Propellerhead Automation Clip Toolbox

James from Propellerheads shows us another workhorse tip in his latest 52 Reason / Record Tips. These prefab clips with automation data are great time savers.

“Whenever I’m working on music, one thing that I’ve had in my personal bag of tricks is an “automation clip toolbox.” Basically, it’s a palette of controller data curves and waveforms which can be applied to automation lanes like level, pan, filter cutoff, etc. Thanks to the new “stretch clip to tempo” function (Option+Drag for Mac or Control+Drag for Windows) I can resize these automation clips to whatever speed I want. This week I’m giving this toolbox away and showing you how to use it. These clips will breathe new life into an otherwise static pad or provide the creative spark for a new idea entirely. Enjoy!” – James Bernard

File download:

For more info:

Easy Ableton Live Send FX Fills


I’ve been working on an original song to be on a compilation being put together by Andy DeDecker. Andy is one of the members of the Belgian EBM group Ionic Vision. The compilation is original unreleased material and each song has to be sex related. In my normal workflow or “workslow” as I call it I create hundreds of different fills with different effects on each fill. This keeps what can be a monotonous electronic track amazingly dynamic and interesting. However, sometimes I want to work quickly and have a consistent sounding fill throughout the entire song. I create a chain of effects on a Return Channel and then increase/decrease it’s volume along the timeline of the song in Arrangement View. As you can see in the case above where ever the Red Arrows peak Ableton shoots Reverb, Delay and Distortion over the Drums Channel. The fill/effect won’t sound the exactly the same each time it fires because you are drawing little peaks in slightly different places.

Blow the Kiss (demo) -The Horrorist by thingstocome

If you use a delay plug-in the difference where your peak is placed makes a dramatic difference in the timing delays you will hear. If at anytime you want to add a new peak of effects (our “fill”) and the Breakpoint Envelope for your Return Channel is not showing simply click the small Send Box (top right Blue Arrow) to make it pop up. Easy, instant, changing Ableton Live Send FX Fills.

For more Ableton Live tips and tricks: click here

My Implant and Satronica remixes are finished.

I am finally free of all obligations other than to finish my next album. It’s a good feeling especially because these last two remixes had me pulling my hair out. Satronica’s remix for a song called Shout will end up on Lenny Dee’s Industrial Strength Records. Originally he sent me a song called Revenge Plan but after remixing it twice and still not being happy with the end result I told him to send me something different. This brings up a point: Trash the stuff that you do that’s not great! There is a mountain of average crap out there. I spent a week remixing Revenge Plan and I put those files in my trash and emptied it twice! If I don’t love the remix I’m not going to torture the rest of you with it.

For the song “Shout” Matt (Satronica) only sent me vocals. The biggest nicety in this remix is the automated TC Powercore Chorus/Delay plug-in on his voice. As you can see in the faded orange circle above I spent a good amount of time tweaking the envelope breakpoints to catch certain syllables he was screaming and have them shoot off motion wise in different ways. When the Chorus is tight is has a modern Hip Hop vocal sound. I also like what I was able to to at the breaks using Effectix. Using only the Loop parameter I was able to make it seem like the song is slowing down and breaking up. What else? Ah yes, I like the 80s tom fills but those are standard in almost any song I do these days. Take a listen:

I decided to have my Italian pianist friend Gabri help me with my remix for Belgian band Implant. Their song “We Are Noise” was a simple but effective electro verse chorus type of diddy. I wanted to make it a bit darker so Gabri took their somewhat simple melodies and expanded them using several tracks and different synths. Gabri always picked his favorite VST ReFX Vanguard (Gabri is also a trance producer :)).

After Gabri left Berlin I spent a good amount of time taking each new synth line and dumping tons of effects on them. With today’s CPU power I like to add one 4-5 things to each channel and just let me ears pick out the tasty colors. For example I added Izotope’s Trash and Fabfilter’s Volcano 2 to several of the synth lines. A great thing about Volcano is it’s ability to generate internal feedback. You can hear it rolling along semi-randomly in several sections. The drums are from my new and beloved Vermona DRM-1 MKIII. Lastly, I used Simpler quite a bit on the some vocal parts automating the start and loop times. Take a listen:

Thanks as always for taking a listen. I wish I could put the full songs up here but I don’t have the rights. Now it’s time for my own tunes!

Use multiple automation lanes in Ableton Live.

When using Ableton Live do you use multiple automation lanes per track? No? Well you should because it gives you a clear overall image of every automated parameter. It also allows for super fast envelope curve copy/pasting.

In the screenshot above (click it to view full size) I have some vocals recorded on Track One. Next, I added Ableton’s Reverb and Beat Repeat plug-ins. I am automating three parameters: Reverb Dry/Wet, Reverb Freeze On/Off and the Beat Repeat’s Grid Value. Before Live 7 when multiple automation lane’s were not available there would be no way to see all the automation at the same time. You would have to click the Device Chooser (top red arrow) to pick an inserted plug-in then click the Control Chooser (other red arrow)  it to pick the automated parameter’s envelope to view or edit it. This was a tedious process if you were editing multiple automation envelopes. Today all you need to do it click the small “+” next to any automation envelope (blue arrow) to open it in it’s own lane.

Each automated parameter can be shown in its own automation lane. Automation lanes can be reordered via drag and drop. –

The best reason to expand your automation into seperate lanes beyond the main track is you can copy and paste without accidental grabbing the track audio too. The faded blue circle shows how I simply copy/pasted a dive in Beat Repeat’s Grid Value a using Command-C and Command-V. Now you can go beserk with automation!

Vocal manipulation with Ableton Simplers.

Vocal manipulation with Ableton Simplers. from wiretotheear on Vimeo.

There are thousands of ways to mangle audio in weird and wild sound. Here’s a screencast of a trick I sometimes put to work. Here is the end result (4 samples are loaded in this player):

Here is the original sample I used:

The technique uses multiple Ableton Simplers in a Device Group. If your an Ableton wizard you will know this stuff  but if your not a regular user of Simpler and Macros you will learn something.

Sample credit: Incarnadine

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.