How To Control The Low End Of Your Mix In Ableton

There is a fine line involved when it comes to mixing the low end of your track. Here are some tips you can use in Ableton Live to keep the bottom in check.

There is a fine line involved when it comes to mixing the low end of your tracks. It’s easy to teeter on the brink of making the mix too muddy, or clip the low peaks. Here is how you get the best of the bottom.



The Fundamentals Of Bass In A Mix

Usually it’s the bass line and the bass drum that can cause problems while mixing in Ableton Live. Both can take up a broad amount of frequencies, and clashing between the two is a very common problem.

With most bass instruments, the low E sits at about 40Hz. While the low end of an kick drum sits in around the 60-80Hz.

By playing two notes in the lower register of an instrument (say a D1 and an F1), you’ll realize it’s not as pleasing when the two are played together in a higher register.

Although electronic instruments can produce sounds as low as 20Hz, most low end heavy electronic music usually hang out above the 40Hz range. Anything below 40Hz is usually rolled off with EQ to add a subtle punch that can be felt rather than heard.

So, where exactly does getting better low end in your mix start?

Fix Up Your Room

If your mixes sound great in your studio, congratulations! If they sound bad everywhere else, stop the celebrating. The problem usually lies in your listening environment.

Monitors Make The Difference

Getting accurate bass response by investing in a decent pair of monitors (regular speakers will colorize the sound, giving you inaccurate response.) Go to your local music store, bring in some of your favorite tracks, and listen to how different monitors handle the low end.

TheMackie HR-824’s can be purchased for under $1,000, and they sound great.

I don’t recommend using a sub woofer. However, if you do, blend the sub so it doesn’t overpower everything else in your mix.

The bottom is, save the extra cash you would spend on a sub, and spend it on a nicer pair of studio monitors.

Treat Your Room Nicely

Next up, treat the corners of your room with some bass traps. Low frequencies tend to cloud up your listening environment since they travel much slower.

Bass traps are made from an absorbent material and they will suck up any of the excess bass that can complicate things when mixing. Learn more about them here.

Analyzing Mixes With Ableton’s Spectrum

Ableton Live’s spectrum is a great tool for getting a visual representation of your mix. Obviously you shouldn’t rely on it solely (that’s what your ears are for), but it really does help put things into perspective.

  1. Drop Spectrum onto an individual track, or your overall mix.
  2. Double click the main window to get a larger view of the frequencies being analyzed.
  3. Play the track (or clip), and pay attention to the numbers on the left side (the decibel or volume of certain frequencies) as well as the numbers on the top (the hertz).

Here are some real world examples of songs I have analyzed with Ableton Live’s spectrum. They’re genres feature prominent low end.

Gangstarr – Mass Appeal

Like in most hip hop songs, the the weight of this track relies heavily on the kick drum.

Peaking out at around 50Hz, with another bump around 85Hz, you can hear the tight punchy kick through the entire mix, without it taking up too much weight.

Mason – Exceeder (Felguk Remix)

Once again, you have the kick taking up a lot of the low end in the track (peaking around 48Hz) with a very prominent bass line taking up the low-mid frequencies with some higher overtones. Note the high level of compression on the overall mix as well.

Skream – Midnight Request Line

Dubstep productions are well known for it’s low sine wave bass lines. In this track you can see it’s the simple 2 note bass line that’s taking up the majority of the low end, while it’s the kick that’s filling in the low-mid frequencies.

Notice how in most of these examples the low end slowly curves off. This is using the same technique mentioned above. Roll off the frequencies below 40Hz to still feel them, but not let them take up too much space in your mix.

Don’t Compromise, Equalize!

Equalization can be dangerous territory when trying to fix your low end. Use these tips to help keep your bass under control. We’ll be using Ableton’s EQ Eight in these examples.

Boosting Lows

To boost the fundamental frequencies of many bass parts, try these settings with EQ Eight.

  1. Select Band 1 of EQ Eight
  2. Boost around 40Hz – 100Hz
  3. Use a fairly broad Q (0.5 – 1.0)

Cutting The Mid-Lows

If you’d like to separate the bass parts from the rest of your mix try cutting out some frequencies with EQ Eight.

  1. Select Band 2 of EQ Eight
  2. Cut between 200-300Hz
  3. Use a much more narrow Q (3 – 5)

This technique also allows you to add a little more compression later on in the mix.

Boosting The Mid-Highs

Tonally shaping the mid-high range of a bass part can add subtle harmonics to the low end.

  1. Select Band 3 of EQ Eight
  2. Boost around 800Hz – 1,200Hz
  3. Use a broad Q (0.5 – 1.0)

This can harmonically boost the bass without making the mix muddy.

Don’t Give The Wrong Compression

Compression will essentially squash any dynamics and make the source louder. This is a great technique for bass and kick drums, but use in moderation.

Threshold

This will setup a threshold for when the compression will kick in. Setting a threshold of about -10dB to -20dB is a reasonable area for bass sounds.

Ratio

This sets the ratio of decibels between the input and output of the signal. As an example every 3dB of input above the threshold level, the output level will only increase by 1dB.

For most bass sounds a ratio between 2 and 4 will do a good job of creating a nice punch for in the mix.

Attack And Release

For faster bass parts try boosting the attack and release knobs, 20ms and 400ms respectively. The release control allows the compressor to recover between each of the notes.

Here is an example of good starting settings:

  1. Drop Ableton’s Compressor on a bass or Kick track
  2. Bring the threshold to -20dB
  3. Change the ratio to 4
  4. Bring the attack knob up to 20ms
  5. Bring the release knob up to 400ms

Tweak these settings to taste.

Not Enough Room

We’ve really only been able to touch on a lot of these subjects (they can fill books). As always, take any of these tips with a grain of salt, and have fun coming up with your own settings for taming the bass in your mixes!

Arrangement Tips For Ableton Live

Arrangement is one of the most important (and often overlooked) aspects of creating music. Here are some tips to help the flow of your tracks in Ableton Live.

Arrangement is one of the most important (and often overlooked) aspects of creating music. It is literally the framework that holds a song together, and without a solid framework, the structure can easily give way.

For this tutorial I am going to be referencing most basic forms of dance music. Songs that have a 4/4 beat, and are usually built around 1, 2 and 4 bar loops. By grasping the concepts discussed in this tutorial, arranging songs in Ableton Live should come much easier.


How Songs Are Structured

Music is built on rhythm, melody and harmony. Most dance music is based on loops, these loops consist of the elements noted. Once the loops are arranged in a certain order, you have a song.

Dance music is arranged into basic sections, these are known as:

  • Intro
  • Breakdown 1
  • Main Section 1
  • Breakdown 2
  • Main Section 2 (or Refrain)
  • Outro

Lets break one of these elements down with a real world example:

The intro of this song runs from 0:00 to 0:59. The intro ends as soon as the tom roll enters. It is built around a 4 bar synth melody that is looped throughout the whole intro. Notice how the arrangement builds every 8 bars (2 of the 4 bar chunks).

Most dance music is built this way. Things are brought in or taken away in chunks of 4, 8, 16 and sometimes 32 bars.

The tom roll at the end of the intro is used as a transition from the intro into the first breakdown.

This is basically the idea behind an entire track. You develop melodies, counter melodies, beats, that all lock into the 1, 2, and 4 bar loop structure. Those loops are then introduced, dropped out, and re introduce for effect.

Working With Loops In Ableton Live

So now that we know how loops work, and how they can help organize our arrangement, lets see how they work in Ableton Live.

  1. Create a new MIDI track in Arrangement View (Ctrl+Shift+T)
  2. Starting on 1 of the beat ruler, highlight a section that goes up to 2 on the beat ruler (see below). The section should turn orange if selected properly
  3. Press Ctrl+M to create a new MIDI clip
  4. You’ve just created a 1 bar loop

If you would like to create a 2 bar loop highlight up until the 3 on the beat ruler, for a 4 bar loop, highlight up to the 5.

To change the length of the loop, you can locate the notes section in the clip overview and find the loop section. Locate where is says “Length”. The first number represents the bars of the measure, the second is beats, while the third is sixteenth notes (rarely used).

Organizing Your Arrangement

The best way to organize your arrangement in Ableton Live is by setting up Locators. Locators are play markers that allow you to add notes in Arrangement View. This helps give a visual representation where changes in the song will be.

  1. Right below the beat time ruler, is the scrub area. You’ll see a small speaker icon when you hover your mouse over it
  2. When you find the location you’d like to place your Locator, right click and select “Add Locator”
  3. Name the locator so it’s appropriate to the section of the song
  4. Double click a locator to start playback from it

Spontaneous Arrangement

The great thing about Ableton Live, is that Session View allows you to trigger off loops of a certain length in real time. Say you have three tracks each with one loop. Two loops are 1 bar and the other is 4 bars. Live will keep these clips in synch while you start and stop them. Great for improvised jamming.

  1. Enter Live’s Session View
  2. Start a new MIDI track by hitting Ctrl+Shift+M
  3. Double click the first empty clip slot
  4. A one bar loop has been automatically created
  5. Drop your favorite virtual instrument on the track
  6. Draw in some notes in the piano roll window
  7. You can edit the loop length in the “Notes” window as mentioned earlier

Do those steps a few times with different lengths of loops. Once you’ve got a small army of loops you’re satisfied with, you can start and stop them in session view for instant arrangement ideas.

Finding The Right Formula

There is no right or wrong way to arrange songs, but I hope this guide has given you some insight into how it’s done. I’ve used dance music as an example, since most arrangements of that type are fairly repetitive and simple.

If you’re ever in doubt, it helps to take a step back and rest on your production for a night or two. Coming back to an arrangement with fresh ears can do wonders for inspiration.


Got any arrangement techniques you like to use in Ableton Live? Feel free to share them below!

Understanding Ableton Live’s Reverb

Some people love it, some hate it. Some stay away from it because they don’t know how to use it. Learn to get over your fears and conquer Ableton’s reverb in this tutorial.

Some people love it, some hate it. Some stay away from it because they don’t know how to use it. Ableton’s built in Reverb is capable of some pretty amazing things once you get to know it.

This tutorial will break down Ableton Live’s Reverb. Hopefully after reading this, you’ll be grabbing for this sometimes misunderstood plug-in more often in your productions.


What Is Reverb?

In a nutshell, reverberation (or reverb for short), is the continuation of reflected sound after the original has been removed.

Everyone has experienced some form of reverb in their life. Usually it happens in large open areas, or small areas with reflective surfaces (bathrooms, rooms with hardwood floors, etc).

When you yell, clap or talk in these rooms, there is a noticeable “tail” of quick echoes that slowly fade off. This is known as the reverb.

The millions of tiny echoes bouncing back and forth eventually dying out is known as the “decay”.

A visual representation of sound bouncing around a space.

When programming Ableton’s Reverb plug-in it helps to visualize some type of environment. Cathedrals and large rooms have a very long decay time, while a shower or small tiled room would have a very short decay time.

Listen to this example. I have a dry snare hit from a drum machine. One is treated with 400ms (milliseconds) of decay, and the other has 2 seconds of decay. Listen for the time it takes for the sound to fully die out.

Dry Snare

400ms Decay Snare

2 Seconds Decay Snare

Different Types Of Reverb

Chamber Reverb

The most primitive and natural form of reverb. Usually recording studios would have rooms with reflective surfaces (cement, tile) on the walls and floor. They would have a loud speaker playing the track, and it would be moved around the room for different colors of reverb.

Once the desired form of reverb was achieved, it would be send back into the main mix.

Plate Reverb

A speaker is attached to a piece of sheet metal (hence the name plate), and the vibrations from the metal simulate a unique version of reverb.

A pick up (small microphone) would be attached the sheet metal allowing the engineer to blend the full “wet” reverb signal, with the dry signal from the speaker (similar to the “Dry/Wet” knob on Ableton’s Reverb).

Sometime later, someone decided to add two pick ups, resulting in a stereo reverb effect.

Spring Reverb

Have you ever taken a slinky, put your ear on one end of it, and let the other end drop to the ground? It gives a very metallic space age sound.

This is the same concept behind spring reverb. Similar to plate reverb, the sound source is positioned at one end of the spring, while a pick up is positioned at the other. Sound travels through the spring and creates a “springy” sound.

Digital Reverb

With the advent of digital signal processors, reverb algorithms were created by using a large number of decaying echoes.

Equipped with the right set of tools, digital reverbs can re create many different forms of reverb ranging from the natural to the space age. Ableton’s reverb fits into this category.

Convolution Reverb

Another form of digital reverb, but suited to better recreate room sounds. Convolution reverbs set out to actually “sample” room setting through a complex range of algorithms and impulse responses.

Getting To Know Ableton’s Reverb

Before diving into Ableton’s Reverb, it’s a good idea to try out some of the presets that come with it.

  1. Drop Ableton’s Reverb onto a track with an instrument, sample or loop.
  2. Click on the “Hot Swap” button located on the top right of the unit.
  3. In Live’s Device and File Browser, double click the orange symbol with two arrows facing up and down.

Pay close attention to the names of the presets to get a better understanding of how Ableton’s Reverb generates it’s sound. Watch which settings are turned on and off when you select a preset, some use chorus, some use hi-cut and low-cut. Some more complex than others.

Input Processing

The start of Ableton’s Reverb signal chain, all audio passes through here first. This is where you set the filter cut-off (with the X-Y controller) as well as the pre delay.

Lo Cut/Hi Cut – These two filters are used to cut off the highs (hi cut) or lows (lot cut). If the high end of the signal is cut off coming in, you will lose any of the “sparkle” in the reverb, making for a darker sound.

While on the other end, cutting out the lows, will only allow high frequencies to pass through, creating a thinner reverb sound. Both can but turned off to save on CPU power.

Below is an example of the reverb Dry/Wet turned to 100%, the first sound using lo cut, the other using hi cut.

Example of Reverb’s lo cut filter

Example of Reverb’s hi cut filter

Pre Delay – This is the amount of time it takes the sound to reach the first reflective surface. Obviously if the room is huge, it will take longer for the sound to reach its first wall and bounce back. Most “natural” settings use a pre delay between 1ms and 25ms.

  1. Place the Reverb on a Synth track.
  2. Turn the Dry/Wet knob up to 100%.
  3. Turn the Pre Delay knob up to 250ms.
  4. Press a note on your keyboard. Notice there is a delay before the sound plays. Since the Dry/Wet knob is turned to 100%, you’re hearing only the reverb, and since it takes 250ms for the sound to bounce back, there is a slight delay.

Early Reflections

A bit more complex than most sections, but it’s easy to think of the early reflections as the first echoes you hear bouncing off of a surface before the onset of the reverb “tail”.

This section is more about adding character to the overall sound of the reverb.

Spin – This setting applies modulation to the early reflections with an X-Y controller. Sliding the controller to the left and right affects the depth of modulation, while sliding up and down affects the amount.

  1. Slide the Spin’s contoller all the way to the top right.
  2. This puts the spin effect at full.
  3. Play a note for a truly bizarre sound.

These early reflections are being modulated by a low frequency sine wave, which creates the warbly effect you’re hearing.

Shape – This control will help blend the early reflections with the onset of the reverb tail. With this setting lower there will be a “gap” between the early reflections and the onset of the reverb tail. At higher settings the two will blend together, resulting in a smoother reverb sound.

Global Settings

The heart of Ableton’s reverb. Use these settings to adjust the quality of the reverb, overall size, and the amount of stereo effect.

Quality – Three settings to choose from here; eco, mid, and high. The higher the quality, the bigger the toll on your processor. Some people like the “cheap” sound of the eco setting, since this is a subjective topic, you decide which quality setting you like best.

Size – This allows you to change the volume or size of the room.

  1. Turn the size volume all the way down.
  2. Play some notes, notice the thin metallic sound.
  3. Now turn the size knob all the way up.
  4. Again play something, notice the much “bigger” sound.

Stereo – With this knob turned all the way down, the reverb is mixed down to a single mono sound, when turned all the way up, the reverb effect is panned hard left and hard right, simulating a more realistic hearing experience in a room.

Diffusion Network

This is the part of the reverb unit that actually creates the reverberant tail that follows the early reflections.

Hi Shelf/Lo Shelving Filters – Adjusting the high shelf filter allows you to fine tune the frequencies of the decay model to simulate people, carpeting or other absorbent objects in a room.

The low shelf filter allows the sound of the decay to be thinned out depending on how much of the low end you are actually cutting out.

Both of these options can be turned off to save CPU consumption.

Decay – The amount of time it takes for the reflections to die down. With a setting of 2 seconds, it would take the reverb tail 2 seconds for it to reach -60dB (essentially fade out).

  1. Enter Hot Swap Mode to the top right of the unit.
  2. Select the “Sixty Seconds” preset under the “Special” folder.
  3. Play a note or sound.
  4. Since the decay knob is maxed, it takes 60 seconds for the tail to reach -60dB.

Freeze – This button will allow you to freeze the decay of a sound indefinitely. At whichever moment you initiate the freeze button, that part will be repeated until the freeze button is turned off.

The cut button stops any more signal from coming through. With this button unchecked you send as many notes or sounds as you want through, all being frozen by Live’s Reverb. Watch out for clipping!

Flat will simply bypass the high and low shelf filters while freeze is activated.

Density And Scale – These determine how many reflections will occur. With a higher density and ccale setting you are upping the amount of reflected sound bouncing around in the room.

These have a more noticeable affect with a smaller size setting.

Chorus – Similar to the spin sections, the chorus section will add modulation to the diffusion (sounds bouncing around in the room). The controls are identical to the spin section under the early reflections setting.

Output

This section will adjust overall signal, as well as the amplification of the Reflections and Diffusions (early reflections and diffusion network, respectively).

Reflect – Changes the amplification of the early reflections section. This allows you to blend the early reflections with the rest of the reverb’s overall mix.

Diffuse – The same idea as the reflect knob, only used for the diffusion network sections.

Dry/Wet – Blends between the untreated sound and the fully treated sound. Turned down to 0% you will hear no reverb at all. Turned to 100% you will hear only the reverberated sound coming through.

When adjusting parameters on Ableton’s Reverb, it’s a good idea to have the Dry/Wet knob up to 100%. This allows you to get a better feel for the full effect of the reverb. Once you’re happy with your settings, use the knob to blend subtly (or not to subtly).

5 Essential DJ Effects In Ableton Live

Huge filter sweeps, stuttering beat hiccups and low end drops. Used tastefully, DJ effects can provide improvisational wonders for the dance floor.

Huge filter sweeps, stuttering beat hiccups and low end drops. Used tastefully, DJ effects can provide improvisational wonders for the dance floor. Ableton Live comes with plenty of effects devices. Here are 5 of my favorites that can turn a dull DJ set into a real time performance with different results every time.



The Limiter

Ableton’s Limiter is simple in design making it very easy to use.

Why DJs Love It – Slap this on your master track to prevent any clipping that can happen during a DJ set. Even though you’re usually using only 2 songs at a time when mixing, the low end of 2 tracks at once can sometimes create major clippage in Ableton.

Some Practical Settings – As mentioned earlier, you can really just “set it and forget it”, but if you’d like to tweak it a bit, here are a couple of pointers.

If you need your mix to be louder, you can use the gain knob, however, use it in moderation. A limiter is essentially a compressor with a ratio of infinity, so by cranking the gain you’re noticeably squashing the sound.

Always keep the ceiling below 0, anything higher will cause the master track to clip, which is why we put the limiter on in the first place!

EQ Three

EQ Three – Arguably Ableton’s most powerful DJ effect.

Why DJs Love It – It doesn’t get more classic than this. The 3 band EQ has been a favorite among DJs for decades. Found on almost every DJ mixer, Ableton has emulated a perfect DJ EQ, right down to the kill switches.

Some Practical Settings – Load this to your “A” and “B” decks. This way you have individual control when it comes to killing certain frequencies. Using EQ Three to boost frequencies is generally is not recommended.

Try mapping your computer keyboard to the kill switches shown below. This way, with the press of a button you can kill the lows of a song, to make room for another.

Mapping the “A” button on my keyboard to kill EQ Three’s low end.

Beat Repeat

Make beats stutter with Ableton’s Beat Repeat.

Why DJs Love It – Create interesting rhythmic stutters and shifts with this effect. You can hear extensive use of this on Daft Punk’s “Alive 2007” Album. DJs have to be careful though, too much can cause chaos on the dance floor. Use sparingly!

Some Practical Settings – You really have to keep your eye on this or things can really get out of hand. Practice with it before you take it out. I like to set my “Chance” knob to around 50% and my intervals to 4 bars.

Activate and Deactivate the device by clicking on the green dot (top left of device) to use it. You don’t want to leave it on during the whole song, use it only a few times in your set (unless you’re Squarepusher or Aphex Twin.)

Auto Filter

Auto Filter is great for building tension.

Why DJs Love It – Great for the famous “the sound is coming from another room” effect (cutting all the highs out), the auto filter is great for creating tension.

Some Practical Settings – With the default low pass setting on, grab the green ball in the middle of the filter and start to slowly pull your mouse to the left. This will cut out all the high frequencies. Once the dance floor is brimming with anticipation, slowly (or quickly, your call) bring back in the highs (move the mouse to the right).

Bring the auto filter’s Q up (move the mouse up) to create even more exciting “wooshing” sounds.

Simple Delay

Create chaos with the Ableton Live’s “Simply Delay”.

Why DJs Love It – It’s getting more common to find DJ mixers with built in effects. The most common (besides EQ) is usually a form of delay. The simplicty of Ableton’s “Simple Delay” can create interesting and chaotic effects with the push of a button.

Some Practical Settings – Simply putting the delay on a track and activating then quickly deactivating it can get some really interesting sounds. Remember, just like Ableton’s Beat Repeat; keep it simple and subtle.

Create a crazy repeat effect by starting with both the “Feedback” and “Dry/Wet” knobs at 0. Slowly bring the two knobs “Feedback” and “Dry/Wet” knobs to 100%, then, just like with the Auto Filter, deactivate the delay at the moment that feels right.


Let me know if you feel like I am leaving anything out. And, as always, feel free to comment some of your favorite settings below!

Ableton Live’s Analog: A Synthesizer Tutorial

Learn the powers of subtractive synthesis in this tutorial. Taught through Ableton’s Analog Synthesizer, you will be programming your own patches in no time.

Ableton’s Analog synthesizer (introduced in version 7) is an attempt to recreate the vintage sounds of yesterday. Featuring 2 alias free oscillators, 4 Waveforms (sine, sawtooth, rectangle and white noise), two independent multi band filters, 2 syncable LFOs, and a range of other features, Analog easily stands up next to its hardware counterparts.


The Basics Of Synthesis

Every analog synthesizer generates its sounds from an oscillator, the most basic type being a sine wave. These are generated by an electronic signal, and their shape is formed by amplitude and frequency.

All Of This Hertz My Head!

All sound is made up of vibration. One full vibration cycle is known as just that; a cycle. The frequency in which this occurs (how many cycles per second) is measured in hertz (Hz).

An example of a sine wave. 1 cycle is reached once the wave has reached its lowest point, its highest point, then back to the lowest.

A guitar string being plucked will vibrate thousands of (cycles) times per second. The faster the vibration, the higher the pitch.

Sounds range from about 20Hz to 20,000Hz. As an example, the low rumble of a truck could be measured at the bottom end of the frequency spectrum (around 30Hz to 100Hz; you feel this more than hear it) all the way up to a high pitched whistle (around 10,000Hz to 15,000Hz.).

Some common sounds you can associate with on the frequency spectrum.

The Middle A note on a piano is represented as 440Hz on the frequency spectrum (remember, 440 vibrations per second). If you were to generate a sine wave on a synthesizer at exactly 440Hz you would hear a tone that matches a Middle A.

Here is what a pure sine wave played by Ableton’s Operator Synth at 440Hz.

The raw sine wave generatd by Operator. Note the spike at 440Hz.

And here is a sine wave played by Ableton’s Analog synth. Notice the slight overtones.

A sine wave generated by Analog. Notice the extra overtones to the right of the spectrum.

You Have A Real Amplitude Problem

Amplitude is the measurement of volume. The higher the amplitude, the louder something is. This is why you need amplitude combined with frequency in order to generate sound on a synthesizer. Think of the frequency of a sine wave as the measurement from left to right, and amplitude is the measurement from top to bottom.

How amplitude measurement works with Analog’s sine wave.

Saws, Squares, And Noise, Oh My!

As I said before, Analog has 4 different wave forms:

Sine Wave – The most basic type of waveform. This has a soft mellow sound to it. This is the only wave form to appear in nature. Although this is not a true sine wave, (Ableton have added some overtones to make it more sonically pleasing) its pretty close.

Saw Wave – Once again, another waveform that is created by combing sine waves together at different frequency intervals. The saw tooth is known for a sharp biting sound.

Square Wave – A square wave is generated by adding sine waves together at different frequency intervals. The sound of a square wave has a hollow reed like sound.

Noise – Technically not a waveform, white noise generates frequencies randomly and chaotically. Imagine static on a television screen.

These are automatically generated by Analog through something known as additive synthesis (combining sine waves at different frequency intervals). Your job as a synth programmer is to shape and mold these waveforms through various tools provided by the synthesizer. This is known as subtractive synthesis.

Ableton’s Analog Synthesizer allows you to not only choose from these 4 different types of waveforms, but also mix 2 of them together at the same time.

How To Program Sounds In Analog

Now that we’ve got the basics of synthesis out of the way, lets put some of Analog’s features to use by programming our own sounds.

Choosing The Right Oscillator For The Job

Like I said before, the most basic aspect of any synthesizer is its waveform, so start there. If you’re new to programming synthesizers, it’s probably a good idea to stick with one of Analog’s oscillators for now.

Analog’s Oscillator section.

You will notice to the left of Ableton’s waveform chooser that there is a Oscillator Level Slider and an On/Off switch.

On/Off Switch – Pretty self explanatory. In order to get sound you have to have at least one Oscillator switched on. The Level Slider allows you to adjust the output of the oscillator.

Octave Section – Once you have your waveform selected, you can choose the octave of the oscillator, Analog has a -3 and +3 octave range.

Semitone Knob – Used to change full note intervals. If you play an A note, then change the semitone knob up +1, you will hear an A#.

Detune Knob – Great when two waveforms are combined together and you tweak both Detune Knobs. This will achieve a fatter sound. Try detuning two waveforms by +0.02 and the other by -0.2.

Filters Are Your Friend

Directly to the right of Analog’s oscillator section is the filter section. This is used to help shape your sound. Activate the filter by clicking on the Fil1 rectangle button.

Analog’s Filter section.

Ableton has 5 types of filters:

Lowpass (12dB and 24dB) – This filter allows low frequencies through and cuts out high frequencies. Your adjustments will determine how many of these high frequencies will be let through.

This is me filtering through frequencies with a saw wave through the 24dB low pass filter.

A more visual approach to a low pass filter with Ableton’s Auto Filter.

Bandpass (6dB and 12dB) – This allows only a small amount of frequencies through. Great for honing in on certain frequencies.

Here is a saw wave being sweeped through a 6dB band pass filter.

A more visual approach to a band pass filter with Ableton’s Auto Filter.

Notch (2 and 4 pole) – The same as a bandpass filter, only this cuts certain frequencies.

Here is a saw wave’s frequencies being sweeped through the notch 4 filter.

A more visual approach to a notch filter with Ableton’s Auto Filter.

Highpass (12dB 24dB) – Similar to the lowpass filter, this allows only high frequencies through. Great for dramatic breakdowns when you want to cut the lows out.

Here is a saw wave’s frequencies being sweeped through the hi pass filter.

A more visual approach to a hi pass filter with Ableton’s Auto Filter.

Formant (2 and 4 pole) – This type of filter uses a special type of resonance to accentuate what is know as vowel sounds. Its easy to understand the effect by hearing it.

Here is a saw wave’s frequencies being sweeped through the hi pass filter. Notice the accentuated mid range sounds.

The two most widely used filters are lowpass and highpass. Using the frequency knob to cut the lows out really helps for smoothing out square and saw waves. Using the highpass filter helps to thin out pads and string sounds.

The resonance knob helps to boost the frequency chosen on the filter. In this example, I have the filter set to lowpass, the frequency set at 500Hz and I am turning the resonance up and down from about 20% – 75%.

Sweeping through the resonance with the frequency fixed at 500Hz.

A more visual approach to resonance with Ableton’s Auto Filter. Notice the amplitude gain on certain frequencies.

An Envelope You Can’t Mail

One of the most important aspect of synthesis is the envelope, and sure enough, Ableton’s Analog has them.

The envelope works with 4 very important parts, the amplitude (A), decay (D), sustain (S) and release (R), or better know as ADSR.

The best way to understand these functions are to use them, but here is a head start.

A great visual example of ADSR in synthesis.

Like other parts of the synthesizer, the envelope sections allow you shape and sculpt certain aspects of the sound. Here are elements of the Amplifier envelope:

Attack – The time it takes for the initial run up of the sound to reach it’s peak. Setting a higher attack time is a technique commonly used with swelling pad sounds.

Decay – If you have a longer decay set, you could imaging it as a flat line starting once the attack has reached its peak, and running straight until it reaches the sustain point

Sustain – This is the volume of the sound during it’s main sequence. Try turning the release al the way down and turning this all the way up. Notice how when you hold the key (or play a note) it holds at full volume EXACTLY up to the point you let go or the not stops. Great for bass sounds.

Release – The point of time it takes for the sound to die down. Play a note on a keyboard and let go, notice the sound will linger for awhile with a higher release setting.

Analog’s Amplifier Envelop. Look familiar?

Meet LFO, Or Better Known As – Low Frequency Oscillator

We know there are certain areas of the Analog in Ableton that you can use to control and shape the sound (the filter for example). Well, in synthesis, there is something that take this even a step further: enter the Low Frequency Oscillator.

Analog’s LFO section

Remember way back when (the beginning of this article) we were talking about cycles and different wave types? A Low Frequency Oscillator is essentially one of these waves played back at an extremely low frequency (usually 1Hz – 20Hz).

What does the LFO do you ask? Well, it lets you control a specified portion of the synthesizer with one of the wave forms.

Lets say you have a sine wave (see the picture of the sine wave shown earlier). Notice how it has an up and down look to it (it’s a wave, duh). This will be used to essentially control the frequency knob in the filter section for you.

It may be kind of a difficult concept to grasp, but lets use it in a real world example.

  1. Enable the first LFO by clicking the button that says “LFO”, once it lights up orange, you’re good.
  2. Turn the Hz knob up to about 2 (you’re now working with a sine wave at 2 cycles).
  3. Click on the filter section of the synth.
  4. With the filter section enabled, go to the middle part of the Analog synth.
  5. Where it says Freq Mod, change the numbers underneath where it says LFO1.
  6. Play a note or key, notice how the frequency is wooshing back and forth a little? You are now controlling the Analog’s filter with the LFO.

You can control numerous parts of the Analog, so feel to experiment. You can get some truly amazing results.

3 Smaller (But Important) Tools

So, now that you are equipped with the basic knowledge of sculpting some pretty amazing sounds with Ableton’s Analog synthesizer, here are three more smaller, but important parts of it.

Analog’s main panel houses three small, but important tools.

On the main panel all the way to the right, you’ll notice three buttons underneath the volume knob.

Vibrato – This is a controller that allows you to slightly fluctuate the pitch of the signal through the analog. It gives it a very recognizable wobbly effect.

Unison – This is great for fattening up your Analog. It essentially doubles and slightly detunes any of your oscillators.

Glissando – A smooth transition from note to note. Use this option to get a gliding sound.


I hope I have been able to shed some light on the mystery of synthesizer programming through Ableton Live’s Analog. Sorry I couldn’t cover everything in detail. Please, experiment with Analog, the best way to learn is to experience it yourself. Above all have fun!

If you have any tips or techniques about Analog, please share them below!

How To Fatten Up Drum Loops In Ableton Live

Give new life to your drum loops by layering. In this tutorial learn how to add a heavier kick drum by lining up drum hits in Ableton’s Arrangement View.

Some stock drum breaks and loops can sound a little thin. Recordings in the 60’s and 70’s may not have that punch in the low end you’re looking for, especially in hip-hop music. In this tutorial we’re going to use Ableton to take a simple one bar drum break and layer a kick underneath to fatten it up.



The Samples

The Drum Loop
For this tutorial I am going to grab a 90BPM 2 bar drum loop, and cut it down to just 1 bar.

Here is the 2 bar drum loop:

Click Here to download the loop.

The Kick Sample
Now for the kick drum we’ll be using.

Click Here to download the kick sample.

1. Preparing The Drum Loop

For this tutorial we will be using Ableton’s Arrangement View.

Drag the drum loop onto the first audio track. Your global tempo should now automatically change to 90BPM.

Our drum loop as it appears in Ableton’s Arrangement View.

The drum loop is already set up almost perfectly for looping, so adding extra warp markers will not be necessary.

Next, cut the clip down to a 1 bar loop by hovering your mouse over the end of it until your cursor turns into a bracket. With your eye on the beat ruler, drag until the clip reaches the “2”. Do the same with Ableton’s Loop Brackets.

Drag both the clip and the Loop Brackets to the “2” on Ableton’s Beat Ruler.

A 1 bar loop, ready for editing.

In the Control Bar at the top of the screen enable Ableton’s Loop Switch.

Enable Ableton’s Loop Switch to make editing easier.

The loop is now ready for kick drum layering.

2. Setting Up The Kick Drum Sample

Start by adding a Drum Rack to the MIDI track below our loop. Once you’ve done that, locate the kick sample and drop it into the “C1” Drum Rack pad.

Our kick sample loaded into our Drum Rack. There will be a few adjustments in the Device Chain.

Click on the “Show/Hide Devices” button highlighted in the above screen shot. Once you open the device, you will want to turn the Release knob to full, and the Vel up to 100%.

Full Release opens our kick sample, before it was being cut short. 100% Velocity allows us to adjust the velocity of individual notes in our MIDI editor.

Next, unfold both tracks in the Arrangement View. You should see the waveform of the 1 bar drum loop. Underneath the drum loop, on the MIDI track, click and drag for 1 bar (up to the “2” on the Bear Ruler), it should highlight orange. Press Ctrl+Shift+M to create a new MIDI clip.

Highlighting our MIDI track for 1 bar.

Ctrl+Shift+M creates our new MIDI clip.

This is now going to allow us to line up our MIDI kick hits with our wave form kick hits. I like the turn the grid off when programming the MIDI kicks to keep the human feel, and have precise control under the kick hits in the loop.

Here is a quick video of me lining up the MIDI notes with the waveform’s kick hits.

An here is a screen shot of the results I am satisfied with:

You can hear from the video, that it sounds pretty good so far, but there are a couple of tweaks I want to make the tone of the kick.

3. Fattening The Kick Sample

First we am going to start by loading an EQ 8 onto the MIDI track. Click on “Band 4” of the EQ and hit the “High Cut” filter mode. Next click the 10kHz under the Frequency knob and type in 500. This will cut everything above 500Hz eliminating the “tambourine” sound in the high end of the kick sample.

Our EQ settings for cutting out anything above 500Hz.

Next, we’ll select band 1 on the EQ 8 and give it a slight bump around the 100Hz area. This will add a pleasant thud. Click the first band and click the number under the gain knob and type 3 with your keyboard.

This will add a nice thud to our beat, unfortunately, it is clipping..

Okay! We’re almost there, our last step is to add a limiter to the track. No adjustments necessary, just throwing Ableton’s Limiter over the MIDI kick track and the master track will keep it from clipping, and tighten up even more.

Here is the final result:

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How To Master Audio In Ableton Live

The dark art of Mastering Audio in Ableton Live finally revealed!? Nah, just some tips on getting your mixes to compete with the pros!

Disclaimer: I am not a Mastering Engineer, nor do I pretend to be. This guide is meant to get your overall mix sounding competitive with other “pro” mixes. I cover adjusting Levels, Limiting and overall EQ. All of this is subjective, so please feel free to share your comments or tips.

This tutorial serves to show that Mastering your songs can be done in Ableton Live. I agree that put into the hands of a professional Mastering Engineer, your mixes will probably come out sounding better.

However, if you’re looking to “enhance” your overall mix on a basic level, you’ve come to the right place.

For simplicity, the example song is not a full arrangement. More like a one bar loop with only 4 tracks, but the theory and technique here can be applied to full arrangements with plenty of tracks.


1. Start With A Good Mix

Mixing is a very subjective topic, I will go over some basics here, but a more detailed article on the subject will come at a later time (how to EQ, add Compression, etc).

It is crucial your levels are set properly before the Mastering stage begins. To do so will require both your ears and eyes.

Setting Up For Precise Metering In Ableton Live

First, start off by expanding your tracks in Ableton. To do this, enter Session View and hold your mouse right above the meter of a channel. Your mouse will turn into an icon with a double sided arrow. Click and drag upwards about two “snaps” until you can see small lines and two new white meters.

Click and drag here to expand Ableton’s Leveling Meters.

Next, you’re going to expand your meters horizontally. This will show the dB of your levels. Expand horizontally by holding your mouse cursor to the top right of the channel (where the track title bar is).

Your cursor will change to a bracket. Click and drag one “snap” to the right (for Audio and MIDI tracks) or left (for Master and Send tracks).

Click and drag here to expand Ableton’s channels horizontally.

Make sure you expand your Master Channel as well.

Your instrument tracks and master track should now display like this:

The three most important areas when it comes to metering visually in Ableton Live.

Lets go over these three parts and why they are important.

  1. Peak Level – Use this as a visual indicator for the peak dB of a particular track in Ableton. If it reaches past 0, you will experience digital clipping.
  2. Numeric Track Volume – A numeric indicator for a particular track’s overall volume. Click once and type in a value (e.g. -4) and you can set levels with precision.
  3. Linear Track Volume – A great visual indicator for your levels. Use the green signal to get a quick look at the overall levels.

Expanding your tracks are important for two reasons:

They allow for setting your levels to precise values, and they let you to monitor your Master track. This is important for keeping your overall levels at the sweet spot (-6dB to -3dB).

Setting The Levels

From this point on, I will be speaking from the perspective of the one bar loop I am mixing. Feel free to apply any of these techniques to your own tracks.

I’ll start off by bringing all of my faders down to -inf (I do this by clicking the Numeric Track Volume and just typing -100).

Next, i’m going to bring the most important elements (Bass and Drums) up to zero by clicking on my Numeric Track Volume, pressing 0 on my keyboard and hitting enter.

Here is how it sounds so far:

My drum and bass tracks are set to 0dB. Both are peaking at about -10dB.

Most engineers say that a well recorded track should peak around -12dB to -6dB. This leaves me with enough overhead for multiple tracks, while still retaining the full sound.

My drum and bass tracks are both peaking around -10dB. As it stands, they don’t need much adjusting for the moment. I could turn up the output levels (or re record the tracks hotter for external audio) but I think this will work for now.

As you can see on the master channel, both levels together are peaking at about -7.5dB. Remember, my goal is to have the master channel peaking between -6db and -3dB.

Now i’m going to bring the Pad and Bells track to 0.

Having all tracks set to 0 teeters on the edge of clipping.

Here is what the track sounds like with everything at 0dB.

All right, so now I am are dangerously close to clipping on my master track (peaks at about -0.25dB). Time to start bringing some levels down.

First I will start with the Bells track. I want these to be in the background as texture. I’ll lower them to about -20dB. Once again, I do this by clicking in the Numeric Track Volume and entering -20 on my keyboard.

This sounds pretty good, but now the Pad is overpowering the track. I’ll bring it down to about -5dB and we’ll see how that sounds.

Much better. And now I have reached my way back to that sweet -7.5dB spot on my Master Fader.

Here is the “mixed” version far. The Bells and Pad are brought down:

Lowering the Bells and Pad Tracks helped balance the mix and buy me precious overhead in the Master Track.

I can finely adjust the levels even further if I wanted to, but for now, we’ll leave them as they are.

Mastering And Finalizing The Mix

The first tool I will use in the Mastering Stage will be Ableton’s EQ Eight. I am dropping this onto my Master Track.

I will tighten up the low end by setting a low cut filter on band 1. I’m setting the Frequency to 30hz.

Next, on band 2 I will bump a little in the 250hz range with a Q of 1.4 for some very subtle punch.

Finally, on band 4, I am using a high pass filter to eliminate some frequencies above 18kHz. Usually anything above 15kHz can’t be heard by the human ear, so to be safe I am killing a small amount at the very very top.

Here is the mix post EQ. Not a huge difference, but the slight bump at 250hz will give it some weight on smaller speakers:

A very subtle EQ curve is used when mastering the overall mix.

Now I am going to set the overall volume of the track with Live’s Limiter, this way I don’t have to turn my car stereo on max just to hear the song.

In order to compete with most Mastered songs, I want my levels to be peaking in the -0.5dB to -0.2dB area.

Next I am going to drag Live’s Limiter onto the Master track.

My first step is to set the Ceiling setting to -0.2. I’m doing this in the same way i’ve adjusted the faders on the instrument tracks. I will click the number once, and enter -0.2 on my keyboard.

This will make it so that my master track will not peak past -0.2dB.

Next, I am adding some gain through the Limiter (approx. 7.25dB in this case). The Master Levels are peaking at about -0.93dB.

And finally, the track with an acceptable volume and subtle EQ:

Using the Limiter as a safe way to raise the overall levels

Make sure you listen to your mix on as many sources as possible! (Car Stereo, Home Stereo, iPod headphones, etc!).

This takes a lot of practice (and patience). But with this guide as a starting point, hopefully you’re on your way to better overall mixes!

How To Emulate A TB-303 With Ableton’s Operator

Famous for helping shape the electronic music landscape, learn how to emulate Roland’s flagship bass synthesizer – the TB-303 – with Live’s Operator.

The TB-303 bass synthesizer, released in 1982, is for known its harsh leads and squelchy bass lines. It helped create the Acid House movement in the mid 1980’s and has been used over and over on multiple tracks since. Costing around $2,000 for the hardware version, you can now emulate an accurate sound with Live’s Operator synth. Here’s how:



1. Loading Operator And Programming The Sequence

First, load Operator into an empty MIDI track in Session View.

An initialized Operator loaded into a new MIDI track.

Next, double click in the first empty clip slot to create a new 1 bar MIDI loop. I’m going to program my own sequence in the Piano Roll, feel free to copy this one or write your own. Here’s mine:

Here is what the sequence sounds like untreated:

2. Programming The TB-303 Patch

The first thing we’re going to do is turn Operator into a monophonic synth. To do this click on Live’s Global Shell:

The location of Operator’s Global Shell

Once you’ve done that, locate the Voices section in Operator’s middle panel. Change it to 1.

Changing Operator into a monophonic synth.

Our next step is to activate Operator’s filter and change it to a 24DB lowpass.

Activate Operator’s filter section for control of the 24DB lowpass filter.

With the filter tab still selected, in the middle panel change Operators filter settings to 70.0 ms of decay, Freq<Vel to 70% and the filter envelope to 50%.

Changing Operator’s Filter settings.

Now, click Operator’s Oscillator A panel.

The location of Operator’s OSC A panel.

In the middle section, change the decay to 1.5 s, the Waveform to SqD and the sustain to -inf dB.

The TB-303 has two waveforms, a square and a sawtooth. Operator has both of these wave types. “Square D” and “Saw D” sound the best for this application.

Now, one last step in getting the operator to sound like the TB-303.

Click on the Operator’s Pitch Panel shown here:

Operator’s Pitch Panel.

Once you’ve done this, in the middle section of Operator, enable the Glide option.

Enable Glide to get a more accurate TB-303 sound.

If you play the clip, you should hear it starting to take shape.

3. Adding The Saturator And Mapping The Macro Controls

Now that we’ve got all of the basic settings programmed in the Operator, lets add some distortion, as well as macro knobs we can use to control the important parameters.

Start by adding Ableton’s Saturator to this track.

Next, the settings you want for the Saturator are as follows:

  1. Drive – Set this to around 12dB. You will be able to control this later on.
  2. Curve Type – Change this to “Soft Sine”.
  3. Soft Clip – Turn this setting on.
  4. Output – Change this to around -6dB to compensate for the excess volume from the drive.

At this point you should have a much fatter sound. All we need to do now is group the two devices and map them to some Macro controls.

Start by clicking on the Title Bar of both devices. Shift+Click to select them both. Once they’re both highlighted orange, you know you’ve done it right.

Right click on either of the Title Bars and select “Group” from the menu.

Grouping both devices will allow you to use the Macro controls.

Once the two devices are grouped. You can assign Macro controls by right clicking on the desired control and choosing any of the 8 “Map to Macro” options.

Mapping parameters to Macro Controls.

For this tutorial we’re going to map the Filter Frequency (Macro 1), the Filter Resonance (Macro 2), the Filter Envelope (Macro 3), and the Saturator Drive (Macro 4).

Next, enter Map Mode located on the Instrument Rack title bar.

We only need to change a one parameter in Ableton’s Instrument Rack Map Mode.

Locate your Macro Mappings window (it’s where your Live’s File Browser usually is) and change the Min Fe Amount from -100% to 0%.

That’s it! Now map your Macro controls to your favorite MIDI controller and have fun!

Here is my the result with some Filter and Resonance tweaking:

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6 Tips For More Efficient MIDI Note Editing

Here are a couple of tips and shortcuts you can use to make editing MIDI notes in Ableton Live more efficient.

Here are 6 tips to work more efficiently when editing MIDI Notes in Ableton Live’s Piano Roll view.



1. Double Click To Draw And Erase Notes

A few people overlook this one (including myself for awhile). In Live’s MIDI Editor instead of entering “Draw Mode”, double click to draw in notes in a desired area. Double click the note to erase it.

Double click to add and erase notes in Ableton’s MIDI editor.

2. Hold Shift+Up Or Down Arrow To Change Octaves

While your note(s) are selected, hold down the shift button and press the up or down arrow key will automatically shift an octave up (up arrow) or down (down arrow).

3. Select All Notes With Ctrl+A

Sometimes it can be hard to see note values if they are an octave or two higher. Rather than hunting every single down down, just hit Ctrl+A to select all the notes in Live’s MIDI editor. Use the above octave shifting tip in conjunction with this to change the octave of whole sequences.

Notes that aren’t even seen in the higher register are selected with Ctrl+A.

4. Use Ctrl+1 And Ctrl+2 For Grid Changes

If you’re set to a fixed grid, Ctrl+1 can shrink your Grid Snap all the way to the point of it being turned off. Live has the unbelievable ability to shrink the grid all the way to 16,384 notes per measure!

Use Ctrl+1 to shrink Your Grid lines. Check out the bottom right of the screen. 1/16,384 means 16,384 grid lines per measure.

Ctrl+2 will enlarge the Grid Snap to 512/1. Which is essentially one grid line every 512 measures. Once again, a ridiculous amount of grid control.

Ctrl+2 enlarges the amount of space between grid lines. The lowest it will go is 512/1 or 1 Grid Line every 512 measures.

5. Change Velocity By Holding Alt

Change the velocity of notes quickly by holding Alt while clicking on the note and either drag up or down with your mouse. This is a great way to quickly add a human feel to programmed MIDI notes.

Change MIDI Velocity data quickly by holding Alt, clicking and holding on the note and dragging up or down.

6. Quick Change To Triplet Mode With Ctrl+3

Great for changing your grid quickly back and forth between triplet and and standard grids. I like to program drums in fixed 1/16 or 1/8 grid mode, and mess with triplet options for some pretty interesting rhythmic patterns.


Have any tips you use to edit MIDI notes more efficiently in Ableton Live? Share them by leaving a comment below!

How To Get Ableton’s Drum Rack To Act Like An MPC

Enter the world of the famed MPC through Ableton’s Drum Rack. With this tutorial, you’ll be slicing samples like a ninja in no time.

The MPC is one of the most crucial pieces of gear in hip-hop production. The ability to load an audio sample, slice it to pieces, then re trigger the slices with 16 pads has become an art form. With Ableton Live’s Drum Rack, you can almost perfectly emulate this technique. Here’s how:



1. Drag And Drop The Sample

First, find a sample you’d like to flip, locate it in the file browser, and drag it into an Audio Track in Live’s Session View.

Dragging the file from Live’s browser into an Audio Track in Session View.

For this tutorial i’m going to be using a sample I found on the future producers forum. I have no idea who the artist is. All I know is that it’s a Japanese Soul group (probably from the 60’s or 70’s).

Here is what the song sounds like

Here is a link to the file.

2. Unwarp (If Auto Warp Is On)

Once you’ve dropped it into Live’s Session View, two things are going to happen.

If you have auto-warp turned on, Live is going to automatically try and determine the BPM of the sample. For this particular song, Live has figured about 150 BPM. A good try on Live’s part, but the sample is actually about half of that: 76 BPM.

Live’s Waveform Editor. Live does a good effort at setting warp markers, but we’re going to get the most control by setting them ourselves.

Live misread the tempo at double the speed.

So, under Live’s waveform editor, you un-warp the sample.

Warp On.

Warp Off.

Finally, after unwarping the track, it helps to move the start point in the wave form editor to the beginning of the song. Live’s auto warp had moved the start point forward.

The un warped start point set to the actual beginning of the song.

3. Find The BPM Manually

Time to find the tempo of the song. Like I said before, if you have your setting at auto warp, you’re looking at 150 BPM, if not, it should still read Live’s default (120 BPM).

To find the correct tempo of this file, we’re going to use Live’s tap tempo button.

Personally, I like to map Live’s tap tempo button to one of the keys on my MIDI controller (it beats clicking a mouse), just make sure you un map it after you’re done.

To do this Right click the tap tempo button and click “Edit MIDI Map”. Then double click the “Tap Tempo” button when it turns dark blue and press a key on your keyboard. Make sure you have the right control surface selected in your preferences.

It helps me to assign my tap tempo button to a key on my MIDI keyboard.

Now this next part takes practice. With your metronome off, trigger the song from the clip slot, and try to feel the count.

Don’t start counting until the first kick drum hit. It’s after the first couple (violin?) hits in the beginning.

Count 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 in time with each snare and kick. In this particular song you can hear it. The kick lands on the one, the snare on the 3 and so on. Follow the snare and kick.

The first kick drum hit is very important, start counting from here.

If your time keeping is decent, your tempo should read in the ball park of 76.

I got 75.50 BPM after counting along to a couple of measure, i’ll round up to 76.

Double click the tempo and type 76 into the BPM to now set the overall project to 76.

4. Start Adding Warp Markers

So, you’ve got the project set to 76 BPM, now is a good time to set some warp markers.

Remember that kick drum hit at the beginning of the song? This is a great place to set my starting warp point. I’ll do so by zooming in on the first kick hit and dragging my start marker as close to the beginning of the kick as possible.

The first kick is a good starting point for warping this track.

Now, right click on the start marker, and select “Warp From Here Straight”. This will give you a single starting warp marker without warping the rest of the track.

Now, drag your opening loop brace to the same position as your first warp marker (this should lock on now that a starting point is established.)

The first loop point is on the first kick of the song, a good start.

I mentioned I wanted this to be a 4 bar loop. Before we start warping this track, lets set up the loop braces. The opening brace is set perfectly on the opening kick hit, so lets finish the full 4 bars by clicking our loop button on and double clicking the loop length number below it and typing a 4 (bars), 0 (beats), 0 (sixteenths). It should look like this.

A 4 bar loop set up in Live’s Loop section.

Time to start setting the warp markers.

For this particular sample, i’m going to set a warp marker every kick and snare (remember the 1, 2, 3, 4?). To help us out we’re also going to enable our metronome, this will ensure tight timing.

Make sure Live’s metronome is enabled while warping, this will help with timing.

I personally prefer to not be locked to a grid while placing my warp markers, so I am going to set my grid to off by right clicking on the top part of my waveform and choosing “Off” under the “Adaptive Grid” section.

I prefer the freedom of no grid when placing warp markers.

Time to start warping. Lets place the next warp marker on the second beat of this loop, which is the first snare hit.

Start by finding the first snare transient, it’s a little bit ahead of the 1.2 on the beat ruler. Double click as close to the beginning of the snare as you can to set your second warp marker.

The second warp marker is set, but we still need to line it up with the second beat of this bar.

Click on the green part of the warp marker you just set, and drag it so it lines up right underneath the 1.2 on the beat ruler.

Optional: You can turn the grid back on to get it to land exactly on the 1.2, this may take away from the “human feel”.

The snare is now lined up with the 2nd beat of this bar, it’s pretty simple after this point.

At this point you’re going to repeat the same process for every kick and snare. Kick on 1.3, snare on 1.4, kick on 2, etc.

Here is a video of me warping the whole loop.

5. Slicing The Sample To 16 MIDI Notes

Our last step is to cut the sample into 16 slices that can be triggered from our MIDI device.

Start by right clicking the clip slot where the sample is located and choosing “Slice To New MIDI Track”

Slicing the audio file to a new MIDI track, your first step to MPC nirvana.

You will be presented with an options screen at this point. Choose “Create one slice: Per Warp Marker” and use the “Built in 0-Vel” slicing preset.

These options most resemble an MPC.

Hit okay and Live will automatically slice your track at the warp markers, ready to be played.

There are just a few more options left.

Once your track gets sliced, Live will open the new track in Ableton’s Drum rack. To really get the MPC feel, you’ll want to set the release at it’s fullest.

Setting the release all the way up in Ableton’s newly created Drum Rack.

Next open the chain list on the drum rack. The button is on the left side and looks like this:

After the chain list is open navigate down a little bit further to the I/O section of the menu that just appeared. It looks like this:

Your drum rack should now look something like this:

Our next step is to edit the choke settings of our recently opened I/O section of our drum rack. We’re going to set the choke to 1 on each channel. This emulates the choke action of an MPC. (One slice kills the other slices audio).

Setting the choke to 1 allows one slice to “kill” another slice.

Once you’ve set all of the channels in the choke section to 1. Try firing off a few of the slices with your MIDI controller. Pretty close to an MPC, isn’t it?


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