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OVER THREE HOURS OF PRO VIDEO TUITION

ABLETON LIVE 9 2013 THE IN-DEPTH GUIDE FOR THE CREATIVE MUSICIAN

ABLETON LIVE 9

THE IN-DEPTH GUIDE FOR THE CREATIVE MUSICIAN

2013
TAKE YOUR LIVE
PRODUCTIONS
TO THE NEXT LEVEL

132

ABLETON PUSH
HOW TO MAKE
THE MOST OF THE
HARDWARE

ISBN 978-1-909590-24-3

8.99

9 781909 590243

MusicTech Focus: Ableton Live 2013

www.musictech.net

42 pages of in-depth workshops


50 tips to be a Live power user
DJ to producer all you need to know
Record, mix and master like a pro
DVD: Over 3 hours of pro tuition videos

PAGES OF
LIVE 9
TIPS & TRICKS

Compiled by the Ableton Live experts from MusicTech

Launch
Your
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The Novation Launch family is growing.
Effortlessly create, control, and launch your
music. Combine our expanding range of
complementary instruments and apps and
power them with your Mac, PC, and iPad;
Launch, in the studio or on the move.

www.novationmusic.com/launch

Welcome MTF

Welcome

Welcome to MusicTechs 2013 Ableton Live Focus. With the release of


Live v1, Ableton completely shook up the world of sequencing, singlehandedly reinventing the wheel overnight and welcoming a whole new
audience of producers to the joys of computer music-making. No longer
was sequencing just about left, right, up and down Live literally
breathed new life into music production and performance, and set the
worlds of DJing and production on a collision course that spawned new
global acts and even music genres in the process. With Push, Ableton is
at it again, taking the whole concept of
the DAW by the scruff of the neck and
giving it the once-over, combining
hardware with software like never
before turning controller into
instrument and making the software
more of a performance tool than ever.
In this special issue we celebrate the
latest version of Live with new and
updated tutorials on every aspect of the software. Weve plenty on Push, too, including our first hands-on
tutorial and hours of video guides on the DVD. Add to that features on becoming a top-level producer plus
everything you need for a top-spec Live studio and we really do believe you will take your productions up a
few levels with just this one magazine. Let me know how you get on, and dont forget to look for more Live
content at MusicTech.net.

Ableton is taking the concept of


the DAW by the scruff of the neck
and giving it the once-over

Andy Jones Senior Editor


andy.jones@anthem-publishing.com

Business Dev Manager Di Marsh


di.marsh@anthem-publishing.com
MUSICTECH FOCUS MAGAZINE
www.musictech.net
Anthem Publishing Ltd
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London Road, Bath BA1 6PL
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Editorial Director Paul Pettengale


paul.pettengale@anthem-publishing.com
Senior Editor Andy Jones
andy.jones@anthem-publishing.com
Art Editor Kai Wood
kai.wood@anthem-publishing.com
Features Editor Liam OMullane
liam.omullane@anthem-publishing.com
Multimedia Editor Alex Holmes
alex.holmes@anthem-publishing.com

Contributors
Grant Bridgeman, Mark Cousins, Keith
Gemmell, Alex Holmes, Hollin Jones, John
Pickford, Huw Price, Russ Hepworth-Sawyer
Art Director Jenny Cook
jenny.cook@anthem-publishing.com
Advertising Director Simon Lewis
simon.lewis@anthem-publishing.com
Managing Director Jon Bickley
jon.bickley@anthem-publishing.com
Licensing enquiries Jon Bickley
+44 (0) 1225 489984
www.anthem-publishing.com
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focus Ableton Live 8 Volume 2

| 03

MTF Contents

Issue 32

Ableton Live 9 2013

ABLETON
LIVE 9 2013
132 pages of Live know-how! With a record
number of tutorial workshops, features on DJing,
performing, mixing and mastering, plus plenty of
tips to speed up your workflow, we are confident
that this special MusicTech Focus will turn you
into an Ableton Live Power User.

Feature

Feature

Max For Live


explored p50

Push it!
Its more instrument than controller.
Find out how to make the most of
Push here p38
4 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

MTF Interview

Erin Barra

Making the most of


Ableton Live live p20

Contents MTF

p120

Reviews

MTF Issue 32 Full listings

Create the ultimate Live


studio with this lot

007 | Feature Become a


recording studio Power User
015 | Feature From DJ to Producer
020 | Interview Erin Barra
026 | Tutorial Mix and workflow
030 | Tutorial Tools for a live
performance

p116

p118

p108

034 | Tutorial Programming


technique and workflow
038 | Tutorial Making the most of
Abletons Push
042 | Tutorial 50 Power User Tips
for Live 9 and Push
050 | Tutorial Understanding Max
For Live
056 | Interview Dennis DeSantis
060 | Interview Phon.o
062 | Tutorial Getting creative
with Lives synths

Become a Live power-user


with these tutorials...

MTF Tutorials

068 | Tutorial Bass design with


Operator
072 | Tutorial Sends and returns

p68
p76

076 | Tutorial Drum sounds and


devices in Live
080 | Tutorial Sound-on-sound
recording in Looper
084 | Tutorial Creative automation
088 | Tutorial Mastering music for
club and radio play

p88

092 | Tutorial DIY acoustics


098 | Tutorial 10MM Studio
connectivity
100 | Subscribe and save!

p84

102 | Feature Best software


synths and freeware
108 | Review Live 9 and Push
112 | Review Livid Instruments
Base controller

p26

113 | Review Soundiron Acoustic


and Electric Saz
114 | Review Steinberg UR22

From DJ to
Producer
p15

115 | Review 8DioBoe


116 | Review Project Sam Lumina
117 | Review MWobbler
118 | Review Novation Launchpad
119 | Review Hybrid 2
Project Alpha
120 | Review Focusrite
Scarlett Studio
121 | Reviews Mini Reviews
130 | Whats on your MTF DVD

focus Ableton Live 2013

|5

FREE COPY OF ABLETON LIVE 9

WITH ONLINE CERTIFICATE PROGRAM


GO TO WWW.POINTBLANKONLINE.NET/ABLETON FOR DETAILS
W W W. P O I N T B L A N K O N L I N E . N E T
For course enquiries call +44(0)20 7729 4884 or email advice@pointblankonline.net

Become a power user: studio set-up Feature MTF

MTF Masterclass Studio Technique

BECOME A
P WER USER
If you feel your approach to music-making or the kit you use to do it needs reassessing, its
time to look at your entire studio with fresh eyes. Hollin Jones goes back to basics.

he process of making music is a multi-layered one and there is an


awful lot to learn. Most people spend years getting to grips with the
various different skills involved and, in truth, few (if any) ever stop
learning theres always something to improve or a new trick to
pick up. To the uninitiated it can seem daunting a world full of
jargon and technology that threatens to overwhelm newcomers. Even for
people who are familiar with one aspect of music-making, a different area
might seem baffling if they have not ventured there before.
Getting your studio environment right can also be a continuous learning
process. There is so much gear, so many options, and its tough to get the right
guidance on what you should be buying. This is compounded by the fact that
such advice depends
heavily on what kind
of music youre
making. If you plan to
record rock bands in
a garage studio, for
example, youre going
to need a fairly
different setup from
someone looking to make dubstep on a laptop. Other aspects, however, are
common to any producer or musician: youre going to need a computer, some
software, some hardware and, above all, the right approach to recording, mixing
and monitoring. Even factors such as your physical surroundings make a
difference in terms of how smoothly things tend to go.
What were going to do here is discuss every aspect of studio creation and
upgrading: from first steps, through choosing kit to avoiding common mistakes,
false economies and the many pitfalls we have overcome. This isnt just for
people starting out, because even if you have already built your studio there
should be plenty to learn. After all, we all know studios are never really complete
we can always upgrade! So you will be able to dip into the various sections to
find out more about things such as the best way to spec-up your studio
computer, or how to improve the ergonomics of your working space. Read on and
turn your studio into a power setup!

Even if you have a studio


set up there are always ways to
improve it and your workflow

focus Ableton Live 2013

|7

MTF Feature Become a power user: studio set-up

First things first:


space & kit issues

Kitting out a studio is a compromise between


your ambitions, budget and neighbour relations...

our approach to setting up your studio


will depend largely on how you are
planning to work, your aims and the
amount of space available to you. Its
impractical to try to cover every eventuality but,
broadly speaking, most people will work in one of
only a few kinds of spaces. Each one has its
advantages and challenges, though when kitted
out correctly they are all perfectly good
environments in which to make music.
Theres a good chance you are going to be
setting up a studio at home, either in a spare
room or an outbuilding of some kind. This is great
because it tends to be cheap theres no extra
rent to pay but such a setup can limit the

Tech Terms
STUDIO SPACE
The space in which you make
and record music. This could
be a desk in the corner of a
spare bedroom or a dedicated
room in any building anything
in between.
GEAR-LUST
The understandable desire
to acquire lots of equipment.
Perfectly fine, but not
necessarily essential to
making good music.

A home studio can sound great


even if it has only the bare
minimum of equipment
amount of noise youre able to make. And dont be
tempted to try to turn the house PC into a music
studio unless it happens to be of a decent spec a
dedicated machine will work much better.
A home studio, as we will see, can sound great
even if it has only the bare minimum of
equipment (as long as its carefully chosen and
properly used). So dont imagine that you need to
start buying racks of outboard, especially if
youre making electronic music. For many people,
a decent computer, some select plug-ins and a
suitable audio/MIDI interface plus good monitors
and headphones will do the job perfectly
adequately. Theres nothing to say you cant get
all the kit you want, of course and in some cases
it can be great to have more stuff but its no

Having a dedicated recording and performing space means you


can use more equipment, such as drum kits or amps.

8 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

Having a space dedicated to music making is a bonus, and having


everything within reach is even better for your workflow

longer the case that more equipment necessarily


equals a better studio. DAWs now usually come with
a great set of instruments and effects and MIDI
controllers are versatile and relatively inexpensive,
so generating and processing sound can be done
inside the computer. Well look at the merits of
working in-the-box a little later, as well as the
advantages of using a more hardware-based system
if you have that option.
A commercial space is perhaps more desirable
than a spare room, even if it means paying for it.
Youll probably end up with more space and the
psychological benefits of going out to work can be
significant. Separating yourself from the home
environment lets you think of music more as work
than entertainment, which can be useful for getting
things done. You will also have more freedom to set
up your space as you want it, though you will still

MTF Pro Advice Choosing & buying gear


Knowing where to start can seem daunting, and the people who sell you stuff
arent always quite the impartial arbiters of opinion you might hope them to be.
Thats not to say people will lie, just that there can be a commercial imperative to
pushing one product over another, regardless of whether its right for you. So
although its dull, doing your research is essential. Seek out as much opinion as
you can and, where possible, get demo versions of software before you choose to
buy. Many DAWs, for example, are quite evenly matched in terms of features but
work in different ways, so you may find you prefer one over the other simply
because of its look or feel.
Hardware is tricker to demo, but a visit to your local music store is definitely
recommended for any instruments, amps or other products that youll figure out
only by getting hands-on. Buying online makes this difficult, of course, and
wherever possible you should find out if a retailer has a returns policy should you
change your mind after buying. At the risk of self-promotion, an email to a expert
Q&A panel like ours at MusicTech can
be a good
way to cut
straight to
the best
advice when
it comes to
choosing kit.
Getting hands-on
with gear can help
so go and visit your
local music store.
(Thanks to Lisa at
Absolute Music for
the pic!)

Become a power user: studio set-up Feature MTF

A home or project studio can


produce results just as good as
those achieved in a bigger studio.

MTF Pro Advice Working from home


Working from home has lots of advantages, not least
of which is that you can do half an hour here and
there without trekking to another location, work late
and it doesnt cost anything. There are, however,
some restrictions, specifically that of noise. If you do
intend to work from home, make
sure you get some decent
headphones as you may find
yourself monitoring through
them much more frequently
than if you worked in a
dedicated studio space.
Closed-back headphones
leak much less sound than
open-backed models.
A decent pair of studio
headphones is invaluable
when working at home.

need much of the same kit as you would in a home


studio, such as isolation devices for recording,
well-placed monitors and so on. It will probably be
easier to introduce amps and perhaps even drum
kits into a dedicated space, and if youre really lucky
you may even have the option to use part of the
space as a live room and another as a separate
control room.

Regardless of the space youre


in, if youre starting from scratch
your budget is likely to be finite

Regardless of the space


youre in, if youre starting from
scratch your budget is likely to be finite, and as
such there are certain things that its better to
spend money on and others you can hold back on.
Your recording device is likely to be a computer,
and as the brain of the system its important not
to skimp on it. Similarly, your software should be
decent, though here its possible to go for a lite
or more entry-level version of a popular DAW
since they usually include the core features from
the flagship versions. Theres usually always an
upgrade path if you want to get the extra features
later on. Your audio interface doesnt need to be
huge, but it does need sufficient I/O for your
requirements and decent preamps and
converters. MIDI controllers and keyboards are
pretty hard to get wrong and there are many
different types, all relatively inexpensive.
Monitors neednt cost the earth but should
suit your needs auditioning some and picking
the ones that work best for your kind of music
and sound best to your ears is vital. Similarly
with mics: you dont need to spend a fortune but
you do need to get a couple that work for what
you are doing. We talk about this later, as well as
vital studio components such as acoustic
material, leads, DI boxes and more.

MTF Pro Advice Choose wisely

A commercial space outside of the home for making music is ideal but obviously the most costly
option. But if you are in a band and practicing, it could be one of the best solutions

The key point to take away from this feature is that


while gear-lust is fine and perfectly acceptable if
you have the money, its more important to choose
your kit carefully and appropriately than it is to
necessarily get the biggest or flashiest equipment. A
surprising amount can be achieved with smaller
setups, provided they are decked-out properly.
Similarly, theres no point in skimping on certain
things for example, spending loads on a computer
but buying poor quality monitors. Well be looking at
such issues throughout this guide.

focus Ableton Live 2013

|9

MTF Feature Become a power user: studio set-up

Choosing a
computer

As the centrepiece of your studio,


your choice of computer is critical...

computer isnt the only machine you


can use to make music with but
these days it is the default
choice for the majority of
people. Hardware recording systems
are still available but are something
of a separate phenomenon now, more
attractive to those who prefer old-style
audio tracking or people after a vintage sound.
The rise of the computer from MIDI sequencer to
do-everything audio-production tool has been
driven by the exponential increase in computing
power over the last couple of decades. In this
time computers have also become far more stable,
making having one at the heart of your studio
much less of a lottery than it used to be.

Solid-state drives are becoming


more affordable and offer
significant speed advantages for
resource-intensive applications.

The rise of the computer has


been driven by the exponential
increase in computing power
Before we get into specifics, a word of caution
about using your existing computer for proper
music (as opposed to noodling). Many off-theshelf PCs really arent cut out for serious audio
work (or video work, for that matter). Audio
processing and low-latency recording require
significant RAM and CPU resources, and a PC
thats designed for a bit of office work and web
surfing just isnt going to make the grade. You can
upgrade the bits, but consider getting a dedicated
machine if youre serious about music.
Macs fare better in this respect since the
specs of even the entry-level models are pretty
good. The trade-off is that youll not get much
change out of 1,000 for even a basic new Mac.

I/O is important, and you can add PCI cards to tower systems to
accommodate protocols such as FireWire or Thunderbolt.

10 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

For any computer, age is also an issue, and a


machine that was cutting-edge five or six years ago
might struggle to run the latest software. You may
have the option to upgrade the components
depending on your model (and this can be a new
lease of life) but it very much depends on the
machine. Putting loads more RAM in a
machine with a slow CPU, for example,
isnt going to add much in terms of
real-world performance. While software
states a minimum system requirement, its
the recommended system requirement that
you should really look at when considering
power needs. An app or instrument will run on
the basic system, but not always very well. In the
case of computers and software, more is almost
always better. Modern operating systems and DAWs
are adept at using multiple processing cores and
larger amounts of RAM, though there are caveats, as
we will see.

Platform wars
The Mac-versus-PC debate is as old as computers
themselves, and were not going to come down on
one side or the other because, quite simply, theres
no right answer and a lot of music software is
dual-platform anyway. There are, however, factors to
consider when deciding which route to take.
Lets start with PCs, which can be put together
yourself if you so choose. Windows is better than it
used to be in terms of stability and userfriendliness, with Windows 7 enjoying a generally

MTF Pro Advice Mobile music


Mobile music-making used to mean using a laptop, but now it can just as easily
mean using a hand-held device, typically an iPad or even an iPhone. And yes, there
are other mobile devices available, but were dealing here with the ones for which
there are lots of well-designed audio apps. Making music on iOS started off as a
simple enough affair, with beatboxes and basic synths, but has now turned into
something much more advanced. Apps like GarageBand, NanoStudio, FL Studio,
Traktor and ReBirth all have iOS-native versions, and there are tools that are
unique to the platform, such as Tabletop and AudioBus, that really enhance its
utility. You can connect audio and MIDI devices using the Camera Connection Kit,
and specialised interfaces like the Alesis IO Dock and IO Mix as well as various
devices by IK Multimedia can turn an iPad into a viable, high-quality recording
solution. Were not at a point where an iPad is going to fully replace a desktop
recording setup, but
for working on the
move, sketching
ideas and then
transferring them
back to the desktop
to use the extra
capacity it affords,
mobile devices are
excellent and will
only keep improving.
iPads are becoming
increasingly powerful
music-making tools, though
they havent displaced
computers just yet.

Become a power user: studio set-up Feature MTF

good reputation. Wed recommend buying from a


specialist audio PC company which, as well as
putting together a machine based exactly on your
requirements, can also set up and test all the drivers
and provide after-sales support. Desktop PCs are
still highly configurable, so if you want to build a
behemoth of a machine you can. Laptops are a bit
more hit-and-miss and tend to be powered up for
gaming rather than music, but a well-specified one
will still serve you well.
Macs are less user-serviceable and tend to have
to be configured at the time of purchase. They also
cost more, although, in reality, if you spec-up Mac
and PC systems of comparable power, the price
difference isnt that huge. Just because cheap PCs
are available doesnt mean they are good for
music. More or less any new Mac (with the
possible exception of the lower-end MacBook
Air) is going to be great for music production.
The fact that Apple designs the OS and the
hardware means that driver conflicts are
nonexistent and you get a system thats
smooth and extremely stable.
Obviously, bigger is better here, so a
MacBook Pro or higher-end iMac is
going to be more capable of running
heavier projects.

MTF Pro Advice Number crunching


Tech Terms
SYSTEM SPECS
The totality of the components
of your computers hardware
and software. Includes CPU
speed, RAM fitted, hard drive
size, port types and numbers,
and operating system version.
MULTI-TASKING
Vitally important in modern
computing is the ability of a
machine to do more than one
thing at once, to prioritise
certain tasks and remain
responsive while under load.

The gigahertz race is well and truly over since chip


manufacturers found that speeds of 4GHz and
above were achievable but generated too much heat
and sucked too much power to be very useful in
modern computers. The solution was to focus
efforts on cramming more cores onto a die so that
more tasks could be carried out in parallel. This has
taken a while for software developers to fully
embrace, since it requires much more complex
coding than single-processor technology. But were
now at a stage where even basic machines have two
or four cores and double that number of threads, so
todays computers are amazing multi-taskers.
The Intel i7 and Xeon families of processors are hugely
powerful and great at multi-tasking.

Tech specs
When specifying a computer of whatever platform,
think about the following factors. The processor is
the systems brain, so a faster CPU with more cores
will be able to do things more quickly and in
parallel. Intels i7 family is recommended for
performance, or even the server-class Xeons if you

Apples laptops are less


configurable but do offer a
great deal of power and an
almost uniquely stable and
smooth user experience.

have a tower system. Laptop CPUs are


excellent these days, and at the higher
end are more than a match for desktop
systems. Try to go for a quad-core
processor, which with Hyperthreading will
give you eight usable processing threads.
RAM is vital too. Running lots of
soft-synths will need a lot of CPU muscle, but
large sample-based instruments eat memory
really quickly, so at least 4GB of RAM is
essential (preferably 8 or even 16GB if
possible). This will also benefit the system
more generally and result in fewer slowdowns
and better multi-tasking. Laptops have fewer
RAM slots, so fill these with the biggest
capacity sticks you can. Storage is important
go for fast solid-state (SSD) drives internally
for running the system and apps, and
large-capacity external or secondary internal
drives for storage and backup. In terms of
ports, many interfaces now run on USB 2.0 or
USB 3.0, which all new computers should have.
FireWire is still around but you may need to
add a PCI card to a tower for it (or a
Thunderbolt adaptor for new Macs).
The sensible advice is to get the fastest
computer you can afford to, as this should
provide good performance for as long as
possible. Buying a cheap machine is a false
economy, since the next OS update or the new
version of your DAW could cause it to struggle,
meaning you have to update anyway. Treat you
computer purchase as a serious investment,
because thats what it is.

MTF Pro Advice Future-proof

Buying from a specialist PC builder is a good idea, and you can


specify every component at the time of building.

64 bit technology is now commonplace, with Mac OSX and Windows having been
fully 64-bit compatible for some time and the vast majority of leading music
software having followed suit. This is important because 64-bit applications are
able to access far more RAM than 32-bit ones, resulting in better performance.
And now that you can fit 32GB or more of RAM inside tower workstations, loading
up huge projects, sample libraries and other projects is quicker than ever. 64-bit
systems can address far more RAM than its currently possible to fit into a
computer so were not likely to exhaust this technology any time soon.

focus Ableton Live 2013

| 11

MTF Feature Become a power user: studio set-up

FTM erutaeF noitcudorp lacoV

Your approach
to production

With everything in place, its time to concentrate


your efforts on the most important thing music.

nce you have chosen all your


equipment and made sure that
everything is installed and running
correctly, youre ready to start actually
making music. There are quite a few things that
people get wrong when starting out, so were here
to help you avoid these common pitfalls, some
of which weve encountered ourselves.
There will always be something you come
up against of course, but hopefully we can
help you to avoid the big ones. Lets start
with recording audio.

L
A
C
O
V
noitcudorp

Using a popshield when recording vocals is essential. Theyre


inexpensive and readily available.

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Splendid isolation
The first thing you should figure out is
mic placement and isolation. Try to use a
directional mic for sources like vocals and
guitars, which reject sound from the rear and
sides at least to an extent. An omnidirectional
mic will pick up way too much ambient sound.
Use a popshield for vocals and an isolation
system for vocals and amp recording. Mics
should be placed around six inches away from
the sound source and many studio mics will need
phantom power to make them work. Turn off all
speakers and monitor on headphones to avoid
feedback and close windows and turn off phones.
This sounds obvious, but any unexpected noise
can ruin an otherwise good take.
Setting recording levels is crucial. Your
interface will have preamps, and if youre
recording guitars, the guitar and amp will have
level controls too. A good rule of thumb is to play
as loud as youre planning to play and make sure
theres no peaking when you watch the input gain
meters. Also, try not to drive the inputs so hard
as to introduce hiss into the signal. Some
interfaces have built-in DSP-powered effects like
compression that can be used in small amounts
during recording to help to eliminate the
possibility of clipping. Remember that there are
gain controls everywhere, from instruments
through interfaces to the DAW mixer and your
speakers and headphone outputs, so keep an eye
on them to keep a check on your levels.

sucof

Tighten up the bass end of any


system by placing speaker
isolators underneath monitors.

MTF Pro Advice Create the right environment


Its a more intangible concept than choosing equipment, but creating the right
physical environment can be incredibly important to having a good workflow and a
positive mindset. For some people, this can mean having a tidy and uncluttered
space to work in and focus on the task at hand. For others it can mean having all
their equipment around them, with lots of knobs to twiddle. The main thing to
figure out is what makes you inspired. If you are lucky enough to have lots of old
hardware instruments, having them around and hooked up can be inspiring
because you can just sit down and start playing. Alternatively, perhaps you like to
have one area of a studio for writing and another for recording.
What you leave out of a space can be as important as what you put into it. Many
people find, for example, that leaving TVs and other distractions out is a good
thing. The internet is a tricky one since most computers tend to be online anyway,
so it can be up to your own willpower not to be on YouTube or Facebook all day.
Having music around you is rarely a bad thing as it can both inspire you and be
used as reference, so listen to other records and get ideas from either their
melodies or style of production.

Mind the gap


Latency is another big issue. When you record,
your computer has to take sound in, record and
potentially process it and pass it back out to your
headphones all at the same time as running the
other audio tracks and plug-ins in your project.
This is no mean feat, so it uses an audio buffer to
cope with it. The heavier a project, the larger the

12 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

buffer needed to reduce overall processor load but


also the higher the latency the time between
playing a note and hearing it back through the
ylpm
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monitors.
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input, and can make
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To get around it, some interfaces use Direct
Monitoring, which feeds your signal back to you
before it has been passed to the computer,
eliminating latency altogether. If this is not
available you have to set your audio buffer as
low as you can without creating pops and clicks in
the 1recording.
A setting of 256 samples can often be
3 | 3102 gnidroceR
a good balance, and this can be switched back up to
1,000 samples or more when you finish recording.
When youre mixing you need processing power
more than low latency, so this is OK.

Be inspired,
not hindered,
by your
working
environment

Become a power user: studio set-up Feature MTF

MTF Pro Advice Stay cool

Another trick for minimising CPU hit at low


latency is to freeze tracks (where available). This
feature, available in many DAWs, renders down
tracks to simple audio so although temporarily not
very editable, they also use virtually no power to
play back. Freezing can also be your best friend
when you are working in-the-box a lot. Software
synths and sample-based instruments can use lots
of resources, but once a part has been laid down and

Setting up project and track


templates is a great way to save
time when starting new projects.

Dont be tempted to keep


adding and adding until everything
becomes incomprehensible
you are happy with it you can freeze the track to free
up RAM and CPU power. Using this trick will
maximise the capabilities of your hardware.

Other tricks
Using templates can be an excellent way of getting
up and running quickly in your studio. Your
hardware setup will probably not change very often,
so the same things are likely to be plugged in to the
same inputs and the same monitors connected.
Spend a little time setting up preset templates
containing pre-routed audio tracks and

Tech Terms
ISOLATION
Creating an environment that
is as near to silent as possible
with as few reflections from
interior walls in order to
capture clean recordings.
ERGONOMICS
Arranging your studio and
its contents in a way that
maximises the efficiency of
the space and your workflow.
This must be balanced with
positioning equipment for
optimum recording/playback.

Understanding the way that


buffer sizes affect the latency of
your recording system is key to
eliminating latency.

This is an odd one, but really important in practice.


When youre in the studio, always stay hydrated by
drinking water or other non-alcoholic drinks. Studios
can be very dry environments and can get hot when
all the electrical equipment is switched on, plus
theres rarely any flow of air due to the need for
acoustic isolation. Staying hydrated makes you feel
better and helps your judgement, especially during
long studio days. Drinking beer is great, but after
several hours you might start to feel pretty groggy.
Use your judgement as to how you react to these
kind of factors.

maybe some virtual instruments or MIDI tracks


firing out to your hardware and you can go from
inspiration to recording in moments. Most DAWs
now also support track presets, so you can dial
up a specific vocal or guitar sound with just a
couple of clicks.
Try to place your speakers at head height
when sitting as you will probably be sitting a lot
and this offers the most realistic sound. They
should be placed a few feet apart if possible and
angled slightly inwards towards you, converging
towards the rear of the room. If possible, avoid
placing them in the corners of rooms or too close
to walls as this can result in boomy bass. If this
is impossible to avoid, use isolation platforms
and EQ switches (if available) to better tailor the
speakers to the space they are in.
When you get up and running, your computer
will allow you to tweak endlessly, and while
experimentation is great, dont be tempted to
keep adding and adding until everything becomes
incomprehensible. A Hollywood soundtrack might
need 50 layers of percussion but a blues song
probably doesnt. Use your judgement as to what
needs adding or removing. Many DAWs also now
have arranger modes that let you try different
arrangements without physically copying and
pasting stuff around, so these can be well worth
trying out.
It might sound obvious, but take regular
breaks while working as staring at a screen and
listening to the same three minutes of music for
hours can send you a bit mad. Seek the opinion of
others if you feel your judgement is getting
flawed through tiredness, and remember that a
project will still be there in a couple of days for
you to come back to. Follow these basic rules and
you should find that your music-making is happy
and fruitful. MTF

MTF Pro Advice Mix as you go


Experienced producers tend to do a lot of mixing and editing as they go. Production
isnt generally broken into steps that are taken one by one. You might edit
something just after recording something else, then add an effect to a few things,
cut something into a loop, do a bit of arranging then record another track. So by
the time a project is nearing completion you could well have done a lot of the work,
and the mixing stage is actually less arduous than you might have imagined.

focus Ableton Live 2013

| 13

MUSIC PRODUCTION
AND DJ COURSES
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and DJing. With over 12 years experience SubBass excels in helping students learn and understand how to produce electronic
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From DJ to producer Feature MTF

FROM DJ TO
PRODUCER
Get into production
using Ableton Live
Any DJ worth their salt can select, mix and creatively
manipulate other peoples work, but these skills can also be
transferred to producing music. Liam OMullane explains.

he art of DJing has inevitably evolved over the years, but the core skills have remained
much the same. A good DJ needs a musical ear to pick out quality tracks, and can detect the
different energy levels and musical feel of each track in their collection so they have control
over their sets dynamics. They also need the skills to perform the mix live, which can be as
basic as crossfading from one track to another in the last five seconds regardless of any
difference in BPM, or performing continuous, pulse beat-matching of one track to the next to perform
a seamless mix. In fact, genre and DJing styles aside, the only big difference in more recent years has
been the degree of audio manipulation involved, along with the use of additional audio loops and
samples to augment a mix.
Audio manipulation can be as basic as fast fader and rhythmic flicks of the crossfader to get that
chop-and-change sound. The next step would be the use of EQ, filter and multi-FX. Additional sounds
can be triggered from a sample deck or cue points on a deck, letting you add single-shot audio-like
special effects to your mix or reordering loops and small sections of a track respectively.
These skills, built up over the years, can be the basis of your approach to audio production. Here
well look at production that utilises those DJing skills while minimising the need to learn new skills
for successful music production.

In the beginning
There are quite a few software choices when it comes to sequencing and mixing your own music. Logic,
Cubase, Reason, Pro Tools and Ableton Live are the most common titles youll hear when it comes to
which program to use. They all have plenty of attractive features, but its Live that wins over the DJ
crowd. This is mainly due to its looping nature, ease of use, and that 99 per cent of its functions can be
focus Ableton Live 2013

| 15

MTF Feature From DJ to producer

Tech Terms
carried out during continuous, undisturbed playback.
This feature is called Session View, which lets you work
like youre in the middle of a DJing mix, so its a
comfortable place for you to start.
We recommend that you initially get to know the
software by learning to mix a few tracks together to
understand its basic functionality. Live comes with
some excellent tutorials in the Help View window for
various elements should you need help with the very
basics, for help with beat matching your tracks, look at
the Warping Songs walkthrough to the bottom right.
In this feature we will show you how to use Live for
working with looped and single-shot (non-looped)
audio and MIDI clips. Use Session View to create a
combination of sounds that you can base a track
around. You can then use your DJing skills to trigger
and shape each Scene (row) to create a full track. Now
you are ready to get started, lets look at a simple trick
to help achieve a more professional-sounding track
from the very beginning.

PLUG-INS
A piece of software
you can plug in to
your main software.
Live lets you add
plug-in instruments
and effects from
various other
companies in the
VST (PC/Mac) and
AU (Mac) formats.
Time spent learning Lives Beat Repeat will enable you to loop a single
beat of your song to then divide into smaller loops, allowing you to
easily create build-ups to new sections on the drum group.

Reference material
Its most likely youre wanting to create your own music
because youve been inspired by someone elses.
Theres also a good chance that youre into a particular
sound of the moment and have a handful of new tracks
that would be great examples of what you want to
create. Grab one or two favourites from this selection
and drag them onto a new track within Live. This will
mean theyre on hand at any moment to help judge
how your own work is sounding.
After Warping them to be in-sync with your own
work, assign this reference track to one side of Lives
crossfader. Set all of your audio, MIDI and send effect

For clean-sounding
mixes, use an EQ
Three or Eight on
your Deck Groups
and individual
layers to remove
bass from sounds
that dont need it
(all but bass sounds
and kick drums).
This also avoids
pushing the mix
into the red.

tracks to the other side of the crossfader. This will give you a
clear-cut comparison of the two sources on either side of the
fader (nothing beats putting your work directly up against
reference material in this manner to hear if your work is
making the grade or not).
Another benefit of this kind of setup comes from splitting
the reference material into song sections or what DJs tend
to refer to as phrases. In dance music youre usually talking
clean sections of 16 to 32 bars when a track maintains
similar sounds and musical parts until a noticeable change
at the 17th or 33rd bar. This is the next phrase in the track.
After splitting the track into separate audio clips per phrase,
you can concentrate on the individual musical elements and
sounds within each phrase. This will give you a more clear
idea of the type of material needed to create the given genre
and style of music in question. The walkthrough on
Identifying Song Parts shows you how to put this technique
into practice.
Well now look at the various options available for sound
sources in a song and weigh up the pros and cons when used
as a DJs approach.

Sonic beginnings
Many people over-complicate the process of music
production at the stage of sourcing sounds. As a DJ, you
already have an ear for a good or bad sound, so use your skills
and treat this stage as you would when building or selecting
tracks for a record crate. You dont need to be creating a track
yet, purely building up a crate of quality sounds.

MTF Pro Technique Energy layers


Various levels of energy are needed within a
song to create dynamics and change. The
simplest way to create and control these
levels of energy is through layering sounds on
top of a solid foundation. Once youve added
enough elements to create the peak section of your song, they can
be stripped back in order to lead the listener to and away from this
main point in the track.
When youre building up your drum parts, think of the most
minimal state they will need to be at. A simple hi-hat pattern or kick
drum playing on its own is a good example for this lowest level of
energy. The next few levels should start to add some movement to
the rhythm that is already in place. Depending on your genre, this
could be a clap or snare and perhaps a higher-energy cymbal or
percussive part. The following layers can be used as alternative
counterparts for a layer thats already in place like substituting a
hi-hat for a crash or ride cymbal. More and more layers can be
applied to create density and added detail, but be aware of how

16 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

Use Scenes in Session View to lay out different layers of energy. Lower the energy
levels by using fewer layers/filtering/processing to make them sound less full-on.

much space there is for each new layer as you add it against the
existing drums as well as other instruments in your song.
Melodic parts need different levels of energy too this can also
be achieved through layering. A single melody playing in a
breakdown can seem bigger on the main drop if accompanied by a
bass part or another sound playing the same melody. Try setting this
second layer at a different octave for a bigger sound. Low- or
high-pass filters can help here to remove the fullness of a single
melodic sound until you want it to be fully revealed. The fact that
you are holding back on some of the sound in the melody acts as
another form of energy control.

From DJ to producer Feature MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Identifying song parts

A reference track helps identify which


musical elements are required and how
they can be arranged. After importing your
reference track and Warping it to be in-sync
with Lives tempo, set the channel fader to
-6dB. This track is mastered and yours wont
be, so its a more fair comparison.

01

In Arrangement View, listen and look for


different song sections (Phrases) then
highlight them and select Split from the Edit
menu. Name each section using Rename from
the Edit menu and enable loop from the Clip
View window. Highlight them all and drag them
into Session View.

02

The most immediate source to work with is an audio loop.


These are usually 12 bars in length, meaning theyll require
some variation over time when played throughout a 1632bar section of a song or theyll quickly become monotonous.
Single samples can be used on their own as the basis of a
track or alongside an existing bed of loops. They offer more
control as you need to program in your own patterns, but this
requires some basic knowledge of how to sequence drums
and melodies. Theyll have a professional, polished sound to
them, so, as when working with loops, require minimal
understanding of mixing and processing. However, they wont
carry the same degree of energy, which may or may not be an
issue depending on how sonically dense/sparse the music
needs to be.
Instruments offer the greatest amount of flexibility as you
can not only program in the notes they play, you can shape
how that instrument will sound. They also require a much
more in-depth understanding of mixing, although buying
specialised preset packs for the genre youre working with can
help a lot.
Working with loops, then, is a good place to start: spend
your time picking the sample packs for the style of music you
want to create. Although the price of a quality sample pack

Tech Terms
MIDI
Short for Musical
Instrument Digital
Interface, MIDI lets
you draw notes
inside Live MIDI
clips which will then
trigger synths and
drum machines.

Listen to each section from Session


View and create a blank audio track for
each musical element you hear. You can use
these as a guide to knowing what sounds you
need to find to make your own track. Use the
crossfader to hear how your track is sounding
against your reference material.

03

might point you towards free online content, weve seen plenty
of people waste time looking for samples all over the net with
only mediocre results. With commercially released material,
the price pays for production decisions by the makers
knowledge you may not have at this stage. Loopmasters,
Sample Magic, Prime Loops, Samplephonics, Future Loops
and Wave Alchemy are all good starting points.
As you grow your skills, use single samples to augment your
sounds. Play to your strengths: dont jump in too soon,
grabbing lots of single samples and setting up instruments. As
youll find, your DJ skills will enable you to create plenty of
interest in your sounds.

Deck count
Certain restrictions and disciplines need to be applied in order
to keep your work manageable. We plan to process sounds
with filters, faders and effects, so having these options spread
over too many channels will soon become confusing. Most
songs can be divided into drums, bass, melody and other (the
latter reserved for musical sounds that arent stealing the
limelight from the melody along with other sounds like special
FX and risers, etc). Its most common to create your drum
sound from several layered loops, so if theyre grouped into a

MTF Step-by-Step Warping songs and other loops

Audio files in Live need to be correctly


Warp Marked to stay in time with Live
and each other. In many cases Live will get
this right. Enable Lives metronome to see if
the file plays in time with Lives tempo to
begin with. If not, move the 1st beat marker
using the right/[Ctrl]-click if required so its
cueing the file from the correct point.

01

Now you should be able to tell if the


existing warping is in time or not. For
anything but a major mismatch in playback
speed, select Warp From Here (Straight) so a
single playback tempo can be used (unless the
track does have a varied tempo). From here you
may be able to simply round off the Seg. BPM
value to get things in time.

02

Sometimes BPM readings are this


rounded. For this, move to later in the
file when the timing starts to slip, then grab a
Psuedo Warp Marker from above a visually
clear part of the waveform (like a drum
sound) and then drag the waveform to the
correct area of the beat grid. Do this until the
last part to correct the timing throughout.

03

focus Ableton Live 2013

| 17

MTF Feature From DJ to producer

drum deck they can be treated as a whole.


The same goes for the other elements, and
this is very simple to set up. Hold down the
[Shift] key, click and highlight the top of
each track you want to group, then select
Group Tracks from the Edit menu. Repeat
this to create your four decks so you can
start to add DJ-like processing to them for
sound-manipulation.

Classic skills
After beat-matching, channel- and crossfadermanipulation is one of the oldest skills in a DJs
arsenal. If you release Lives crossfader from reference
track duties the simplest way is to mute the
reference track (you can always use solo to hear it
again in the future) the unassigned side of the fader
can be used to rhythmically mute any of your four
groups. Right/[Ctrl]-clicking (PC/Mac) the crossfader
on Lives screen lets you choose a preferred crossfader
curve for a faster and more instant muting effect, like
that of a scratch mixer. If your skills are up to it, theres
nothing preventing you from creating more complex
patterns through a combination of channel and
crossfader rhythms at the same time.
This double-fader technique is a simple way to
manipulate elements in your song, but youll
need to set up a new audio track in order to
record your actions as a new loop. Channelfader action and any other processing of a
group can be recorded from the output of
that group. Set the Monitor In on the track
you will record on to listen to that group.
Crossfader action is trickier to capture as it
happens on the master track, not the groups
themselves. This means that everything you
hear from the master needs to be recorded.
There are two workarounds for this. The
first is to set an audio track to record the
master output of Live, but that means you can

An investment in a
quality sample pack
for the genre you
want to produce is
like buying the best
tracks for a mix.

listen only to what you wish to record at the


same time, so everything but a synth part you
want to chop would need muting, making it
hard to know what tempo and rhythm youre
working to. The other option is to create a fake
crossfader by assigning the crossfader on your
controller (or any other regular fader) to the
Mute button of a Utility Device from Lives
Audio Devices. Like assigning Activate buttons
to Macros (as discussed in the Setting Up
Complex Control step-by-step), you can set
the Mute button to kick in when the crossfader is only fully to
one side. As this Device is on the group deck itself, this will be
recorded along with channel fader movements.

Spend your time picking the


sample packs for the style of
music you want to create

When using groups to manage your musical elements


like a four-deck mix, set up a channel for each group so
you can record your filter, fader and other processing.

Filter control
Filtering is commonplace on many hardware
mixers and DJ software, so were assuming youve
used them before. Filters are useful in production
in many of the same ways as they are in a DJ set.
You can bring a sound in or out with a rumble
using a low-pass filter. High-pass filters let you
bring the body of a sound in or out while
maintaining bite and brightness. Lives Auto Filter
can be set to one or the other at a time, so youll
need to create two if you want both filters
available per deck. We prefer to add a third-party
bi-directional filter plug-in for a setup thats much
more intuitive in terms of DJing. Bi-directional
filters enable you to sweep from low-pass through
to high-pass with the central position being
neutral an essential tool to move swiftly from
one filter type to another in a musical way.

MTF Step-by-Step Cue-point triggering

Its quite easy to reprogram your loops


in Live using the same approach as you
would with cue-points on a CDJ or in DJ
software. First select Duplicate from the Edit
menu to make a second copy of your loop.
Then, either grab the Start Point flag and
move it on the waveform or click and drag the
number reading to the right.

01

18 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

These are the equivalent to your cue


points, so duplicate a few more and
change their start points. Enable MIDI Map
Mode from the Options menu, click the Clip
Launch Button for each loop followed by the
drum pad or buttons you want to trigger each
loop from.

02

Each clip will launch according to the


Global Quantization setting of Live, but
we want to trigger loops by 16ths so they are
still tight in terms of timing, but theres a high
enough resolution that you can do some
serious triggering. Press the small L on the
bottom left of the Clip View and change each
clips Quantization from Global to 16ths.

03

From DJ to producer Feature MTF

MTF Pro Technique Controller options


For music production, a filter is most useful in one of two
ways. The first is for fixed positions, or slow to medium
sweeps. These might continue throughout a sound to
provide elements of variation. More extreme changes in
position can be useful to add impact before a new section.
The second use in production is to create a rhythmic
performance that becomes part of the sound. An example of
this is to record four bars of you filtering a one-bar loop to
create a longer loop.

Effects processing
As a DJ, effect types like flanger, bit-crusher and delay
shouldnt be foreign to you. These effects are found on most
DJ equipment. These and plenty of other options are
available in Live. They can be punched in and out as
momentary effects (great for fills before a new song section)
or applied in a way that creates an entirely new sound. This
can then be recorded as a new loop.
Delays are good to apply to sounds with plenty of space in
their content. Without the space you are just adding clutter
to an already busy sound, which will detrimentally affect the
output. Map delay times to a MIDI controller and change the
setting at different points in the song a simple but
engaging way to create interest to the listener. Chorus,
flanger and phaser can all be used on sounds if they dont
need maximum attention as they tend to push sounds back
in a mix. Background pad and ambience sounds benefit
greatly from this.
If youre from the days of creating stutters with two copies
of the same record, you can use Lives Simple Delay to create
the same effect. Set the Delay Time to Link so its just a single
mono delay rather than a stereo one. The Time should be set
to four measures and the dry/wet dial can be used as a
crossfader between the original and repeated sound. Try this
on drum loops and hear how adjusting the dry/wet can create
interesting new drum patterns.
The next step in terms of timing manipulation is to
experiment with re-triggering loops as you would when
setting cue points to a track in a set for reworking live. This is
covered in the Cue Point Triggering step-by-step. Although
this is also incredibly simple, it uses the same principles as
the more advanced loop-slicing and re-programming

Theres no shortage of MIDI controllers


on the market and they all have a
different combination of knobs,
faders, buttons, piano keys and drum
pads. Knobs can be ended or endless in
that they have a limit as to how far they can be
twisted left or right (in the same way as an EQ
knob) or continue to turn left or right
endlessly even if the parameter that youre
controlling has met its limit on either side.
The advantage of endless knobs is that they
The Vestax
instantly control the current position of the
VCM-600 (excellent faders
and curve control) and AKAI
parameter within the software. For DJ use,
APC40 (assignable buttons, a
however, wed recommend ended knobs so it
super-fast crossfader and
feels more like a hardware mixer.
great integration with Live).
Faders are a huge consideration as many
MIDI controllers are not aimed at those with DJing hands. You need
something that has lightweight, fast and durable faders so you can
rhythmically shape your sounds as you go. Many controllers have flimsy
faders and they can also be placed very close together, making it easy to
knock them accidentally.
Similarly, buttons are very much a user preference, so be sure to try out
as many controllers as you can to see what suits before you buy. Keys and
drum pads are useful if you want to be able to play-in musical elements
depending on whether youre focusing on working with loops, single
samples or instruments to compose.

Tech Terms
GROUPING
If you group various
audio and MIDI
tracks in Live it
makes them
visually organised
as they are put into
a folder track that
can be minimised
and expanded.
The audio of these
grouped tracks
is then passed
through this single
folder track.

available in Live. But this approach can produce the same


types of results when used in conjunction with a channel
fader to mute parts in and out for that chopped-up effect.

Applied skills
Asides from learning some basic Ableton Live navigation
skills, all were really talking about here is turning your
existing skills in a new direction. In time you can start
exploring your own drum programming using single drum
samples or a drum machine plug-in, then move on to
instruments and all the flexibility they offer. But for now,
though, there are plenty of ways in which you can produce
your own tracks with the skills you already have albeit in a
slightly different way. MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Setting up complex control

Lets use Live to set up multiple control


elements on a single fader or knob.
Highlight a Device and select Group from the
Edit menu to create an Audio Rack to house
this Device. Press the Macro show/hide
button in the top-right of the new Audio Rack
youve just created.

01

These eight macro controls can be


assigned to any parameter on a device
within an Audio Rack. Right/[Ctrl]-click any
parameter on a device to map it to a Macro.
Use the Map Mode button on the left to select
the range of the parameter to be controlled by
the Macro.

02

Activate buttons can be assigned to any


of the 128 increments a Macro dial is
divided into. Set a Utility Device to Activate at
64 while its Gain amount increases as well
after a high-pass filter, the cutoff of which is
assigned to the same Macro. This will
increase the volume as the sound get thinner.

03

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| 19

MTF Interview Erin Barra

MTF Interview

Erin Barra
Its fitting that in this special MusicTech Focus we
catch up with a composer at the forefront of Live
technology both in the live and Ableton senses
of the word. Andy Price talks to Erin Barra

rin Barra is a singer/songwriter from New York. Combining elements of


pop, electronica, rock and blue-eyed soul, Erins music recently inspired
Ableton to approach her to demonstrate the capabilities of Push at an
Ableton event that was streamed live around the world. The Washington
Post describes Erin as an artist with intangible star quality and we certainly
agree. We caught up with Erin to chat about her music, production methods and
the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated industry
MTF You demoed Ableton Push at Tekserve. Can you tell us your thoughts on Push
and how youve used it for your own recording and performing?
EB I have to admit that when I first got it I was sceptical about how well it would
integrate into my studio or my stage setup, just because Im a traditional
instrumentalist with a strong background in keyboards and synth-based
instruments, so I wasnt totally sure at first generally I find that all these new
hardware instruments kind of impede the creative process because you have to
learn how to work them properly first! However, I was pleasantly surprised. Its
very intuitive. Now Im doing all my drum programming on it, what with the
functionality of being able to do live recording and very specific quantisation. I

Push is so streamlined that


I can step away from my
computer and still have
control over my audio effects
dont like to get stuck at any point when programming drums. Another thing Im
doing now that I never thought Id ever be doing is all my mixing on it. Push is so
streamlined that I can step away from my computer and still have complete
control over my audio effects. It does force me to use my ears more, and that I
think, overall, is the biggest benefit it has provided for me.
MTF How did you first get involved with Ableton?
EB A couple of years ago I started messing about with Live and thought I was
doing something very unique not just because I was a female in this industry. I
never really intended to be an engineer or to be working on the digital side of
music-making and I think I definitely stuck out for a number of reasons, so yeah, I
literally just knocked on their door. Id written them some emails saying this is
what Im doing, Id love to work with you guys which got zero response, so I located
their offices and literally just showed up and had a great conversation with Dave
Hill. He gave me some great opportunities to engage with a lot of the user groups
around the US and it all unfolded quite naturally. I do have a passion for sharing

20 | Ableton Live 2013

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Erin Barra Interview MTF

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| 21

MTF Interview Erin Barra

my knowledge. Its beyond just Ableton at this point: its all


about using software to make music, not just the how but
the why why are we doing it?
MTF As a woman in this male-dominated industry, have you
found challenges or opposition to you being so involved in
the technical side of things?
EB Not that Im cognisant of, but there probably are. There
are probably opportunities that are given to male producers
that arent given to me, but yknow, Ive always just been one
of the boys anyway, my entire life. Its kind of like affirmative
action we need a woman, oh there she is! so it kind of
helps rather than hinders my career.
MTF As a songwriter, how do you approach your new
material? Do you start in the studio, work on sound and
melody first, or take a much more organic approach with
lyrics first?

For me, its always


about the why, and the
concept of what Im
trying to accomplish
today in the studio
A technological tour
de force: Erin
performing live.

EB For me, its always about the why, and the concept of
what Im trying to accomplish today in the studio. The other
day me and one of my co-producers were in the middle of a
song and we came across this string patch. He started
playing a progression with it and I said, Hold it! Were
stopping right now and starting another song because this
is the start of something new! So sometimes new ideas can
come quickly like that. But often I just come in with some
separate concepts. Ill come in and say I want to write a song
about uncertainty or something like that. But that initial
idea will dictate how the harmony will progress, what the
BPM will be. I hardly ever come into the studio and dick
around. I always have a purpose, but there are different
ways to get there and that varies with each song.
MTF Who are your biggest songwriting influences?
EB My parents were children of the 60s and 70s so we
listened to a lot of singer/songwriters when I was young,
people like James Taylor, Billy Joel, Paul Simon those
traditional songwriters of that era, but then also people like
The Doors. At a certain point in my life I found Stevie
Wonder I must have been 13 or 14 and spent the next
decade completely immersing myself in his work. Not only
is he a fantastic songwriter and instrumentalist but hes
multi-genre, creating music based upon the why of
something. I really relate to his electronic experimentation
and the fearlessness with which he created it. So hes
definitely my biggest influence, but Im constantly inspired
by my peers, especially here in New York where theres a
very vibrant scene.
MTF How much creative control do you take over your
music? Do you tend to collaborate often and allow others to
add their elements or do you like to work singularly?
EB I am definitely a collaborator, yeah nine times out of
ten Im collaborating. Usually when its just me its a weird
one-off project that Ive been hired for, but typically,
whoever Im working for is in some way collaborating with
me. Its just boring being by yourself, but there are certain
parts of each project that Ill have to do by myself, whether
its vocal editing or this, that or the other Ill do those in
isolation. But when Im creating I like to be surrounded by
multiple energies.
MTF Aside from Push, what other instruments do you use
for studio or live work?
EB My stage setup has been pretty much the same for the
last year: Im playing a Moog Little Phatty for lead lines and

The off-stage environment,


complete with Moog Little
Phatty and live room.

22 | Ableton Live 2013

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Erin Barra Interview MTF

Let me entertain
you: Erin keeps the
crowd happy...

Ill do a lot of audio


recording in Pro Tools
then throw things into
Live and really get
creative on that side
basses, Ive also got a Nord Electro 3 that Im using for
wurlitzers, organs and pianos, almost exclusively using their
analogue sounds. I had been using an APC40 but Im going to
switch to Push now. I have an LPD that I use to trigger spliced
MIDI tracks. I use a MacBook Pro with Ableton Live. Ive also
just got some brand-new Novation controllers; they just sent
me the Launchkey 49, which I want to give a try as well. So
thats what I do live. I occasionally use some third-party
plug-ins on stage and in the studio; I keep going back
between Pro Tools and Live quite a bit now. Here in the studio
we have a huge live room with lots of mics and outboard so
Ill do a lot of audio recording in Pro Tools and then throw
things into Live and really get creative on that side.
MTF Which one of your releases do you feel the most
creatively fulfilled by, and for what reason?
EB Thats a good question! Probably my second album,
called Illusions. I definitely had complete creative control
over that; there are some really long tracks like seven-

minute-long things which in retrospect Im very glad that I


did. In terms of songs, well, theres a song on there called
Satisfied which was when I really started switching to a
more electronic sound. Theres a lot of melodica; the form is
really weird and there are a lot of sonic threads going
through that. I was really pleased with how it supported
itself. Its like a creepy electronic dub song. Im sure other
people have done things like that, but for me it was a new,
original approach.
MTF Whats next on your agenda? Do you have a new album
in the works?
EB Yeah, Im almost finished with it theres been a lot of
transition for me, moving from exclusively trying to
accomplish the feat of being an artist in this industry right
now to being more fulfilled behind the scenes and in the
studio and also working with other artists: Im doing a lot of
consultation around New York with musicians about
integrating digital technology into their stage setup. Doing
this is a happier life for me. Although I will release it at some
point I dont quite know what that means anymore. It used
to mean publicity campaigns, tours, budgets and lawyers!
Im not really sure if I want to go through all that again so Im
going to sit on it until I know. But right now Im focusing on
what works the best being a woman in audio. Im just
going to follow my nose and stay positive, so who knows
whats next! MTF
Stay up-to-date with Erin and her music on:
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/erinbarramusic
Twitter https://twitter.com/ErinBarra
SoundCloud https://soundcloud.com/erinbarra
MySpace https://myspace.com/erinbarra
Bandcamp http://erinbarra.bandcamp.com
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MusicTech.indd 1

05.09.2013 11:41:42

MusicTech.indd 2

05.09.2013 11:41:59

MTF Technique Mix & workflow tricks

On the disc

Ableton Live Step-by-Step

Mix and workflow

Ableton Live
project file included
on the DVD

tricks for Live 9

Dont waste valuable music-making time finding your


way around the latest version of Abletons venerable
DAW. Liam OMullane gets you introduced.

fter many years of waiting, the exciting


features of Live 9 have satisfied many of our
requests for improvement. Some of these
changes are major such as the new
incarnation of the EQ Eight and Lives
dynamic devices while others are much more discrete.
So discrete, in fact, that you appreciate them only when
used in practice. Weve done the legwork for you and had
a good look around, bringing you some highlights here. To
begin with, lets take a look at the very root of all
workflow: Lives new file management system.

Getting started

It didnt take us long with Live 9


to notice some great new mixing
and workflow refinements

Abletons approach to screen layout has always been to


keep it simple a single fixed master screen with
non-moveable windows that surround the main
sequencing area. The Device View Selector window is a
fixed size and the Clip Overview window at the bottom of
the screen can be re-sized only vertically, but this is
perfectly fine to work in.

MTF Navigation New features for better mixing

Something that has always been a little restricting in


previous Live incarnations, however, is the Browser. You
used to be limited to using dedicated File Browser tabs
for quickly accessing specific parts of your hard drive.
The first of these would normally be left in its default
location within Lives own library, so in reality it was
actually two not three tabs available for your personal
setup. Although bookmarks could be set up for your
preferred locations, they had to be accessed via a
dropdown menu, so it wasnt exactly a lightning-fast
procedure by any means.

In Live 9, the entire Browser has been re-designed, so


along with the expected tabs for Instrument, Audio, MIDI
devices and third-party plug-ins theres also Sounds,
which you can search to find what you want rather than
having to go via the Live devices they were created with.
Use this when you know youll need specific sonic
elements, such as a pad, for instance.

AUDIO & MIDI TRACK DEFAULTS


You can now save your favourite default devices onto audio and MIDI tracks. Use this
feature to store your favourite processing chains, such as a mixer channel strip.

EQ SOLO
The
headphones icon
enables you to hear
just the EQ filter
youre editing. This is
very useful for
hearing exactly the
frequency area you
want to hone in on.

BROWSER
The Add Folder option
enables you to add as many
destinations as you need. The
new folder system also
automatically closes one folder
when you open another.

MAX FOR LIVE DEVICES


Max For Live offers many
things, but the most important
mixing tool is the new Convolution
Reverb. An IR-capture device is
also included for creating your
own impulse response files.

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Mix & workflow tricks Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Slamming drums with Glue

Both Compressor and Glue now have


Dry/Wet dials for quick parallel
compression. Here were playing a drum beat
that doesnt have quite enough energy in the
high end so were going to create a slammed
sound to then re-balance with the original. To
start well enable the Soft Clip button to
catch any peaks at the output.

01

For an over-the-top sound you can simply


start cranking up the Makeup gain dial to
raise the signal into the ceiling of the Soft Clip
section. This goes from a general lift in energy
between 510dBs to an increase in distortion
as you keep raising the level. Now set the mix
to Dry and slowly bring in your slammed
parallel sound.

02

If youre very specific as to the type of source youre


after, use the tabs labelled Clips and Samples, which are
useful for choosing pre-prepared audio or audio on your
drive. Be aware, however, that Samples will display all
samples contained in any location added to Lives
Browser, but the search box at the top helps to narrow
down the options available. The shortcut is [Ctrl]/
[Cmd]+[F] (PC/Mac).
In terms of adding your own preferred locations, the
new Add Folder option enables you to add them to the
same fixed panel in the Browser as for all other elements
already mentioned. Folder management is now a lot
easier to deal with too, as other folders close when you
open a new one. This and the separate Browser labels for
Instruments, MIDI and Audio Devices makes navigating
your tools much easier as you create or mix. It also
negates the need to scroll up and down when the list
gets too long due to multiple folders being open. This
behaviour can be overridden if you prefer by holding
down [Ctrl]/[Cmd] as you open a folder (useful for

PRO TIP
You can edit automation to
perfection using the new MIDI
Stretch Marker function.
Highlight the area of
automation you want to work
on and drag the markers to
condense/expand your edit to
perfection. A Pseudo MIDI
Stretch Marker can be placed
by clicking in the Marker area
between the two existing
markers. This is great for
experimenting with prominentsounding parameters.

Another approach is to set the ratio at


its highest as this is when the knee of
the compressor is at its steepest. Set the
Attack time to a super-fast setting of 0.1ms,
then lower the Threshold until it starts to
flatten the transients. To reduce pumping, try
different release settings then add Makeup
gain as required.

03

keeping go-to presets to hand when mixing and so on).


Another way to keep this type of workflow available is to
make use of the new defaults option for Audio and MIDI
Tracks. This enables you to store preferred devices or
plug-ins on a track.

Two into one


The relationship between Lives two primary views has
improved quite a bit in Live 9 certainly, Session and
Arrangement Views are now much better integrated than
before. Youll notice the benefits during those moments
when you want to take a group of musical ideas or song
sections in Session View and turn them into an
arrangement in Arrangement View, or take an already
laid-out song arrangement and move it into Session View
for a live performance. For both tasks, automation for
Session Clips is a welcome feature, one thats been very
high on the Live users wish list for many years. Its a
slightly different process from recording automation in
Arrangement View as you need to enable a new

MTF Step-by-Step Visual feedback with Compressor

Compressor has three views: Collapsed


View, Transfer Curve and Activity
Display. The Activity Display is especially
useful for understanding how the
compressor is applying gain control in
relation to the input signal. Enable this option
by clicking the third switch to the left of the
Knee setting display.

01

As you lower the Threshold setting you


will start to see a line that represents the
gain reduction being applied. With a
metronome-like sound its easy to see how the
two Release curves behave. The first portion of
this line is a linear release curve; the second a
logarithmic curve. The Lin/Log button is to the
left of the Dry/Wet dial.

02

If you switch from GR mode (Gain


Reduction) to Output youll see a
representation of the compressors output on
top of the input in grey good for seeing how
the attack stage and amount of compression
is shaping your source material. You can
visually separate the two readouts by
disabling the Make Up button and using the
Out amount to lower the Output line.

03

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| 27

MTF Technique Mix & workflow tricks

Automation Arm button for session capture, then a


Session Record Button when youre ready to go. Sadly,
neither of these has dedicated shortcuts like Lives
transport controls, so use Key Map mode ([Ctrl]/
[Cmd]+[K]) and assign them to your preferred keys.
When you move these Session clips to Arrangement
View they behave just like a clip would if it originated
from Arrangement View. Its worth pointing out here that
this capture can take place in one of two ways, set within
the Record Warp Launch panel in Preferences. One
captures parameter changes wherever they happen; this
is called All Tracks. The other is much more like recording
MIDI control of a specific instrument; this is called
Armed Tracks. As the name suggests, you have to
manually arm the track you want to record Session
automation to.
Another improvement to Arrangement-to-Session
workflow is the Consolidate Scene To Time function. All
you need to do is select the area of an arrangement youd
like to move into a scene and right/[Ctrl]-click to select

PRO TIP
EQ Eight now features an
adaptive Q mode that changes
the Q amount along with
changes in gain. This is to
imitate the behaviour of more
classic EQs and goes from a
wide Q at low gain amounts to
a narrow Q at extreme gain
settings. Use this mode for a
much more musical sound as
you explore what EQ
treatment you want to apply.

the function. If youve tried this before youll remember


that it used to involve highlighting the area and selecting
Split to create a clean section of clips, which you then
had to drag to Session View. In itself this was quite a
simple process, but you would also need to Consolidate
sequenced pieces of audio on one track so they became
a single clip that looped in Session View. The new
approach saves quite a lot of time and all new clips are
looped automatically.

Fix in the mix


The last new element well explore is the Audio To MIDI
functionality, using it as a basic interface for creating
rhythmic or musical parts. Start by recording yourself
beat-boxing or singing and begin creating a track without
any note programming or MIDI controller input.
Its potential as a remixing tool should also not be
overlooked, enabling Live to transcribe parts from a track
to use with your own chosen drum or melodic sounds.
Both are remarkable features, but we tried it for sound

MTF Step-by-Step Spectrum analysis and EQ grouping in EQ Eight

EQ Eights new onboard spectral


analyser is a handy tool for several
reasons, the most obvious being for seeing
what content is in your sound. This can act as
a visual reminder to keep your audio in good
shape. Bottom end usually needs some sort
of removal on most sources and Lives new
48dB low-cut filter does the trick nicely.

When in Mid-Side mode, the analyser will


also display the Mid or Side option you
are currently listening to. Having two instances
on your master channel with one set to Mid
and the other set to Side can be very useful.
With all EQ filters de-activated you can see
where you may have some Side information to
remove or bring out.

Its easy to focus on single musical


peaks in audio using the analyser. If you
have multiple peaks, the new Group function
enables you to grab an existing EQ treatment
and move all highlighted EQ numbers up or
down the frequency spectrum while their
musical relationship is kept intact handy
for when you might have to change the key of
a part and want to change the key of the EQ
treatment as well.

Another use for grouped EQ filters is to


highlight all EQs you want to alter and
experiment with their Q amount. This can
help to change the perceived size of a sound
and is a handy feature to use when youre
getting towards the end of a and need to
fine-tune one element to sit better in the
mix. Gain can also be changed here, but if
you simply want to do this for the whole EQ
you can still use the Scale function instead
as in Live 8.

For quick reference you can use the


mouse pointer to find the frequency and
musical note associated with a specific
frequency area. Double-click the display to
open the extended display. The EQ will show
you controls for all EQ filters at once in the
device and the bottom-left shows you the gain,
frequency and musical note position of your
mouse pointer.

When the analyser is extended, the


left-hand side of the device reveals
three options for changing how the spectral
display works in both Condensed and
Extended modes. The block size can be
increased to add more frequency detail, but
its response time will suffer. The Refresh rate
can control this to some degree, while the
Avg control moves between peak response
and a more averaged readout over time.

01

04

28 | Ableton Live 2013

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02

05

03

06

Mix & workflow tricks Technique MTF

replacement and layering while mixing. For example, if


youre mixing a track for someone else, you may have the
parts only as audio, and if an element is letting down the
mix you can use these tools to add the necessary
sound(s) to improve them as needed. This facility makes
mixing work with audio a bit more flexible.
The Extract Drums To New MIDI Track feature works
particularly well on anything with clear transients, but
we find that a little additional processing prior to
conversion helps Live to pick out more subtle drum hits
in certain breakbeat sources that might not be as
defined as youd like.
First we add a Gate device, setting the Attack, Hold
and Release to very short values while the Threshold is
set to only tickle the gate open. It doesnt need to sound
good at this point, you just want the gate to open for all
the drum hits you think are in the audio. Try using the EQ
for the Sidechain section on the Gate to hone in on the
most dynamic part of the frequency spectrum if you
dont initially get the results youre after, but be sure to

Extract Drums after flattening your newly gated sound


using Freeze and then Flatten from the right/[Ctrl]-click
menu. You have to do this because the conversion
process listens to the audio clip rather than any
subsequent processing.
Extract Harmony To MIDI is for working with
polyphonic material, and if its melody-dense there are a
couple of tricks you can try to optimise the results. We
found that adding a simple high-pass filter to remove the
lower, body frequencies of the sound helps Live to detect
smaller, flourish-like notes. If problems still persist you
can use additive EQ to raise the volume of the notes in
question to help Live out a little bit more.
Audio To MIDI is both a functional and explorative tool
so its worth trying for random results every now and
then. For instance, load in a song from your music
collection and try all three conversion types to see what
happens. You can then experiment further through the
use of MIDI Devices and editing until the seed of a new
idea is born. MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Expanding audio

Live 9s new version of Compressor now


includes expansion, which was
previously reserved for Multiband Dynamics
and Gate devices. To use Compressor for
expansion, click the Expand option on the
right-hand side and the Ratio dial will update
with reversed ratio values of 1:1 to 1:2.

01

While watching the input signal on the


Activity Display, decrease the threshold
until it sits above the sound you dont want to
increase, but below the peaks of sounds you
do. This is a guitar recording and we want to
emphasise the plucking. Weve placed the
threshold above the string resonances
between each peak caused by plucking.

02

Raise the Ratio setting to start


expanding the level of anything above
the Threshold setting. Weve gone for an
automatic Release setting as the rhythm
changes quite a bit throughout the piece. The
Attack dial can be used with a low setting for
sharp transients, or you can round off the
plucking a little with a higher setting.

03

MTF Step-by-Step Reducing chatter with Live 9s new Gate device

Were trying to gate-out the bleed from a


vocal recorded with a loud backing
track in speaker monitors. We can set the
Threshold low enough to have the level of the
vocal keep the gate open, but the gate is
rapidly opening and shutting (chatter) and we
cant go any further down in level as this is
the level of the bleed.

01

This is were the Return value is useful as


it tells the gate when to close after being
opened. So the Threshold can stay towards the
top levels of the vocals while the Return can be
set at a lower value. Because this is only for
closing the gate, the Return can go much lower
than the Threshold could on its own.

02

Now you can set the Attack, Hold and


Release settings to taste so the gate is
open for long enough to make sense
rhythmically in your piece. You may want to
go for a higher Floor setting so the gate
doesnt fully close to silence, especially when
theres a lot of bleed as the stark open and
closed sound may be too much.

03

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| 29

MTF Technique Tools for a live performance

Ableton Live Tutorial

On the disc

Tools for a live

performance

Live is simple to use, but due to its open format


you have to plan ahead just how you intend to use it.
Liam OMullane explores some performance options...

erforming an electronic-based live show in an


age of in-the-box production would seem to be
a logical next step in these technological
times. Indeed, more and more people are
DJing using software and laptops, so the
boundaries that used to separate DJing and live
performance are increasingly blurred. In this tutorial,
therefore, well be looking at ways in which you can take
your own musical ideas onto the stage.
The first approach is similar to creating a song in a
linear-based sequencer window. The second technique
takes a more DJ-like approach; the third is a live jam in
front of an audience. All of these can cross over to some
degree, but the main thing to take away from this
Workshop is an understanding of the various tools you
can use to create your own performances.
Many people already use Live as a production tool
and will already have song projects they can draw on to
create their performance-based set. Others, who
perhaps primarily work in another DAW for music

MTF Navigation Session View essentials


BACK TO
ARRANGEMENT
This will turn red when
any clips are launched
in Session View.
Clicking it will return to
playing clips laid out in
Arrangement View.

production, will need to export their material out as audio


stems. For an idea on how to divide the stems, follow the
walkthrough opposite.

Play it safe
For anyone who hasnt used Live before or those who
only dabble with it for the odd task the two screens
youll spend most time in are Arrangement View (which
functions like other linear DAWs) and Session View. The
latter flips tracks to run horizontally on the screen like a
mixing desk. The difference is that these horizontal

The boundaries that separated


DJing and live performance are
increasingly blurred
tracks can also host audio or MIDI clips. The relationship
between the two screens is that Live will play from
Arrangement View by default. Here you can import,
record and edit audio/MIDI parts like any other
sequencer. Some people will use it to lay out an entire set
from start to finish and use Session View only for the
elements they wish to perform live. To see Session View

MIDI AND KEY ASSIGNMENT


MIDI controls can be assigned to any area that illuminates blue when MIDI Map mode is enabled. Key Map mode
lets you assign computer keys, but this can be risky as you might accidentally hit the Space Bar, which will stop the set.

SCENE
LAUNCHING
Each row across
Session View is called a
Scene and can be
launched from the play
buttons in the master
track. Make sure that
you rename these via
the Edit menu so theyll
make sense in the heat
of a live performance.

30 | Ableton Live 2013

Ableton Live
project file included
on the DVD

STOP BUTTONS
Launched clips can be stopped by pressing the master stop button at the bottom of
the track. The Stop Clips button on the master track will stop all playing clips.

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Tools for a live performance Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Preparing stems for DJing

Starting with a fully laid-out song


project, the next step is to funnel your
high track count into a more manageable 48
Group tracks. You can then record these
groups to create stems to use in your
performance set. But instead of using Group
tracks, which cant record audio, create audio
tracks via the Create menu. Name each new
track (weve gone for kick, drums, perc, bass,
melodic and other in our example).

To route each track from your project to


the correct Group track, switch to Session
View (by pressing the [Tab] key). Next, set the
Audio To menu on each track to the appropriate
Group track. Record-arm each Group track so
that pressing Lives main record button will
record your stems. Hit record after resetting
playback to bar 1 beat 1 (double-click the stop
button on Lives transport). Hit stop after the
track ends.

Highlight your new stem tracks and


choose Copy from the Edit menu. This
will copy the audio into memory so you can
close the current project and start a new one
for your performance set. Create 12 new
audio tracks in this set and name them as the
Group tracks you named before, but this time
youre creating two lots for a left and right DJ
setup. Click on the start of the first track in
Arrangement View and select Paste.

In Arrangement View, highlight a logical


portion of the track to cut into even
sections (16-bar chunks usually work best).
Then either select Consolidate Time to New
Scene from the right+click menu. This will
move each song section to a unique scene in
session view and loop the clips. Just make
sure you name the scenes afterwards with
the name of the song so they make sense at a
quick glance.

Click in the far top-left clip slot and select


Paste. Your first track is now imported
and ready to play in your set. You can choose to
either set each clip to loop from the Clip View
window or set them all to launch the clip below
after a specified amount of playback time.
After highlighting them all in the Launch
window, set the left-hand Follow Action menu
to Next Clip. Set the bar count above it to the
clip length, in our case this is 16 bars.

You can now repeat this process for


other finished tracks and import them
onto alternating sides. Be aware that if you
save each song project after recording the
stems, the audio will be stored in that Live
sets project folder. However, if you choose to
Collect All And Save from the File menu in the
performance set, Live will make new copies
of the stems and store them in the
performance sets own folder.

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press the [Tab] key. If you drag in audio or MIDI


clips,Session View wont become active until you launch
a clip (by hitting its play icon) or launch the entire row
(these are referred to as Scenes).
Any clip played from Session View will override the
playback of clips in Arrangement View, so if you intend to
have the core backing parts running from Arrangement
View, live elements are best kept on their own tracks in
Session View. This means that elements in Arrangement
View will continue to play back without disruption.
Elements to launch from Session View could be
one-shot samples such as sound effects or accenting
sounds. They could also be a collection of loops on one
track that you want to manually launch and move
between during the set. If you want a more fluid
transition between clips, try enabling Legato mode for
each one. This will make the playback position continue
to move forward, regardless of when you decide to
launch each clip. It sounds great when moving between
drum loops, giving contrasting content for a dramatic,
choppy effect.

PRO TIP
Live is very flexible when it
comes to syncing with other
tech. The MIDI tab in
Preferences lets you use MTC
(MIDI Time Code) or MIDI clock
to output to other slave devices
while Live is the master.
Alternatively, use the MIDI
input to make Live the slave
from another device. This can
be two or more laptops running
Live, a laptop and drum
machine or anything else that
can sync via MIDI.

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Legato mode can be found in the Launch window of


any clip in the lower half of the screen. If you have a
pre-planned arrangement you can move away from it
using Session View then click the Back To Arrangement
button to stop all session clips from playing and revert
back to the arrangement, or click on the small play icons
to the right of the relevant tracks in arrangement view.

Talking stems
Djing with stems is the next level of mixing from a DJs
perspective Loopmasters Mix Tools series is testament
to this. These Mix Tools are full tracks provided in their
core elements: drums, bass, melodies and so on. For DJs
this gives a much deeper level of control in terms of
manipulation and arrangements, but this approach can
also be applied to your own musical material.
By preparing audio stems for the core elements of
your own work you can drag them into a single live DJ set
and work with them. If you stick to a clear stem formula
when preparing your tracks you can create a left and
right set of blank tracks to accommodate them and mix
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MTF Technique Tools for a live performance

between. The previous walkthrough covers the main


process of preparation and explains how to split them
into phrase sections. You can then improvise with
arrangement and duration on-the-fly.
If you look at Step 6 you can see how the divided track
stems are side-by-side but not parallel with each other.
This is so that you can easily cue full song sections when
the track is playing alone using scene launches. Then,
when you want to start mixing into the next track, you can
cue clips from their individual launch buttons. When you
want the next track to play alone you can simply launch a
scene; all other clips in the session will stop, giving a
clean transition.

On the scene
Another option is to work in a much more fundamental
way, using just a handful of clips per scene. Each scene
represents a full musical idea, and by using your mixer
and effects you can introduce elements, process them
and jam around a musical section before cueing clips

PRO TIP
When creating chains of
effects make use of the Group
function from the Edit menu,
then you can right-click (PC)/
[Ctrl]-click (Mac) and assign
any parameter to one of the
racks eight macro dials. This
makes it easy to control one or
more parameters at once with
a MIDI controller.

from another scene as a musical transition.


The walkthrough below gives you some setup ideas for
improvising, but using the cue function is essential if you
intend to play instruments in an improvisational way
firstly, because you need to check that your chosen
sounds will work in the context of your mix; secondly, you
can try out a riff idea and then play it out through the mix
when you have it rehearsed enough to perform.
Try slicing up loops to play back via MIDI for dramatic
control over the intensity and size of drum loops.
Assigning the sustain level of the drum racks global
ADSR to a controller means you can go from a fullsounding drum beat with the sustain up high to a pokey,
tight-sounding rhythm as each slices duration is reduced
when sustain is lowered.

Mix it up
When it comes to the mixer, the most effective controls to
use are channel volume, channel mute and send levels
for effects such as reverb and delay. Faders are useful for

MTF Step-by-Step Preparing to improvise

There are many ways to improvise in a


performance. Its perfectly possible to
start with a completely blank set and then
bring in elements as you go, but most people
will prepare core building blocks to work from.
Try gathering a few complete-sounding
scenes. This means they have all the
elements needed to create a complete
section usually, drums, bass, pads, SFX and
melody, whether its a lead line or vocals.

Having all the elements you need on a


single scene for each song section
enables you to use them in a classic dub-remix
style, with each clip constantly playing in a
loop. Try to create sounds that dont need
anything adding to them from a production
standpoint. The more thats there the better, as
you can then use various effects to carve away
from these big sounds. Inserts or auxiliary
sends can both be explored for this purpose.

Try to stick with stem-like sound groups


rather than having too many clips to
handle its your mixer and effects that will
create the arrangement and dynamics for the
performance. A powerful way to control loops
rhythmically is by using the Slice To New MIDI
Track option from the right-click (PC)/
[Ctrl]-click (Mac) menu. Then you can assign
the global ADSR controls for all slices at once
to a controller.

For more improvisation ideas, Live can


be configured to let you preview ideas
through headphones (wired to a separate
output from your main outputs). Youll need
at least four outputs on your audio interface
to assign at the bottom of the master track.
Select one stereo pair for the headphone cue
output and the other for the master. The Solo
button below can be clicked to change to
cue. Channels will now display a headphone
icon while muted.

You can also preview ideas using a virtual


instrument, either performing them fully
live with a MIDI controller or by recording them
live under preview to then introduce once
recorded and perfected. If you plan to do this,
we suggest enabling record quantisation so
you automatically have a tightened-up
recording after the take is done. You can
choose the most appropriate quantisation
measure from the Edit menu.

MIDI Effects can be a fun way to


experiment with sounds either as you
perform or as you preview an idea in your
headphones. For instance, if youre using a
virtual instrument that changes timbre with
different velocity values, Lives Velocity device
can be an affective tool. Use it with an already
varied MIDI part, then start to tweak the Drive
control to distort the original balance
between higher and lower velocity notes.

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chopping sounds rhythmically, while mutes can be used


to control the amount of musical content heard at any
given moment. When you assign effects sends, a good
trick is to assign them to MIDI buttons or pads rather
than faders. This lets you add very fast and accurate
flashes of effects to audio, brilliant for momentarily
sending audio to long reverbs or delays to create new
sounds in the mix. If your MIDI controller supports it, use
a momentary button behaviour so you have to hold it
down only as long as needed.

Cause and effect


Live has many effects, but there are some tried-andtested basics that most people will use on either single
tracks, groups or the master output. Low- or high-pass
filters are a common choice, but they need to be set up
correctly to retain a constant level of energy in the mix.
Try adding an Auto Filter with a Compressor afterwards
and group the two from the Edit menu. You can then set
the filter cut-off to a macro along with the compressors

threshold. Use Map mode to make the threshold go lower


as you get to a weaker-sounding signal. A good example
of this is using a high-pass filter with the threshold
lowering as the cut-off increases. This is how to get a
more bitey-sounding edge as the sound gets thinner and
loses its lower body frequencies.
Beat Repeat is also a popular choice for easy glitch
edits as you go, but use it with restraint as its been used
so much already that it sounds at its most engaging
when used sparingly. Another choice are filters,
particularly when placed at the end of send effects. If you
set up a very long delay time and assign a band-pass
filter after it, you can musically play with the delayed
signal as it sustains over the mix by controlling the
cut-off frequency for that classic dub delay sound.
There are too many effects in Live to fully cover here,
but experimentation is key to finding your own voice for
expressive control. As a final note, ensure you always add
a Limiter to the end of your master channel. This will
avoid volume accidents and protect delicate ears. MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Using Live as a performance mixer

In order to use Live as a mixer and


processing tool for other sources, youll
benefit from keeping its internal tempo in
sync with other musicians. If you have a
digital source you can use MIDI sync, but to
work with human performers youll need to
ride the tempo. Four taps of the Tap Tempo
button will work as a count-in. Live will join in
on the fifth tap. Once the project is running
youll need to keep everything in time.

The two buttons to the right of the tempo


BPM box can momentarily nudge
playback back and forth to align the beat of
Live with other musicians. Assigning these
along with the BPM amount to a MIDI
controller lets you ride Live like a turntable.
Use nudge to correct the playback and raise or
lower the BPM as necessary.

To use Live as a mixer youll need the


appropriate inputs to be assigned and
be able to run at incredibly low latency for
minimal delay. Under the Audio tab in
Preferences, press the Input Config button
and enable the relevant inputs. Click and
drag the Buffer Size number under Latency to
its lowest value. If you then enable the Test
Tone, you can quickly judge if your computer
can handle this type of latency setting.

Next well create a mixer project to host


all input channels, which can then have
effects added to them. Add as many audio
tracks as you will need using the Create
menu. Highlight them all by clicking on the
title bar of one track and then pressing Ctrl/
[Cmd]+[A]. You can then use one IO setting for
changing Monitor to In for them all at once. If
you cant see them, press the small, round IO
symbol to the bottom right of the master
channel to reveal them.

Now click on the title bar of just one track


so theyre no longer all highlighted. Set
the lower Audio From menu to the relevant
soundcard input for each signal. It makes
sense to rename each track at this point so
they make sense at a glance. The quickest way
to do this is by pressing [Ctrl]+ (PC)/[Cmd]+
(Mac) [R] after clicking each tracks title bar.

All audio should now be passing


through Live and is then merged to one
output through the master channel. From
here you can add effects to any channel; wed
suggest starting with an EQ Eight on each to
remove unwanted low end and a Limiter at
the end of all effects chains to reduce the
chance of any unwanted leaps in level. Any
time-based effects you use will sound very
professional as you keep Lives tempo in time
with the performance.

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MTF Technique Programming & workflow

Ableton Live Become a Live Power User

Programming
technique & workflow
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 tutorial well take a thorough look at the various
aspects of Live 9 concerning editing audio and MIDI.
Although these both present different options for creating

On the disc
Accompanying
project file included
on the DVD

Irrespective of the investment


youve made in your Live setup,
weve got you covered
music, we will have a single aim in a bid to accommodate
them 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 a creative
playground to all. And although the Push
instrument is still in its infancy, were
already finding 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, 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 with, 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. MTF

Programming & workflow Technique MTF

MTF 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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MTF 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.

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MTF Technique Making the most of Push

Ableton Live Become a Live Power User

Making the
most of Push

Learning to use Push entails more than simply understanding its functionality.
Liam OMullane shares best practice for starting ideas and laying out a song.

ush raised many an eyebrow when it was


announced alongside the release of Live 9. At
first glance it appeared to be just another control
surface, to be used much like a Novation
Launchpad S or AKAI APC40. But the more we
looked into its feature set, the clearer the real focus of Push
became. Although Push can indeed work in a Session
View-type mode like the APC and Launchpad a much
greater emphasis is placed on giving the user the tools they
need to create songs from scratch. All of this can take place
within Push itself, without you ever needing to look at your
computer. This enables you to get the bulk of your
composition work done while remaining in a creative
headspace rather than a technical one, when you use your
eyes as much as your ears.

On the disc
Accompanying
project file included
on the DVD

The more we looked into its


feature set, the clearer the real
focus of Push became
FOCUS ON USING THIRD-PARTY PLUG-INS
By default, third-party plug-ins dont like to play with Push. In this
respect, Push is still very much a Live library-based tool unless you
customise it a little. In order to access a third-party plug-in from
Pushs browser you first need to add the plug-in to Lives own library
by housing it within a Rack and saving it. Click on the plug-in to bring it
into focus, then select Group from the Edit menu; Grouping puts the
plug-in inside a Rack. Next, use the Configure button to add sliders for
the parameters you want Push to see from the plug-in. If you want
more immediate use of the plug-in, try right/[Ctrl]-clicking (PC/Mac)
certain sliders and assigning them to the Racks own macro controls.
Rename the Rack appropriately and save it to
your Live library.

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Ableton has branded Push as an instrument rather than


a controller, and this side of its nature becomes increasingly
evident as you spend time with the device. Its designed for
fast and intuitive access to most of Lives essential tools,
but that being said, theres very little information on how you
exploit them to get rapid, productive results.
This lack of direction is reminiscent of the early years of
Live, when users defined different working methods and
workflows, not Ableton. And like Live, Push has an open
framework that enables users to work in any way they see
fit. But without the experience of already having created
songs with Push, it can be difficult to understand how you
might go about using the device. Sadly, because Push
doesnt give you access to all of Lives features, you cant
simply apply your usual techniques as you would when
working with Live alone. Here we will demonstrate some
proven working methods for using Push to get from an initial
idea to a full song arrangement.
Before we start, were assuming that youve learned the
basic functionality of Pushs features; if not, there are some
excellent video tutorials at www.ableton.com, on our DVD or
in Lives manual, accessed via the Help menu. The videos
cover creating beats, playing chords and melodies, tweaking
and mixing, Session mode, pad sensitivity and workflow.
From there on, were going to show you how to make the
most of Pushs strengths, as well as how to work around a
few weaknesses. Ideally, you will already know an undo from
a redo, the difference between clip and scene launching,
step sequencing and Pushs innovative scale system. If all
these sound familiar, lets get stuck in. MTF

Making the most of Push Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Programming a drum pattern

Program in a kick drum or hi-hat on the beat as this can be used


as a pleasant-sounding metronome. Creating a new clip will
trigger playback the moment you enter the first note, so if you dont
want to hear the pattern as you work, either press stop immediately or
put your first note at the end of the bar, giving you time to then program
in the rest before the clip repeats.

Its a good idea to hit the Duplicate button every time you create a
new rhythmic layer. This approach makes it much easier to
access different variations of the drum pattern to work with. Wed
press Duplicate now if we feel that we may later want to strip things
right back to the fundamentals of our song.

For parts that play more frequently (such as hi-hats or shakers),


enable Repeat mode, hit record, and then select the repetition
speed you want from the quantize division buttons to the right-hand
side of the main pads. Disable Accent to use the pressure sensitivity of
the pads for immediate dynamic control of the repeated notes velocity
as you play.

Swing can be applied globally via the second dial in on the


left-hand side of Push. This works very well for getting an
immediate sense of feel in your pattern. If you have more time, though,
wed recommend editing your patterns on a note-by-note basis as this
offers a much finer degree of control.

Note Nudge becomes available when you hold down a note in


your drum pattern. Explore nudging for a sense of feel; moving
certain sounds a little later in time can give a rhythm more of a
laid-back feel. Moving sounds earlier gives them a sense of urgency
and makes your pattern sound like its pushing itself ahead in time. You
can fine-tune velocity values here as well.

You are now at a stage where you can add some more sporadic
percussive sounds to create a longer pattern with more variation.
First press the Double button a few times to create a longer pattern,
then hit record and play in a part that doesnt repeat itself too much.
This is often easier to do when you perform it live, but you could always
do it via step-sequencing, with careful use of Nudge as well.

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MTF Technique Making the most of Push

MTF Step-by-Step Exploring melodic ideas

Pushs scale system offers a unique way to approach melodic


work, and there are several ways to interact with it. The first
approach is to find a chord shape you like the sound of. This can involve
one or two hands, but two hands can make this exercise a little harder
as you then need to move the same hand shape around the scale grid.
This technique is for super-easy chord changes.

The choice of scale is easy to change and its worth taking some
time to explore the library included with Live. Scale-changing is
immediate when applied, which makes it a creative tool in itself.
Instead of moving your chord hand, hold a chord shape and switch the
key or scale with the other hand as you play.

You can take a completely pattern-based approach to exploring


new chord shapes as you move on, too. If you find a particular
shape with one hand, try flipping it around by either 90, 180 or 270
degrees with the other hand for the next chord. Use the repeated green
lights as a guide to determine how your next chord can be linked to the
previous one in terms of pitch.

Because you can play the same chord in different areas of the
scale grid, interesting rhythmic possibilities can be explored as
you can play the same or neighbouring notes with both hands, like a
drum. Hold the same chord with your left and right hands, then either
alternate between two identical chords or use the individual notes for
creating arpeggiated pieces.

If you havent already tried tweaking your current melodic sounds


to better suit your ideas, explore the instruments ADSR, filter
and other settings to tighten or open things up as appropriate. These
parameters can be tweaked during playback for more variation, and
you can record your automation passes by pressing Automation,
followed by Record.

Although varying parameters over time can work on many


occasions, a general static change of certain parameters from
one song section to the next can also do wonders to help define the
sections in your arrangement. Enable Automation and Record, then
hold a finger against the encoder dials side so a fixed position can be
recorded as new automation.

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MTF Step-by-Step Arranging with Push

When your basic song ideas are together in Push, its time to
commit them to Arrangement View so you can move over to the
computer and finish everything off. There are a few ways to do this, the
first of which uses the classic approach of launching clips as a
performance. To begin, switch from Note mode to Session mode.

You can now see all of your clips and scenes, which can be
launched via the illuminated pads or quantize buttons down the
right-hand side respectively. From here you can start creating more
scenes using Duplicate, then modify certain clips or use Delete to
create different combinations of clips for more variation.

If youre struggling to decide what your song sections should


include, try a bit of experimentation. If you switch to Track View
you can use either the mute of solo buttons to try out different
combinations. Soloing a main riff is great for a breakdown, or just the
drums for intros. If you find a combination that works, duplicate the
scene and delete the unwanted clips.

You can reprogram certain clips for more variation, but this isnt
the only option another approach is to alter a clips properties.
Press the Clip button to view and alter the play marker position and
loop-length values (short loops work very well for stuttered effects).
You can alter the start position to move around the contents of the clip.
Hold down Shift for finer movements.

If youve played around with your scenes enough to know how


your song arrangement should be, hit the Arrangement Record
button in Live and launch your first clip or scene from Push to begin
capturing your songs layout. If youre a little unsure whether the
arrangement is right or not, record a few attempts, one after another,
then wait a day or so before reviewing them and deciding which is best.

For a more full-on performance as you record into Live you may
want to set up various essential parameters to tweak as you
record. To create custom mappings, switch Push into User mode and
use MIDI Map mode in Live to assign certain parts of Push to elements
of your performance. Make sure that the input of Push has Remote
Mapping mode enabled in Preferences or mapping wont work.

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POWER USER
TIPS FOR

Ableton Live 9 & Push


Live 9 has a huge number of features, as does
Push. Become a power user with our insiders
guide to getting the most from both
software and hardware

SAMPLE LEVEL HOT-SWAPPING


If youre working with Drum Racks, a Simpler sampling
instrument will be automatically placed on every drum pad.
Hot-Swapping (by pressing [Q]) can be used to swap out a
sound or preset. This can be done on an entire Drum Rack
preset or just the Simpler itself. Sadly, when you Hot-Swap a
Simpler for another sound, all of the filter and ADSR settings
are reset at the same time. To swap out just the sample on
its own, therefore, you need to use the mouse and move to
the bottom right of the waveform, then click on the little
Hot-Swap icon that appears.

01

CLEVER MIDI CLIP EXTENSION


Extending a MIDI clip will expose more looped data by
default, a behaviour that may or many not suit your
particular method of working. Instead of turning off looping
in Clip View each time you want to create a longer section to
add to, simply highlight the part by left-clicking on it and
press [Ctrl]/[Cmd]+[J] (PC/Mac) to consolidate it. This
technique is a lot faster and saves you additional mouse
movements. Another approach is extend it first and then
consolidate it, so that you have a single, new independent
clip to alter for variation.

MAPPING MODES
Live has a simple click-and-assign method for assigning
computer keys or MIDI controllers to most controls. Enable
Mapping mode by clicking the KEY or MIDI buttons in the
top-right of the screen; select what you want to assign, then
press the button or move the control you want to assign.

04

02

TRACK DEFAULTS
Live 9 now features user-defined default-loaded
devices for both audio and MIDI tracks, which can save you
time when setting up a project. Set up your favourite devices
on an audio or MIDI track first, then right/[Ctrl]-click on the
track title bar and select Save As Default Audio or MIDI Track
from the dropdown menu.

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01

50 Power User Tips MTF

05

08

INSTANT FAVOURITE SETTINGS


As you spend more time using Lives plug-ins youll find
that the first 3060 seconds after loading each one are spent
setting it up. EQ Eight is a good example of this: you might find
that the first two EQs are better set to a low- and high-cut EQ
for obligatory house-keeping work. When your preferred
starting point is configured for a device, right/[Ctrl]-click on it
and select Save As Default Preset. It will then load up in this
pre-set state each time.

08

PUSH SENSITIVITY
Pressing and holding the User button enables you to
configure the sensitivity and velocity curve to your personal
preference. Start by lowering the Pad Threshold so its just
above the point where the pads self-trigger, then explore the
different velocity curves to get the right feel.

05

ADDITIONAL HARMONICS
If you want to create accompanying notes for a melody
line to make chords or harmonies, select them all and hold
down [Alt] while you drag to make a copy for a higher or lower
melody line. If you want the original lead melody to remain
prominent, hold down [Ctrl]/[Cmd] while hovering the mouse
cursor over one of the newly created notes and drag to
change the velocity of all selected notes.

09

By saving the Rack at the top


level you can instantly recall
whole chains of effects
OVERLOAD EFFECTS
If you are using return tracks, the Send control is
disabled by default. If you right-click on it and choose Enable
Send you can get some interesting overdrive effects as the
channel feeds back on itself. Be careful, though, as this can
result in clipping. It is useful, however, when DJing and using
delay effects to create a sort of overload effect for short
periods of time.

06

INFINITE RACKS
You can use Audio Racks inside other Audio Racks by
expanding an effects Chain section and dragging further
effects inside it. The result is a near-infinite level of flexibility
for processing sounds, and by saving the Rack at the top level
you can instantly recall whole chains of effects with a single
click. Use this to create complex, layered effects.

07

GLUE SATURATION
An alternative to using Saturators Analog Clip setting
for analogue-style saturation is to use Glue, instead. Enable
Glues Soft Clip mode and use Makeup Gain to drive the input
into the saturation stage.

10

PUSH AND SESSION MODE


To create a fast-paced performance with Push youll
need to perform various parts from the Drum Rack or Scale
interfaces while also needing to use Session mode to launch
clips as you go. For super-fast access to Session mode, hold
the Session button but dont let go. Instead, launch the clips or
scenes with the other hand, then release the Session button
to return back to the Notes View you momentarily left.

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HOT-SWAP FOR AUDIO TRACKS


The Hot-Swap feature in Simpler,
Sampler, Impulse and many other devices
makes for very quick auditioning when
working with MIDI. If you prefer to work with
audio loops in Session View or sequence
audio events in Arrangement View, however,
there is another way to use Hot-Swap. In Clip
View, right/[Ctrl]-click on the audio files
name (just below the top of the Sample box)
and select Manage Sample File. Now the
Replace Files browser will appear on the right
and you can click the Hot-Swap button to the
left of the file name to audition replacement
audio files.

12

13

PLAY YOUR PARAMETERS


When using MIDI Map mode, Live will let
you span the control of a parameter across a
range of MIDI notes just enable MIDI Map
mode, click on the parameter you want to
control, then press the top and bottom range
of the notes to assign all keys in between as
well. Try hammering out rhythmic changes to
a filters cutoff frequency or delay time on an
echo effect. This can help create some great
ideas and also looks interesting to an
audience during a performance.

13

USE AUTO FADES


In Lives Preferences youll find an option under the
Record tab called Create Fades on Clip Edges. When this is
activated it adds a short fade-in at the start of every recorded
clip and a fade-out at its end. The result is that you avoid the
clips and clicks that can sometimes occur when a clip is
looped at a point that does not have a zero crossing. This
preference is activated by default.

14

TIME FOR ACTION


Theres nothing like randomness to help you out of a
creative rut, and Follow Actions are useful in this situation.
Slice up a piece of audio already in your project or grab
random loops from the Live browser and drop them into a
single track in Session View. Highlight all of the loops and
open the Launch button from the bottom left-hand side of
the Clip View window (its an L in a small circle). Now select
the left-hand dropdown menu under Follow Action and select
Any. This will now randomly play any clips in the track;
reducing the Time Control values directly under Follow Action
will enable you to dictate how soon the clips follow on from

15

one another. For further variation, enable


Legato mode to let the play position continue
around the loops as they switch.
AUTOMATE PROJECT TEMPO
If you right-click on Lives tempo display
you will reveal a menu that lets you show the
automation channel for the projects tempo. A
tempo automation lane appears in
Arrangement View and you can draw in data
to change speed over time. In the Automation
Type sub-menu you can choose other
parameters, including the ability to automate
the global groove amount.

16

HEAVY MIDDLE, LIGHT SIDES


Lives EQ Eight can work in either
stereo, independent left and right, or mid/
side modes. By setting Mode to M/S, the Edit
button below will now let you flick between
mid-and-side EQ settings. To make a stereo
sound more focused in the mix, try rolling off
the low-to-mids from the side signal so that
the stereo element is left only in the higher
frequency range. This is also useful to be 100
per cent sure you dont have any low-end
phase in the stereo field. To hear either the
mid or the sides in solo, add a Utility plug-in and set the
Width setting to 200% for side and 0% for mid.

17

CLEAN FINISH WITH PUSH


When it comes to finishing a performance with Push you
have a few options. You can simply hit the Stop button, but
this isnt always the cleanest option. A master fade-out using
the Master knob on the very right encoder might work, but
this isnt the most confident way to finish a song. For a truly
clean finish we recommend using the Stop button, which isnt
immediately available as a safety precaution its unlit until
you press the Shift button, then you will see it under the
Master button on the upper right of the pad grid.

18

SEARCH AND FIND


Lives new browser takes a little getting used to but the
search function is a huge time-saver. Press [Ctrl]/[Cmd]+[F] to
jump to the browsers search field and simply type in what
youre after. For a kick, type in kick; for a hi-hat, type hat and
so on. This also works for Lives devices, so search for EQ,
reverb, glue etc when you want to add a new device, then hit
[Enter] to add the device to the track currently in focus.

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50 Power User Tips MTF

CREATIVE SLICING
Although Slice To New MIDI Track
(accessed from the right/[Ctrl]-click menu) is an
incredibly fast way to program or take slices
from drum loops, its function and available
presets can be used on any audio as an
experimental tool. Try slicing instrument
melodies or vocal parts and experiment with the
Create One Slice Per settings for transients or
lots of small slices such as 1/16 notes. Then you
can apply MIDI effects like Random or
Arpeggiator to create reordering of these slices
for instant mashed-up audio. With Random it
may be worth recording the output of the device so any
happy randomness can be captured to use again.

various lead parts. This is helped if you


have already grouped tracks in the set, as
they will appear as Group options under
the Export menu.

20

21

VOCODERS ALTERNATIVE USES


The Vocoder effect makes an excellent noise-shaping
tool when added to a return track. With the Carrier set to
Noise, a noise-based imprint of any sounds being sent to it is
created. For more reverb-like sounds you can extend the
release time so the noise lasts longer than the source signal.
The Formant control will let you tune the output, and Depth
controls how much of the modulator will shape the carrier
signal. Drawing out low and mid frequencies in the Filter
Bank section (central) can add a thin layer of noise along with
the source sound, acting as a frequency exciter.

21

Unsyncing tempo-based
effects can be a liberating way
to work when playing live
GROUP TRACKS
By grouping tracks together you can manage complex
projects much more easily. This feature is especially useful
when performing, as it means less scrolling and navigating.
The small arrow located at the top of the Group channel
enables you to minimise the component tracks, leaving only
the group available. You can also launch clips and change the
effects sends and level of the group, or expand it to change
tracks within the group. Its also possible to work with
scenes using groups.

22

EXPORT AS STEMS
If you are exporting stems for mixing elsewhere or for
DJing, use the Export dialog to select which tracks will be
rendered. If you plan on remixing a track in a live setting, it
makes sense to export different groups of sounds as
different tracks say, the drums, percussion, bass and

23

GROOVE EXTRACT
Right-click on an audio or MIDI clip
either in its clip slot or in the Info viewer
at the bottom and you can choose to
extract the groove from the clip. This will
then appear in the Groove Pool and can be
applied to any other clip, as well as being
renamed to make things easier to follow.
Say you have one great sampled beat: by
taking the groove from it in this way you
can match other audio and MIDI parts to it effortlessly.

24

UNSYNC YOURSELF
Live is very good at keeping everything in sync, but
sometimes this can be the opposite of what you want,
especially when it comes to things like delay effects. There is
often the option to unsync a tempo-based effect from the
project tempo and to work with it freely or to set its time in
milliseconds and not divisions of the project tempo. This can
be a liberating way to work when playing live.

25

DRAG, DROP AND PREPARE


You can change how files will lay out when importing
multiple files from the Live browser or another window.
Holding [Ctrl]/[Cmd] before you let go of them into Live will
make them stack vertically in Arrangement View, or vice versa
in Session View. If you have any particular plans for this audio
its worth setting their preferences in Clip View while they are
all still highlighted. However, dont double-click them to
access Clip View as this unhighlights them; press
[Shift]+[Tab] to flick between Clip and Track Views instead.
Now you can play with Transpose and Warp mode, as well as
colour-coding and renaming them.

26

STRETCHED BEYOND RECOGNITION


Although Warp modes let you preserve audio fidelity
when dealing with time-stretch and compression, they are
also great sound-manglers when pushed to extremes. If you
use any Warp mode bar Re-Pitch, you can explore the Double
Original Tempo button above the Warp Mode menu (to the
right) to stretch audio out. Here you can type in higher
numbers, up to 999BPM. Then, if you want to stretch further,
you can click on the audio clip itself and select Consolidate
from the right/[Ctrl]-click menu and start the process again.

27

MAKE THE MOST OF PUSHS RIBBON CONTROLLER


When you want a fine level of control, switch Push to
User mode and MIDI Map the ribbon controller usually used
for pitch-bend to a sonically engaging parameter to modify.
This will give you much more expressive control than

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MTF 50 Power User Tips

set to the types of ambience you


always use in your work, and
much more. Once you have
your project set up as you
want it, open Lives
Preferences by pressing
[Ctrl]+[,] (PC) or [Cmd]+[,]
(Mac) then click on the File
Folder tab. At the top, click to
store the template as the
33
default project when opening
Live. If there are any audio
files used in the template
they will still be located in
their original place, so make
sure that you know where they are so
that you dont accidentally delete them in the future.
ROUTE AUDIO EXTERNALLY
If you have an audio interface with lots of outputs you
can monitor Lives tracks individually through external
channels. First, go into the Preferences and make sure that
as many outputs as you need are activated. Then, in Session
View, reveal the I/O section and, from the Audio To menu,

32

Pushs encoder dials, but make sure that you keep contact
with the ribbon throughout your recordings as it will
otherwise snap back to the middle.
QUANTIZE AND NOTE CONTROL
Although Record Quantization is available from the Edit
menu enabling your performances to be cleaned up as they
are recorded into a MIDI track it doesnt cater for the end
positions of each note. Quantize Settings (from the Edit
menu) lets you choose how the manual Quantize command
behaves, and here you can specify quantizing end points. If
you want all notes to be the same length, the simplest way to
do this is to highlight them all and drag the longest note to
the smallest size possible. When you expand them again, they
will all be the same length.

29

LARGE AND QUICK INSTRUMENT SOUNDS


If you want to create a number of large-sounding lead
or bass synth parts simultaneously, Instrument Racks will
help you to achieve them very quickly. After you have
selected your first synth sound, click on its title bar to select
it and choose Group from the Edit menu. Next, click on the
Show/Hide Chain List button (the third round button down
on the very left of the Rack) and drag your next instrument
to the empty space underneath the existing instrument.
Now drag a Pitch MIDI effect to this instrument so that you
can experiment with the best octave to use this next
instrument with. You can continue this process to stack up
synths to fill out various frequency areas and then control
them in unison by dragging Filter and other effects to the
end of the Rack chain.

30

START AS YOU MEAN TO GO ON


As with effect default settings, you can create a
personalised starting point by setting up a template this
could contain Drum Racks with your favourite drum samples
already loaded, a collection of return tracks

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Stack up synths to fill out


various frequency areas and
control them in unison
choose the relevant output. It makes sense to set up a
template project with the routings all set up, so you wont
have to perform this procedure more than once, which can
stifle spur-of-the-moment composition.
IMPULSIVE DRUMMING
Since Drum Racks appeared in Live its been quite easy
to overlook the original Impulse drum machine. Although
Drum Racks place a Simpler in each drum pad by default, it
is possible to create Impulse instances on any pads that you
wish to use. The main advantage to this is that the Impulse
device is capable of time-stretching, so you can use the
Stretch and overall Time control to stretch out sounds or
shorten them, using them as expressive audio tools. If you
create a Drum Rack containing Impulse devices on each
drum pad, you can then click Save Preset on the Drum Rack
for instant recall later on. It is also worth assigning
commands such as Stretch to a macro via the right/
[Ctrl]-click menu so you can time-stretch the entire drum kit
at any given moment.

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50 Power User Tips MTF

EFFECTIVE PITCHING
When working with audio files, you can quickly re-pitch
one or a collection of highlighted audio clips by adjusting the
Transpose control (and Detune for finer tuning). All Warp
modes except Re-Pitch keep loops the same length while
changing the pitch. Switching to Re-Pitch mode will disable
the use of Transpose until you turn off Warp mode, which then
locks pitch and length together in a classic vari-speedbehaviour, like most samplers. The Frequency Shifter audio
effect is another option that has a different tone from normal
pitch-shifting algorithms. This can be useful for tuning
elements of drum hits with a balance of the original by
adjusting the dry/wet balance.

34

DUMMY GROUP AUTOMATION


Group tracks are a simple way to route a collection of
tracks or instruments through one audio channel, but
manually setting up this routing has the advantage of
allowing for dummy clips. After creating an audio track, set
Monitor to In and select No Input from the Audio From menu.
Now set all other tracks Audio To settings to route to this new
audio channel. You can now drag any audio loop to the new
channel; it wont be heard due to the Channel Monitor
settings, but you can open up the clips Envelope Properties in
Session View and use the audio clip to control parameters
such as channel volume for rhythmic volume patterns, filter
cutoffs or effect sends.

35

BEING NEIGHBOUR-FRIENDLY
Your neighbours will like this tip and you may avoid
noise-pollution lawsuits at the same time. If you work in
genres with a lot of bass you can add an EQ Three to the
master output to temporarily remove the bottom end when
not working on bass-essential sections. Use Key Map mode
to assign the Low On/Off button to a handy key to toggle the
bass cut on/off while you work. Set the FreqLow dial high
enough so you dont feel the bass through the floor or the
walls when touched with your hand.

36

CONTROL SCENE PROPERTIES


If you move the mouse to a slot in the Scene column and
right-click you can set both the launch tempo and time
signature of that scene by using the relevant Edit command.
This lets you have scenes of different speeds and with
different feels within the same set, making for a more
dynamic live performance if you set these things in advance.

37

USE AUTO QUANTIZE


From the Edit>Record Quantization menu you can
configure Live to automatically quantize MIDI as it is played in,
using any of a range of possible quantization values. This is a
great time-saver if your playing is not the best (or if you dont
want to have to go through and manually quantize everything
post-recording). Data thats been quantized in this way can
still be re-quantized afterwards.

38

SAVE FOR THE FUTURE


If you are creating sounds to use in future projects there
are two ways to make them easy to fully recall later. To save
the instrument and its associated audio plug-ins, highlight all
of the devices and select Group from the right/[Ctrl]-click
menu. Now click on the Save Preset icon in the bottom left of
the new Instrument Rack to save all of the various elements
as one. If you want to save everything for a channel

39

Record parts from another


audio channel to create new
loops or sample material
including MIDI parts or audio loops left-click and drag the
top of the channel in Session View to the Live browser; it will
be saved in a location of your choice. This will create a Live
.als file for MIDI tracks and a Samples folder for audio tracks
to hold the copied audio. You can then simply drag this into
any open project in the future.
MESS WITH
MARKERS
When Live analyses an
audio file it creates warp
markers based on
settings that you specify.
These are freely
moveable, and can be
picked up to mangle,
mash up and otherwise
mess about with.
Warping makes the audio
elastic, so the overall
length of the clip is not
changed, just the way in
which the transients
behave within it.

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39

SAMPLE MAGIC
Sometimes its
handy to record parts
from another audio
channel to create new
loops or sample material
to load into instruments
or perform all sorts of
audio manipulation on.
Rather than set up an
audio track each time, set up a dedicated
track for recording, set its input to be the master buss,
and set Monitor to off to avoid feedback. Now you can
capture magic moments and use them within a project as
audio straightaway, or drag them to the browser for later use.

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MTF 50 Power User Tips

MAPPING AFTERTOUCH
WITH PUSH
Aftertouch is available on all
128 of Pushs pads and can be
wasted when not utilised. In
Live Suite you can load in a Max
For Live device called
Expression Control, found in
the Max MIDI Effect folder. To
map aftertouch globally to any
parameter, click on the blue
Map button on the Max device,
then click the desired parameter
and immediately explore if it can be used
expressively as you perform.

42

42

DRAG WITH PRECISION


Wherever you see a rotary control in Live be it in the
mixer or on an instrument or effect holding down the [Alt]
key while dragging the mouse up or down on that control will
have the effect of adjusting values in much smaller
increments than by dragging them normally. This is
particularly handy when you need to make finer and more
accurate changes, especially when youre performing
parameter automation.

43

Uncompressed audio can


result in a lot of data and
hence large file sizes
MULTI-FREEZE
Freeze multiple tracks to free-up CPU resources by
holding down [Ctrl]/[Cmd] and clicking in the title bars of the
tracks you want to freeze, then right-click on one and choose
Freeze Tracks. Live will render them temporarily as audio and
free up resources on your system. Right-click again and the
option to unfreeze the track will become available.

44

A/B FOR COMPARISON


You can A/B your mixes or masters in Live by simply
loading a reference track into an audio track and your stereo
mixdown into another. Mute one track and then the other as
they play back to hear the differences between them.
[Alt]-drag a track to duplicate it then tweak the effect
settings on the duplicated track and compare the two again.
Audition different mastering treatments using this trick.

45

MASTER YOUR AUTOMATION


When you record automation in Live it can be easy to
accidentally record more than you need, since everything
that gets moved is recorded as automation. To quickly
remove a lot of automation at once, right-click on the title
bar of the track in Arrangement View and choose the Clear
Envelope command. You can also clear all envelopes related
to that effect or instrument, or choose Clear All Envelopes to
delete all automation associated with a track.

send that project over the internet to someone for


collaboration, all of that extra audio data will still be there
and if youre working with uncompressed audio, that can
mean a lot of data and hence large file sizes. By right-clicking
on one or more clips and choosing Crop Clips, you can trim
down the audio to only that required for playback, saving
space and time spent sending the file.
UNDERSTAND LAUNCH MODES
Launch modes for clips are important to understand,
and if you view a clip in Info View you can see its Launch
Properties box. Trigger is the default mode, but other modes
offer more performance flexibility. Gate mode triggers a clip
on mouse-down, but stops it on mouse-up. Toggle means
mouse-down stops and starts a clip, and Repeat means that
holding down the mouse repeatedly triggers it based on its
quantization interval.

49

CUSTOMISE YOUR DISPLAY


Lives ability to load in different-coloured skin themes
has been taken a step further in version 9: now you can
change the colour intensity, hue and brightness for further
fine-tuning of the interfaces appearance. The Disco skin is
great if youre working on sessions in the dark as it doesnt
create too much glare. Take the time to explore the different
looks and figure out what works best for you in terms of
clarity, while also minimising eye fatigue if youre working
on sessions for long periods of time in
the studio. MTF

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46

THE POWER OF VELOCITY


47 HARNESS
When you have several synths or a synth with different
presets loaded into an Instrument Rack, you can use velocity
switching to move between them either via your MIDI input or
using randomisation. In the Rack section, expand the Chain
List section and then activate the Vel (velocity) button. This
reveals the Velocity Editor, and you can set each instrument
in the Rack to respond to different velocities.
CROP YOUR CLIPS
If you have dragged longer clips into clip slots and then
used the Editor section to define regions of them to use for
looping, thats all well and good. However, if you then want to

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50

MTF Technique Understanding Max for Live

On the disc
Ableton Live
project file included
on the DVD

Max For Live Step-by-Step

UNDERSTANDING
MAX FOR LIVE
Ableton Live 9 Suite
Max for Live is now bundled as part of Live 9 Suite, so its the perfect time to find
out how it can help your music-making. Matt Jackson gets you started.

and tutorials make creating your own effects, custom


tools and bespoke methods of interaction much easier
than ever before.
For those in the dark, Max is a graphical
programming environment developed by Cycling 74 that
enables you to make your own audio and visual
software. By connecting different objects together with

ax for Live enables you to


augment the Live environment
in ways that would otherwise
exist only in your imagination.
You can use it to make your own
instruments, effects and visuals that
seamlessly integrate with Live. You can
communicate with hardware and tinker with
elements of the Live application itself, altering
the way in which you control your session and
what your session controls.
Example devices and a huge online community
mean you dont have to get your hands dirty with
Max to benefit, but the Help files, API abstractions

MTF Navigation From Live to Max

Creating your own effects, tools


and methods of interaction is
easier than ever before

DEVICE PATCHER WINDOW


Here you build the guts of your Max for Live device and design the interface. Use Presentation mode to keep your
devices easy to use. When using your device in Live, you will see only the portion of your patch above the device vertical limit.

a
c

DEVICE BROWSER
Built-in Max for Live
objects are kept under the
Max for Live category in the
Device Browser.

DEVICE
PATCHER
WINDOW TASKBAR
This is where you can
toggle various modes
of your device, such as
locking, freezing,
Presentation mode
and preview.

TRACK VIEW
When a track is
selected, you can drag your
Max for Live devices here to
add them to the audio chain
for that track.

50 | Ableton Live 2013

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Understanding Max for Live Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Using M4L devices

Learning MaxMSP is all about using and


editing existing patches. Its the quickest
way to find new objects and ways in which
they can be used. For this reason were going
to start by looking at how to use and edit
devices that come with Max for Live and are
available to download from various websites.

Max for Live devices are contained in


.amxd files. Move the pitchpitch device
file on the DVD to Presets>Audio Effects>Max
Audio Effect in your User Library. You can use
another device you have downloaded if you
like, just make sure that it goes in the
appropriate folder. If youre not sure where your
User Library is located, check under Library in
Lives Preferences.

Open Live and locate the device under


the Max for Live category in the Device
Browser. If you have installed the Max for Live
pack there will other devices here, too. Drag
the device onto an audio track as you would
any other and get some audio running
through it by putting a clip onto the track,
hitting play and triggering the clip.

pitchpitch is an experimental tool that


enables you to re-pitch separate
frequency bands. Have a play with the device
and get used to how it behaves. Thats all
there is to using Max for Live devices; theyre
just like any other device. The device title bar
has all the usual functions, plus an extra Edit
button. Click on this to fire up Max for Live.

The Device Patcher window that opens


up is where you build both the inner
workings of your patch as well as the interface.
Click on the snowflake in the taskbar at the
bottom to unfreeze the device. The padlock
toggles between the patch being editable and
usable. We want it unlocked so that we can
edit some objects.

Now you can start finding out how the


device works and making some
changes. Have a go at moving the interface
objects around, re-wiring them and check out
the Help file for any object by [Alt]-clicking on
it. This is one of the best ways to discover
new objects and methods. When youre done,
close the window and save the changes if you
wish. The device will update in Live.

01

04

02

05

patch cables you can generate and manipulate audio


and video, communicate with myriad hardware devices
and create custom interfaces. The ability to extend Maxs
functionality by creating your own custom objects
means there is no real limit other than your imagination
as to what you can achieve. People use it to create
performance software, audio effects, interactive
installations, control lighting and much more. Max is
capable of all these things alone, but Max for Live
embeds this capacity within a standard Ableton Live
device, providing direct communication with numerous
elements of the Live environment. This means that you
can crack open a device and create new tools, effects
and interfaces that are truly part of Live.

PRO TIP
Freezing a Max for Live device
gathers up the files it depends
on to work and bundles them
together, ready to distribute. If
your device relies on
third-party externals
you can include both
the Windows and Mac
versions in your Max
search path and once
frozen, the device will
run on either platform.

03

06

button fires up Max for Live and enables you to start


editing or building your device. From there on in youre
just using Max, but with some features that relate to Live.
For those with some Max experience, thats all you
need to know to get started. Otherwise, youll need to do
some swatting up, and learning Max can initially seem a
daunting task. Aside from the multitude of concealed

Live show
So how does it work inside Live? Start by dragging a Max
for Live device to your chosen track from the Device
Browser, as you would with any other. There is a blank
template for each device type instrument, audio effect
and MIDI effect each with inlets and outlets that pipe
audio and/or MIDI between the track and the device,
making it part of the effects chain. Clicking on the Edit

focus Ableton Live 2013

| 51

MTF Technique Understanding Max for Live

objects and arguments, the surfeit of possibilities


can overwhelm a creative person whos used to the
limitations of their production software. Having
said that, when it clicks and you discover how to
teach yourself, your work gains potential you
probably never would have imagined when
starting out making music. If you perform or just
want more from your software its well worth the
time spent learning.

Max out
Tutorials are generally the best way to clear up the
initial puzzlements. If you look under the Help
menu when Max is open youll see tutorials for
Max, MSP and Jitter, which are strands of Max
that deal with data, audio and video respectively.
These tutorials are thorough and all come with
interactive examples. YouTube has some brilliant
video tutorials, too. The huge online community
makes learning Max very achievable on your own.

Breaking down your main objectives into a series of


clear steps helps you to find working examples that you
can learn from to realise your idea. For example, if you
want to create a device that uses motion detection to
control an LFO rate, its best to find out about using a
webcam, performing motion detection, and making an

Although Max goes deep, it is


very achievable to learn without
programming or DSP experience
LFO separately. The included Max for Live devices,
tutorials and Help files as well as websites like
maxforlive.com and the Cycling 74 forum are great
places to search. If you [Alt]-click on any object it will
open up a Help file that not only demonstrates how to

MTF Step-by-Step Creating a device from scratch

Open a session with one audio track


and get some sound running through it.
Choose Max for Live from the Device Browser,
expand Max Audio Effect and drag the effect
named Max Audio Effect onto the audio track.
This provides a blank Max for Live device that
we can use to get started.

Click on the Edit button to launch Max for


Live and start making your device. The
plugin~ and plugout~ objects act as the audio
input and output for the device. At the moment
the audio for left and right is flowing straight
through. They are in an area you will see as the
Device Interface within Live, indicated by the
device vertical limit.

Hit [N] to create a new object, type the


name downsamp~ and hit [Enter]. This
creates the downsamp~ object that we will
use to affect the audio. This object holds the
signal on the incoming sample for a specified
number of samples, effectively lowering the
sampling rate.

Downsamp~ has only one input and one


output for the audio to flow through. The
audio track is stereo, so we need to create a
second downsamp~. Connect the patch
cords to route each channel of audio through
a downsamp~ and back out of the
appropriate output. Now we just need to add
a dial that enables the user to change the
amount of downsampling.

Max for Live has interface objects that


look the same as Lives native controls.
Add a new object called live.dial and connect
its output to the second input on both of the
downsamp~ objects so that we can control
them both at the same time. You can change
the display name of the dial by right-clicking it,
selecting Inspector and changing the short
name option.

To improve the devices appearance you


can hide objects by moving them out of
the vertical limit area or selecting them and
choosing hide on lock from the Object menu
on the taskbar. Add some text with the
comment object if you like. Lock the patch
by clicking on the padlock, then close and
save it when prompted. Try it out and make
further changes at any time.

01

04

52 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

02

05

03

06

Understanding Max for Live Technique MTF

use the object, but also links to other relevant objects.


The best thing about this is that the Help files are
editable patches themselves, meaning that you can play
with Help files and copy and paste from them directly
into your patch. Cycling 74 caters for artists albeit
techie ones so although Max goes really deep, the
company has made it very achievable to learn without
any programming or DSP experience.

Under the hood


If you want to interact with the inner workings of Live you
will need to use the Max for Live API. This details the
internal structure of Live and provides a collection of
objects that enable you to get, set or observe the value
of numerous behind-the-scenes elements. You can use
the API to change the metronome settings, determine the
gain of an audio channel, change note quantisation, the
colour of clips and the tempo, to name just a few of many.
This is where Max for Live provides huge benefits over
using Max and Live as separate applications.

PRO TIP
Max for Lives global
transport is linked with
Lives. This means that you
can sync the timing in your
patch with that of your
session with ease. For
example, to create a phasor
that is always in time with
your Live session, set the
rate to a quarter-note value
and type phasor~ 4n @lock
1 into a new object box.

MTF Step-by-Step The Max for Live API

To introduce some of the Live API


objects were going to make a device
that triggers your session to play when the
audio input on a channel crosses a threshold.
Youll need a bit more Max experience before
starting this one, but theres a finished
example device on the DVD if you get stuck.
Open the example project and try it out first
to see how it works.

Start a new session with just two audio


tracks. Set the first track to monitor a
microphone input on the left channel
(deactivate it to prevent feedback) and put an
audio clip on the second. Drag a template Max
Audio Effect onto the first audio track and click
Edit, opening up Max for Live.

Insert an object called live.path and


connect its middle outlet to the right
inlet of an object called live.observer. This
enables us to observe a specific property of
Live. We send live.path the message path
live_set tracks 0, which points live.observer
to the first track of our Live set, then we send
live.observer the message property output_
meter_left and it will constantly output a
float representing the value of this property.

To start or stop the session playback we


do a similar thing, but use live.object
instead of live.observer, point live.path to
live_set and send the message set is_
playing followed by a 0 or a 1. Get this
working on its own and then connect it all up
as in the picture. Deferlow allows us to trigger
API changes directly from an observer.

Your session should now play back when


the input level goes above the threshold
that you set as the > argument. Ive gone one
step further by using a gate to allow the patch
to trigger playback, prevent it retriggering, and
allow the user to reset the device. You can
handle this however you like there are many
different ways to do it, as usual!

To turn this into a finished device Ive


added some interface objects to
Presentation mode by right-clicking them
and selecting add to presentation. Ive then
arranged the objects within the device
vertical limit and selected open in
presentation mode under the Patcher
Inspector. And thats about it! Just freeze and
save the device and your .amxd file is ready
to use and share with others.

01

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02

05

03

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focus Ableton Live 2013

| 53

MTF Technique Understanding Max for Live

The Live Object Model in the Max for Live API


documentation contains a map of all the
elements and details what you can do with them.
If, for example, you want to manipulate a specific
clip in a certain way, you can look in the
documentation and you will find that there are 22
properties of a clip you can interact with, such as
colour, loop points and pitch. You then instruct a
live.object to represent that clip by telling it
where to look for example, Live_set -> Song 1 ->
Scene 1 -> ClipSlot1 -> Clip 1. The live.object then
acts as the clip and you can start sending it

Its nice to think that a pleasing


effect on a track might have
come from custom FX
messages to either see what its up to or to control
it. Our third step-by-step walkthrough takes a
closer look at the API.

Taking control
Traditional methods of human-computer
interaction can impede many of the creative and
performance aspects of making music
improvisation, group collaboration and virtuosic

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www.shure.co.uk

performance are rare. The controller, in its many forms,


is an answer since it can redefine our physical
connection with the laptop as a musical instrument.
Max, along with other platforms such as Arduino, have
broken the engineering boundary, allowing artists to
develop their own interaction tools without a degree in
software engineering or programming. However, the step
from a patch that works at home to something that
youre confident is robust enough to withstand the
pressure of live performance is enough to put a lot of
people off. Max for Live provides the safety net and
convenience of Live beneath your unique setup, restoring
some of that confidence.
Enabling producers to create their own instruments
and effects helps them to cultivate a more unique sound
and distinguishes their composition process from
others. Its nice to think that a pleasing effect on a track
might have come from
custom FX. Max for
Live brings
contemporary hack
culture to homestudio production and
live performance by
putting Max within
reach and saying, Im
here when you want
some more!. MTF

Understanding Max for Live Technique MTF

MTF Developer Q&A Christian Kleine


Starting his musical journey by studying classical trumpet at ten
years of age, Christian has since taken up bass and guitar as well as
doing DJ and performance work with Live all around the world. Hes
been working for Ableton since 2001 and now curates Max for Live
as well as programming the included devices.
Whats currently your favourite Max for Live device?
Hard to say as it depends on the job. The device I use most often
though is the LFO device.
When did you get into Max and what advice would you give to
anyone getting started?
I bought Max somewhere around 1999/2000 as a student I think
this was version 3.6 or so and I used it in on/off state over the
years. I learned it more or less via reverse-engineering patches
from the internet back in those days there was also a small but
very active worldwide hotline community to share patches. I still
think reverse-engineering and experimenting is the best way to
learn it, apart from following the tutorials.

Whats the strangest Max for Live device youve seen being shared
on the internet?
That would have to be Synplant Genes, from Xanadu. Put it this
way: its described as being able to manipulate the genes of
Synplant. If you just think about this sentence without actually
knowing what Synplant is and how it works, you get an idea of just
how strange it is.
www.maxforlive.com/library/device/1441/synplant-genes
Can you give us an idea about future devices you are working on?
Alas not yet, sadly. But I can tell you that Im studying some
interesting synth techniques...
Christian has been using
Max since the turn of the
century and believes
reverse-engineering is
the best way to learn.

And common mistakes?


Initial mistakes to watch out for are being too relaxed about
patching structures. If youre not careful you can end up with a
large and cluttered patch. This is then hard to debug and difficult
to understand for anyone else trying to use it. Using sub- and
bpatcher is really important. Also, using poly~ to mute DSP
functions is really important.

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MTF Industry Interview Dennis DeSantis

Meet the
Ableton team...

Dennis DeSantis
Dennis DeSantis is Head of Documentation at
Ableton. He tells MTF about some of his own
thoughts on where music production is heading
as well as talking us through the major new
features in the new v9.1 update

f youve ever wondered who is responsible for the


trusty manual that accompanies your music
software, meet Dennis DeSantis, Abletons Head of
Documentation. He explains his role further
Im responsible for all of our official user training
materials: the manual, the built-in lessons and all of the
text that appears within the software. Additionally, I
make some of our user training videos, help with some of
the marketing and communications, do product demos
and help coordinate our Certified Training programme.
Like most of the people who work at Ableton he
started out as a musician (I grew up in the 80s near
Detroit, so electronic music was kind of in the air
anyway; I just assumed that kids everywhere were
listening to Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream!). He
studied classical composition, music theory and
percussion before releasing music on Berlins
Kanzleramt and Tokyos Third Ear. It was while gigging in
Berlin that Dennis met the team behind the software he
had been using since v1

People use Live in completely


different ways and they often have
detailed requests or questions
I bought Live 1 right after it was released and ended
up meeting some of the Ableton folk when I was gigging
in Berlin in the early 2000s because I had found a bug
that was difficult to reproduce. After this, I ended up
living in Berlin for a couple years and working at Native
Instruments. After moving to New York in 2005, I started
doing occasional freelance work for Ableton and this led
to a full-time position.
Much of the 9.1 update (see box) is down to user
requests, and as part of his job Dennis is demoing the
software to end users. So what is the most common
thing he gets asked about the software?
In reality, people use Live in completely different
ways, and they often have very detailed requests or
questions. To answer them, I usually have to learn a bit
about what it is that theyre really trying to accomplish,
and then think about ways that Live can get them to
their end goal.

56 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

And while he is unable to reveal anything about


future updates to Live, Dennis does have a personal
wish list for where hed like to see music software go
Im really fascinated by the idea of intelligence. Id
love software that could actually learn what it is that I
like and dont like, and then suggest or iterate ideas on
the basis of my own creative preferences. Basically, I
want a recommendation engine for original music.
Unfortunately, it seems were quite far from this the
current crop of algorithmic composition software is
interesting, but it doesnt generate results I can use.
Finally, does he have any thoughts on where music
production is heading?
Its really hard to pick one particular direction and
say that this is THE future. I think were witnessing a
number of different threads happening simultaneously.
For example, the boundary between audio and MIDI is

Dennis DeSantis Industry Interview MTF

Id love to see a future


direction that lets
software really make
creative decisions and
generate new music
getting fuzzier. Our audio-to-MIDI features and similar
things from a number of plug-in developers are good
examples. On the other side, analogue modelling gets
better and better, with emulations of synthesis
architectures and vintage gear getting more impressive
all the time. Mobile music-making is, of course,
something to pay attention to. People should be able to
get real work done on tablets and phones, and the apps
are getting there. And as I mentioned before, Id love to
see a future direction that lets software really make
creative decisions and generate new music on the basis
of my own work a virtual collaborative partner!

MTF Technology The Live 9.1 update


Ableton has just announced quite a big update to Live v9.1 and Dennis is the
ideal person to tell us all about the major new features
Maybe the biggest change in 9.1 is the support for dual monitors, he reveals.
This was an obvious candidate because its been a really common user request.
Users regularly told us that they wanted to be able to see the Session and
Arrangement Views at the same time, either because they wanted to be able to
better coordinate moving material between them, or because they simply wanted
access to the Sessions vertical mixer while working in the Arrangement. Its also
nice to be able to see the Clip and Device views simultaneously, particularly for
editing automation in Session View clips.
On the Live side, Dennis continues, weve also improved sample-rate
conversion during export, which means higher-quality renders when exporting to a
lower sample rate. And exporting will now use all of your available processors/
cores, so it can be much faster, particularly when exporting projects that dont use a
lot of samples, but are instead synthesis-heavy.
And its not just the software that gets an update: For Push, weve added
melodic step sequencing, as well as per-step automation in both the melodic and
drum step sequencers, says Dennis. The melodic step sequencer is a great new
way to create patterns that might be too difficult to play in real time, and it also
allows you to edit melodic material directly from Push. The per-step automation
allows you to lock automation values to particular steps and create rhythmic
parameter changes.

More from: www.dennisdesantis.com

focus Ableton Live 2013

| 57

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09/09/2013 14:59

MTF Artist Interview

Artist
Interview

Phon.o

Among the farms and hills of the Harz


Mountains in former East Germany, Phon.o cut
his turntable teeth as a youngster in the early
90s. During the autumn of 1998 he started to
create his own music and emerged in the spring
of 2000 with his first release. We catch up with
him to find out more about his future...

uch has happened since we last spoke to


German DJ and producer Phon.o notably,
the release of Live 9 and Push and, more
significantly, Phon.os Black Boulder
album, which was released in May last year on the
50weapons label to great acclaim. Phon.o is a
long-time user of Live and has long rated its workflow
and interface as the best tool for the modern, live
producer/performer. With the addition of Push to his
setup, Phon.o is now carving a new sonic path and
getting heavily into the production of his follow-up
record. We caught up with Phon.o to chat further about
the new additions to the Ableton arsenal and the
musical doors that have opened as a result...
MTF Live 9 was released earlier this year to great
acclaim. How has using Live 9 benefitted your approach
to writing new music?
P Live 9 is a huge step forward and Ableton have really
improved on every detail definitely the sound got
better and the whole engine became much smoother. I
think for me the biggest step has been the integration
of Push: software-wise, I love being able to transfer
audio into MIDI melodies or harmonies, and also its
cool for grooves. Its just generally a great update.
Sometimes when Im travelling Ill be struck with an
idea and record a vocal melody line onto my iPhone,
which Ill then convert to harmonies with Live.
Sometimes it works super-accurate and often it wont
be fully what Im expecting, but it may change things in
a cool way. It can inspire new, fresh ideas that I can
work on. I know Ableton are currently working on a lot
more improvements and additions to the functionality
and I can see it getting even better. Im looking forward
to the next big update. In around a years time I can
imagine it being incredibly advanced.
MTF How has Push been integrated into your setup,
and do you use it mainly for live or studio work?
P At the moment Im just using it in my studio; even
though I play live all the time I just havent had the
chance to change my live setup to integrate Push yet,
but after Ive finished my new album which I am
currently working on I will re-design my live setup

60 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

and make Push an important part of it. Studio-wise its


pretty awesome; we have a really fast workflow and
different access to harmonies and melodies through
the new Scale feature. I often find that I stick to the
same way of making melodies, but with Pushs Scale
function it really is super-awesome and Im generating
all these new ideas, sometimes on purpose and
sometimes by accident.
MTF So Push for you is primarily a composition tool, a
catalyst for new ideas?
P Yes exactly, the best thing about it is just the speed
and flexibility it offers when creating new ideas.
Triggering loops is also awesome because everything

After Ive finished my new album I


will re-design my live setup and
make Push an important part of it
is RGB/LED; you can see the different clip colours, so
thats a bonus point, really. But the most interesting
way of using Push for me are the new musical features
and the creative inspiration it can cause.
MTF How has the update to Max For Live changed the
way you approach music-making?
P I love Max For Live. What I adore most about it is that
there is a huge base of people who are creating all this
weird stuff, and most of it is for free or if you do have
to pay something, its normally quite a low price. There
are so many funny, cool things lots of weird shit! Live
9 has been a massive improvement overall and Max
For Lives integration has definitely got better.
MTF Asides from the Ableton roster, what other DAWs
do you use and for what purposes?
P Right now for live work Im just using Live 9; it really is
the only program that is stable enough and totally
makes sense to use onstage. For production I also use
Live but for the finer details I use Cubase. If Im working

Artist Interview MTF

on a song I do all the creative stuff in Live because for


me its the fastest way to do it, and also the routing of
all channels is really easy; you can build all these weird
synthy sounds. Audio-wise and MIDI-wise I prepare a
sketch and then I do a rough arrangement in Live. I find
this best for keeping the natural flow of a song. Ill then
bounce a lot of stuff out, mainly MIDI notes that I can
adjust in Cubase. I grew up with Cubase and Im
familiar with the Arrange mode.
Im thinking that in the future I will only use Live,
however. You really can do everything in it now. Its not
just the live DAW any more; you can compose any
genre of music in there. Thinking about it, its just
stupid that Im still using Cubase in this way, just
because I havent forced myself to arrange my tracks
using Live yet but when I do I think Ill probably
forget about Cubase.
MTF What tends to come first for you creatively? Are
there any kind of rules that you impose on yourself
when creating music and do you compose mainly in
the studio or outside it?
P Its always different, really. Sometimes I have a
melody in my mind and record it on my iPhone and
replay it later in the studio. Other times, though, I
start with atmospherics and weird sounds or a bass
line or a beat. Sometimes Ill start with a collection of
samples that Ive found, or even sounds that I record
myself during my field recording, and often I use odd

percussion sounds or things that I find in my sample


library and think: OK, lets combine that with this and
see what happens. So theres really a combination of
approaches there are no rules!
MTF On your new album, is there an overall sound you
are going for or are you keeping it fairly eclectic?
P Somehow Im actually trying to recapture a more 90s
sound there are definitely some rave elements, but
there are also a lot of heavy modern-futuristic stuff as
well, so its really a fusion of that, I think. Its never
easy to describe music. Im not sure how the journey
will end but now Im starting to arrange everything
and get everything together. I think its probably too
early to say what the result will be; Im drawing on the
last 20 years of electronic music and hopefully it will
reflect that.
All of the melody parts for the record are made
with Push. Beat-wise, the step sequencer is cool but it
all depends on the music; Im mostly not doing too
much sequencer drum music. But every track I use at
least two drum racks. I think the new album will be a
good next step from the last album, Black Borders,
and Id be happy if it came out similar to that. But lets
see theres a long way to go!
More from: http://phon-o.com
www.ableton.com/en/blog/phon-o
www.facebook.com/phon.official

Abletons Live 9 and Push


are staple composition
and performance tools
for Phon.o.
focus Ableton Live 2013

| 61

MTF Technique Getting creative with Abletons synths

On the disc

Ableton Live Tutorial

Getting creative
with Abletons synths

Accompanying
project file included
on the DVD

Making your music stand out from the crowd is a lot


easier if you start with some sounds you can truly
call your own. Rob Boffard shows you how.

etting a decent sound from an Ableton Live


synth doesnt take a lot of work a tweak
here, a few nudges to the LFO there, a little
messing around with filters and... boom,
youve got a workable sound. Its almost too
easy. And thanks to the sheer number of soft synths
available now, youre never more than a minute or two
away from some wonderful noises.
But when everyones doing it, its easy to get lost in the
crowd. How do you make your synth sounds stand out?
How can you ensure that youre not just labelled Generic
Dubstep Artist No 567?
Wed love to say that we have the one-size-fits-allmagic-wand-solution to this. We dont. What we do have,
though, is a set of techniques for creating some truly
amazing, monster synth sounds that will help your track
stand out from all the others. In this guide, were going to
use a variety of Lives synths to create a lead, a bass line
and a pad sound that will simply blow your mind. Youll
find that these techniques which dont rely on anything

MTF Navigation Essential elements of Live

too complicated or unfamiliar are highly customisable,


too. Youre at step three of the bass line walkthrough and
think you know better? Crack on!

In control
Lets do a quick refresher course. Were not going to delve
into the absolute basics here we trust that if youve
gotten to this point, youre reasonably familiar with what
an oscillator is but we are going to spend a little time
talking about how to apply certain techniques.

Youre never more than a


minute or two away from some
wonderful, inspirational noises
For example: an oscillator makes noise, yes? And
multiple oscillators make a bigger noise. But what a lot of
musicians dont always realise is that to get your noise
even bigger, you need to detune your oscillators. This isnt
just about selecting different waveforms, although, of
course, that always helps things along. Its about taking
the pitch of your oscillators and making them different.

FILTERS
No fun until theyre automated or modulated. A filter cutoff told to move
can turn even a pedestrian synth sound into an amazing one.

OSCILLATORS
These are the bread
and butter of any amazing
synth sound, so spend a
little while tweaking and
detuning them.

ENVELOPE
Perfect for
shaping the
sound or rather,
for fine-tuning a
base sound
youve
discovered using
the oscillators,
LFO and filters.

LFO
Youll need to think
about whether you want
some subtle vibrato or a
wobbling demon of
modulation. This largely
depends on the kind of
track youre making.

62 | Ableton Live 2013

d
c

focus

Getting creative with Abletons synths Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Creating the biggest dubstep bass ever

Time to make an absolutely enormous


dubstep bass growl. Our first port of call
is to load an Operator synth into our
instrument panel in Live. Well be adding
plenty of effects, too, but thatll come later.
For now, just get the Operator loaded and
ready to go. Draw some notes into the
sequencer and by the way, it really helps if
you have a drum beat to set the rhythm.

The idea here is to create a truly nasty,


colourful base sound which you can then
add to. Select Oscillator A (the grey box,
referred to in Live as a Shell) and change it to a
sawtooth waveform. This will give us a great
growling sound to build on, and by raising the
level of Oscillator B, detuning it slightly and
changing it to a sine wave, you can add in some
nice harmonics. Try raising the phase level of
Oscillator B, too, as we have here.

Make sure that the LFO, Pitch Envelope


and Filter controls are all switched on
and that the Filter Shape is set to Hard. At
this point youll need to experiment with
settings to find something you like weve
gone for a moderate LFO set to sine wave and
a filter set to Low SVF. In the bottom-right
Shell, select something like the box
algorithm, which will give us reasonably
predictable results.

Time for some effects. First up is the


vocoder this will add a little bit of
Skrillex to the sound, turning the bass line
into the noise of a monster growling. Change
the setting to Modulator and play around
until you find something you like try
adjusting the Formant and Voice settings, for
example. Remember to watch the levels in
your mixer chances are that your monster
dubstep growl is clipping something chronic
at this point!

Normally, wed recommend gentle EQs for


processing instruments. Not in this case.
Whack up the bass frequencies, cut some mids
and give it a very sharp boost in the highs. A
little bit of Overdrive or similar effect wouldnt
go amiss either. Experiment with adding a
number of different effects, such as reverb and
phasing at this point, the more you add in,
the nastier it will be.

A little sidechain compression to sit the


bass line with the drums, and the basic
sound is done. The real fun, however, comes
from automating the Operator settings. Try
adjusting the LFO Rate and Amount (making
sure the Retrigger control is activated), the
Filter Freq and Res, and even the Coarse and
Fine knobs on your oscillators. By doing this
while the track is playing, you can turn your
bass line into a living, breathing monster.

01

04

02

05

There are several ways of doing this. You could push


them apart by a few semitones or cents, for a slightly
warmer and thicker sound. Alternatively, you could
detune them by whole octaves, which will give you a
vastly different result. In both cases, a detuned synth will
have a much bigger and more colourful tone than one
which has been left alone. You can get immensely
technical with this different octaves and semitones will
have different relationships with each other, and you can
use finely tuned intervals to re-create classic
instruments. This is probably another tutorial altogether,
although if you like to get deep into your synths, its well
worth checking out.

LFO lowdown
Its worth revisiting LFOs as well. It might be instinct
to always apply an LFO to your sound it gives
movement, and movement is almost always
desirable but you may want to look carefully at how
you apply it. You can get immensely creative with
LFOs: chaining them together and having them

PRO TIP
Remember to view your
sounds in the context of your
mix, not just as individual
sounds. The greatest synth
sounds are always those that
complement the surrounding
instrumentation think
MGMTs Kids. You can spend
time building an enormous
monster of a synth, but if it
takes up the entire frequency
spectrum, youre going to find
it difficult to put other
elements around it. When
youre experimenting, keep in
mind what else youll be doing
with the track.

03

06

modulate each other can create some amazing effects.


But simply because you can doesnt mean that you
should its always worth remembering that the
oscillators are the bread and butter of your sound, and in
some cases youll want to mess with them as little as
possible. Keep in mind the sound youre aiming for and
youll stay on the right track.
Finally, we need to consider filters. You should really,
really fall in love with modulating filters. Whether its a
little, creating some subtle movement, or the full whack
to give a sweeping tone, this is definitely something you
should be spending time on. Try, for example, using LFOs
to modulate the cutoff frequency and the resonance in
opposite directions, really quickly. Itll sound odd to
start, but with a little tweaking you can get some
incredible results.

Preset puzzle
One of the exasperating debates among synth players
concerns presets. Drop into practically any online
forum and youll find two camps: one which says that
focus Ableton Live 2013

| 63

MTF Technique Getting creative with Abletons synths

you should delete the presets the moment you install a


program in order to aid learning and exploration, and
another that says you should freely take advantage of
presets to help create your music.
Heres the thing: while were not completely down with
the latter camp, we cannot think of a single instance
when youd be justified in deleting the presets of your
chosen synth. These are sounds that have been created
not only by the people who built the plug-in and know it
best, but usually by some extremely skilled outside
musicians as well. Youre going to ditch all their work
because of some high-falutin ideals about forcing
yourself to learn? No, youre not.
You can use these presets as inspiration for what can
be accomplished. You can reverse-engineer them to
understand the finer workings of your synth. Perhaps
most importantly, you can use them as a launchpad,
tweaking them further to create new sounds. While wed
say that using the presets as they come to make music
is, well, a little bit boring, theres nothing to prevent you

from using them in


creative and
interesting ways.

PRO TIP
It might sound odd to
say this, but dont try
too hard to be original.
You can handicap
yourself by trying to
find a synth sound that
no one has used before.
While its certainly
possible to do this,
youre far better off
getting a great sound
that bares a passing
resemblance to
something someone
else has done. After all,
most dubstep is built on
a fluctuating, wobbling
growl, and that element
alone results in
thousands of very
different tracks. Focus
on making a great track,
and let that dictate what
the sound will do.

DAW by design
Ableton Live isnt
like other DAWs. Its
designers took a
long, hard look at
Cubase, Pro Tools,
Logic and Reason
and thought: no,
were not going to
do it that way. Were
going to create our
own bespoke DAW.
One that gives
musicians a live,
tempo-synced
sketchpad as well

MTF Step-by-Step Building a lead synth with great harmonics

Operator doesnt just do bass lines. It


can create some truly fantastic leads,
too. Were going to build one here, and itll be
a synth with a difference the simple turn of
a knob will transform it from a functional dry
synth to one loaded to the gills with
additional harmonics. Trust us: this will all
make sense. Start by dropping an Operator
into your session and drawing in some MIDI
notes. Make sure that the algorithm in the
bottom-right Shell is a straight line of boxes.

Our lead is going to consist of four


detuned saw-wave oscillators, so go
ahead and load those in. Once thats done, play
around with the Fine knobs on each until
youve got a good base sound. On each, make
sure that Retrigger is deselected (its the little
R next to the Phase control in the black display
box). Dont worry if it still sounds a little
anaemic as were going to change that by using
envelopes and filters.

The plan with this particular lead is to


have the harmonics build up and
multiply as the Filter Freq knob is turned up.
However, we need to make sure that the
resulting wash of noise doesnt overwhelm
our track. To do this, navigate to the
envelopes on each oscillator and ensure the
release of each is quite short. You can play
around with the Attack as well, but wed
recommend keeping it quite fast.

Activate the Filter and turn the Freq


knob all the way down. Youll hear your
synth sounding quite punchy already we
have a sound we can work with. At this point,
a good way to thicken the sound is to change
the number of voices, which you can do by
clicking on the bottom-right Shell, then
navigating to the Voices menu in the main
display. Try ten voices.

Now for the clever bit. Select Operator


and press [Ctrl]+[G]/[Cmd]+[G] (PC/Mac).
This will group it. Map the Filter Freq knob to
Macro 1. This will make it a little easier to
control on-the-fly. With the loop playing, raise
the Filter Freq, keeping the Res knob really low.
Youll be able to hear the synth opening up,
saturating itself with wonderful harmonics.

Be careful when adding effects to this


particular lead. Because it takes up
such a large space in the frequency
spectrum, anything that saturates it like
reverb, for example can make things
appear muddy. Wed suggest a little EQ and
compression is all thats needed to make
your synth shine and dont forget to
sidechain it to your kicks and snares, too.

01

04

64 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

02

05

03

06

Getting creative with Abletons synths Technique MTF

as just a regular timeline. One which is super-intuitive;


one in which every instrument and effect has exactly the
same graphical style, making them easy to use.
They could have stopped there, but they didnt. The
instruments may look similar minimalist knobs and big,
black envelope displays but theyre amazingly different
in practice. Ableton built some truly fantastic synths into
Live which are capable of doing just about anything you
ask them to do.
First up is Operator. A four-oscillator synth, it uses
frequency modulation and additive synthesis to produce
truly stellar sounds. Under a very simple-looking hood
hides extraordinary depth, and Operator is perfect for
producing crunching basses and soaring leads.
Analog is another great synth. Although we dont think
its in quite the same class as Operator it has only two
oscillators and a noise generator and doesnt seem to
have quite the sonic variety its still a powerful piece of
tech. In the walkthroughs here weve used it to build a
sweeping pad sound, which is something it excels at.

Those are the main two synths, but there are actually
around five in all. Tension is a synth dedicated to
physically modelling string sounds; Electric does the
same with pianos, and Collision with percussion. If youre
looking for purely synthetic, decidedly electronic sounds
then Operator and Analog will more than take care of
your needs, but these three are also worth exploring if
youre on the hunt for a very specific sound.
Its worth noting however that youll only get some of
these instruments as standard when you buy Ableton
Live Suite, which costs 600. If your budget cant stretch
that far, not to worry theyre all available as individual
purchases which you can acquire when youre ready. To
give you an idea of cost, Operator is 79, which is pretty
affordable. And trust us: these are instruments you
definitely want to have in your arsenal.
If you take nothing else away from this guide, take
this: find the synth you think can give you the most
jaw-dropping sounds and which you can have a blast
working with. Then start making music! MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Huge pads with Analog

Analog is a great synth for creating pads


with because it can produce such
amazingly lush tones. Load one up, then dial
in two square-wave synths (great for
warmth). Detune them, one up and one down,
to roughly the same amount. Add in a little
noise, then click on the far-right Shell. In the
main display you can turn up the number of
voices. Now weve got a good base sound.
Draw in a long MIDI note or series of notes.

Pads need to change over time if theyre


going to stay interesting. Well do that by
creating and modulating some filters. Pick the
filter sound you like weve gone for notch
here and adjust the Freq and Res knobs to
taste. Make them different, as itll introduce
more complexity into the sound, but at this
point, its all down to personal taste.

Time to modulate, which, as in most


cases, is done with the LFO. Turn both of
these on and set very low rates, then click the
Hz button on each. Go back to the filter
Shells; in the main display, turn the Freq Mod
LFO up on one filter and down on the other.
Find something to your taste, but ensure that
one is positive and one is negative.

In the right-most Shell, add a little


unison and vibrato. Navigate back to the
oscillators and spend a little time messing
with the values, paying particular attention to
the pulse width. This is the kind of thing that
can really take your sound to another level
while it might seem counter-intuitive to
change your original oscillator settings, it can
result in unexpectedly cool sounds.

As always, synths are greatly improved by


effects. Try a touch of reverb just a little,
to give the sound depth and some EQ. Scoop
out the low end and a good chunk of the mids,
and raise the highs. Finally, add a little Autopan
to give the sound shimmer. The key here is
subtlety you dont want heavy-handed effect
values to screw up the sound youve so
carefully built up.

Its still not quite there, so lets give it


some rhythm to help break up the
monotony. You could, of course, sidechain it
to the drums, but theres a more interesting
way. Add another Autopan effect, selecting
the triangle shape. Tempo-sync it by
selecting the little musical note then, with
the loop playing, dial in values you feel work
with the sound. There: a huge, powerful and
evolving pad.

01

04

02

05

03

06

focus Ableton Live 2013

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OPPOSITE

MTF 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 synths being very much associated


with all kinds of work in Live, we
thought wed show you around its very
own hybrid synth, Operator. Although
its name comes from the FM synthesisbased 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.

68 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

Bass design with Operator Technique MTF

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
focus Ableton Live 2013

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MTF 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. MTF

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.

70 | Ableton Live 2013

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14

MTF Technique Sends & returns in Live

On the disc

Ableton Live Tutorial

Sends and returns


in Ableton Live

Ableton Live
project file included
on the DVD

Its a simple enough concept, but the way in which


send effects are implemented varies from one DAW
to the next. Liam OMullane guides you around Live.

ffect send and returns are fundamental


aspects of any multi-channel mixer, whether
theyre in hardware or software form. But the
latter can and usually does offer more
than one way of doing things, and Ableton
Live is no exception. Understanding Lives unique
approach to certain aspects of sends and returns from
a global through to channel-by-channel basis will give
you the power to make the best decisions for the type of
production sound youre looking to achieve. From
familiar routing techniques that apply across the board
to others available only in Live, we will also help you to
understand some of the shortcomings in Lives design
and show you how to overcome them. To get things
under way, lets start by looking at the global level.

Global working
The term send is short for auxiliary send (auxiliary
meaning something thats supplementary). In this case
it means a second copy of a signal being sent from a
channel in a mixer. This copy is most commonly used to

PRO TIP
Along with the process of
setting up essential reverbs
and delays for a mix, many
engineers will have their go-to
parallel processing set up this
way so its ready to go at any
point in the mix. This can be a
compressor set up with a low
Threshold and high Ratio for
that slam channel to feed
various mix elements to. It
could also be a distortion or
saturation plug-in to get some
more harmonics and density
in the mix. Experiment with
what works for you and have
them set up from the start to
achieve consistent results.

Software usually offers more


than one way of doing things and
Ableton Live is no exception

feed a reverb or delay and the effected output is then


fed to a return track and can be heard alongside the
original signal. You then have the choice of whether you
send the signal out to the effect before or after the
source channels fader. These are referred to as pre- and
post-fader respectively.
Lives sends by default are post-fader, so changes in
level to a channels fader will also change the amount
going to the sends. To switch a send to become
pre-fader, click on the Post button thats horizontally
in-line with the relevant send master channel strip. 1
Nowadays there arent too many occasions to use
pre-fader sends in the studio, but creating a headphone
mix is still commonly done and you dont want the
balance of sends going to a performers headphones
changing if you want to alter the balance of channels for
your own monitoring/playback purposes. There is also
another use for pre-fader sends: to lower the channel
level when feeding a reverb so you can get a drier/
wetter balance and perhaps fade out the source signal
so youre left with just a ghostly reverb sound. This sonic
effect is probably used more than ever in electronic
music these days, albeit by using a different technique.
Nowadays, most producers will simply add a reverb to a
channel or group of sounds and use the dry/wet control
on the reverb itself to achieve the same effect. This is a
lot more practical if you want to automate the dry/wet
balance in a musical way.

Creating a headphone mix


Creating one or more foldback mixes for performers is
still done today in the same way it was when the
auxiliary buss first arrived on the scene. Create a return
track (from the Create menu) and set it to pre-fader
mode. Rename it to Foldback and select Ext Out from
the Audio To menu. Now select the desired output to
feed your headphones (ie the relevant output on your
audio interface). 2

1
2
3
Creating one or more foldback mixes for performers
is still done today in the same way it was when the
auxiliary buss first arrived on the scene.

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Sends & returns in Live Technique MTF

Dragging a device like a Reverb to the blank audio


effects area will create a Return Chain that sets up
an internal send and return within the Drum Rack.

Use sends to create a phones


mix rather than just monitoring
the master output of Live
You can now use the sends to create a unique
headphone mix rather than relying on just monitoring
the master output of Live. If you need to listen to this
mix to set up the balance, simply solo it and temporarily
change it back to your main outputs so you can monitor
and mix on your main speakers. Reverse the process to
send it back to the performer.

Post-fader uses
There are a few reasons as to why working with
post-fader sends is still a popular choice. The first is an
old and familiar one letting you share ambience
effects across your mix so theres a sense of coherence
to the sounds as a whole. An additional benefit to this
comes from the more efficient use of processor
resources as youre sharing one instance of reverb with
32 channels rather than adding 32 instances of reverb,
one for each channel. That many reverb instances will
soon bring your computer to its knees and also create a
somewhat confusing mix if theyre not all set to
similar-sounding spaces.
Start investigating return tracks by setting up two
instances of reverb and one or two delay channels.
Select a small room preset for one reverb and a larger
hall-like ambience on the other. Use the Hot-Swap
button on the title bar of the Reverb device to look
through the preset folders. 3
Delays are a lot more open to personal taste, but a
good starting point would be two simple delays that
can be set to different times depending on the nature
of the song youre working on. When you add a Simple
Delay to a return track make sure its set to fully Wet (as
you would with Reverb devices as well). Drop in an EQ
Eight after it so you can use the high- and low-cut
filters to control the frequency range allowed for the
delays. This is essential to shape the repeats to fit into
the context of your mix. 4

under scrutiny here, a Drum Rack has the best send and
return features of the three, but with a little set-up time
you can do the same with an Instrument Rack.
For drums, first create a Drum Rack, load in a preset
and program in a drum pattern with only a few
elements. Click to reveal the Show/Hide Chain List
button, the Input/Output Section and both Send/Return
buttons down the left-hand side of the Drum Rack. They
are all coloured yellow in our example. 5
Youll see each drum pad as a Chain List to the
right-hand side above the area that says Drop Audio
Effects Here. Dragging a device like a Reverb to this
blank audio effects area will create a Return Chain that
sets up an internal send and return within the Drum
Rack. Youll then see a new send slider appear for this
effect in the Chain List above. 6
Because the return effects run through the Drum
Racks output, it means you can add compression to
your drums and effects as a whole. This is the easiest
way to get pumping drums and reverb for your rhythm
section. If you right/[Ctrl]-click (PC/Mac) the space

PRO TIP
Some of the techniques in
this tutorial take a while to
set up, so spare yourself from
repetitive work and save your
favourite sends and returns
into a template. For a global
template go to Preferences
and click the File Folder tab,
then click Save at the top to
save the set as a default.

Drum Racks
Live has had Drum, Instrument and Audio Racks for a
while now, and although they sound similar, they have
slightly different features. In the context of the topic
focus Ableton Live 2013

| 73

MTF Technique Sends & returns in Live

7
8

Because the return effects run through the Drum


Racks output, you can add compression to your
drums and effects as a whole.

under the reverb you can add another Return Chain, but
without a device. This is useful if you want to send one
or more single drum sounds out of the Drum Rack to
your global return effects. Select the desired return
track from the Audio To menu and it will behave like a
normal send. 7

Route all your return tracks into


another so they can be grouped
and controlled by one fader

Instrument Racks
Anyone who creates music that requires big, stacked
synth sounds should definitely know about Lives Group
function. Once youve grouped one instrument into an
Instrument Rack you can add extra Chains for extra
instruments, which can be played as one. Although
these look similar to Drum Racks they dont feature any
sort of sends, so a workaround is required if you want to
send some of the Chains in your Instrument Rack to
global return effects.
To create an Instrument Rack for layering with
additional instruments, create the first instrument and
group it via the Edit menu, then enable the Show/Hide
Chain List button (the second one down on the left of
the Rack). From the Chain List view you can drag as
many new instruments across as you want to get the
sound youre after. 8
The next step is to create a new audio track from
the Create Menu for each Chain (instrument) you
have in your Rack. Set the Audio From menu on each
one to the name of the channel that your Instrument
Rack is on. Next, select the specific instrument Chain
so they are routed to these new audio tracks, then set
the Monitor to In to let the audio pass through. Finally,
mute the channel containing the Instrument Rack so
youre hearing only the newly routed channels. These

new channels for each instrument can now be used


just like any other, enabling you to choose which go to
different sends. 9

Taming your returns

9
10

Create a final return track that is labelled so you know its


dedicated to grouping your return tracks.

74 | Ableton Live 2013

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Once youve started applying multiple of send effects in


a mix you might need to decrease or increase the
amount youve applied. If youve got sends going into
effects that change their behaviour depending on the
input level anything distortion- or dynamics-based,
for instance you can highlight multiple tracks in Lives
mixer and change the levels of the return tracks by
clicking and pressing [Alt]/[Cmd] to select the desired
channels. This way youre changing the output level of
the effects and leaving the inputs as they are to avoid
any unwanted tonal changes. If the effects arent
input-sensitive such as reverb or delays you can
highlight the channels being sent to the effect and
moving one will move them all, while their relative
differences are preserved.
A final approach is to route all your return tracks
into another so they can be grouped and controlled by
one fader. Although this can be done by routing all of
the return tracks Audio To menus to a dedicated audio
track within the mixer, Live adds a slight delay to the
signal, which can cause problems down the line. We
prefer to simply create a final return track that is
labelled so you know its dedicated to grouping your
return tracks. After adding a new return track, you need
to right/[Ctrl]-click the sends on all return tracks you
want to send to this new track and enable them. 10
Turn them all up and set the Audio To menu on all
but this final track to Sends Only. Now the level meters
on all the other return tracks will turn blue and their
audio will route through this final track. From here you
can change levels, apply overall EQ at the final point in
a mix and get into some sidechain compression and
gating techniques.
You should now understand the various ways
available in Live for setting up and interacting with
sends and returns, providing you with the know-how to
make the best decisions when youre in a mix, or taking
the time to set up for a trouble-free mixing session. MTF

MTF Technique Drum sounds and devices

On the disc

Ableton Live Tutorial

Drum sounds

Ableton Live
project file included
on the DVD

and devices

Understanding Drum Racks is a must for all Live


users, but there are certain elements that get better
results, faster. Liam OMullane shares some tricks.

efore getting too technical with Drum Racks,


its a good idea to explore the various kit and
hit presets from the Live library (and any you
may have installed from third-party Live
Packs). These can be a great starting point
for drum work. You can view these by clicking on the
Drums category in the Live Device Browser. 1
Drum Rack presets themselves can be initially quite
complex and hard to fathom. They often offer multiple
layers of samples for different velocities as well as
carefully selected Macro controls for easy tweaking of
the sound of the kit or hit. Load any preset from the Kit
folder and then click all of the buttons on the left-hand
side to expand each Drum Rack section. Its easiest to
understand which button opens each section by
clicking them on and off a few times to visualise and
remember them. 2
The first is underneath the Device Activator button
on the top left-hand side, which reveals the eight Macro
dials. Beneath this is the Chain List button, which
displays horizontal Drum Rack audio channels for each

PRO TIP
Fast drum layering can be
achieved by highlighting
numerous audio files in the
Browser to then drag into the
Drum Pads Chain List (not the
main Rack). This may create
too many competing layers,
which will overload the output.
So expand the Drum Rack
mixer in Session View,
highlight all channels, pull
their volume fully down and
then blend to your own taste.

Up to six Drum Rack return


channels can be created and you
can send any element to them

drum pad. The next button shows you the actual


Devices for each chain. When the Chain List is open,
four more buttons will appear below.
Click on the S symbol and you will be able to see
individual sends on the Chain view, while the R symbol
opens a new return view below this. These returns are
within the Drum Rack itself and are combined with the
original drum sound at its output, which can then be
processed together as a whole. This is useful for glueing
a drum sound together with the effects using
compression. Up to six Drum Rack Return channels can
be created and you can send any chain element to them
for instance, adding reverb to just the snare drum.
Should you wish to send a single drum element from
a Rack to one of the main mixer returns, you can create
a blank Return Chain within the Rack. Right-click (PC)/
[Ctrl]-click(Mac) in the blank area of the Racks return
section, then chose Create Return Chain from the
popup menu. Now select the name of the main return
channel you wish to use from the Audio To menu (set to
Rack Output by default). This send now leaves the drum
Rack and goes straight to main return, while the dry
drum pad sound leaves as normal through the Racks
output. A good reason for employing this setup is to use
a single reverb unit, ensuring that your whole mix has a
unified ambience.
Finally, the IO button shows MIDI note in and out
options and its most useful tools, which are the 16
choke groups. These are typically used for making
closed and open hi-hat samples override each other
when the other plays, like a real hi-hat does. They are
also excellent tools for avoiding overlap between
elements such as bass drums and snares in any
non-four-to-the-floor-based genre. By setting sounds

3
Various presets are available for full drum kits or single sounds, both with
plenty of macro-based variables for easy control. These can be used as
quick audio starting points to then swap out for other sounds later on.

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Drum sounds and devices Technique MTF

At the heart of every Drum Rack is the


humble-looking Simpler. This can be
tweaked to shape transients, decays
and frequency content of each sample.
Samples can then be easily swapped
out, while your processing stays intact.

The release stage on the volume


ADSR usually needs increasing so
each sound has a natural decay
to the same group, any tails will be muted when
programming fills or builds, which means you reduce
audio clutter and any slight increases in volume.

Swap shop
The Hot-Swap button appears in various different
places within a Drum Rack. It looks like a recycling sign,
with two arrows rotating in one direction. To speed the
process up, press the Q key to engage Hot-Swapping.
Reading from left to right, the first Hot-Swap button
is on the drum pad itself; this can load single sound
presets or raw audio files while creating a default
Simpler device to play it. The next is on the Drum Rack
title bar; this replaces the entire Rack with other
presets, so its useful only when starting drum work and
searching for a kit to get started with. You can always
use the other available Hot-Swaps to swap out sounds
after youve programmed a beat later on. 3
If youve loaded a preset kit or sound, the Simpler
device may be surrounded by an Instrument Rack for its
own macro controls. Its Hot-Swap (on kick-606) only
lets you change for more presets, not audio files. If you
are working on drum layers (which involves numerous
chains on one pad), you can Hot-Swap one layer at a
time using the Hot-Swap on each chain to the right of
the solo button. The final two are on the Simpler itself,
which is the default instrument holding the audio file.
Using the Simplers title bar option will leave any MIDI
or audio effects in the current chain intact but change
the Simpler, whereas the Hot-Swap button on the
bottom-right of the waveform display changes only the
sample and leaves all settings such as filter, pitch and
ADSR controls as they are. This is handy if you want to
try different sample sources while keeping any
sound-shaping you have already created.
When using sample-based hot-swapping from the
drum pad or the waveform display, be sure to disengage
auto-audition by clicking the small headphone symbol
at the bottom of the file browser. If you dont do this,

PRO TIP
A fast way to interact with any
potential new audio file is by
manually using the audition
option in the File Browser. Set
the Quantization menu to
None, then switch off
auto-audition by clicking the
headphone symbol below the
Browser. Now you can tap out
rhythms with the right arrow
key and preview any potential
new sounds on the spot.

youll hear the triggered MIDI parts and another trigger


each time you click on or move through your library,
which you wont want. 4

Simpler sounds
Whether you load in presets to start with or work from a
blank canvas by loading in raw audio, the best control
can be done at source and this process, by default,
starts with a Simpler. The purest way to start is when
audio has been dragged to a pad or a chain. This way the
Simpler will be initialised for you to then shape the
sound as you prefer.
The release stage on the volume ADSR usually needs
increasing so each sound has a natural decay. But the R
symbol in the lower right has a choke-like behaviour
and prevents overlaps on fast repeats of the sound.
Before thinking of compression, lower the sustain level
and shape the initial transient with the Attack and
Decay stages, then raise the Sustain as appropriate.

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MTF Technique Drum sounds and devices

Various processing can take place


within a Drum Rack, including
time-stretching and the
sub-mixing of groups for
sidechaining. Lives simple
drag-and-drop system also
enables your processed sounds to
be easily turned into new samples.

The filter on the left is handy for broad frequency


control. A high-pass can be used to remove bass; a
band-pass can restrict the overall frequency range of a
sound so it cuts through a mix. Increased resonance is
especially useful for this. Pitch is another form of
frequency control this is called Transp, working in
semitones; Detune works in cents. 5
The quickest way to create additional layers is by
dragging an audio file or preset to below the existing
chain. Be careful, though, as too many layers can be
counter-productive and lose definition. 6
Timestretching can help create unique drum sounds.
Impulse is the best tool to use for this, so use the title
bar Hot-Swap to switch to Impulse from Simpler. Then
adjust the Stretch value for the first pad used. Its a
real-time parameter, so it can be easily automated to
create more complex sounds. 7
If you have audio effects in a drum pads chain, drag
the pad to an empty track area in Session View and the
pad with its MIDI will be separated. This means you can
create large sounds using effects with massive decays,
but then right-click/[Ctrl]-click the track, choose Freeze
Track, then choose Flatten and drag the new audio file
to a pad and make use of choke effects. 8
When looking at a Rack in Session View you can
expand it to see all of the chains. Then it is easy to
highlight a few and press [Ctrl]+[G] (PC)/[Cmd]+[G]

10

Time-stretching can help create


unique drum sounds. Impulse is
the best tool to use for this
(Mac) to pre-group elements before they leave the
Racks main output. Here weve pre-grouped the kick
and snare, then grouped all other elements. 9
Now add a compressor to all but the kick and snare,
expand its sidechain input on the left-hand side and
select Drum Rack from the first menu, then the kick and
snare group. The kick and snare will now dip the volume
of other sounds when they play. 10 1 1
For rhythmic textures, a good trick is to right-click/
[Ctrl]-click any random audio dragged into Live and
select Slice to New MIDI Track. In this instance, select a
clean grid value: 1/16 is a good place to start (indeed,
this is the built-in slicing preset). 12
Now you can re-order the new MIDI part created for
the sliced-up audio to work with your drums or
integrate them into your main Drum Rack by dragging
the drum pads over.
These are all great ways to get some well-crafted,
but also unique-sounding drum sounds into your future
Live projects. MTF

Sidechaining in Live can take place pre/


post effects or after the mixer channel
entirely. Slicing any audio to a Drum Rack
is a good source of texture for rhythms.

12
11

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MTF Technique The Looper

On the disc

Ableton Live Tutorial

Sound-on-sound
recording in Looper

Ableton Live
project file included
on the DVD

Sound-on-sound performances are commonplace


these days. Liam OMullane shows you the best
approach to exploring this artform within Live.

lthough Live has been used in various ways


for sound-on-sound performances since its
early days, the Looper device (introduced in
version 8) makes setting up these types of
performances more of a drag-and-drop
affair rather than the complex audio and MIDI routing
that was previously required. Here well take you
through the ins and outs of working with one instance of
Looper, then delve into more flexible setups that you
can use in a performance. So, if you like the loopingbased performances of artists such as Imogen Heap, Ed
Sheeran, Beardy Man and Tim Exile, this tutorial will get
you on the path to looping bliss.

Simple sound on sound


To get started, all youll need is a Live session and a
single audio track, onto which youll drag a Looper
device. The other tracks required will host the sound
sources you intend to record into Looper, which can be
internal synths, drum machines or external instruments
and microphones.

PRO TIP
If you are intending to use
various internal and external
sound sources for your
performance you can make
things easy to manage by
assigning each tracks Record
Arm buttons to a controller.
This will mean that one
controller can easily control
various instruments and live
external sources can be heard
only when needed.

Setting up these types of


performances doesnt require
complex audio and MIDI routing

Once the Looper is in place you need to route your


other tracks to it. Set the Audio From menu to No Input
so that external sources are not unintentionally wired
directly to the Looper track, then simply set the output
of the other audio or MIDI tracks you want to use to the
name of your Looper audio track. Afterwards you can
set the Looper tracks Monitor mode to In, which will let
your various tracks pass through to the Looper. 1
The first of Loopers controls were interested in is
the large square to the left called the Multi-Purpose
Transport Button (MPTB). 2
As long as Lives main transport is not playing, one
click on this will trigger recording; click it again and it will
determine the end of your first recorded layer. The length
and tempo of the audio will be assessed and Lives
transport will launch automatically at the same tempo.
In most cases Live does a good job of calculating the
tempo, but if you want it to be more predictable you can
use the Record menu to the right of the MPTB and
change it from X bars to something pre-determined. This
can avoid double- or half-time mistakes in tempo, which
wont matter too much if youre using only the Looper,
but will be a problem if you intend to run other audio/
MIDI clips in your session. It all depends on how
freeform you want the looping experience to be. 3
The orange plus icon to the right of this menu
means that after pressing the MPTB a second time to
finish your first recording pass you are instantly in
overdub mode. Recording doesnt stop until you press
the MPTB again. After the first recording the MPTB will
toggle between overdub and playback.
If you click on the button you can set it in playback
mode instead, which we recommend as it gives you time
to breathe between takes. We also find that recording a

1
3

The orange plus icon to the right of the Record menu means that after
pressing the MPTB a second time to finish your first recording pass
you are instantly in overdub mode.

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The Looper Technique MTF

You can assign the


MPTB (plus a few
other handy
controls) to your
pedal by clicking on
the MIDI icon in the
top right-hand
corner to enable
MIDI Map mode.

Four functions are all you


need to perform a full loop-based
performance from start to finish
second layer immediately after the first makes it hard
to get that second layer perfect first time around. Using
playback mode instead lets you play the next part to be
recorded, but you can hit the MPTB when youre ready
to actually commit your performance into Looper. This
usually results in a cleaner loop and performance.
Another option available to you at this stage is to use
Lives tempo and click track to give you a solid tempo
bed to work from. This requires you to route the Cue
output of Live to a different output on your soundcard,
which you can then monitor through headphones. This
is useful if you have pre-rehearsed material and want
the tempo to be pre-determined. 4

Going back

Better control
Now that weve covered the basics of Looper, you will
need to start thinking about how you intend to control
the device in a performance scenario. Unless you plan on
playing a keyboard, drum pad or perform vocal parts, its
unlikely that youll have a spare hand to control what
Looper is doing, so a MIDI footswitch is essential for
keeping your hands free. You can assign the MPTB (plus
a few other handy controls) to this pedal by clicking on
the MIDI icon in the top right-hand corner to enable MIDI
Map mode. Simply click the parameter on Looper
followed by the desired footswitch to control it. 5
A good way of working with sound-on-sound looping
in general is much like the approach to sequencing
loops: as you add layers, increase
the loop length. You could beat-box
a bar as your first recording and it
will sound quite solid as its a short,
repeated part. As mentioned before,
try to record your parts after youve
played them once as youll get better
start and end points.
The Double Length button (the x2 in
yellow) is handy for building up the overall loop length
as you add more layers. 6

One press of this button (from your footswitch) will


double the current loop in length. For example, you
could record one bar of a kick sound then double that to
add a snare pattern, then a four-bar hi-hat pattern and
so on. When you get up to eight bars or more you can
add a musical element so it becomes long enough to be
interesting to listen to.

PRO TIP
When you want to just play
something live over your
looped musical bed a fun trick
is to apply long delay times to,
lets say, a vocal part so that
you can speak a phrase and
then have it repeated. Here
weve set up two delays for a
two-bar delay set to fully wet,
which then goes through Lives
Vocoder (set to pitch tracking).
This creates a vocoded repeat
of two bars for a call-andresponse effect.

For control over your last recording layer, the Undo


button enables you to stop while recording a take to try
again (handy if you mess up) or disable/re-enable the
last recorded take. A good trick with this is to record a
chorus-based part last, which you can undo for verses
and bring back again when needed. 7
The Clear button will clear your recording, and if the
option to Start & Stop Song is selected from the Song
Control menu to the right, Lives transport will also stop.
This means that the MPTB, Double Length, Undo and
Clear functions are all you need to perform a full
loop-based performance from start to finish. At the end
of each song just press Clear and you can record the
starting loop of your next performance.

Looping in numbers
Although weve covered only a handful of features so far,
they are sufficient to create a multi-song performance
alone, but there are two main drawbacks that stem
from the same restriction. Once your layers are
recorded in Looper they are merged into a single audio
file (apart from the last one, which you can undo). This
therefore limits the degree of control you have

focus Ableton Live 2013

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MTF Technique The Looper

10
To record and access
a potentially
unlimited number of
layers simply create
as many Loopers as
your footswitch can
control and use
grouping to create a
single Effects Rack.

over individual layers. The other restriction is when


using the Drag Me function from Looper. This lets you
drag the area with rectangular shapes to an audio track
to use as an audio clip, but you still get only a single,
merged file. 8
However, it is possible to record and access a
potentially unlimited number of layers simply create
as many Loopers as your footswitch can control and use
grouping to create a single, tidy Effects Rack for the job.
Start as normal with a single Looper, then select
Group from the Edit menu after highlighting it. 9
Now that this Looper is within an Effects Rack we
can create additional channels inside it called Chains,
which will all feed from the same input to the Rack (your
performance audio). To view the Chains list press the
middle show/hide button to the left of the Rack. 10
Right-/[Ctrl]-click (PC/Mac) below the current Chain
and select Create Chain. Using [Ctrl]/[Cmd]+[R], rename
this new Chain Thru (well use this for your live audio to
pass through, not the Loopers). This is because by
default Looper passes live audio from its input to the
output alongside audio already recorded. If you leave
this unchanged, multiple instances of Looper will
amplify the input signal passing through; this increased
level will be slightly reduced when you start muting
each Looper to control the layers in your performance.
Now rename the first Looper Chain as Looper 1 to
make things visually clear. Set the Loopers Input
Output menu to Never so that it plays only recorded
sound and stops passing your live audio. 11

11

This first Looper can be used to record your first


layer; if you now right/[Ctrl]-click the Looper 1 Chain you
can select Duplicate to create more Loopers for more
layers. Make sure that you rename them sequentially
for visual clarity. 12
If done correctly you should see input audio on all
Chains, but see output activity only from the Thru Chain.
The final step is to assign your controls and a pedal to
each Loopers MPTB. Wed also recommend assigning
the same pedal to each Looper devices title bar as this
will put the Looper you are recording with in view. 13
To gain control over which layers play in your set,
assign another footswitch to the Mute button on each
Loopers Chain. Now you can bring parts in and out as
part of an arrangement for more song dynamics. 14

Food for thought


You should now be able to confidently jam with either
one or more Looper devices and enjoy the instant
rewards when either performing, jamming or just trying
out ideas. The multi-Looper setup is a lot more practical
for the latter as you can now drag each layer from the
Looper into your projects.
To enhance what weve already covered, add some
effects to your source tracks to give them a more
polished sound. Also, adding devices like Beat Repeat
and Auto Filter to the output of your Looper(s) will
enable you to manipulate your recordings and create
fills for variation. Experiment with Lives effects and see
how it makes your looping sound unique. MTF

14
12

Assign another footswitch to


the Mute button on each
Loopers Chain. Now you can
bring parts in and out as part
of an arrangement for more
song dynamics.

82 | Ableton Live 2013

13

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MTF Technique Get creative with automation

Ableton Live Tutorial

Get creative with


automation

On the disc
Live 9 project
file included on
the DVD

Live 9s latest editing and behaviour changes for


automation have opened up new possibilities.
Liam OMullane shares some of the tricks.

efore we start looking at the in-depth


aspects of how automation can be
used in Live, lets first look at two new
buttons that appeared in Live 9, their
important relationship with the main transport
record button, as well as Arm Recording buttons
on a track. 1 The yellow button with two circles
being joined together by a line is called Automation
Arm. If this is disabled, automation cannot be recorded.
When enabled, you can record automation in
Arrangement View just by hitting Lives main transport
record button. If you dont want to overwrite any existing
audio or MIDI note data, just make sure that the Record
Arm button on your track is disabled.
The arrow thats pointing left (placed to the right of
the Automation Arm button) is called Re-Enable
Automation. This kicks in when you start to move a
controller for a parameter that already has automation
data in a clip. While active, this behaviour leaves you
free to use the parameter as you please, which is good
for experimenting with some new ideas with a
controller without committing any changes to the track.

PRO TIP
If youre going to be getting
into rhythmic automation on a
regular basis, create a
template clip using any old
audio loop with the track
muted. Program various
rhythms into the clip so you
can then highlight the part you
need as required, copy and
paste it where needed.

This leaves you free to use the


parameter as you please good
for experimenting with ideas

Press Re-Enable
Automation to revert back to your
original work. It can also be useful for allowing you
freedom to perform with that parameter in a live
situation. Assigning the Re-Enable button to a key or
MIDI control will then let you quickly revert back to a
preprogrammed part when done.
In Session View, a new pair of buttons appears to the
right. Were interested in the first one that has a circle
on it this is called the Session Record button. When
enabled, automation will be applied to active clips on
all Armed tracks. If you want to just jam with a MIDI
controller for various elements at once (regardless of
whats armed), you can enable Record Session
Automation in to All Tracks from Lives Preferences. 2

General editing
Now that the super-unsexy bits of information are out
of the way, lets start getting a little hot under the collar
and look at ways to edit your recorded automation
parts. You can view your automation using the Show/

To make the most of automation in both


Arrangement and Session Views there are
quite a few Preferences to learn.

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Get creative with automation Technique MTF

Automation
now features
both linear,
convex and
concave
control for a
much more
musical
approach to
programming.

4
5

Many of todays bass music


genres use a large amount of synth
parameter automation...
Hide Envelope button (E in a yellow circle) when in
Session View 3 or by pressing the Unfold Track Button
in Arrangement View (black triangle in a circle). 4
Regardless of where a clip has been created, the benefit
of working with a clip in Arrangement View is that you
can right/[Ctrl]-click (PC/Mac) the Track Title bar and
select Add Lane For Each Automated Envelope; this is
very handy when trying to craft rhythmic automation
across various parameters. 5 Clips can then be
dragged back into Session View when edited as desired.
A simple press of the [B] key will switch between a
normal mouse pointer and Draw modes but, in general,
we find its better to stay in Pointer mode and hold
down [B], click to draw what you need, then unclick and
release [B]. This instead lets you momentarily use the
Draw tool when needed. Another key function here to
learn is [Ctrl]/[CMD]+[4], which disables the grid for
freeform drawing. Grid size modes are controlled using
[Ctrl]/[CMD]+[1], [2] or [3], and with practice can be
used along with the [B] key for a faster workflow.
Here weve recorded a volume-chopping effect from
a MIDI controller over a drum loop clip. From here we
can easily use the Cursor tool to start moving the
breakpoints around and tidy things up. If you want to
move a point on the vertical axis only, hold down the
[Alt]/[CMD] key while you drag. This also defines finer
control for editing at a more minute level of detail. This
control applies to changing multiple parts as well. 6
Another trick is to hold down [Shift] when moving a
breakpoint around it will then remove any other
breakpoints you move past, making editing very flexible
by taking them out of the way.
This second drum clip has volume changes drawn in
so they are technically perfect in terms of time, but the
immediate jump from silence to 0dB can be too abrupt,
so its time to explore the new Curve function. Until this
new feature was added, the older approach was to
create add a few linear breakpoints to try to get a
smooth fade. 7

PRO TIP
To quickly switch a curved
automation line back to being
linear, hold down [Alt] and
double-click on it when the
Curve tool appears on your
cursor. This wont toggle back
to its curve if you double-click
again, though; in this
circumstance resort to Lives
Undo function.

Now you can control the curve between two points


without these ramp-like lines. Just hold [Alt] next to an
automation line so the cursor icon gains a little curve
symbol to its right-hand side, then click and drag either
way for convex or concave curves. 8

Editing for creativity


Many of todays bass music genres use an incredibly
large amount of synth parameter automation and
variation. These synths are the focus of the track and
working to the level of detail required with automation
lines on a grid can become quite a headache. So next,
well use some more of Lives editing functionality to
show you how ideas can be started and then developed
with a few simple tools, in a simple way.
First create a melodic pattern and synth sound
thats preferably quite static in nature as were going to
add variation to it through automation. Weve recorded
an automation pattern using a MIDI controller assigned
to the synths filter cutoff. One section of our recording
was better than the rest, so we highlighted it and
copied the better portion to other, less perfect areas of
the part, just as you would when tidying up and

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MTF Technique Get creative with automation

10
11
Shortcuts are a must-learn to achieve a creative
flow of editing. The stretch functions in MIDI clips
are also useful for expanding or compressing
highlighted sections of automation.

editing recordings of live takes. When editing


automation, a right/[Ctrl]-click will let you know the
various ways you can edit a highlighted portion. Look to
the right of the menu and try to learn the shortcut keys
listed as this will save you a lot of time. 9
MIDI clips can have their MIDI notes moved around
in time by using whats called a Stretch Marker. These
work in the same way as normal Markers do for audio
clips, letting you expand and condense the content of a
clip. Automation envelopes in MIDI clips have an
advantage over audio clips as they can use independent
Stretch Markers for automation, too. This means that
you can vary a pattern by stretching and condensing
highlighted areas. Just place the mouse cursor in the
grey area above the Automation Editor window and a
marker appears, which you can click and drag around.
Note that you can view only Clip Automation from the
Clip View window in Session View for this technique. 10
Here weve taken the first bar of automation,
repeated it, then condensed it to twice the speed,
resulting in it covering half the duration. We then copied
that, doubled its speed and chose an irregular timing for
the last repeat by stretching with the grid disabled. 11

Modulation envelopes
Live 8 only had what Ableton refers to as modulation
envelopes for Session View automation within clips
here is a new feature. This offers only a relative means
of control, so drawing in a full-shaped modulation
envelope for a parameter from 0% to 100% will control
only the full range of the parameter if the physical

The idea can be used to create


various synth modulation effects
to any audio or MIDI track
parameter (knob, slider etc) is set to 100%. Otherwise
youll be controlling only a range from 0% at it lowest
position and wherever the current position of the
parameter is. So if the parameter is set halfway but the
modulation is moving between 0100%, the envelope
gets to use only up to half the range of the parameter.
If you use automation clips to control the physical
position of a parameter, relative envelopes can be used
like an LFO, making the automation envelope act as an
LFO mod depth control. Heres how: in Session View,
find the parameter you want to work with, right/
[Ctrl]-click it and select Show Modulation 12 (or right/
[Ctrl]-click when already in the parameters Automation
window and select Show Modulation). Program in a
pattern; weve gone for an extreme 0% to 100% pattern
for something simple to hear. 13 Right/[Ctrl]-click and
select Show Automation and program in the envelope
shape you want. Ours is a ramp, so the Modulation
Envelope depth gets stronger as the loop progresses. 14
This idea can be used to create various synth
modulation effects to any MIDI or audio track, like the
dry/wet of a distortion or reverb, for instance. Its also a
much simpler way to apply these types of techniques
before buying/using Live Suite with Max For Live. MTF

13
14

12
The older style of modulation
envelopes are still a valid tool to use,
but must be fully understood to
avoid confusion as you work.

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MTF 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. Here 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 MTF

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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MTF 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. MTF

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

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FIRST WITH NEWS
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MTF Feature DIY studio acoustics

Staple
taple

DIY
studio

acoustics
Creating that pro studio acoustic experience at home is
easier than you might think. Russ Hepworth-Sawyer offers
some affordable DIY solutions to bring a professional
acoustic and aesthetic to your studio

eve witnessed significant advances in music technology over the past 15 years or
so which, combined with ever lowering costs, now mean that many more of us can
and indeed choose to record at home. However, there are changes that you will
need to make to your home environment in order to get the best sonic results.
Fortunately its not as difficult nor as costly as you might think. Over the
following pages were going to detail some of the problems you might encounter and, of course, the
solutions for a perfect mixing and monitoring environment.
The most immediate aspect aside from annoying the neighbours (which is not covered here) will
undoubtedly be the acoustic performance of your listening environment. This is a subject that could
see you tinkering with your setup until youve got it absolutely right, but a detailed and reliablesounding room is perfectly possible with some simple tools and materials from your local DIY store.
As we start to improve our lot, we predominately have to address the negative results of sonic
reflections. The reflection plays havoc not only with our desired flat frequency response and stereo

92 | Ableton Live 2013

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DIY studio acoustics Feature MTF

imaging, but particularly the bass end, meaning


that our mixes dont translate to other systems. In
this feature, therefore, we explore some budgetbusting ways to create a fabulous and trustworthy
sonic environment.

cancel each other out depending on where you sit in


the room. You might be able to hear this most
evidently in the bass end if you move around in your
control room. These standing waves are known as
room modes and, once calculated, can be treated.
At higher frequencies standing waves can present
themselves as flutter echoes, sounding as though a
space is resonating at certain frequencies clapping
your hands in a corridor should provide you with the
effect if the conditions are right. These also need to be
absorbed and managed.
Comb filtering occurs when reflections merge with
the direct signal from your sound source. These small
delays will cause phase shifts at certain frequencies
and again make for an uneven frequency response. It is
therefore important to ensure that you receive all the
direct signal uninterrupted from the monitors. To tackle
these issues we have some neat starter solutions.

On reflection
It all starts with the humble reflection. Surfaces, hard
or soft, all reflect sound in one way or another. Harder
surfaces will typically reflect sound clearly and
accurately, whereas softer surfaces will soak up some
of it. The problem is that reflections can later reconnect
with direct sound from a monitor or instrument,
blurring what we should be hearing via problems such
as excessive reverb, comb filtering, flutter echoes and
standing waves.
Given these problems, youd be forgiven for thinking
it best to place your monitors in a completely dead
room an anechoic chamber where the only sound
you hear is from your monitors. However, this would
sound too artificial. Actually, what we need to do is
maintain an even and low reverberation time across the
whole frequency spectrum. Theres much debate around the
precise value, but a reverb time of around 0.3 seconds (known
as RT60) is an ideal to aim for.

Universal Acoustics
Jupiter Bass Trap is a
good example of a
foam corner bass
trap that also
absorbs higher
frequencies, too.

Standing still

Three ways forward


The first task is to assess your room. Accurately measure its
dimensions to apply to one of the formulae or the free
calculators discussed in the Measurements boxout. These
should immediately inform you of the problem frequencies

MTF Pro Technique Studio ergonomics

Standing waves are perhaps the first phenomena to deal


with. These are caused by sound reflecting off and around
your rooms surfaces, and if the mathematics are right (see
boxout) certain wavelengths either reinforce themselves or

Comb filtering occurs when


reflections merge with direct
signal from your source
Tech Terms
BROADBAND
No specific
frequency is
indicated or
absorbed but
a wider range
of frequencies,
perhaps from
100Hz20kHz as in
a corner bass trap.

The ergonomics of your studio is something to consider


both for your comfort as well as its impact on your room
acoustically. Naturally, it is important to ensure that all
the equipment you use is well within your reach and
doesnt require reaching for, something that perhaps
later results in injury. As is well documented these days,
how you set up and use your equiment particularly if
its for prolonged periods can have an impact on your
general wellbeing.
Ensure that your chair is up to the job and that youre
comfortable when youre working. Your desk needs to be
at the right height and should be suitable for the kind of
work youre doing. Placing your most often used
equipment within what I call the arc of reach will
therefore prevent you moving your arms in repetitive
movements that can cause injury.
Also consider installing your equipment in racks built
within your desk or having them in a desktop rack.
However, spare a thought for reflections that may be
caused by such devices and how you might tackle them if
they cause unwanted reflections.

CARA FABRIC
Cara fabric is a
hessian-like lining
used in many
studio applications
due to its sonic
transparency.

A custom frame design complete with corporate branding


demonstrates the potential to personalise your studio.

MINERAL WOOL
FIBRE
Mineral wool
fibre is used in
many building
applications to
insulate buildings,
but is also
exceptional at
absorbing sound.

focus Ableton Live 2013

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MTF Feature DIY studio acoustics

Room modes. Standing waves out-of-phase cancellation.


Reflected frequency (red) reflects back out-of-phase, resulting in cancellation (blue)

wall

Loudspeaker

Room modes. Standing waves combine in-phase.


Reflected frequency (red) reflects back in-phase, resulting in an increase in amplitude (blue)

Standing waves can play havoc with the bass end of your mix but are
easily identified and controlled.

and direct you towards the treatment you need to


apply to remedy them in your particular space.
Treating the reflections is achieved using three
typical key components. The foremost is the standard
absorber that restricts reflections across a wide range
of mid and upper frequencies. This could be one of the
foam offerings made by, for example, Auralex (www.
auralex.com) or EQ Acoustics (www.eqacoustics.com)
or a DIY creation of timber and mineral wool fibre
(Rockwool is the trade name to you and I, although I
tend to use Knauf).
Bass traps, meanwhile, work on lower-frequency
reflections. These can sometimes be tuned to a
specific frequency to target a problematic room mode
something like Vicoustics Vari Bass (www.vicoustic.
com) or take the form of a broadband absorber, such
as GIKs244 Bass Trap (http://gikacoustics.co.uk).
Commercial bass trap designs predominately adopt
the foam-triangle or square-section (for corners)
formats, but the options open to the DIY enthusiast are
legion, from hanging heavy matting inside a much
deeper than usual absorber to attractive and highly
effective corner bass trapping.
Finally we come to the diffusor the jewel in the
acoustics crown which provides a means of
scattering sound away from its intended direction.
Making your own diffusor takes a little more time than
making either an absorber or a bass trap, but doing so

Taking things to extremes: full-wall studwork and rockwool covered


with Cara fabric can provide tightly controlled results.

offers both sonic excellence and visual appeal. Leading


commercial manufacturers of diffusors include RealTraps
(www.realtraps.com) and RPG RPG Diffusor Systems (www.
rpginc.com), both of which offer a range of solutions.

Absorbers
Absorption is the easiest course of treatment as it
immediately improves your acoustics with only minimal
installation. Essentially, an absorber is constructed using a

Making your own diffusor


offers both sonic excellence
and visual appeal
soft porous material capable of dissipating sonic energy as it
tries to pass through it. Absorbers such as these are known
as broadband absorbers as they will absorb a wide range of
frequencies. As previously mentioned, foam solutions from
Auralex and other manufacturers are common sights in
studios, but can quite easily be constructed at home from
mineral wool fibre and a timber frame.
First, purchase some mineral wool fibre from your local
DIY store. What you are looking for are the 1,200 x 600mm
slabs (not loft insulation) with a density of at least 60kg/m3.

MTF Step-by-Step Building an absorber


Back
3
2

Staple

4
Frame
1

Using 2 x 3-inch pine, make a frame that


is 1,199 x 650mm in size. Use screws to
connect the timber together. Staple in some
Cara fabric or attach a hardboard back. This
will keep the Rockwool in place.

01

94 | Ableton Live 2013

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Turn the frame over and insert a


60mm-deep mineral wool fibre slab
snugly within the frame. A tight fit will help the
material to stay in position.

02

Cut enough Cara fabric to wrap around


the front and to be stapled to the rear of
the absorber. You may want to place tape
over your staple heads to prevent marking on
your walls. Alternatively, make a wooden
frame to face the absorber. Use picture
mounts to hang it.

03

DIY studio acoustics Feature MTF

These come in a range of depths, but somewhere


between 60100mm is ideal. From 3 x 2-inch timber
you can construct a frame that will look very attractive
hanging on your studio wall we have included a
walkthrough so you can have a go at building one
yourself for less than 30 each if you build a few of
them in one go (the slabs usually come in packs of five
or six pieces).
Taking this frame principle a huge step further, you
could line the whole of your room with a 3 x 2-inch
timber framework. You could then place absorbers
throughout your room, resulting in a more deadsounding environment. This kind of broadband
absorption will eliminate many potential problems
within your room; however, key issues and problems in
the bass end will remain.

Although somewhat labour-intensive, the fully installed corner bass trap can be the most
effective at dealing with extreme low frequencies. To satisfy aesthetic requirements, the trap can
be faced with Cara fabric or an elaborate drilled-out wood panel.

Bass traps
A basic bass traps is simply a deeper absorber.
Low-frequency wavelengths are very long; in many
cases, longer than the length or width of your room. For
example, a 50Hz waveform has a wavelength of 6.8

A Helmholtz Resonator is
extremely effective at tackling
problematic frequencies
metres. We cannot assume that a typical absorber,
described above, with a shallow depth will soak up
these wavelengths. To use absorption we need to gain
depth, and as bass often lurks in the corners of your
room, enter the corner bass trap.
Other forms of trap exist that are not based
completely on the same static form of absorption but
resonate, instead. The Helmholtz Resonator can be
extremely effective at tackling many problematic
frequencies, but it must be constructed and tuned with
the room modes in mind. Some approaches blend both
absorption and resonation by utilising barrier matting

or another dense material suspended within a frame and


with a layer of dense rockwool to the rear. It is the surface
area that determines the frequency at which the trap works,
but they cover a wider band than the tuned Helmholtz. There
are many examples of these on the internet.
The most reliable solution I find space permitting is to
build a corner bass trap. Its arguably the most labourintensive, but is effective, attractive and affordable (around
50). One of two approaches can be taken: one whereby an
absorber (as described above) straddles the corner of a room
with air behind it; the other employing deeply installed

Clouds about the mix position


can be useful to absorb/diffuse
sound away from you. The
example here is a suspended
absorber which doubles up for
a nifty position for lighting too.

MTF Step-by-Step Building a bass trap

Were going to look at a corner


broadband trap here. Take some timber
12mm plywood is ideal and cut two
right-angle triangles (300 x 300 x 424mm).
These will form the top and bottom of your
trap. The backs will be 300mm by the height
you can accommodate in your room.

01

Connect the parts together either with


screws or fixing blocks on the inside.
Using a saw, cut Rockwool slabs into triangles
slightly smaller that can stack up snugly inside
the frame. These will provide a very deep
absorber essentially, but work well for trapping
bass and other frequencies.

02

Complete the corner trap by facing with


Cara fabric or a perforated wooden
panel of some description, ensuring it is
acoustically transparent.

03

focus Ableton Live 2013

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MTF Feature DIY studio acoustics

MTF Pro Technique Materials and tools


If you choose to have a go at building your own acoustic
treatments rather than buying an off-the-shelf
commercial solution, there are a few things youll need
before you start. Tools will include a workbench of some
description, a saw and, ideally, a jigsaw for making some
of the cuts a little easier. A drill/driver combo is always
highly beneficial, but at the very least youll need an
electric drill and manual screwdriver.
The materials youll need are readily available from DIY
outlets. To build absorbers youll need 3 x 2-inch planed
pine timber for the frame. You may wish to obtain some
thin plywood or MDF for the rear or simply use some
cloth. For the corner bass trap youll need some ply for
the top and bottom plates and the rear 9mm or 12mm
ply will suffice. Probably the one tool youll need to buy as
you may not have one is a staple gun. These can be
dangerous but are essential for the job.

Although a purchased full package is


the minimal-fuss solution (such as the
London 12 Room Kit pictured here from
Primacoustic), your room may benefit
from the more custom treatment when
building your own solution.

mineral wool fibre slabs. The second approach can be


messy, but you can face the trap with either some Cara
fabric that matches your absorbers or wood with holes
cut into it. The wood covering looks good, but be
warned: youll need a good holesaw and a drill (plus
operator) with stamina.

Diffusors
Diffusion is an excellent way of ensuring that the
direct signal from your monitors reaches your ears
uninterrupted. The theory of diffusion is to scatter
sound around the room as much as possible rather
than reflecting sounds in the expected pattern.
Heres how you should go about it: if you draw a
birds eye view of your studio and plot the line from
your monitors to the side walls reflecting to your ears
you will find the point at which a diffusor would be
best employed what Ill call the mirror point. Placing
a diffusor here will scatter the signal away from your
ears and assist in clearing up the focus and stereo
width of your mix.

There are several types of


diffusor you may want to
have a go at building
There are several types of diffusor. Manfred Schroeder, a
foremost acoustics researcher working at Bell Laboratories,
developed much of our current diffusor thinking. The easiest
to make is the Maximum Length Sequence Diffusor, whereby
lengths of wood are arranged and spaced to scatter sound.
However, more effective is the Quadratic Residue Diffusor
(QRD). These follow a mathematical sequence to scatter the
sound, which can be calculated using the online resources at
www.mh-audio.nl/Diffusor.asp.
The most pretty, though, is the plain blockwork quadratic
diffusor also known commercially as the Skyline Diffusor
because of RPGs old product. This comprises small lengths
of wood connected to a back panel and arranged to a specific

MTF Step-by-Step Building a diffusor

Building a diffusor is perhaps the most


difficult task presented here, partly
because theres more maths involved, but
also as it takes a little more skill in the
workshop. The prettier of the two is perhaps
the blockwork Quadratic (Skyline) Diffusor,
but both varieties are difficult. The best
starting point is to download one of a diffusor
calculator and consider how the diffusor
should perform.

01

96 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

Cut the blocks of wood into the


appropriate lengths. Purchase some
hardboard or 9mm MDF and cut to the required
frame length to support the blocks. The next
step is the tricky bit: arranging the blocks as
per the grid provided by the calculator. As you
arrange youll need to glue each block to the
back and to any adjacent blocks it comes into
contact with.

02

Leave the blocks to dry overnight (or


longer, depending on the adhesive).
Next, turn the whole diffusor over. Using a
drill, pilot four holes through the rear
hardboard to the longer lengths of block.
Screw together to aid adhesion. Make two
holes through the 0 sections (no blocks) in
the sequence to connect the diffusor to the
wall or ceiling.

03

DIY studio acoustics Feature MTF

mathematic sequence. Online calculators can be found for


these, too. Essentially, in both cases, the width of the flat
surfaces whether that be the blocks/planks or the wells
are calculated to the HF response, while the depth of the
wells corresponds to the low frequencies. One of these can be
made for under 30.

There are some


products that are
difficult to DIY.
Vicoustics products
are both elegant and
highly effective such
as this WaveWood
Bass Trap

Sound advice
Take time to experiment with your space and consider the
sound youre aiming to achieve. You can tailor the number and
position of absorbers and the types of bass traps until youre
starting to hear that professional sound. Obviously, diffusors
may take a little more time to build, so using the calculations
is sensible for identifying what you need and where.
Bringing that professional acoustic response to your
room the do-it-yourself way does mean a little investment in
time and money, but will reap rewards at a fraction of the
cost of commercial solutions. The benefits are that you can
tinker with the materials and the finish until youve got the
ideal sonic response, and choose from a wide range of
fabrics and finishes to personalise your room. In the links

Take time to experiment and


consider the sound youre
aiming to achieve

MTF Pro Technique Room readings

section youll find a reference to Cara fabric; Id recommend


choosing the foam-backed option despite the higher cost as
it prevents fibres escaping and increases durability. On the
subject of personalising, I have colleagues who have
screen-printed logos and images onto fabric to truly
personalise their spaces.
Whichever route you choose, be warned: you may catch
the DIY bug, so let us know how you get on! MTF
FURTHER INFO
See the Custom Audio Designs website for some excellent
examples of bass traps:
www.customaudiodesigns.co.uk/basstrap-basic-designprinciples.html
Excellent calculators are available here, but scroll to the
bottom of the page for the acoustic-specific ones: www.mh-

Tech Terms
RT60
The time it takes
for a sound to
reduce its sound
pressure level by
60dB within an
acoustic space.
HELMHOLTZ
RESONANCE
Resonance in an
enclosed space,
such as that
caused by blowing
over a bottle. This
principle can be
used to accurately
trap frequencies in
the studio.

Waterfall plots can be extremely useful in identifying the problem


frequencies that your DIY acoustic solution will need to address

audio.nl/
spk_calc.asp
A good diffusor calculator is
downloadable as an application from: www.
subwoofer-builder.com/qrdude.htm
Cara fabric is available in all kinds of colours from
www.eqacoustics.com/products-page/acoustictreatment/acoustic-fabric/cara-acoustic-fabric

WAVELENGTH
Wavelength
is determined
by frequency.
The lower the
frequency
the longer the
wavelength
and the deeper
your acoustic
absorption will
need to be.

The first step to identifying and treating potential issues


in your listening space is to make an accurate
assessment of the rooms modes. Axial modes are the
easiest to start with, and are based around the parallel
surfaces of the room. These modes can be calculated by
taking the speed of sound and dividing it by the length
(or depth or height) of your room. Remember that you
need to measure the distance it would take to travel
there and back. For a five-metre room length the
calculation would be:
f = 330 m/s (speed of sound)
5
whereby
f = 66Hz
Using this equation you could develop or download one of
the freely available calculators to automatically assess
your axial modes.
Tangential modes deal with the corner-to-corner
lengths; oblique modes deal with a top corner to a bottom
opposite corner. The tangential mode (d) can be
determined by:
d = \/L2 + W2
Oblique modes (D) can be calculated using:
D = \/L2 + W2 + H2
To get a fuller picture of the sound of your room employ a
room analyser such as the shareware one provided by
REW (www.hometheatershack.com/roomeq). This will
identify areas of resonance that need attention.

focus Ableton Live 2013

| 97

MTF 10MM Studio connectivity

Minute
Master

Studio
connectivity
Linking up equipment in the studio, whether that be a
project room or a larger installation, can be daunting.
Russ Hepworth-Sawyer explores the ins and outs.

espite the dominance of digital audio these


days, there will be times when we still need to
move analogue audio about using some form of
cable or another a mic signal in need of
preamplification, for example, or a mix signal having a
buss compressor applied to it. Firming up your
knowledge of connectivity will be invaluable as you set
up, alter or simply improve signal flow, and there will
always be sessions that require some higher thinking as
you connect legacy real instruments to your setup.

Balancing act

Tech Terms
SHIELDED
Studio cabling should have
a foil or webbed shield
around each balanced pair,
protecting the signal from
RF interference.
IMPEDANCE
Every audio signal
connection has a resistance
known as impedance. An
understanding of
mismatching and how to
overcome it can be invaluable
during busy sessions.

Between each connection is a cable and not every


cable is the same. Audio signals, especially microphone
signals, are extremely quiet and can introduce noise
such as electromagnetic interference from signals
nearby. If you play electric guitar youll almost certainly
identify with noise that can be inducted by the guitar

Knowledge of connectivity will


be invaluable as you set up, alter or
simply improve signal flow

Bantam
connectors (top)
rather than TRS
are the choice
for professionals
due to their
relatively slim
proportions.

cable. Decent cables have a shielding material that is a


bit like aluminium foil, or braided wire wrapped around
the cores of the cable. Shielding soaks up inducted
interference by sending it to ground long before its
conducted to the positive cable.
Shielding alone sometimes isnt enough to deal with
heavy mains spikes. To prevent these becoming a
problem an extra positive signal is conveyed, but this one
is out-of-phase with the original. The balanced theory is
that any noise inducted on the positive cables will be in
phase, but the desired audio signal is out-of-phase. The
receiving device brings the two positive signals back into
phase with each other, leaving the noise inducted on the
cable out-of-phase with itself and thus eradicated.
XLR connectors have three pins connecting a ground
and the two out-of-phase positives. These three
connections make up the balanced signal and can be
connected to, say, a GPO B-Gauge (aka 316) or a 1/4-inch
jack plug (often referred to as TRS Tip, Ring, Sleeve,
describing the contacts on the plug).
GPO B-Gauge (316) plugs are commonplace,
particularly in broadcasting. The format has its history in
UK telephone switchboards at a time when operators
would connect calls for you physically using a patch
cable. They format can handle higher voltages such as
phantom power, making them a good choice for
microphone patchbays.
TRS jack plugs are a variation on the 316 design.
Instead of the round head of the 316 the 1/4-inch jack
has a diamond-shaped tip. Inserting a TRS into a 316
patchbay can cause upset, as the TRS diamond tip is
somewhat wider than the 316s dome. This can mean the
patchbays connectors are bent a little too far to properly
connect with a subsequently inserted 316.

Patch perfect
Many studios now opt for bantam patchbays. Despite the
increased cost, these take up less space as 96 sockets
can fit within 1U of rack space (TRS is typically 48
sockets across two rows of 24 per 1U of rack space). The
rear of bantam patchbays, just like many consoles/

1
2

The ubiquitous three-pin balanced XLR. The pins are known as 1 (ground), 2 and 3 (the two positives).
The left-hand plug is a female XLR, the one to the right is male

98 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

GPO patchbays (also known as B-Gauge and 316) are robust and
very common across the professional audio and broadcast
industries. These make up many a BBC jackfield.

Studio connectivity 10MM MTF

The original signal

The original signal with


inducted mains spike

The original signal

The original signa


signal with
inducted mains spike
The transferred signal

The out of phase signal

control surfaces such as the C|24, use the D-Sub 25


connection protocol, permitting eight balanced channels
of audio per cable.
Other multi-pin connection formats are also in use.
EDAC is one example, once employed on the original
ADATs but still used to connect some bantam patchbays
to desks. These and multi-pin connectors are largely
found in live audio applications, permitting quick
dismantling at the end of a night without requiring you to
reconnect every jack to the mixer.

The out of phase signal with


inducted mains spike

The original signal with inducted mains spike


returned to correct phase in receiving device.
Note the mains spike is now out of phase with itself

Balanced cabling is an
ingenious solution to
overcoming inducted noise
by turning the interference
out-of-phase with itself.

Tech Terms
CONNECTION GENDERS
Connection protocols such
as XLR come in two formats:
a socket, known as female,
and a plug, known as male.

Making connections
At times youll need to connect a balanced signal to an
unbalanced input or vice versa. Connecting a line-level
signal (ie a portable recording device or synth) to a

A selection of converters may


be useful to have in the studio for
those what if sessions
balanced input is perfectly fine. The relative level might
be a little lower, but theyll be able to understand each
other just fine. An example of this kind of setup might be
an RCA phono connection youd like to connect to
balanced inputs for tracking. In this eventuality youll
need a phono-to-mono (2-pole) jack (with only a sleeve
and tip) unless its a domestic turntable, which will
require specific preamplification.
To connect phono-equipped equipment to XLR
equipment youll need to ensure that the phonos positive
and negative are connected correctly to all three pins of
the XLR. In essence, the positive continues to go to pin 2;
pins 1 and 3 are connected to the negative of the phono
plug. The out-of-phase positive signal is thus sent to
ground and discarded.

Tip

Ring

Sleeve

Three-pin jack plugs such as these are known colloquially as TRS which stands for Tip, Ring and
Sleeve. XLR pin 1 equals the Sleeve, pin 2 the Tip and pin 3, the Ring.

The humble DI Box is the most common of all impedancematching devices. Every studio should have at least two!

Converters exist that permit all manners of


connections, from the simple phono-to-jack to the more
complicated gender-changing types that permit two
male XLR plugs to be connected together. Obtaining a
selection of these is worthwhile as they are useful to have
in the studio for those what if sessions.
Acknowledging whether a signal is unbalanced or
balanced is one thing, but to appreciate its impedance is
another. Were fortunate in audio that impedance is not a
daily worry as much of the matching is taken care of for
us. Were concerned with matching the voltage. Typically,
gear has high-impedance inputs that permit all manner
of low-impedance outputs to be connected to it. However,
the Hi-Z inputs on some devices permit for instruments
to be connected straight in without impedance matching.
Without these inputs, an impedance-matching device
is required a DI box (Direct Inject). The mic input on a
console is a low-impedance input (around 1,200 or 2,400
ohms) whereas an electric guitar could be around 100K
ohms. A DI box employs a transformer to allow the mic
input to accept the higher impedance of the electric
guitar. Failure to match these affects the tonality of the
instrument as the signal is altered distorted, if you will.
Many connections noted here are mirrored for digital
audio connectivity. For example, AES/EBU employs XLR,
whereas S/PDIF uses phono. Developments now mean
that networked audio connectivity such as RedNet from
Focusrite may become the norm, running on Cat5
cabling. Nevertheless, many of us will continue to use
traditional, treasured and time-tested analogue
microphones, mixers and monitor controllers for us,
the above will remain of relevance for years to come. MTF
FURTHER INFO
To understand the types of connectors used in audio, go
to: www.vdctrading.com
For a glimpse of potential future studio connectivity,
visit: http://uk.focusrite.com/rednet
focus Ableton Live 2013

| 99

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MTF Buyers Guide Best soft synths

Best soft synths

he rise of software synths has been nothing


less than meteoric, with thousands of
developers large and small offering up their
take on synthesis techniques alongside new
and innovative designs. Whereas hardware synths are
limited in terms of number of oscillators, filters and
other components, in the software world we can
combine a huge number of such elements, perhaps
excessively stacking oscillators for massive-sounding
waveforms. Although an analogue-modelled Minimoog
soft-synth might not equal its hardware counterpart,
consider the fact that you can layer up multiple
instances and also use it in polyphonic mode.
However, while many companies look to offer more
flexible, software versions of classic synths, others
endeavour to create new techniques for sound design
using resynthesis, convolution and granular
techniques. Instruments such as iZotopes Iris enable
you to select a portion of an audio file from a

spectrogram display using an array of drawing tools,


then use this as an oscillator sound source. Theres
also Camel Audios Alchemy, which has a powerful
additive synthesis engine that can accurately
resynthesise audio, allowing you to manipulate it in
ways that are impossible with sampling alone. If
youre looking for an instrument for cutting-edge
sound design, these kinds of soft-synths are good
starting points as they excel at creating complex and
detailed sounds. However, if youre intending to write
warm, analogue-sounding house, you might find
these textures a little too complicated and end up
cluttering your mix. Ultimately, youll probably
want to select several synths for different
tasks. Just be wary of mixing and
matching too many different flavours
of synthesis together as you may
end up confusing your listener
and yourself!

Thousands of developers large


and small are offering their take
on synthesis techniques
MTF Technology Types of synthesis
There are many types of synthesis beyond traditional subtractive techniques, and there are plenty of
synths out there that offer a whole range in a single unit or software instrument. The most common
types are additive synthesis, which builds sounds by adding waveforms together, and frequency
modulation (FM), which uses one or more oscillators to modulate the tonal and amplitude
characteristics of another oscillator. These types excel at brash, digital-sounding bells and metallic
sounds, and are also capable of creating more complex waveforms than subtractive techniques alone.
Native Instruments FM8 is a prime example of a modern FM synth and is capable of some incredibly
rich and detailed sounds. Beyond this we have things like phase-distortion synthesis (which is fairly
similar to FM), physical modelling, which uses a set of equations and algorithms to simulate a real
instrument, and wavetable and sample-based synthesis. Things get more interesting, though, when you
get into the realms of granular synthesis, which works on the same principles as sampling, but the audio
file is split into tiny pieces called grains and replayed in a different order at varying speeds and volumes.
Low-speed playback results in dissonant soundscapes or clouds, and high speeds in a note or unique
timbre. There are plenty of granular synths and processors available, from the freeware HourGlass, by
Xenakios, to Steinbergs Padshop Pro, and these are perfect for creating dark soundtrack ambiences.
Some companies claim to have come up with new
techniques, not least Tone2, whose recent inventions
include Harmonic Content Morphing (HCM) Synthesis,
Impulse Modelling Synthesis (IMS) and Fractal
Synthesis. Although these can seem like buzz terms, in
Tone2s case they are genuine innovations in design.
That said, although the results could arguably be called
unique, its not something that will leap out of the
speakers like nothing youve heard before. And this is
probably the most important point to remember when
getting exited about the latest gadget or technique:
ultimately, its your own skill at designing sounds that
will create something interesting and new, not the
Steinbergs Padshop Pro is granular
technology that powers it.
synthesis in a single, easy-to-use package.

102 | Ableton Live 2013

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NI RAZOR

Price 99 Contact
2twenty2 0845 299 4222
Razor has been designed
by German producer
Errorsmith in conjunction
with Native Instruments
and works with the latest
version of Reaktor and the
free Reaktor Player. At first
glance, Razor looks much
like a traditional
subtractive synthesizer,
having two oscillators, a
filter section, envelopes,
LFOs and effects. However,
behind the scenes it is
creating and sculpting its
output purely in the
additive domain, using 320
partials to assemble
sounds on a harmonic-byharmonic basis. Overall,
Razors sound is edgy and
digital but not at the
expense of power, depth or
beauty and it comes with
a range of presets catering
for everything from heavy
dubstep wobbles to eerie
pads. On the downside, the
well-designed GUI and
unique additive-style
output comes at the cost of
a high CPU hit.
Web www.nativeinstruments.com

Best soft synths Buyers Guide MTF

MTF Buyers Guide Ten of the best


FXPANSION TREMOR

Price 99 Contact Sonic8 08701 657456


Tremor is an analogue-modelled drum synth with eight voices and a grid-based pattern
sequencer. Each of the voices is based on a specially tuned D:CAM oscillator with eight
partials that behave either like a membrane or a harmonic source. A sub-oscillator and
stereo noise source can be mixed in with the signal, which is then directed into a
multimode filter with both pre- and post-filter drive stages. Any of the parameters can be
modulated by a range of sources, and the 32-step pattern sequencer contains some
interesting features, such as the ability to add randomness to your groove.
Web www.fxpansion.com

IZOTOPE IRIS

Price 129 Contact Time+Space 01837 55200


Iris is a little different from your average synth as its a sampling resynthesizer that uses
sampled digital audio to generate sound. There are three sample layers available per patch
as well as a Sub layer that lets you add lower frequencies to a sound, plus a main display
that shows either a waveform or a spectrogram view. Iris works by enabling you to select
parts of a sound, both from its waveform and also within its spectrum, using the same
technology that you find in RX, with a comprehensive set of tools that let you home in on a
particular part of a sound. This intuitive synth is an amazing resource for sound designers,
and layering up samples makes it easy to create breathtaking sound effects.
Web www.timespace.com

U-HE DIVA

Price 138.04 Contact via website


Diva is based on a number of modules
that closely model components of
classic synths from Moog, Roland and
Korg. You can mix and match each
section, with options for voltage- or
digitally controlled oscillators and
envelopes, plus a selection of
multimode, ladder, cascade and bite
filters. This opens up a wide range of
combinations and its easy to get
great-sounding results. Along the
bottom is the Global section, from
where you can set up and tweak LFOs,
tuning, amp, pan, voice stacking and
much more, as well as selecting from
two FX slots including phasing, chorus,
reverb and delay. Diva consumes a fair
amount of CPU in high-quality mode,
but represents the current pinnacle of
analogue-modelled sound.
Web www.u-he.com

TONE2 RAYBLASTER

Price $199 Contact via website


Rayblaster is based on Impulse Modeling Synthesis and aims
to offer more of a synth behaviour to a form of sound
manipulation that usually lacks any serious real-time controls.
Each of the two oscillators is focused around an eye-catching
waveform display and starts from one or two audio files. There
are plenty of factory options here as well as the option to
import your own waves, which can be anything from
instrument waveforms to vocals, sound FX or drum
loops. The central area of the synth lets you twist your
sounds with formant and tuning controls, and
theres a highly flexible arp/gate section to the
right. You might not always know what youll
get from this synth but you can guarantee
that the results will always be unique.
Web www.tone2.com
focus Ableton Live 2013

| 103

MTF Buyers Guide Best soft synths

MTF Buyers Guide Ten of the best, contd...

SUGARBYTES CYCLOP

SONIC ACADEMY ANA

Price 49.99 Contact


customerservice@sonicacademy.com
Sonic Academy tutors Phil Johnston and Bryan Spence
have created a synth that aims to balance features, sound
quality and ease of use in a single, reasonably priced
package. ANA comes with Analog, Advanced Noise and
Attack oscillator types, plus 23 filter types including some
especially tasty vintage and saturated models. Other
features include three envelopes, a graphical envelope,
two LFOs, two modulation slots and built-in effects.
Web www.sonicacademy.com

Price 119 Contact Sugar Bytes +49 306 092 0395


Fans of Skrillex, Boys Noize and Knife Party should be sure to check out Cyclop, as its a
one-stop shop for creating twisted complextro bass and lead lines. Theres a stack of
features and oscillator types including Saw Regiment (for super-saw waves), Analog Sync
(for classic wave, sync and pulse sounds), a dual-carrier FM source, Transformer (for
granular/wavetable tones), Spectromat (an additive synth) and Phase Stressor (phase
distortion). Theres also a large knob on the left for controlling wobbles and another on the
right for FX, which can be switched using the automation lanes section for creating
instant, complex-sounding patterns.
Web www.sugar-bytes.com

XILS-LAB OXIUM

Price 99 Contact via website


Oxium is a performance synthesizer
sporting a fast and intuitive interface while
offering creative modulation options such
as Le Masque, ported from the companys
Le Masque: Delay plug-in. Many of the
functions are based around what XILS-lab
refers to as a Flower design, with the two
cumulative oscillators allowing you to select
up to four waveforms located around a
central tuning knob. Simply exploring
waveform layering, unison modes, stereo spread and
stereo tuning can result in some monstrous, thick lead sounds in just a few
mouse clicks. The LFOs also benefit from the stacked waveform design, allowing for some
interesting modulation curves.
Web www.xils-lab.com

ROB PAPEN BLADE

Price 89 Contact Time+Space 01837 55200


Blade is Rob Papens latest synth creation, which aims to combine the
complexity of additive synthesis with a more typical synth layout. The main
section is the Harmolator oscillator, which has nine parameters for
controlling the additive synthesis, plus there are also the usual envelopes,
LFOs and filters alongside a superb FX section that can help to shape
mix-ready sounds. Another unique feature is the ability to set up
modulations on an X/Y pad and record your movements, which is great for
complex pad and soundscape design.
Web www.timespace.com

NI MASSIVE

Price 199 Contact 2twenty2 0845 299 4222


While wed like to include only one soft synth from each company, its hard
to when it comes to Native Instruments as it has such a rich portfolio
FM8 and Reaktor were also in the running. Massive is certainly the
analogue to Razors edgy digital, the two together offering a great
spectrum of sound. Huge basses and leads are what you get; the very
elements that can make or break a track and in this case most definitely
the former. With more than 1,300 sounds to choose from you certainly
wont go wanting. Put simply: all the highs and lows you will ever need.
Web www.native-instruments.com

104 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

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MTF Buyers Guide Best soft synths

Freeware synths

ou might be on a tight budget, but you


neednt miss out on some great synths: the
freeware community has been happily
programming some excellent plug-in
instruments and effects over the last couple of
decades and the number of synths that you can now

download for free is quite staggering. Quality varies


enormously, so weve rounded up our ten favourites,
trying to include as many for both Mac and PC as
possible. Several are emulations of classic hardware,
and one or two are becoming classics in their own
right, so get clicking and try this lot for free

MTF Buyers Guide


CRYSTAL Mac/PC
One of the best Mac and PC
freeware synths out there (and now
available for iOS for $4.99) Crystal
has been at the top of the freeware
charts for many a year and won its
large fan base through great
sounds featuring subtractive and
FM synthesis, so has a wide and
varied palette.
Web www.greenoak.com

WOLLO DRONE PC
One of the top-rated synths at the
excellent Plug-in Boutique (www.
pluginboutique.com) and we
certainly agree. Its a Juno-style
analogue synthesizer with some
great sounds and enough
polyphony to build some great
walls of electronics.
Web www.wollo.com/vst.htm

MINIMOGUE VA PC
Continuing the theme of free synths based on classics, heres one based
on one of the best of all the Minimoog. And when this synth sticks to its
guns, producing those original sounds, it scores highly. Basses are deep,
leads piercing and, all told, its hard to believe its free. If you want to find
out what the fuss is about regarding the Mini, its all here Voltkitchen,
the developer, is also responsible for the Arppe2600va, which is based on
the ARP2600 (www.glenstegner.com). Its rather good, too.
Web http://home.no/gunnare

FREEALPHA Mac/PC
This is a cut-down version of LinPlugs Alpha synthesizer and is essentially
an advert for it but so what? Its a proper, fully functional synth that is
very capable and fat-sounding thanks to dual-waveform oscillators, a
multimode filter and a great modulation matrix that lets you hook up mod
sources to various destinations. You get a wide variety of sounds
programmed by the pros one of the best freebies out there.
Web www.linplug.com
SYNTH1 Mac/PC
Like Crystal, Synth1 is widely regarded as one of the best freeware synths
of all time and it does sound incredible as long as you explore and play
with it. Its presets dont show it off to its best, but start programming
yourself easy for anyone familiar with analogue synths and you will
achieve wonderful results.
Web www.geocities.jp/daichi1969/softsynth
106 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

Best soft synths Buyers Guide MTF

CAKEWALK/RGC AUDIO TRIANGLE II PC


Simple to use, easy to understand and as synthy as you
can get, Triangle II is a great giveaway. You can tell it was
put together by professionals (originally RGC Audio before
it was snapped up by DAW specialists Cakewalk) and you
get a wide variety of sounds to suit many genres of music.
Web www.cakewalk.com

SOLICITO MUSICA SUPERTRON PC


Any title with the word Tron in it works for us, but this freebie is an electronica marvel, too.
The best thing about it is that its step features add a lot of movement to proceedings,
with lots of arpeggiation all round. If you like your synths beefy and macho, look no further.
Web http://solcitomusica.blogspot.com.ar
TUBEOHM ALPHA-RAY PC
Alpha-Ray is a relatively new (well, relative to Crystal and
Synth1) ten-voice synth with plenty of features, lots of
controls and a lovely looking fascia. Its got some great
atmospheric sounds, too, many with plenty of movement
and atmosphere. Controls and features are typical VA and
the whole thing can be livened up with optional effects,
which at just 4.95 are well worth the outlay.
Web www.tubeohm.com

DAHORNET Mac/PC
Based on the Wasp synth from the 70s, one of the first
affordable synths (affordable because it was basically a bit
rubbish unless you wanted buzzing-bee noises). With
stacks of presets that really will rock your productions,
forget the original and bask in the glory of this one instead.
Web http://nusofting.liqihsynth.com/freeplugins.html

TAL-BASSLINE Mac/PC
Anyone familiar with classic synths will know exactly
which one this is attempting to emulate: the Roland
SH-101. The simple signal path will appeal to synth
newbies, while the sounds themselves will appeal to both
veterans and dance-heads alike fat basses, searing
leads and some real dirt. Its a shame you cant add a
handle and play it while on the move, just like the original.
Web http://kunz.corrupt.ch/products/tal-bassline
focus Ableton Live 2013

| 107

MTF Reviews Ableton Live 9 Suite & Push

MTF Reviews
Hardware

Software

Mobile Technology

Samples

For PC
& Mac

ABLETON

Live 9 Suite
& Push
Has software and
hardware truly united?
Liam OMullane puts a
new combo to the test.
Details
Price
Push & Live 9 Intro
429
Push & Live 9 668
Push & Live 9 Suite
863
Live 9 Intro 69
Live 9 299
Live 9 Suite 519
Contact
Ableton
+49 302 887 630
Web
www.ableton.com

Key Features
LIVE 9 SUITE
54GB of content,
40 effects, 9
instruments, Max
for Live
Enhanced mixing
devices and new
Glue Compressor
Improved
Browser layout
and functionality
32-/64-bit plug-in
support
Session View
automation
PUSH
Solid build
(weight 2.99kg)
Bright, colourful
RGB pads
4-row LCD display
Touch-sensitive
encoders
Velocity-sensitive
pads with
aftertouch

fter an incredibly long wait


since version 8s release, Live
9 is here, accompanied by an
Ableton-developed controller
called Push. This is a controller that
Ableton describes as an instrument,
which sounds promising as Live itself
has long been seen as more of a
creative, compositional tool than an
audio/MIDI workhorse for the studio.
Lives primary appeal has always
been its two distinct approaches to
workflow and the way in which they
interact. For structuring tracks,
Arrangement View enables you to work
from left to right in a linear fashion.
Session View, meanwhile, is a
loop-oriented mode, letting you focus
on musical ideas or sketches without
needing to think about the
arrangement stage. Its very much the
reason why many people turn to Live
even if its not their primary platform.
These part-time users often believe
that Ableton Live isnt up to the task of
full track creation and mixing, probably
because Live has been slow to
incorporate certain features that
users of other DAWs take for
granted. For instance,
automation curves have only
just been added, and you
still cant take the classic
approach of recording
lanes of audio for
compiling together
quickly
afterwards. But
thats missing
the point,

108 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

Excellence

10/10
however: Live isnt the same as other
DAWs, so its wrong to compare them in
such a literal way, feature for feature.

Making introductions
Live 9 comes in three flavours: Intro,
Standard and Suite. As youd expect, the
entry-level Intro has limitations that
reflect its price. These include a small
number of idea spaces in Session View
(Scenes), a maximum of 16 audio/MIDI

to the next two versions, and for the rest


of this review, the features discussed
relate to these versions only.
After the 54GB install of Live Suite
(Standard is a 12GB install), its evident
from browsing the library that version 9
is more complete than ever (the
complete package can be installed
piecemeal if you prefer). Various genre
styles and instrument types are

Its evident when looking


through the library that version 9
is more complete than ever
tracks, and just two audio inputs and
outputs. However, you do get a perfectly
respectable production centre including
drum devices and sample-based
instruments along with Lives flexible
real-time audio warping.
Choice
The feature set gets
deeper as you move up

9/10
9
9/
10

included in Suite far too many to list


here, see Abletons website full details
but they cover most bases and alone
justify the difference in cost between
Suite and Standard and thats before
weve even looked at the other
Suite-only features.

A full suite
Audio content aside, there are
some other significant
differences between Suite and
Standard. Standard comes
with the same three
sample-based
instrument devices
as Intro, but it offers
much more in terms
of factory content.

Ableton Live 9 Suite & Push Reviews MTF

Alternatives
For hardware control of software with visual
feedback on the device itself, both NIs Maschine
(483) and AKAIs MPC Studio (350) may suit
your needs. These arent quite as in-depth in terms
of features and flexibility, though. Live 9 could be
purchased alone and used alongside Novations Launchpad S (150),
AKAIs APC 20 (170) or APC 40 (290). These are all a solid choice for
performance control, but they dont cater for expressive musical input in
terms of notes. Other comparable software options are FruityLoops 10
Signature Bundle ($299) from Image-Line and Propellerheads Reason
6.5 (349). These both have very intuitive GUI designs, a healthy library of
sounds and instruments, and are easy to pick up and learn.

Note Box now has reverse, invert, legato (to modify notes end to end) and duplicate loop, which
doubles the loop brace and its content. These all help speed up workflow and encourage creativity.

Suites instrument collection, however,


is a lot more comprehensive,
comprising analogue-style synth
sounds from Analog, rich-sounding
percussion from Collision, Electric
pianos from Electric and string
modelling from Tension. Operator caters
for FM synthesis and Sampler offers a
professional level of sampling that can
accommodate multiple sample
key-mapping and layering.
In terms of processing, Standard has
quite a few more effects than Intro,
though Suite boasts the excellent Amp
and Cabinet devices, which will
otherwise be add-on purchases. These
provide guitarists with sonic textures on
tap, though they can be applied to pretty
much any sound in need of a new sonic
identity. Corpus is another effect that
can create something unique as it adds
simulated acoustic resonance.

Max(imum) benefit
While Suites comprehensive features
make up at least 50 per cent of its
attraction, for us the real deal-sealer is
the inclusion of Max for Live. For the

MTF Navigation Push control


a AUTOMATION
Moving an encoder will
override any automation for that
parameter in a clip. Hit this button to
record changes, or combine with
[Shift] to revert to clip automation.

uninitiated, Max is a graphical


programming environment that was
previously a separate purchase from
Live 8. It offers two main advantages to
the Live user. The first is access to the
wealth of Max-created devices already
in existence; the second is the ability to
create your own devices, limited only by
your imagination.
The Max for Live library now
includes some excellent devices
including Convolution Reverb Pro, Note
Echo (for re-creating that classic MIDI
sequenced effect) and API tools that
enable you to map LFOs, envelope
followers, randomisers and more to any
parameter within a Live project. Max for
Live is attractive to technical nerds as
well as musicians or engineers who just
want to access more practical and
creative tools.

The newcomers
Both Suite and Standard have some
other fantastic new features. Highlights
include Audio to MIDI, the Glue
Compressor and some well thought-out
overhauls of other mixing devices.

While its not a real-time option,


Audio to MIDI lets you analyse an audio
file and turn it into a drum pattern,
melody or harmonic content for chords.
The facility to sing an idea into Live or
drop in a file recorded on your phone
(perhaps captured during a moment of
inspiration) is a huge time-saver and
enhances workflow a great deal. Its
also useful for adding that human feel
to your drum work record yourself
tapping or beatboxing a rhythm and
turn it into a drum pattern.
Other uses could include
transcribing material for covers,
mimicking a part in a track for remixing
purposes, or taking a drum pattern to
make your own. It isnt a flawless
process, but the most unexpected
results come from the usual suspects
of dense, layered or noisy material,
which is always difficult for a computer
to decipher. In most cases, though, the
results are very usable.
Glue Compressor does the job that a
good buss compressor should making
individual elements sound cohesive as a
whole when processed as a group. We
NAVIGATION
BUTTONS
In Session mode
these let you
navigate around
your session, clips
and scenes. In Note
mode you can move
left/right between
tracks and up/down
to move between
scenes and launch
them immediately.

ENCODERS
All encoders are touch-sensitive, which enhances the LCD
screens function as it displays relevant material as you work.

a
b
PADS
The main 8 x 8
grid of pads are very
firm and take a while to
get used to. Sensitivity
and velocity curves can
be user-defined.

focus Ableton Live 2013

| 109

MTF Reviews Ableton Live 9 Suite & Push

also like its saturation stage, which can


be used to push the signal into the red if
you want to introduce some character.
EQ Eight has had its most significant
overhaul since Live 8, particularly in
respect to the new spectral analyser.
We never really got on with Live 8s
Spectrum device as you had to put an
instance on every track if you wanted to
do track-by-track analysis while EQing
a mix. Since youll almost certainly use
an EQ per track anyway, the
incorporating of a spectral analyser into
EQ Eight is a welcome practical step.

input and output levels and thresholds.


This makes them much easier to set up
quickly, yet accurately.

Streamliner
Before we look at how Push may
redefine how you interact with Live, well
take a moment to cover improvements
to Live 9s workflow from a
programming point of view.
Session and Arrangement Views are
finally truly united, with automation
that works between both Views for
audio and MIDI clips. It may sound

Session and Arrangement


Views are finally truly united with
automation for audio and MIDI

Lives new browser


layout makes it much
easier to navigate the
included library. Its also
easier to move between
user-defined locations
as they are now situated
on the lower left-hand
side rather than in a
dropdown menu.

basis. MIDI editing has also had some


useful improvements, as mentioned in
the box to the upper left.

Pushing on
Other new additions include an Audition
mode for helping you to hear the
frequency band youre working on, and
an Adaptive mode that adjusts the EQ
filters Q width as you change the gain
amount, resulting in a much more
musical sound.
Two other devices to undergo
updates are Compressor and Gate,
which now have graphical feedback on

bizarre, but this wasnt implemented


before, which was always counterintuitive considering the otherwise
close integration between both Views.
Automation can now be recorded in
Session View as well and the global
Back To Arrangement button which
stopped all Session View clips in order
to return playback to Arrangement View
can now be controlled on a per-track

For the second part of this review its


time to turn to Abletons Push
instrument, which at first glance
appears to do much the same things as
other Live controllers on the market
launch clips, control devices and
generally navigate around Session View.
But while Push does offer this type of
control, switching to Note Mode allows
you to create MIDI, audio or return

MTF Power User Q&A Rik Simpson


From Coldplay to Jay Z, Rik has produced and written for an
impressive array of big-name artists. We caught up with him to hear
his verdict on Abletons new combo.

Sun, sea and sound: Rik


working on his own
material on the edge of
the Indian Ocean.

MTF Your website describes Live as A DAW that makes you think
differently. What feature has changed how you work with Live?
RS Live 9 seems snappier than 8. The new browser is really
speeding up my workflow its much more intuitive than before and
searching for files in the search field is considerably quicker. A
close second favourite new feature would be the visual feedback
you now get from the Compressor, EQ and Gate plug-ins, which also
makes it quicker to get a result.
MTF What in Live 9s new features represents the biggest sonic
improvement for you?
RS That would have to be the oversampling option in the EQ Eight
and Glue plug-ins they add a lovely fidelity. The Glue plug-in is
amazing, by the way. Ive been using the Cymotic plug-in for a few
years now its great to have it so integrated within Live.
MTF Have you explored any Max For Live devices yet?
RS To be honest, Ive mainly been playing with the Max For Live
presets up until now. Ive downloaded a few fun devices
ultraGlitcher and The Granulizator by Design the Media, for example
but havent really got in that deep yet. Im more interested in
eventually making my own stuff, but Max has a such a steep
learning curve. Its very nature as an open-ended piece of software

110 | Ableton Live 2013

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makes it hard to pin down.


Ive got the Live 9 tutorials by MacProVideo which are great.
Theres one Ive just started on Max For Live so Im beginning to
break the crust so to speak.
MTF What do you plan to explore next when you have time?
RS Push is a game-changer for me. It actually does what so many
other controllers over the years have failed to do: it feels and reacts
like a real instrument. Partly due I think to its tight integration with
the software but also because of the feel of the pads, which are
tactile and responsive. Ive come up with riffs and shapes that I
wouldnt normally gravitate towards its opened up a new area for
me. Ill definitely be delving deeper over the next few weeks.

Ableton Live 9 Suite & Push Reviews MTF

MTF Power User Q&A Felix Martin

MTF Do you have a favourite sound-design tool in 9?


FM Now that Max For Live is included in Suite, Live
functions more like a modular synth. I like grabbing
the Max LFO device and applying it to any parameter
Felix Martin: getting creative
with Live 9 and Push in very
a simple but textured way to get life and variation to
short order.
sounds. Functional tools like EQ, Gate and Compressor
MTF Whats the most striking new feature in Live 9?
have improved to the point where Im not so tempted
FM The Audio To MIDI tool is the first feature that
caught my attention. Id always loved this type of function in
to use third-party plug-ins. Its nice that Ableton has put focus on
Melodyne, so having it integrated into Live is great. It seems to be
these building blocks rather than just cool DJ-friendly features.
part of the ongoing work from Ableton to smooth the interaction
between audio and MIDI really useful when working between
MTF How have you found Push in terms of workflow?
synthetic tones and textures and acoustic ones. As I have no formal
FM Ive been using Live for so long that Im still unlearning the
musical training its really handy to transcribe chords or a melody
habits Ive gained. But the concept of being able to turn off the
of interest to then pick apart and analyse. Considering its the first
screen is brilliant. Ive put together a couple of tracks with Push
implementation of the tool, I think it works really well. I also love
alone in a very short time by creating drum patterns, adding
the improved browser as its much quicker to access everything I
modulation effects, playing chords and melodies etc. I like the way
have, which in turn leads to a more varied approach to arranging
it functions as a musical keyboard with visual aids when set to
and selecting sounds. I compose by fiddling with MIDI sequences a
different chords or scales. This opens up new composition options
lot, so the improved editing tools are also very welcome.
to someone whos pretty ignorant about music theory.
Hotchip member and one half of New Build talks to
MTF while hes on the road away from his own Lanark
Studios, London. We discuss his favourite new Live 9
features and how Push opens up new avenues.

tracks. You can also step-sequence


drum patterns, play in melodic parts via
its intuitive Scales interface, add Audio
devices for further processing and
generally shape your sound using the
eight encoders and touchstrip for
tweaking and automation passes.
Drum parts can be recorded in using
the lower-left quarter of 16 pads,
step-sequenced using the upper
portion half, or sequenced in real time
using the Repeat tool. The latter is like

Scales is the most unique aspect of


Push, as you may have gathered from
the online promo videos. Its flexible
enough to let you switch keys from
minor to major, and switch between six
keys immediately so you can jam
between them. The choice of scale style
can also be changed via an encoder.
We found the learning curve of Push
to be incredibly gentle and the Scales
approach certainly opens up new ideas.
Within minutes we were creating

The learning curve is incredibly


gentle and the Scales approach
certainly opens up new ideas
the classic Note Repeat function on
AKAIs famous MPCs. The pads are
velocity-sensitive and include
aftertouch, so dynamic parts can be
created with Repeat for elements such
as hi-hats, or instruments can be
modulated while the pad is held down
with varying pressure. Parts can be
quantized and throughout your use of
Push, an Undo button gives you the
same flexibility of undoing and redoing
your work, just as you can onscreen.

musical elements, which are stored as


Scenes within Live and it can all be
done without looking at your computer.
Live 9 builds further on the already
solid foundations of Live 8. Push is a
great first foray into hardware, though
some minor functions have not been
implemented as yet. However, as
updates are released, were sure users
needs will be addressed, and we can
see a bright future for the companys
bold move into hardware. MTF

MTF Verdict
LIVE 9 SUITE

+ Excellent value for money


+ Extensive library content
+ Max for Live
+ New device enhancements and
additions really help craft a mix
+ Session and Arrangement Views
better integrated
- No dual-monitor support
Live 9 is an excellent example of
how a company can radically
update its software while retaining
the familiarity and ease of
workflow that made it so attractive
in the first place. The new tools and
features certainly improve its
capabilities and should keep users
happy for a good while to come.

10 /10

MTF Verdict
PUSH

+ Gentle learning curve


+ Offers true hardware-only
control during the compositional
stage of music creation
+ Can be powered via USB or mains
power supply (included)
- Not aimed at loop importing and
loop-based creativity
- Doesnt act as a central hub for
other controllers
A promising start for a wellintegrated, composition-focused
hardware controller. The heavy
focus on MIDI doesnt open up full
access to Lives creative
capabilities, but we look forward to
new features in the future.

When it comes to mixing, the overhauled EQ Eight, Compressor, Gate and new Glue Compressor
really up Lives game in terms of mixing and controlling your sound to microscopic levels of detail.

9 /10

Method Spot
When youve got a
feel for Lives new
go-to mixing tools,
its a good idea to
store them as a
default for any new
track you create in
the future. Once you
have an audio or
MIDI track as you
would like your
defaults to be,
right/[Ctrl]-click
(PC/Mac) the title
bar of the track and
select Save As
Default MIDI/Audio
Track. Wed
recommend having
all tracks begin
with an EQ for
general frequency
housekeeping
(making use of its
new steep low- and
high-pass filters),
then a dynamic
device, another EQ
for mix-shaping
and a Limiter or
Saturator at the
end to catch any
stray peaks.

focus Ableton Live 2013

| 111

MTF Reviews Livid Instruments Base

Alternatives
JazzMutants Lemur is
somewhat different in that it
runs on an iPad and controls software
over a wireless connection, but its not a million
miles away from Base and costs $50. Theres a
lot more visual feedback, though you dont get
any pressure sensitivity since youre using only
the iPads screen and not real pads.

systems in conjunction with MIDI Learn,


and this makes sense. As the emphasis
is not on loading big templates, you can
activate Learn in your DAW or
instrument and assign multiple
hardware controls to parameters in the
software with just a few taps.

LIVID INSTRUMENTS

Base

When you want ultimate MIDI control, sometimes you have to


venture off the beaten track. Hollin Jones goes back to Base.
Details
Price 409
Contact SCV London
020 8418 1470
Web www.
lividinstruments.com

ivid Instruments is a US-based


developer of controller hardware
and software and its latest
release is Base, a touch- and
pressure-sensitive control surface that
aims to provide adventurous users with
a totally configurable, hands-on MIDI
device that can be adapted to any task.
Made mostly of metal yet lightweight, it
has no moving parts and so is fairly safe
to throw in a backpack on the way to a
gig. It feels sturdy and well made, and
powers via a single USB connection
through which it also sends MIDI data.
The hardware features 32 pressuresensitive pads, nine touch-based faders
and eight momentary buttons. Theres
extensive multicoloured backlighting,
with colours changing to denote
different parameters as you reconfigure
the unit. Its class-compliant so there
are no drivers to install and has onboard
memory for storing user presets.

Custom control
Key Features
32 velocity- and
pressuresensitive pads
with aftertouch
9 touch faders
with multiple
LED modes
8 touch buttons
8 function
buttons
All controls have
RGB lights
USB-powered
and-class
compliant
Constructed
from quality
aluminium and
rubber

Before we go any further, a word on what


Base is and isnt. It is a controller, but
not in the vein of something like
Launchpad or Maschine, which are
geared largely towards one application
but can be press-ganged into doing
other things. Base is designed to be
customised from the get-go, to the
extent that Livid isnt planning to directly
release many DAW templates. Reason
Remote files, Bitwig and Live scripts
seem to be the limit at present, with an
emphasis on controlling Live. So if youre
looking for a plug-and-play trigger for
your DAW, this probably isnt it.
Alphanumeric feedback on the
hardware is virtually nonexistent, so you
will need to connect it to your Mac or PC

112 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

to set it up. To achieve this you point


your browser at a section of the
companys website and install a
browser plug-in to enable MIDI
communication. After a restart you can
access the internals of the hardware via
a web app, which is pretty clever since it
means you can do this anywhere theres
an internet connection. You dont need
to be on your own computer or install a
dedicated app, and it enables Livid to
update the app easily without requiring
further downloads on your part. It can
also alert you to available firmware
updates, which are straightforward
enough to install on a PC though more
fiddly on OSX, requiring mucking about
in the Terminal, which is a little tedious.

Set assignment
The web app behaves much like a
regular app in that it displays the layout
of your hardware and for any given
section allows you to make multiple
configuration settings to alter the
behaviour of the unit. This goes much
deeper than simply assigning notes and
extends to pressure, MIDI CCs and the
way in which the lights on the hardware
behave. The emphasis seems to be on
creating smaller, focused control
setups that can be stored as presets
rather than necessarily DAW-wide
setups, though this is possible using
banks of controls. Youll need an
understanding of MIDI and CCs, of
course, but the layout of the web editor
app is sensible and logical.
You can tweak anything from fader
display modes and the velocity
sensitivity of the pads to button modes
and colours and save these internally.
Livid says that most people use their

Base jump?
This is not a controller for the fainthearted, nor for anyone who simply
wants to plug in and start DJing. Its a
very powerful controller with a huge
depth of programmability and its more
likely that users willing to invest some
time and effort and who have a
decent understanding of MIDI control
protocols will get the most out of it.
The touch elements work well and
remove the risk of damage caused by
transporting the unit, which can be a
risk with knobs and dials that often
protrude from hardware surfaces.
Livid could do with making things a
little clearer, too. The web-only
approach to documentation and
instructions is sensible enough, but at
present everything is a little too spread
out and hard to find. If your technology
is relatively advanced, as this is, you
need to point people clearly in the right
direction at least at the start. Then,
when theyre happily pushing buttons
and lighting lights controlling Live,
theyll be fine. The language of the
support website is of a technical level
commensurate perhaps with the skill
needed to program one of these things
properly, and it can look daunting to
newcomers. Complex doesnt always
have to mean complicated... MTF

MTF Verdict
+ Hugely programmable
+ Solidly built
+ Web app is useful
+ Touch and pressure sensing
+ Save setups onboard
- Firmware update on OSX is fiddly
- Not really for DAW-wide control
An advanced controller with great
potential, though setup and initial
directions need to be clearer.

7/10

Soundiron Acoustic & Electric Saz Reviews MTF

characteristics of a real saz. A full


version of Kontakt 4 or 5 is required to
run the program.

Super slides
The saz is similar to a lute in
construction, but unlike the lute its
fretless, which allows much sliding in
its playing style. With seven strings in
three runs (low octave, middle single
and high unison) it sounds somewhat
like a 12-string guitar. Wide, expressive
slides are possible and these have been
sampled on all strings with multiple
velocity layers and 4x round-robin.
However, because each string can be
controlled independently, at first sight
the GUI appears complicated, with
myriad keyswitches and controls.
Nevertheless, its a logical layout that
doesnt take long to get used to.

SOUNDIRON

For PC
& Mac

Acoustic &
Electric Saz

If youre looking for new guitar sounds,


these two Turkish varieties might be just
the ticket. Keith Gemmell heads East...
Choice

9/10
9
9/
10
Details
Price $229
Contact via website
www.soundiron.com
Minimum system
requirements
Kontakt 4.2.4

Key Features
2 baglama
libraries
Deeply sampled
articulations
Advanced GUI
Full automation
support

ith the large number of


Western sampled
instruments available
today its no surprise that
developers are looking to the East for
inspiration. Take the guitar, for instance:
companies such as Pettinhouse.com
specialise in guitars and have nine
sampled instruments on offer covering
all likely Western music genres, from
classical through jazz to rock.
Soundiron, though, tends to be more
experimental, and its latest library is a
double release acoustic and electric
versions of a traditional Turkish guitar
called a saz. As expected from such a
fastidious company, both instruments
have been deeply sampled with a full
range of playing styles (sustained
plucks, palm mutes, chokes, slides,
slaps and more) and an interface that
closely emulates the behaviour and

Alternatives
Soundiron appears to have pulled
off a scoop with its acoustic and
electric saz library. Theres little
else on the saz but UVI World
Traditions (76) contains a selection of loops
featuring baglamas/saz and other Turkish and
Greek instruments, and saz licks can be found
in Ethno World 5 Professional (359).

guitar, youre free from preconceptions


in other words, its easier to play what
sounds good without worrying about
whether the music youre creating
sounds authentic. Youre not constantly
thinking about whether a real guitarist
would have played this or that, which,
we believe, is its greatest strength,
making it ideal for composing new
pieces. On its own, without effects, it
can sound a little thin due to it having
just three string runs. Chords, of course,

The saz is capable of adding a


new slant to conventional
rock guitar genres
Chords can be played one-fingerstyle with the aid of a strumulator
based on real saz techniques. While
doing so, its also possible to use the top
string to play a melody. Theres an
excellent arpeggiator, too, that can be
used to create not just broken chords
but complex runs, melodies and
patterns. Also in the experimental vein
is a tuned percussion preset, enabling
you to get creative with the sazs
percussive thumps, slide noises and
choke articulations.
In use, both the acoustic and electric
versions are similar except for the extra
pickup controls present on the latter.
Both also include a comprehensive
guitar-style effects rack that really does
help to bring the instruments to life. Its
derived from Kontakts built-in effects
and, therefore, Kontakt 4 users will not
get access to as many sounds as those
using Kontakt 5.
There are plenty of presets available
for various uses though the full
performance preset is, naturally, quite
processor-intensive. However, we didnt
encounter any significant problems and
should you, there are several less taxing
versions among the presets.

Saz pizazz
The saz makes a truly vibrant sound
warm, gloriously twangy and ideal for
featured solo pieces. Unlike when
working with a conventional sampled

need to be kept relatively simple for


best effect. Start layering the saz,
though, and the sound quickly becomes
huge, rich and expansive, particularly
with the use of the slide samples.

Eastern promise
Until now, the saz appears to have gone
largely unnoticed outside of Middle
Eastern cultural music. With the
introduction of sample libraries like this
one, though, that may be about to
change. We wouldnt recommend buying
it to replace a good conventional guitar
VI but we do think it will make a great
accompaniment to one. Its ability to
blend with Western rock styles is a big
plus, and when used imaginatively
(excellent demos are available online),
its capable of adding a new slant to
conventional rock guitar genres. MTF

MTF Verdict
+ Great sound
+ Excellent composition tool
+ Very intuitive
- Fairly complex
Both the acoustic and electric saz
sound terrific and are fairly easy to
learn and play. Whether emulating
Middle Eastern styles or blending
the electric with bass and drums,
superb results are obtainable.

9/10

focus Ableton Live 2013

| 113

MTF Reviews KRK Rokit 5

50W: 30W and 20W for the 5-inch


glass-Aramid composite woofer and
1-inch soft-dome tweeter respectively.

Quiet affair
Auto-mute is another interesting
feature. It kicks in after the input signal
has been absent for 30 minutes. We
discovered its actually an auto-standby,
allowing power consumption to drop to
just 0.5 watts. Additional shaping has
been applied to the edges of the front
panel to further reduce diffraction. The
look is certainly more sophisticated and
the perimeter of the front port appears
to have been rounded off, presumably to
minimise chuffing.
Since the new Rokit 5s are likely to
be used with a wide variety of pro,
semi-pro and domestic equipment,
they are designed to cope with a wide

Choice

Rokit 5

9/10
9
9/
10

KRK has launched a third generation of


its popular Rokit series of monitors.
Huw Price takes the Rokit 5 for a spin.
Details

Key Features
Class-A/B
amplifier
Proprietary
waveguide
optimised for
superior imaging
1-inch softdome tweeter
HF/LF
adjustment
Lightweight,
glass-Aramid
composite
woofer
Front-firing port
XLR, 1/4-inch &
RCA connectivity

effective for tightening things up.


Monitors at this price point invariably
require some learning time and these
are no exception.
The Rokit 5s really score with their
soundstage depth. Whichever way you
cut it, these are value-priced (budget)
monitors and most monitors in this

The new Rokit 5s make for a


very enjoyable and involving
listening experience

KRK

Price 249/pair
Contact Focusrite
01494 462246
Web
www.krksys.com

Alternatives
Behringers B3030A Truth (257
pair) is a two-way active studio
monitor with a 6.75-inch Kevlar
woofer and 2-inch velocity ribbon
tweeter, built-in 75W (LF) and 35W (HF) power
amplifiers, magnetic shielding and
servo-balanced inputs with XLR and 1/4-inch
TRS connectors. The Tannoy Reveal 601A
(286 pair) has a 6-inch (165mm) LF/MF driver
and 1-inch (25mm) soft-dome tweeter, 60W
(LF) and 30W (HF) amplification, trim switch
(+1.5/0/-1.5dB) for room adjustment,
rear-mounted volume control, balanced XLR
and unbalanced jack connectors.

RK claims that its Rokit series


is among the worlds most
popular monitors and therein
lays a dilemma. In this
fast-moving environment, should a
manufacturer with a successful product
sit back and relax, or continue to refine
and improve a design?
The tricky part is to introduce
improvements without detracting from
the sound and features that customers
liked about the originals. KRKs
brand-new Generation 3 (G3) version of
the Rokit 5 is said to represent a
continuation in the companys design
philosophy. So whats new?
The big news is probably the
extended frequency response. Its within
+3dB from 55Hz30kHz, but the quoted
frequency range goes from 45Hz to a
staggering 34.5kHz. KRK says the sonic
signature remains much the same, but
the response is flatter. Low-frequency
adjustment has been added too, along
with a 5W increase in onboard power to

114 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

variety of input levels. The volume


control swings the level from -30dB to
+6dB with -6dB, 0dB and +3dB
settings marked on the way. This
flexibility is reflected by the input
choices, which include TRS jack and
XLR for balanced connections and RCA/
phono for unbalanced.
High-frequency adjustment is
provided in -2dB, -1dB, 0dB and +1dB
increments. Similarly, the low-frequency
adjustment provides -2dB, -1dB, 0dB
and +2dB settings. The manual
recommends +2dB for open spaces,
0dB for full rooms, -1dB for half-rooms
and -2dB for quarter-rooms. The power
switch is on the back panel too, but
given the auto-standby feature were
not complaining. Last but not least, KRK
now fits a rubber pad on the base of
each cabinet to provide isolation.

Bass space
Given the enclosure dimensions, the
depth of the low frequencies is
impressive, with frequencies below
40Hz clearly audible. Fans of the
originals will also be pleased that the
slightly enhanced upper bass response
has been retained.
Consequently, some bass
instruments can sound a bit tubby, and
the Rokit 5s dont track more intricate
low bass grooves as well as some more
expensive monitors. Then again, we
found the 2dB and 4dB settings quite

price category tend to come up short in


this area. The Rokit 5s came close to
our Focal CMS40s for image depth
something relatively few manage. This
is great for acoustic instrument
recording and mixing because you get a
sharply defined sense of natural room
ambience and artificial reverb effects.
Left/right imaging is more than good
enough with uncluttered mixes, but
some blurring can be heard with more
complex arrangements. Even so, centre
images are solid and the midrange
detail brings vocals and guitars across
nicely. You may notice certain kick
drums and percussive parts lacking the
punch you might expect, which points to
a slightly slow transient response.
Regardless, theres no denying that the
Rokit 5s make for a very enjoyable and
involving listening experience. MTF

MT Verdict
+ HF & LF controls
+ Auto-standby
+ Impressive image depth
+ No port-chuffing
+ Very enjoyable sound
- Slight upper bass tip-up
- L/R imaging could be sharper
Great-sounding speakers for the
money, with ample power and
user-friendly features.

9/10

8DIO 8Dioboe Reviews MTF

Alternatives
Solo oboes are not easily sourced,
but Wallander Instruments
includes nine physically modelled
oboes in its Woodwinds &
Saxophones collection ($329).
Going beyond just woodwind, UVIs truly
extraordinary collection of IRCAM Solo
Instruments ($399) includes a modern oboe.
VSL has a French oboe full (110), extended
(60) and standard (51) available from Best
Service (www.bestservice.de).

For PC
& Mac

8DIO PRODUCTIONS

8Dioboe

Choice

9/10
9
9/
10

8DIOs virtual instruments can be heard on many a film soundtrack.


Can its latest make the grade? Keith Gemmell finds out.
Details
Price $139
(download only)
Contact via website
Web www.8dio.com

ew instruments carry a lyrical


melody above a full orchestra
better than the oboe Ennio
Morricones Gabriels Oboe is a
perfect example. To reproduce the
emotional intensity of such a solo using
a sampled oboe is no mean feat, and
finding an instrument thats up to the
job is equally difficult. Colin OMalley
and Troels Folmann reckon theyve
cracked it, though, with their latest
virtual instrument, the 8Dioboe. Their
aim was to capture the raw emotional
intensity of a top-class performance.
Absolutely no crossfading of dynamic
layers was used in the programming, a
technique that they feel is
fundamentally flawed.

Go solo

Key Features
Emotional
sampling
approach
Single
instrument
patch
Fluid legato
Expressive
control

With just a single instrument patch for


Kontakt 5 and only four keyswitched
articulations (sustains, marcato
expressivo, marcato short and
staccatissimo), 8Dioboe is brilliantly
simple to get to grips with. Legato can
be triggered on or off by pressing a
sustain pedal. When its on you can
choose which articulation to play both
before and after the legato intervals,
which provides a great deal of phrasing
flexibility. Staccatissimo, for instance,
works well with legato for grace notes.
When legato is switched off the
instrument becomes polyphonic
particularly handy if youre sketching
out two oboe parts sectionally.

Oboes are tricky instruments to


sample. The instrument is tiring to play
for extended periods and sampling
sessions can be tough on the player. The
results can all too easily sound choppy,
particularly across the wider legato
intervals. Being fully aware of this, Colin
and Troels sampled the oboe with a
natural flow into vibrato.
By way of a test we played a few
different notes and held them for their
duration, which in the case of sustain is
about ten seconds. In each case the
vibrato creeps in after about two
seconds and intensifies a little before
returning to a non-vibrato sound and
fading down to silence. For most solo
oboe work particularly for slow
melodies this approach works
beautifully and the results are very
close to how a real performer would play
the instrument expressively. The
marcato expressivo articulations with
shorter durations generally proved to be
the most useful.
Again, like the articulations, the
controls are minimal, comprising three
rotary knobs for Dynamics, Expression
and Legato speed. These are set by
default to CC1, CC11 and CC16
respectively but can be changed.
As mentioned earlier, crossfading is
a dirty word at 8DIO, so, instead,
dynamics are dealt with using the mod
wheel (CC1), which brings into play
filters and volume curves. This
eliminates the risk of chorusing and

phasing sometimes caused by


crossfading between dynamic layers. It
works very well, especially when used in
conjunction with Expression (CC11). The
trick here is to duplicate CC1 as CC11
and have them work in tandem. Using
Expression within a Dynamic curve can
also be very effective.
Two microphone positions are
available close and room. The spot
mic, as you would expect, is very
detailed and intimate. The room mic, too,
provides plenty of detail and we are
advised to use this option most of the
time. For a touch of reverb, a third option
is the room mic processed through an
early reflection reverb chain.

Express yourself
Tonally, 8Dioboe is rich and assertive,
just the ticket for a solo instrument of
this kind. However, we found it a touch
harsh for passages of a sweeter kind
and it wouldnt be our first choice if
anything of a baroque nature was
required. For writing and recording film
music, though, its ideal, especially for
slower tunes where the use of
expression is paramount.
If you own an orchestral library then
the chances are that you already have a
decent solo oboe to hand thats suitable
for classical work and general
orchestral use. They may or may not
satisfy your expectations in an
expressive sense, that is. If not, then its
worth paying a visit to 8DIOs website,
where you can listen to several demos.
When it comes to solo instruments, its
always good to have a choice. MT

MT Verdict
+ Brilliantly simple to use
+ Fluid legato
+ Natural flow into/out of vibrato
+ Expressive dynamic control
- Minimal articulations
A clever, well implemented virtual
oboe with a vibrant tone thats
ideally suited to film work.
Brilliantly simple to use.

9/10

focus Ableton Live 2013

| 115

MTF Reviews Project SAM Lumina

section, which could be loosely


compared to the themed Multis that
appeared in the original Symphobia
libraries. In theory, the Stories are
drawn from the various playable
instruments and effects recorded for
Lumina, which have then been
imaginatively mapped across the
keyboard. In many ways, the Stories
perfectly illustrate both the imaginative
approach taken by Project SAM and the
incredible mapping dexterity of the
Kontakt engine.

For PC
& Mac

Orchestral textures

PROJECT SAM

Lumina

Choice

9/10
9
9/
10

The third of Project SAMs popular Symphobia series takes a


musical journey into fantasy and mystery. Mark Cousins reports.
Details

Price 859
Contact Time+Space
01837 55200
Web
www.projectsam.com
Minimum system
requirements
PC Windows 7
Mac OSX 10.6

Key Features
38.8GB library
pool (75GB
compressed
NCW format)
3 stereo mic sets
for almost all
instruments
44.1kHz/24-bit
audio pool
Kontakt Player 5
license included

long with Vienna Symphonic


Library, Project SAM can
rightly claim to being one of
the pioneering developers of
cinematic sampling, long before the
veritable gold rush of orchestral and
trailer effects libraries that exist in
todays marketplace. Certainly, Project
SAMs core products like Symphobia 1
and 2, as well as the True Strike
percussion series have become a
compulsory addition to many film and
TV soundtracks, with their spacious,
epic sound being instantly
recognisable. However, since the
release of the best-of Orchestral
Essentials last year, things seem to have
been relatively quiet in the Project SAM
camp. But not so
In those intervening 12 months,
Project SAM has been busy crafting the
third product in the Symphobia Series
Lumina, which we have on test here.
As with many of Project SAMs offerings,
the library takes a unique approach that
shuns endless lists of articulations in
favour of capturing imaginative
orchestral sounds, textures and
instrument groupings, complete with a
sumptuous concert hall acoustic.
Whereas Symphobia 1 and 2
concentrated on bombastic trailer-like
orchestral sounds, Lumina has a

116 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

distinct focus towards fantasy, mystery


and animation, arguably expanding the
Symphobia universe far beyond its
original form.

Lumination
Weighing in at more than 38GB of
sample data, Lumina is one of Projects
SAMs biggest libraries to date. This
space has been put to good use,
though, offering you three different
microphone positions (Direct, Ambient

The Textures and Gestures folder


should be immediately familiar to
anyone whos used the other
Symphobia libraries. However, rather
than simply presenting a series of
trailer-like clusters and rises were
presented with three key genres
Fantasy, Mystery and Cartoon each
with their own collection of musical
effects. The Textures and Gestures
folder is a veritable musical gold mine,
and perfect as a means of setting the
scene for a cue, whether its an ominous
dissonance or some fluttering
pentatonic woodwinds.
If youre more interested in the core
playable instruments contained within
Lumina youll be pleased to note that
theres plenty of imaginatively sampled
material for you to play with (for the
complete list its well worth a detailed
look at the instruments and
articulations list on the website at
www.projectsam.com).
Some of the key sounds in the
collection to our ears, at least
include some impressively scaled
combined orchestra and choir
recordings; a collection of full SATB

Key sounds include some


impressively scaled orchestra
and choir recordings
and Wide) rather than the two included
with the earlier Symphobia libraries.
There seems to be pragmatic use of
dynamic layers and round-robins,
keeping loading times and memory
usage to a realistic quota but never
sacrificing on the apparent realism of
what you can achieve.
The library is divided into five key
sections: Stories, Textures and
Gestures, Playable Instruments, Legato
Soloists, and Dystopia. Arguably the
biggest innovation is the Stories

choirs alongside a soprano-only choir;


some unique chamber-size small
orchestra combinations; as well as a
unique Cartoon Ensemble featuring
clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, double
bass, piano, harp and percussion.

Solo performer
Although theres a collection of Legato
Soloists (covering alto flute, oboe,
clarinet, bassoon, soprano, trumpet and
tin whistle) as well as a scattering of
other single-instrument samples,

Project SAM Lumina Reviews MTF

(including a superb celeste) theres a


clear bias in the Project SAM approach
towards full-size ensemble
instruments. If youre working from a
pre-existing score this approach could
present a problem. However, if youre
composing scores from scratch, its a
great way of creating both a realistic
sound and achieving a full-sounding
arrangement with relatively few
musical notes.
As with many modern sounds
libraries, its important to make sure
that you explore and fully understand
the range of ways in which the samples
are mapped and programmed to
ensure that you work with them in a
truly expressive fashion. Many of the
various instruments and textures, for
example, feature different dynamic
layers, allowing you to easily and
seamlessly morph between completely
different performances using the
modulation wheel.
The articulation controller is also
important on many of the Legato-tostaccato soloists, using velocity to
trigger a specially recorded staccato
note at the end a melodic phrase.
Ultimately, its a library that rewards
close investigation whether youre

moving between mic sets or


discovering new expressive ways the
samples can be triggered.

Epic scoring
Having created such an exciting
product with the first Symphobia,
subsequent editions have had to work
hard to live up to the same standards.
While Symphobia 2 stuck to familiar
territory, its pleasing to see Lumina
taking a different approach, covering
lighter orchestral colours and even
comedy, which is something missing
from the first two editions. As always,
the quality of sampling and mapping as
well as the imagination applied in
creating the product are exemplary. Put
simply, no other sample developers
create such an epic sound, and for that
reason Lumina will be an enticing
proposition for many composers.
Inevitably, though, its hard not to
mention the price, which in keeping with
the other Symphobia editions is around
800. Lumina is arguably a premier
product with a premium price, but given
strong competition from the likes of
Spitfire Audio and Sonokinetic (among
others), its an increasingly challenging
position to take. Only time will tell

MWobbler

Alternatives
Since the release of Albion, Spitfire Audio has done a good
job building on the sound palette and approach defined by
the first Symphobia. On the whole, the Albion series has
been keenly priced, although its scope isnt as broad as that
of Symphobia. Spitfire Audio has also taken some unique moves of the
development of the library, with Albion II (394) focusing on a smaller
string sound, while Albion III (406) addresses the low end of orchestral
scoring. At the moment, though, theres space for all of the libraries, as
each has something slightly different to offer.

whether a future edition of Orchestral


Essentials might offer access to some
of Luminas content at a more
affordable price, but for now, if your
budget can stretch to it, its hard to think
of a more inspiring tool for kick-starting
an orchestral composition. MTF

MTF Verdict
+ Imaginative sounds
+ Detailed mapping
+ Three mic sets
- Expensive
- Bias towards ensemble sounds
Its an expensive product, but
Lumina delivers a timely new
strand to the Symphobia series.
Perfect for epic fantasy scores,
Lumina is an inspiring and
expressive instrument.

9/10

Value

Manufacturer MeldaProduction
Price 50
Contact via website

Choice

Web www.meldaproduction.com

9/10
9
9/
10

Wobbler, from
MeldaProduction, is a
distorting filter plug-in with
two serial filters, 98 filter
types and a huge amount of modulation
options that can turn a simple sine wave
into a growling monster.
At the heart of the plug-in are the
filters themselves, which range from
simple high-pass, low-pass, band-pass
and band-reject to more exotic formant,
comb, diffusion and polymorph types.
Each one sounds slightly different at
varying frequencies, with further
tweaking available via a Character
slider on certain types. The filters also
have a Drive at the input stage, followed
by tube saturation on the way out,
which, when combined with the global
Saturation and an optional clipper on
the final output gives a total of six
potential stages of distortion.

Key Features
Dual distorting
filer plug-in with
98 filter types
Multiple
distortion and
tube-saturation
stages
LFO and Follower
with sidechain
Hugely flexible
modulation
options
Dual user
interface, preset
morphing and
more

Most of the filter and distortion


parameters can be set to follow the
main LFO and envelope generator,
which are insanely configurable to the
extent that you can even load in a
waveform as the shape for modulation.
You can also add phase difference to
the left and right sides of the LFO,
essentially creating a stereo widening
effect, and you also have four highly
configurable additional modulators,
which include a random generator and
even pitch detection and tracking for
matching filter movements to a melody
or bass line. In fact, there are far too
many features to mention them all
here, but some of the highlights include

16x oversampling, four configurable


macro controls, automatic gain
compensation, extensive MIDI control,
smart randomisation, M/S and
surround processing, alongside a large
library of presets.
Although there is a super-simplified
GUI for quick tweaking tasks, the main
edit windows may take some getting
used to if youre not familiar with the
Melda way of doing things. The
windows within windows and multiple
options can seem a little daunting at
first sight, but its definitely worth
persevering as this is an absolute beast
of a filter and sound-design tool.
Selling this as a wobble bass generator
is doing an injustice to the endless
possibilities on offer. However, if you
happen to have a penchant for crafting
dirty, complex bass sounds, this could
just be the thing you need. MTF

MTF Verdict
A superb sound-design tool with
complex but hugely flexible
modulation options. MWobbler
excels at creating dirty, moving bass
sounds and a whole lot more.

9/10

focus Ableton Live 2013

| 117

MTF Reviews Novation Launchpad S

Alternatives
The APC 20 (170) from AKAI
is the nearest grid-based Live
controller on the market at around
the same price. It has a smaller 8 x 5
grid, so you see less of Session View than
on the Launchpad. It does, however, feature
fader control, which covers track volume,
pan, send A & B and three user setups. It also
requires a mains power supply.

so all pads between provide


incremental control when assigned to a
parameter like filter cutoff. Ultimately,
you have a decent amount of control for
customising your performances.

S stands for...

NOVATION

Launchpad S

Three years after the original Launchpad was released comes the
new and improved version. Liam OMullane charts the changes.
Details
Price 150
Contact Focusrite
01494 462246
Web
uk.novationmusic.
com

Key Features
64 multi-colour
LED buttons with
two brightness
modes
USB-powered
from computer
or iPad
Includes
Loopmasters
samples and Live
for Launchpad
Custom overlay
stickers for FL
Studio

early four years ago we saw


the first dedicated Live
controller the mighty AKAI
APC 40. Its original starting
price of 400 was a significant
investment for Live users, but the idea of
using a dedicated grid to launch scenes
and clips from Lives Session View was
worth the cash it enhanced both live
performance and compositional
experimentation. The inclusion of
faders, rotary dials and buttons for
higher-level control of Live resulted in
the APCs placement in many studios
and live setups as a main control hub.
But not everyone wanted this style
of hardware control for Live, and
Novation soon entered the fray with the
Launchpad. It offered some of the APCs
features but in pad form, and at the
price, became a no-brainer for those on
a tighter budget or without the need for
extra control.

Making a scene
As a direct replacement to the original,
the new Launchpad S looks very similar
to it but comes with added extras. The
grid still functions as before, remaining
based around four modes which can be
switched between using buttons at the
top right of the unit.
Session mode lets you launch
scenes in Lives Session View using
buttons that run down the right-hand
vertical strip. Individual clips can be
launched in the main grid area. When

118 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

using a control surface like this in Lives


Session View, the area that the grid
relates to will be surrounded with a
coloured rectangle on Lives screen. A
set of four cursors in the top left of the
Launchpad allows you to move this and
therefore the Launchpads current
focus. This is pretty straightforward
once youve got used to working with the
feeling of having them run up, down, left
and right across in a row, rather than
like a computer keyboard.
Mixer mode turns the top four
scene-launching buttons into page
switches. Volume, pan position and
sends A & B can be controlled for eight
tracks at a time. Clip Stopping, Track On,
Solo and Arm Stay can all be viewed at
once for general track control.
The first four parameters are spread
over the vertical strips, each therefore
offering an eight-step resolution. This
could be seen as quite basic, but its
actually perfectly fine for general, large
changes during a live performance.
The two User modes can be
implemented for user-defined MIDI
mapping. Once mapped you can simply
switch between them just as you would
Session and Mixer modes. This is great
for custom toggled state assignments
like an on/off control on certain effects
or to jump between two minimum and
maximum values (which can be defined
within Lives own MIDI Map mode). A fun
way to be expressive is to hold two pads
that are spaced away from each other,

All of the features we liked from the


original Launchpad are here, and at first
glance the LED display looks the same.
Enable its new high-power mode,
however, and the LEDs are bright enough
to see clearly in daylight. Low-power
mode is available for use with an iPad
via Apples Camera Connection Kit. The
lower power requirements let you
connect without a powered USB port, so
this and the Launchpad app make a
good combination; alternatively, you can
use this with any other MIDI-based app.
The response time of the LEDs is
another improvement. It comes into its
own when triggering the lights via MIDI
from a sequencer you can program in
all sorts of eye-catching imagery using
the grid as your light show. For those
who want to use more than one
Launchpad you can now add a unique ID
to each one, making them easier to set
up in Lives MIDI Preferences.
A final addition is plug-and-play for
other applications. Overlays for software
including FL Studio are included, so
dont think of S as just a Live controller.
Launchpad S is certainly more than
a cosmetic upgrade, boasting a decent
number of enhancements and extras
a great way to control Live (and others)
for relatively little outlay. MTF

MTF Verdict
+ Retains all positive aspects of the
original Launchpad
+ New daylight-bright LEDs
+ Much faster LED response time
+ Customisable hardware ID for
easier setup with multiple units
- Pad-and-button-only design is
not a complete controller solution
- Pads not velocity-sensitive
While this could have easily been
named Launchpad v2, the upgrades
are significant improvements that
give the unit a new lease of life.

8/10

Hybrid Two Project ALPHA Reviews MT

Alternatives

For PC
& Mac

Sample Logics Cinematic


Guitars 2 ($399) is a great
source of cinematic sound
effects, all sourced from various
forms of mangled guitar. Cinematic Guitars 2
is a considerably more expensive library than
Project ALPHA, but with over 17GB of content,
theres much more material to play with.

HYBRID TWO

Project ALPHA

Hybrid Two brings the sound of cutting-edge cinematic sound


design to the project studio. Mark Cousins assesses its impact.
Details
Price 149
Contact Time+Space
01837 55200
www.timespace.com

Key Features
2.3GB+ of
hybrid musical
sound design
200+ Kontakt
patches
Flexible
UI script

ith a steady stream of new


release from the likes of
Spitfire Audio, Project
SAM, Sample Logic,
Heavyocity and Sonokinetic, it would be
fair to say that the average cinematic
composer has an almost endless
appetite for new samples! The latest
developer to join the fold is Hybrid Two,
whose first library Project ALPHA
has just been released. Like many of
the aforementioned companies, Hybrid
Two comprises both sound designers
and composers, as well as undertaking
work in sample development. Ideally,
the companys unique industry insight
should make Project ALPHA a relevant
and exciting tool, but does this new
cinematic library deliver the impact and
sonic excitement wed hope to expect?

Alpha appeal
Compared to many other recent
cinematic offerings, Project ALPHA
seems somewhat modest in size, with
around 2.3GB of data. The library
doesnt use Native Instruments Service
Centre for authorisation, so youll need
to ensure that youre working with a full
version of Kontakt 5.1 to use the library.
Despite the relatively modest install
size, there are more than 200 patches
to play with, all intelligently divided
between 13 or so category folders.
As the sound categories suggest, the
library is oriented towards cinematic
sound design, covering areas such as

Impacts, Booms, Risers and Reverse FX


as well as some fantastic temposynced rhythms and synth lines.
Although theres a scattering of
multisampled instruments including a
suitably reverberated sad piano
theres little in the way of orchestral
material, instead placing a distinct
emphasis on contemporary sound
design. This defined approach certainly
gives Project ALPHA its own sound
rather than just retreading paths
already taken by the likes of Project
SAM and Spitfire Audio.

Smashing sounds
A key part of the appeal of Project
ALPHA has to be the interface and the
potential for sonic mangling that it
offers. Internal effects cover filtering,
distortion, compression, punch, delay,
reverb and EQ, so that within a few
seconds you can transform a sample
far beyond its original form. Arguably
the best feature though is Project
ALPHAs internal step and gate
sequencer, which is put to great effect
on many of the presets. However, like
our recent experience of Cinematic
Guitars 2, the use of deep and complex
effects chains arguably taxes the CPU
more than some of the more
straightforward sample libraries.
Of course, even with the greatest
user interface on the planet, a library
like Project ALPHA will win or lose based
on the quality of its samples. Having

heard some great products from some


of the aforementioned libraries, it would
be fair to say our bar was raised high,
and that wed need to hear something
extra special to be impressed.
Thankfully, Project ALPHA is a great
demonstration of how 2.3GB can be
used in a sonically effective way. All of
the patches strike the right balance of
power and edginess, giving our
subwoofer plenty of sound material to
work with while providing enough
energy to cut through a busy orchestral
mix. Theres also a wealth of temposynced material (largely thanks to the
step sequencer) that works perfectly as
a rhythmic bed for numerous actions
cues. As with many of these cinematic
libraries, though, Project ALPHAs use
shouldnt be just restricted to screenbased music production its low-end
booms and biting reverse stings are
perfect for any production that needs
power and impact.

Cinematic ambitions
Overall, Project ALPHA is an excellent
first offering from Hybrid Two,
demonstrating an enviable knack at
creating powerful cinematic effects.
However, Project ALPHA does enter a
rather crowded market, with numerous
products already covering similar
sounds in an effective way. While Project
ALPHA undoubtedly provides plenty of
new material, itll be interesting to see
how Hybrid Two develops its own niche
in the cinematic sampling market,
especially given the somewhat prolific
release schedule some developers
seem to adhere to. MTF

MTF Verdict
+ Powerful cutting-edge sound
+ Good UI
+ Great tempo-synced sound
+ Deep low end
- Strong competition
- Occasionally taxing on CPU
With a host of superb cinematic
effects and a powerful GUI, Project
ALPHA is an impressive first outing
for Hybrid Two.

8/10

focus Ableton Live 2013

| 119

MTF Reviews Focusrite Scarlett Studio

Details
Price 199
Contact Focusrite
01494 462246
Web www.focusrite.
com

FOCUSRITE

Value

Scarlett Studio

Buying the right kit for your first studio setup is a daunting task.
Liam OMullane finds out if Focusrites bundle is a sound choice.

ocusrite has earned a solid


reputation since the companys
arrival in 1985. Weve had the
pleasure of trying out quite a
few Focusrite audio interfaces over the
years and they always manage to
impress us in terms of sound quality
and the competitive price they always
seem to be on sale at. The newer, red,
Scarlett range has been expanding over
the last year or so and this new bundle
is the first package thats aimed at
being a complete recording solution.
When youre starting out in music
production its easy to make mistakes
from the very beginning in terms of kit
choice and cost not to mention ease
of use and installation. So were looking
at the Scarlett Studio package here
with the outlook of a complete newbie
to see if it will be a good starting point
for those new to tech.

Getting started
Scarlett Studio is a bundle based
around a 2i2 Scarlett audio interface,
CM25 large-diaphragm condenser
microphone and a pair of HP60
headphones. A three-metre mic lead is
included, so asides from the necessary
mic stand and pop shield for the most
optimum use of the setup you do have
pretty much all the hardware that you
need right out of the box.

120 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

Key Features
Direct
monitoring on 2i2
3-metre mic lead
included
CM25 mic is
compact in size
Striking red
colour scheme

Method Spot
Although Direct
Monitoring
switches are
usually included for
getting around
latency issues
inside your
computer, we found
this switch also
removed the need
to learn too much
about how the
internal audio
routing of Cubase
LE 6 works.
Although you
should learn the
software Direct
Monitoring options
in Cubase over time,
this switch will
allow you to
instantly hear the
instrument youre
recording alongside
any other sounds
on playback.

A lighter version of Cubase called


Cubase LE 6 is included to take care of
your recording and MIDI sequencing
needs. If youre looking to hook up any
older five-pin MIDI gear youll be
disappointed, though the 2i2 interface
doesnt have any MIDI connectivity.

to grips with for newcomers, so a little


limitation is good in this respect.
Upgrades are available to more
feature-heavy versions, but LE is
perfectly fine for a beginners setup.
More software is included in the
form of the Scarlett plug-ins suite. This
covers compression, gating, EQ and
reverb. So on top of the Cubase
processing plug-ins, youve got quite a
nice range to choose from. Novations
Bass Station is also included, which
although quite old is a good source for
classic dance/electronic bass sounds.
Loopmasters finishes of the package
with a touch over 800MB of free sample
material. This includes loops and single
samples of instruments, drums and
various other sounds such as SFX to
help your production work. They cover
jazz, dubstep, rock, techno and so on, so
theres a good amount of diversity,
catering for the needs of many.
Throughout our browsing the quality
level of the sounds is also high so this
isnt just a throwaway element of the
bundle, its genuinely going to be quite
useful to you.

Going in deep
The 2i2 audio interface is a well
featured entry-level unit. It includes two
dual-purpose XLR/jack inputs and the
input stage can be switched between
line or instrument levels on both inputs
independently. Thankfully, this can now
be done via a hardware switch on the
unit itself. Earlier units in the Scarlett

This new bundle is the first


package thats aimed at being a
complete recording solution
Cubase LE 6 is reasonably well
featured with up to 16 audio tracks, 24
MIDI tracks and other limited but still
useful tracks for FX, groups and insert
slots on channels for further
processing. Cubase is potentially one of
the most difficult audio programs to get

range were software control only, which


can be a pain when you just want to
plug-in and record without too much
computer interaction.
Cubase LE 6 works fine with either
one or two inputs at the same time so
its easy to capture a jam with a friend

The 2i2 audio interface includes two dual-purpose XLR/jack inputs and the input stage can be
switched between line or instrument levels on both inputs independently.

Focusrite Scarlett Studio Reviews MTF

or a vocal performance while you play


an instrument. The Direct Monitor
switch is handy here as it bypasses
using monitoring inside your computer,
which requires a certain amount of
setup and tweaking. Monitoring levels
for your speakers and headphones are
independent so its easy to be the
engineer recording someone else while
they have their own level of music in
their own set of headphones.
The fact that the 2i2 has a
Kensington locking point on it makes it
an attractive option for educational
establishments as well. This should
avoid the interface from going walkies
from a workstation. The casing is quite
solid as well, so it should take a few
bumps and knocks.

Cans, mic, record


The CM25 microphone is exclusive to
the Scarlett Studio bundle and is a little
smaller than we usually see in the
budget microphone market. Its
plug-and-play with no roll-off switch or
pad, so your capturing technique needs
to be adapted for the best results. For
instance, we had to back off from the
mic quite a bit to avoid plosives, though
the addition of a pop shield soon

remedies this. In our recordings the


CM25 created a detailed recording of
vocals and acoustic guitar without too
much of a sharp sound in the upper
mids, a characteristic of many of the
cheaper mics. The quality of the mic
should exceed the expectations of a
novice and it will remain a useful piece
of gear even when youve got an ear for
better kit and start to upgrade. Its
certainly better than many podcastbased budget solutions out there.

Balanced bundle?
The HP60 headphones are classed by
Focusrite to be studio-reference,
meaning that they shouldnt glorify the
sound too much. We tried various
genres on them and found the top and
low extension to be quite impressive.
Theyre not by any means a neutral set
of headphones for making high-end
mix decisions on, but they are
reasonably well balanced given the
bundle cost. The most immediately
noticeable thing about them is their
weight and build. We found them to be
incredibly comfortable to work with and
this goes a long way when youre
working late into the night while trying
not to disturb your neighbours.

Ultimate Drums
Manufacturer Sonic Academy
Price 34.50 for all four (9.99 each)
Contact info@sonicacademy.com
Web www.sonicacademy.com

rum sounds are an integral


feature of dance music, with
the slightest tweaks in weight,
pitch and decay helping to
define each genre. With this in mind,
Sonic Academy has meticulously
examined a range of the latest tracks
and trends and has reverse-engineered
four packs of hits and loops based on
dubstep, progressive, trance and
mainroom house styles.
Each pack contains around 250 kick,
snare, clap, hat, cymbal and percussive
hits, plus 70100 top loops to fill out
your beat. To get you started quicker
there are also some custom-made kits
for Lives Drum Racks and Logics EXS24
and Ultrabeat, which include a smaller,
hand-picked selection of hits.
First up, the Dubstep pack focuses
on aggressive, heavily compressed
snares and weighty, but not overly

Choice

9/10
9
9/
10

Alternatives
At 219, the AudioBox Studio from PreSonus
is a direct competitor to Scarlett Studio. It
includes an AudioBox USB audio interface,
M7 mic and HD7 headphones. The included DAW is PreSonus own Studio
One Artist 2. This is designed to be easy to use so absolute novices may
prefer its approach to sequencing and recording. We havent tried out the
hardware though so cannot draw a direct comparison between the two.

For the price that most people


would be willing to pay for an entrylevel interface or microphone on its
own, this bundle represents a great
starting package. Whats more, it will be
easy enough to upgrade one item at a
time as you progress. MTF

MTF Verdict
+ Well-rounded selection of
hardware and software
+ Great value for money
+ Includes all leads
+ Well-rounded selection of
hardware and software
+ Great value for money
+ Includes all leads
A great starting point for those who
want the best quality they can get
on a tight budget.

sub-filled, kicks. The sounds can also


be used for D&B and breaks tracks,
and as such youll find an additional
folder of live-sounding break hits and
drum breaks in the loop folder for you
to chop into your tracks.
Next we have the Mainroom
House pack, which includes a much
warmer and more sub-laden
selection of kicks, in which careful
attention has clearly been paid to the
clicks and booms of each layered hit.
There are also some excellent tom
sounds and tight hats, although we
found the claps and snares to be a little
flat and sterile.
Moving on to possibly the strongest
collection, the Progressive pack
contains much more variety in its
sounds, with an extended folder of
excellently written and produced top
loops featuring plenty of pump and
detail. Finally, the Trance pack has some
solid sounds, with especially creative
processed claps. Everything here has
been carefully crafted to get prosounding results with little need for
additional processing. Many of the
loops contain panned elements to
create some width and movement, with
some featuring a little ambient reverb

8/10

to give a sense of space. Overall,


though, everything here is tight, dry and
right upfront, giving you the option to
add your own additional processing or
layer up the sounds.
Each pack is a great starting point
for writing beats in each genre, with
enough variety but not an
overwhelming number of hits.
Considering the excellent value of the
bundle, wed recommend getting all
four packs to give you maximum
flexibility when choosing sounds. MTF

MTF Verdict
A superb-value collection of
current-sounding hits and loops
that will have you crafting
club-ready beats in minutes.

9/10

focus Ableton Live 2013

| 121

MTF Reviews

Permut8

Innovation

Manufacturer Sonic Charge


Price $79.20
Contact via website

Choice

Web www.soniccharge.com

eve seen a number of fun


glitch-based effects
plug-ins released over the
last couple of years, from
BT and iZotopes Stutter Edit to Sugar
Bytes Turnado. Each has different
sounds, layout and techniques for
creating controlled chaos. The latest is
Sonic Charges Permut8 a digital delay
plug-in that can be programmed to
produce a wide range of effects, from
standard delay lines and flangers to
beat-repeats and bitcrushers.
The first thing you notice about
Permut8 is the striking GUI, which has
been designed to give the plug-in the
feel of a piece of hardware. On the left
you have the Analog section, which has
controls for input level, a soft clipper
and brickwall limiter, a high-/low-pass
filter that can be placed at several
points in the chain, a feedback control
with Flip L/R and Invert switches, an

EZX Pop!

9/10
9
9/
10

Key Features
12-bit digital
delay with
variable clock
speed
Operator
switches for
adjusting the
read position
Analoguesounding input
and output with
soft clipper
Create unique,
complex glitch
effects and
lo-fi, bit-crushed
sounds

output control with


another soft clipper and,
finally, a dry/wet control.
These controls alone are
enough to give any
sound that you pass
through the plug-in a
gritty, distorted vibe.
The main part of the
plug-in, however, is the
12-bit memory, displayed
as an LED array at the bottom, with red
dots showing incoming audio written to
memory and green dots representing
the playback position. A Clock
Frequency knob controls both the
speed of the playback and the audio
quality, making it possible to do some
brain-melting pitch-dives or build-ups
by sweeping with the sync switched off.
Things get slightly more confusing
when you come to the two Operators,
which have 16 switches each for
changing and modulating the read
position. This is a unique approach that
may be baffling to some, but flicking
random switches can lead to happy
accidents. Another superb feature is
the ability to control the switches,
frequency or program changes via a
MIDI keyboard.

Choice

9/10
9
9/
10

Manufacturer Toontrack
Price 54.95
Contact Time+Space 01837 55200
Web www.timespace.com

oontrack is a company that


knows a thing or two about
recording drums, having a
history of working in the worlds
best studios with award-winning
engineers and top drummers. For the
latest EZdrummer expansion pack,
Pop!, Toontrack founder Mattias Eklund
has hand-picked and remixed sounds
from their best sessions and also from
the vault of unused recordings.
Youll find ten specially mixed and
matched kits, with each piece carefully
layered with electronic drum hits to
create a punchy, direct sound. From the
heavy rock of the Big Room kit to the
disco-inspired Club kit, theres more
variety here than in previous packs.
Percussion such as shakers, cabasas,
tambourines, claves and Turkish bells
only adds to the flexibility, along with
some great claps and finger snaps.

122 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

Key Features
10 upfront and
punchy, modernsounding kits
Made from
layered
electronic and
acoustic hits
Includes a range
of percussion
instruments
Processed
through
analogue
hardware
Large range
of MIDI groove
styles

You can load any of the ten preset


kits or choose your own instruments
from the list, then tweak the balance in
the mixer section. You can then achieve
tight and clean sounds by using the
main mixer channels or add heavily
processed versions for each instrument
to create beefier, parallel compressionstyle beats. Eklund has turned to a host
of heavyweight hardware such as the
Empirical Labs Distressor and
Universal Audio LA-3A, plus transient

However, what sets this plug-in


apart are the sounds it can generate
its unlike anything else weve heard,
and if you like lo-fi, circuit-bent glitch
sounds its an absolute no-brainer. Just
dont expect it to make sense
immediately, and be prepared to spend
some time finding your way around. MTF

MTF Verdict
A truly original plug-in that excels
at glitch edits and dirty, lo-fi
sounds. The Operators will
potentially confuse some users, but
flicking random switches creates
good results and is great fun.

9/10

designers and Culture Vultures to


shape each hit. The Aggro kit, for
example, has extremely hyped
transients to help it pop out of the mix.
Accompanying the kits is a library of
MIDI grooves played by drummer Per
Mikaelsson. Theres plenty of usable
material here, from 75BPM hip hop to
150BPM rock, plus some great swing
beats. A nice addition is the simple
percussion loops, which would work
well to lift a chorus or add some detail.
Our only disappointment was the lack
of low-end sub in the kick drums,
although a bit of EQ resolved this.
Although the upfront sounds
arguably lack the subtlety of previous
expansion packs, this is an incredibly
versatile package that can produce
instantly polished results suitable for a
wide variety of pop genres. MTF

MTF Verdict
A great-sounding collection of
carefully layered drum kits that
combines the best of Toontracks
acoustic drum heritage with
punchy electronic hits and bold,
upfront processing.

9/10

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MTF Reviews

Acoustic
Soundscapes

Excellence

10/10

Manufacturer Big Fish Audio


Price 83.95 (download)
Contact Time+Space 01837 55200
Web www.timespace.com

lthough the humble acoustic


guitar is relatively easy to
record and a fairly versatile
instrument, you may need to
broaden your palette if you want to
evoke a wider range of emotions using
string instruments. Big Fish Audios
Acoustic Soundscapes does just that,
being a giant collection of not just
guitar loops, but mandolin, banjo,
ukulele, upright bass, fiddle, female
vocals and more for creating the kinds
of sounds heard on TV and films such
as True Blood, The Walking Dead and
Brokeback Mountain.
The library contains around 3.6GB of
24-bit audio in ACID WAV, Apple Loops
and REX formats, comprising 945 loops
in total. Rather than opt for the
construction kit layout, the riffs are split
into folders of instruments, with around

Key Features
3.6GB of
24-bit audio
Apple Loops,
ACID WAV, REX
& Stylus RMX
formats
Huge range of
plucked and
bowed string
instruments
Also available
with 35 Kontakt
instruments and
a custom GUI

four files for each riff


offering variations in
chord progression,
intensity and playing
style. As each is
named with the BPM
and key, you can fairly
easily match up the
different parts if you
want to build up the
construction kit
tracks yourself. We
find this to be a more creative method
of working as youre more likely to take
just the odd riff rather than rely on
using pre-written layers.
As weve come to expect from Big
Fish Audio, the quality of the
performances and the recording is
top-notch, with wide stereo micing
techniques offering a big sound and
just enough hints of captured ambience
to make the instruments feel live. Youll
find a large range of sounds, too, from
earthy upright basses and deep

SM White Label East Coast House


Manufacturer Sample Magic

Value

Price 16.90 (individual folders


available separately)

Contact via website


Web www.samplemagic.com

ast Coast House is a recent


entry in Sample Magics White
Label series, comprising jackin
drums, pumping bass lines and
classic organ riffs inspired by 90s New
York House and New Jersey Garage.
The pack contains a total of 361
24-bit loops in WAV, Apple Loops and
REX 2 formats, plus 213 drum and chord
one-shots spread across six folders. You
can also choose to purchase each folder
separately, although this would prove
much more expensive.
As weve come to expect, the loops
and sounds have been mixed and
mastered to perfection, nicely balancing
lo-fi 90s crunch with modern
production sheen.
Lets start with the bass loops. These
are big, rounded and with very little top
end to allow space in the mix for other

124 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

Choice

9/10
9
9/
10

Key Features
361 24-bit loops
213 one-shots
Includes WAV,
Apple Loops and
REX2 formats
All loops at
122BPM
Inspired by 90s
New York House
and New Jersey
garage

elements, and while


theres not huge variety in the
sounds and vibe, the well programmed
grooves are as funky as hell.
Next we have the kick-free top loops
and the drums, which include a full mix
plus component parts for maximum
flexibility. You wont find much out of the
ordinary here, but theyre characterised
by a solid yet spacious sound.
Things get a little more interesting
with the music loops, which include a
variety of garage-style organ and piano

baritone guitars to twanging banjos and


delicately fingerpicked 12-strings. There
are also some excellent fiddle and
string riffs, around 100 female vocal
ad-libs, some percussive sounds where
held chords are struck rhythmically, and
various SFX including slides, scrapes
and hits. We would definitely
recommend that those of you with
Kontakt opt for the Kontakt version,
which helps greatly to organise the
mass of instruments, folders and extras
with custom GUIs, BPM sync and
pre-sliced loops across 35 patches.
Acoustic Soundscapes is a superb
pack of unassuming, simple and highly
usable riffs that could easily be
dropped into an arrangement or
composed around. Its also an excellent
resource for media composers wanting
to evoke feelings of middle America and
the Wild West. MTF

MTF Verdict
A huge collection of evocative loops
played on a wide range of string
instruments. We found the simple
riffs a pleasure to work with and
easy to fit into arrangements.

10/10

stabs alongside deeper synth chord


progressions, combining an old-skool
vibe with tight, up-front production. As
with the drums, many of these appear in
several versions, so you can work with
the individual layers.
Last up on the loops front are some
decent chopped-up vocal snippets that
could be used to add extra flavour to
your grooves. Our favourite part of the
pack, however, is the one-shots, where
youll find a highly usable collection of
thuddy basses, a blend of both garage
and house-style claps and snares, and
some sizzling lo-fi cymbals. There are
also some superb, deep-sounding chord
one-shots, although youll need to build
your own sampler patches to get the
most out of these.
All in all, this is a fantastic pack of
on-point house sounds that fans of
artists such as Disclosure and Dusky
should consider essential. MTF

MTF Verdict
A great-value collection of classic
house loops and sounds with
infectious jackin grooves and a
modern production punch.

9/10

Reviews MTF

Slice Machine 001: Future Breaks


Manufacturer Samplephonics
Price Audio files & Kontakt instrument
34.70. Audio files only 27.40
Contact via website

Choice

9/10
9
9/
10

Web www.samplephonics.com

ith so many options for


crafting electronic beats
and such a large number
of sampled loops
available, there comes a time when you
start to get a little bored with commonor-garden grooves and crave for
something a little more complex and
exotic. The new Slice Machine series
from Samplephonics aims to help in
that goal by providing a custom-built
Kontakt interface that enables you to
easily access the samplers beat-slicing
and FX send capabilities.
The first in the series is Histibe:
Future Breaks, which contains 130
fiercely modern-sounding drum loops,
from glitch electronica at 86BPM,
quirky breaks and dubstep to
breakneck 180BPM drum and bass.
The drum loops are available

Innovation

Key Features
130 grooves
by Ukrainian
producer Histibe
86 180BPM
Custom Kontakt
interface
Add and edit
slices to the
waveform
Control volume,
pitch, effects
and glitches for
each slice

separately in WAV, REX2 and Apple


Loops formats, but youll be missing
out if you omit the instruments
formatted for Kontakt 5.
The Samplephonics team has laid
forth Kontakts innards in an easy-tounderstand manner, with the ability to
add up to eight slices to the waveform,
then adjust various parameters for
each slice to create more complex
rhythms and sounds. You have controls
for volume, pitch, pan, filter, bitcrusher,
reverb, delay, stutter, jump and reverse,

all laid-out on a grid. Clicking on each


will bring up fine-tuning controls to the
left. Although this may not seem
especially revolutionary to anyone
whos spent a lot of time exploring
Kontakt, the simple way in which things
are presented makes for extremely
easy editing and experimentation. Our
only gripe is that the GUI is a bit dark
and the text is a little hard to read.
Although the loops are well written
and produced, the price is a little steep
without the Kontakt extras. However,
throw in the Slice Machine and youve
got double the amount, plus the ability
to create your own edits. What really
excites us, though, is news that an
update is in development that will allow
you to load in your own samples. MTF

MTF Verdict
An original-sounding collection of
cutting-edge beats in a range of
electronic styles, combined with a
superb Kontakt interface for
adding your own glitches and edits.

9/10

Counterstrike - Hard Drum & Bass


Manufacturer Rankin Audio
Price 22.95
Contact info@loopmasters.com
Web www.rankinaudio.com

nyone whos heard music from


producers such as
Counterstrike, Raiden,
Limewax, SPL, Panecea,
Current Value and even some of the
heavier work from Noisia will know how
militant and aggressive the harder edge
of drum & bass can get, and this pack
from producer High Rankins sample
and loop company Rankin Audio
certainly hits the aggressive mark. Bass
one-shots, bass lines, drum hits, drum
loops, FX, percussion loops, synth hits,
synth riffs and vocal stabs are all well
represented here.
The press release claims the pack is
ready to sound amazing without any
further processing and a quick flick
through the drum hits, loops and
percussion categories indeed reveals a
high-quality selection, but smooth is
something these sound arent. However,

Key Features
426MB of
24-bit audio
310 samples
across 9
categories
Producerbased sample
collection

they strike the right


balance between
being sufficiently
clipped to sound
trashy and flat while
still having dense
impacts, thus still
sounding like drums.
The drum hits
cover all bases,
comprising kicks,
snares, hats, rides
and crashes. The
loops are well
programmed, too,
but of course should
be instantly split and re-programmed
to make them your own (especially
since the producer credibility of the
pack will inevitably result in many
people using these samples).
Bass and leads are spread across
melodic loops and single hits, though
many hits are quite rhythmic so they
cant be simply pitched up and down in
a sampler. This is restricting if you want
to program melodies, but most tracks in
this genre tend to be monotone and

repetitive in pitch, using different


sounds and textures to create variation,
so this may not be an issue for you. The
sounds themselves range from
sub-bass to distorted midrange sounds,
but arent labelled in any descriptive
way, so a vetting of the pack is
recommended before you get creative.
FX mostly consist of impacts and
fly-over sounds and these all have a
sinister, futuristic overtone. The vocal
selection focuses on grunts, screams
and yelps, with textured backgrounds
for a sampled-from-film sound.
Although there arent any samplebased instruments or even multiple
single-hit pitches available here, theres
certainly a genre-satisfying selection of
sounds for producing hard drum &
bass. Just use them with caution... MTF

MTF Verdict
A well produced pack that
eliminates the need for mix
processing all you have to do is
start getting creative.

8/10

focus Ableton Live 2013

| 125

MTF Reviews

Glitch 2
Manufacturer Illformed
Price 47.94
Contact via website
Web www.illformed.com

here are certain pieces of


software that gain iconic
status, and this can happen for
a variety of reasons. Version 1
of Glitch gained its reputation for two:
firstly, due to its simple sequencerbased implementation of applying
effects, allowing for immediate, often
drastic sonic change; secondly, it was a
free product! However, it was available
only to Windows users. Version 2,
though, opens up the software to both
Mac OSX and Linux users, and brings a
new feature allowing the use of more
than one effect at a time in parallel.
The distinctive colour scheme is
retained from version 1 but the layout
is now much more logical as it employs
a left-to-right sequencing grid. Each
preset is blank left for the user to
define and contains up to 128 scenes
each; these scenes can be triggered via

Key Features
Flexible grid
divisions and
length per scene
MIDI note
switching of
scenes
Good variety of
effect types
Well integrated
random options

MIDI notes. Each scene contains effect


parameter settings and the order in
which they are sequenced, so good
starting points for a scene can easily
be duplicated and subsequently
modified, giving you an immediately
broad palette to experiment with. The
MIDI launching time between scenes
can also be quantized for mechanically
perfect triggering.
Nine effects run down the left-hand
side which can be punched-in via
note-like blocks on the grid. These can
easily be created, moved and re-sized
for accurate control and predictability.

EZkeys Classic Electrics


Choice

Manufacturer Toontrack
Price 111 (All three EZkeys
instruments now available for 179)
Contact Time+Space 01837 55200

9/10
9
9/
10

Web www.timespace.com

Zkeys is a songwriting tool


from Toontrack thats bundled
with a deeply sampled
instrument and runs as a
plug-in or standalone software. We
reviewed both the original Grand Piano
and the more recent Upright Piano
versions and found both to be excellent
for experimenting with chord
progressions and developing song
ideas. However, what weve really been
waiting for are some tasty electric
pianos to give the software a broader
and more modern palette.
Toontrack has obviously heard our
prayers, as the latest version includes a
Rhodes MK1 and a Wurlitzer 200A,
which were recorded in two separate
studios using the best in modern and
vintage equipment. Its obvious from the
off that a lot of care and attention has

126 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

Key Features
Deeply sampled
Rhodes MK1 and
Wurlitzer 200A
electric pianos
Works as a plugin or standalone
Built-in song
track with dragand-drop MIDI
Preview
potential chords
with the chord
selector wheel

gone into making these


instruments sound lively and instantly
playable. When compared to several
other sampled keys instruments in our
library, the EZkeys versions had much
more of a 3D quality and responded
more vibrantly to different velocities.
You get ten presets for each
instrument, ranging from soft ballad
sounds with subtle delays and
throbbing tremolos to crunchy,
distorted funk that makes excellent use
of the amp sim and effects, plus a
couple of more ambient sounds with
slow attacks and atmospheric reverbs.
The only problem here, as with the
previous versions of EZkeys, is that you
get only four pre-defined dials to tweak

Modulator, Distortion, Lofi and Delay


are useful for simple textural changes.
For more extreme transformations, the
Tape Stop, Retrigger and Stretcher can
mutate your audio into something quite
different. Gate and Reverse effects are
also included.
What we really like about this
plug-in is the various degrees of
randomisation that can be applied. True
randomness the type that never
repeats in the same way twice can be
applied from the top sequencing row,
but one-click randomness that then
stays in place can be applied to scenes
in severe or light doses very handy for
practical examples of the old (and
highly underrated) happy accident
technique. A tool like Glitch should be in
anyones armoury regardless of whether
you make music with a heavily edited
sound or just need subtle variation to
run in the background. MTF

MTF Verdict
A great re-design of an already
iconic audio-manipulation tool. The
layout is much improved, making it
even easier to learn.

8/10

each preset, so sound-design potential


is extremely limited. Although we
appreciate that the product is aimed at
songwriters, wed love to have an
extended editing page from where we
could access envelopes properly. At the
very least, a few more presets might
expand the range of sounds available.
Aside from the instruments
themselves, all of the same incredibly
useful songwriting features are present,
including real-time chord display,
built-in song track, drag-and-drop MIDI,
transpose/humanise functions and the
superb chord selector wheel for
previewing potential chords. Theres
also a large MIDI library in different
styles, although it would have been nice
if a few new riffs were included. This is
by far our favourite EZkeys instrument
to date, and the excellent-sounding
instruments can only help to further
inspire your songwriting ideas. MTF

MTF Verdict
The same excellent songwriting
features are present, but this time
bundled with some beautifully
sampled Rhodes and Wurlitzer
instruments that are a joy to play.

9/10

Reviews MTF

Cyberstorm

Excellence

10/10

Manufacturer Zero-G
Price 60.95
Contact Time+Space 01837 55200

activating and bullets ricocheting.


Devanlay has clearly put a lot of
thought into creating uniquesounding robotic creatures that
feel alive and threatening and with
plenty of subtle variations,
meaning you dont have to repeat
the same piece of audio twice.
Theres also a good mix of
super-high-tech-sounding
movements and more raw and
mechanical clunks and whirs.
We cant really fault this library:
its large, competitively priced and
exceptionally well produced. MTF

Web www.timespace.com

n the heat of watching a high-octane


sci-fi action sequence or shooting
your way through the levels of a
modern game, its easy to forget that
each and every sound has been
hand-crafted and layered to produce
something vibrant and believable.
Cyberstorm sees sound designer
Frdric Devanlay teaming up with
Xfonic and Zero-G for a tour-de-force
library of futuristic warfare sounds
inspired by the likes of the Terminator
and Transformers films.
The huge library contains 1,300
samples and over 2.3GB of content in
ACID WAV and Apple Loops formats,
plus 45 patches for Kontakt, EXS24,
NN-XT and HALion. There are plenty of
sounds on offer, including sliding doors,
snarling drone scouts, massive
explosions, futuristic weapons,
electronic bleeps and hundreds of
different-size servos. A range of synths

Key Features
Futuristic robot
and warfare
sounds
1,300 samples
and 45 sampler
patches
2.3GB of
24-bit audio
Inspired by
Terminator and
Transformers
films
Produced by
sound designer
Frdric
Devanlay

MTF Verdict
and samplers were used for making the
sounds, along with home appliances
and car servos morphed with animal
sounds for the drones.
The level of detail is hugely
impressive, from the clatter of falling
debris to the sounds of mines

A meticulously detailed library of


superb robotic and futuristic
warfare sounds that should be an
essential purchase for anyone
working on sci-fi action or sci-fi
horror projects.

10/10
10

iRig HD
Manufacturer IK Multimedia
Price 79 .99
Contact IK Multimedia 01223 234414
Web www.ikmultimedia.com

he iconic and pioneering iRig


from IK Multimedia finally gets
a makeover in HD form. The
term HD is quite vague, so to be
clear, the main difference in this HD
upgrade is that the newer unit uses
your iOS devices 30-pin Docking port or
Lightning port rather than the
headphone port. The accessories
include a lead for either connection as
well as a USB connector to run this
input-only device with your Mac. The
Dock port offers much better sound
quality than the headphone port, and
since the iRig HDs converters are
24-bit, this improves on an already
respectable noise floor when using this
connection type.
The unit is larger than the original
iRig and all connectivity is via
detachable cables, which avoids you
having to bin the unit if a built-in cable

Choice

9/10
9
9/
10

Key Features
30-pin Dock and
Lightning leads
included
iOS/OSXcompatible
Low noise floor
Input gain
control
Compact design

fails. Asides from


a jack input for your guitar
and output connection to your
hardware device, theres nothing else in
terms of connectivity. This means
theres no power connection, which is a
shame as it limits your practice time
with an iOS device as youre running
down the battery as you play.
The input stage of the iRig HD coped
perfectly well with our doublehumbucker output and the input has a
gain dial for optimum gain-staging. The
unit feels a lot more solid than the
original and we immediately started
using it plugged into our iPad.
It is purely an input device, so the
headphone out of your iPod/iPhone,
iPad or Mac needs to be wired into
headphones or your speaker system.
This is fine in terms of functionality, but
with headphone use, both your Apple

device and the iRig


need to be kept quite close together
as any of the included iRig cables
measures only approximately 70cm.
This makes it a little tricky to use for
stand-up practice with headphones
should you want to let loose.
In operation theres a lot less
computer noise and chatter than is
evident in other products occupying
this price range. The sound quality is
quite neutral in terms of spectral
balance, with plenty of detail and
dynamics but without being
excessively bassy or bright. MTF

MTF Verdict
Asides from the headphones
restrictions if you want to move
around, the sound quality is a major
upgrade from the original.

9/10

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MTF Reviews

Vintage Vibe
Manufacturer Big Fish Audio
Price 125 (download or DVD)
Contact Time+Space 01837 55200
Web www.timespace.com

intage Vibe is a collection of


multi-sampled instruments
based on the retro sounds of
funk, soul, R&B, jazz, classic
rock and country that samples rare and
collectable instruments from yesteryear.
The 12GB library comes as either a
DVD or a download and runs in Kontakt
5 or the Kontakt 5 Player, with a Reason
ReFill version also available. Essentially,
you get 97 instrument patches that
cover Fender and Gibson guitars and
basses, Rhodes, Hammond, Clavinet
and Wurlitzer keyboards, a handful of
studio percussion instruments, and a
massive list of drums, including a 1958
Rogers, a 1970s Ludwig and many
more. To be fair, there are far more
instruments than we can list here,
including some rarities and even a
1960s electric sitar. Where relevant,
most of the instruments have been

Key Features
97 multisampled
instruments for
Kontakt 5
12GB of audio
Drums,
percussion,
keyboards,
basses and
guitars
Inspired by retro
sounds of classic
rock, R&B, soul,
funk, country
and jazz from the
50s, 60s and 70s

Beat Construction
Manufacturer Samplecraze
Price $15
Contact via website
Web www.samplecraze.com

iming to remove the shroud of


secrecy around techniques
used in electronic drum
production by the biggest
names in the game, this e-book from
Eddie Bazil covers many aspects of
drum-sound technique and is
accompanied by a large selection of
reference and example audio files.
At 193 pages, this book covers a lot
of ground. Starting with a guide to
making the most out of the books
content, Eddie takes you through the
terminology used by producers and also
clarifies quite a few legal issues in
respect to sample-based work.
Eddie next digs into beatconstruction, dynamics and quantizing
the fundamentals of beat-creation.
Numerous visual aids are sourced from
various pieces of software and he
strikes a nice balance between dense,

128 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

multi-sampled
with several
layers, and many
have multiple
keyswitches to
change between
different versions.
The guitars and
basses, for
example, have
open and muted
versions recorded
through a DI box as well as through
crunchy old amps for extra character.
All of the instruments bar the drums
share the same Kontakt interface, with
a main page showing the effects plus a
page for portamento controls on the
guitars and basses. Theres also a
Display page that shows you what
keyswitch and sample you are
currently playing. However, it seems a
bit ridiculous having three pages for
these items as everything would have
easily fitted into one.
Many of the patches use the same
raw samples but get their personality
via Kontakts effects, although, if were

honest, were not huge


fans of the distortion in
Kontakt. Luckily, theyre
all beautifully recorded,
with rattles and buzzes
left in for character, so
you could feed these
through an amp sim or
FX of your choice.
In the drum section
you have a much more
complex set of windows
that allow you to swap/
pitch individual kit pieces,
humanise playback and change the
mapping, plus theres a mixer for
balancing and effecting each drum mic.
Although you might not be able to
program a realistic solo guitar riff, this
is an astonishing collection for
producers or media composers looking
to easily combine sounds for an
authentic, vintage-sounding track. MTF

MTF Verdict
A great-value collection covering a
broad range of vintage instrument
sounds that will instantly transport
you to the 50s, 60s and 70s.

8/10

Choice

informative text
and the
accompanying
imagery, helping
you to fully grasp
each concept. Everything is explained in
a good deal of depth, so this will be of
interest to entry-level learners as well
as more seasoned practitioners.
There are too many sections to list
here but they all go into good detail,
offering plenty of different solutions
and approaches to the same task, and
the reading is easy thanks to Eddies
casual and unhurried style. He also
explains that it isnt necessarily
designed to be read front-to-back
each section is set out in such a way
that you can jump in without having to
read previous sections.
Whether youre new to the art of
beat-creation or already working at a
more advanced level, theres sure to be
something here for you. MTF

9/10
9
9/
10

MTF Verdict
A very useful educational and
reference tool for both beginners
and more advanced beat-makers.

9/10

ON SALE NOW!

www.classicpopmag.com
Search Classic Pop
magazine
FROM

CP ad issue 7 A4.indd 1

THE

@ classicpopmag
M AKER S

OF

19/09/2013 14:23

MTF On Your DVD

Packing a ton of new features including Max For


Live built-in Live 9 is a beast of a DAW that offers
up endless possibilities for both live and production
work. Whether youre new to Live or a seasoned
pro, theres plenty for you to explore on your free
Live Focus DVD. We bring you more than three
hours of pro tuition covering a range of techniques
with both Live and Push, the latest freeware plug-in
tools and promo videos showing off cutting-edge
kit. Youll also find royalty-free and demo loops and
samples from Loopmasters, Prime Loops and
Equinox Sounds to use in your own productions.
MTF On the disc 3+ hours of pro video tuition

PAUL MADDOX LAYERING KICKS


Producer Paul Maddox (aka Spektre)
has joined forces with Producertech for a
new course on techno and tech house
production. Weve got a whole chapter taken
from the course, which looks at how to layer
kicks to achieve a bigger sound.

GARAGE AND DNB PRODUCTION


Also from Producertech, Rob Jones
explores some of the advanced new features in
Live 9 by creating a future garage track, while
DJ Fracture builds a drum and bass beat and
programs a synth-stab chord part.

POINT BLANK MUSIC SCHOOL


For those new to Live weve got four
videos with Point Blank tutor Anthony
Chapman explaining the Session View, making
beats and using grooves, plus working with
instruments and macro controls. Youll also
find a free kick drum designer for Max For Live.

LOOPBLOG
These videos supplied by LoopBlog
include four in-depth tutorials on setting up
Live from the DJ Podcast, how to make a
snare-layering rack from Quantize Courses,
and a review of the Novation LaunchKey by
Producertechs Rob Jones.

LOOPMASTERS SAMPLES
Loopmasters has provided an eclectic
mix of pro samples taken from six of its latest
releases, including Atmospheric Textures,
Capsun Trap, House & Garage Vocals,
Psychedelic Dub Chamber, Lynx Eclectic Drum
and Bass Vol2.

PRIMELOOPS SAMPLES
A hand-picked library of dance floor
beats and riffs in 24-bit WAV format,
including twisted synth leads, growling bass
lines, industrial glitch percussion and
heavyweight drum beats and grooves.

01

04

130 | Ableton Live 2013

focus

02

05

03

06

On Your DVD MTF

MTF Your Disc

For PC & Mac

MTF DVD32 Ableton Live 2013

MTF DVD 32
Ableton Live 2013
PROMO VIDEOS

Weve got more than 1GB


of videos showcasing the
latest plug-ins and
hardware, including a
range of cutting-edge
synths and software
instruments from
Novation, Rob Papen,
Toontrack, Project SAM,
Native Instruments,
Sonic Faction and
Soundiron. Youll also find
high-end processing and
effects from iZotope, Fab
Filter, Sugar Bytes and
UAD, plus top-of-therange controllers from
Keith McMillen, Livid
Instruments and Ableton.

COPYRIGHT ANTHEM PUBLISHING 2013


FAULTY DISC?
Check www.musictechmag.co.uk for known issues
Return to: Anthem Publishing (disc returns),
Suite 6, Piccadilly House, London Road,
Bath BA1 6PL, UK

SOFTWARE DEMOS

If youre looking to
supplement Live with
some extra tools, why not
try out the latest
plug-ins? From hi-tech
processors to innovative
new FX machines and
synths, weve rounded up
a range of demo and
freeware software for you
to try out. Youll find
plenty of EQs,
compressors, limiters,
audio analysers, synths,
drum machines, reverbs
and saturation plug-ins
to help craft your tracks.

For PC & Mac

USING OUR
WORKSHOPS

Whether youre looking to


brush up on your
programming skills,
fatten-up your synth
sounds or improve your
mixes, weve got you
covered with a host of
Live tutorials. Where
appropriate youll find
hi-res images, project
files and audio on the
disc so you can follow
along at your leisure. Be
sure to copy the files to
your computer before
opening a project.

AUDIO & MIDI LOOPS

Weve got a bundle of


pro-quality samples from
Loopmasters, Prime
Loops and Equinox
Sounds to help inspire
you, from heavy beats
and throbbing basses to
ambient pads and
melodies. These are a
mixture of 24-bit ACID
WAV files and MIDI
formats, so you can
quickly drop loops into
your own productions.

MTF DVD 32
Ableton Live 2013
COPYRIGHT ANTHEM PUBLISHING 2013
FAULTY DISC?
Check www.musictechmag.co.uk for known issues
Return to: Anthem Publishing (disc returns),
Suite 6, Piccadilly House, London Road,
Bath BA1 6PL, UK

On the disc

YOUR DVD CONTENT FILES

ZIP FILES
To maximise the amount of content we can bring you on
each DVD, the video, tutorial and samples files are
supplied compressed (zipped). Mac users should be
able to decompress ZIP files simply by double-clicking on
them; PC users may need to download a utility such as
WinZip (www.winzip.com).
TUTORIAL FILES
The software tutorials that feature in each issue of MTF
are almost always accompanied by files and audio so you
can work through them on your system. These files are
zipped to reduce the space they occupy on the DVD.

Download them to your hard drive and unzip them to


access the individual files (remembering to eject the DVD
to prevent your computer from slowing down).

WHAT IS ROYALTY-FREE?

Any MTF DVD content marked royalty-free can be used


in your own original compositions (even commercial
ones). You may not, however, resell these samples in any
other form.

DEFECTIVE DISCS

endeavour to supply you with a replacement disc


immediately. Please note that were unable to provide
technical support for the software on the MTF DVD
please check our website at www.musictech.net for any
known problems.

MISSING YOUR DISC?

If your disc is missing, contact us at editorial@anthempublishing.com with your full postal address and the
issue number.

In the unlikely event that your disc is defective, please


return it to: Disc Returns, Anthem Publishing, Suite 6,
Piccadilly House, London, Bath BA1 6PL. We will
focus Ableton Live 2013

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