How To: Make a filter sweep in Ableton Live

Filters are one of the most frequently used effects in electronic and dance music, whether that be in a DJ/performance setting or a production setting. It’s a hip sound that everyone knows and loves, and guess what…it’s super easy to do in Ableton! In this short how to I will show you how to control and automate a filter on one or more tracks using Ableton Live. I will also demonstrate how this simple technique can be applied to other effects in Ableton with ease.

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Okay. So that image above…thats all you need to know…kidding! Above is how an analog filter works, but we don’t necessarily need to understand what we’re looking at there in order to use and control a filter in Ableton. In fact, Ableton makes it pretty easy for us. The filter we’ll be using is found in in Ableton’s browser under the audio effects tab. Ableton gives us the option of using a few different preset filters, but for this example we’ll just use the basic “Auto Filter.” Drag and drop the filter on to the track you’d like to apply filter to. For my song, I want the filter to effect all the tracks at once to create that “underwatery” sound that we know and love. In order to achieve this I’ll drag and drop the filter onto my master track which is located at the bottom of the arrangement view or the far right of the session view.

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By now, you should have an auto filter displaying in the effects chain on your master track. There are a lot of different ways to use this effect, and a lot of fine tuning that can be done. I am merely showing you one way that I like to use it. So! With that in mind, open your song in the arrangement view (press tab do this). For this example we are assuming that your track is already recorded into the arrangement view. First find a portion of your song that you’d like to filter a bit. For my song I want to add filter to an eight bar section to act as a break/build before I introduce a new sound/section to the song.

Here is the section:

Now lets control our filter using automation in Ableton. Go to your master track (still in arrangement view) and click the arrow next to where is says “master”. The track should expand as the arrow turns to face downwards. Now you’ll see a couple slots where you can route different automations. The default automation paths show the mixer and the track volume selected.

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Click on the top box and a drop down menu will open. Select “Auto Filter”. Then select the lower box to set your modulation source within the filter. There, you will see a bunch of different choices. Select “frequency” for this example. In this dropdown menu what you are seeing is all of the controls available within the auto filter displayed as a list. So whatever you select, you can control using automation. This simple process can be used to automate any effect in Ableton Live. You can also use these features to control plug ins seamlessly.

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Now that you have your automation paths selected, all you have to do if draw in your automation. You should see a dotted red line on your master track. This line controls your automation.

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Now double click on the line to create a node, drag the node up and down vertically as you play your track so you can hear what it’s doing. It should be acting as a fader, of sorts, controlling the filter frequency. Now move that node to the bar where you’d like your filter to kick on. Now create another node and bring that one to where you’d like the filter to stop. Make sure both nodes are at about 12.5 kHz on the Y-axis (vertically). Next, somewhere in-between the two points create a third node and drag that one down to your liking. This node will be automating our filter frequency or opening and closing the filter. Play around with it a little and get it sounding just how you like. Usually I wouldn’t go too far below 600 Hz. More than that and your track might get a little too quiet. You could also press the letter “b” on your keyboard to click and draw the automation in real quick, but personally I prefer using the node points because I think it is smoother, and more precise. For this effect my automation will generally look something like this:

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Here’s what it sounds like!

This is a fun and simple effect to do and it sounds great! The important thing to keep in mind from this tutorial is the automation routing between your track and the effect on it. You can apply this same method to control any effects’ parameters in Ableton…and you can do this on any track. The possibilities really are endless, and Ableton makes it all very easy to use and learn.

Feel free to comment with any questions or difficulties! Or if you wanna get more into music production and really wrap your head around Ableton Live, come take classes at MMMMAVEN!! By the time you leave you’ll have a solid foundation to make your own music from, and you will be able to fully understands effects automation along with so many other techniques that all of your favorite producers are using! Cheers,

FF

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