Here’s a few small Ableton Live tips I use all the time. When in Session View you can click on the small left facing arrow on any mixer channel and move it up or down using the Arrow keys. This is a great way to fine tune the volume of a Channel. If you hold Shift down while pushing the up or down Arrow Key the volume will jump negative or positive 3.12db. If you want to return any Fader to 0db simply click once on the small left facing triangle and hit the Delete key. Lastly, if you hold down Control and click the Left or Right arrows you will move to the next Left or Right Channel Fader.
Remember you can find all the Ableton Live keyboard shortcuts in Chapter 28 of the user manual. Happy music making!
Bjorn Vayner has a great collection of Ableton tips and tricks on Vimeo. Today he shows us two little tips that we may have overlooked. First he selects multiple tracks and resizes them (hold ALT). Next, Bjorn reminds us that holding SHIFT and Spacebar will play your song from it’s last stopped position.
Last Friday morning at around 7:00AM before I left for work I was checking email on my Macbook Pro. I shut the lid but then realized I forgot to check the weather so I quickly lifted the screen open again. The screen didn’t come back on which does happen sometimes if you open and close the thing too quickly. This time however I realized how late it was getting so instead of closing the lid, waiting for the computer to properly go to sleep and open it again I just shut it again and ran out. About nine hours later I came home and opened the computer. The screen was still black and the computer was very hot. I held the power button down for a few seconds to force the machine off. I waited a bit and turned it back on. Unfortunately I couldn’t get it wake up. I tried a few different things as recommended at Apple.com/support but nothing worked. Since I own an iPhone I didn’t really freak out too much because I knew I could check email if I had to leave my computer for a few days for repair. I went to the local Apple store and met with someone at the Genius Bar. In fact, because this specific Apple store (Palisades, NY) was about to be renovated they would ship my computer to Apple and then have Apple ship it direct to me when it’s repaired. I have AppleCare so hey all in all not a big deal.
Well… Monday rolls around and I’m at work at my partner Charlie O’ Donnell asks me if I am still making music in my free time. I tell him of course and then something horrible dawned on me. I’m booked to playing two shows in Europe this coming weekend and I have no computer! I know Apple is pretty quick with repairs but I started to sweat. As soon as I got home I checked the online repair status and it didn’t even show up in their system. I called Apple and they told me they just received the computer and the system would update itself shortly.
I decided I needed a backup plan just in case my computer doesn’t arrive in time. Luckily I have a friend Leslie who doesn’t need her computer as much as a supergeek like yours truly. She lent me her white Macbook which has a Firewire port (phew!) ready for my M-Audio Firewire 410. I created a user account for myself and plugged in my Time Machine backup drive. I didn’t know what to expect because I never had to go to this drive before. I was very happily surprised to see that you can simply click and open folders on the drive just as if it were a clone of my machine. I grabbed my Ableton live show files (and videos), downloaded M-Audio drivers and Ableton Live 8. Everything loaded up without a glitch! Win one for Apple.
So without any disaster looming I decided to call Apple and just see if there was any chance my own computer would arrive on time. I didn’t have to wait at all when calling the support line and spoke to a very friendly employee. He told me the computer was still in the process of being repaired. I told him I had a flight to Europe and it would be great if I had my own computer with me. I blabbed a bit about how I’d be onstage in Amsterdam and Barcelona and I really didn’t want to scratch up Leslie’s nice new Macbook. He put me on hold for a minute and told me he expedited the process and asked me to look at the online repair status. To my happy shock it said the computer would arrive by FedEx before 10:30AM this morning. I know it would have been a better scenario if my computer didn’t break in the first place but Apple deserves a pat on the back for making it so easy to grab files from a Time Machine backup drive and for superb service.
I’ve mentioned before that the all time best record with scratching on it is Reckless by Ice-T: click here to listen. I’ve worked scratching into my own music a few times. Sometimes I ask my friend Matt (Satronica) who knows his “wheels of steel” quite well to send me something specific. There are a few scratch plug-ins that are just “ok”. Usually they are cool for some effect but nothing authentic. I like the video above both for it’s sound (not so far off base) and the fact that I can whip it out on a whim now since it’s all done with native Live devices.
Video showing how to emulate a scratch Like effect in Ableton Live 8 using the new delay Modes in the Ping Pong Delay. This is not meant to replace vinyl nor will it produce a totally authentic sounding scratch sound, but it is a Ableton Live only solution and is a nice add on to your effects arsenal. You can download the template: click here You will need Live 8 or later to open it. – DubSpot
Have you ever worked scratching into your songs? Is there a go to plug-in you like?
If you have an iPhone and don’t already own iTM Pad this video will probably make you jump to the iTunes store to grab it. I wish I didn’t sweat so much on stage (see: here) otherwise I would be using this live.
“I was on the iTunes App Store looking at iTouchMidi Pad by Silicon Studios, and reading the few-but-strong reviews, I bought it. It was mere moments afterward that I was firing up drum loops in Ableton Live, having a lot of fun mapping iTM Pad to various settings and mangling sounds. The logical conclusion, since clear demos of things like this can be hard to come by, was to make a video review.” – Torley
Torley’s blog is filled with the kind of tech geek content I like (WordPress, social media, Ableton) so if that’s your thing check him out: torley.com
I think it’s very important in electronic music to be extra wary of letting any part repeat without any change for too long. I like to add little variations all over my music. There are thousands of ways to make mini-breakdowns and fills interesting. Here’s a technique I use from time to time that involves hihats and Ableton’s Random plug-in. You can click the image above to enlarge it.
This is a fairly simple trick. In this example, I open a Drum Rack and load in a set of Sequential Circuits Drumtraks samples. You can get the same sample pack free from: http://samples.kb6.de. Next, I click on the Show/Hide Chain List icon to reveal all the samples being used and click/highlight the closed hat. I also click the Show/Hide Devices icon which reveals the closed hat’s waveform. I grab an instance of the Ableton Random plug-in and drag it in-between the waveform and the Drum Rack module. Inside the Random plug-in I set the Chance parameter to 93%, Choices to 12 and the Scale to 1.
Now whenever I want to add a little spice to a fill I drop out the kick, change a few snares, add some more HiHats and automate the Random plug-in to turn ON. Here’s an audio example. Listen to bar 4 and 8:
You can have the Random plug-in effect many different elements including filters, pans, and note lengths. If you keep the Chance Parameter set low you can add a subtle unique mark on your music.
Here’s an easy technique that I use often to add tension to a chorus. I create an instance of the Impulse drum module in Ableton Live and load in a kit. In this example I am using a free kit called “Cassette 808″ which is available for download at goldbaby.co.nz. Next, I create a my drum pattern. Inside Impulse I adjust the individual drum volumes, pannings and filters for each of the samples. I then dial back the Time parameter to -38%. The Time parameter affects all the samples inside Impulse at once. Cutting back the overall Time percent makes each drum each shorter and tighter. I like to keep my drums tight like this during the verses of my songs. I then automate the Time parameter to +30% when the chorus hits. This adds a sense of excitement and power to the chorus. You could use this method instead or in addition to adding rides or open hihats to a chorus (which creates a similar feeling). It’s also a good idea to automate the Time parameter further at key points in your arrangement. For example, if you want to focus on the last word of a verse try dialing the Time parameter to -90% for just a few syllables.
“The Time control governs the time-stretching and decay of all samples, allowing you to morph between short and stretched drum sounds.” – Ableton Live User Manual
Don’t stop playing with the Time knob there. Try duplicating your drum channel by hitting COMMAND-D. Now Pan your duplicated channel all the way left or right and turn the Time parameter to +100%. Cut the bass out of your new channel and you have a nice new color poking at your listeners ear. You could keep your new fully Time lengthened channel Panned Center and throw an Autopan plug-in on it. Why not also add a flanger or distortion? It’s great fun duplicating and adding effects to channels.
Here is an audio example:
Are you using time stretching as a songwriting element?
Here’s a great idea worth mentioning. I received an email this morning letting me know “AbletonTweets” was following me on Twitter. With a name like that I had to click over and see what they tweet about. Happily it’s “Unofficial Ableton Tips and Updates”. So like peanut butter and chocolate, Ableton and Twitter go great together so why not follow too: http://twitter.com/AbletonTweets