Experimental Music Questions from a Newbie

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
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Caligula Cuddles
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri May 12, 2017 6:09 am

Experimental Music Questions from a Newbie

Post by Caligula Cuddles » Mon May 22, 2017 4:58 am

Hi, hello, greetings!

I have a slew of questions, and I'm looking for any help. The more pedantic, the better!

[Rambling section; skip ahead to the tl;dr for the actual questions]
 
Hey all. So, I got a basic version of Ableton a couple years back with an audio interface, and I’d used that to record sketched for band practice, just to be able to have some basic guitar and bass parts scripted out.

But recently, I decided to get a legit copy of Ableton Suite with a Push 2. (Hooray for me!)
While my background is playing in live bands, I’ve always had an interest in experimental music, and used to mess with Max/MSP a bit back in the day, hence my interest in suite. Problem is, I’m not sure how to make the leap to using Ableton to its fullest potential, honestly. I’d still like to be able to perform with my guitar running into my Axe FX2, but I’d like to keep the performance somewhat spontaneous without going to a “canned performance with live guitar” approach. More specifically, I’d like to do as much as possible using only guitar and vocals, eschewing and drum-based and edm-based influences. (I'm being obstinant, and really want to see how much milage I can get out of eschewing my synths and plugins for once and just going with my two main weapons.)

My impulse for all this came from listening to a lot of Holly Herndon, Fennesz, Jim O’Rourke’s “I’m Happy and I’m Singing,” and a bit of Tim Hecker, etc… I’m fascinated at how a lot of them, especially Holly Herndon, are capable of creating such morphing song structures. It seems like a lot of the tutorials for Ableton I see online are based around making loop-based music, very much in the 8 or 16-bar structure. Listening to Holly Herndon, I feel like there are vocals and samples firing out at all angles, almost stochastically and without grounding in the usual looping pattern at times. 

So naturally, I’m to wonder: how? I know she uses Max and Ableton quite a bit, but there’s so much more happening. I can’t even imagine her workflow in Max or what she has loaded into her buffers.

[tl;dr, here’s the meat of the topic] 


The questions: 

[1] How are people structuring their Ableton sessions in a way that aren’t so… Ableton 101? Most tutorials I see online are decent, but very house/dubstep/generic approaches (no offense meant). How do you make more organically moving song structures? 

[2] If I’m running guitar and vocals into Ableton, what’s the best way of making it a live performance rather than just doing the DJ PressPlay routine? I’ve tried having effects set up with automation where I can just play and let Live do some magic, but that’s tricky to do, and I feel like it’s not that different from a pedalboard.

[3] Can I draw automations in the session mode and then send the drawn automations to the clip mode (or just draw automations to clip mode directly rather than “recording” the automations)?

[4] How do you add density to a track if you aren’t working over a drumbeat and are doing most of the work in realtime? 

[5] What’s a good way to deal with a live instrument and racks? I feel like I’m getting bogged down with managing my effects on my rack and working with automation. 

[6] Are there any good approaches for sampling/looping/chopping audio while performing? Is it possible to easily manage taking fragments of realtime audio and working with them while performing, or am I expecting too much to be able to do that live?

[7] Is there a way to rhythmically take samples from performance and stochastically manipulate them without too much… forethought, for lack of a better term? 

[8] A further note on that, is it possible to take sections of realtime audio and create a realtime library of buffer/sampled clips to pull up?

[9] Let’s say I’m using a longer sample in sampler/simpler on a midi keyboard/Push2, is there a way to have it keep looping without retriggering with each note? I’d like to be able to play a melody and have it not retrigger the sample from the start, but rather keep going from wherever the last note left off (kind of like gliding, but without having it be a continuous note).

[10] Using something like the Granulator II, which I’m fascinated-yet-overwhelmed by (any granulators I’ve ever tried building in Max were nowhere near as richly capable). How do people take fragments of a performance and shoot them into the Granulator to spit out occasional bits of the audio without stopping a performance to structure the Granulator’s output? (Does that even make sense?) Are there better granulators? Perhaps something more “pulsing” and with more randomization for the occurrences of grains outputted?

Beginner or advanced tips appreciated. I have a pretty solid understanding of sound design and advanced music concepts, but I’ve been flying blind in Ableton for a while, so the foundation of my understanding is scattered across beginner and advanced ideas. I signed up for the Kadenze course, which is somewhat helpful, but still very much rooted in traditional songwriting.

My biggest problem seems to be that I “get” the basics, but that’s not really how I want to do things. With my Axe FX2, I can do more of the 101 sound effect work (distortion, reverb, compression), but it's the more odd things that I'm at a loss for.

Sorry if these are stupid or redundant questions. I’d really like to hear a discussion on how different people use Ableton is unique or unconventional ways. I feel like there’s a lot of potential to make experimental, organic music, but it’s clearly a fringe interest for the Ableton user-base. I tried poking around on Reddit and other forums, but actual discussion doesn’t seem to develop much around there. 


Thanks all for reading!

doghouse
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Re: Experimental Music Questions from a Newbie

Post by doghouse » Mon May 22, 2017 1:38 pm

Is your goal actual live performance? If that's the case you should investigate pedal controllers like the Behringer FCB-1010 which you can map to various things (play notes, launch clips, control devices, etc.) so you don't have to stop playing your guitar.

As far as tweaking Granulator (or any device, really) while the music is playing, have you tried using the cue buss? That way you can fine tune without your audience having to hear it :wink:

nowtime
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Re: Experimental Music Questions from a Newbie

Post by nowtime » Mon May 22, 2017 8:58 pm

Some of that music sounds like they are using samplers to trigger odd-time-signature and random and glitchy grooves and sounds. As opposed to being locked into a grid like Live. Maybe the Octatrack?

Are you wanting to be a one-man(or woman)-band?

The problem is you have 2 hands and play a 2-handed instrument. Granted there are lots of tricks you can do with foot pedals. Maybe you can find a "controllerist" in your area: someone who digs your sound and can be your other 2 hands. That would leave you freer to concentrate on guitar and vocals and ornamentation.

With Live 9, the latest controllers and perhaps a good outboard sampler or even looper, you should absolutely be able to fulfill your visions. You might need a carload of gear to do it.

It is surprising that with all this great software and hardware, it can still be quite tricky to achieve the visions. Try focusing on the simplest way to get the result you want. You want organically moving song structures? The trick of one-shot samples (without decay) that contain a rhythm might serve you better than being locked to Live's grid. Maybe you could launch those inside Live or use an outboard sampler. Do you need a grid at all?

And what do you mean by
"[4] How do you add density to a track if you aren’t working over a drumbeat and are doing most of the work in realtime?"? Can you be more specific?

Caligula Cuddles
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri May 12, 2017 6:09 am

Re: Experimental Music Questions from a Newbie

Post by Caligula Cuddles » Tue May 23, 2017 8:35 pm

nowtime wrote:Are you wanting to be a one-man(or woman)-band?

The problem is you have 2 hands and play a 2-handed instrument. Granted there are lots of tricks you can do with foot pedals. Maybe you can find a "controllerist" in your area: someone who digs your sound and can be your other 2 hands. That would leave you freer to concentrate on guitar and vocals and ornamentation.
You know, I'd prefer to be able to make a go of things as a solo act for a while. The thing is, I've used Max/MSP a couple times for playing something that I could then loop for a duration without having to use a looper pedal, but I also kind of felt like it was basically all theater to show the audience that I could do my own work in the margins, if that makes any sense. Basically, I don't expect to need to be able to play guitar the whole time. I've seen Fennesz performances where he touches his guitar for less than a quarter of the set, and that's fine with me. I just feel very uncomfortable not doing a lot of visible performance, dumb as that sounds in this era.
Try focusing on the simplest way to get the result you want. You want organically moving song structures? The trick of one-shot samples (without decay) that contain a rhythm might serve you better than being locked to Live's grid.
What do you mean "one-shot samples without decay?" Are you just talking about avoiding sustaining notes that would get clipped in a loop?
On that topic, is there a good way yo have a melodic line loop with the tail-end of the loop playing over the start of the repeated loop? (For example, having a loop that is 5 measures and starts replaying after the 4th measure while still finishing the 5th?)
And what do you mean by
"[4] How do you add density to a track if you aren’t working over a drumbeat and are doing most of the work in realtime?"? Can you be more specific?
Sorry, that's a terribly vague question. I've just been trying to avoid using any type of conventional drumming for this project, but am running across one issue I hadn't considered: The extended low-range (and, to some degree, high-end) that drumming adds that spectrally fills up the low end of the mix a lot of times.
I've tried warping some samples to add low end, but they don't seem to be able to get as bassy as I'd like, even with some EQing.

TomKern
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Re: Experimental Music Questions from a Newbie

Post by TomKern » Tue May 23, 2017 8:41 pm

Caligula Cuddles wrote: I've tried warping some samples to add low end
Huh?!

Why would you expect warping to add low end? Did you mean you pitched it down by stretching the audio?!

Caligula Cuddles
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri May 12, 2017 6:09 am

Re: Experimental Music Questions from a Newbie

Post by Caligula Cuddles » Tue May 23, 2017 9:37 pm

TomKern wrote:Why would you expect warping to add low end? Did you mean you pitched it down by stretching the audio?!
Yeah, sorry. Still getting used to the new lexicon.

TomKern
Posts: 358
Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2016 7:08 pm

Re: Experimental Music Questions from a Newbie

Post by TomKern » Tue May 23, 2017 10:06 pm

Caligula Cuddles wrote:
TomKern wrote:Why would you expect warping to add low end? Did you mean you pitched it down by stretching the audio?!
Yeah, sorry. Still getting used to the new lexicon.
New lexicon?!

Anyways why would you pitch down an existing sound just to add low end, if you can just add a bass instrument?!

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