Ableton Guitarists

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
Post Reply
Posts: 1124
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2009 1:40 pm
Location: Mpls, MN

Re: Ableton Guitarists

Post by AceLuby » Mon Nov 29, 2010 6:07 pm

simpleton wrote:
MartinOM28V wrote: 1) Use a Sonuus G2M Guitar-to-MIDI converter to drive any synth sound I want. Once you get the hang of using the G2M it's a blast.
+1 But in addition to driving a synth I simultaneously run the audio output into my soundcard and drive an amp sim(GR 4). You can get some crazy layered textures that way. The G2M is the most underated bit of kit for guitar.
These things get some pretty bad reviews, do you have any vids of you using this?
levimoniz wrote:yes i'm a hypocrite and not intelligent

Posts: 1447
Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 3:07 am

Re: Ableton Guitarists

Post by agent314 » Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:41 pm

The G2M is absolutely the cheapest way to get realtime MIDI data into your computer via your guitar and it does a decent job at what it does, but it's definitely not without its limitations.

It costs about tenth of what your basic guitar-to-midi setup does (hex pickup + AX50 or similar 13-pin setup, etc.) and gets you about half the functionality, so that right there is a big mark in its favor.

You have to learn the right picking dynamics for it, as well as be absolutely in tune (or turn off pitch bend for your synth because it will pick up on if you're even the slightest bit out of tune and bend the pitch accordingly), and it can get kind of confused by quick runs and presents about 30-40ms latency which is a problem for some people, but if you're primarily a guitarist and want to get some ideas down in MIDI form, it's definitely the lowest cost solution.

As long as you have reasonable expectations and aren't expecting it to be a pro-quality audio>MIDI converter, you'll be decently pleased by it, I think.

Tone Deft
Posts: 23745
Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2006 5:19 pm
Location: SF, CA

Re: Ableton Guitarists

Post by Tone Deft » Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:48 pm

except that it doesn't work with bass guitar. luckily this one does:

take them for what they're worth, cheap ways to turn audio into midi on the fly. they don't do all the work, they're not perfect but for the money they're fun.

I write that having never seen on in action.
"Obsession is a great substitute for talent." - Steve Martin on learning the banjo

Dell Inspiron 15 7000, Live 10.1, Win10 Home, Edirol UA101, APC40, Remote SL, SPD-SX, mic, guitars, JX305, Nova

Posts: 29
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:17 am

Re: Ableton Guitarists

Post by FuzzyKeys » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:40 pm

:twisted: Bassist here :twisted: I really dig what I can do with Live as a front end into a clean power amp and cabinet. I'm actually using Live as both my bass and keyboard rigs these days, often simultaneously too.

I hear you guys on the guitar-synth lust though. Are any of you guys using pitch->MIDI conversion at gigs? It definitely works a LOT better on guitar than it does on bass (longer wave cycles = unusable latency).

So rather than use pitch->MIDI conversion with bass, I just shape my actual bass tone into a synth sound using a long effects serial effects chain. One benefit from doing things that way is that you eliminate any conversion latency and another is that you can preserve a lot more of the nuances in your pitch bending, vibrato, etc. I feel 100% comfortable gigging with it on bass. You ultimately wind up getting into sounds that aren't really achievable with a MIDI-controlled synthesizer, which I think is really cool.

The strategy is really pretty basic but you can elaborate on it in a billion different ways.

1) Get rid of your dry signal

You start with a pitch-tracking device of some kind and dial out all of the dry signal (I use a Boss OC-2 and use the -1 octave down) but some other software options I've tried are:

GR4 Oktaver (works very well, tracks very well, has some hair around the edges like the OC-2)
GR4 Harmonic Synthesizer (self-explanitory but there are some fantastic starting point sounds to be had in turning sub: max, dry and oct: 0, square: 1-2 and then setting the filter not to sweep at all or sweep subtly, adjust resonance, attack some attack time fade in depending on sound, etc.)
GR4 Pitch Pedal (Whammy): run it 100% wet, you have the beginning of portamento on your 100% audio triggered guitar synth
U-he Zebrify: If you have Zebra you know what I mean. It's insanely powerful, good tracking, millions of sounds there
Subharmonic Synths can be really interesting as well. Free: mda subsynth. Commercial: Refuse lowender
Expert Sleepers Oomimgmak: AWESOME. Really a dedicated audio triggered synth that sort of does what I'm talking about. The oscillator section is cool and you can whip it into shape with a pretty short signal chain but you can DEFINITELY do ALOT better that the filters. Really good tracking too.
Really anything that eliminates your clean tone but preserves what you're playing via pitch-tracking is a viable starting point and you can probably turn it into something unique. If you're on PC, check out FrettedSynth plugins. They're free and excellent.

2) Turn that into a snarling monster with anything you feel like throwing at it, but make sure that you can mute your strings very cleanly and precisely.

So now that you've got a really pussy (or maybe not pussy depending on what you've thrown together so far) sounding not-guitar tone, you can shape it into something completely different. You're ultimately going to be using filters to turn this step into a viable synthy sound so there are good reasons to get this stage really bright with tons of harmonics as long as you don't destroy the fundamental. I've also found it useful to use gated distortion/fuzz, distortion/fuzz with a bias control, waveshapers, noise gates, etc. so that you can mute your guitar and have the note cut off really abruptly, as though a keyboardist had just taken his finger off of a key.

Hardware: ZVex Wooly Mammoth is awesome for this and it's the only hardware distortion I know of that can actually add low end while distorting your sound and gating it
Ohm Force Ohmicide: Also VERY good for this sort of thing. You can get even more precise with the gating and with 30 some odd distortion algorithms and 4 bands to process independently... I feel pretty strongly that this is the most powerful distortion plugin on the market right now and you can very specific with it
Smartelectronix Cyanide 2 (Free): I use this a lot as well. It sounds really good, especially in oversampling mode, it uses very little CPU, and if you want to go balls to the wall and turn your guitar into a nasty sounding gated square wave in less than 30 seconds, this is a good way to do that.
Ableton Effects Racks: Use the Multiband dynamics trick to split frequencies and then use multiple instances of Cyanide and tune them all a little differently. Use dynamic tube, use two in a row, saturation, overdrive, amp, whatever kind of distortion, saturation, amp modelling, coloring you want to try out as long as your note release is clean.
You might also want to try experimenting with some modulation effects, especially on specific frequencies. For example, an envelope-driven phaser on the highs can sound very cool and so will a chorus. Some subtle tremolo can some motion to the sound as well, especially if you stick it in between 2 distortions.

3) Making it actually work and giving the keyboardists a run for their money: filtering.

You've basically constructed a raw oscillator that you can play with your guitar. If you're doing this all in software, you may have decided to build 2 or 3 of these tracks that you can play at the same time and maybe tune one up or down an octave from the others to get a fatter sound.

So now, grab your favorite filter plugin and start filtering the shit out of your sound in anyway you want. In Live, you can have beat-synced LFO's and envelopes with filter plugins. SoundToys FilterFreak is incredible sounding. Fabfilter Volcano 2 is more powerful and creative and you have way more options. If you have Korg MS-20 you can use that filter section and go for some fairly legitimate electro house sounds. Any filter really will do and there's no harm in tapping the output of your oscillator track(s) multiple times to get multiple filters working in parallel.

If you've done all of this in Live, one of my favorite tricks is to send your dry signal to the sidechain input of the AutoFilter. So while you're feeding it a really harsh and compressed sound to filter, the actually movement of the filter will respond to even the smallest details in your playing. Very hard to achieve with a keyboard and I've been playing for over 10 years.

If you're playing gigs with sort of thing, you can control your filtering in a million different ways with a MIDI foot controller. The most basic mapping would be to map an expression pedal to the cutoff but often times that can lead to really expressive sounds. You can also assign the expression pedal to scroll though different LFO subdivisions so maybe heel down is quarter note modulation and toe down is 16th note modulation.

Then, you have all the normal modulation and delay effects, the freaky delay effects, and glitchy digital effects that you can't replicate with hardware at all.

You can use dummy clips as complex automation or to trigger things really quickly.

Anyway, here's a meager but real-time example of what I'm talking about here. I'm controlling the filter with a Behringer FCB-1010 and good number of dedication modulation envelope clips that I'd set up in Live. The post-filter glitchy stuff is really very straightforward with Sugar Bytes Effectrix. You can send it MIDI notes and it'll trigger a multi-effect step sequence that you've made and you can sync that to Live's tempo as well.

Carry on. More guitar synth.

Posts: 622
Joined: Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:29 pm

Re: Ableton Guitarists

Post by kanuck » Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:56 pm

great tips thanks. one concern is if you use hardware gain boxes like the whooly mammoth wouldn't it clip your audio interface's input? Or are you using a different preamp?

Posts: 1102
Joined: Thu Mar 19, 2009 11:16 pm
Location: London

Re: Ableton Guitarists

Post by Sage » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:21 pm

kanuck wrote:great tips thanks. one concern is if you use hardware gain boxes like the whooly mammoth wouldn't it clip your audio interface's input? Or are you using a different preamp?
Distortion pedals do have volume controls, plus preamps generally have gain controls...

FuzzyKeys, have you ever tried the Frantone Bass Sweet? Absolute monster for bass, even the standard Sweet has more than enough (I have one of these as I'm a guitarist), doesn't have a gate though.

Posts: 72
Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2010 8:09 pm
Location: Austin, TX / San Francisco, CA

Re: Ableton Guitarists

Post by tinymachines » Wed Dec 15, 2010 6:30 pm

I record acoustic guitar using ableton a lot, though lately I've turned more digital. I prefer a nice mix between the two.

Here's some sameples: ... n-sunlight ... n-darkness ... n-the-dark

That third one is a classical guitar.

Posts: 11118
Joined: Wed Jun 23, 2004 9:30 pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Ableton Guitarists

Post by Machinesworking » Wed Dec 15, 2010 7:00 pm

Guitar on half my songs. I use Guitar Rig with Rig Kontrol 3.
Rig Control 3 sounds really quite good, the main thing I think people miss from a Marshall stack is the pure power, PA speakers just don't move air in the same way a 4x12 cabinet does. It's a different dynamic, but it really comes down to set up time live for me. Plugging in Rig Kontrol VS setting up a Marshall stack with pedals etc.

I'm no purist, but Rig Kontrol sounds waaay better than some of the FX rack jobs from the 90's I used to try to incorporate into my set up and quickly dumped because with that old school lo fi digital converting going on before it hit my Marshall I might as well have been playing a solid state amp with a fuzz box. Just perspective, Guitar Rig sounds more "analog" than an ART FX rack through a tube Marshall stack.

Posts: 189
Joined: Fri Nov 26, 2010 4:45 pm
Location: Sarasota, FL

Re: Ableton Guitarists

Post by Gaetano CAPUANO » Wed Dec 15, 2010 7:32 pm

Frantone bass suite? I will ahve to check it out. I was under the impression FuzzKeys uses no preamp, just dry into all the FX and such?
Need Guitar or Bass tracks for your project? Message me and lets work that out

Posts: 35
Joined: Fri Jul 17, 2009 8:36 pm

Re: Ableton Guitarists

Post by flashy12 » Wed Dec 15, 2010 9:37 pm

Late to the game
"Make That Sound In Your Head,a Recorded Reality"

Posts: 29
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:17 am

Re: Ableton Guitarists

Post by FuzzyKeys » Wed Dec 15, 2010 10:01 pm

Yeah the signal chain is really simple and no I don't use a "real" amp anywhere. I haven't tried the Frantone but from what I've heard it sounds really deep and smooth. I do have the 2 pedals and an Electrix Filter Factory in a rack. The Filter Factory is great and there's something that's kind of inherently satisfying about sending a 100% analog signal to Live sometimes. used to do this with hardware exclusively and it was a much heavier and less powerful setup. Finding the right distortion that doesn't kill your low end without the need for a clean blend is a process. The OC-2 was the first pedal I bought for bass and I've just sort of grown used to the way it tracks a P-Bass with tone knob at 0.

Still, I'd like to get rid of the OC-2 and Mammoth and if I were doing this on guitar I think I'd be able to do that. I'm trying to work out a system with Ohmicide feeding QuadFrohmage but I haven't quite nailed the front end yet. What I'd like to be able to do is control Ohmicide and QuadFrohmage together with Melohman morphing. That way, I could actually morph between 8 or so Distortion/Filter configurations fluidly and with more or less momentum depending on the MIDI note velocities I sent. And better still, I could still launch dummy clips independently of the morphing and mangle licks with a momentary stomp switch when I wanted to.

I'd kind of ignored QuadFrohmage for a good while and used Volcano for all of the more complicated filter routing... because it's amazing. I definitely think it's the superior plugin but the more I experiment with Melohman morphing with Ohmicide the more I'm drawn to QuadFrohmage to go with it. You can't sidechain in QuadFrohmage and I'm really missing that.

Like I mentioned, you can feed a clean signal to the sidechain input to get a really responsive sound, but you can also get at some more experimental sound design as well.

For example, you can create a dummy 2nd instance of Volcano on a 2nd track and assign an XLFO (basically a step sequencer and/or LFO) to the output volume. That gives you a basic dummy "trance gate" type of track that you then use to trigger say, an envelope generator on your actual Volcano instance that you're using to process your guitar sound. You can assign that EG to modulate filter cutoff, volume, resonance, filter delay, and you can even have it modulate a running LFO! Lots of opportunities for creating polyrhythmic interaction between different filters, modulation of the same filer, volume and filter, volume and volume, etc.

Less esoteric example with no sidechaining involved: assign an expression pedal to modulate the metronome subdivision rate of an XLFO. If you just take a basic LFO and map it to the filter cutoff and then "scroll" through metronome subdivisions with an expression pedal, you've essentially reverse engineered a basic Dubstep bass sound that you have a ton of control over and can refine indefinitely

Or for those into step sequencing complex patterns, you can not only control the rate of XFLO's but you also get full control over every aspect of each individual step. Turn steps on/off and build a step sequencer for your filter section that you can control with your feet in about 20 minutes. If any of that sort of madness sounds appealing I highly recommend checking out Volcano.

And one last thought on XLFO's in Volcano: you can get close to some of that soft fuzzy filter modulation ala Mount Kimbie by gently modulating the input gain with a sine wave provided you're feeding the filter enough harmonic information to begin with.

Posts: 3238
Joined: Tue Dec 27, 2005 12:45 pm
Location: Lost Island

Re: Ableton Guitarists

Post by Pasha » Thu Dec 16, 2010 7:30 am

I'm using this in the last months as FuzzyKeys reported:

U-he Zebrify: If you have Zebra you know what I mean. It's insanely powerful, good tracking, millions of sounds there Subharmonic Synths can be really interesting as well

However, I have tested many things lately in the search for Guitar-Synth Nirvana.

GT-10 429 Euros
Some interesting monophonic sounds via Wave Synth (better tracking) and Guitar Synth (sloppy tracking) FX. Zebrify has a wider set of tonal possibilities and tracks better leaving your playing style intact. Compared to what I can obtain from Zebrify it has a more balanced sound (levels) across the fretboard. Many tweaks are possible but two waves only. With Guitar synth you have access to VG99 like models (Bowed,Pipe, Brass) but pitch tracking is a little sloppy on fast passages. MIDI seems not to be involved here but internally pitch tracking should be. It does not require modification of your Guitar.

Sonuus I2M 145 Euros
Tested one pre production. Some problems with getting audio into live. MIDI was working but tracking less precise than expected especially on faster phrases. Bass Guitar works well but you can't cheat physics. The lower you go the more latency you have. With the included software you can change octaves and play higher octaves while outputting lower ones. That's the suggested method. I2M is good if you have a Guitar and a Bass to apply MIDI to. However it can become very hard to use your direct sound for ensembles. I2M is a mono audio USB device (@44/16) with input only so your direct sound has to be piped through another soundcard to be heard and that adds latency to audio which lags behind MIDI. Although a better solution could be B2M for Bass and G2M for Guitar, if you have a noise free Y cable you can get your direct audio into your main audio card and by pass I2M Audio completely.
Still unconvinced about this. A mixed bag.

VG-99 999 Euros + GK3 129 Euros
Amazing tracking. Amazing sounds. HRM synthesis and a GR300 in the box make this unit a jack of all trades. Tested MIDI out with Live but long latency and unstable. Using the USB interface instead makes it better. Hardware synths are better tracked IMHO from the MIDI OUT.
It's polyphonic and the sound palette you can have from your guitar is incredible. Without even thinking to MIDI. It needs a GK3 pickup at least to be fully exploited. The poly FX section is key giving you the ability to change attack, distortion and octave of each string separately. The GR300 module inside is just that.
.. and it compares very well :
Just soooo expensive....

Zebrify 199 Euros comes with Zebra (Owned)
It was getting dust until I have found some free patches around and got an illumination.
Since then my guitar doubles as a Guitar Synth with Metheny-esque timbre which I like a lot.
Very good playability especially when reinforced by some Live FX chain into a rack. Personally I square the Guitar with Overdrive and Compressor before letting the sound enter the Zebrify realm where it gets synth treatment. Your signal drives the whole thing, no MIDI involved, instant joy. Almost no latency. You can allow yourself to play dirty (one note at a time please) with no problems. The addition of FM synthesis (Guitar is the carrier) makes for convincing flutes and brass. Zebrify is the most hidden secret of it all.

And the winner is.....

- Best
- Pasha

For the brave readers :
Apple Desktop / Laptop
Live 9 Suite,Zebra 2.6,Guitar, Bass, VG99, JV1010 and some controllers
Music :

Posts: 29
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:17 am

Re: Ableton Guitarists

Post by FuzzyKeys » Thu Dec 16, 2010 12:29 pm

Word. That is really really fast man. I actually saw Pat Metheny and Allen Holdsworth live this year and they both had really interesting synth stuff going happening on stage. Needless to say, totally different sounds though.

Posts: 1257
Joined: Sat Dec 21, 2002 3:52 am
Location: Santa Barbara, CA

Re: Ableton Guitarists

Post by Buleriachk » Thu Dec 16, 2010 5:46 pm

I think Ableton Live is great for guitarists' backing tracks, with a couple of caveats. (I don't think ANY of the programmers at Ableton are guitarists.....:-)

1. There is NO guitar tuner.... WTF? (I know there are alternatives, but.....)
2. The function of Space Bar (play/pause) is not available for an off/on MIDI footswitch. (You have to kluge a typists footswitch, but you have to take at the pause while the software waits to see if there is a second keypress (e.g., Pok)
3. The Amp software plugin is (to me, so far), uh, underwhelming, especially when compared to other alternatives (Amplitube, Guitar Rig, Studio Devil, Pod Farm) and many free VST's (see KVR's website).... Although I don't have Suite, so only have been able to listen to a few of the presets. And I play nylon string, so am not interested in heavy metal - mostly clean to (very) mild distortion....

Other than those issues, for me it is my main "go to" for backing tracks (I prefer Sonar for recording guitar, but I'm still working to get a recorded sound that satisfies me - well, ok, I have trouble with scales too...:-)

Posts: 622
Joined: Thu Nov 26, 2009 5:29 pm

Re: Ableton Guitarists

Post by kanuck » Thu Dec 16, 2010 6:49 pm

I'm on a crossroad of where I want my guitar to go. Anyone please chime in and hopefully help me on one way.

The first option is to have a straight guitar setup guitar-pedals-amp and use a midi pickup to do all my crazy sounds I need.

The second option is to plug my guitar straight into ableton through a line 6 POD and go crazy with the audio effects.

So the consensus is can midi do just about anything audio can do? thanks. Any other opinions are welcome as well

Post Reply