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Monday, June 1, 2020

Echo In Ableton Live

By Len Sasso
Screen 1: Echo’s default settings are shown at the top with four variations below.Screen 1: Echo’s default settings are shown at the top with four variations below.
We delve into Live’s sophisticated new audio delay effect, Echo.
Echo, Live’s newest and most sophisticated audio delay effect, opens the door to sound design possibilities beyond the reach of Live’s other delays. And owing to the advanced graphics in its user interface, Echo is also one of the easiest to use. For coverage of Live’s other delay‑based effects check out the December 2010January 2012March 2014 and May 2017 SOS Live columns.

Early Reflections

Echo’s control panel is split into three sections. On the left you’ll find typical delay settings along with a couple of less obvious options. On the right is an output section that also offers reverb and the choice of stereo, ping‑pong or mid/sides processing modes. The large graphic display in the centre has three tabs: Echo, Modulation and Character. You can click‑drag the graphics in the Echo and Modulation sections and also edit them using the knobs and numerical displays. The small white dots in the Echo tab’s graphic always represent eighth notes, and the semicircles in the display indicate echoes in the left and right channels.

To get started, insert Echo on an audio track and place a short, non‑looping, single‑event audio clip in a clip slot on that track. If you start with the default Echo settings (the settings you get when you insert the audio effect rather than one of its presets), you’ll hear echoes a dotted‑eighth‑note apart that slowly die out owing to the left panel’s rate and feedback settings. The yellow button between the Left and Right rate knobs links their settings — changing either knob or the two settings below the knob affects both channels.

The drop‑down showing ‘Dotted’ has four note‑value options: ‘Note’ (the note value displayed beneath the knob), ‘Dotted’ (1.5 times that value), ‘Triplet’ (2/3rds of that value), and ‘16th’ (the number of 16th notes shown beneath the knob). You use the numerical below that drop‑down to create an offset of as much as 33 percent above or below the time setting. The Offset settings are never linked and are reflected in the centre graphic. The Input and Feedback knobs at the bottom work as usual. The ‘D’ button between them determines whether the Dry portion of the output is affected by the Input setting and the ‘Ø’ button inverts the phase of the feedback signal. Finally, notice that you can click‑drag in the Echo graphic to change the knob values in both linked and unlinked mode. When unlinked, dragging in either side of the graphic affects only that side’s settings.

On the right panel, the Stereo, Output and Dry/Wet knobs work as expected. (The Stereo knob has the same function as the Width knob on Live’s Utility effect — it performs a mid/sides volume scaling of the sides channel relative to the mid channel.) The Reverb knob adds reverb at the point in the signal path (Pre, Post or Feedback) selected on the drop‑down menu below the knob. At the bottom of the panel, you select from three processing modes. In Mid/Side mode, the left and right time knobs set the delay for the mid and sides signals.

Screen 2: Four Echo effects process the tracks shown above their panels. Stars indicate modifications to Echo’s default settings.Screen 2: Four Echo effects process the tracks shown above their panels. Stars indicate modifications to Echo’s default settings.

Taming The Beast

Heavy delay gets old fast, but Echo provides a variety of tools for creating subtle modifications to your tracks. In Screen 2, I’ve placed four short clips (8NVG Bass, Drums, Pad and Synth from Live’s Vinyl Classics Pack) on separate tracks and inserted an Echo effect on each track. The clip being processed together with Echo Device‑On automation is shown directly above the Echo panel. Changes to each Echo’s default settings are indicated by gold stars in Screen 2. In all instances, the input is boosted by 3dB and the Clip Dry (‘D’) button is activated.

  • Bass: The Bass track uses Ping Pong mode with no feedback and a 35‑percent Dry/Wet mix. The trick here is to use Ducking with a moderate threshold to subdue the bass echoes. You do that on the Character tab shown on the right.
  • Drum: The drum track uses Echo’s Mid/Side mode with a fast Side time of 24ms to add a little flanging to the drum hits. Use the Side time and Stereo knob to adjust the amount of flanging. Echo’s filter is set for a small, high‑frequency boost, and a 100‑percent Dry/Wet mix is used. Because the two bars of the drum loop are nearly identical, the Mid setting of one bar overpowers most of the echoes after the first bar.
  • Synth: The synth track uses a vocal‑like synth patch to which Echo adds faint, re‑pitched echoes. Echo’s filter reduces the high end. The Modulation tab applies different, random pitch shifts to each side by modulating the delay times. Click the ‘x4’ button on that tab to expand the pitch range.
  • Pad: The Pad track applies an eighth‑note‑triplet echo with no feedback and opposing offsets to the right and left sides. The Filter passes only a high band and its frequency is modulated by a sine LFO with its left and right channels offset. Adjust the Modulation tab’s Filter Mod setting to refine the effect.

Echo First

Echoes, of course, happen after the fact, but there’s no reason you have to stick to that. The Echo First two‑chain Instrument Rack in Screen 3 is one way to control the relative timing of the source and echo. Both chains hold a Simple Delay with its two channels linked and set for 100‑percent wet output with no feedback. The Dry/Wet Chain Macro knob (bottom‑right) uses the Rack’s Chain Selector to crossfade between the chains. The two Macro knobs on the left side control each Simple Delay’s Delay Time in 16th‑note steps. When full‑left, the Simple Delay device is turned off. The second chain, labelled ‘Echo,’ has Echo inserted after the Simple Delay. The remaining Macro knobs control various Echo settings.

Screen 3: This two‑chain Rack features a Simple Delay effect in each chain to offset the pre‑ and post‑Echo signals. The Macro knob assignments are shown at top‑left.Screen 3: This two‑chain Rack features a Simple Delay effect in each chain to offset the pre‑ and post‑Echo signals. The Macro knob assignments are shown at top‑left.
This setup works well with almost any Echo preset. In Screen 3 I’ve used unlinked, very short delays for a flanger‑like sound that works especially well with percussion and short sound effects as a source — try it with your favourite Drum Rack. The ‘L<>R Rates’ Macro knob controls the delay times with inverted ranges: 1.0 to 30.0 ms versus 30.0 to 1.0 ms. The ‘Feedback’ Macro knob restricts Echo’s feedback range to 0.0 to 99 percent to avoid runaway feedback. The remaining three Macro knobs control Wobble, Reverb and Echo’s Gate and Ducking thresholds. Raising the ‘Gate & Ducking’ knob reduces the level and likelihood of echoing. Wobble is random modulation of the delay times. Also experiment with the Delay Mod settings in the Modulation section, and be sure to try both normal and x4 modes.
Here are a few ways you might use this Echo Rack:

  • Start with a one‑bar audio or MIDI clip, double the size of the clip and leave the second half blank. Now set the ‘Dry Wait’ Macro knob to 0 and the ‘Wet Wait’ Macro knob to 16 (or vice versa) and playback will alternate between the dry and wet versions.
  • Use clip modulation or track automation for the Rack’s Macro knobs.
  • Use Echo’s Hot‑Swap button to try other Echo presets in the Rack. The settings for controls mapped to Macro knobs will not be imported, so I recommend deleting all but the ‘Wet Wait’, ‘Dry Wait’ and ‘Dry/Wet Chain’ Macro knob assignments. You might also want to reassign one of the unused knobs to Echo’s Dry/Wet control and set it to 100 percent. This will preserve the wait times and Dry/Wet Chain setting, and all the imported presets will play 100‑percent wet.
  • Use Max For Live Audio effects modulators to automate Echo controls and Rack Macro knobs. The Core Library Pack contains three of these in its Devices folder: LFO, Shaper and Envelope Follower. You should place Envelope Follower between Simple Delay and Echo in the Echo chain of the Echo First Rack so that the envelope follows the signal feeding Echo. Try it mapped to Noise Amount in Echo’s Character tab or Echo’s Reverb knob with an inverted range of minimum 50 percent to maximum 0 percent. Use Envelope Follower’s Rise, Fall and Gain settings to tweak the results. You can place LFO and Shaper anywhere in the audio signal path. Try using Shaper to modulate the Echo First Rack’s ‘L<>R Rates’ knob and LFO to modulate Shaper’s Offset numerical.

Published November 2018

Friday, May 29, 2020

Creative Thinking In Ableton Live

By Len Sasso
Screen 1: Step‑sequencing Instrument Racks Poli Stepper and Quick Step feed the Quasi Verb Audio Effects Rack at the bottom.Screen 1: Step‑sequencing Instrument Racks Poli Stepper and Quick Step feed the Quasi Verb Audio Effects Rack at the bottom.
We explore a free Max For Live Pack that could change the way you make music in Live.
if you want to take your music in an unexpected direction, there’s a free Max For Live Pack on offer that just might do the trick. Creative Extensions by Amazing Noises (www.ableton.com/en/packs/creative-extensions) comprises a malleable step sequencer for creating long‑form, randomly varying sequences, as well as two versatile instruments for playing them. But the icing on the cake is its collection of five mind‑bending audio effects for taking your sounds to the next level. This month we’re going to look at just what Creative Extensions can do you for.

Extending Creatively

For a first look, create a new Live set with two MIDI tracks and choose a tempo in the 70s. Go to Creative Extensions’ Racks/Sounds folder and, from the Sequence category, insert the ‘Poli Stepper’ Instrument Rack on one track and the ‘Quick Step’ Rack on the other (see Screen 1). Notice that each Rack uses the sequencer (named Melodic Steps) to play the Creative Extensions instrument, Poli. On the right side of the Melodic Steps panels click the ‘:2’ button in the Poli Stepper Rack and click the ‘Triplets’ button in the Quick Step Rack. Start Live playing, pan the tracks slightly apart and adjust their levels to taste. Notice that Poli Stepper plays a quarter‑note sequence, Quick Step plays an eight‑note triplets sequence, and the two instruments are tuned an octave apart. Most importantly, while the patterns are repetitive in nature, the sequences almost never actually repeat either individually or relative to each other. We’ll see why at the beginning of the next section.

To get a taste of the five effects, enclose both tracks in a Track Group and insert the Quasi Verb effect from the Pack’s Effect Racks/Space folder on the Group track. Start Live playing again and you’ll notice some added space along with a bit of coloration. Turn Quasi Verb’s first, second, fourth and fifth Rack knobs fully counterclockwise and then turn them up individually to hear the contribution of the three effects used in the Rack: Spectral Blur, Pitch Hack and Color Limiter. (The Spectral Blur preset is labelled ‘Spectral Ambience’ and is used twice.)

For a very different approach using the same three effects, replace the Quasi Verb Rack with the ‘Serial Pitch Hacker’ Rack from the Modulation & Rhythmic folder. Turn the Rack’s Recycle knob to ‘0 percent’ and the Pitch Blend knob to ‘0.’ You’ll now hear the pattern change every three bars, and the notes and sounds will play in reverse in some iterations. Rotate the Pitch Blend knob fully clockwise and the repeat rate will be four bars. More on how all that works in the Pitch Hack section below.

Steps & Sounds

Melodic Step’s deceptively simple control panel belies the complexity of the sequences it can generate. It has five 16‑step rows: Octave, Transpose, Length, Velocity and Chance. You’ll find controls at the right end of each row for step count, randomisation and reset. Depending on the variation in step‑count settings, it can take a long time for the rows to come back into alignment (1260 steps in the example at the top of Screen 1), but the Re‑Sync button, which you can automate, gives you the last word. With the MIDI button turned on, incoming MIDI Notes toggle the sequencer on and off as well as setting the root note. The Chance row controls how likely each step is to trigger. Because the lowest Velocity level is 15, you must pull the corresponding Chance bar all the way down to force a rest. Melodic Step’s scale choices are limited, but you can work around that by inserting Live’s Scale effect after Melodic Steps.
Creative Extensions’ two instruments, Bass and Poli, are upgrades of instruments from the Max For Live Essentials Pack. Bass is a bass‑oriented five‑oscillator monosynth also useful for leads and pitched effects, whereas Poli offers mono, poly and unison modes and is useful for everything. They have similar layouts with sub‑panels for sources, filter, modulation and global controls (see Screen 2). The oscillator sub‑panels have buttons to toggle between mixing (bars icon) and tuning (tuning‑fork icon).
Screen 2: The Bass and Poli instrument controls are divided into four panels: sources, filters, modulators and global settings.Screen 2: The Bass and Poli instrument controls are divided into four panels: sources, filters, modulators and global settings.
You can tune Bass’ sine, sawtooth, pulse and triangle oscillators in semitones and cents. The sub‑oscillator is always an octave below the zero tuning of the other oscillators; its Sub Tone control adds distortion and the Sub Thru button bypasses the filter. The bottom of the panel holds toggles for oscillator hard‑sync and ring‑modulation, which are applied to the saw, pulse and triangle oscillators, and you can apply the amp envelope to the modulation amount. Both modulators use a hidden oscillator whose tuning is set as a percentage of two octaves by the numerical to the right of the Ring button. The filter section offers five filter types along with ADSR envelope controls. The Drive control applies overdrive distortion before the filter. The modulation section holds a free or sync’ed, multi‑waveform LFO that you can apply to pulse‑width, pitch, filter and volume. (In Sync mode the LFO is only active when Live’s transport is running.) You can set an LFO fade‑in time, and in Free mode, you use the R button to make the LFO reset with each note. The Globals panel includes master volume; tuning in octaves, semitones and cents; saturation via the Dist knob; pitch‑bend; glide or portamento; and ADSR amp‑envelope controls.

Poli offers a coloured‑noise generator along with sawtooth and pulse oscillators and a sine/sawtooth sub‑oscillator. The XMod control in the mixing panel uses the pulse oscillator to modulate the pitch of the sawtooth oscillator. Sine/sawtooth ring modulation is also available. You can tune the sawtooth and pulse oscillators independently and shift the sub‑oscillator down one or two octaves. The graphic at the top of the oscillator section gives a real‑time view of the final output, including the effect of modulation and the envelopes. The filter section houses separate high‑pass and resonant low‑pass filters with switches to let the sub‑oscillator bypass the filters and to loop the AD stages of the ADSR filter envelope. The modulation section lets you apply the LFO and both envelopes to a variety of targets, and the envelope routings are bipolar. The section’s MIDI tab lets you also route key number, velocity and aftertouch to a few targets. Finally, the Globals panel offers chorus, random panning, pitch‑bend range and target (sawtooth or all oscillators), glide, a mono/poly/unison mode drop‑down (with percent detuning for unison mode), and ADSR amp‑envelope controls.

Just For Effect

Screen 3: Creative Extensions’ five audio effects with the settings described in the main text.Screen 3: Creative Extensions’ five audio effects with the settings described in the main text.Each Creative Extensions effect has a personality all its own and tweaking their controls is the best way to get a sense of what they do. For source material in Screen 3, I’ve used an eight‑pad Drum Rack with four Poli and four Bass percussive presets. Here’s a brief description of each effect.

  • Color Limiter is a straightforward limiter with saturation to add some colour to the output. Loudness affects the input, Ceiling sets the limiting threshold and Release sets how fast limiting fades out when the signal drops below the Ceiling. Saturation sets the amount at the selected Color.
  • Gated Delay is a delay and reverse effect. Steps and Rate set the number of steps and the rate at which the steps are traversed. Delay determines the delay time, which you can randomise. Delay Vol determines the amount of delay in the output. Orange and blue squares indicate activated delay and reverse steps. A sparse drum loop is a good source for testing.
  • Pitch Hack is a delayed pitch‑shifting effect. The large centre dial sets the pitch transpose of the delayed signal. The Fine and Var settings introduce a random variation range from that pitch. The Rate knob sets the timing and size of the repeated segment, but it is scaled by the pitch setting — a setting of ‘0 st’ results in no delay. Use the Reverse and Recycle knobs to reverse and recycle the output.
  • Re‑Enveloper is a three‑band compressor/expander with separate attack‑release envelopes for each stage. Try it as an alternative to Live’s Multiband Dynamics effect.
  • Spectral Blur is a granular effect that creates a ‘halo’ of blurred grains resembling a reverberation tail. The grains can be grabbed from either inside or outside the frequency range set by the Freq1 and Freq2 knobs. The Residual knob controls the level of the unprocessed frequencies. The Halo knob sets the length of the reverb tail in Halo mode.

Published December 2018

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Ableton: Auto-switching Instrument Racks

By Geoff Smith
Screen 1: Prepare your Instrument Rack by dragging an empty Instrument Rack preset onto a MIDI track.Screen 1: Prepare your Instrument Rack by dragging an empty Instrument Rack preset onto a MIDI track.
Find out how to prepare your Instrument Rack for performance in Live.
In this issue's interview with drum & bass artist Wilkinson, he describes how he uses Live's Instrument Racks during performance, with his Project automatically switching to the right sounds in sync with his band's backing tracks. In this short walkthrough, we'll show you exactly how it's done.

First, open Ableton Live, set the Browser to display Categories / Instruments, and drag the Instrument Rack folder onto the first MIDI track (see Screen 1 above).

Now open the disclosure arrow for the instrument presets you want to add, then drag and drop the presets onto the instrument rack in the Devices panel, as in Screen 2.

Screen 2: To create an Instrument Rack that you can use as a song playlist, drag instrument presets from the Browser straight into the Instrument Rack and then assign each instrument a unique Chain Selector value.Screen 2: To create an Instrument Rack that you can use as a song playlist, drag instrument presets from the Browser straight into the Instrument Rack and then assign each instrument a unique Chain Selector value.
Next, on the far left‑hand side of the Devices panel, click the Show/Hide Chain List button to display the Chain List editing panel. Click on the Chain button in the Chain List panel to display the Chain Select Editor. Then, for each instrument in the Instrument Rack, set the Chain List zone so that each instrument has its own value.

In Screen 2 I have set the first instrument to have a value of 0, the second a value of 1 and the third a value of 2. When the Chain Selector automation parameter is set to 0 you will hear only the first instrument; when it's set to 1 you will hear only the second instrument. To layer two instruments together, you simply have to set them to the same zone value.

Chain Keep Us Together

To automate the Chain Selector value, create three empty clips in track 1 and double‑click on the first clip so that the lower panel displays the Clip View. Next, in the bottom‑left corner of the Clip View panel, click on the Show/Hide Envelopes box. If the last parameter you changed was the Chain Selector, this should be automatically selected in the Envelope Editor; if not, select it from the Envelopes panel's Device and Control Chooser drop‑down menus. Now draw in a Chain Selector value of 0 for the first clip, 1 for the second clip and 2 for the third (see Screen 3). Rename the three clips Song 1, Song 2 and Song 3 (when you create your actual setup you can use the name of the songs).

Screen 3: Add your Chain Selector automation inside a clip that is labelled according to the name of the song that the patch is used in; this will help keep your backing track project organised and clear.Screen 3: Add your Chain Selector automation inside a clip that is labelled according to the name of the song that the patch is used in; this will help keep your backing track project organised and clear.
Now when you launch the clip for Song 1, 2 or 3, it will change the Chain Selector value so that the Instrument Rack will only play the instrument needed for that song. You can copy a clip from Session View using Command+C (Windows: Ctrl+C) and paste it into the Arrangement View using Command/Ctrl+V.

Creating the clips with their song names in Session View in effect gives you an organised bank of clips which are conveniently labelled with the song name (and section, if needed). This makes it easier to add the Chain Selector changes for different songs in the Arrangement View alongside your backing tracks. It also means that when you want to edit anything in the Arrangement View, all of those instrument changes are encapsulated in clearly labelled regions.

Published January 2019

Monday, May 25, 2020

Step Sequencers

By Len Sasso
Screen 1: M4L Step Sequencer plays a nine-step eighth-note loop, Fore-Back. The varied step probabilities result in different 16-step patterns.Screen 1: M4L Step Sequencer plays a nine-step eighth-note loop, Fore-Back. The varied step probabilities result in different 16-step patterns.
Max For Live has a rich assortment of step sequencers. We look at some of the best.
Step sequencing is nearly as old as synthesis itself — early modular systems offered step-sequencer modules, and there were stand-alone hardware step sequencers as well. In the world of DAWs the role of the step sequencer has largely fallen to manipulating MIDI clips, although step sequencer plug-ins are plentiful and provide features not easily replicated using MIDI clips. Max For Live is the source for most of these devices in Live, and the selection is large and varied. Back in December we took a look at Melodic Steps from the Creative Extensions Live pack. This month we'll explore four of my favourite melody-oriented sequencers in greater detail.

Step One

Before we get into the MFL devices, let's start with a quick look at using a MIDI clip as a step sequencer. You can emulate many step-sequencing functions using MIDI clips by combining them with Live's assortment of MIDI Effects devices. For a template, create a MIDI clip, select a Grid and Time Signature, create notes of the same pitch and velocity at each grid position and then disable all the notes (Ctrl+0). Duplicate the clip and enable some notes to establish the desired rhythm sequence. Next, adjust the enabled notes' pitches, velocities and lengths, or use Live's Random and Velocity MIDI effects to randomise the pitch and velocity of enabled notes and use the Scale effect to restrict or scale-correct their pitches. You'll find more details in the April 2012 and August 2015 Live workshop columns, and Ableton offers three excellent videos in the tutorial 'Generate endless musical ideas with Live's MIDI devices' (ableton.com/blog). In the third video, Dennis DeSantis shows how to use Live's Groove Pool to overcome the quantised feel associated with step-sequenced clips. This also works for step sequences captured from the sequencers discussed below.

Step To The Max

Step Sequencer from the free Max For Live Pack 'M4L Big Three' (www.ableton.com/en/packs/big-three) is the closest in look and feel to editing a MIDI clip. But two features set it apart: probability note triggering and multiple playback modes. Step Sequencer sequences have a maximum of 16 steps. The loop brace at the top allows you to change the start and end points of the sequence and, thereby, its length. Buttons along the top select the editing mode. View All mode (see Screen 1 above) displays horizontal bars showing each note's pitch and duration along with faint vertical bars showing its velocity and probability (the third vertical bar has no function). The buttons to the left of the Edit Mode selectors let you transpose the sequence in semitone steps and shift it right or left in time. The 'R' button randomises everything. In the Sequence Setup section at the far right, you can choose from five playback modes: Forward, Backward, Fore-Back, Rotate and Random. Finally, Step Sequencer actually holds four sequences, and they can play together, which offers a lot of variation when you use different timing, length and direction for each sequence. The MIDI Handling tab lets you use MIDI for real-time pitch and time shifts as well as to choose which sequences are playing.

When a step sequencer changes the sequence over time, you'll want to capture its output for manual editing. To do this, place the sequencer on one MIDI track and route that track's output to a second MIDI track, which can also host the playback instrument. For sequencers that I use frequently, I save a Track Group with those two tracks but without the playback instrument.

A Bit More Beef

K-Devices' MOOR (k-devices.com/products/moor/) offers several unusual features: you can assign each step its own length, shuffle the note order ('Scramble'), change the sequence length in small increments ('Rate'), accelerate or decelerate the playback speed during a single pass ('Bend') and shift the whole sequence a fraction of a step. Try using a couple of MOORs in parallel to generate complimentary sequences and then make slight adjustments to their Rate, Bend and Shift settings.

Screen 2: MOOR gives you independent Rate, Bend and Shift settings.Screen 2: MOOR gives you independent Rate, Bend and Shift settings.
MOOR steps are denoted by triangular wedges. In Velocity mode ('V' icon), you click-drag on a wedge to set its note's velocity. In Chance mode ('%' icon) you drag bars vertically in a bar chart to set the probability that its step will trigger. The box on the left is where you set step size, step count and root note. In the section on the right you can reset, randomise or scramble velocity, chance, pitch and length as well as save and recall presets. You'll find a button at top-right for exporting single-pass sequences, but the process is a bit flakey, so you're better off using the capture method described above. In either case, all notes span their full step size, but you can adjust their length manually.

Screen 3: Patter provides probability Mean and Deviation settings for each parameter.Screen 3: Patter provides probability Mean and Deviation settings for each parameter.
Adam Florin's Patter (adamflorin.work/projects/patter/) covers the last mile in probability-based sequencing. Every parameter has knobs for setting the centre (Mean) and standard deviation (Dev) of an accompanying interactive bar graph. The right half of the panel comprises four sections: rhythm (top left), note/rest distribution (bottom left), accent (top right), and pitch (bottom-right). Patter chooses values based on the distributions shown in the bar graphs, generates what it calls a 'segment' matching the results, and then repeats that process.

  • Rhythm: the top parameter is the note resolution relative to quarter notes. For example, '1/2' denotes an eighth note and '2' denotes a half note. Below that is a multiplier or divisor for the resolution. With a multiplier of 3, a quarter note becomes an eighth-note triplet and with a divisor of 3 it becomes a dotted quarter-note.
  • Notes and Rests: you can have as many as four notes and three rests per generated segment, and you can choose to have the rests come before or after the notes. Each segment's length is the sum of the two values, and when either deviation is greater than zero, segment lengths will vary. But once you capture multiple segments, you can adjust the resulting sequence's length to suit.
  • Accent: this distribution determines where in the pattern accents (notes with velocity 100 versus 64) fall. Unaccented notes only occur in segments with more than one note.
  • Pitch: selects pitches from the chosen scale (the chromatic scale if no keys are highlighted). The Toggle or Live switches let you use incoming MIDI to select pitches.
If you dial in Patter settings with all deviations set to zero, you'll get a repeated segment playing a single pitch. One good way to generate manageable sequences is to start with that setup and then increase one or two of the Dev knobs a bit. Another option is to use large Dev settings and turn looping on. Keep the Loop Dev at zero and use Mean to set the number of segments in the loop. Each time you start Live playing, Patter will generate the Mean number of segments and then continue to loop them until you stop Live. Since the loop doesn't persist, it's a good idea to record the results. Finally, you can link multiple Patters on different tracks or next to each other on the same track or in the same MIDI Rack, and then set them to either follow each other or play together.

Sauce For Your Beef

Screen 4: Melody Sauce offers nine algorithms for generating MIDI sequences at the click of a button.Screen 4: Melody Sauce offers nine algorithms for generating MIDI sequences at the click of a button.When your head starts to throb or you don't even want to go there, EVAbeat's Melody Sauce from Isotonik Studios may be the answer. It generates MIDI clips at the click of a button with minimal interference from you. You choose a scale, a speed and a pitch range; turn Swing on or off and then click one of eight buttons to choose the algorithm for the generated clip. Melody Sauce generates a MIDI clip and places it in the next available Session view clip slot on the Melody Sauce track. (If there are no empty clip slots, existing clips will be overwritten.) Notes in Melody Sauce clips all have velocity 100, but you can use Live's Velocity effect for variation. You can thin out the generated clips by placing Live's Random effect after Melody Sauce, setting it to transpose some notes outside of the Melody Sauce range and then following that with Live's Pitch effect to allow only in-range notes.

Published February 2019

Friday, May 22, 2020

Mixing With Ableton Live

By Len Sasso
Screen 1: The four steps to split a drum part into two kits, apply separate effects and export an audio stem for the final mix.Screen 1: The four steps to split a drum part into two kits, apply separate effects and export an audio stem for the final mix.
We show you some tips to streamline your mixing in Live.
This month we'll have a look at how to accomplish common mixing tasks in Ableton Live. I'll leave the whens and whys of mixing and mastering to others, but you'll find helpful tips in most issues of SOS, and a good starting point is Hugh Robjohns' 2002 article, Practical Mixing. For more on mastering in Live, check out the February 2015 Live column, 'The Final Act'.


Let's start by cleaning up your Live Set. It's never too early to get rid of the junk, and that's a good way to clear your mind when you're stuck. Delete any unused tracks for which you have no plans, including Return tracks. To save CPU, consider removing or at least deactivating any devices on unused tracks that you do keep. (Muting a track does not deactivate its devices.) Move all remaining unused tracks to the end of the Track list, combine them in a Track Group (Command+G/Control+G) and then fold and mute the Group.

If you are at the final stage of the project and will not be using Session view clips, it's also a good idea to delete all of them along with any clip slot Stop buttons. This will save you from accidentally deactivating an Arrangement view track with an errant key command or button press. It will also save time when Freezing tracks because Freezing automatically applies to both Session and Arrangement view clips (for details see the 'Bouncing & Stems' box).

Organising Your Tracks

A good way to organise the remaining tracks is to assign the same or similar colours to similar tracks: percussion, keys, pads, vocals and so on. In some cases you may want to go a step further and collect similar tracks into a Track Group. This is Live's easiest way to create a submix (the alternative is to route the outputs of multiple tracks to a new audio track). Groups also make it easier to solo or mute all tracks within the Group, as well as to visually tidy up large Sets by folding Groups.

With a track that holds a large Drum Rack, you may want to first split that into separate Drum Racks on their own tracks — drums, percussion and effects, for example. To do that, unfold the Drum Rack track in Session view, select the chains you want to keep together and then choose Extract Chains from Live's Create menu or from any selected chain's context menu. Extracting the chains will also extract MIDI data routed to those chains from any clips on the track. You can now edit the clips individually, apply different effects to each Drum Rack and mix them separately.

The example in Screen 1 above starts with a 16-pad Drum Rack and three MIDI clips. Here are the steps to split the Drum Rack to two tracks, add different Drum Buss processing to each, edit their clips and export an audio stem for the final mix.

1. Unfold the Drum Rack, select the chains you want to extract — congas, cowbells and timbale in this case — and extract them. You'll now have two tracks with a Drum Rack and MIDI clips on each. Enclose the tracks in a Group to create a separate mix bus for the drums.

2. Edit the MIDI clips on the two tracks as needed. This is both easier and more flexible then editing a single clip for all 16 kit pieces. Add Live's Drum Buss effect to each of the Drum Rack tracks and audition different settings or presets.

3. Freeze each of the tracks in the Group. This saves CPU by disabling the Drum Racks and Drum Buss effects while still letting you edit each track's mixer settings.

4. Create a stem for the final mix by Exporting the Frozen Group (Command+Shift+R /Control+Shift+R).

Creating Stems

Screen 2: Each of the tracks of a finished song has been converted to an audio clip spanning the full length of the song. You can edit the resulting tracks and Groups before mastering and rendering the song.Screen 2: Each of the tracks of a finished song has been converted to an audio clip spanning the full length of the song. You can edit the resulting tracks and Groups before mastering and rendering the song.The example in Screen 2 starts with an eight-track MIDI arrangement, creates audio stems for each of the song's tracks and encloses the percussion stems and the vocal stems in their own submix Groups.

Start by Freezing, Flattening and Consolidating each of the Set's tracks. You can Consolidate one track at a time or, once they are all Flattened, simply select all tracks for the full range of the song and Consolidate everything at once. (Consolidating doesn't affect Groups; only the tracks they hold will be Consolidated.) If you have any audio effects that you may want to edit after Freezing, move them to a track that you don't plan to Freeze (such as one of the Group tracks) and then move them back to their original tracks after Flattening. Mixer automation is not captured when creating stems in this way, leaving you free to edit your mix. When you want to create stems from your submix Groups as opposed to their individual tracks, export the Group as in the previous example.


One last tip: if you prefer to use Live's Session view mixer when working on your arrangement, open a second window for the Set (Command+Shift+W/Control+Shift+W). One window will show Arrangement view, and the other Session view with its mixer. This is most convenient with two monitors, but it is still workable by overlapping the views on a single monitor as in Screen 2.

Bouncing & Stems

Live offers several options for converting one or more tracks to a single audio clip. Reasons to do this include saving CPU; allowing audio manipulations such as reversing, slicing and time-stretching; cleaning up your arrangement; and sharing your work with collaborators. When mixing, it simplifies the process by eliminating instrument and effects plug-ins. It also lets you go back to the mix when some of those plug-ins are no longer available. Having said that, it is a good idea to save a track or Track Group as its own Live Set before you bounce it to a stem. You can do that either by dragging individual tracks or Track Groups into the Current Project folder in Live's Browser or by keeping a pre-bounce copy of the whole Set. I find it easiest to keep a folder for pre-bounced tracks and Groups rather than trying to remember which Set they came from.
Screen 3: Live's Export Audio/Video dialogue lets you render all or selected tracks in your Set in a variety of audio and video formats, with some basic audio processing options.Screen 3: Live's Export Audio/Video dialogue lets you render all or selected tracks in your Set in a variety of audio and video formats, with some basic audio processing options.

One way to bounce a single track is with Live's Freeze function. This saves CPU, and you can un‑Freeze the track at any time to return to it to its original state (MIDI or audio). Freezing creates a time-stamped 32-bit audio file in your Set's 'Samples/Processed/Freeze' folder that you can import into any Live Set. You can Flatten a Frozen track to transform it to a standard audio track in your Set, or you can copy the contents of a Frozen track to another audio track — either option actually imports the aforementioned 32-bit Freeze file. Keep in mind that Flattening eliminates the possibility of un-Freezing unless you undo your way back step-by-step to the un-Frozen track. Although there is a single Freeze file, if the original range included separate clips, importing or Flattening the Freeze file will preserve those clip boundaries.

Live's Consolidate function is a handy way to combine multiple audio clips on the same track. Consolidating creates a single audio file in the format specified in your 'Record/Warp/Launch' preferences and places it in your Set's 'Samples/Processed/Consolidated' folder. Consolidation renders audio clip fades and crossfades. However, Consolidation does not capture processing by audio effects on a track, and Consolidating MIDI files on instrument tracks simply combines the MIDI files.

That brings us to Live's Export function (File menu or Command+Shift+R /Control+Shift+R), which is Live's most versatile way to capture audio. You're undoubtedly familiar with Export from rendering your Live Sets, but the Rendered Track menu at the top of the Export dialogue lets you also export individual tracks or all the tracks that are selected in your Set or all tracks in your Set. You're also presented with a variety of export options. When you want to create stems from multiple tracks for mixing in a new Live Set, Export is usually the fastest way to get the job done. And, Exporting captures all mixer automation and effects processing.

Published March 2019