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Tips

Tricks
Tutorials

Using Live's Looper to Create


Unique Beats
Step 1 How to Use the Looper
Looper can be used to create ideas on the fly in a live context or even in a production setting where you wish to try out some
ideas. Sometimes, you feel your beats are not that inspiring, or you wish to get a beat idea down quickly which is in your head.
These are all scenarios where the Looper can come in real handy. First, I want to look at how you can use your voice, like a beat
boxer to easily and quickly create new beats through the use of the Looper. You can build up and layer voiced drum elements
until you have a full sounding vocal drum kit.
Set up an audio track (create a new track with Command-T) where you will be recording your vocals. Next add the Looper plug-in
to the channel. Enable the metronome in Ableton. This will help you keep in time to your project tempo. Start playback and try out
some beats ideas. Get comfortable with some Kick, Snare and Hats sounds. When you are ready you can launch the Looper
plug-in, and start the looping process.
Make sure the following is set on the Looper first:

Set the Song Control to None.


Set the Tempo Control to Follow song tempo. (In a live context you may want to choose None, as tempo can drift in a live
situation).

Record enable the Looper. Then press the big + when you wish to start your overdub.

Step 2 Drag the Ideas to an Audio Track.


Looper also has a very handy feature called Drag Me. This allows you at any time to drag an idea from the Looper onto an audio
track. Instantly an audio file/loop will be created on the audio track. Once you are happy with your loop creation, simply drag it
onto an audio track, and Voila! It is there for you to edit and process as you will at a later stage.

Step 3 MIDI Map the Parameters


A good idea is to map the big + to a button on your controller, or better yet a foot controller. This moves the loop function away
from being so mouse-driven to a more performance driven task. Press Command-M to enable the MIDI Map. Select the big + sign
on Looper, then select a button on your control. Now it is mapped to this button for easier use for overdubs.

Step 4 !Other Uses for the Looper


You can try the same thing with other instruments, such as using a synth. Whilst recording your loops you can change presets
with your overdubs and in the process build up a unique sounding synth loop. I have created a MIDI track. I have loaded up an
instance of one of my favorite synths, Sylenth1. Its a great sounding synth for some analog-style sounds. Go through the same
process of setting up the Looper on the track. Record a bit with a preset.!Change to a different preset on Sylenth1. Then press the
big + to create an overdub, and record a new part with the new preset. Create further overdub layers with different presets. Now
you have created a layered synth in the space of a few minutes. You can drag this newly created layered synth onto an audio
track. Or better yet, right-click the file and choose Slice To New MIDI Track. A Simpler Intrument is created with the audio file
mapped across the MIDI notes. Now you have a great new sounding Sampled Synth.

Try fiddling with the Speed setting. Changing the Speed settings gives you that classic-tape style effect. When you slow down the

time, the pitch is also altered. This could also be used in a live context to create variance in your performances.
The Reverse button is also a nice feature. This will flip your audio around and create a different swing on your looped ideas. In a
performance, you could build up a loop, quickly reverse it for something different. Then flip it around again to carry on with the
performance.

Archiving Projects in Ableton Live


This article is a step-by-step guide on what to do with your finished projects in order to get them
into a state where they can be archived.
There are 4 steps involved:
1. Naming tracks
2. Freezing instruments!
3. Collecting files
4. Backing up

Step 1 - Naming
If youre anything like me, your track naming may not be the best. I like to work quickly and
dont always take the time to rename tracks from their unhelpful defaults. The first job is to go
through and rename every track in the project to something useful.

Step 2 - Freezing
Freezing a track is the process of turning that track into an audio track. I highly recommend this
step for any tracks which use virtual instruments. Its not out of the realms of possibility that, in 6
months or a year when you reopen your project, some of the virtual instruments within have been
updated or no longer work due to a system update. Your perfectly programmed track is now
gone. Luckily freezing tracks in Live is a piece of cake:
1. Right-click on a MIDI track and select Freeze Track.
2. Wait whilst live renders the audio.
3. Right-click on the track again and select Flatten.
The last step will complete the transformation from virtual instrument to audio track. All insert
effects are also rendered down. If you repeat this process for every MIDI track, you will end up
with a project made entirely from audio tracks, which hugely reduces the possibility of
compatibility problems with plug-ins further down the road.

The same bass track. At the top it is a MIDI track playing a virtual instrument. In the middle, it has been frozen,
and at the bottom it has been flattened into an audio track.

Step 3 - Collecting files


This step will collect all the files used in your project into one place so you can archive the folder
safe in the knowledge that everything you need to re-open that project is in one folder:
1. Go to the file menu and select Collect All and Save.
2. From the dialog box, select Yes to all options. You may not need them all, but its the
safest way.

Lives Collect All and Save function ensures that all audio and video files referenced by the project are copied into
the project folder.

Live will copy any audio and video files it needs into the project folder and save the project so
that it references only the files within that folder. Any references to audio files anywhere else on
your hard drive are replaced.

Step 4 - Backing up
The last step that remains is to backup your project folder. My personal method is simply to copy
the project folder from my hard drive to an external backup drive. I have hard drives full of
projects from the last 20 years. Some of them will never be opened again, but its good to know
that they are there and available if the need ever arises.

MTF Technique Vocal tracking

Ableton Live Step-by-Step

Vocal tracking &

compiling in Live 9

Of all the tasks Live can perform, recording and editing


vocals takes an approach that may feel less than
intuitive. Liam OMullane shares his approach...

bleton Live 9 is much like its predecessors in


terms of recording and editing vocals, as
very little has changed in this area of music
production. Sure, theres a fantastic new set
of processing options such as Audio To Midi
that can be used for all sorts of creative, vocal-sourced
ideas. And the new Glue compressor is another handy
addition great for achieving that smooth, commercial
compression sound that is part of how a vocal should
sound to most peoples ears. Last but not least,
automation has also improved its now available for
clips in Session View, and you can also now work with
linear or logarithmic shapes, making the smoothing-out
of a vocal part much easier to implement.
However, theres still no classic DAW way to record
multiple lanes of takes for immediate access afterwards,
or a simple click-and-mute function for auditioning
multiple parallel takes in a heavily edited compiling
session all of which is frustrating for anyone whos used
Pro Tools, Cubase or pretty much any other DAW. On the

MTF Navigation Vocal audio essentials

plus side, though, Live 9 does have basic functionality for


compiling audio, and when youve explored it, you are
actually reminded of the need to strive for better vocal
performances in the first place rather than automatically
assuming youll be editing the hell out of it later...
And although theres plenty of software-based audio
trickery that can be performed in Live (much of which
outshines all other DAWS), its nice to be pushed into a
more traditional approach for achieving a good vocal take
in a track. However, as this relies more on the

Its nice to be pushed into a more


traditional approach for achieving
a good vocal take in a track
performance itself, well start by looking at a few
Live-based issues you should check out before inviting
any performers around.

Tune machine
Although Live is quite economical in its use of computer
resources, its ability to let you do a lot of creative
processing in real time often leads to some very

FADES
When editing out unwanted sounds from around your vocal parts, activate Lives fade by pressing
[Ctrl]/[Cmd]+[Shift]+[F] on an expanded track to smooth out changes in volume.

c
d

CROSSFADING
When youre performing
edits in the middle of a
continuous vocal part, enable
Show Fades and drag one edit
over the other. You can then
shape the fades as required.

LEVEL
CHANGING
The easiest way to
create level changes is
to highlight the area in
question then click
and grab the volume
automation line while
holding down [Shift].

LOCATORS
Locator markers are
useful for dividing your song into
clear sections. Right/[Ctrl]-click
to add them; name them so they
make sense at a glance.

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Vocal tracking Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Recording and editing vocal takes

For recording in Arrangement View, set


the loop brace to the desired area you
want to focus on. With Loop enabled, hit
record and continue capturing takes until you
think you have a few good ones to work with.

The audio clip will have an internal loop


brace set to the duration of the last take.
After enabling Loop, move this brace to the
first take. A quick way to do this is to press the
up or down arrow keys after its highlighted.

Unless your vocal part falls completely


in line with Lives grid youll want to
disable Snap To Grid from the Options menu.
Now split the vocal into as many sections as
needed for compiling by clicking on the audio
clip and selecting Split from the Edit menu.

Now you can audition each take for


these newly split sections by moving
the loop brace forwards or backwards.
Pressing up and down on the loop brace will
move each clips content forwards and
backwards from one take to another.

If you need to improve on the timing of


parts, try moving the start marker within
an audio clip. This moves the clips content
rather than the clip itself, so it is much quicker
to work with.

Warp markers are another option for


editing timing and are especially useful
within a busy section. Double-click around
the area of focus so neighbouring content is
unaffected, then move the audio between it
as required.

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If your computer struggles to


perform, look into direct monitoring
options on your audio interface
plug-in-heavy project work. If youre already near to
maxing out your CPU or hard drive performance limit,
then, before you get started on vocals, export audio out of
your project and import it in a specific project for vocal
recording. There are a few ways to do this see the
Setting Up a Monitor Mix step-by-step for details.
If your computer struggles to perform at low latency
irrespective of what you do to improve performance, look
into any direct monitoring options your audio interface
may have. Unless it has onboard DSP processing like
CueMix FX on MOTUs devices your artist will have to
work with a completely dry foldback of their vocals. In
this situation we recommend them having one side of
their headphones off, so make sure that you pan their
signal accordingly to avoid unnecessary spill. They will
then have some room acoustics to hear, which can help
them hit their pitch correctly.
Another option is to use direct monitoring for a dry
vocal and add a Reverb device to the vocal track in Live at
100% wet. This wont be recorded to the track; it helps
the vocalist to perform and the delay from the latency will
be perceived as pre-delay, which is a happy compromise.

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Other aspects such as shared processing with other


applications should also be minimised; you really dont
want unexpected update requests, pop-up notifications
or other erratic behaviour causing you grief in the heat of
a session. Tips on performance-optimising for Windows
and OSX are best left to a Google search as they are too
numerous to be listed here.
Before any session starts, you should consider room
vibe. This is controlled by how you manage the session in
terms of lighting, a good monitor mix and setting a
pleasant room temperature. Live can help in the visual
realm too, as its usual options of skin templates has
been enhanced with control over Brightness, Color
Intensity and Color Hue. These are available from the
Look Feel tab in Preferences and do impact on the mood
in the room, as well as being handy for your own eyes
when working in low or zero light conditions.

Get set...
When youre setting up input gain, recording at 24-bit
depth or higher (which can be set in Record Warp Launch
tab in Preferences) allows you the luxury of leaving a
large amount of headroom. Click the decibel reading to
the upper left of the fader to reset it; this lets you see the

PRO TIP
In Session View you can drag the top of the level meters on Lives mixer
to get a much more detailed picture of your input levels.

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MTF Technique Vocal tracking

highest peak encountered, so itll need a few clicks as


youre getting your input levels right. Aim for a good
clearance of at least 10/20dB or more; its only if youre
working in 16-bit that you may have to get a bit closer to
0dB in order to capture a better dynamic range.
On the topic of audio settings, its worth seeing if your
computer can cope with higher sample rates. As latency
is measured in samples, if you run at a higher sampling
frequency (rate) per second, samples will pass at a faster
rate ie, 128 samples at 44.1kHz takes around twice the
time to happen than when running at 96kHz. It increases
the load on your CPU and hard drive, however, so doing
this needs to be thoroughly tested before your session.
A quick time-saver when preparing to record vocals is
arming multiple duplicates of the same vocal track. This
minimises the fuss of lining up different takes after
youre done recording (as long as you have the same
number of tracks as takes). You then just need to move
the loop brace around on each track rather than copying
audio when working from one initial vocal track.

Working in Session View is a


fluid way to get vocals alongside
song ideas as they develop

PRO TIP
Its no surprise that Live offers a more performance-orientated way to
compile vocals than conventional sequencers. In Session View you can
assign each vocal take to a Key or MIDI note using the relevant Map
mode from the Options menu. Set each clips Launch Quantization to
zero and enable Legato mode. You can now move between your takes at
any point and record it all to Arrangement View.

Were not ignoring recording in Session View here, by


the way indeed, this approach is a very fluid way to get
vocals alongside song ideas as they develop. The only
potential issue with working in this way is that a large
amount of vocal phrases will often run before or after a
point when you might want to move from one Scene to
another. This results in all sorts of issues while still in
Session View in order to have smooth transitions from
one Scene to the next.
Another option, of course, is to cue Scenes in Session
View but remove clip recording from your vocal track(s).
This will enable you to continuously record your vocals to
Arrangement View irrespective of any Scenes you might
choose to launch in Session View. Its also considerably
easier to subsequently edit the vocals so theyll work as
expected in Session View. To remove all clip slots from
your vocal track, first highlight them, then right/
[Ctrl]-click (PC/Mac) them and select Remove Stop

MTF Step-by-Step Optimising a vocal take

Whether you have a large number of


audio takes in front of you or a clear
single take with all the timing and pitch
youre after, you will want to remove certain
non-performance-related sounds. To start,
highlight and delete the areas between each
vocal performance for true silence.

Now theres no movement, rumble and


other unwanted sounds to interfere with
a mixdown youll need to smooth out the fade
in and out points to your edits. Select Show
Fades from the Create menu and start to drag
their anchor point to smooth out your clips
start and end points.

The listeners perceived level of


breathing in a vocal can add energy
when increased in volume, or sound clinically
perfect when set quite low or even removed.
Highlight each breath and separate them
using Split. Use Clip Gain to control levels.

Pitch can also be edited in Live and


there are two main ways to implement
this. The first is by using a clips pitch control.
For vari-speed pitch change (when duration
is also affected), disable Warp mode and
change the Transpose and Detune amounts.
This is the most natural-sounding approach.

Another pitch-control option is to enable


one of Lives Warp modes like Complex
Pro then adjust Transpose and Detune. This
will keep the timing of parts in place, so is best
to use for multiple events that create a rhythm.

The second way of editing pitch is to


use Envelope automation. This allows
you to alter pitch over the course of time
without having to perform micro edits on your
vocal. Select the E symbol from the lower left
of Clip View, then edit the automation line to
smooth out unwanted pitch changes.

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Vocal tracking Technique MTF

We strongly
recommend the
practice of making a
note of good takes
before you start
Button. This track will now record just to Arrangement
View as long as you use Lives Arrangement Record
Button to get started.

Go!
There are two ways to cue a performance: with a count-in
or by utilising a part of the music before the section
youre going to focus on. If you intend to loop for
continuous passes over the same section, make sure you
set the loop brace in Arrangement View to a position and
length that makes sense even just an extra bar at the
start and end is OK; just think of rounded measurements
so a vocalist isnt thinking too much about where they are
in the song. If youd prefer to use a count-in and drop in
cold, the duration of the count-in can be set from a
dropdown menu on Lives Metronome icon.

Using a MIDI controller to


launch Scenes as you record
to Arrangement View offers
a lot of flexibility for
jamming. It also obviates the
need to use your keyboard
and mouse when performing
on your own.

The only thing left to say is that we strongly


recommend the practice of making a note of good takes
before you start. We like to jot down the last bar number
(shown on Arrangement Views timeline or under your
clips in Session View) after a good take. This enables you
to quickly edit and delete audio that doesnt cut the
mustard. It also helps you judge if you have sufficient
good material before closing down a session. MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Setting up a monitor mix

Before you start recording, the stability


of your setup can be compromised if
youre running a big project with a lot of CPU
consumption. Try a low latency setting by
Opening Preferences>Audio and reduce the
latency buffer size as much as possible.

If your computer cant deliver at a sample


value of 256 of less it is best to work on a
vocal-specific version of your project. First you
need to export the project as a backing track to
use in your vocal project. The simplest method
is to use Export from the File menu.

Exporting the Master output may be the


quickest approach but it will limit how
customised your monitor mix can be later on.
We like to group our main instrumental
sections like drums, bass and melody and
export each group. They can then be
imported into a new vocal project.

After your music is imported and youve


set up your audio track to record, insert
a return track (if required) from the Create
menu and name it Monitor Mix. Set its output
to match the channel(s) your audio interface
uses for headphones, then use the Sends to
create a mix for your vocalist.

If your soundcard uses only the main


stereo output (1+2) for headphones you
can work around it by feeding your studios
monitors from another stereo out. Youll need
to change the Master output in Live as well or
youll be feeding the vocalist the master mix
and the monitor mix.

To use sends on your vocal track you


need to make sure its set to In or Auto
with Arm enabled. Now add whatever
processing you need, such as compression or
reverb. Processing can be sent back to the
singer to help them perform to a
professional-sounding mix.

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MT Technique Bass design with Operator

On the disc

Ableton Live Tutorial

Ableton Live
project file included
on the DVD

Bass design
with Operator
Operator offers a great deal more
than just FM leads and pads.
Liam OMullane has the low-down.

ith the topic of this months lead


feature being synths, we thought wed
show you around Lives very own hybrid
synth, Operator. Although its name
comes from the FM synthesis-based
term for an oscillator, Operator can function both as an
additive and subtractive synth. In fact, given the less
than predictable nature of the alternative Analog synth
(which is, of course, part of an analogue synths charm),
we tend to reach for Operator to create any synth-like
sounds when we want 100% predictability. On that note,
well look at it as a subtractive synth first to keep things
simple while investigating its features.

PRO TIP
Subtractive and additive
synthesis can usually benefit
from some modulated filtering
from the filters own envelope
or the LFO (when assigned).
For FM work, try using it as an
EQ to hold back excessive top
end with a low-pass filter.

Got rithm
The four divided sections to either side of Operators
central display are called Shells. After clicking the
bottom right-hand Shell this Global Shell will reveal 11
colourful algorithm symbols across the top of the
central display. Although they look like the puzzle
pieces from Tetris, they are in fact routing diagrams
flowing from top to bottom. 1

We tend to reach for Operator to


create synth-like sounds when we
want 100% predictability

All of the algorithms apart from the very last one on


the right are either FM-based or a mixture of FM and
subtractive synthesis, so we need to click the horizontal
shape on the far right. This represents each oscillator
running in parallel to each other (ie, not modulating
each other like an FM synth).
Operators four oscillators are the four Shells to the
left-hand side. The Coarse parameter sets ratios of the
input MIDI note, so if youre playing a concert-pitch A3
and the first oscillator is set to a ratio of 1/1 you will hear
A3 being played back. The technique of layering up a
second oscillator an octave above the first can therefore
be achieved by turning up oscillator B and setting it to
2/1. As some ratios are odd, like 3/1, theres also a
predefined selection of harmonics on offer. To tune an
oscillator to a specific note, use Coarse to find the
nearest note below the one youre after, then use Fine to
sweep up to the desired semitone. Although its named
Fine, it offers a full octave range and isnt limited to
semitone adjustments as its calibrated in cents, making
it useful for detuning oscillators to thicken a sound.
You can view either oscillator or envelope info at the
top of the central display; oscillator type is available to
the lower right. Lets go through the layout by making a
Reese bass. Select a Saw D waveform for oscillators A
and B from the dropdown waveform list (see Image 6,
bottom right). Set their Level parameter to 0dB and raise
the Fine control for oscillator B up towards 25 cents. As
long as youre playing MIDI notes between C1 and C2
this should already be quite nasty-sounding. To give it
more bottom end, raise the level of oscillator C but leave
it set to its default sine wave as this pure wave is perfect
for reinforcing your existing sound. Need even more
weight? Raise the level of oscillator D and set its Ratio to
0.5 for a lower octave of sine power. Now re-balance the
sounds using the Level control on each oscillator. 2
The LFO Shell to the upper right is set up by default
to control the pitch for all oscillators via its Dest.A
section. To give this Reese more of a Hoover-esque rave
stab tone, set the LFO waveform to SwDown (Saw
Down) from the first pop-down menu. Choose Sync from
the next menu (LFO Range) and set a Rate of 1 bar. Now
raise the Amount while pressing keys higher than C2 to
get that familiar descending Hoover bass. 3

The central display is key to seeing more detail for each


Shell when you click on them. This is also where you
select MIDI and modulation assignments.

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Bass design with Operator Technique MT

6
7
Modulation can be used for subtle or dramatic
effects like most audio parameter settings, use the
most extreme settings to fine-tune parameters
before backing off to a suitable amount.

4
The LFO can be assigned to many other modulation
destinations via Dest.B. In most cases youll want to
disable its default assignment in Dest.B by clicking the
A, B, C and D buttons. Although the filter cutoff can be
assigned here, setting its Depth to 100% wont move the
cutoff from its minimum to full. A workaround to
achieve a full-range cutoff sweep is to assign Dest.B to
filter cutoff. With both assignments set to 100% and the
LFO set to SwDown, you can achieve that tight and
defined rhythmic modulation sound that has been
recently made famous by the artist Datsik. 4
Returning to the Hoover-esque sound for a moment,
you can get a more authentic upwards and downwards
pitch change over time by using the Pitch Envelope in
the next Shell down from Filter. With a positive setting
between 1050%, shape the envelope to create a
medium attack slope and longer decay time. 5

two oscillators alone with a little vibrato from the LFO


can create a nice, organ-style bass that gains a harder
edge over time. 9
Envelopes can also be looped for creating rhythmic
modulation shapes. The bottom right of the oscillators
central display has a Loop pop-up menu: select Sync,
then set Repeat to 1/12 for a triplet feel. 10
As long as Lives main transport is playing, the
envelope will now begin to repeat. Just make sure that
the envelopes shape is short enough so it can be heard
changing before it loops around again. Experiment with
the Time<Vel amount to the right of the envelopes
Release amount as this will shorten or lengthen the
envelope duration via MIDI note velocity. A negative
value will shorten the duration with lower velocities,
which makes sense to us when playing expressively
from a MIDI controller. 11

Additive approaches

Frequency modulation

If you move the mouse over the central display when an


oscillator Shell is in focus you can draw in harmonic
partials on the Waveform Editor. This is where Operator
behaves like an additive synth, letting you decide which
harmonics are present and at what volume. Try setting
the harmonic amount to 16 (the uppermost block to the
right of the Editor) and draw in a combination of
harmonics. Weve gone for just a few lower harmonics
as this will be our bottom-end oscillator. 6
Weve then edited oscillator B and right/[Ctrl]-clicked
on the waveform display to set it to odd harmonics only.
We can now create an upper frequency layer that has
the odd harmonic characteristic of a square wave. 7
As were still using the subtractive synthesis
algorithm meaning that oscillators arent modulating
each other you can choose to feed back oscillators on
themselves. Explore the Feedback amount below the
oscillator-type menu. Harmonically rich oscillators are
sensitive to this control so small amounts will make a
big difference between distortion and noise. Weve gone
for 6% before the sound breaks up too much. This is now
a sonically interesting layer that we can modulate. 8

Of all the available algorithms, the backwards-shaped


L is the most relevant for getting started with FM for
creating bass parts. 12 The bottom part of the L holds
the two oscillators you hear directly. The block colours
correlate to the oscillator colour, so here, oscillator A in
yellow is on its own, without any other oscillators above
it. This means that no oscillators above are there to
modulate it, so its a subtractive oscillator. Well use this
for a bottom-end sine wave.

PRO TIP
Many sounds can be given an
extra dimension through
octave-based pitch-bending.
Just set Pitch to
+12 or +24
semitones from
the central
display for the
Global Shell.

Perfect harmony
Each oscillator has an envelope that modulates its level
like any normal synth, letting us slowly introduce this
higher harmonic layer with a slow attack stage. These
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MT Technique Bass design with Operator

10

11

Assigning modulators to velocity enables you


to easily program in variation within your
General MIDI Editor page.

Oscillator B, however, has two other oscillators wired


into it in series. The pitch of oscillator D at the top will
modulate oscillator C, then the resulting sound will be
used to modulate oscillator B. In simple terms,
oscillators D and C are acting like an LFO to the pitch of
oscillator B, but the rates are very fast (in the audible
musical range) so the rate is fast enough to add new,
audible pitch changes to oscillator B.
With oscillator A remaining at a Coarse ratio of 1,
raise the Level to full for oscillator B after setting its
Coarse ratio to 2. Youll now have two sine waves an
octave apart. Next, increase the Level of oscillator C
and youll start to hear a dramatic change to oscillator
Bs output. Change the Coarse ratio to be lower and
youll hear a watery, super-fast tremolo effect; move it
upwards and the sound will become increasingly
metallic in tone. Now explore the Level control to hear
how this acts more like a timbre control than a simple
fade-in and out. Using this oscillators envelope for
Level control or the LFO suddenly opens up a lot of
drastic tonal change. Welcome to the wonderful world
of FM synthesis!

particularly musically tuneful. For bass, try copying


these settings with only sine waves to shape the
aliasing effect into a vowel-like sound. 13

Down and dirty


FM synthesis can also generate some really nasty bass
tones if you carefully tune each modulator by ear to
create a non-harmonic that has a slightly discernible
pitch. This time well use the very left algorithm to
create a layer for higher frequencies that we can run in
parallel with a sine wave from another instance of
Operator for the low end.
The first thing to do is to choose an interesting
waveform for oscillator A as this is where your sound
begins. Weve gone for the SW8 wave (saw wave) to
provide a bright sound, then weve chosen an oddharmonics-based sound for oscillator B with the Sq8
wave. This creates a very demonic beehive-type of
sound when detuned a little and applied with a low
Level. Weve then added a sine very high up in the
register with a ratio of 39 to create a very high, buzzy
tone. Finally, to lose a little definition weve added a
noise oscillator for D and applied it very lightly. 14
Of all the options here, FM needs to be approached
with some restraint, adding one oscillator at a time as
its very easy to go from a solid, desirable sound to
something thats just fatiguing to the ear. So take the
time to switch oscillators on and off as you go, checking
that youre not going too far. Then, when youve made a
sound, explore switching algorithms as this can often
yield some very surprising results. MT

Know your limitations


FM can create some incredibly high frequencies so
high, in fact, that they reach the limitations of the
devices sample rate. These are pushed back into the
audible spectrum in a non-harmonically related way
this is called aliasing. When set up correctly this can
create dense clusters of information, which is great for
cymbal sounds, bells and anything else that isnt

12

13

The Algorithm menu


lets you choose from
various oscillator
routing options. Just
click the different shape
and immediately hear a
difference in your patch.

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14

Understanding MIDI EFFECTS "Chord" + "Scale"


Lets start with the chord effect. First of all, drop in a new midi track. Then, put in an instrument of your liking, preferable
something with less resonation for the purpose of understanding this tutorial. In the future, you can use nice long voilins or
even pads to make spacy chorded sounds. After you have put in the sound, just before it in your rack, toss in a CHORD midi
effect.

Now you will see options for up to 6 extra notes to create chords off of the one you are pressing on your midi keyboard.
This is pretty simple to understand, and not very useful unless you have an understanding of chords. When you turn on one
of the shift options, it adds another note depending on how far your shifted that note. A shift of +1 semi tones will add
another note one half note above the one you are pressing (example white key to the nearest black key). You can play
around within this to find some nice chords on your own. The little box below each shift button determines how loud you
will hear that note when compared to the original note you are pressing, incase you want less dramatic chord. Also be sure
to play around with the built in presets that come within this midi effect to find nicely made chords with excellent
velocities already there for your disposal.
Now, lets go on to the next step. If you dont understand chords, this next step can be SO useful. Even if you do understand
chords, it is impossible for you to know ALL of them, so you can build your knowledge chords by using this. Start by
SHUTTING OFF THE CHORD effect for now, we will get back to it. Go into midi effects, and drop in a SCALE effect in
between your CHORD & INSTRUMENT, like this -

It looks like a small sequencer right? Think of it a little bit like that, where as from left to right are keys within ONE
OCTAVE of your midi keyboard (ex. C to C). For some reason there are 13 squares (not 12) up and down. I dont know why
this is, but the top one does not get used. Lets look at the options now within this. The BASE knob is for the BASE of your
grid. It will not change sound, only the VIEW that you see the grid. If you are making a track in C, its good to leave it in C
to see the whole range of C-C. The transpose will transpose the actual SOUND in semitones up or down based on how far
you move it. If you have a midi keyboard, the range and lowest note options are not really useful. Now, what you are
telling your controller to do, is to CHANGE what note is actually being played. You can only have 1 square activated per
vertical column. So now, if you were to select note C in column 1, 2, & 3...then press keys C, C sharp, & D....they will now
all play C. This makes it so, if you were to build a chord, you cannot press a WRONG button. This can be nice for improv
jamming. Now the key to this feature is to use the built in presets that come with ableton. Just click the little arrow below
the SCALE midi effect within your browser to see the options. You will see options like MAJORS, MINORS, PENTATONIC, etc
etc. Just drag on of those on top of the scale effect within your effects rack, and it will be preset to that chord. Start
touching all over your keyboard, and you will notice that ANY note you hit will be in that correct progression.
Now, go back to your chord effect and turn it on. Toss in a nice preset for the time being. Now play your midi keyboard.
You will hear AMAZING chord sounds in a perfect chord progression based off of what your are playing on your keyboard.
Just play around with all the parameters until you get something you like! If you want, you can even put an arpeggio before
all of this.

MT Technique Mastering for club & radio play

Ableton Live Tutorial

Mastering music
for club and radio play
Getting your tracks ready for playing to the public is something
we all need to do from time to time. Liam OMullane shares
his tips on making the best-sounding master possible.

ove it or hate it, but in the world of club music


its a necessity to give tracks a certain degree
of loudness. For many, professional mastering
isnt an option as you may not be signed to a
label yet, but if you want to get exposure, you
still need to get your tracks to club and radio DJs for a
possible lucky break. This month well show you how to
use specific mastering techniques on your mix buss to
get a polished, loud track for promotional use. You can
also apply these to pre-mixed audio files, but working
while the mix is still live can be an education in how
your mix changes when mastered and how it can be
shaped to work better with your mastering chain. But
before any processing begins, lets look at using
reference material to help keep you on track.

Reference material
A/B referencing between released material and your
own work is useful both at the mastering stage and
during the song-creation process. It provides you with
constant goals to aim for and helps you stay on course
for completing your track. Weve all lost perspective on a

PRO TIP
For more detail when working
with EQ Eight, double-click on
the analyser to see a much
larger view. This also adds a
frequency and musical pitch
info box to the lower left, which
helps when you need to focus
on certain notes.

Working while the mix is still live


can be an education in how it
changes when mastered

mix after listening to a hi-hat in


solo mode for too long, so alongside
regular breaks, reference material is essential.
Drag two or more reference tracks into Live on their
own audio tracks, Warp them to fit Lives tempo, then
highlight the tracks and select Group from the Edit
menu. Mute the tracks in this group so nothing but your
own track can be heard. 1
You need to route these tracks directly to your audio
interface so that any master buss processing isnt
affecting them. In Session View, select your soundcard

1
2

Live can be set up for real-time use of reference


material at any given moment by hitting assigned
keys for each reference track.

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Mastering for club & radio play Technique MT

8
5

7
6

Surgical EQ is the best place to


start for getting a more
professional-sounding mix
before moving onto other
types of processing.

Dont be fooled into thinking that


your changes are better simply
because they are louder
output from the Audio To menu after first selecting Ext
Out. 2 Finally, assigning key commands to each solo
button lets you jump from your work to any reference
point for immediate feedback. Use Edit Key Map from
the Options menu to assign these keys. 3

Dynamic shaping

EQ work
Before applying any dynamic processing, start with an
EQ Eight for surgical work to knock things into better
shape. As a general rule, select Oversampling by right/
[Ctrl]-clicking (PC/Mac) on the devices title bar. This
allows for a higher internal sampling rate and reduces
the chance of aliasing being introduced as you work. 4
The first task with surgical EQ work is to reduce/
remove any non-musical resonances. These may not be
immediately obvious, so an additive sweeping
technique is usually required. EQ bands 36 are
parametric by default, so start with one of these.
Increase the gain to around 10dB, the Q (width) to 23
for a narrow band, and sweep the Freq dial until a
specific frequency starts to sing out in a nasty manner
when boosted. 5 Now explore either direction for the Q
amount so only the nasty area is being boosted. The Q
needs to be as narrow as it can be without being so
narrow that it doesnt boost the whole problem area. 6
To reset your ears, click on the Gain control and hit
backspace to return it to zero. Apply sufficient gain
reduction to reduce the problem area as much as
possible without leaving a hole in the overall sound. 7
You can repeat this process as required, but if youre
applying more than three or so cuts it may be worth
looking at your mix elements to find the sound that is
responsible for the problem and apply this technique to
that sound directly so the whole mix isnt EQed as much.
Bracketing your songs frequency range with lowand high-cut filtering is the next step with EQ Eight. Sit
a filter just below and above the visible energy of the
track to remove any content that doesnt aid the sound
of the track. This is especially important in the low end

as bass eats up headroom, which in turn makes it hard


to get a tight, loud mix. Try both the normal and the x4
filters to determine which suits the content best. 8
You should audition all treatments to your mix buss
by turning the processing chain on and off at regular
intervals. This also makes it easier to set your output
level by ear so youre auditioning changes evenhandedly. The simplest way to set this up is by Grouping
devices via the Edit menu and assigning the newly
created Audio Racks Activator button to a key for
immediate auditioning at any point. 9

PRO TIP
If you need more frequency
content in the 25kHz area of
your mix but are pushed for
time to tweak this during the
mixing stage, Lives Overdrive
can help fill in the
gap, with careful use
of Drive and Tone
along with a narrow
band-pass filter.
Use a very low dry/
wet balance from
1% upwards.

The next step is to process the dynamic range of your


track to firm it up and give it more impact. The first
device can be used for average signal level-based
compression, pulling the level of the tracks body and
the higher peaks closer together. A second device can
then be used for more rhythm-based peak compression
to add punch to the
drums as the whole
track is compressed in
response to them.
Either a Compressor or
Glue device can be used
for average-based
work, and it pays to try
them both as they do
sound different. This
technique requires a
fairly deep threshold
setting but light ratio
from 1.01:1 upwards.
Compressor needs to
be set to RMS for an
averaging behaviour
and Makeup Gain
should be disabled so
you can use the Out
fader for manual level
matching. This prevents
you from being fooled
into thinking your
changes are better
simply because they
are louder! Theres no
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MT Technique Mastering for club & radio play

11

12

10

If your drums dont stick out in the mix sufficiently to trigger Compressor, use the EQ so it
reacts to the specific frequencies of certain drums and not others.

rule for the amount of gain reduction to apply here and


the attack and release settings are also contentspecific explore them until you can hear backing
sounds coming further forwards in the mix while
avoiding any pumping artefacts. 10
For peak-based compression, Compressor set to
Peak mode is your best bet. To have only the main,
louder drums trigger the compression, set the ratio
quite high, with the threshold low enough to let only the
highest drum peaks trigger the compressor. Dial in fast
attack and release times so the track gets slightly
squashed with each louder drum hit. This will give the
drums a feeling of being heavier as the mix gets slightly
squashed in response to them. If necessary, mix your
drums a little too loud to take this effect a bit further.
Alternatively, if the drums arent loud enough use the EQ
on the left-hand side to help Compressor hear the
frequencies specific to the kick and snare. 11

After working on the sides, try an additive sweeping


technique on the mid to find and then reduce any muddy
lower-mid frequencies. This can be anywhere between
250800Hz and youll generally need a broad Q setting
as the area can be quite wide. If you havent removed too
much bottom-to-mid frequency information on your
side signal, try this on the sides as well. 13

Peak limiting
Peak limiting is the final element in the processing
chain. This limits the range of any momentary peaks,
which enables more volume to be squeezed out of your
master. Although the Limiter might be the most obvious
choice for this task, we often opt for Saturator or Glue
instead. These often have a more musical sound than
the Limiter, which can pump when pushed hard. For
both Glue and Saturator you need to enable soft clipping
and increase Drive until the signal starts to break up.
Once there, simply back off a little (or a lot, depending
on how in your face you want the mix to sound). 14
Saturators output level can be set to keep everything in
check, but Glue needs a Utility device adding afterwards
as it can be quite loud at its output. 15
At this point you should have a polished-sounding
track that you can export and distribute. If you have
time, though, come back to it with fresh ears and apply
any minor tweaks that perhaps didnt seem so obvious
during the previous session. MT

Mid and side


Another way to tighten up a mix is to EQ the mid and
side elements separately. High-passing the side from
around 200Hz or higher will help focus the bottom end
as youre forcing it to be mono through the mid signal
only. Boosting the top end on the sides at this point can
also give a wider sense of stereo (dont overdo it or it
may become less mono-compatible). To do this, switch
an instance of EQ Eight from stereo mode to M/S via the
Mode menu. 12 Use the Edit toggle button to change the
EQ controls from adjusting the mid or side signal.

13

14

EQing the middle and side signals separately is a very effective


way of tightening the bass end and widening existing stereo
elements. When it comes to peak limiting, Saturator and Glue are
just as worthy as Lives Limiter device.

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15

MT Technique Programming & workflow

Ableton Live Become a Live Power User

Programming
technique & workflow
New
Series

Both audio and MIDI can trigger that creative spark and get the ball rolling when it comes to
composition. Liam OMullane sets you off on the right track.

hen it comes to starting any kind of work in


Live, there has always been a variety of
ways to kick things off. Live can be used for
traditional songwriting with a traditional
sequencing approach in Arrangement View,
or used as an interactive jamming tool for experimental
work in Session View. Live is also capable of being a live
performance tool, too, so theres no wonder many people
struggle to find a good workflow with this deceptively
simple yet incredibly open-format tool.
In this series well take a thorough look at the various
aspects of Live 9, Live 9 Suite and Push. Although these all
present different options for creating music, we will have a

On the disc
Accompanying
project file included
on the DVD

Irrespective of the investment


youve made in your Live setup,
weve got you covered
single aim in a bid to accommodate them all to make
music that is creative, unique and well produced. Numerous
new tools have been introduced in Live 9, and the inclusion
of Max for Live within Live 9 Suite opens up
an expansive creative playground to all.
And although Push is still in its infancy,
were already finding some very enjoyable
ways of using it to interact with music. So
irrespective of the level of investment
youve made in your Live 9 setup, weve got
you covered.

FOCUS ON RECORDING
Many of you will want to record your own sounds a
single event to treat like a sample, a short sequence
to turn into a loop, or a full musical passage which
may or may not be edited subsequent to recording.
Recording to either Session or Arrangement Views
starts in the same way: select the correct input on an
audio track thats armed to record, expand the level
indicator by dragging it upwards with your mouse in
Session View for a more detailed look at your input
levels, then hit record. If you want to set up effects to
help the performer, be sure to get the lowest possible
latency time so that the effects arent delayed too
much, which will throw off the performance. This is
done in Preferences by adjusting the latency buffer
size so you have low latency without any break-up in
the audio signal.

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Although were catering for all ability levels, well assume


that you at least understand the very basics of Live. And
remember that there are some extremely useful built-in
lesson packs that integrate very well into the program, so if
you find yourself out of your comfort zone at any point in
this series, just go to the View menu and select Help View.
The selection of lessons will then appear to the right-hand
side of everything else in Live.
To begin, this month were looking at various ways to
create and manipulate an initial idea through the use of
MIDI or audio. Your audio can be single sounds, loops or
something youve recorded yourself. MIDI can be used to
control a huge variety of instruments, but at this stage it
doesnt matter whether its bass, pads, drums or lead lines
as well start by focusing on MIDI note data. If you can
competently manipulate sounds at this level, youll have
very tight control over how the sound can then be varied
throughout your work before getting tangled in a web of
automation, layering effects and so on.
Although a power user needs good ideas and an ear to
produce, workflow is also important, so with audio, MIDI and
workflow in mind, lets get started. MT

Programming & workflow Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step Fast, creative MIDI editing

If youre inputting MIDI by hand, try to double-click and hold


down your mouse/trackpad button to create a note and set its
length in one movement. A highlighted note can then be moved from
left to right with the arrow keys; pitch can be altered using up/down.

To move from one note to the next using the arrow keys, hold
down [Alt] at the same time. You can be looping around while
editing to hear your changes, or use the MIDI Editor preview button
(the headphone icon above the vertical piano) so you hear each change
in pitch as you make it.

If youre struggling to get an idea started or just want to explore a


different approach from usual, try inputting successive notes by
holding down the [B] key to momentarily engage Draw mode. This
starts you off in a step sequencer-like way. Now use the key
commands already covered to change a notes pitch and press [0] to
mute any unwanted notes.

No matter how your MIDI part has been created, there are some
great editing tools available in Live, but youll first need to
highlight two or more notes. The mouse is the obvious choice for this
task, but for quick keyboard work, hold down [Shift]+[Alt] while using
the arrow keys. You can alter this section or duplicate your work and
alter the second to extend the phrase.

The Invert (Inv) and Reverse (Rev) buttons to the left of the MIDI
Note Editor will flip all highlighted MIDI notes upside down or
back to front respectively. Both are easy ways to create variation in
your parts. A reverse of a beat or half/a full-bars worth of notes is
useful for creating variation at the end of a phrase. Alternatively,
highlight random sections to alter for a less predictable outcome.

Two other useful functions for creative editing are the half- and
double-tempo functions (these are the :2 and *2 buttons above
Inverse and Reverse). These let you change your MIDI, and doubletempo is especially useful for creating small flourishes within a piece.
You can stretch highlighted content for more control over this type of
change just drag the stretch marker above the notes.

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MT Technique Programming & workflow

MT Step-by-Step Audio sequencing and editing

There are three ways to manipulate audio: using smaller,


sequenced individual events, manipulating from within a loop or
recording of a performance, or by using Lives Slice To New MIDI Track
function (from right-click menu) to get audio into a MIDI-controllable
form. The latter can utilise techniques from the previous set of steps
here, but our recommendation is to fully explore the presets available.

The first few variables for an audio file can be discovered quite
easily with single sounds. Starting with Warp mode disabled,
Transpose will let you pitch the audio up and down with vari-speed.
Extreme settings of an octave or more in either direction will cause
great sonic changes which can generate very interesting textures and
sounds to start an idea with.

As soon as Warp mode is enabled you open up a whole new world


of possibilities, the first being an overall time-stretch effect
which, like vari-speed transpose, can create dramatic tonal changes at
more extreme settings. Hit the half-time button a few times for an
immediate granular-type effect.

Warp-based time-stretching and pitch change are easily applied


to loops or recordings, but in order for single sounds to benefit
from this you first need to turn them from a sequence into a new single
audio file. To do this, highlight all parts on a track and select
Consolidate from the Edit menu.

To quickly explore the effects of warp markers, use the half- and
double-time buttons. Warp modes can be chosen from the
dropdown menu below the :2 & *2 buttons and all but re-pitch modes
will generate a unique, stretched timbre. Warp markers themselves
can be moved around for an in-loop variation of time-stretch and
compress effects.

Transpose is another useful tool for broad variation. First open


the Envelope box by pressing the small E button underneath the
Clip box, then select Transposition Modulation and alter the envelope
over time. All stretch modes can have their other parameters changed
as well, so explore the new tones these can offer you.

01

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How to produce authentic house Technique MT

Powered by

Technique Genre focus

How to produce
authentic house
New
Series

Welcome to a new series that focusses on different genres of music production across every
DAW. We kick off with house, the simplest of dance genres. Or is it? asks Rob Boffard

ouse music is a perfect candidate to start with


if youre just beginning to get to grips with the
key concepts of music-making. While any piece
of music can be complicated, its house, more
than perhaps any other genre, that can sound
superb despite comprising only a few very simple elements.
As long as you have a great lead, a fat bass line and a good
collection of rhythmic percussion and as long as youre
willing to spend a little time getting your mix right youll
have a winner.
Much of producing house is actually about sound design
specifically, sound design using synths. An understanding
of the fundamental concepts of synthesis how oscillators

On the disc
Accompanying
project file included
on the DVD

An understanding of the
fundamental concepts of
synthesis is absolutely crucial
make sound, how you can modulate them, what filters do
and so on is absolutely crucial. Youll also need to have a
good understanding of how MIDI data works and how its
different from audio (put simply, a MIDI note is just a signal
to the instrument its attached to in order to play a
sound; unlike audio, it doesnt
actually contain any sound itself).
Were going to produce a house
track in 12 steps, using various
techniques to create our lead, bass

line and percussion, as well as covering a couple of mixing


principles such as sidechaining. Were using Ableton Live to
do this, but the principles we discuss can easily be
transferred to other DAWs. Live is ideal for this job mainly
because of its Session View, which enables you to create
Clips, each containing a loop or a selection of audio. You can
fire off the loops at any time, and when you bring in others,
Ableton keeps things perfectly in time. Session View is a
giant sketchpad for your track, letting you add in and
remove things on-the-fly and craft the perfect beat. Once
youve mastered it, its just as good for live performances as
it is in the studio.
But if you want to produce house music, the most
important thing you can learn is something not covered in
this guide: listening. You need to hear as much house as you
possibly can pour as much of it into your ears as you can
handle. Try to isolate the individual sounds and, if possible,
reverse-engineer them. Not only will this help you get a
deeper understanding of your synths, but also a deeper
understanding of the music itself. MT
This tutorial has been endorsed by The Academy of Contemporary Music.
ACM delivers programmes for serious students looking to become music
industry professionals. Its faculty includes lecturers who have performed
and recorded alongside some of the biggest names in music and worked
in every area of the industry. See more at: www.acm.ac.uk

FOCUS ON ORIGINALITY
A couple of months ago, Swedish DJ duo
Daleri did something interesting. They took
the top 100 tracks on dance music site
Beatport, isolated the drop from each one,
then blended the drops into a one-minute
mix. It was scary just how similar most of
them were, using the same leads,
percussion and techniques. Bottom line? Its
very easy to get caught up in mimicking
what everyone else is doing and create a
track that doesnt sound all that creative or
unique. Once youve nailed the basics of
Operator (or whatever synth you use), spend
a good deal of time delving into its inner
workings come up with something no one
has heard before and youll have a winner.

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How to produce authentic house Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step How to produce authentic house

A good house track depends on a kick-ass lead. Were going to


build one using Ableton Lives Operator synth. Drag it onto a track,
then double-click the Clip Slot to open a new MIDI track. Lay down a
four-bar sequence doesnt have to be anything fancy, as you can
always change it later. When youre done, press [Shift]+[Tab] to switch
back to Instrument View.

First things first: pick a wave. The current Sin wave isnt really
strong enough, so select Oscillator A (by clicking in the grey box
surrounding it) and then open the pop-up menu in the main instrument
window. Pick one of the Saw waves this will give you a much grittier,
more interesting tone. Dial down Osc As Coarse knob a little, too.

Right now, if you introduce more oscillators and youll certainly


want to each will be modulating the other, which will give a very
odd sound. Click the bottom-right grey box (the one with Time, Tone
and Volume in it) and youll see a bunch of colourful patterns appear.
Select the right-most one, with the boxes each representing an
oscillator lined up.

Push up the level of Osc B, set the wave to the shape you picked
for Osc A, and use the Coarse knob to detune it to your liking.
Already, youre getting something more interesting. Play around with
the Fine knobs on each Osc to get just the tone you like. This part of the
process all comes down to personal taste.

Filter time. Youll automate this later when youre building your
track, but for now, play around with the various values to see how
it affects your sound (remember to click the square button to activate
it). We suggest playing with the envelope value in the main display a
setting of 6070% can give some real character.

There are a couple of other things you can do to give your lead
more life. Adjust the Spread control to maximum youll instantly
hear the stereo spread widen then activate the LFO. The lowfrequency oscillator is going to give your sound a bit of wobble, which
will really make it stand out.

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MT Step-by-Step How to produce authentic house, contd

With the loop playing, pick the shape of your LFO. Youll be able to
hear how each shape affects the sound differently a triangle
will make it rise and fall evenly, while a square will be choppy. You can
probably leave the Range and Retrigger controls alone for the time
being, although feel free to experiment.

Rate and Amount will determine how much LFO actually gets
injected into your sound. For something subtle, try turning
Amount up to almost completely full and set the Rate very low (no
higher than 10%). Youll instantly hear that another element has been
injected into the sound.

Thats the lead sorted time for some drums. Actually, getting a
basic drum pattern going is pretty straightforward: put a Drum
Rack into a track, open a MIDI clip, then use the Browser to start
auditioning kicks, snares, hats and cymbals. For house beginners, wed
recommend a 707 kick for that classic vibe.

You may want to think about putting each drum element into its
own track you can then create a sub-group, allowing you finer
control over the mix. Lay down your drum pattern as you like (weve
gone four-to-the-floor here) and spend a little time processing and
mixing your drums with EQ and some light compression.

Sidechain compression is something youll use again and again. It


lowers the volume of a chosen sound every time a drum (or
whatever you specify) hits. Load a compressor onto your lead track,
click Sidechain, select your drum sub-mix, then adjust the
compression values with the main loop playing. This will create loads
of room in your mix.

After adding a bass line (Operator again, just tweaked differently)


its time to mix it all together and actually lay down your track.
Once youve got a balance youre happy with, start recording it to
Arrangement View. The beauty of Ableton is that everything stays in
time, no matter when you fire off your clips.

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CONSOLIDATING TIME TO NEW SCENE


One of the most underrated new features of Ableton Live 9, is a very simple technique called
Consolidate Time to New Scene. This allows you to select an amount of time from a finished
tracks Arrangement and turn all of the song elements in said selection into a playable, loopable
series of clips set up in a brand new Session View scene.
Most Ableton users are aware of Lives two different views, so I wont go into too much detail
about them. First, we have the more traditional linear sequencing view known as the
Arrangement View. Second, Ableton has its trademark, less linear, more sandbox style view
called the Session View. This is where we see musical ideas set up in simple block-like Clips,
that we can play around with, mix-and-match, and rearrange in various ways without
committing them to a particular sequence.
The Session View has become the main live performance tool for several of the most popular
DJs and producers as of late. Why? Because instead of just finishing a track, creating a stereo
bounce, and pressing the play button to play their music out, producers and DJs can take the
pieces of music from their tracks (the kick drum, the bass, the snare, the vocals, etc.), and play
around with them live. As a DJ, I am no longer bound to just play a track that I finished up
yesterday. I can take the stems, add more effects to them, or even re-edit or remix my song on
the fly during my live set! With Live 9, it really couldnt be easier to get your own tracks live
performance ready.
So, for this quick example, Im using a very simple four-stem song Im working on (see image
1). I have four different instrument parts featured this track kick drum, percussion, bass, and
arpeggio. The song is currently contained all in the Arrangement View, and my Session View is
completely blank.
Image 1

What Im going to do next is create a Scene (or a series of clips lined up horizontally) in the
Session View that corresponds to all of the instrument parts I have playing during the INTRO of
my song (which I have set up as the first eight bars). In order to achieve this, I am going to use
my mouse to select those eight bars of time in my Arrangement (see image 1 the selection is
highlighted in blue).

Once I have selected this amount of time (and note that you can select time from ANY ONE of
the tracks in your Arrangement, no need to highlight all of them), I am going to click the
CREATE drop-down menu from the task bar at the top of my screen. Then, I am going to
select the option to Consolidate Time to New Scene (see image 2).
Image 2

Ableton takes a second to do its thing, and then viola, youre done! But wait a minute, why
does it look like nothing happened!? Well, lets flip back over to the Session View (press the Tab
key). As you can see, a new Scene, or group of Clips arranged HORIZONTALLY, has been
created (see image 3). I can now use the Scene launch button to play back all of these clips
simultaneously, or I can launch them one at a time.

Image 3

Notice two things:


1) Only the clips that were playing in the eight bars of time that I selected are present in the
Scene (there is no Clip for the ARP track, because it was not playing in the Arrangement during
the Intro).
2) All of the clips have been set up to play back for eight bars (the duration that I previously
selected) AND they are all set up to loop (see the bottom Clip View window in image 3).
All I have to do now is go though my songs Arrangement and select different sections of time
maybe highlight my verses, choruses (drops), and outro where different elements of my track
are playing. Every time you select an amount of time and choose Consolidate Time to New
Scene, you will have a brand new Scene created that you can work with in Session View!
As a final tip, its always good practice to rename your Scenes so you know what part of your
song you intend to play back when launching them (see image 4).
Image 4

Technique | Ableton Live

Ableton Live
Noise, Sleaze
and Dirt
For some genres, you cant have everything clean
and shiny its plain wrong. So this month
Martin Delaney shows you how to corrupt and
degrade your precious compositions

he time has come to have a talk about sound abuse. Im not talking
about blasting your neighbours with loud music all night, I mean
trashing your samples and programmed sounds, adding the
necessary dirt and sleaze to make them sound more like they belong
in the real world. A good way to start is with sample manipulation,
and in our walkthrough we take a single, not very interesting, sample,
and use it to build a drum rack with four different percussion sounds. Hopefully
this will give you some ideas about recording, squeezing, and stretching,
samples of your own, to make percussion or instrument sounds. This will give
you a source instrument to play with while youre thinking about the effects
processing were interested in as well. Programmed music, with software
instruments, tends to sound very clean, to the point of being sterile. Sometimes
this is a good thing, and for some instrument parts within a mix, its exactly what
you want. But personally, for an entire track, for an entire mix, I find it boring.

Dirt is good
The good news is that there are a lot of tools we can use, inside and outside of
Live, to add dirt and grit to our otherwise highly polished tunes 1 . A lot of
people reading this probably do these kind of things routinely anyway, but as a
Live trainer, I know for sure there are also people who are working with
exclusively programmed music, and they are concerned that their mixes end up
sounding too clean. This applies more to some genres than others, especially
some so-called urban styles, but you can improve the texture of any mix by
dirtying the water a bit. In the old days, this would be less of a problem because
people were recording onto tape, with analogue gear, and there would be plenty
of dirt introduced along the way naturally. Now we have to do it ourselves!
You can get texture by using different sounds, from different sources,
recorded in different ways (and by not using presets... but dont get me started
on that one today). Theres no reason why a tune cant contain really nasty lo-fi
noise as well as flashy state of the art synths! All you really need to make this
happen is Ableton Live, some software instruments (the ones inside Live are
great), a microphone (even your computers built-in mic will do), 2 and
anything with a speaker.

(Almost) any sound will do


Lets start with that beat. Its an old-school sampling technique to take one
sample and manipulate it to create an entire drum kit or instrument, and Ive

72

The Expert
Martin Delaney,
Performer, Producer
Artist and
instructor
Martin, aka
mindlobster,
has produced Live
training material and
was one of the UKs
first certified Ableton
Live trainers.

talked about it here before, but it usually


gets cool results; at the very worst its a
good exercise in using Lives sampling tools.
Our example Live set contains a sample
thats ready to go, as well as the finished
drum rack that was made with it, so you
have something to compare to and keep you
on track. Sure, you have to go off and use
your own sample as well, but stick to ours
while youre following the steps, or itll
sound all wrong! Our sample was recorded
in a coffee shop, with the mic on my
MacBook Pro, straight into Live, capturing
some ambient sound. Its a good sound, as
much as its useable as-is, and it doesnt
need too much processing to make it work.
Theres not much point in working with
collected samples if you need to change
and process them so far that they couldve
been anything. I try to restrict myself to
using the basic sampling controls inside
Simpler, and only add a couple of feature
effects if necessary. What I will do, is use a
lot of EQ and compression these are the
most important sampling tools of all. EQ is
used mostly for filtering out the low end of
samples that have too much low rumble,
and compression is applied to each sound
in the kit separately, to maximise volume,
but also clip and contain the levels.
Compression can also change the tone of a
sample, bringing out different textures that
werent so obvious beforehand.
For the kit in the tutorial I used Lives
Glue Compressor, because its widely
available 3 , although usually I go to PSPs
Vintage Warmer 4 . You can put another
compressor in the track after the rack, so it
applies to the entire kit.

Getting Destructive

Live has the worst guitar amp simulations of any


DAW its like theyre not even trying! Seriously.
But there is an upside to the downside these
same lousy guitar amp models are great for
downgrading beats, synths, and vocals. There are
the Amp Simulations in the Audio Effect Rack
section of the Browser, but you can also find the
separate Cabinet and Amp devices in the Audio
Effects section, so you can get a little bit more
specific with your destructive tendencies. I have
used the 1x12 Cab preset a few times... but
never, never, with guitars!
Lives dirt devices
So now weve built our kit, and weve got other sounds in a track, lets think
about how we can dirty things up. As far as that kit goes, we can add bitcrushers
like Redux 5 , and distortions to specific sounds in the kit; the Dynamic Tube/
Tube Trash preset should sound good on the snare weve made in our drum
kit 6 . Live has Dynamic Tube, Redux, Erosion, and Saturator. It also has the
guitar amp and speaker cabinet models so you should be good for distortion!

Ableton Live | Technique

>

Dirt is Good

VIDEO ON
THE DVD

(Almost) Any Sound


Will Do

Lives Dirt Devices

>
>

Watch the tutorial


movie on the DVD

73

Technique | Ableton Live

You can make a really nasty sound by


using EQ, distortion, and then compression.
The good thing about compressors that
limit is that you can boost them really hard,
into overdrive, but the signal is still limited
at the end.
Lives Operator synth has a role to play,
as I mention elsewhere on these pages.
Operators cool because you can dial up
white noise as a waveform, then use a
rack to layer that noise under an instrument
or drum track. You can use the chains
volume control to mix the noise volume
level, and adjust Operators release time
to fit in whats happening in your main
instrument part.
Max For Lives Convolution Reverb effect
is a monster noise tool because you can
load any type of sample into it, including
noises that youve just generated in
Operator, or, well, all kinds of things
machine sounds, voices, guitar chords
whatever, it all sounds good. I like putting vocal samples in there; you can
use words, but long breathy sounds work put the reverb on a return track and
solo it, so that all you can hear is the ghostly noise imprint of whatever tracks
are being fed to the return 7 .
Sometimes I resample a section of a song into a new audio track, and use
that short loop instead of the original separate tracks. This gives your mixing
process a different vibe, and gets further away from your original parts it feels
more like working with a loop youve cut from another record. The easiest way to
do this is with Lives Resampling audio input option in the In/Out View. Select
Resampling, arm the track, and play back the tracks you want to resample from,
then record them into a new clip 8 . Now you can treat this sample in new ways
apply different warp modes to it, use Beats warp mode to gate the transients,
transpose the clip, reverse it; its all good.
You can even then load your new resampled clip into Simpler, so you can
play it back off a keyboard or arpeggiator, and apply even more processing to it.
Very often I convert these samples to mono, which adds to the old-school
sampling vibe. Because resampling happens after the returns and master, you
could use this method to capture the solod reverbs I talked about earlier.
A non-standard plug-in thats effective for lo-fi sounds is Izotopes free Vinyl.
I use this to bind resampled sections together and make them sound different
again from the original parts.

Convolution Reverb

If you have Max For Live,


which is included in the
Live 9 Suite as well as
being available
separately, you have a
Convolution Reverb in the
Max Audio Effect section
of your Live Library. The
Convolution Reverb is
great for applying
samples of real-world
spaces to your reverb
palette, but its important
to realise that you can
put any kind of sound in
74

Real Speaker
Beats Fake
Speaker
Plug-ins are okay, but
nothing equals the sound
of running beats through
a real speaker, and
micing it up, then routing
it to another track in Live.
After that, mix the clean
and dirty signals for
maximum impact. EQs
and compressors are your
best friends.

there. Noises of all kinds work really well; you


can treat them like any other source sound the
reverbs controls make a lot of difference to how
they behave subtle or more obvious.
Get some outside dirt
You can reach another level of degradation by sending your sounds outside the
computer, and bringing them back in. Anything with a speaker, a line-in, or a
microphone, can work. If youve got nothing else, you probably have a voice
memo type application on your phone. Just play a sound through your studio
monitors and record it onto your phone; then sync that recording across and
load it into your set.
You can do the same thing with those little digital dictation recorders, if your
phone doesnt do it. Ive also used toy voice recorders I have a little thing that
records a few seconds; Ill record into that, then hold that up against a
microphone to record it back into Live. I like dynamic microphones better for
these activities. The reissued Stylophone is one of the best things around for
these projects not only does it have a horrible little speaker, it has a convenient
MP3 input, which you can use to connect your computer, or synth, or guitar,
and then mic it up to get the resulting
grungy sound back into your
computer. If the sound is too thin or
just too nasty, double it up with the
original, and mix them together.
Put Some
Like I said before, EQ and
Noise In
compression are very useful! Small
There
guitar amps are also good for
If you have a track with a
resampling; the good thing about
software instrument or
them, compared to toys like the
drums, rack it, then add a
chain with Operator.
Stylophone, is that you can
Create a noise patch
experiment more with mic placement
using Operators White
Noise waveform, and mix
around the larger speakers even a
it in with your original
slight change in position will affect
sound, so you get a nasty
lurking noise behind
the resulting tone. I dont personally
your track.
like using guitar amps and effects on
synths, because they come out
sounding too... guitary... but I do love
to use them on drums and vocals.
Its like I said you dont want to
use these techniques on every sound,
but theyre great for adding more
texture and glue to your mix!

Ableton Live | Technique

Build a Drum Kit


with Sample
Manipulation
Lets take this poor little audio
sample around the back and
beat it around for a while

03 >

Transpose the sample to -12 semitones. Go


to the volume envelope controls and set
decay to 60ms, sustain to -22dB, and
release to 200ms. Set Length to 4%. Raise
the Simpler volume to 18dB. Compressors
are useful to add to each of our kit sounds
see the body text for suggested settings.
Now we have a reasonable kick drum sound,
quite soft, with a little bit of a tail on it.

01 >

Start with our example clip called source.


We only want the beginning of this. Turn off
loop, and make sure the start marker is at
1.3, the beginning of the waveform, and
move the end marker to 3.3. Now right-click
in the waveform, in-between those markers,
and choose crop sample. This will discard
the unwanted sections of the sample.

04
02>

Create an empty drum rack in a new MIDI


track. Drag the cropped sample into the racks
C1 pad. This automatically loads an instance
of Simpler, with the samples waveform
displayed. Lets make a kick drum. Inside
Simpler, turn on the filter and set it to low
pass. Set the Freq to 150Hz and the Res to
2.00. Keep testing the sounds by triggering
them from your keyboard.

Snare time. Drag the sample onto the D1 pad.


Set volume to 8dB, filter to HP12, and Freq
800Hz, Res 2.50. Set Start: 11.9%, Length
10%. Transpose +5. Set Decay 300ms,
Sustain -8.6, Release 7.00s, Spread 10%.
Rename the chains as you go. Now add two
percussion sounds, on E1 and F1. For Perc 1,
set filter to LP12, Freq 22.0kHz, Res 0.70...

05 >

Set Start to 28.6%, Length to 10%. Set


Decay to 300ms, Sustain -8.0dB, Release
267ms. Transpose +12, and Pan 15R.
Volume to 6.00dB. Duplicate this chain to
create Perc 2. Change Transpose to +24,
Sustain to -5.4dB, Release to 8.00ms, and
Pan to 15L. Refer to our body text for more
about compression, and our example set for
before/after versions of the sample.

75

If you would like to import a large number of audio samples in Ableton Live and keymap them to
individual keys , do these things.

1. Open up an instance of the Sampler instrument


2. Select all the audio files you would like to keymap at one time and drag them to the sampler.You can
either do this by dragging samples from Lives session or arrange view or from a directory on your
computer.

3. Select Zone and then select every zone by using Command A for Mac or CTRL A for Windows

4. Move the ends of the keymap display so the number of spanned keys is equal to the number of
samples.

5. Right click and choose Distribute Ranges Equally

The result should be each sample keymapped to it's own individual note.

mixer basics / make music now <

Signal paths, routing and grouping


Much of the mixers power lies in its ability to
interrupt, route and re-route signals for practical
or creative purposes. Each channel strip has a
pan control, allowing a sound to be positioned
between the left and right speakers, replicating
instruments locations on a (virtual) soundstage.
To achieve this, each channels output is
divided into two left and right outputs behind
the scenes. If a pan control is set fully left, the
right sides gain will be reduced, and output of
the left side will be raised by a certain amount to
compensate for the overall drop in level (usually
+3dB). This means a stereo sound isnt truly
moved across the stereo field, so an external
plugin (eg, Logics Directional Mixer) must be
used if you want to truly reposition a stereo
sound without just turning down one side of it.

PRE-FADER
SEND

RETURNS

POST-FADER
SEND

Insert pun

Insert slots allow you to place a plugin effect at


a certain point in the channels signal flow to
alter the audios characteristics at that point.
When positioned pre-fader, the effect will occur
before the channels volume fader in the signal
path, so level changes will not affect the inserted
devices effect. This is the most common insert
type and is useful for level-dependent plugins
such as compressors, noise gates or distortion.
When a plugin is inserted post-fader,
changes to the volume sliders position affect
the input level of that effect. This can be useful,
say, if you want a frequency analysers display to
alter when that channels volume is changed. Be
aware of this difference, otherwise you may
painstakingly tweak a compressor post-fader,
then turn up the fader, causing it to be
compressed much harder and ruining the effect
you carefully dialled in.
By default, each of a mixers channels will
travel directly to the master output fader, but
sometimes it may be more practical to take a
group of similar tracks for processing together
using one channel strip. Drum elements, for

> Step by step

GROUP

MASTER
The signal flow of a virtual mixer is practically the same as that of a physical mixing desk, but its more customisable

example, are often processed as a whole. Some


DAWs can now create a group channel at the
click of a mouse, but a more hands-on method
is to create a new channel and set its input as
the outputs of the tracks you wish to group. The
exact method varies from DAW to DAW, so
again, break out that manual and read up on it.
Grouping tracks becomes even more flexible
when routing groups to other groups. Route ten
vocal channels as appropriate to two groups
named Lead Vocals and Backing Vocals, then
send those two groups to a final Vocals group.

Sends and returns

Another feature of a mixing desk is the auxiliary

send. This creates a copy of your signal either


pre- or post-fader, routing as much or as little of
it as you wish (controlled by the send knob) to a
return channel. This routing can be sent from
multiple channels and is commonly used to
apply reverb, delay, etc, to a mix.
We could, say, send vocals, guitar and snare
to Buss 1 in varying amounts, and set Buss 1 as
the input to a new return channel. This channel
will play the three elements balanced in relation
to the send levels we set. If we add a reverb
insert effect to the return channel, and set that
reverb to 100% wet, the return channel enables
us to adjust the reverb signal for the vocals,
guitar and snare using a single channel strip.

2. Exploring the difference between pre and post-fader sends

Lets look at the difference between


using sends and returns in pre-fader
and post-fader mode a concept featured
in most DAWs. Weve imported a loop onto
a new track in Ableton Live 9 and set up a
Reverb on a new Return track. The
reverbs Dry/Wet is set to 100% so that
only its effected signal can be heard
coming out of the return, as is standard
practice for effects on a return channel.

Lets now send our loops signal in


parallel to the return track using the
tracks Send amount. By default, Lives
returns are set up in Post Fader mode,
shown by the yellow Post button on the
master channel. If we pull down our loops
channel fader, we can hear the reverb
drop in level with it. This is because the
loops signal is sent after the level fader in
the signal path.

We now switch our send mode to


Pre-Fader. As we pull down the loops
Volume fader, this time the volume of our
return track remains at a high level,
unaffected by the position of our channels
fader. This is because the send signal is
sent to the return before the volume fader,
ie, pre-fader.

November 2013 / COMPUTER MUSIC / 69

MT Technique Composition & Experimentation in Live

Ableton Live Become a Live Power User

Compose &
experiment
New
Series
Part 3

What do you do when you run out of ideas and hit that brick wall in composition? Experiment!
Liam OMullane guides you through Lives tools for experimental work

here are many moments in music composition


when you might feel the need for experimenting,
or using tools you might not normally turn to. You
could be suffering from writers block and not
know where to take your work next, or perhaps
youre stuck on the first idea and need something to kick
start it all off. Or maybe you are nearing the end of your song
writing and feel the track still needs something better
within it. Theres always the option to step away from your
work and think about new ideas, but the only problem with

On the disc
Accompanying
project file included
on the DVD

You should see this as a


challenge: how far can you take
an idea to create a new one
this is that it might not take you into any
new territories it is still you and
probably the same thought processes
you always use, after all! Experimenting
is a much better way and opens up
many new possibilities and could result
in some of your most unique work yet.
This doesnt mean that your musical
integrity is compromised in any way.
Youre simply leaving an interpretation
of your work in the hands of somewhere
else, just as you would if you
collaborated with another person. The

FOCUS ON MAKING THE


MOST OF YOUR EFFORTS
Live has one of the simplest ways of dealing with
the individual contents of a project. At any given
time you can search the contents of another
project in the Live browser and drag any tracks or
individual clips out and into your currently loaded
session. This also works in reverse, so if you have
a good idea but it may not suit the current project
youre working on, grab the top of the track or a
clip respectively, then drag it to a sensible place
for easy access in the future. I have a folder called
song ideas which I drag every unused idea into.
Live also lets you preview these ideas in tempo
with your project, meaning you can audition your
own ideas in the same context as you would with
audio loops.

44 | November 2013

MAGAZINE

main different is that youre collaborating with your


computer, but like working with other people, you still get to
approve, dismiss or amend any ideas put on the table.
There are many times Ive completely re-worked an idea
to see where it could go and Ive rarely found the efforts to
be worthless. These changes might transform a lifeless idea
into something much more upbeat, or create various other
instances of an idea I can use for variations or fills at the
end of a phrase. So try not to be too precious when going
through the techniques covered in this workshop. You
should instead see this as a challenge: how far can you take
an idea to create a completely new one? The process can be
quite inspirational and potentially give you a new key part to
your latest work. MT

Composition & Experimentation in Live Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step Experimental MIDI

Well start with some of the most musical forms of manipulation,


for when you dont want to move too far away from a musical
structure you may have already created. Under the MIDI effects tab
you will find many tools to play with. Were starting with the
Arpeggiator which is useful for quickly transforming simple ideas into
something more animated.

Weve gone from an incredibly simple melody with a single note


per beat to a flourish of notes using two arpeggiators. This
arpeggiator began its life from the C Major Walk 16th Grooved preset
which we then modified through changing the rate for faster runs and
transpose was changed from major to minor to suit the existing
melody more.

We then placed a second arpeggiator device and tweaked this to


produce more movement to the melody. For further changes to
this set-up you can feed the arpeggiator more notes using a chord
device. You then just move the Pitch dials for each note you add and
tweak until you like the results.

Another way to explore new possibilities is to use a Random


device which, as youd expect, creates random events from your
existing MIDI material. Tweak its settings so the Chance amount is high
for less repetition, then experiment with other parameters.

To record the results of any experimentation with MIDI effects,


add a new MIDI Track, select the output of the track you want to
record from the top MIDI From menu, then select Post FX so all your
processing is captured. New MIDI clips will be created when you record
with all the new content as notes, meaning you can manually edit
these parts to perfection.

Dont think that this type of experimentation is only reserved for


melodic work. Try dragging these effects to your drum ideas.
Because drum kit layouts rarely use all of the MIDI notes available,
youll need to bare this in mind when you tweak parameters otherwise
the majority of the notes being created could be triggering nothing.

01

03

05

02

04

06

MAGAZINE November 2013 |

45

MT Technique Composition & Experimentation in Live

MT Step-by-Step Creative audio processing

Certain aspects of audio processing are considered mixing aids,


like compression, EQ and so on. But other effects can become
part of your creative process. For instance an immediate and drastic
way to change your ideas into something rhythmic is to add an Auto
Pan device.

You can take this a step further by automating its sync value so
rhythmic changes become an integral part of your idea. For quick
automation either hit the Arrangement Record Button in arrangement
view or the Session Record Button for session view. Then tweak away
to record your movement.

Auto Pan works best on sounds with a constant output whereas


delays can be useful for the opposite situation when you have
more sporadic notes. Try adding a Simple Delay device and exploring
the Delay Time values, press Link if you dont want a stereo effect and,
of course, explore automation too.

The time aspect of your ideas can also be manipulated through


the use of Lives Beat Repeat device. This can add a mash-up/edit
like aspect to your work so it saves the need for you to get heavily into
editing for a quick re-work. Explore the library presets, especially
Decontruct which will heavily change your current sound.

For musical pitch changes to an audio file over time you need
to automate the clips Tranpose control. But for sound-design
styles of pitch change, try Frequency Shifter as this doesnt keep
the harmonic relationships intact which adds a nastier tone to
your sounds.

Thankfully turning any audio processed into a new, rendered clip


is much simpler than working with MIDI effects. Just Right [PC] /
Ctrl [Mac] + Click the top of a track in session view or its header to the
right in arrangement view. Select Freeze Track from the menu, then
right click again and select Flatten.

01

03

05

46 | November 2013

MAGAZINE

02

04

06

MT Technique Composition & Experimentation in Live

MT Step-by-Step Max For Live devices

For those who own Live Suite, you can use many of the Max for
Live devices for experimental work as well. A good starting point
is Mono Sequencer if you dont have anything created already. Its a
monophonic step sequencer but its Random button is the real winner
for unexpected results.

The Random button randomizes whichever of the five tabs are


selected at anytime - Pitch, Velocity, Octave, Duration and
Repeat. If youre close to getting something you like, keep Random set
to a lower percentage, but if you want complete change with each
click, set this to 100%.

Drunk Again is an interesting device as it adds Randoms rapid


repeats of notes within the playback of your MIDI clip. Its best
recorded for a while to capture the magic moments. We like this on
percussion parts to help them get the glitch treatment.

Instant Haus is another interesting device as its designed to


drive kick, snare/clap, hi-hat and percussion parts for immediate
house music. Run this into an instrument and you might get results
similar to Mono Sequencer, but the random section includes groove if
you want to explore timing.

When it comes to adjusting parameters over time there are a few


tools with Max that allow you to do this, with an added twist of
being able to use another sound as the trigger for the sound youre
focussing on. Alongside your melody idea, set up a drum source. Here
were using a simple drum loop.

Under Audio Effects in the Max for Live folder, grab an Envelope
Follower and drag this to the drum track. This will follow the
rhythmic amplitude changes of the drum sound. You can then click
Map followed by clicking the parameter you wish to control to connect
them together.

01

03

05

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MAGAZINE

02

04

06

MT Technique Audio recording & editing in Live

Ableton Live Become a Live Power User

Audio recording
and editing in Live
New
Series
Part 4

Whether you intend to record a multi-miced performance or just the odd found sound, youll
need to understand how recording and editing works in Live. Liam OMullane explains...

ince part one of this Become a Power User


series, weve covered programming techniques,
getting the most out of Push and composition
and experimentation. But although we covered
the ins and outs of setting up low-latency
performance in Live in part one, its not until now that
weve focused specifically on the recording process itself.
Like many aspects of Live, theres more than one way to
skin a cat, and when it comes to recording audio, the main
option is whether to record in Arrangement or Session
View. The first two walkthroughs will guide you through

Accompanying
project file included
on the DVD

Its notuntilnowthatweve
focusedspecificallyonthe
recordingprocessitself
both approaches, but like the different approaches to
editing described in the third step-by-step, one size does
not fit all. So take the techniques discussed onboard, but
its only through repeated use that youll gain a personal
context for their use. This time is needed to decide which
approach best suits your own preferences for workflow
and the tasks you will typically undertake. For instance,
pitch-correction (covered in the third walkthrough) can be
applied by using many of the excellent Warp modes
available. While these will allow you to preserve the timing
of your recordings, a side effect can be that the sound
quality is compromised as it stretches or condenses your

FOCUS ON CUE MIXING


When recording,you may need to create a custom headphone mix for a
performer that differs from the mix you want to listen to as you record.This
headphone mix could include lots of reverb for a vocalist,helping them to feel
comfortable while performing,and perhaps a loud melodic instrument to help
them stay in-tune.A drummer may want everything but themselves in their
headphones as their drums are already loud enough.Whatever your
requirements,you will most likely need to route the Cue output of Live to the
relevant output on your interface to feed the headphones.This needs to be a
different output from that used for the Master output of Live,otherwise it will
merely copy the main mix.The Cue output will play back any pre-count and the
metronome,if required,but it can also send other audio from your project to the
performers headphones.A Cue option appears above the Cue level control after
selecting its separate audio output settings.When enabled,this will turn all
solo buttons into a headphone icon.For quick set-up you can simply enable the
relevant icon to send those channels to the headphones.For an independent
mix of tracks,send only a single return track to the Cue out and instead use the
other tracks send controls to blend the desired balance of instruments to the
headphones via this return track.

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audio to keep it in-time after re-pitching. You can minimise


this by using different Warp modes on either a global or
edit-by-edit basis as required, but the good, old-fashioned
vari-speed approach can also come in handy when you
want to completely avoid any time-stretch-based
artefacts. But this isnt artefact-free, either, as the sound
will suffer from timing distortions as you alter pitch. So
after hearing the differences between the two, youll have a
better idea of which approach is the most appropriate for
the task at hand.
Before hitting record, also make sure that youre set up
for the desired bit-depth and sample rate. Bit-depth
dictates the available dynamic range in your recordings,
with 24-bit being a typical choice. Sample rates represent
the highest frequency limit (once halved) of your
recordings, and there are all sorts of arguments as to
which setting is best. In general, the higher the fidelity you
want, the higher the sample rate needs to be. Orchestral
recordings tend to be recorded at 88.2kHz or above. Most
electronic music can be set to anywhere from 44.1kHz and
above. Sample rate can be altered after opening
Preferences from the Options/Live (PC/Mac) menu and
selecting Audio from the left-hand tab. For bit-depth, click
the Record Launch Warp tab. MT

Audio recording & editing in Live Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step Recording in Arrangement View

You can choose to record in both Session and Arrangement


Views.This can be when Live is already in the middle of playback
or you can use a pre-count to count in the start of both recording and
playback at the same time.The metronome button has a menu for
tailoring the duration of pre-count for the performers needs.

To capture a natural performance, its best not to focus on


smaller sections and loop around them. Instead, use Live in a
purely linear mode by making sure that Loop Switch is disabled, then
record the performance from start to finish.This will result in a much
more natural-sounding recording than working in small sections.

If you want to record multiple takes with this non-looping


approach, its best to record each new take to a different track.
You can then accurately split each part by disabling Snap To Grid from
the Options menu and using Split from the Edit menu.The [0] key can
be used to disable takes when determining the best ones.

If a performer cant quite nail a full take or did a good job but
small sections might benefit from a re-take, you can use Lives
punch-in/-out function. Click and highlight the area to focus on and
select Loop Selection to move the Loop Brace. Press the Punch-In/Out Switch (in yellow) to map to the Loop Braces start and end points.
Recording will now take place only between these two points.

Another approach is to track multiple recordings by cycling over a


small section repeatedly.This is useful if you want to ad-lib and
try out multiple different ideas. Start by looping around the area of
focus, then record various times until you think there are sufficient
decent parts to work with.

The audio clip that youve recorded will have an internal Loop
Brace thats the length of your clip.To audition the other takes,
simply move the Loop Brace around to change the content of the clip.
This avoids the alternative, lengthy approach of moving and extending
the clip to gain access to the other takes.

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MT Technique Audio recording & editing in Live

MT Step-by-Step Recording in Session View

Session View can be useful for Arrangement View-like cycle


recording, except that clips are recorded to separate slots, which
keeps things easier to deal with visually. If you intend to work in a
linear way you can simply hit record in an empty clip slot and record
continuously, then drag the file into Arrangement View for editing.

Multiple takes can be recorded separately by creating multiple


tracks with their Arm buttons enabled.Then, as long as Start
Recording on Scene Launch is enabled from the Preferences menu,
you just trigger a scene to start playback and recording of your
multiple takes. Alter each clips Loop Brace position as in Step 6 of the
previous walkthrough so that they represent each take.

Now that you have your recordings, you can either drag them into
Arrangement View for editing, or use an exclusive method within
Session View.This technique is much more hands-on and less
graphically-based. Once youve set up your Loop Braces to represent
each take, drag the recordings to one track so you can play back only
one take at a time.

Highlighting your recordings, open the Launch Box, enable Legato


mode and set Quantization to none. Legato allows you to move
from playing one clip to another without losing the playback position.
This lets you jump between one take and the other like a manual edit.
The lack of Quantization means launching of clips will be immediate.

Next, assign computer keys or MIDI notes to each clip using


either Key Map mode or MIDI Map mode from the top right of the
screen. Now you can launch the takes with your fingers and jam out
potential edits of the recordings. We find that this helps you listen to
how the edits alter the performance, and you can practice until you
think it sounds right.

When youre ready to commit your compiling to Live, hit the


Arrangement Record Button to capture your performance in
Arrangement View. From here you can fine-tune and edit between
parts. Drag the takes back to Session View if necessary after
consolidating it to a new audio file via the Edit menu.

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Audio recording & editing in Live Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step Editing techniques

There are several key tools youll need to work with when editing
a performance. If youve already comped from various takes youll
have multiple clips sequenced one after another. Live will
automatically smooth-out the edits youve made with a crossfade.To
view and edit these, select Show Fades from the Create menu.
Fade-ins/-outs can also be controlled in this way.

When trying to improve the timing of smaller edits, rather than


trying to move the clips, move their content instead just grab
the Start Marker in the Sample Editor window to move the content and
disable Snap To Grid for more accuracy. Re-size the clip to avoid
abruptly chopping off the sounds start or end points.

Disabling Warp mode from the Sample View allows you to


re-pitch your audio clips for correction purposes using varispeed.This means that the audios duration will expand or contract as
you go down or up in pitch respectively. Use the Transpose and Detune
amounts to correct your audios pitch.

Lives Warp mode can be used when you want to edit the timing
within an audio clip but leave the pitch information intact.
Pseudo Warp Markers will appear above the waveform in the Sample
Editor.These can be double-clicked and dragged to condense or
expand the clips content.

Like tuning a non-warped clip,Transpose and Detune can be


used with Warp mode enabled as long as its set to anything but
Re-Pitch mode. Finer tuning through Detune is best for minor
corrections, but this can have only a static setting per clip, so Split
each area to be corrected and set the Detune on a part-by-part basis.

If you plan on warping a multi-audio recording like drum mics or


various instruments from a live performance, first ensure that all
audio to be edited is the same length (Consolidate all pieces to a new
length from the Edit menu if needed). Highlight the parts, edit one
clips Warp Markers and the others will follow.The striped pattern
across the top of the clip confirms you are in a grouped Warp mode.

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Producing authentic drum & bass Tutorial MT

Powered by

Technique Genre focus

Authentic and original


drum & bass Part1
Arguably one of the most difficult electronic genres to master, D&B veteran Liam OMullane
explains the core techniques for achieving an authentic production sound.

longside genres such as techno and trance,


drum & bass is one of the more mature styles
that has constantly pushed the boundaries of
electronic music production. And although
many people regard dubstep to be the most
innovative and perhaps less rules-driven genres of modern
times, D&B started its life in much the same way.
During the first half of the 90s, a large part of the rave
scene was splintering off to become hardcore, and as
another offshoot of this development, jungle was born. From
jungle through to its evolution into D&B in the early-to-mid90s, the genre has always pushed the boundaries in terms
of how technology can be used creatively.

Accompanying
project file included
on the DVD

Yourkeyfocusshouldbeto
experimentuntilyoustumble
onsomethingunique
In this two-part series we will be looking at the four core
elements that apply to all the sub-genres that have emerged
over the years bass design, drum production, decorative
sounds/melodies and arrangement dynamics. Unless you
are planning to produce yet another for
to compete with the existing big comme

you will be aiming to create music that will have the


necessary production values to sit happily in your list of
respected artists. But in a genre this mature, many styles
and ideas have already been done to death, so you will also
need to strive for originality in your work.
Your key focus should be to experiment until you stumble
on something unique, so the bass and drum techniques
were about to discuss will give you the baseline knowledge
needed to successfully take an exploration into sound, then
package that into a balanced musical production. It can take
an artist years to craft and perfect the sound that ends up
defining them, so dont expect to bang out deep, detailed
tracks which conjure up vivid imagery to the listener after
just reading this. But do note that although there are many
tutorials out there that aim to teach you how to sound like
big-name artists who already own the rights to the sound
theyve carved in the genre if you stick with the
fundamentals we cover here youll find it much easier to take
experimentation and make it work as a finished track. So set
your sequencers tempo to between 170180BPM
(depending on your mood!) and lets get started. MT
This tutorial has been endorsed by ACM, The Academy of Contemporary
Music, world leaders in music industry education. ACMs Audio Production
School provides Diploma (one-year) and Degree (two-year) courses in
Contemporary Music Production, Electronic Music Production, Creative
Sound Design and Tour Production & Management.
www acm ac uk T: 01483 500800

FOCUS ON
PROGRAMMING DETAILS
Although copy and paste are functions that
are embedded in modern computing life,
using them or a duplicate-part function as
a general writing and arranging technique
isnt the key to achieving tracks with a deep
sense of detail.However,were not saying
that you cant start a general idea as a loop,
but you should definitely keep the loop
minimally short 1,2 or 4 bars before
extending the idea.Anything longer will
invite you to be lazy when it comes to
adding variation and detail to your work at a
later stage.Instead,try to expand an idea by
writing new parts one after another.You can
copy smaller sections from the content of
previous parts,just try to avoid global
copying of all parts and their content.A
better approach is to pinch and borrow
little bits here and there,then vary them as
you progress.

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Producing authentic drum & bass Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step Drum work

The only requirement for the main drum sounds in D&B is that
they need enough presence to sound strong enough on their own
before you add decorative sounds. For the kick and snare were starting
with two samples chosen for their weight and good transient snap.
Weve then programmed four bars with variation.

From here were going to explore layering possibilities to lend an


individual tone to our drums. Due to the faster tempo in D&B than
other genres, its important to keep the lower-frequency elements
quite short in duration. Keep a keen ear on this by using fades or ADSR
amplitude control.These can be used to carefully tighten each new
sound as you add it.

When adding new drum layers, utilise high-pass, band-pass or an


EQ filter to remove any unnecessary frequencies that may clash
with other drum sounds and mix elements as the song progresses.
Weve achieved a woody-sounding kick and piccolo snare tone were
happy with by creating a few layers, but dont be opposed to changing
sounds as your song and mix demand.

Anything from hi-hats to sliced breakbeats can be used to add


more rhythmic information to your core sounds. A filtered break
slice is often used as a textural layer to the kick and snare, but weve
used it between the main hits in a sparing fashion and filtered them so
they dont sound too dominating. Also try high-pass-filtering long
sounds to give a sense of space to your drum sound as a whole.

As you may have guessed, layering is going to play a pretty large


part here too. Weve duplicated our lead track, which gives us six
saw waves to play with. Its sounding really nice and buzzy now, so we
dial in a little reverb to give it even more space and character. We dont
actually have our lead playing all the time rather, it kicks in every
second bar or so.

Although the commercial side of D&B became very loud over the
last decade, modern underground releases allow more room for a
mix to breathe. So dont overdo processing like limiting, hard-clipping
or any other effects designed to max-out a signal.Try achieving more
power by sidechaining sounds other than your kick and snare having
these drop by just 24dB is enough for a solid yet dynamic sound.

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MT Technique Producing authentic drum & bass

MT Step-by-Step Bass design and re-sampling

Whether you plan to keep an instrument live throughout the


production process or intend to re-sample it (which tends to be
the case in D&B), both approaches start with a sound source of
discernible pitch or more noise-like and pitchless character.The latter
can be achieved with drastic pitch variations or heavy use of FM,
ring-modulation or any other heavily discordant processing.

Theres no set rules for the type of waveforms you can select here,
but youll generally find that a bigger sound is achieved by using
square waves within your mix of synth layers. Saw waves offer a lot of
edge that cuts across a mix; highly pitched sine or triangle waves are
useful for achieving softer tones. Make sure that you also explore the
best octave for each layer as you stack synths or oscillators.

The next step is to add movement to your sound.The best


starting point is to play with any controls as you listen for
something interesting. Use the more coarse-sounding changes to
develop a unique character. At this stage, try to assign an envelope or
LFO to these parameters so they can be triggered as you play.

If you plan on re-sampling your sound, this is the point at which


you can pile on processing effects without worrying about getting
in a tangle with automation later on. Explore parameter changes with
effects as you did in the last step and record them as automation.
Common effect choices are phaser, notch-filtering and stereo width/
widening tools. But here, anything goes.

Re-sampling is the most practical way to deal with these large


effects chains and automation recordings. Before sampling,
explore the best note to record as some will have a certain sonic
sweetness over others. After recording them into your DAW, drag the
audio into a sampler and explore the possibilities with this (and any
other re-sampled bass sounds youve created).

A designated sub-layer is essential for the low-end weight


needed in D&B.These are often stacked sine waves with
octave- or harmonic-based intervals. Alternatively, triangle waves can
be quite useful when low-pass-filtered for a thicker sound. Keep the
sub as a separate instrument rather than a layer with other sounds so
it can either play in unison or be varied from the other parts.

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Orbital Chime Deconstruction MT

MT Step-by-Step Key elements

Looking at the elements of the original, were back in classicgear-land. Orbital famously triggered hardware such as the
Roland TB-303 and TR-909 live via Alesis MMT8 sequencers.These
sequences were then triggered around particular bar lengths, and this
approach can quite easily be replicated in software like

Ableton Live. Here, the various tracks of the song are broken
down from left to right (drums, chords, two bass lines) while the
aforementioned sequences sit as clips within each one. The tracks
bass line follows the chord progression throughout, so we need to
work out what that is, but first, lets get the key of the tune.

To find this out its a good idea to load in an mp3 of the original
and simply play along, but weve done the hard work and can
reveal that it is E flat major (notes E flat, F, G, A flat, B flat, C, D, E flat).
Now to look at the songs structure in a little more depth...

The opening sequence is a set of chordal stabs.The easiest way


to re-create this is to sample the sequence and loop it as it plays
solo at the start. But thats cheating, so you could sample an individual
stab and trigger it in Lives sampler as shown here (the pattern repeats
over a couple of bars). If you want to re-create the original chords, go
for a string-like sound with a short attack based around E flat major.

The main bass sound was created with a classic Yamaha FM


module, the TX81Z, using a preset called the LatelyBass. If you
want to re-create this it sounds rather like a plucked bass sound with
rich and mellow tones a sound that underpinned many a dance track
back in the day.

The sound is available in software instruments like NIs FM8


(shown and from the FM7 bank) or a freeware synth for Windows
called OXE FM (from www.oxesoft.com). Any bass sound with a
plucked attack and middling decay will do. Over the first part of the
track the only notes the bass plays are E flat and B flat, which follow
the chord progression over two changes.

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Orbital Chime Deconstruction MT

MT Step-by-Step Key elements... contd

The second section of the song follows a longer progression of


the chords, however.These six chords are: G, B flat, E flat; D, F, B
flat; C, E flat, A flat; A, C, F; B, D, G; and G, B flat, E flat. Rhythmically,
think of each of the six chords in the above order as numbered 16 and
play and record them as 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 2, 4, 4, 5, 6.

As before, the TX bass line follows these chords as the following


sequence of single notes: E flat, B flat, A flat, F, G, E flat (one
octave down).Youll notice this is the top note of each chord above.
Rhythmically, again think of each bass note numbered 16 and play
and record them again as the 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 2, 4, 4, 5, 6 combination.

Thats the main chord sequence and bass line sorted.Theres also
a squelchy 303 bass in there as there was on just about every
track back then.There are many free synths that will give you this
sound and youll probably find it in the arsenal of synths that come
with your DAW, but here weve used the Analog synth in Live.

This squelchy line initially follows the first bass line over E flat
and B flat, but instead of falling just goes up to note C.To be
honest, this is where you can freestyle a little, and as you record, feel
free to record automating the frequency on whatever synth you are
using for extra acid squelchiness.

More on the sounds.The beats in a lot of classic dance (and


indeed modern dance!) come via TR-808 and 909 drum samples,
and wed be very surprised if you dont have these kicking (sorry)
around in your sample library or within a drum instrument.

Finally, the main chordal sound comes by way of an analogue


lead and Lives Chord device, which fattens it out into chords
following the E flat major. And thats it.The great thing about using Live
is that you can now trigger these sequences in pretty much the same
way as Orbital did originally the perfect marriage of old and new.

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