. If the track you want is on vinyl, you’ll need to connect your turntable to your computer’s
audio interface. This will probably require that you go through a DJ mixer or home preamp,
since most audio interfaces do not have a built-in phono preamp. Once you’ve got your signal
entering a channel on Live’s Session Mixer, you can record the song as a new audio clip (see
Chapter 4, “Making Music in Live,” if you forgot how to do this).
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Warping Your Songs
Now that you have your songs in AIF or WAV format, you’re ready to begin the second step of
prepping a file for DJing. In order for Live to keep the song in time with any others that you may
be playing, you’ll need to place Warp Markers in the file to indicate the location of beats in the
track. Warping an entire song sounds like quite an undertaking, but with practice you’ll find
yourself doing it faster and faster. In fact, while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this, there
have been a number of times I’ve ended up warping songs on stage during a gig!
This section assumes that you’re already familiar with the basics of warping covered in Chapter 4,
so refer back to it if necessary. Also, one final note before we begin: Don’t forget to hit the Save
button after you’ve gotten your song warped. Otherwise, the next time you drag the song into a Set,
your properly placed Warp Markers won’t be there.
Analyzing and Auto-Warping
After you’ve got some music assembled, you still need to get it ready to perform. The first step is
to have Live analyze the file, and the second is to make sure it’s properly warped. Fortunately, a
good chunk of this work can be done in one step.
Every time you bring a new audio file into Live for the first time, it gets analyzed. At the very
least, this means that the waveform display gets generated and stored in a file with an .ASD
extension, in the same location as the audio file. When this file is generated, Live makes guesses
about the length and original tempo of the file. For short, evenly timed, properly cut loops, this is
a very simple process. For entire songs, it’s somewhat more complicated. This is why Live has a
special preference for dealing with entire songs (Auto-Warp Long Samples, located in the Record/Warp/Launch tab of the Preferences dialog).
Analyze This You may have noticed by now that the first time you drop a song into Live, it
takes some time to analyze it. Here’s a trick for those of you who have a big collection of
tracks and want to save some time. Navigate to a folder full of tracks in Live’s Browser.
Then right-click the folder and select Analyze Audio from the context menu. Go grab a
beer or do some laundry, and when you return, the tracks will be ready to go!
With the release of Live 8, Auto-Warping has gotten much more accurate and can be trusted to
do most of the warping work for you. The reason I say most rather than all is that Live sometimes has a hard time figuring out where the first downbeat of the song is. This means that it gets
the tempo right, but the song is offset from the metronome and other clips that are properly
warped. In other cases, the introduction to a song sometimes confuses Auto Warp enough that it
gets the tempo wrong as well.
In Figure 12.2, you’ll see a dance track where Live has made a few errors. The introduction has
no kick drum, and the syncopation of the rhythms has confused Auto Warp as to the location of
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Figure 12.2 Even though this song’s first downbeat is actually the very beginning, Auto Warp has
placed 1.1.1 a bit further in. Also, this is a techno track, but Live has guessed the tempo at 83.33.
the first downbeat and the tempo. To help Live out, we’re going to place 1.1.1 where the kick
drum comes in instead of at the beginning of the song. This is done by a combination of ears and
eyes. Listen for the area where the kick comes in and then zoom in on that section. Use the Scrub
tool to launch the song from this section and visually locate the first kick drum. This takes a little
practice, but pay attention, and you’ll get it.
After you’ve located this first clear downbeat, right-click the transient marker above it and select
Set 1.1.1 Here from the context menu. Then right-click the Warp Marker that gets created and
select Warp From Here (see Figure 12.3a). (There are several different versions of this command, so
refer to Chapter 5, “The Audio Clip,” if you need more info.) Finally, move the Start Marker to the
left so the introduction is included when you play back the clip. Make sure that you move it back an
even number of bars. For example, if the intro is 16 bars, the Start Marker should be at -16.1.1.
Figure 12.3a Once we’ve identified the first clear downbeat, right-click and select Set 1.1.1 Here. Then
right-click again and select Warp From Here.
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Figure 12.3b After helping Auto Warp figure things out, we can pull the Start Marker back to -16.1.1
so the song plays back from the beginning of the intro.
Another common mistake that Auto Warp makes is getting the tempo wrong by a tiny fraction.
Very often, it’s really easy to see this mistake just by looking at the Seg. BPM box. In Figure 12.3b,
common sense suggests that this track is probably 125BPM instead of 124.99. However, this is a
judgment call you must make by ear. What I do is turn on the metronome and then float my mouse
over the bottom half of the waveform display so it turns into the Scrub tool (the speaker). Then I
spot-check the track by launching it from various points in the track. In the case of a minute discrepancy such as this one, you can’t hear it until about six minutes in. To correct an error like this,
just type the corrected value into the Seg. BPM box.
Paint by Numbers Sometimes when you type a tempo into the Seg. BPM box, you’ll find
that it’s grayed out. This is because this Segment BPM can only be edited after you’ve
clicked on a Warp Marker, even if there’s only one in the clip. For clips with multiple Warp
Markers, the Seg. BPM box displays the tempo for the segment between the Warp Marker
you click on and the next Warp Marker in the clip.
In Figure 12.4, we’re looking at a Talking Heads track that’s been Auto Warped. Notice that
there’s quite a few Warp Markers due to the natural fluctuations in the tempo. In this case, Live
has done a good job with the tempo, but it’s placed the downbeat an entire beat off. If we pull
the Start Marker back to -1.4, everything syncs up pretty well. However, we’ll still want to
execute the Set 1.1.1 Here command by right-clicking the Start Marker, so the timeline above
the waveform makes sense in relationship to the rest of our clips.
Just like everything else, becoming a warping master takes practice. Different tracks require
different tweaks to get them just right. The techniques described previously will work for the
majority of music you will encounter; however, there will be cases where you need to warp your
audio from scratch. Let’s take a look at that next.
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Figure 12.4 With this song, the tempo is correct, but the song starts exactly one beat late.
Manual Warping
The best way to begin warping a song manually is by tapping to figure out the tempo as closely
as possible. Start by turning off the Warp button in the Clip View. This will make the clip play at
its original speed, regardless of the tempo of your Live Set. Launch the clip and begin tapping
along with the song using the Tap Tempo button. (It’s best to use a key assignment for this
instead of clicking with the mouse.) Since Live’s Tempo display is accurate to two decimal places, you’ll probably get tempos like 125.82 BPM or 98.14 BPM instead of round numbers like
110 BPM or 85 BPM.
After you’ve got the rough tempo, zoom in and set 1.1.1 at the first clear downbeat of the song.
If you’re working with material that you’re sure has a completely steady tempo, then you’re
almost done. Scroll over and find the next clear downbeat. If you’re working with rhythmically
complex music, this might not be until the beginning of bar 3 or 5. If you’ve tapped the tempo
fairly accurately, the downbeat should already be pretty close to the beginning of the bar. Just
drag it into place, spot-check the track against the metronome, and you’re probably done.
If the track drifts a few minutes in, check the Seg. BPM box as mentioned earlier and try rounding the tempo up or down to the next whole number. Otherwise, adjust a downbeat later in the
track to line it up with the beginning of the bar. If doing this throws off the timing earlier in the
track, then your material is not completely steady, and you’ll have to use multiple Warp Markers
as described next.
If you’re working with material with rhythmic fluctuations, you’ll need a Warp Marker every so
often. For some material, every 32 bars may be enough, and for others, you may need one every
bar (or more!). Sometimes this is as simple as zooming in at the beginning of every four bars,
double-clicking to create a Warp Marker at the downbeat, and dragging it over to the beginning
of the bar. In problem cases, you might have to use the loop technique (see Figure 12.5).
The loop technique works like this: After tapping the tempo, adjust the loop brace around the
first one or two bars of the track and begin playback. Chances are, the loop won’t play back
smoothly. Look to the right of the loop brace and see if you can identify the downbeat of the
next bar in the waveform display. Create a Warp Marker for it and drag it so it lines up with the
right-hand edge of the loop brace. Depending on whether your tapped tempo was too fast or too
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Figure 12.5 This loop doesn’t play back smoothly. Notice that I’ve created a second Warp Marker at the
actual downbeat of the next bar. Once I drag it to the left to line up with the beginning of bar 2, the
loop sounds great.
slow, you may have to drag it to the left or to the right. Use your ears and zoom in as far as
necessary to tweak things until the loop sounds right. Then, move the loop brace ahead so it
begins on the downbeat you just adjusted (click on the brace and hit the up arrow), and repeat
the process.
Every now and then, you can get great results using a combination of manual and automatic
warping. Sometimes Auto Warp can get a few bars of material right and then makes a mistake.
In this case, try dropping a Warp Marker at the downbeat every time the warping drifts off,
then right-click it and use the Warp From Here command. For some material, this can be a real
time saver.
While there is no silver bullet to make sure you always get everything warped properly, this
section arms you with a very powerful set of techniques that can be adapted to almost any material you will encounter.
Selecting the Right Warp Mode
This is a topic on which there are many different opinions and no overarching consensus. Theoretically, Complex Pro mode provides the best quality for warping entire songs, but in practice,
this isn’t always the case. Factors that affect the sound quality of warped audio include the
original spectral characteristics of the song, the amount you are speeding up or slowing down
the song, and whether or not you are transposing the song or playing it back at its original pitch.
If you know you’re not going to change the tempo or pitch of a song during a performance, you
should use any mode other than the Complex modes. At the original tempo/pitch, the other
Warp modes have no effect on the sound quality, while the Complex modes always do. For
heavily percussive dance tracks, Beats mode can work very well. I will generally select No
Loop (the forward arrow) from the Transient Loop Mode menu (see Chapter 5) when using
Beats mode. This can give the track a slightly choppy sound when slowing tracks down, but I
happen to like that for some material. The downside of Beats mode for entire songs is that it can
create an unpleasant warbling in the bass sometimes.
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You may feel that your songs don’t work well in either Complex or Beats mode. There are many
that feel that Texture mode provides the best overall balance of sound quality and preservation
of transients. There are others who only use Repitch mode, which sounds excellent but limits
your ability to match songs by key. My personal approach is to take each song on a case-by-case
basis and listen closely before making a decision. As with so many things musical, the last and
best advice is to use your ears and experiment.
Yes, Master! Be aware that Auto Warp uses Live’s Master Tempo as a hint for figuring out
the tempo of a song (or even a short loop for that matter). Therefore, it’s always a good
idea to set the Master to a good ballpark value before you get warping: 90BPM for hip
hop, 127BPM for techno, etc.
Otherwise, you may find that Live gets the tempo of your songs wrong by exactly half or
double. If this happens, you can quickly fix it by using the :2 and *2 buttons directly
below the Seg. BPM box.
Performance Techniques
Now that you’ve got your Warp-Marked files ready, we are going to discuss a variety of techniques used by artists on stage. We’ll start by looking at traditional DJs, their equipment, and
their performance methods, but again this information is relevant to just about everyone performing with Live. For DJs, learning these techniques and expanding on them will move you into
a new and constantly evolving world that blurs the line between DJing and live performance.
The DJ Mixer
The whole DJ setup centers around the DJ mixer, a specialized mixer with controls specific to
DJs. The DJ’s audio sources (turntables and CD players) are connected to the mixer, and the
output is connected to the sound system. The mixer has audio channels with EQ, the ability to
prelisten to tracks (cueing), and a crossfader for mixing between audio sources. Some advanced
mixers will also have effect loops, allowing external processing boxes to add beat-synced delays,
whooshing flanges, and other tweaks to the mix. To emulate a DJ mixer with Live, you’ll use
features of the Session Mixer, which we’ll discuss in a moment. But most importantly, you’ll
want a MIDI control device to offer you the same tactile control that DJs are accustomed to.
In Figure 12.6, I have set up Live’s Session View like a standard two-channel DJ mixer. There are
two audio tracks each assigned to different sides of the crossfader. There are EQ Threes loaded
onto each of the audio tracks, plus a Compressor II on the Master track. Two return tracks are in
use for Ping Pong Delay and Reverb devices, but you can load any kind of effects you’d prefer.
In order to cue or preview tracks, you’ll need an audio interface with four outputs—two outs for
the main mix and two others to feed your headphones. Many audio interfaces have assignable
headphone outputs, while others have the headphone out hard-wired to a specific pair of outputs. In this case, we’re assuming that outputs 1/2 will feed the headphones. Therefore, in the
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Figure 12.6 A simple Live Set ready for DJing, with a bonus third track for extra beats.
Master track outs, 1/2 are specified for Cue and 3/4 for Master. (You may need to enable these
outputs in Live’s Audio Preferences if they aren’t available in the menus.) Connect outputs 3/4 to
the speakers or sound system and plug a pair of headphones into the audio interface.
To make Live’s Cue system work, click the Solo button just above the Preview Volume knob (see
Figure 12.7). The button will change to Cue, and you’ll see small headphone icons in the buttons
where the solos used to be in the Session Mixer. This button will switch only if you’ve assigned
the Cue and Master to different outputs, as explained earlier. Clicking a headphone icon will
route that track to the Cue bus, thus allowing you to hear it on your headphones. Please note
that enabling Cue on a track does not remove it from the Master Output. You’ll need to turn off
the Track Activator button or turn down the volume on that track so only you may hear it. Once
the track is properly cued, you can bring up the volume and send it out to the mains.
To prevent the chance of mistakes caused by forgetting to deactivate the Track Activator, we’ve
varied the session’s setup by adding another audio track whose Track Activator is always off (see
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Click here to switch to Cue mode.
The Solo buttons
will change to
Cue buttons.
Figure 12.7 To enable Live’s Cue function, click the button above the Preview Volume knob. The solo
buttons in each track will change to headphone icons.
Figure 12.8). By leaving it off and leaving Cue on, any audio clip placed in this track will be
heard in the headphones only. Once you’re done cueing, drag the clip from this preview track
over to one of the main audio tracks in the Set.
Figure 12.8 Another approach: This setup features an additional “cue track.” You can place any audio
clip you want on this track for private headphone tweaking before dragging it onto one of the “live”
tracks. You could also fill this track (or several tracks like this) with clips, to use it as your “record crate”
to hold everything you might play on the gig.
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If you’ve been trying this out as you read, then you’ll know that you can hear your Cue track
only in the headphones. What if you want to hear the main tracks in your headphones, too? You
could simply click their Cue buttons, thus adding their signals to your headphones, but you have
no control of their volume in relation to the Cue track. Instead, make another return track. In
Figure 12.9, you’ll see that the new return track is letter C and has been labeled Cue Mix. Both
of the main tracks have their Send C knobs fully clockwise, thus feeding their signals into return
track C. The trick is in the Input/Output Routing section: The Track Output is set to Ext. Out
1/2, which are the headphone outputs. As you turn up the Volume slider on this track, the main
tracks will blend in with the Cue track in your phones. You can even pan the main mix over to
one side by panning the Cue Mix track.
Figure 12.9 By using another return track, you can create a mix for your headphones. Isn’t the routing
flexibility of Live handy?
You’re probably starting to see how Live can be “made” into a DJ mixing machine with
thoughtful use of tracks and signal routing. To get your hands on the fun, start assigning controls in your MIDI controller. You can set up your system any way you like, but we have a few
recommendations, as listed below.
The Crossfader: Even if you don’t have a horizontal slider on your MIDI controller to mimic
the movement of a real crossfader, assign something—be it a vertical slider or a knob—to
this control in Live. Another option for Crossfader control is to select the crossfader with
your mouse and then use your computer keyboard’s right and left arrow keys for smooth
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crossfades. Of course, you don’t need to use the Crossfader at all. Some people mix using the
volume controls exclusively.
The Track Volumes: While you may think that mixing two tracks should be as simple as
setting their Volume sliders to the same position and just using the Crossfader, you’ll find
that some songs you play are just louder than others. This could be due to different mastering techniques and sonic content. Regardless of the reason, you’ll want to have easy access
to the volumes of each track; as you begin crossfading, you may need some extra play in the
volumes to keep the mix even.
EQ Kills: As mentioned above, instances of EQ Three are loaded onto each of the “live”
tracks. Assign MIDI buttons (Ctrl [Cmd]þM) or keys (Ctrl [Cmd]þK) to your computer
keyboard so you can “cut” frequencies on the fly. When you deactivate the low band of an
EQ Three, it will remove almost all the bass and kick drums. The other two buttons, Mid
and High, will have the same effect on their own frequency bands. Try taking out the low
from one track while taking out the high from the other. How many three-band combinations can you make?
Sends & Effects: Whether you use Send effects, Insert effects, or a combination of the two is
entirely up to you, but either way you want to have some effect control. For example, you
might want a knob mapped to the frequency of an Auto Filter on each track for sweeps and
also have a Delay Send mapped for each track as well.
Track Launchers and Scene Select
When you enter the MIDI or Key Map mode in Live, several controls appear that are only
visible when mapping (see Figure 12.10). Directly above the Mixer controls, but below the
clip slots, you’ll see the Track Launch buttons appear. Mapping the Track Launcher launches
a clip in whatever Scene is currently selected. You may not have thought much in terms of
selecting Scenes before, but whenever you click on a clip, in an empty clip slot or in the
Scene area of the Master track, you are selecting a Scene.
In order to make this technique effective, you need an easy way to select Scenes; otherwise,
you’re right back to clicking with your mouse. Fear not. In the Master track, there’s a dedicated
set of Scene controls that can be used to walk up and down through the Scenes, one by one, or
zip through them using a MIDI knob. Bear in mind that if you map the numeric Scene Select
control to a MIDI controller, you’ll have the best experience using an endless encoder knob, set
to transmit Relative MIDI messages of one sort or another. Not every MIDI controller can transmit this type of data, so consult your controller’s documentation to see if this is possible.
Figure 12.10 This special row only appears in the Remote Mapping modes. Very sneaky, Ableton.
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Live lets you define Clip Loop points on the fly by using the Set buttons for the Loop Position and
Loop Length parameters in the Clip View (see Figure 12.11). While a clip is playing, you can press
the Set Position button, and Live will place the Loop Start Marker. When you press the Set Length
button, Live will place the Loop End Marker and turn the Loop switch on. Don’t worry, these
buttons are controlled by global quantization, so you can easily create perfect loops. You can also
assign MIDI messages to these Set buttons in the Clip View, allowing you to define loops from an
external controller. Furthermore, the mappings will work on whichever clip you have selected, which
keeps you from having to reassign the MIDI and Key commands every time you load in a new clip.
Figure 12.11 Map the Set buttons shown above for on-the-fly looping. Map the Loop switch too so you
can let the song continue.
Beats, Bass, and Beyond
Thanks to the fact that you’ve warped all of your audio files and they are playing on a temporal
grid, you can create additional tracks to augment just about any part of your mix. Load a Drum
Rack or an Operator synth (or a stack of audio loops) to enhance your Set. An extra beat can be
used to smooth the transition between songs, or you can segue into an improvised loop jam
before playing the next track. If you want, you can record new MIDI clips during the gig and
have them be perfectly aligned with the main tracks.
A word of caution here: Since the possibilities here are literally endless, start simple and expand
as you get more comfortable performing with Live. What you’re able to pull off during practice
is often a bit beyond what you can during the gig. Having 10 extra tracks may theoretically
afford you much more leeway to improvise during a show, but having so much to keep track
of can also turn seriously stressful if things don’t go as planned.
Live Arranging
It can be really handy to make multiple clips from a single song, each having different starting
points and loops (see Figure 12.12). Having these on hand will allow you to launch the clips in
any order you want, remixing the arrangement of the song right in front of your audience.
Once you’ve created these clips, you can highlight them all, drag them into the Browser as a
group, and Live will save them as a new Set. Then you can drag the Set instead of the song into
your DJ set, and your entire stack of clips will be ready to go. I keep a folder with my DJ tracks
called “Multis” just for this purpose. There’s more on this topic in Chapter 13, “Live 8 Power.”
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Figure 12.12 The seven clips in the track called “Deck A” are sections from a larger song. You can jump
from the intro to the first verse to the second verse, skipping the chorus. You can then come back and
play the chorus twice instead of once—whatever you feel like.
Master Effects
Don’t forget that in addition to all of the sonic mayhem you can create with Insert and Send
effects, you can also put effects in the Master track. Experiment with using a Beat Repeat, Auto
Pan, or a Redux (just to name a few) on the entire mix. This can work wonders for emphasizing
breakdowns or smoothing over transitions.
It’s also a good idea to place a Limiter in your Master track to make sure that you don’t clip your
outputs. That said, you also want to make sure that you’re not hitting the Limiter too hard and
crushing your dynamics. For this reason, it’s often a good idea to dial in negative gain on the
Limiter (try -6dB for starters), to account for the fact that you may be mixing together two
extremely loud tracks, along with loops and sound effects.
Many gigging bands are using some form of accompaniment, either prerecorded tracks or beat
boxes, to embellish their sound. Many times, the bands feature multi-instrumentalists who write
more parts for a song than can be played at once. When you have the multitracking capabilities
of Live at your disposal, you can easily compile the parts you need for accompaniment and break
them into Scenes. As you perform, you can move through the Scenes, or you can record an
arrangement to play again during a gig.
Click Track
In order to stay synchronized with Live, one or more members of the band may want to listen to
a click track, which is a metronome sound synchronized with the parts in your song. Usually,
this amounts to nothing more than turning on Live’s metronome and setting the Cue output to a
pair of headphones (like we did in the DJ example above). The drummer will usually be the one
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begging for the click. He’ll play along with the metronome in the headphones, and the band will
play along with him. As a result, you all play together with Live.
Of course, since everything is tempo synced in Live, you could use a regular drum loop as the
click track. Instead of turning on the metronome, load a drum loop onto a track and send it to
the headphones. Many musicians will find it easier to play against a drum loop, as opposed to
the generic metronome sound.
Tap Tempo
Along with playing to Live’s click track, you can make Live play to your click track. Assign a
MIDI button or key to Live’s Tap Tempo button. As your band plays, you can tap in your
tempo, and Live will follow it. A drummer can assign an electronic trigger to the Tap Tempo
and then tap a few beats here and there to keep Live in sync. This is exactly what Shawn Pelton
does when he plays with House of Diablo.
Count Off Give Live four taps as you count off the beginning of your song. Live will start
on the downbeat along with the rest of your band, and it will continue playing at the
tempo you tapped.
Live Effects
Besides being a flexible backup player for your band, Live can also act as a flexible effects box. There
are more and more acts these days where Live is functioning both to play beats and to process acoustic instruments (or vocals) to blend them better into an electronic context. For example, to add an
echo to vocals, run the mic into an input on your computer’s audio interface and select it as an input
on an audio track. Switch the track’s monitoring to On and place the delay effect of your choice on
the track. Now, you can control the delay on the fly with MIDI or your mouse. You can also record
automation for the effect and play it back as part of the arrangement, so it turns the delay on and off
at specified times, changes the feedback, and so on. You may also want to send the output of the
vocal-processing track to an independent output of your audio interface (see Figure 12.13) and run a
cable to the engineer so he can still control the overall mix of the show.
Figure 12.13 Track 4 is processing the live vocals. The affected vocals are being sent to outputs 3 and
4 of the audio interface.
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Many improvising musicians shy away from computers, especially in live situations, because
they feel they are too constricting. Many pieces have a loose structure; certain sections of the
song will be explicitly defined (the entrance, ending, and main musical ideas), while others will
be completely nebulous (the solo sections). You can see how a traditional sequencer may hamper
this freeform approach.
Elastic Arrangement
You’ve heard us refer to the results of Live’s Warp Engine as “elastic audio,” allowing you to stretch
and pitch audio files any way you’d like. The same thing can be said of a musical arrangement in
Live—you can jump around and change the length of any section of the song on the fly. This is
accomplished by arranging your clips by song section within the Session View (see Figure 12.14).
You can then launch Scenes as you progress through the song.
Figure 12.14 The sections of the song are just waiting to be launched. Launching them live, as opposed
to playing to an Arrangement, will let you determine the course and speed of the song as you play it.
As I’ve said before, it’s not necessary to move through the Scenes in a straight top-down order;
it’s just easier to visualize your song that way when writing. You can set up the Scenes any way
you like, but just make sure that you have the ability to launch them quickly. Instead of using the
mouse to launch the Scenes, use keyboard keys or assign MIDI notes on a controller. One of the
most intuitive methods involves assigning the Scenes to buttons on your guitarist’s pedal board.
He can then switch sections of the song as easily as he changes guitar tones. Or your keyboardist
can take charge. It doesn’t matter who controls the Arrangement. Live’s universal MIDI mapping allows any MIDI device to control it. You could even trigger Scene changes from an EWI
(Electronic Wind Instrument) or a MIDI body suit!
Real-Time Loop Layering
Using Live’s Looper (see Chapter 9, “Live’s Audio Effects”) or the recording functions within the
Session View (see Chapter 5), you can record new clips easily and layer them on the fly. A guitarist
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can play a simple bass line and loop it and then layer a rhythm part on top of it. She can then improvise on top of these new loop creations, making a song right before the audience’s eyes (and ears).
The method for achieving these layers is accomplished best with a MIDI pedal board so you can
control Live with your feet, leaving your hands free to play your instrument. For many people, a
combination of Looper and Session View recording is going to be the best bet. For example, you
can take advantage of Looper’s ability to set the tempo from the first loop and then overdub new
layers into additional tracks, which can then be pulled in and out of the mix using footswitches
or an additional MIDI controller.
For recording clips in real time on stage, you’ll probably want to map your MIDI footswitch to
the Track Launchers, which are explained in the “Performance Techniques” section above.
These can be used not only to launch and stop clips, but to record new ones as well.
Sound cues are one of the most important elements for adding realism to a stage production.
Sound effects, such as wind, rain, thunder, city traffic, church bells, and crying babies, are played
through the house system, and sometimes music cues play a role as well. For small theater companies, entire scores are often used when there’s no room (or budget) for a live orchestra. Live
performs wonders in this environment, adding all of these elements instantly with just the push
of a button.
In order to play a sound instantly when using Live, you’ll need to turn off any Launch Quantization that may be on, either in Live’s Control Bar or individually in your clips. You don’t want
to trigger a gunshot and have Live wait for the Quantize time before playing it. By switching
these Quantize settings off, Live will play the clip the instant it is triggered. Whenever possible,
you’ll also switch off Warp so the sample will play at its original pitch and speed. Also, bear in
mind that many sounds you’ll use in this context are one-shots (for example, doorbell, clock
chime, and so on), so make sure to turn the Loop switch off.
For other atmospheric effects, such as rain, traffic, and wind, you may need to loop the sound so
it can play for an undetermined amount of time. With the clip’s Loop button engaged, you can
launch the clip and then slowly fade it in. The sound will stay there until you turn it down again,
usually at the end of a Scene.
Performance Sounds Contemporary theater companies and performance artists are start-
ing to use sensors on their actors’ bodies to trigger sounds. Each movement they make can
generate unique MIDI messages, which Live can use for triggering clips. A sensor could be
used to trigger a gunshot sound when the actor pulls the trigger of his prop gun, thus
adding more realism to the performance.
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Whatever your purpose—DJing a party, playing at a bar, or performing a stage show—Live can
support your endeavors in creative ways, limited only by your imagination. Since Live is always
responding to your input, you will be in control throughout the performance.
Who’s Using Live? Michael Dykehouse blends guitar-based rock with swirling atmospheres
and lush electronic production (www.ghostly.com/1.0/artists/dykehouse/). He has
released two albums, Dynamic Obsolescence (Planet Mu, 2001) and Midrange (Ghostly
International, 2004), both to critical acclaim.
“My musical interests began with garage bands and four-track based bedroom
production,” explains Dykehouse. “As my tastes began turning away from more
traditional rock leanings, I began using hardware electronics to flesh out my ideas. Over
the last five years, I began the gradual implementation of software.”
Dykehouse now uses Live for both composition and performance. “As a Mac user, I have
used most of the DAWs available over the years, and none holds a candle to Live’s ease
of use, power, and flexibility. The fact that Live 4 (which was the first version I became
familiar with) seemed infinitely more stable and intuitive than either Pro Tools or Logic
was the impetus behind my switch. There aren’t endless windows cluttering up the
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screen, on-the-fly arrangements are a dream, and the program seems much more
efficiently coded (meaning less of a pull on my CPU) than its competitors.”
Dykehouse frequently makes use of Live’s ReWire capabilities during production and
performance. “I use Live with Propellerhead’s Reason, as both are rock solid in their
compatibility. Furthermore, I can’t live without the Warp functions (and now AutoWarp!) of Live. No other OS X program performs this function with the ease and
flexibility that Live does. Live is a permanent fixture in my studio. Thank you, Ableton!”
Live 8 Power
ou’ve covered a lot of ground since starting this book. You’ve learned how to record and
modify clips and how to arrange them in the Session and Arrangement Views. You’ve
got a handle on MIDI editing and understand how Warping can be used to practical and
creative effect. You should also have a pretty good idea of how much sound design and engineering power Live’s devices put in your hands.
In this final chapter, we’ll be looking at an assortment of more advanced techniques, along with
a few things that just don’t fit anywhere else, such as online collaboration using Share and the
mind-bending add-on Max For Live.
Getting Your Groove On
The power of loop-based music is also its biggest problem: repetition. While repetition can be
magic for keeping a dance floor moving, the “feel” can become stagnant, ultimately making
music monotonous and uninspired. To combat this, it is important to understand the three
heavy hitters of groove: dynamics, timing, and variation. Be aware that some of this is very
subtle stuff, and it is not always immediately apparent to the untrained ear. For example,
when I’m talking about dynamics here, I’m not talking about a song having a quiet section
and a loud section. Rather, I’m talking about the variations in the volume of the hi-hat part
over the course of a bar.
Dynamics: Whether you’re working with audio or MIDI, it’s worth exploring the effect of
subtle volume changes on your parts. Altering the velocity of a few MIDI notes or adding a
Volume Envelope to tweak a couple of hits in an audio loop is one of the simplest ways to
breathe life into your sound. Dynamic variations can be built in to shorter loops with
envelopes while working in the Session View, and then more can be added in the Arrangement View using Automation. For example, you might decide to make one hit slightly louder
every eight bars.
Timing: It’s not uncommon to hear drummers and bass players talk about being “ahead of
the beat” or “behind the beat.” For example, the bass player may play right on the beat,
while the drummer plays the 2 and 4 snare hits slightly behind. Or perhaps the drummer
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plays ahead of the beat, ever so slightly, rushing the snare and hi-hats while the bass player
lays back. These subtleties are often what make music rhythmically compelling. It’s not that
you want to avoid perfectly timed quantized rhythms, it’s just that they often sound more
exciting when contrasted against something that’s pushing or pulling against it a little bit.
For some people, this subtlety is achieved by getting a good set of drum pads and banging
out rhythms without quantization to get the natural timing variations of a live performance.
For others, it’s a process of surgically adjusting MIDI notes or Warp Markers ahead or
behind. You can hold down Ctrl (Cmd) to disable the grid temporarily while dragging, or
just zoom in until the grid is 1/256 or smaller. It’s also possible to make entire tracks rush or
drag by using the Track Delay. Try starting out with values of þ/ 10ms if you want to
experiment with this.
Variation: Some people like to make tons of variations of a beat in the Session View while
composing, while others get the entire arrangement sketched out and then create variations
in the Arrangement View. All that matters is that you find a way to make your music breathe
with some sort of variation every few bars. It doesn’t have to be a fancy drum fill—taking the
kick drum out for a beat or two, altering the bass part, or inserting a dramatic pause are just
a few of the many ways you can keep things interesting. To really get busy with variation, get
into the Beat Wreckin’ Clinic that follows.
Beat-Wreckin’ Clinic
Making breakbeats, funky drum patterns, and fills is often best done via trial and error—especially since so much of the music made on computers is programmed in this fashion and not
played. That said, here are a few ideas for making your looped drum and percussion grooves
freak the beat.
Slice ‘n’ Dice: Since the introduction of Slice to New MIDI track in Live 7, chopping up
and rearranging your loops has never been easier. See Chapter 5, “The Audio Clip,” if you
need a refresher on how this works, but essentially this command chops up your beat
and lets you play it back with MIDI. Not only does the resulting Drum Rack come tricked
out with some interesting macros for glitching up your beat, but you can also remove and
repeat individual hits or completely reprogram the beat using the MIDI Editor.
Surgical Slicing: Even though Slice to New MIDI track may be the latest and greatest technique
for beat mangling, an older technique for editing beats warrants mention as well. Take any
drum loop in Arrangement View and use Live’s Split command—Ctrl (Cmd)þE—at common
rhythmic subdivisions (1/4-, 1/8-, and 1/16-note settings), as shown in Figure 13.1. Then
rearrange the order of the newly made clips. You can copy a slice multiple times if you want,
and you can leave others out. If you just do this randomly, many a happy accident will occur. If
you need to bring your mashed up beats back into the Session View, consolidate the parts into a
new loop.
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Figure 13.1 Repeatedly split any clip.
While cutting a beat into tiny slices that you can rearrange is a great way to create microedited beats, you can also load these individual slices into the pads of an Impulse or a Drum
Rack by dragging them from the Session or Arrangement View directly into these instruments. This way, you get the power of using MIDI to rearrange your beats and the flexibility
of customizing each slice just the way you like it.
Double for Nothing: Another quick trick for adding rhythmic variety to stale loops is to
use Live’s :2 and *2 buttons (shown in Figure 13.2) to double or halve the original tempo.
Try sectioning off a 1/4- or 1/8-note portion of a loop by using Live’s Split command
and then doubling or halving the tempo of the smaller section.
Double and
Halve buttons
Figure 13.2 Use these buttons to halve or double a small section of a loop.
In Figure 13.3, we have halved the last 1/4-note section of the larger loop to change the feel
slightly. Experiment with other subdivisions or try doubling the groove for the best results.
Figure 13.3 Split a loop and then halve the new segment to create a fill.
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From the Start: An easy effective trick is to take any of the segments created in the preceding
examples and change the Sample Start for a freshly made loop segment. For example, you
could take the section we halved in 13.3 and move the Start Time to 1.2.3. For this particular
drum groove, it creates a very realistic and normal sounding drum fill or groove variation.
Controlling with Clip Envelope: Another great way to scramble beats is to create a Clip
Envelope to control a loop’s Sample Offset. To do this most effectively, make sure that you
are in Beats mode and then select Sample Offset in the Clip Envelope drop-down menu. After
you see the flat red line, use Draw mode to reshape the beat as you like (see Figure 13.4).
Each horizontal step represents a single 1/16-note offset. Moving the Sample Offset line
down moves the offset back, while moving it up moves it forward. In Figure 13.4, the offset
of beat 1.1.2 is being moved back 1/16, so the kick drum from beat 1 repeats.
Figure 13.4 Move the clip’s play position using the Sample Offset Envelope to create variety.
Harnessing Follow Actions
The Follow Actions section of the Clip View should be in huge, obnoxious flashing letters
because this is some serious stuff. The carefully thought-out rules governing Follow Actions
will allow you to do innumerable things limited only by your imagination. Not only can they
be used to enhance live performances, but they are also a wonderful compositional aid, helping
you create variations you might never have thought of on your own. Check out the “Follow
Actions” section in Chapter 5 for a refresher on how all of this works.
Loop Variations: Here’s another technique for preventing your loops from becoming stale.
Create two loops that are nearly identical, but have subtle variations, such as an extra hi-hat
or kick-drum hit. Set the Follow Action of the first clip to randomly trigger the second one
from time to time. You’ll set the second clip to retrigger the first. The result is that you get a
constant beat with an additional snare hit thrown in occasionally, mimicking the way a real
drummer would modify his beat on the fly. When you set up your Follow Actions, make sure
one of the options triggers another clip and that the other option is set to Play Again. Play
Again ensures that the Follow Action will be performed again in case Live chooses not to
trigger the other clip.
Drum Fills: Triggering drum loops during a live show is always fun, but I don’t like having to
retrigger the main beat once the fills are done. Follow Actions can be used to make sure the
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Figure 13.5 The top clip is set to Bar Quantization, while the others are set to 1/16. Each fill clip
launches the first, so the beat will always kick in after the fills.
main beat always comes back. Figure 13.5 shows a stack of drum parts. The top clip is the
main beat. Every clip below it is a variation or drum fill. Each of these variations has Follow
Actions settings matching the ones shown in the figure. By having all the fill clips trigger the
main beat right after they start, we’ve guaranteed that the main beat will start on the next
bar. (The main beat clip is set to Bar Quantization.) In fact, since each of the fill clips has a
Launch Quantization of only 1/16, we can launch multiple clips one after the other, literally
piecing fills together in real time.
Don’t just try this with beats; try it with other types of parts, too. Create multiple clips and
treat them with different effects and parameter tweaks. Set them to Legato mode so that the
playback position is traded off as you switch clips. It will sound like you’re performing crazy
processing on the part as you switch between the clips. Most important: Assign these fill clips
to MIDI notes for playability!
Drum Wreck: Take the concept above and make dozens (hundreds?) of variant clips. Set
them all to Legato with a Follow Action of Any. Set the Follow Action times to something
pretty short (1/8 or 1/16) and let it rip. Live will start jumping randomly between all your
variations. Use Global Record to capture the results so you can grab a great part when it
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Minimizing Performance Strain
No matter how fast and new my computer is, I always seem to find a way to tax it beyond its
capabilities. While most of Live’s built-in devices are pretty CPU efficient, you can bring your
system to its knees by using a lot of them in Sets with loads of tracks. Third-party plug-ins are
harder to generalize about. Some are very lightweight, while others can cripple your system with
just one or two instances. Here are a few tips for staying on top of your CPU load.
Freeze Track: This feature will render everything on the track into new audio files so effects
and virtual instruments can be disabled. Simply right-click on the track’s name and choose
Freeze Track from the context menu. Live will create new audio files for each clip in the
track and then disable all of the devices running on the track. The result is that your used
CPU percentage goes down. The beauty of freezing tracks is that you are still free to launch
the frozen clips, use basic editing commands such as Copy and Paste, and adjust mixer
settings such as Effects Sends, Track Volume, Track Pan, Mute, and Solo. If you need to edit
anything that gets disabled by Freeze, you can unfreeze the track, make your edits, and then
refreeze it.
Using the Flatten command will turn your frozen track into a standard audio track and will
permanently remove the devices. Obviously, you lose some flexibility by doing this, but you
gain the ability to manipulate Warp Markers and envelopes—something you can’t do with
frozen tracks.
Freezing is often essential if you’re moving a Set to a different computer. Any tracks containing effects or instruments not installed on the other computer must be frozen first or they
won’t play back properly. There are some cases where tracks can’t be frozen, such as when
you are using Sidechains. To deal with cases such as these, see the section on rendering audio
Render Audio Manually: Sometimes, Live will tell you a track can’t be frozen because of a
routing issue, or perhaps you want to freeze a return track, which can’t be done at all. In
cases like this, you’ll have to render your audio manually. There are a number of ways to do
this, but one of the simplest is to export the track.
After selecting Export Audio/Video from the File menu, you’ll notice the Rendered Track menu
at the top of the resulting dialog. By selecting an individual track (rather than All Tracks), you
can render any audio, MIDI, or return track with all of its effects to a new audio file.
Streamline and Optimize: At some point, it’s usually necessary to go through a Set and do
some housekeeping. If you have unused tracks that have been silenced with the Track
Activator, remember that the devices on these tracks are wasting CPU power. Use Save As to
save a new version of your Set and delete anything you’re not using. Also, many built-in and
plug-in devices contain sections or modules that can be turned off. For example, turn off
unused bands in Live’s EQ Eight (see Figure 13.6) to save a little power.
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Figure 13.6 You can turn off modules of an effect plug-in to save power.
Also be aware of the impact of your Buffer Size (in the Audio tab of Live’s Preferences)
on CPU usage. The smaller your buffer, the higher the drain on your computer’s resources
will be. It’s not uncommon during a final mixdown to set the Buffer Size to its maximum
value to help your computer keep up with numerous instruments and effects.
Sends and Returns: For effects that are typically a blend of dry and effected sounds, such
as delay and reverb, you can save CPU power by using return tracks. Simply take any
effect that you have created on more than one track and “share” it on a return track. For
example, if you are using several instances of a CPU-intensive reverb on several different
tracks, place one on a return instead, and then turn up the Send knobs on each of the tracks
to be affected.
Live lets you save only one template, and it is loaded every time you launch the program; however, with all the different uses for Live, chances are that you won’t be able to create a “one-sizefits-all” template to handle every situation. You can, however, create a collection of templates
by saving empty Live Sets. Load up Live, set the track count, effects, instruments, tempo, MIDI
and Key assignments, and so on as desired; then save the Set.
The trick here is where you save it. As of Live 8, the Library contains a special Templates folder
(see Figure 13.7). When you open a Set from this folder using the File Browser, Live will automatically open a copy of the Set and name it Untitled. This way, you don’t have to worry about
accidentally editing your template. Explore this folder, and you’ll find that Ableton has gotten
you started with a variety of basic setups.
Also bear in mind that Sets can be imported into other Sets by dragging them from the Browser.
Using this technique, you could keep a very minimal basic template and then add in other Sets
(or individual tracks), as needed.
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Figure 13.7 Keep your templates in the Templates folder, and you’ll never edit them by accident.
Share is the name of Ableton’s new collaboration functionality that is built in to Live 8. While
the most fun and practical way to collaborate is often to get everyone in the same room, sometimes it’s not practical. Also, there are times when different types of collaboration work really
well, such as passing a song back and forth, taking turns adding and editing parts. That said, this
often turns out to be a somewhat cumbersome process, due to issues like not having the same
plug-ins on all machines and the occasional missing file. While most of this can be solved by
being diligent about freezing tracks and making sure to Collect All and Save, Ableton is taking
steps toward making this process faster and more elegant with Share.
Be aware that, at the time of publication, this feature is in public beta testing. This means that
you may have to register for the test before you can begin using the feature. Also, don’t be
surprised if something works or looks a little differently by the time you read this.
To get started with sharing a Set, use the Share Live Set command from under the File menu. If
you’re not already logged in, Live will prompt you to enter your username and password from
ableton.com. Live will then analyze your Set to make sure that it is portable. If a track contains
any add-on instruments (such as Operator), third-party plug-ins, or the External Audio Effect or
External Instrument devices, it’s not considered to be portable, since you can’t be sure that it will
play back properly on other systems. To correct this, Live prompts you to freeze any nonportable tracks (see Figure 13.8). You can either choose to freeze them all in one step or exclude
certain tracks—for example, you may know that your collaborator owns the Live Suite and has
all of the add-on instruments available.
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Figure 13.8 Here you can freeze any nonportable tracks in one step.
After you’ve sorted this out, Live will ask you to name the document for sharing purposes (this
can be the same name as the Set if you want) and will upload all of the necessary files to ableton.
com. The progress for the upload will be shown in the Browser, as seen in Figure 13.9. Once the
upload is complete, Live will open your Web browser so you can view the sharing settings for
the Set (see Figure 13.10). A Public Set can be downloaded by anyone with an account at
ableton.com, and you are authorizing them to use it under the Creative Commons AttributionNoncommercial license. (Read up on this at creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/.)
Figure 13.9 The Upload/Download Browser in action. This is where you’ll keep track of all of your
shared Sets. Note the button marked with the @ icon on the left. This won’t appear until you’ve shared
a Set.
A privately shared Set is available only to those you choose. Click Invite Users and type in the
Ableton usernames of your collaborators. They’ll be e-mailed with a link showing them where to
download the Set. Now the collaborator is free to make any changes and additions to the Set,
finally using the Share Live Set command again to share the changes with you. It’s at this point
where the genius of this feature becomes apparent.
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
Figure 13.10 I can manage the settings of my shared Set (called “ShareMe”) at ableton.com.
Not surprisingly, the first time you upload a Set, it may take quite a while as hundreds (or thousands) of megabytes are sent to the server. The next time the Set is shared, however, Live is smart
enough to upload only files that have changed or been newly created, thereby speeding up the
process quite a bit. The same holds true when you download the new version from your collaborator. Live will copy down only what is needed for both of you to be up to date. Cool!
Max For Live
For many years now, Max/MSP (or just Max for short) has been a favorite of those who need to
create customized audio and MIDI tools, whether they are simple MIDI patchers, software
instruments, or the brains behind complex interactive multimedia installations using sound
and video. In fact, before Ableton Live came along, most of the laptop performers I knew
were using software built in Max/MSP! Now, this graphical programming environment is available as an optional add-on for all Live 8 users.
The integration of Max with Ableton Live has the potential to be the most innovative thing to
happen in music software for quite some time because it integrates a completely open-ended
programming tool into a stable sequencer with a familiar workflow. With Max For Live,
you’ll be able to create devices that act just like Live’s built-in devices and make tools that interact with the Live API (application programming interface). This means that you have access to
the guts of Live itself and can programmatically access things such as Live’s tempo, a clip’s
groove properties, a current Set’s track names, or nearly anything you can think of.
If all of this talk of programming and APIs makes your head spin a bit, don’t worry. Max For
Live also ships with several fully programmed devices that will come ready to drop into a track
and use as-is. At the time of publication, these devices include the following:
Buffer Shuffler: This device cuts the incoming audio into anywhere from 4 to 32 steps, which
can then be played back in any order. There are loads of fun controls here, such as the ability
Chapt er 13
Live 8 Power
to individually control the playback direction of each step and Auto Dice, which will choose
a new random order every cycle.
Loop Shifter: The Loop Shifter is a powerful real-time sample mangler. Drop the audio file
of your choice into this device and play a note on your MIDI keyboard. You can now adjust
start point, playback speed, loop, and filter settings (to name a few) for the key you just
pressed. Each MIDI note has its own set of parameters and morphs between them smoothly,
which can create some very unusual effects.
Step Sequencer: Why would you need a step sequencer when you already have MIDI clips?
Because it presents a unique workflow for generating pattern-based material. In addition to
everything you’d expect, such as the ability to program notes and velocities, you can also
assign a chance value to determine the possibility of a given note playing, shift the direction
your patterns play in, and randomize settings at the touch of a button (see Figure 13.11).
Figure 13.11 Step Sequencer is a powerful new MIDI effect for owners of Max For Live.
For many people these devices alone will be worth the cost of admission. And to make things
more interesting, these devices (as well as anything else made with Max For Live) can be opened
up so you can see how they were programmed and make enhancements or modifications if
you’re feeling adventurous.
Not surprisingly, these are pretty sophisticated devices and probably not where you’re going to
want to begin your programming experiments. Fortunately, Max For Live also ships with a
number of tutorial Sets that can be used to help you learn how to program. In Figure 13.12,
you can see a simple Gain device that the folks at Cycling ’74 created as a tutorial.
Figure 13.12 Ladies and gentlemen—the world’s most boring device! The excitement comes from the
Edit button in the title bar.
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
Figure 13.13 Here’s what the device looks like in the Max editor. Note the row of buttons along the
bottom. Among other things, these buttons allow you to Unlock, Unfreeze, or switch into Patching
mode, which is sometimes necessary to see all of the detail above.
To open up this device and see how it works, use the Edit button, which you’ll see in the device’s
title bar, just to the left of the Hot Swap button. Since this is a tutorial device, it has a great deal
of documentation, as seen in Figure 13.13. Devices in Max are built by dragging objects around,
very much like you would with a graphics program. By putting a Gain slider (called live.gain)
between the plug-in and plug-out objects, and connecting the virtual cables, a simple plug-in is
created. Continuing on with these tutorials, you’ll learn how delays are created, how to incorporate filters, and much more.
In addition, you can expect that the already active Max/MSP community will be cranking out
new devices for Live at a pretty good clip and making these available for download. The beauty
of this is that all of the new effects and instruments people dream up will be fully customizable.
Maybe you think that someone has made a great sounding effect, but you want it to have an
additional LFO. Well, if you’re willing to invest the time to develop some Max skills, you can
modify someone else’s patch without having to understand everything about how it was made.
Chapt er 13
Live 8 Power
Parting Thoughts
As you can imagine, there are many more tricks and tips still waiting for you to discover. There
are as many different ways of working with Live as there are different kinds of music. The more
time you spend experimenting, the more you will discover what works for you. And that’s really
all that matters. There’s no “right” way to work with Live, just different methods, some of
which you will find more efficient and inspirational.
Also, check out Ableton’s user forum, which will teach you that no matter what you’ve learned,
someone else is doing things totally differently. Sometimes, you’ll pick up tricks that will greatly
enhance your workflow, and sometimes you’ll just be reminded that finding your own way is the
most important thing of all. Either way, you’re invited to share your ideas and interact with
other Live users. It’s a great community to be a part of.
In closing, I offer you my sincere thanks for taking the time to read this book. Should you stumble onto a tip, trick, or scrap of info that doesn’t quite work as advertised, there is most likely an
update waiting for you at www.ableton.com (click on Downloads). My experience is that Ableton Live 8 is elegant, musical, forward thinking, dynamic, and inspirational. I hope you find it to
be the same and enjoy many hours of making your own musical vision a reality.
Who’s Using Live? Steve Tavaglione Steve Tavaglione is a woodwind, flute, and wind syn-
thesizer (EWI) player, as well as a sound designer for movies, TV, and records. His movie
credits include Finding Nemo, American Beauty, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Road to Perdition, Cinderella Man, Jarhead, and many others. For TV, he has
worked on CSI: Las Vegas, CSI: New York, Charmed, Lois & Clark, and Supernatural. His
record credits and performances include work with Roger Waters, Michael Jackson, Sergio
Mendes, Chaka Khan, Sly and the Family Stone, John Patitucci, Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave
Weckl, Frank Gambale (a fellow Musician’s Institute alumnus), Luis Miguel, and scores
of others. Here’s what this prolific musician has to say about Live:
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
“Since I started using Live, which was day one of its first release, possibilities I could have
only previously imagined became realities for me. I tend to approach music from an
almost childlike place in the first moments, then let the project at hand shape my sense of
play into a workable scenario.
“With Thomas Newman, I create soundscapes to handshake with normal and very
eclectic acoustic instruments. Since we layer sound and rhythm together, I find that Live
is the perfect solution for both. For instance, I will see what key, if any, we are working in
and check the tempo and then acoustically record a flute, clarinet, or whatever, directly
into Live. After recording the lick, I will copy and paste the single lick maybe three or four
times into different clips and change the pitch of the licks into harmonies. I will match the
tempo with picture, and I will be hearing interesting passages within minutes. If the
harmony changes, so can the harmony of the clips.
“I also like to record samples to a clip dry, then reverse the sample and add reverb. I then
resample it to another clip, then re-reverse the sample. What I get is a backward reverb
leading to a forward-played sample.
“Another thing I do is combine older samples with newer ambiences that I have made to
create new ambiences. I then render them as new samples. In that way, my sample
library continues to evolve as I treat these samples with VST effects and tempo and pitch
warping. Every day is a new creative day for me with Live.
“I use Live on two laptops with an Evolution or M-Audio keyboard controller along with
the full gamut of VST plug-ins, including all Native Instruments plug-ins, GigaStudio,
Propellerhead Reason, and others.”
AAS (Applied Acoustic Instruments), 252
amplifiers, 262–264
envelopes, 263–264
filters, 262–264
global parameters, 253–254, 264–265
noise, 261–262
oscillators, 261–262
overview, 260–261
beams, 267
cents, 267
Corpus, 322–323
decay, 267
Excitators, 266–267
mallets, 266–267
material, 268
membranes, 267
noise, 266–267
overview, 265
pitch, 267
plates, 267
properties, 268
radius, 267–268
resonators, 267–269
structure, 269
tuning, 267
dampers, 256
forks, 254–256
global parameters, 253–254
mallets, 254–256
overview, 254
pickups, 256
global parameters, 253–254, 264–265
body, 259–260
bows, 258
dampers, 258–259
decay, 258–259
Excitator, 257–258
filters, 260
finger mass, 259
global parameters, 253–254
hammers, 258
overview, 257
picks, 258
pickup, 259
plectrums, 258
ratio, 258–259
strings, 258–259
termination, 259
Ableton Live
buying, 12
downloading, 14
features, 5–7
forum, 4
history, 4–5
installing, 12–18
other products, 5–6
overview, 1–9
preferences. See preferences
specifications (audio interfaces), 15–17
system requirements, 11–12
updating, 14
uses, 8–9
versions, 14
Web site, 4, 12
acoustic instruments (Operator), 242
actions (follow actions), 96–99, 378–379
active sources (File/Folder tab preferences), 30–31
clips, 108–109
effects/plug-ins, 192–194
aftertouch (Operator), 241
.alc filename extension, 189
algorithms (Operator), 231–233
aligning events (quantizing), 88–94
audio effect filters, 284–285
arrangements, 124
bars, 93
Control Bar, 58–59
launching, 92–94, 184
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
aligning events (quantizing) (continued)
MIDI clips, 184–186
notes, 92, 184–186
Record/Warp/Launch tab preferences, 34
Warp Markers, 150–151
Analog, 262–264
Impulse, 220
Simpler, 228
amplitude (audio effects), 276
amplifiers, 262–264
envelopes, 263–264
filters, 262–264
global parameters, 253–254, 264–265
noise, 261–262
oscillators, 261–262
overview, 260–261
analysis files (exporting audio), 133
File/Folder tab preferences, 30
warping, 358–361
analysis files (exporting audio), 133
Applied Acoustic Systems. See AAS
arpeggiator (MIDI effects), 331–335
gates, 334
grooves, 333
holding, 333
offsetting, 333
rate, 334
repeating, 334
styles, 332–333
sync, 334
transposing, 334–335
triggering, 334
velocity, 335
Arrangement View. See also arrangements
audio clips
editing, 167–168
recording, 165–166
clips, 83–84
effects/plug-ins, 210
Look/Feel tab preferences, 21
MIDI clips, 177
overview, 52–54
selecting, 54–56
Session View comparison, 52–55, 117
track controls, 54–55
arrangements. See also Arrangement View
clips. See also tracks
consolidating, 120
copying, 119–120
creating, 118
cutting, 119–120
deleting, 119–120
drag and drop, 118, 120
editing, 119–121
launching, 117
pasting, 119–120
size, 120
splitting, 120
viewing, 119
copying, 121
deleting, 121
elastic, 371–372
exporting audio
analysis files, 133
bit depth, 132
converting, 133
dithering, 132
files, 131
formats, 131
levels, 133
loops, 131
mono, 133
normalizing, 131
overview, 129–131
sample rates, 132
fades, 124–126
improvisation, 371–372
locators, 126–127
loops, 127–129
pasting, 121
overview, 115–117
punch in/out, 128–129
real-time loop layering, 371–372
recording, 117, 121–122
regions, 127–129
time, 121
time signatures, 126–127
tracks. See also clips
automation, 121–123
breakpoints, 123–124
editing, 123–124
Pencil, 123–124
quantizing, 124
recording, 121–122
viewing/hiding, 122–123
zooming, 115
ASIO drivers, 17–18
asterisks (clips), 104
attack (audio effects), 289–293
attenuation (audio effects), 276, 291–293
Audio tab preferences
buffer size, 25–27
channels, 24
devices, 23–24
drivers, 23–24
I/O, 24
latency, 25–27
overview, 23
pitch, 24
sample rate, 24
audio tracks
controls, 43–44
overview, 104–105
routing (Impulse), 223–225
audio units (effects/plug-ins), 200–202
clips. See audio clips
effects. See audio effects
analysis files, 133
bit depth, 132
converting, 133
dithering, 132
files, 131
formats, 131
levels, 133
loops, 131
mono, 133
normalizing, 131
overview, 129–131
sample rates, 132
Impulse, 222–223
interfaces, 15–17
acoustic instruments, 242
aftertouch, 241
algorithm, 231–233
bandwidth, 239
envelopes, 236–238, 241
filters, 239–241
FM synthesis, 233–236
frequency, 239
gliding, 241
global settings, 241–242
HiQ, 242
keys, 241–242
LFO, 238–239
mod wheel, 241
oscillators, 232–236
panning, 241–242
pitch, 240–241
spread, 240
stereo, 240
time, 241–242
tone, 241
transposing, 240
triggering, 242
tuning, 235–236
velocity, 241
voices, 242–243
volume, 241
soundcards, 15–17
troubleshooting, 222–223
video, 134–135
audio clips. See also audio; audio effect; audio tracks
Arrangement View
editing, 167–168
recording, 165–166
beat slicing, 152–153
buttons, 138–140
cents, 140
Clip View, 137–138
control surfaces (effects/plug-ins), 208–209
converting MIDI clips, 153–155
detuning, 140
editing, 138, 167–168
breakpoints, 162–163
effects/plug-ins, 209–210
levels, 163
offsetting samples, 159–160
overview, 155
panning, 157–158
sends, 160–161
transposing, 158–159
unlinking, 161–162
volume, 155–157
fading, 139
gain, 140–141
grid markers, 167
Hi-Q, 139
keys, 140
loops, 140, 168–170
MIDI clips comparison, 173–174
overview, 85, 137–138
RAM, 139–140
Arrangement View, 165–166
count in, 165
effects/plug-ins, 166
I/O, 165
levels, 165
loops, 164–165
overview, 163
Session View, 163–165
reversing, 139
REX file support, 152–153
saving, 138–139
timing, 167
transposing, 140
tuning, 140
volume, 140–141
warping. See warping
audio effects. See also audio clips; audio effects; audio
beat repeat, 320–322
bias, 317
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
audio effects (continued)
bit-depth, 318
color, 308, 315
Corpus, 322–323
chorus, 306
color, 308
diffusion network, 312–313
dubbing, 301–302
early reflections, 311
echo, 303
envelopes, 308, 310
feedback, 300, 308, 310
filters, 302–303, 310
flanger, 309–310
freezing, 301–302
frequency, 304, 308
global settings, 311–312
grain, 303–305
I/O, 311, 313
LFO, 308–310
mode, 308
overview, 299
performance, 311–312
phaser, 307–309
ping pong, 301–302
pitch, 304
polarity, 307–308
repeating, 301–302
reverb, 310–313
simple, 299–300
spray, 304
sync, 299–300
Wet/Dry, 300, 308–309
distortions, 313–319
drive, 315, 317
dynamic tube, 316–317
effects/plug-ins, 195
EQ, 276, 281–285
EQ Eight, 276–279
EQ Three, 279–281
erosion, 317
external, 327–328
filters, 276, 281–285
Auto Filter, 281–282
bands, 276–277
bass, 276–277
curves, 276–277
delays, 302–303, 310
editing, 278
envelopes, 283
frequency, 276–280, 282
gain, 278–280
headroom, 277–278
kick drums, 279
kills, 280
LFO, 282
modes, 278
quantizing, 284–285
resonance, 282
scaling, 278
Sidechains, 283–285
treble, 276–277
volume, 279–280
frequency, 323–324
delays, 304, 308
filters, 276–280, 282
Frequency Shifter, 323–324
I/O, 311, 313, 315–316
loops, 328–330
Max/MSP, 384–386
chorus, 306–307
feedback, 307
overview, 305
polarity, 307
Wet/Dry, 307
overdrive, 313–314
overview, 275–276
redux, 318
resonators, 324–325
samples, 318
saturator, 314–316
theater, 372–373
tone, 317
vinyl distortion, 318–319
vocoders, 325–327
amplitude, 276
attack, 289–293
attenuation, 276, 291–293
auto panning, 285–288
compression, 289–299
compression models, 293
de-essing, 295
dynamic processing, 285–288
envelopes, 293–294
FF1/FF2 mode, 293
filters, 279–280
gain, 289–293
gates, 295–296
headroom, 289
kick drums, 292–293
kills, 289–293
knee, 292–293
limiters, 296–297
Lookahead mode, 294
multiband dynamics, 297–299
Opto mode, 293
Peak mode, 293
ratio, 289–293
release, 289–293
RMS mode, 293
Sidechains, 294–295
Threshold, 289–293
transients, 290–293
waveforms, 315
Audio tab preferences
buffer size, 25–27
channels, 24
devices, 23–24
drivers, 23–24
I/O, 24
latency, 25–27
overview, 23
pitch, 24
sample rate, 24
audio tracks. See also audio; audio clips; audio effects
controls, 43–44
overview, 104–105
routing (Impulse), 223–225
audio units (effects/plug-ins), 200–202
Auto Filter, 281–282
arrangements, 121–123
auto-warping, 147–148, 358–361, 363
effects/plug-ins, 206–210
panning, 285–288
auto-warping, 147–148, 358–361, 363
backups (effects/plug-ins), 200
Badawi interview, 353
audio effects filters, 276–277
click tracks, 369–370
effects/plug-ins, 370
overview, 81, 369
tap tempo, 370
bandwidth (Operator), 239
bars, quantizing, 93
bass (audio effects filters), 276–277
beams (Collision), 267
beat repeat, 320–322
beat repeat, 320–322
loops, 376–378
preferences, 33
Record/Warp/Launch tab, 33
audio clips, 152–153
MIDI clips, 153–155
Warp modes, 143–145
warping, 142–143
behavior (preferences)
File/Folder tab, 31
Look/Feel tab, 21
bias (distortions), 317
bit depth
exporting audio, 132
redux, 318
body (Tension), 259–260
book Web site, 9
bows (Tension), 258
envelopes, 162–163
arrangements, 123–124
Browser View
devices, 66
drag and drop, 63
effects/plug-ins, 66–68
organizing files, 66
navigating, 64–65
overview, 60–63
searching, 65
Browser View
devices, 66
drag and drop, 63
effects/plug-ins, 66–68
organizing files, 66
navigating, 64–65
overview, 60–63
searching, 65
effects/plug-ins, 192–194
File/Folder tab preferences, 31
shuffling, 384–385
size preferences (Audio tab), 25–27
buttons (audio clips), 138–140
buying Live, 12
cache, decoding preferences, 30
capturing scenes, 112
audio clips, 140
Collision, 267
Drum Racks, 270–272, 274
racks (effects/plug-ins), 211–213, 215–216
changing scenes, 110
muting, 46–47
preferences, 24
scenes, 111
children. See master/slave relationships
chokes (Drum Racks), 273
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
choosing. See selecting
chords (MIDI effects), 335–336
chorus (modulation), 306–307
click tracks, 81, 369–370
clicking Control Bar, 58
clip slots (Session View), 40–41
Clip View, 60–62
audio clips, 137–138
clips, 86–87
Look/Feel tab preferences, 21
MIDI clips, 174
clips. See also files; samples; songs; tracks
Arrangement View, 83–84
consolidating, 120
copying, 119–120
creating, 118
cutting, 119–120
deleting, 119–120
drag and drop, 118–120
editing, 119–121
launching, 117
pasting, 119–120
size, 120
splitting, 120
viewing, 119
asterisks, 104
audio clips. See audio clips
beats, 33
clip slots (Session View), 40–41
Clip View, 60–62
audio clips, 137–138
clips, 86–87
Look/Feel tab preferences, 21
MIDI clips, 174
color, 87–88
complex, 33
creating, 85–86
fades, 32–34
follow actions, 96–99, 378–379
gates, 95
Groove Pool, 88–91
grooves, 88–91
importing, 85–86, 220–221
Impulse, 220–221
controls, 94–95
preferences, 34
selected scenes, 367
loops. See loops
markers, 100–101
MIDI clips. See MIDI clips
MIDI mapping, 92
multiple, 103–104
names, 87–88
nudge controls, 91–92
overview, 83–84
pitch, 33
playing, 103
quantizing, 88–94
bars, 93
launching, 92–94, 184
notes, 92, 184–186
preferences, 34
recording, 31–32, 85–86
repeating, 95
sequencing steps, 385
Session View, 83–84
adding, 108–109
copying, 109
drag and drop, 109
editing, 109
starting/ending, 100–101
stopping, 108
swinging, 88–89
tempo, 99–100
texture, 33
time signatures, 88
toggling, 95
tones, 33
transports, 103
triggers, 95
velocity, 95–96
exporting, 135
importing, 133–134
master/slave, 134–135
saving, 135
synchonizing, 134–135
Video window, 134
warp modes, 32–34
cloning tracks, 51
collected sets, saving, 68–70
beams, 267
cents, 267
Corpus, 322–323
decay, 267
Excitators, 266–267
mallets, 266–267
material, 268
membranes, 267
noise, 266–267
overview, 265
pitch, 267
plates, 267
properties, 268
radius, 267–268
resonators, 267–269
structure, 269
tuning, 267
clips, 87–88
delays, 308
distortions, 315
Look/Feel tab, 22
preferences, 22
complex preferences
(Record/Warp/Launch tab), 33
complexity (warp modes), 146
audio effects, 289–299
FF1/FF2 mode, 293
Lookahead mode, 294
models, 293
Opto mode, 293
overview, 288–290
Peak mode, 293
RMS mode, 293
warping. See warping
computer interface specifications, 15–16
consolidating arrangements, 120
Control Bar
clicking, 58
CPU Load Meter, 60
keyboard shortcuts, 58
keyboards, 59–60
keys, mapping, 59–60
loops, 59
metronomes, 57–58
MIDI I/O, 59–60
MIDI mapping, 59–60
overview, 56–58
performance, 59–60
playing, 58
punch in/out, 59
quantizing, 58–59
stopping, 58
sync, 57–58
tempo, 57–58
time signature, 57–58
control surfaces, 208–209
Arrangement View comparison, 54–55
audio tracks, 43–44
launching clips, 94–95
macro controls, 214
master tracks, 47–48
MIDI, 112–115
effects/plug-ins, 206–210
envelopes, 186–187
Impulse, 221–223
instant mapping, 20
MIDI/Sync tab, 27
preferences, 27
selecting, 18–20
Simpler, 230
support, 20
tracks, 44–45
overriding, 53–54
racks, 214
return tracks, 45–46
solo tracks, 48
track crossfader, 49–50
track delays, 48
tracks, 54–55
viewing/hiding, 50
converters (audio interface specifications), 17
audio clips, MIDI clips, 153–155
exporting audio, 133
tracks, 356–357
arrangements, 109, 119–121
saving, 68
scenes, 110
sessions, 109–110
time, 121
Corpus, 322–323
count in (recording), 165
CPU Load Meter (Control Bar), 60
CPU tab, 34–35
crashes (effects/plug-ins), 200
clips, 85–86, 118
racks (effects/plug-ins), 211
songs, 135–136
Criado, Andres, interview, 373
controls, 49–50
DJ techniques, 366–367
Ctrl envelopes (MIDI clips), 186–187
Cubase Web site, 17
cueing mixes, 63
curves (audio effects filters), 276–277
clips, 119–120
time, 121
Electric, 256
Tension, 258–259
Collision, 267
Tension, 258–259
decoding cache, 30
de-essing, 295
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
chorus, 306
color, 308
controls, 48
diffusion network, 312–313
dubbing, 301–302
early reflections, 311
echo, 303
envelopes, 308, 310
feedback, 300, 308, 310
filters, 302–303, 310
flanger, 309–310
freezing, 301–302
frequency, 304, 308
global settings, 311–312
grain, 303–305
I/O, 311, 313
LFO, 308–310
mode, 308
overview, 299
performance, 311–312
phaser, 307–309
ping pong, 301–302
pitch, 304
polarity, 307–308
repeating, 301–302
reverb, 310–313
simple, 299–300
spray, 304
sync, 299–300
Wet/Dry, 300, 308–309
clips, 119–120
effects/plug-ins, 198
time, 121
desktop audio interface specifications, 15–16
detuning audio clips, 140
Audio tab, 23–24
Browser View, 66
effects/plug-ins, 200–202, 213–214
preferences, 23–24
racks, 213–214
diffusion network (delays), 312–313
digital rights management (DRM), 357
distortions (audio effects), 313–319
dithering audio, 132
overview, 80–81, 355
crossfader, 366–367
Drum Rack, 368
effects/plug-ins, 367–369
EQ, 367
kills, 367
launching clips, 367
live mixing, 368–369
loops, 368
mixers, 363–367
Operator, 368
overview, 363
sends, 367
volume, 367
warping, 368
converting, 356–357
drag and drop, 356
drives, 356
DRM, 357
preparing, 355–356
recording, 357
ripping, 356
Warp Markers, 358–363
downloading Live, 14
drag and drop
arrangements, 118, 120
Browser View, 63
DJs, 356
MIDI, 182–183
sessions, 109
Draw mode, 123–124, 182
drive (distortions), 315, 317
ASIO, 17–18
Audio tab preferences, 23–24
drives (DJs), 356
DRM (digital rights management), 357
Drum Racks
chains, 270–272, 274
chokes, 273
DJ techniques, 368
extracting, 274
overview, 269–270
pads, 270–272
returns, 273–274
routing, 272–273
sends, 272–274
beams, 267
cents, 267
Corpus, 322–323
decay, 267
Excitators, 266–267
mallets, 266–267
material, 268
membranes, 267
noise, 266–267
overview, 265
pitch, 267
plates, 267
properties, 268
radius, 267–268
resonators, 267–269
structure, 269
tuning, 267
Drum Racks
chains, 270–272, 274
chokes, 273
DJ techniques, 368
extracting, 274
overview, 269–270
pads, 270–272
returns, 273–274
routing, 272–273
sends, 272–274
Impulse. See Impulse
kick drums
audio effects, 292, 293
audio effects filters, 279
delays, 300, 308–309
modulation, 307
dubbing (delays), 301–302
duplicating. See copying
Dykehouse interview, 373
dynamic processing (audio effects), 285–288
attack, 289–293
attenuation, 291–293
auto panning, 285–288
compression, 289–299
compression models, 293
de-essing, 295
envelopes, 293–294
FF1/FF2 mode, 293
gain, 289–293
gates, 295–296
headroom, 289
kick drums, 292–293
kills, 289–293
knee, 292–293
limiters, 296–297
Lookahead mode, 294
multiband dynamics, 297–299
Opto mode, 293
Peak mode, 293
ratio, 289–293
release, 289–293
RMS mode, 293
Sidechains, 294–295
Threshold, 289–293
transients, 290–293
dynamic tube (distortions), 316–317
dynamics (loops), 375
early reflections (delays), 311
echo (delays), 303
Arrangement View, 167–168
arrangements, 123–124
audio clips, 138, 167–168
audio effects filters, 278
arrangements, 119–121
multiple, 103–104
sessions, 109
MIDI clips
drag and drop, 182–183
folding, 181–182
grid, 180
notes, 181–183
overview, 179
Pencil, 182
piano roll, 181–182
velocity, 181–183
adding, 192–194
Arrangement View, 210
audio clips
control surfaces, 208–209
envelopes, 209–210
recording, 166
audio effects. See audio effects
audio units, 200–202
automating, 206–210
backups, 200
bands, 370
Browser View, 66–68
browsers, 192–194
crashes, 200
deleting, 198
devices, 200–202
DJ techniques, 367, 369
fading, 205
hot swaps, 201
inserting, 203–204
Look/Feel tab, 22
MIDI clips, 187
MIDI controllers, 206–210
MIDI effects. See MIDI effects
muting, 206
organizing, 198, 200–202
playing, 198
post-fader, 205
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
effects/plug-ins (continued)
pre-fader, 205
preferences, 22
presets, 198–202
chains, 211–213, 215–216
creating, 211
devices, 213–214
key range zones, 215–216
keyboard splits, 215–216
layers, 215
macro controls, 214
overview, 210–211
patches, 216
presets, 214–215
routing, 202–206
saving, 200
sends, 204–206
sessions, 191
signal paths, 202–206
stopping, 198
third-party, 197
Track View, 191–194
troubleshooting, 199
types, 194–197
virtual instruments, 195–196
volume, 200
VST, 198–200
warnings, 199
elastic arrangements, 371–372
dampers, 256
forks, 254–256
global parameters, 253–254
mallets, 254–256
overview, 254
pickups, 256
ending. See starting/ending
Analog, 263–264
audio, 236–238, 241
audio clips
breakpoints, 162–163
effects/plug-ins, 209–210
levels, 163
offsetting samples, 159–160
overview, 155
panning, 157–158
sends, 160–161
transposing, 158–159
unlinking, 161–162
volume, 155–157
audio effect filters, 283
audio effects, 293–294
delays, 308, 310
LFOs, 264
MIDI clips
controllers, 186–187
Ctrl envelopes, 186–187
effects/plug-ins, 187
Mixer envelopes, 187
overview, 186
panning, 187
virtual instruments, 187
volume, 187
Operator, 236–238, 241
Sampler, 250–251
Simpler, 228
audio effects, 276, 281–285
DJ techniques, 367
EQ Eight, 276–279
EQ Three, 279–281
EQ Eight, 276–279
EQ Three, 279–281
erosion (distortions), 317
events, aligning (quantizing), 88–94
audio effect filters, 284–285
arrangements, 124
bars, 93
Control Bar, 58–59
launching, 92–94, 184
MIDI clips, 184–186
notes, 92, 184–186
Record/Warp/Launch tab preferences,
Warp Markers, 150–151
Collision, 266–267
Tension, 257–258
analysis files, 133
bit depth, 132
converting, 133
dithering, 132
files, 131
formats, 131
levels, 133
loops, 131
mono, 133
normalizing, 131
overview, 129–131
sample rates, 132
MIDI, 187–189
video, 135
external audio effects, 327–328
external files, 74
external instruments (ReWire), 348
extracting (Drum Racks), 274
arrangements, 124–126
audio clips, 139
controls, 49–50
DJ techniques, 366–367
effects/plug-ins, 205
Record/Warp/Launch tab preferences, 32–34
features (Live), 5–7
delays, 300, 308, 310
modulation, 307
FF1/FF2 mode (compression), 293
File/Folder tab preferences
analysis, 30
behavior, 31
browsers, 31
decoding cache, 30
folders, 29–30
live sets, 30
overview, 29
samples, 30
saving, 29
sources, 30–31
templates, 29
temporary folders, 30
files. See also clips; samples; songs; tracks
Browser View
drag and drop, 63
organizing, 66
overview, 60–63
searching, 65
exporting audio, 131
external, 74
loops. See loops
managing, 70–76
REX file support, 152–153
saving, 68–70
collected sets, 68–70
copies, 68
live sets, 68
searching, 72–73
Analog, 262–264
audio, 239–241
audio effects, 276, 281–285
Auto Filter, 281–282
bands, 276–277
bass, 276–277
curves, 276–277
editing, 278
envelopes, 283
frequency, 276–280, 282
gain, 278–280
headroom, 277–278
kick drums, 279
kills, 280
LFO, 282
modes, 278
quantizing, 284–285
resonance, 282
scaling, 278
Sidechains, 283–285
treble, 276–277
volume, 279–280
delays, 302–303, 310
Impulse, 219–220
Operator, 239–241
Sampler, 249–250
Simpler, 228
Tension, 260
finger mass (Tension), 259
flanger (delays), 309–310
FM synthesis (Operator), 233–236
folder preferences, 29–30
folding MIDI, 181–182, 341
follow actions, 96–99, 378–379
forks (Electric), 254–256
formats (exporting audio), 131
forums (Ableton Live), 4
delays, 301–302
tracks, 107–108
audio effects
filters, 276–280, 282
Frequency Shifter, 323–324
delays, 304, 308
Operator, 239
Frequency Shifter, 323–324
function keys, 46–47
gain, 140–141, 278–293
arpeggiator (MIDI effects), 334
audio effects, 295–296
clips, 95
gliding (Operator), 241
global grooves (Groove Pool), 88–91
global parameters (AAS instruments), 253–254, 264–265
global settings
delays, 311–312
Impulse, 220
Operator, 241–242
Sampler, 249–250
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
delays, 303–305
Warp Modes, 145
grid (MIDI clips), 180
grid markers (audio clips), 167
Groove Pool, 88–91
arpeggiator, 333
clips, 88–91
Groove Pool, 88–91
ReWire, 352
warping. See warping
group tracks, 51, 105–106
hammers (Tension), 258
hard drives, 15
headroom, 277–278, 289
Help, 76–77
Help menu, 77
hiding. See viewing/hiding
Hi-Q, 139, 242
history (Live), 4–5
holding (arpeggiator), 333
hot swaps (effects/plug-ins), 201
importing clips, 85–86
Impulse, 220–221
MIDI clips, 187–188
video, 133–134
improvisation (arrangements), 371–372
importing clips, 220–221
interface, 217–220
amplifier, 220
filters, 219–220
global settings, 220
pitch, 220
samples, 218–219
saturation, 219
time, 220
transposing, 218–220, 222–223
velocity, 218–220
volume, 220
MIDI tracks, 221–223
overview, 217
routing, 223–225
static, 224
troubleshooting audio, 222–223
Info View, 61–62, 76
input. See I/O
inputs (audio interface specifications), 17
effects/plug-ins, 203–204
scenes, 110
installing Live, 12–18
instant mapping (MIDI), 20
external instruments (ReWire), 348
virtual instruments. See virtual instruments
Impulse, 217–220
amplifier, 220
filters, 219–220
global settings, 220
pitch, 220
samples, 218–219
saturation, 219
time, 220
transposing, 218–220, 222–223
velocity, 218–220
volume, 220
MIDI, 18–20
Operator, 230–231
Simpler, 226–229
views. See views
Badawi, 353
Criado, Andres, 373
Dykehouse, Michael, 373
Mesinai, Raz, 353
Sub Swara, 170–171
Tavaglione, Steve, 386–387
audio interface specifications, 16–17
delays, 311, 313
distortions, 315–316
inputs, 17
MIDI (Control Bar), 59–60
outputs, 16–17
Audio tab, 24
MIDI/Sync tab, 28–29
recording audio clips, 165
Session View, 50–51
Jack Web site, 357
key range zones (racks), 215–216
Key Zone Editor )Sampler), 244–245
Control Bar, 58–60
function keys, 46–47
muting channels, 46–47
splits (racks), 215–216
audio clips, 140
mapping (Control Bar), 59–60
Operator, 241–242
kick drums (audio effects), 279, 292–293
audio effects, 280, 289–293
DJ techniques, 367
knee (audio effects), 292–293
knobs (mouse), 41
language preferences (Look/Feel tab), 21
laptops, 15–16
latency preferences (Audio tab), 25–27
arrangements, 117
controls, 94–95
quantizing, 92–94, 184
selected scenes, 367
preferences, 34
Record/Warp/Launch tab, 34
scenes, 109–112, 367
racks (effects/plug-ins), 215
real-time loops, 371–372
Sampler, 244–245
length (notes), 336–337
envelopes, 163
recording, 165
exporting audio, 133
audio effect filters, 282
delays, 308–310
envelopes, 264
Operator, 238–239
Sampler, 250–251
Simpler, 228–229
Library tab preferences, 36–37
managing, 70, 75–76
Library tab preferences, 36–37
limiters, 296–297
buying, 12
downloading, 14
features, 5–7
forum, 4
history, 4–5
installing, 12–18
other products, 5–6
overview, 1–9
preferences. See preferences
specifications (audio interfaces), 15–17
system requirements, 11–12
updating, 14
uses, 8–9
versions, 14
Web site, 4, 12
Live Clips (MIDI), 189
live sets
DJ mixing techniques, 368–369
preferenceS (File/Folder tab), 30
saving, 68
locations (templates), 381–382
locators (arrangements), 126–127
Look/Feel tab preferences, 20–22
Lookahead mode (compression), 294
Looper, 328–330
loops, 140, 168–170
arrangements, 127–129
audio effects, 328–330
beats, 376–378
Control Bar, 59
DJ techniques, 368
dynamics, 375
exporting audio, 131
Impulse. See Impulse
Looper, 328–330
markers, 101–102
offsetting, 102–103
preferences, 32–34
real-time layering, 371–372
Record/Warp/Launch tab, 32–34
recording, 164–165
red digits, 102
scenes, 111–112
shifting, 385
starting/ending, 101–103
static, 224
timing, 375–376
variation, 376
volume, 63
Warp Markers, 147–148
Warp modes, 144–145
macro controls (racks), 214
Collision, 266–267
Electric, 254–256
files, 70–76
libraries, 70, 75–76
projects, 70, 74–76
sets, 70–74
manual warping, 361–362
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
mapping MIDI
clips, 92
Control Bar, 59–60
instant mapping, 20
keys, 59–60
markers, 101–102
master tracks
controls, 47–48
overview, 107
master/slave relationships
ReWire, 345–352
tempo, 100
video, 134–135
warp modes, 146
material (Collision), 268
Max/MSP, 384–386
membranes (Collision), 267
Mesinai, Raz, interview, 353
click tracks, 81, 369–370
Control Bar, 57–58
clips. See MIDI clips
Control Bar, 59–60
controllers, 112–115
effects/plug-ins, 206–210
instant mapping, 20
selecting, 18–20
Simpler, 230
support, 20
Drum Racks
chains, 270–272, 274
chokes, 273
DJ techniques, 368
extracting, 274
overview, 269–270
pads, 270–272
returns, 273–274
routing, 272–273
sends, 272–274
I/O, 59–60
clips, 92
Control Bar, 59–60
instant mapping, 20
Max/MSP, 384–386
Remote Control, 113–115
Sampler, 251
tracks. See MIDI tracks
MIDI clips. See also MIDI; MIDI tracks
.alc filename extension, 189
audio clips
comparison, 173–174
converting, 153–155
beat slicing, 153–155
Clip View, 174
drag and drop, 182–183
folding, 181–182
grid, 180
notes, 181–183
overview, 179
Pencil, 182
piano roll, 181–182
velocity, 181–183
envelopes, 186–187
exporting, 187–189
importing, 187–188
Live Clips, 189
overview, 85, 173–176
Arrangement View, 177
multiple, 177
overdubbing, 178–179
overview, 175–176
quantizing, 184–186
Session View, 176–177
step recording, 179
undoing, 185
reversing, 174
saving, 189
MIDI effects
arpeggiator, 331–335
gates, 334
grooves, 333
holding, 333
offsetting, 333
rate, 334
repeating, 334
styles, 332–333
sync, 334
transposing, 334–335
triggering, 334
velocity, 335
chords, 335–336
effects/plug-ins, 196–197
folding, 341
note length, 336–337
overview, 331
pitch, 337–338
random, 338–339
range, 338
scale, 340–341
transposing, 341
velocity, 341–343
MIDI tracks. See also MIDI; MIDI clips
controls/controllers, 44–45, 221–223
Impulse, 221–223
overview, 105
routing, 223
MIDI/Sync tab preferences
controllers, 27
I/O, 28–29
remote, 28–29
sync, 28
tracks, 28
Mixer envelopes (MIDI clips), 187
DJ techniques, 363–367
Mixer envelopes (MIDI clips), 187
mixes, cueing, 63
mod wheel (Operator), 241
models (compression), 293
audio effects filters, 278
delays, 308
chorus, 306–307
dry/wet, 307
feedback, 307
overview, 305
polarity, 307
Sampler, 248–251
monitoring (audio interface specifications), 17
exporting audio, 133
synthesizers, 331
mouse (knobs), 41
moving scenes, 110
multiband dynamics, 297–299
multiple clips
editing, 103–104
MIDI recording, 177
Warp Markers, 151–152
multi-tracking, 82
channels, 46–47
effects/plug-ins, 206
clips, 87–88
scenes, 112
navigating (Browser View), 64–65
Analog, 261–262
Collision, 266–267
normalizing (exporting audio), 131
MIDI clips
editing, 181–183
length, 336–337
quantizing, 92, 184–186
nudge controls, 91–92
arpeggiator, 333
envelopes, 159–160
loops, 102–103
nudge controls, 91–92
online Help, 77
acoustic instruments, 242
aftertouch, 241
algorithm, 231–233
bandwidth, 239
DJ techniques, 368
envelopes, 236–238, 241
filters, 239–241
FM synthesis, 233–236
frequency, 239
gliding, 241
global settings, 241–242
HiQ, 242
interface, 230–231
keys, 241–242
LFO, 238–239
mod wheel, 241
oscillators, 232–236
overview, 230
panning, 241–242
pitch, 240–241
spread, 240
stereo, 240
time, 241–242
tone, 241
transposing, 240
triggering, 242
tuning, 235–236
velocity, 241
voices, 242–243
volume, 241
Opto mode (compression), 293
effects/plug-ins, 198, 200, 202
files (Browser View), 66
Analog, 261–262
Operator, 232–236
Sampler, 248–249
other products, 5–6
output. See I/O
outputs (audio interface specifications),
overdrive (distortions), 313–314
overdubbing MIDI clips, 178–179
overriding controls, 53–54
Overview, 56
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
pads (Drum Racks), 270–272
envelopes, 157–158
MIDI clips, 187
Operator, 241–242
Sampler, 249–250
Simpler, 229
parameters (AAS instruments), 253–254, 264–265
parents. See master/slave relationships
pasting, 119–121
patches (racks), 216
Peak mode (compression), 293
Pencil, 123–124, 182
percussion. See drums
Control Bar, 59–60
delays, 311–312
audio clips, 139–140
computer specifications, 15
Sampler, 248
scenes, 111
troubleshooting, 380–381
phaser (delays), 307–309
piano roll (MIDI), 181–182
picks (Tension), 258
Electric, 256
Tension, 259
ping pong (delays), 301–302
Collision, 267
delays, 304
Impulse, 220
MIDI effects, 337–338
Operator, 240–241
Audio tab, 24
Record/Warp/Launch tab, 33
Sampler, 248–249
Simpler, 228–229
warping. See warping
plates (Collision), 267
clips, 103
Control Bar, 58
effects/plug-ins, 198
Sampler, 245–248
scenes, 110–111
spacebar, 41
tracks, 41
plectrums (Tension), 258
plug-ins. See effects/plug-ins
polarity, 307–308
post-fader, 205
pre-fader, 205
Audio tab
buffer size, 25–27
channels, 24
devices, 23–24
drivers, 23–24
I/O, 24
latency, 25–27
overview, 23
pitch, 24
sample rate, 24
CPU tab, 34–35
File/Folder tab
analysis, 30
behavior, 31
browsers, 31
decoding cache, 30
folders, 29–30
live sets, 30
overview, 29
samples, 30
saving, 29
sources, 30–31
templates, 29
temporary folders, 30
Library tab, 36–37
Look/Feel tab
Arrangement View, 21
behavior, 21
Clip View, 21
color, 22
effects/plug-ins, 22
languages, 21
overview, 20
scrolling, 21
scrubbing, 22
skins, 22
warnings, 21
zooming, 22
MIDI/Sync tab
controllers, 27
I/O, 28–29
remote, 28–29
sync, 28
tracks, 28
overview, 20
Record/Warp/Launch tab
beats, 33
complex, 33
fades, 32–34
launching, 34
loops, 32–34
overview, 31
pitch, 33
quantizing, 34
recording, 31–32
texture, 33
tones, 33
warp modes, 32–34
User Account Licenses tab, 35–36
preparing tracks (DJs), 355–356
presets (effects/plug-ins), 198–202, 214–215
Pro Session Mixer, 43
process, creating songs, 135–136
processors (computer specifications), 15
producing, 82
products, other, 5–6
projects, managing, 70, 74–76
properties (Collision), 268
pseudo Warp Markers, 148–150
punch in/out
arrangements, 128–129
Control Bar, 59
quantizing, 88–94
audio effect filters, 284–285
arrangements, 124
bars, 93
Control Bar, 58–59
launching, 92–94, 184
MIDI clips, 184–186
notes, 92, 184–186
Record/Warp/Launch tab preferences, 34
Warp Markers, 150–151
Drum Racks
chains, 270–272, 274
chokes, 273
DJ techniques, 368
extracting, 274
overview, 269–270
pads, 270–272
returns, 273–274
routing, 272–273
sends, 272–274
chains, 211–213, 215–216
creating, 211
devices, 213–214
key range zones, 215–216
keyboard splits, 215–216
layers, 215
macro controls, 214
overview, 210–211
patches, 216
presets, 214–215
radius (Collision), 267–268
audio clips, 139–140
computer specifications, 15
Sampler, 248
scenes, 111
random (MIDI effects), 338–339
range (MIDI effects), 338
rate (arpeggiator), 334
audio effects, 289–293
Tension, 258–259
real-time loop layering, 371–372
Record/Warp/Launch tab preferences
beats, 33
complex, 33
fades, 32–34
launching, 34
loops, 32–34
overview, 31
pitch, 33
quantizing, 34
recording, 31–32
texture, 33
tones, 33
warp modes, 32–34
audio clips
Arrangement View, 165–166
count in, 165
effects/plug-ins, 166
I/O, 165
levels, 165
loops, 164–165
overview, 163
Session View, 163–165
clips, 85–86
MIDI clips
Arrangement View, 177
multiple, 177
overdubbing, 178–179
overview, 175–176
quantizing, 184–186
Session View, 176–177
step recording, 179
undoing, 185
preferences, 31–32
Record/Warp/Launch tab, 31–32
sessions, 117
arrangements, 121–122
DJs, 357
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
red digits (loops), 102
redux (audio effects), 318
regions (arrangements), 127–129
audio effects, 289–293
Sampler, 246–248
remixing, 82
remote (MIDI/Sync tab preferences), 28–29
Remote Control (MIDI), 113–115
arpeggiator, 334
clips, 95
delays, 301–302
resonance (audio effect filters), 282
audio effects, 324–325
Collision, 267–269
controls, 45–46
Drum Racks, 273–274
overview, 106–107
reverb (delays), 310–313
audio clips, 139
MIDI clips, 174
external instruments, 348
grooves, 352
master/slave relationships, 345–352
overview, 345–346
sync, 352
tempo, 352
transport controls, 352
REX file support, 152–153
ripping tracks (DJs), 356
RMS mode (compression), 293
Drum Racks, 272–273
effects/plug-ins, 202–206
Impulse, 223–225
Session View, 50–51
sample rate
Audio tab preferences, 24
exporting audio, 132
Sample Select Editor (Sampler), 245
envelopes, 250–251
filters, 249–250
global volume, 249–250
Key Zone Editor, 244–245
layers, 244–245
LFOs, 250–251
MIDI, 251
modulation, 248–251
oscillators, 248–249
overview, 243–245
panning, 249–250
pitch, 248–249
playback, 245–248
RAM, 248
release, 246–248
Sample Select Editor, 245
sustain, 246–248
third-party instruments, 252
volume, 249–250
Zone Editor, 244–245
samples. See also clips; files; songs; tracks
envelopes, 159–160
external, 74
File/Folder tab, 30
Impulse, 218–219
loops. See loops
offsetting, 159–160
preferences, 30
redux, 318
sample rate
Audio tab preferences, 24
exporting audio, 132
envelopes, 250–251
filters, 249–250
global volume, 249–250
Key Zone Editor, 244–245
layers, 244–245
LFOs, 250–251
MIDI, 251
modulation, 248–251
oscillators, 248–249
overview, 243–245
panning, 249–250
pitch, 248–249
playback, 245–248
RAM, 248
release, 246–248
Sample Select Editor, 245
sustain, 246–248
third-party instruments, 252
volume, 249–250
Zone Editor, 244–245
amplifier, 228
envelopes, 228
filters, 228
interface, 226–229
LFO, 228–229
MIDI controllers, 230
overview, 225–226
panning, 229
pitch, 228–229
samples, 227–229
volume, 229
saturation (Impulse), 219
saturator (distortions), 314–316
audio clips, 138–139
collected sets, 68–70
copies, 68
effects/plug-ins, 200
File/Folder tab, 29
live sets, 68
MIDI clips, 189
preferences, 29
templates, 381–382
video, 135
Warp Markers, 152
audio effects filters, 278
MIDI effects, 340–341
Scene Launcher (Session View), 42
capturing, 112
changing, 110
channels, 111
copying, 110
inserting, 110
launching, 109–112, 367
loops, 111–112
moving, 110
names, 112
performance, 111
playing, 110–111
RAM, 111
selecting, 367
Session View, 41–42
stopping, 110
tempo, 112
time signatures, 112
scores (video/film), 82–83, 133–135, 372–373
scrolling preferences, 21
scrubbing preferences, 22
searching files, 65, 72–73
Arrangement View, 54–56
launching tracks, 367
MIDI controllers, 18–20
scenes, 367
Session View, 54–56
warp modes, 362–363
DJ techniques, 367
Drum Racks, 272–274
effects/plug-ins, 204–206
envelopes, 160–161
sensors, triggering, 372–373
sequencing steps, 385
Session Mixer
audio tracks, 43–44
master tracks, 47–48
MIDI tracks, 44–45
overview, 42
Pro Session Mixer, 43
return tracks, 45–46
solo tracks, 48
track crossfader, 49–50
track delays, 48
viewing/hiding controls, 50
Session View. See also sessions
Arrangement View comparison, 52–55, 117
audio clips, 163–165
Clip Slot Grid, 41
clip slots, 40
clips, 83–84
I/O, 50–51
MIDI clips, 176–177
overview, 39–41
routing, 50–51
Scene Launcher, 42
scenes, 41
selecting, 54–56
Session Mixer
audio tracks, 43–44
master tracks, 47–48
MIDI tracks, 44–45
overview, 42
Pro Session Mixer, 43
return tracks, 45–46
solo tracks, 48
track crossfader, 49–50
track delays, 48
viewing/hiding controls, 50
tracks, 41
sessions. See also Session View
adding clips, 108–109
editing clips, 109
effects/plug-ins, 191
exporting audio
analysis files, 133
bit depth, 132
converting, 133
dithering, 132
files, 131
formats, 131
levels, 133
loops, 131
mono, 133
normalizing, 131
overview, 129–131
sample rates, 132
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
sessions (continued)
recording, 117
Remote Control, 113–115
capturing, 112
changing, 110
channels, 111
copying, 110
inserting, 110
launching, 109–112
loops, 111–112
moving, 110
names, 112
performance, 111
playing, 110–111
RAM, 111
stopping, 110
tempo, 112
time signatures, 112
Session Mixer
audio tracks, 43–44
master tracks, 47–48
MIDI tracks, 44–45
overview, 42
Pro Session Mixer, 43
return tracks, 45–46
solo tracks, 48
track crossfader, 49–50
track delays, 48
viewing/hiding controls, 50
collected sets, 68–70
live sets
DJ mixing techniques, 368–369
preferenceS (File/Folder tab), 30
saving, 68
managing, 70–74
saving, 68–70
sharing, 382–384
setting preferences. See preferences
sharing tracks, 382–384
shifting loops, 385
shortcut keys. See keyboard
shuffling buffers, 384–385
audio effect filters, 283–285
audio effects, 294–295
signal paths, 202–206
simple delays, 299–300
amplifier, 228
envelopes, 228
filters, 228
interface, 226–227, 229
LFO, 228–229
MIDI controllers, 230
overview, 225–226
panning, 229
pitch, 228–229
samples, 227–229
volume, 229
buffers (Audio tab), 25–27
clips, 120
skins (Look/Feel tab preferences), 22
slaves. See master/slave relationships
slicing beats, 152–155
solo tracks, 48
songs. See also clips; files; samples; tracks
arrangements. See arrangements
creating, 135–136
loops. See loops
overview, 79–80
sessions. See sessions
soundcards. See audio interfaces
Soundflower Web site, 357
sources (File/Folder tab preferences), 30–31
spacebar, 41
special effects. See effects/plug-ins
specifications (audio interfaces), 15–17
splitting clips, 120
spray (delays), 304
spread (Operator), 240
clips, 100–101, 108
Control Bar, 58
effects/plug-ins, 198
loops, 101–103
scenes, 110
spacebar, 41
static (loops), 224
Steinberg Web site, 17
step recording (MIDI), 179
steps, sequencing, 385
stereo (Operator), 240
stopping. See starting/ending
storing templates, 381–382
strings (Tension), 258–259
structure (Collision), 269
styles (arpeggiator), 332–333
Sub Swara interview, 170–171
MIDI, 20
REX files, 152–153
sustain (Sampler), 246–248
swinging clips, 88–89
arpeggiator, 334
Control Bar, 57–58
delays, 299–300
MIDI/Sync tab preferences, 28
ReWire, 352
video, 134–135
synthesis (Operator FM synthesis), 233–236
AAS instruments. See AAS instruments
mono, 331
acoustic instruments, 242
aftertouch, 241
algorithm, 231–233
bandwidth, 239
DJ techniques, 368
envelopes, 236–238, 241
filters, 239–241
FM synthesis, 233–236
frequency, 239
gliding, 241
global settings, 241–242
HiQ, 242
interface, 230–231
keys, 241–242
LFO, 238–239
mod wheel, 241
oscillators, 232–236
overview, 230
panning, 241–242
pitch, 240–241
spread, 240
stereo, 240
time, 241–242
tone, 241
transposing, 240
triggering, 242
tuning, 235–236
velocity, 241
voices, 242–243
volume, 241
system requirements
Live, 11–12
specifications (audio interfaces), 15–17
tap tempo, 370
Tavaglione, Steve, interview, 386–387
crossfader, 366–367
Drum Rack, 368
effects/plug-ins, 367, 369
EQ, 367
follow actions, 378–379
kills, 367
launching clips, 367
live mixing, 368–369
loops, 368
beats, 376–378
dynamics, 375
timing, 375–376
variation, 376
mixers, 363–367
Operator, 368
overview, 363
sends, 367
volume, 367
warping, 368
templates, 29, 381–382
tempo, 99–100
Control Bar, 57–58
master/slave relationships, 100
ReWire, 352
scenes, 112
tap tempo, 370
warping. See warping
temporary folders (File/Folder tab), 30
body, 259–260
bows, 258
dampers, 258–259
decay, 258–259
Excitator, 257–258
filters, 260
finger mass, 259
global parameters, 253–254
hammers, 258
overview, 257
picks, 258
pickup, 259
plectrums, 258
ratio, 258–259
strings, 258–259
termination, 259
termination (Tension), 259
Record/Warp/Launch tab preferences, 33
warp modes, 146
theater (video/film), 82–83, 133–135,
effects/plug-ins, 197
instruments (Sampler), 252
Threshold (audio effects), 289–293
audio clips, 167
copying, 121
deleting, 121
Impulse, 220
loop techniques, 375–376
Operator, 241–242
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
time (continued)
arrangements, 126–127
clips, 88
Control Bar, 57–58
scenes, 112
warping. See warping
toggling clips, 95
distortions, 317
Operator, 241
Record/Warp/Launch tab preferences, 33
warp modes, 145
Track View, 60–62, 191–194
tracks. See also clips; files; samples; songs
Arrangement View, 54–55
automation, 121–123
breakpoints, 123–124
editing, 123–124
Pencil, 123–124
quantizing, 124
recording, 121–122
viewing/hiding, 122–123
audio tracks. See audio tracks
buffers, shuffling, 384–385
click tracks, 81, 369–370
cloning, 51
controls, 48–50, 54–55
crossfader, 49–50
delays, 48
converting, 356–357
drag and drop, 356
drives, 356
DRM, 357
preparing, 355–356
recording, 357
ripping, 356
Warp Markers, 358–363
adding, 192–194
inserting, 203–204
freezing, 107–108
group tracks, 51, 105–106
grouping, 51
launching scenes, 367
loops. See loops
master tracks, 47–48, 107
MIDI tracks. See MIDI tracks
MIDI/Sync tab, 28
multi-tracking, 82
overview, 104
playing, 41
preferences, 28
return tracks. See returns
Session View, 41
sharing, 382–384
solo tracks, 48
spacebar, 41
stopping, 41
swinging, 88–89
Track View, 60–62
warping. See warping
audio effects, 290–293
Warp Markers, 148–150
Warp modes, 143–145
transport bar. See Control Bar
clips, 103
ReWire, 352
transposing, 140
arpeggiator, 334–335
envelopes, 158–159
Impulse, 218–223
MIDI effects, 334–335, 341
Operator, 240
treble (audio effects filters), 276–277
arpeggiator (MIDI effects), 334
clips, 95
Operator, 242
sensors (theater), 372–373
audio (Impulse), 222–223
effects/plug-ins, 199
performance, 380–381
audio clips, 140
Collision, 267
Operator, 235–236
types, effects/plug-ins, 194–197
undoing recording (MIDI clips), 185
unlinking envelopes (audio clips), 161–162
updating Live, 14
User Account Licenses tab, 35–36
user forums, 4
uses (Live), 8–9
variation (loops), 376
velocity, 95–96
arpeggiator, 335
Impulse, 218–220
editing, 181–183
effects, 335, 341–343
Operator, 241
versions (Live), 14
video/film, 82–83, 133–135, 372–373
Video window, 134
arrangements, 119, 122–123
controls, 50
Arrangement View. See Arrangement View
Browser View. See Browser View
Clip View, 60–62
audio clips, 137–138
clips, 86–87
Look/Feel tab preferences, 21
MIDI clips, 174
Control Bar. See Control Bar
Info View, 61–62, 76
Overview, 56
Session View. See Session View
Track View, 60–62, 191–194
vinyl distortion (redux), 318–319
virtual instruments
amplifiers, 262–264
envelopes, 263–264
filters, 262–264
global parameters, 253–254, 264–265
noise, 261–262
oscillators, 261–262
overview, 260–261
beams, 267
cents, 267
Corpus, 322–323
decay, 267
Excitators, 266–267
mallets, 266–267
material, 268
membranes, 267
noise, 266–267
overview, 265
pitch, 267
plates, 267
properties, 268
radius, 267–268
resonators, 267–269
structure, 269
tuning, 267
Drum Racks
chains, 270–272, 274
chokes, 273
DJ techniques, 368
extracting, 274
overview, 269–270
pads, 270–272
returns, 273–274
routing, 272–273
sends, 272–274
effects/plug-ins, 195–196
dampers, 256
forks, 254–256
global parameters, 253–254
mallets, 254–256
overview, 254
pickups, 256
global parameters, 253–254, 264–265
Impulse. See Impulse
MIDI clips, 187
acoustic instruments, 242
aftertouch, 241
algorithm, 231–233
bandwidth, 239
DJ techniques, 368
envelopes, 236–238, 241
filters, 239–241
FM synthesis, 233–236
frequency, 239
gliding, 241
global settings, 241–242
HiQ, 242
interface, 230–231
keys, 241–242
LFO, 238–239
mod wheel, 241
oscillators, 232–236
overview, 230
panning, 241–242
pitch, 240–241
spread, 240
stereo, 240
time, 241–242
tone, 241
transposing, 240
triggering, 242
tuning, 235–236
velocity, 241
voices, 242–243
volume, 241
overview, 217
envelopes, 250–251
filters, 249–250
global volume, 249–250
Key Zone Editor, 244–245
layers, 244–245
LFOs, 250–251
A b l e t o n L i v e 8 P o w er ! : Th e C o mp r e h en s i v e G u i d e
virtual instruments (continued)
MIDI, 251
modulation, 248–251
oscillators, 248–249
overview, 243–245
panning, 249–250
pitch, 248–249
playback, 245–248
RAM, 248
release, 246–248
Sample Select Editor, 245
sustain, 246–248
third-party instruments, 252
volume, 249–250
Zone Editor, 244–245
amplifier, 228
envelopes, 228
filters, 228
interface, 226–229
LFO, 228–229
MIDI controllers, 230
overview, 225–226
panning, 229
pitch, 228–229
samples, 227–229
volume, 229
body, 259–260
bows, 258
dampers, 258–259
decay, 258–259
Excitator, 257–258
filters, 260
finger mass, 259
global parameters, 253–254
hammers, 258
overview, 257
picks, 258
pickup, 259
plectrums, 258
ratio, 258–259
strings, 258–259
termination, 259
audio effects, 325–327
chorus (modulation), 306–307
Operator, 242–243
vocoders, 325–327
vocoders, 325–327
audio clips, 140–141, 155–157
audio effects
amplitude, 276
attack, 289–293
attenuation, 276, 291–293
auto panning, 285–288
compression, 289–299
compression models, 293
de-essing, 295
dynamic processing, 285–288
envelopes, 293–294
FF1/FF2 mode, 293
gain, 289–293
gates, 295–296
headroom, 289
kick drums, 292–293
kills, 289–293
knee, 292–293
limiters, 296–297
Lookahead mode, 294
multiband dynamics, 297–299
Opto mode, 293
Peak mode, 293
ratio, 289–293
release, 289–293
RMS mode, 293
Sidechains, 294–295
Threshold, 289–293
transients, 290–293
audio effects filters, 279–280
DJ techniques, 367
effects/plug-ins, 200
envelopes, 155–157, 293–294
gain, 140–141, 278–293
Impulse, 220
loops, 63
MIDI clips, 187
Operator, 241
Sampler, 249–250
Simpler, 229
VST. See effects/plug-ins
effects/plug-ins, 199
Look/Feel tab preferences, 21
Warp Markers
auto-warping, 147–148
DJs, 358–363
loops, 147–148
multiple, 151–152
overview, 147
pseudo Warp Markers, 148–150
quantizing, 150–151
saving, 152
transients, 148–150
Warp modes
beats, 143–145
complexity, 146
grain, 145
loops, 144–145
master/slave, 146
overview, 143
pitch, 146
selecting, 362–363
textures, 146
tones, 145
transients, 143–145
preferences, 32–34
Record/Warp/Launch tab, 32–34
analyzing, 358–361
audio clips, 142–143
auto-warping, 358–361, 363
DJ techniques, 368
manual, 361–362
overview, 358
tempo, 363
Warp Markers
auto-warping, 147–148
DJs, 358–363
loops, 147–148
multiple, 151–152
overview, 147
pseudo warp markers, 148–150
quantizing, 150–151
saving, 152
transients, 148–150
Warp modes
beats, 143–145
complexity, 146
grain, 145
loops, 144–145
master/slave, 146
overview, 143
pitch, 146
selecting, 362–363
textures, 146
tones, 145
transients, 143–145
preferences, 32–34
Record/Warp/Launch tab, 32–34
waveforms (distortions), 315
Web sites
Ableton, 4, 12
book, 9
Cubase, 17
Jack, 357
Live, 4
Soundflower, 357
Steinberg, 17
Sub Swara, 170
delays, 300, 308–309
modulation, 307
Video window, 134
Arrangement View. See Arrangement View
Browser View. See Browser View
Clip View. See Clip View
Control Bar. See Control Bar
Info View, 61–62, 76
Overview, 56
Session View. See Session View
Track View, 60–62, 191–194
Zone Editor (Sampler), 244–245
arrangements, 115
Look/Feel tab preferences, 22
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