Slaving Ableton to a Human Drummer?

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Slaving Ableton to a Human Drummer?

Post by Jinsai » Mon Feb 23, 2004 3:44 am

If anyone has any nifty ideas on how to slave Live's midi clock to a human drummer, please tell me... I've been trying to find an effective way to avoid having the drummer in my band wear a headphone click... I guess I could try to alter the tempo along with him (using either a tap-tempo key or a mod wheel assigned to the BPM) but it just gets really confusing for me... I'd rather focus on punching in my loops at the appropriate times and cutting up the drums and leave the tempo changes/maintenence up to the drummer...
Ideally, I would have some kind of Midi trigger installed unobtrusively somewhere in or around his drum kit that would feed the click or modified tempo to live... The annoying part is that I don't want the drummer to have to worry about it (as in hitting quarter notes on a drum pad or something like that...).
I probably sound like an idiot, but I'm a new Ableton Live user and am completely unexperienced in this syncing field... I know nothing about MIDI drum triggers or the customizable options in Live regarding the tap tempo functions etc. Please, if you have any suggestions or tips or info, shout it out... Assume I know nothing.

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Post by noisetonepause » Mon Feb 23, 2004 9:07 am

This has come up before and I believe we've concluded that banging quarter notes on a pad is the only solution... this isn't as easy to do for a computer as you might think. I've no doubt it'll come about some time, but not for now...


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Post by Mbazzy » Mon Feb 23, 2004 12:23 pm

All things drummer related, have a "clicktrack" somewhere in the discussion, so doing a search on that should yield the best results -
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Post by Guest » Mon Feb 23, 2004 1:26 pm

you can try to avoid the click track all you want, but unless you are playing with a professionally experienced, badass drummer with exceptional time and tempo, you will need the click. Even with the click your drummer has to still be a badass and be used to practicing (and staying with) the click. You can try to not use a click--you could have the drummer bang 1/4 notes on a pad to trigger tap tempo, you or someone else in the band could tap tempo along with the drums--this may work for a bit, but you'll either drift out or sync, or have to keep trying to fine tune tempo. Even great bands and players fluctuate tempo slightly if it fits the vibe of the song--this works great with no loops going, but is problematic with loops. Without the click, its really hard to keep an even keel. Especially because the swing and push and pull of where to actually place the beat is certain styles of music makes it so that if you don't have a steady click, its hard not to slow down when the beat is slightly behind (like reggae) or speed up when the beat is on top (funk). Good luck!


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I may have found a solution (I hope...)!

Post by Jinsai » Tue Feb 24, 2004 5:41 am

Thank you all for the advice. The drummer we're workign with is absolutely amazing (he's a jazz drummer, probably the best drummer I've ever met) so that doesn't hurt things... To be honest, I wouldn't even be trying this if the drummer wasn't incredible, but his timing is so ON that I started to speculate that it would be possible... However, much to my surprise, I did some GOOGLing and found a possible answer to this problem... Its a software program called Mac in Time that sounds fairly revolutionary... I believe the company developing it is called Circular Logic (I could check and provide the URL, but if you do a search for "Mac in Time" you'll find it)... I still haven't bought the midi drum triggers I'll need to apply the program, but it seems possible (please understand that I really only have the most rudimentary second-hand understanding of this program and still haven't tried it...) if I connect a MIDI trigger to his snare and another to the kick and feed that into Mac in Time (which Ableton Live will be slaved to...), the program should be able to "interpret" the tempo... I'm completely lost when it comes to how it works, but the people involved have been very helpful with suggestions and advice, and they definetly seem to know their tech... Unfortunately they don't currently have a version for OSX, but they have a free beta for OS9 *(and I believe that it is Mac only... which would make sense given the name of the program...) Either way, I'm incredibly excited about the possibilities of this. This is not the primary intention/function of the program, so all of you out there who are unconcerned with this might still find it useful.. Apparently it will be able to "read" the way you play ANY midi instrument and translate that into a tempo... man, it just sounds too good to be true... Here's to hoping it works (and isn't too taxing on the ol' processor)! If anyone can't find the website and/or wants more info on it, just say so and I'll dig up the URL!

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Post by MrYellow » Tue Feb 24, 2004 7:19 am

If the drummer has something to play along with then it shouldn't be a
problem. If Live is playing something all the time then there should
always be some rhythmic element or cue for the drummer to hook onto.

For example think of all the cool songs with a wood-block clave running
the complete length of the song. It's not however necessary to have a
repeated rhythmic event for the whole song, as long as something is
playing with a rhythm the drummer should be able to join in with it.


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Yeah.... but...

Post by Jinsai » Tue Feb 24, 2004 7:43 am

I know what you mean Mr Yellow, and the drummer can keep time with either a click or with a monitor in his corner playing the Ableton output, but that approach is still really limiting to what I'd like to do... I'm trying to figure this out on general principle... I feel like the drummer should be the one keeping time... also, if he IS the one keeping time, then that allows for MUCH more improvisation. I want him to be able to slow the song down or speed it up on the fly. I don't like the idea of the drummer being forced to constrict himself to the tempo of a steady sequenced part... it strips him of the ability to alter the tempo (and thereby the entire mood of the song). I just feel that if someone can create a stable and reliable method of doing this that it could revolutionize the possibilities of what an electronic/rock band can be. I never dreamed that a chain like this one could be possibible before I purchased Live 3, but now I know that it is entirely feasible... I really hope this Mac in Time program can do what I hope it can...

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Post by MrYellow » Wed Feb 25, 2004 1:03 am

There is now a windows version on that site.

We're working with the Yamaha electric drums and having a jam latter
today. I'll let you know how it goes.


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Post by MrYellow » Wed Feb 25, 2004 1:07 am

I couldn't get it to install. The installer is corrupted. Damn Mac coders!


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Post by radder » Wed Feb 25, 2004 5:31 am

Wow, if this program can really do what the MP3 demos seem to indicate, it pretty much erases what I thought was a permanent dichotomy between traditionally instrumented "electronic" bands (like Canada's The New Dealand California's Sound Tribe Sector Nine) and the kind of live electronica that I've really wanted to pursue.

But I won't buy a $100+ piece of software until I get to try a working Windows demo!

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Post by quandry » Wed Feb 25, 2004 2:26 pm

Yeeehaw!!! FInally someone here who's heard of the new deal and sound tribe sector 9 on this site!!!, my two favorite bands. STS9 has up to and including 3 G4's on stage at once, using Live on at least two of them. There drummer, Zach Velmer, is absolutely world class, amazing, got to check it out if you haven't. They use some samples, but seem to trigger them on the "one" each time instead of sequencing them, thus helping to stay in time. I suppose that they might embrace this new software, but I think their organic instrumental roots are probably too strong to start relying on a computer to sync five great instrumentalists. Tnd doesn't use samples or looping or computers or Live, but they still fully kick ass--also a must see (though they're on hiatus :(

With my experience with some great drummers live and in practice using first a loop station and now Live for me to do bass and keyboard loops, I feel I have a bit of perspective on this issue. I think that the best way for the drummer and software to stay in sync is to give the drummer a great headphone mix with plenty of click track, preferably with master out and click volume controls at the drummers fingertips. Drummers and I have found that without the click, they need a really loud master monitor, and have to listen to it so carefully for time it often detracts from the drumming. AS for a software program that "senses" tempo in real-time--sounds a bit scary to me. Seems like a lot of potential pitfalls, especially in electronica music. For instance a lot of drum n bass and other stuff has the drums playing double-time--does that meen your samples go twice as fast as they should--what about fills, or when the drummer lays out for 4 bars, etc.

Also, though a bit of tempo "breathing" is good, I think having everything slaved to the drummer could make his life harder. I say this because I'm a bass player and have played in dozens of rhthym sections. Good grooves are all about the push and pull of the beat. Everyone (hopefully) feels the beat in a certain place, but for different styles of music to groove, certain elements (most often drums and bass) need to be slightly behind or ahead of the beat. Reggae has both consistantly laggin a touch behind the beat, funk has both on top of it, hip hop has steady drums and sometimes behind and sometimes on top bass. Since we're human, we can feel where the beat is/should be, and play our drums just a bit behind or ahead to groove the style of music being played. The software isn't that smart, and would re-interpret the drummers slightly laggin or on top beats as "in the one", thus killing the groove and probably slowing down tunes behind the beat, and speeding up tunes that are on top of it. Thats just my guess, love to hear how it works out. I do know that with a good phone mix (with click) and a phenomenal professional drummer from Nashville (who needs to move back to virginia!) we jammed in sync with Live for hours on end without a hitch.


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hey there!

Post by Jinsai » Fri Feb 27, 2004 10:06 am

I'm still trying to save up some money to be able to pull this off but its good to see there are others out there who are excited about the hypothetical possiblities of this program...
As I just stated though, I'm currently flat out broke :(
I need about 200 bucks in order to get a Roland TMC-6 (Trigger to Midi Converter), not to mention the actual drum triggers, of which I'll need two (one for the snare and one for the kick...)
I should be able to get the money together soon, but if anyone else has already tried this setup PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD let me know how its working... I can't blow another 250 bucks on useless tech... Its one more additional investment to a cause that I have slaved myself to, and unfortunately feel that I will never make any money back on it...Althought thats not the reason I do this anyway...
I'm ranting... Which I do when I'm excited about stuff... but Please, if anyone out there has a drum trigger system running and is planning on trying this out, please post here to let me know how its working...

Tim York
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Post by Tim York » Sat Feb 28, 2004 5:20 pm

I heard about a d n b outfit who recycled all their loops, so the keyboardists played them live as chromatic scales. That always seemed like the ideal one to me.


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Post by MrYellow » Sun Feb 29, 2004 12:27 am

I gave up on testing it. Didn't find the interface very easy and decided it's
not needed. The program will only allow you to make gradual tempo
changes. We'd be looking at making instant and groove/out-of-
time/breakdown tempo changes which this isn't going to work for. If a
gradual tempo chage is needed you could set it up in arrangement view
or use the cursor keys. If using this program your drummer will
constantly have to listen to what changes are being made and adjust for
them. What's more is one mistake and the tempo could possible change
dramatically and ruin a whole set. If your budget is tight I'm not sure I'd
spend it on triggers unless you need them for something else as well.


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Post by madlab » Sun Feb 29, 2004 10:30 am

Tim York wrote:I heard about a d n b outfit who recycled all their loops, so the keyboardists played them live as chromatic scales. That always seemed like the ideal one to me.

This band is London Elektricity I guess. There was an article about their way of working live in sound on sound, a few months ago.
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