How To Create Transitions For Your Songs In Ableton Live

by Ryan

  • File Under: Tutorials
  • |

Usually associated with bridging a verse to a chorus or introducing a bridge, transitions are a staple of most modern electronic music. Here are a couple of transition techniques for Ableton Live to help you bridge the gap.

The Reverse Cymbal

Simple, yet effective, the reverse cymbal effect is a great way to quickly introduce a breakdown.

1.) Grab a sample of a crash cymbal with a fairly long decay.

2.) Drop it into Ableton’s Arrangement View.

3.) Click the sample once and open the clip waveform view.

4.) Under the sample section click the “Rev.” button.

5.) If your cymbal has enough decay, the build should last for about 1 measure.

6.) Make sure it buttes right up theto end of the measure before the breakdown.

7.) Add Reverb to taste.


The Reverse Vocal Swell

Reverse vocals swells are not only great for transitioning to certain a chorus or a breakdown, but also very effective at leading into vocals.

1.) Start an audio track underneath your vocal or acapella track in Arrangement View.

2.) Select a small snippet (usually 1 bar will do) from the vocals and copy it (Ctrl+Drag) into the newly created audio track.

3.) Add a Reverb to the audio track with the copied vocal snippet.

4.) Crank the reverb decay up to about 6-7 seconds.

5.) Start one more audio track (3 total, including the original), and set it’s audio source to the track with the 1 bar audio snippet and Reverb.

6.) Arm the new empty audio track and record the reverb/snippet vocal. Make sure to let the entire reverb tail fade.

7.) You can delete the snippet track, but keep the newly recorded version.

8.) Click on the newly recorded part and reverse it using step 4 in the “Reverse Cymbal” section above.

9.) Place it right against the main vocal melody and fine tune the end of the swell with volume automation and cropping.


The Machine Gun Snare Roll

This technique is used a lot in Trance, where build ups can be (what seems like) hundreds of measures long. I’ll show you the beginnings of how to do a short snare roll.

1.) Find a sample semi-realistic snare drum with a fast attack and a short decay.

2.) Load it into a MIDI track with drum rack. Be sure to click show/hide devices and turn the release all the way up, and the velocity to 100%.

3.) Create an 8 measure MIDI clip on this track, and set your drum grid to 1/32.

4.) Program one 32nd note at full velocity, and the second at about 70 – 80.

5.) Copy and paste all of the notes to fill the 8 bar loop.

6.) Use the volume automation (on the mixer, not drum rack’s) to slowly build the snare roll in.

7.) Optional: Introduce claps every 2 and 4 of the beat.


The “Swoosh” Transition

A very simply transition that can be easily achieved with white noise and a low pass filter.

1. Load a copy of Analog or Operator (or any other synthesizer that can generate white noise).

2. Select the 1st oscillator to generate white noise.

3. Record a fairly long note (4 measures for this example).

4. Start the low pass filter at about 600 – 800hz and slowly open it until it is maxed out. Use automation, or record your own filter sweep.

5. Edit to taste with Reverb, volume automation or even delay.


I hope these simple, yet effective techniques have given you some good starting points for creating your own transitions in your electronic music. And don’t be afraid to get creative, it’s half the fun!

18 Responses to “How To Create Transitions For Your Songs In Ableton Live”

  1. DU2X Says:

    May 14th, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    thanks for the tips! i always wondered exactly how the reverse vocal swell was done. also, that bass drop for the last example was crazy! [oh and the audio for the snare roll isn’t loading for me, the link might be broken?] thanks again!

  2. Ryan Says:

    May 14th, 2010 at 10:41 pm


    thanks for the kind words! the link has now been fixed 🙂


  3. mr. tunes Says:

    May 16th, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    you covered pretty much all the essentials here. well done!

  4. Dan Says:

    June 26th, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Thanks for the tips. The swoosh transition was what I was keen on learning and this was very helpful.

    Also, the track you transitioned to in the last clip with the deep bass, could you share the name? Sounds like a choon.

  5. FRV Says:

    July 16th, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    That’s nice!

    I wonder now how make big eletronic crashes after the sweeps, like boommm, baaaaaannnggg

  6. Ben Says:

    July 30th, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    add a simple techno pitch build and then it will be done 😉

  7. Pita Says:

    September 21st, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Nice job, btw what did you use for that crazy bassline you drop in the examples? so sick

  8. chris Says:

    September 22nd, 2010 at 7:10 am

    can you please post video tutorials on all this stuff

  9. jim Says:

    January 31st, 2011 at 9:39 am


  10. Drevnir Says:

    April 29th, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Sick tutorials, and website overall !!! How did you do that bassline in those audio examples if you don’t mind me asking!

  11. tan Says:

    May 31st, 2011 at 5:18 am

    Thank you so much, this site is sic!!!

  12. Henry Says:

    June 27th, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Came to ask the same thing as pita, how did you make that sick bass synth? If anyone knows how: h*d*s*2*7*2 at gmail dot com [remove stars added for spambots…..]

  13. FeatheR Says:

    August 17th, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Dude, you’re awesome! Thank You, this tutorial just made my track sound a lot better. All love!

  14. John Says:

    August 20th, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Hey thanks so much for doing this. You taught me alot,


  15. soundcloud promotion Says:

    August 30th, 2011 at 6:24 am

    Good Stuff:) We love electronic music and we love to promote it so we wonder if we can publish some of your news on one of ours blog about electronic music. Let us now:)

  16. Darren Says:

    September 4th, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Thanks for explaining everything so clearly. One question, if I have a piece of a vocal that I wanna loop to infinity (I evolve it into being a riff), how can I do it? And also, how to utilise it so that I can send it to a keyboard and play this small segment on different parts of the keyboard.

    Many Thanks


  17. robert Says:

    October 6th, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    freaking amazing. bookmarking this site, I HATE VIDEOS AND THIS HELPS ME SO MUCH

  18. Vios Says:

    July 17th, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Loved it!

    Here are some more ideas that I’ve used:

    Sweeps, Whooshes, Builds – 3 Ways to make them

    Ideas for Breakdowns and Buildups (1 Hour!)


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