The fast way to edit automation in Ableton Live.

Sometimes its good watch someone else work because you can pick up interesting habits they use. About a year ago I was watching Miro Pajic produce a track on his laptop. He was new to Ableton Live but was doing something I never thought of and it’s a killer tip. Here it is:

While in Arrangement view clicking on Mixer or Ableton Device controls brings up their associated automation envelopes.

So what does that mean? Here’s an example: If you working on a song and want to edit the volume envelope of say the third audio track normally you would go to that track, select the The Automation Device chooser drop down menu and pick “Mixer”, then select the The Automation Control chooser and choose “Volume”. Then the pink Automation lane representing the Volume for that song would pop up.

Here’s the easy way: Click on the small orange rectangle with the Volume level number in it one time. Bam! Instantly the automation envelope for volume pops up.

Big deal? Now go and click on anything in any of the Ableton devices. Sample start in Simpler… 1 click on it and you have the automation lane in front of you! No need to dig through menus to find the parameter your looking for. Click the on/off button on an Ableton Reverb. Bam! (eek I sound like Emril) The automation envelope pops up allowing you to control the on/off of the Reverb in the time line.

Often, when working with Live’s mixer and devices, you will want the controls’ movements to become part of the music. The movement of a control across the song timeline is called automation; a control whose value changes in the course of this timeline is automated. Practically all mixer and device controls in Live can be automated, including the song tempo. – Ableton Live User Manual

Unfortunately this only works for Ableton’s stuff. Third party plug-in parameters still need to be hunted down. I really hope Ableton figures out a way to make this feature system wide as it’s a huge time saver. Using the one click method I can work really fast making tons of minor adjustments on timeline automation envelopes.

Miro Pajic plays Jam Sessions in my studio.

Miro Pajic who records under the name Hypnotizer for my label was in my studio today. I hooked up my Nintendo DS and let him rock out with Jam Sessions for a while. To make it sound even better I ran it through Izotope’s incredible Trash plug-in.

Miro is a legend in the techno scene with over 80 releases, many on the infamous PCP label and these days on Klikhaus. Check him out here:

Come into my studio and see my Roland SH3.

I’ve been stuck in the studio catching up on several remixes and songs for my next album. I would never forget about my blog readers so while I was there today I shot three videos of my Roland SH3 in action.

The Roland SH3 was produced in 1974. It is more rare than the SH3A which was put into the market after Moog sued Roland for the original SH3’s filter design. This is one reason the Roland SH3 sounds so incredible. Rumor has it that less than 100 of these were ever made.

You can hear pure Roland SH3 accompanied by an Electrocomp-101 in two of my songs: Room of Posers and Sex Machine.

Be sure to check out the other two Roland SH3 videos I put up here:

Two quick and great Ableton Live File Browser Tips.

Here are two tips to help you become an Ableton Live power user. These are simple things I do while making music with Live that cut down the time between inspiration and perspiration. The Ableton Live file browser is very friendly. You can preview audio clips at the same tempo of your project. You can double click or drag and drop effects from and to the browser. In fact, Live has three File Browsers which is a really nice touch. Here are two tips:

Tip 1. Double clicking the icons for the Live Device Browser, Plug-In Device Browser or File Browsers take you to the root of each folder. Here’s an example: Your deep in the middle of a long project and you have been pulling Audio Units and VSTs from the Plug-In Browser for a few hours. You know you want to use the Audio Units version of the TimewArp 2600 (it’s more stable than the VST) but when you glance at the File Browser it shows the inside of your VST Powercore folder. The quickest way to the AU version of the TimewARP is to double click the Plug-In Device Browser Icon and then you will see the Audio Units folder root. This is easier than backing your way out of the VST folder and then back into the AU folder. This may seem trivial but if you doing it 100 times a day…

Tip 2. You can bookmark folders inside the Ableton Live File Browsers. Click on any of the three File Browsers and look at the top bar to the left of the search icon. See a little down facing arrow? Click it and a drop down menu of preselected shortcuts appears. The most important one to me usually is “Current Project”. Why would I use it? Anything I already recorded even if it’s no longer in Session View or in the Arrangement will appear here. I also make a folder inside Current Project called Renders which I then fill with multiple takes of fills or ideas. From there I can drag out and test which one works the best. As far as bookmarks take a look at the screenshot above. I have my song folder and sounds folder bookmarked… cool no?

The Bookmark menu lists a number of preset bookmarks such as Desktop and Library. Selecting the latter will bring you to the Live Library. To bookmark the current Browser root, choose the Bookmark menu’s topmost item, the Bookmark Current Folder command. Note that if the current Browser root is already bookmarked, the topmost option in the Bookmark menu will remove the bookmark. All File Browsers share the same set of bookmarks; a bookmark stored in one Browser can be accessed from another. – Ableton Live User Manual

I find the faster I get to a finished arrangement the better the song usually is. It has to come from a inspired or “live” feeling. Each computer barrier you hit is a thought in your head other than the final piece of music your trying to create. Learning keyboard shortcuts and using tips like these helps avoid a folder of incomplete songs!

Hard drive stolen right out of computer during set.

I was just checking out this post on the Brooklyn Vegan blog about a gig Matthew Dear had last week. Apparently he was playing at Galapagos, a club/art space in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) and someone pulled the cable out connecting his external hard disc and ran with the drive. Of course his set crashed and the gig was over.

Matthew, who was celebrating his birthday yesterday, had been playing a killer set for 2 hours or so. Suddenly he got a message on his computer saying that his hard disk drive was unplugged… The music stopped, he checked and found out that the drive was actually missing… basically someone STOLE his hard drive in the middle of his set and ruined the all show!!! –

There is also a long thread over at the Ableton Live forum about it. You can find lots of colorful comments including the expected “he was spinning MP3’s he deserved it”. A more useful comment I found from Ableton forum from member “hambone1” was that he should have had a Kensington Lock. Agreed! Check out the thread: here

I have all my music equipment insured even when it’s on the road. I also state in my booking contract that the organization is responsible for security and any losses I incur. I usually ask whomever I put on the guestlist to keep a watch out for me (yes I am paranoid). My old music studio was just a few minutes from Galapagos. Williamsburg is an increasing great place but as the rents rise people of lesser means are pushed out. I always though this caused a clash especially when you throw drinking, drug dealing and nightlife into the mix.

photo credit: 100five

Matthew Davidson’s free Total Harmonic Distortion

The artist known as Stretta aka Matthew Davidson has released a free 3GB sound library. He works with Wendy Carlos and is a regular music contributor to NPR (public radio). He also make a living as a graphic designer.

The sound library was created using his modular synth, a Dave Smith Evolver, Waldorf Microwave and Roland R8 drum machine. The sounds are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. This means your free to use them in your work as long as you state where the samples came from.

Fragments of the Total Harmonic Distortion sample library have popped up in various places, like the recent OLPC Sample Library Set… This stuff isn’t doing anyone any good sitting on my hard drive. I’d like to make it available to the public. –

You can download the library from The direct link is:

via synthtopia

Give away free stickers and rock buttons at shows!

Stickers and rock buttons are seriously important for any band to have. These are the classic promotional items because they are cheap to make and when displayed promote your name. What’s more important to you: The latest X-Box game or 250 4.25″ square stickers to give away? Both will run you about $60.

I like to keep my my stickers and rock buttons black with white printing. Besides keeping the cost low it stands out the most.

For rock buttons (or pins as I like to call them) I use the popular The size you want is 1 inch. At least thats the standard size you see on every punk rockers jacket. 250 pins will cost you $65 and you can have 2 designs in that bunch. For $115 you can have 500 pins and 3 designs. For the rock buttons color doesn’t cost more. You can also add your website URL or slogan printed along the edge of the pin at no extra charge.

You can also make your own rock buttons. You need to buy a button making machine and the button parts. Check out for everything you need to know.

When it comes to stickers your going to want to check out I discovered them when watching the video below by a guy named “Brian Botkiller“. You want stickers that are each on a separate cut. If you get them on a roll you will have to cut each sticker from the roll. This doesn’t really work in practice (I’ve tried it). You think to yourself I’ll just cut them in advance but stickers cut from a roll are bent and don’t hold their shape in a stack… it’s messy. Luckily stickerguy is so freakin inexpensive you can afford their cut stickers. Orders from stickerguy take up to 8 weeks so order well in advance of when you need them.

With both and you upload your designs via a web interface. They offer templates for Photoshop and Illustrator you can download.

The best time to hand out your free gifts is during any low in your live set. In between songs or any long breakdown. If you have any technical problems hand stuff out to buy some love! Remember to keep a few extra giveaways for the promoter and any nice looking ladies that you meet after the show.

By the way both the places I mention in this post are in the USA. If anyone knows any rock bottom cheap places to manufacture this stuff in Berlin please let me know in the comments.

photo credit: phil dokas and brianjacobsen

Wire to the Ear upgraded to WordPress 2.5

I’ve been very pleased with the amount of readers that are coming to this blog each day. In fact so many of you are showing up that several times my ISP/server took the site down. One way around this is to install a WordPress plug-in called WP-Cache. I’ve been putting off installing it because I knew a major new version of WordPress was about to be released. Well WordPress did get it’s new update (2.5) about two weeks ago and I let the dust settle and tonight upgraded. As far as I can tell you as a reader can not notice any difference. I however see tons of changes in the admin and post writing area. Over the weekend I will install WP-cache.

So what about some changes for you? First off some of the advertising on this site will change. I never decided to blog for money but I was really curious to see if any cash could be made. You will notice some changes in that area as I tweak things, get rid of crap that isn’t paying. I really do appreciate anyone who clicks a link here and then buys something from a sponsor or affiliate link. It pays for my hosting and buys me the coffee needed to type away each morning. As far as real content I want to add more video features. There is an amazing new piece of screencast software for the Mac called ScreenFlow I am going to start using. The video presentations should be a bit more snazzy. I also think it’s time I get my mug in front of the screen and talk to you face to face. I’m a little hestitant but so far everything here has been really cool. And of course I can always delete any bad comments (haha)! I think I need to buy a new light and maybe a greenscreen.

So this test post and update to seemed to work. Thanks for your continued visits. More electronic sequencer analog digital bleep drone data on the way!

Three wicked Ableton Live Beat Repeat presets.

In the Nitzer Ebb song Let Your Body Learn one of the lyrics is “The Music of Drums!”. I always liked that line and concept. You can make great songs with just a drum machine and a few effect boxes. I often make songs by creating sounds solely from effects. Ableton Live’s Beat Repeat plug-in can take any audio and spew it into something wild and worthy. Here are three presets I created for Beat Repeat that you may like too:

Lazer Station
Lazer Station - Beat Repeat preset

Four Four Echo
Four Four Echo - Beat Repeat preset

EBM Sequencer
EBM Sequencer - Beat Repeat preset

I like to automate the Mix/Insert/Gate options. Don’t forget to adjust the filter and pitch decay to your liking.

Download the presets: click here

Thoughts and photos from the Tenori-on Berlin event.

Toshio Iwai in Berlin

Last night I went to the infamous and quite beautiful nightclub Berghain in Berlin to see the Tenori-on launch event. I’ve been highly interested in the Tenori-on since I first read about it almost a year ago. The device is right up my alley: a sequencer, white leds, and it’s made for live performance. So what did I think when I finally got to see it in person?

When I walked into Berghain they had kiosks hooked up with several Tenori-on in BerlinTenori-on available to use. Right away I was shocked at how bright the white leds bling out at you. You instantly get that “wow this is futuristic” feeling.

Upstairs in the main room it was crowded as I suspected it would be. I mean come on this is Berlin where even the women are sequencer freaks! Lots of people wearing Ableton shirts and the stage had four Macbooks ready to accompany the Tenoris. This was my kind of geekfest!

We heard three live acts before the inventor of the Tenori, Toshio Iwai would talk. The first two acts were ho hum. I was mesmerized by the Tenori but the music and technique of the first performers was not interesting. The third act Sutekh from San Fransisco blew me away! I never really heard of this guy before but most of my friends did. He played all noise and he had the Tenoris led display going crazy. It was quite evil and machine like. I cant explain what he was doing but the Tenori-on’s display reminded me of the scene in 2001 A Space Odyssey when they travel through the worm hole. Inside the visuals he was doing two things at once and they seemed to be going at different speeds. I even think he played a game of pong! Without the visual aspect would I have like the music so much?

Finally it was time for Tenori Toshio to speak. He gave a really incredible powerpoint style talk. He detailed how he got the idea to create the Tenori-on. He showed the early software he programmed, including a game that was never released for the Super Nintendo system. He showed his art installations all which had elements of the Tenori-on. Finally he took us by video to Yamaha and the factory where the Tenori-on is created. He ended with a video of a robot who polishes the metal on the Tenori. I was laughing pretty hard when I realized the robot was talking to itself as it finished tasks.

Tenori-on Concepts

There was a full night of performances after Toshio Iwai spoke. I will have some interviews from some of those artists on Wire to the Ear soon. You will find it pretty interesting how they were invited to perform for this tour and what they received as payment!

To see the full set of photos from this event: click here