How To Create Templates in Ableton Live

New year, new tutorial! Here our Ableton instructor Subalias walks you through a five-minute lesson in how to make the standard template in Ableton Live:

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In this workshop, will we explore the basics of Ableton Live. The focus will be on the aspects of Live that set it apart from other Digital Audio Workstations.

How To Mix Up Your Set With Follow Actions in Ableton Live!

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.

bostondjschoolLet’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.

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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.mmmmavenwaves

2.Keep your Launch Mode on the default Trigger Mode.

3.Turn off “Global Quantize” in your transport.

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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: followactionsabletonmmmmaven

 

  • 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.

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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.

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How To Use Sidechain Compression in Ableton Live: Tutorial

Want to learn how to use sidechain compression in your music? Using Ableton Live it’s easy!

First lets talk about what sidechain compression is. To better understand sidechaining we should first have a basic grasp of compression as a dynamic technique. Our friends at Ableton can help explain this.

“Compression is the reduction of a signal by a certain number of factors. These factors include a threshold, the crossing of which engages the compressor, which can then reduce (or attenuate) the audio via a certain amount. That amount is often a ratio of the signal. You can also control how quickly the compressor will act (attack) and how quickly it will stop the signal reduction once it has been engaged (release).”

“Sidechaining is basically using another signal to engage a compressor to attenuate the signal you are compressing. The signal you are typically trying to attenuate is the bass, and you’re typically trying to do that with a kick drum. Doing so allows you to not have the two signals compete for the same frequency range. Done right, the bass and kick will play off each other and feel more glued together, and your overall mix will sound nice and punchy instead of phased and muddy.”

In electronic music, producers have learned to use sidechain compression as more of an effect than a dynamic/mixing technique. A couple good examples include Daft Punk’s, “One More Time,” and Galimatias’ “Make you feel.”

 


Notice how the sounds in One More Time, seem to pump to the beat of the kick drum. Sidechain compression is most often triggered by the kick, as we can hear very clearly in Make you feel.

Here’s how to use sidechain compression in Ableton Live!

First, find a track that you think could use some sidechain compression. Usually something sustaining like a synth pad or string line or maybe a heavy bass. Next! Find the compressor inside of Ableton’s “Audio Effects” tab. Analog or outboard compressors can be very expensive and usually look something like this:

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Ableton’s compressor comes free with the software, and is very simple and easy to use.

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After you’ve located the compressor, click and drag the compressor onto whatever track you want to compress. It’s important to keep your tracks named and organized properly so you can add effects quickly and efficiently. Once you have your compressor on the correct track, click the arrow on the top left of the module. The arrow should turn to the right, and open a sidechain dropdown menu. It should look like this, notice the sidechain button illuminated in green.

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Now you’re almost there! Make sure you click on the sidechain button if it is not illuminated. The next step is to set your trigger, for this example we’re gonna use a kick drum to trigger the sidechain. Set your “Audio From” to your kick drum track. Now, simply pull down the threshold fader to your liking, and you should hear the sidechain triggering. Here’s a quick before and after so you can hear the difference.

w/o sidechain:

w/ sidechain:

 

Now you’re in business! You can apply this technique to pretty much anything in Ableton. Don’t be afraid to get creative, sidechaining is fun and very effective. You can also use it more dynamically, maybe by sidechaining background vocals to open up space in a mix. Play around with the different functions of Ableton’s compressor to get it sounding just how you like it.

If you’re interested in learning more techniques like this, come take classes at MMMMAVEN! You’ll learn all the tools you need to get producing music you love fast, and efficiently. Contact us today to schedule a studio tour or sign up for our weekly newsletter to stay in the loop on the variety of events and free workshops we offer.

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6 Ways To Start Using Ableton Racks Now!

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When comparing DAW’s, Ableton’s rack feature stands out as a powerhouse differentiator. Many producers are unaware of the expansive capabilities this simple feature offers to the creative process.

Here are six ways to start using racks to improve your production and creativity now!


1. Build Your Own Instruments

Why use just one synth? Build large complex sounds by stacking synths on top of each other. Turn that piano into a piano pad! All you have to do is grab an instrument rack, and start stacking away.

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Note: You can control the volume of each synth to achieve that sweet spot of balance.

2. Run Effects in Parallel
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To do this in another DAW is an exercise in complex routing. In Ableton it’s a simple as dragging in an audio effect rack and stacking effects. Similar to instruments, you can adjust the volume each effect. What this is doing is running the clean (unaffected) signal through each effect. So each effect is receiving a dry and clean signal instead of the normal chain of effected signals.

Note: You can build effect chains in series, and then stack them in parallel. So you can crunch up a chorus with distortion but still get reverb from the clean signal. Go wild!

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3. Nest Those Racks!

This is where things start getting whacky. You can put racks inside racks. WHAT?! Right!? Why would you wanna do this? Well suppose you want to switch between two large instrument racks or audio effect racks.

Instead of switching the whole track, just switch within a rack that contains those racks.

And within each nested rack instrument can be an audio effect rack! This process is called “nesting” or “grouping” racks. All of this applies to effect racks as well.

All you need to do is select the rack in question and press Command + G. This should open up a rack above your current rack. This sounds complex but trust me, it will make sense once your try it yourself. Racks on racks on racks on racks.

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As you can tell, things can get pretty crazy pretty fast, but the richness and flexibility of sound you get is worth it.

4. Utilize The Key Zone

Want to play a bass with your left hand, and lead with your right hand? Well by clicking into the key zone window you can select the part of the keyboard where a specific instrument will be sounded. Great for live performances and songwriting. Just click and drag the key zone selector over the correct areas of the keyboard for each instrument.

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Note: You can get weird with it and set key zone parameters for nested racks. Imagine the control you could get! One area on the keyboard could be a certain instrument rack, and then within that key zone could be multiple instruments from within that rack. The possibilities are virtually endless.

5. Utilize The Velocity Zones

Only want a certain synth to play when you smack a key real hard? Or do you only want strings when playing very softly? By using the velocity zone window you can control which sounds at certain velocities (how hard you hit a key). Exactly the same as the key zones except with velocity instead of notes.

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6. The All Mighty Chain Selector

The hidden gem of racks. The chain selector is a control that determines when an instrument is active, all dependent on where the chain selector is.

Why would you use this? Well, suppose you’ve got a whole bunch of instruments in a rack and want to move between them quickly. You can midi map the chain selector to an external controller and then easily flip around sounds.

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You can also just scroll through it using your keyboard’s arrow or mouse. Whatever works best for you! The point is to take all of your expertly crafted racks (nested or otherwise) with velocity and key info, and control it all with the chain selector.

Note: Overlap chain selector areas to blend rack sounds

For even more info on the chain selector check out this video below!

Curious to learn more about Ableton production, or found any of this confusing? Then take one of our classes and get one on one information from our fabulous teachers. Or stop by for one of our free workshops every Friday here in Boston! Here at Mmmmaven we are dedicated to teaching you what it takes to become a top notch DJ or producer. Feel free to contact us with any questions!