So you’ve got your live Session all set up and you’re ready to perform (or, you’re not – for tips on creating your Live set, click here). Now you want to take your set to the next level with creative breaks and live remixing. A good place to begin is by checking out Ableton’s Follow Actions automation box.
Let’s get started. By default, clips are triggered in time with your Global Quantization Settings, found in the transport at the top of your session. If you haven’t changed your settings already, it will be set to 1 bar.
Load up a series of clips, audio or MIDI (clips must be warped). I’ve imported a series of drum loops, but this will work for harmonic clips or vocals too, just as long as you make sure that all of your clips are in the same key. Select a clip and navigate to the small L in the lower left-hand corner of your session. This opens up your Launch Menu. You will find 4 Launch Modes within the dropdown menu.
Trigger Mode: This is Ableton’s default launch mode. Pushing a clip’s button on your MIDI controller launches the clip
Gate: Clips are triggered when you hold down their control button. Releasing the button stops the clip.
Toggle: Pressing a button launches a clip. Pressing the button again will stop it.
Repeat: Holding down a button on your controller will continue to retrigger a clip at the quantize setting that you have selected for it. You will notice that the Launch Box allows you to set the quantization rate for individual clips. When you release the button, the clip will continue to loop at the normal rate.
Try setting a clip to “Repeat” and change the quantize settings for that clip to 1/16. Launch the clip and then hold down whatever key or button you have mapped to control it. This creates a cool stutter effect that is an easy way to mix up your live set!
Beneath this menu you’ll find the Legato button. Legato is a powerful tool that you’ll want to get acquainted with for your Live set. By activating Legato, when you launch a clip, it will inherit the timing of the clip that was playing on the same channel before you launched it. In plainer terms, if you have 4 2 bar clips, and you launch one clip, and then launch another clip 1 bar in, your new clip will pick up the 2nd bar instead of the first. This clip will then continue to play according to your settings until you decided to launch another clip.
I made this gif to illustrate how this works. You’ll see each time a clip is launched, it starts where the last one ended instead of from the beginning!
Try It Out!
1. Select all of your loops. (Tip: Click on your first clip, hit shift, and then click the last clip in your track to quickly select all of your clips at once). With your clips selected, open up the Launch menu (L). Press the Legato button to turn it on. All of your clips should now be in Legato Mode.
2.Keep your Launch Mode on the default Trigger Mode.
3.Turn off “Global Quantize” in your transport.
4. Start launching clips! This is an easy way to create variation in your beats, that will always sound organic and stay in time.
In a live setting, you will most likely want to have your Global Quantize setting on for other parts of your set. The simple workaround is to select all of the clips that you want to use for your breaks, and then turn off Quantization in the Launch Box. Now these clips won’t be influenced by the Global Quantize rate.
Tip: If you’re looking for inspiration, or find yourself constantly reaching for the same loops, this is a good way to mix things up. Set up a few of your favourite loops in Legato Mode using the instructions outlined above, then hit the Session record button and start launching clips. This makes it easy to go back and crop out any happy accidents that you may have stumbled upon while you were experimenting in Legato!
Automate The Process
If you want to try this out in your Live set, but are too engaged in performing some other aspect of your set at this point, you have the option to automate this process using Follow Actions.
Follow Actions: A clip’s Follow Action defines what happens to a group of clips on the same track after a clip has been triggered. Tracks can have an unlimited number of groups with different Follow Actions on the same track. You can define a group by leaving an empty slot in between a group of clips.
1.To start, select the group of clips you’d like to automate. If you have other clips on the same track that you don’t want to include, just make sure that there is an empty clip slot in between these clips and the group you will be working with. With your group selected, make sure your Launch Mode is set to Trigger, activate Legato mode and turn off quantization.
2. Check out your Follow Action control box:
- The first row of 3 boxes controls the timing of your Follow Action, defined in Bars, Beats and 16ths from the point in the clip where play begins. The default is 1 bar.
- The next row is where you decide what your Follow Action will be. You can set two Follow Actions for a clip – A and B.
- The final row is where you control the likelihood of your two Follow Actions occurring, defined as a ratio. Ableton refers to these as “Chance A and Chance B” controls. For example, if Chance A is set to 1 and Chance B is set to 0, Follow Action A will occur every time that a clip is launched.
3. Try setting your 16ths to 2. Then open the Follow Action A menu and select “Any”. This will randomize the order in which your clips are played . Because we are only setting 1 Follow Action for this tutorial, you can leave the ratio at 1:0.
4. You’re ready to go! Launch one of your clips. You will see Live jumping around from clip to clip, creating breaks and variations on your beat while remaining in time.
I just showed you the basic setup, but try experimenting with different Follow Action time settings and see what you come up with!
One Last Tip
If you’re experiencing audio dropouts or lagging when triggering clips in Legato mode, your computer’s hard disk is probably too slow to deliver audio for all of tracks in real time. You can solve this problem by activating RAM Mode.
RAM Mode allows Live to load the audio referenced from a clip into your computer’s memory instead of reading it from a disk in real time. Avoid using RAM Mode when you don’t have to, or you may experience more dropouts and skips caused by RAM overload.