Welcome to this second part of the Ableton Live Tips series where we’ll continue our journey into some of the best kept secrets of this amazing DAW. As in the previous part, we’ll touch on a few useful tips from a variety of fundamental topics such as MIDI tracking, sound design, beat making, and arranging.
Use the Velocity MIDI Effect to Randomise the Volume of Incoming Notes
Recording dense sequences of repetitive notes for sounds like hi-hats can lead to robotic and unnatural gun-shot like results. The solution to this is to create irregularity in the volume of each note through velocity, but this can be a very tedious and time consuming task to do manually.
That’s where Live’s Velocity plugin comes in. This plugin can be used to create real-time velocity variations in your MIDI parts by simply adjusting a few settings. The Out Hi and Out Low parameters define the range of velocity output values, whereas the Random parameter can be used to adjust the randomisation range applied to the incoming MIDI notes.
Use the Freeze Track Feature to Apply Unlimited Effects to a Sample
Applying long effect chains to your sounds can be detrimental to your system’s performance and quickly deplete CPU and RAM resources, which may lead to lagging, glitches, and other unwanted issues. So instead of applying long chains of real-time processing in your sound design, you can do it incrementally, one effect at a time, with the aid of the Freeze Track feature.
To do this, first insert an effect plugin in a MIDI or audio track and tweak its parameters until you get the desired results. Then, freeze the track with the Freeze Track function by right clicking on the track. Once the track is frozen, right click again on it and hit Flatten. This will print a new audio clip with the effect already applied and the plugin removed from the track, which frees up system resources and enables you to repeat the same process as many times as you like.
Extract Grooves from an Audio Loop to Use them on your own Loops
Grooves allow you to apply slight timing displacements on your MIDI notes and audio transients in order to give your beats a more realistic and organic feel. Ableton Live comes with a built-in library of grooves for swing driven genres such as Hip Hop and Rock, but it also allows you to ‘extract’ grooves from any audio loop and store them in a groove pool, from where you can apply them to your MIDI and audio loops later on.
This is great, not only to achieve custom swing effects on your individual parts, but also to give a unified groove to an entire mix, fostering a sense of cohesion between all the tracks. To extract a groove, simply right click on an audio loop and select ‘Extract Grooves’. This will immediately store the groove in the Groove Pool for later use. To apply a groove to a loop, double click on the loop and select the groove from the Groove drop-down menu of the Clip section.
Apply Automation Inside of Clips to Avoid Repeating Yourself
Ableton includes automation lanes in the arrangement view to automate individual tracks and group buses, but did you know that you can also apply automation at a clip level with clip envelopes? This feature is very useful to create a tight coupling between content and automation, so that you don’t have to edit them separately.
Also, the automation achieved through clip envelopes is independent and complementary to automation lanes, so you can use them both simultaneously in parallel. Automation lanes work best for long time span transitions like risers and downers, whereas clip envelopes are best suited for rapid modulation like effects.
Use Time Functions to Arrange your Tracks Faster
Live ships with a very useful set of time based commands that can speed-up enormously our work on arrangements. These functions, located within the Edit menu, allow us to duplicate, move, and delete entire sections of our mix all at once as opposed to having to do it on a per track basis. This way we can repeat, move or eliminate complete chunks of our arrangement as a whole.
To use this feature, simply select the time span you wish to duplicate, move or delete and fire up the desired command from the Edit menu. To delete entire portions of your mix, you can use Delete Time, whereas to repeat entire portions of your mix, you can use Duplicate Time. To move an entire portion of your mix across the timeline, you can use Cut and Paste Time to place the section some time else in the timeline.
And here concludes this second part of the Ableton Live Tips series. We’ve uncovered yet another set of useful tips on how to randomise the volume of incoming notes, how to apply effects recursively, how to extract grooves from audio loops and apply them to your own, how to use automation within clips, and how to arrange your tracks faster and smarter with Time based functions.