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.
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.
It’s 90F/30° in Berlin today (hot!) so instead of my normal routine of office work in the morning and then afternoon in the studio I had to reverse things. The only cool time on days like this is early so as soon as I got up I walked over. I’m recording vocals for an artist group from Milan, Italy called Biokip (www.biokip.com). They are a fashion label, a group of visual artists with a gallery and an electrohouse team.
I was wondering if other people who use Ableton Live record vocals in a similar way as I do. See the screenshot above? You can click it to view it full size. What I have here is a very basic drum beat and two simple melodies for the verse and chorus. I set up a scene for each and leave a bunch of empty clip slots in between them (vertically) so I can record a bunch of takes. I usually record 2-4 takes per verse. The blue arrows are pointing to the takes, white arrows are on the scenes. If I’m feeling crazy I will label them Verse 1-1, Verse 1-2, Verse 2-1, etc… More importantly I leave a blank clip slot between each verse.
After I have my takes I then switch over to Arrangement View, duplicate the Vocal channel three times, comp the vocals (take the best bits from each take) and then consolidate all the perfect bits by hitting Command-J.
So what else can I note here? Well, I usually record vocals right after I get the basic melody and drums. First off, your CPU is happy there isn’t much going on so you can knock down the CPU latency to 96ms while you monitor yourself singing. I also find it best to work out the melody and voice in a pure or simple state. If you get too far into a song and then try and add vocals there’s a chance they may just not work. Lastly, in case your wondering 90% of what I keep comes from the first verses I record. I guess I’m best when I’m not thinking too much.
I remember Cubase had some nice comping methods. I also know in Live you can record multiple takes in one shot and then slide the start flag in Clip View around but I still like seeing my takes separate.
Here’s a quick tip that may save you a few thousand mouseclicks over a year period. This will work for any folder you use often. Since we are musicians let’s focus on our song and sounds folders.
Drop those into your Mac’s finder window under “Places”. This maybe obvious but if your not already doing it give it a try and see how useful it is. I like to keep all my most used folders alphabetized. If I am working on a massive project which I know I will need fast access to for a few days Ill drop it in the Places area temporarily. This gets really useful when your inside Open/Save dialog boxes or dragging things in and out of folders from your desktop.
Remember the better your workflow the less time it will take you to get from idea to composition.
There is a small utility application that I can’t live without. It’s from Ambrosia Software and it’s called WireTap Studio. It sits direct center in my dock next to my Ableton Live icon.
It’s purpose? To record any sound my Mac makes. It can record audio coming from the entire Mac or any specific application. After you record some audio it has a nice looking edit window to fine tune your selection. While editing your recorded audio WireTap Studio gives you some nice fade curve options. All your edits are non-destructive so you can go back later if you decide you want something different.
It saves anything you record in a iTunes style playlist. The playlist is a new in this version of WireTap and its a great idea. Throughout your day any audio you come across that you want just go and grab it. Later when your song writing open WireTap Studio and check your playlist for some audio solutions!
WireTap Studio has a nice way to export your audio clips. On the bottom of the playlist window are icons for your hard drive, iDisk, eMail, etc… You simply drag your audio onto them to send said clip to your destination. The cool thing is you can add your own shortcut like your DAW for example. Wiretap also exports in to many audio formats. In the past I would grab audio from online sources but they would be in obscure formats like FLAC, Vorbis, or WMA. Using WireTap Studio avoids dealing with converting issues.
Finally, here is a real world example. It’s lunch time and I grab my sandwich. I click over to Missingtoof.com to see what insane NuRave, Electrohouse from LA I can discover. I come across a song that sucks but there is a wicked short tom fill that blows me away. Quickly I click WireTap Studio and record the fill. Later that day I’m in Ableton Live figuring out a cool way to bring back a verse. Ah yes! I remember that fill from lunch. Pull it into Abeton 7, right click the file and select slice drum,. Live cuts it up and puts it in a Drum Rack. After re-arranging the pattern and adding some effects I’m happy.