Quantizing Looper in useable way / Quantize MIDI to Looper?

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Quantizing Looper in useable way / Quantize MIDI to Looper?

Post by ronanconlan » Mon Mar 07, 2011 2:13 am

Really sorry about the crazy length of this post. Been putting far too much thought into all this and still haven't cracked it somehow. Thanks so much to anyone bothering to read it.

I'm trying to use multiple Ableton Looper plugins (I'll just talk about 2 of them here for sake of simplicity but really I'll be using 8 ).

Each Looper (called Loopr1, Loopr2... etc) is in a different track and each gets audio independently from the Ext. Input. (I mean that Loopr1 doesn't feed into Loopr2 or anything - they're connected in parallel you might say)


Anyway, I'm using a MIDI foot controller (SoftStep) and LoopBe30 (virtual MIDI ports) to send MIDI CCs that trigger the Rec, Stop and Play buttons on the Loopers. (the little rec. button, not the big one. I don't use the big button at all because it changes to overdub [+] which I don't use).

I record short 'samples' of live audio (guitar) into each looper and can then play them back, pitched up/down and reversed, etc. All well and good.

However, because my feet hitting my foot controller are NOT precise metronomes, I want/need to be able to quantize the recording into each looper to a certain length (probably 1/8 but ideally I'd be able to adjust to 1/4 and other lengths)

Why the Looper plugin Quantization settings won't do the job:
I know you can set quantization lengths on each looper. Believe me, I do know this. Problems arise, however, when using the built-in looper:
1) For Looper's quantization to work, the whole set must be 'playing' i.e. global play button ON
1b) If I have the Looper quantized to 1/4 or 1 bar or any length, then when the set is already playing and I hit the looper record button or the play button, it might not start playing until the next 1/4 of the overall set/host's time position has come around. So I can step on my MIDI footcontroller but won't really know exactly when things are going to start playing or recording (as the odds are I won't be listening to a metronome or any other host-synced cues in the lead-up. I'm not a DJ or anything, just a guitarist).

I can get around the problem of 1b) by setting the looper song control option to "start & stop song". However, this creates its own set of problems when I try playing back multiple recorded samples:
2) If I have a 'sample' of recorded audio in loopr1 continuously playing back over and over, and then want loopr2 to play just once, when I stop loopr2, then the fact that loopr2 controls song "start & stop" means that when I stop the brief playback of loopr2, I will be inadvertently shutting off loopr1's playback as well, because when you stop global set playback, ALL loopers stop at that same time.
So I wouldn't really be able to get into simultaneous playback of the little samples in each of my loopers. Which was the whole point.

As a workaround for the above issues, I think I COULD just do the recording into each sample and THEN via my footcontroller send MIDI CCs to cycle through the "song control" options until "none" is arrived at - but I think this would be one or two (foot)steps too many to make this all do-able in practice, every time I want to rec one sample when just jamming.

Trying a MIDI plugin to quantize the CC messages to the Loopers:
Okay, so built-in looper quantization settings don't seem to be able to help me. What about not quantizing the loopers themselves at all and just quantizing the MIDI messages I'm using to trigger them?
Well, I've looked into quite a few MIDI utility plugins at this stage. Some of them appear to be able to just what I need. Some plugins by pizMIDI for example. There's a MIDI LFO and a MIDI step sequencer (though this only sends notes).

However I don't seem to be able to successfully get MIDI generated from a plugin in one track in Live -> to effect parameters of any of Live's Loopers. And to even get the MIDI routed into the same track as the Looper at all, I have to change the Looper track's input from taking audio to just getting input from the MIDI plugin track. So I can't even record anything with the Looper then, it seems.

(In fact, for some MIDI plugins (the VSTi's as opposed to VST's, I think), Live only seems to let you even try to route the MIDI track output to tracks that have certain types of other VST in them. I'm not even sure of the logic behind it yet because it lets me route the MIDI output to some tracks containing VST effects like Guitar Rig 4 and some tracks containing VSTi's, like LiveSlice.)

Can a MIDI plugin in Live send MIDI to a Port "outside" Live and then back into Live to the overall set? i.e. not just routed through one track.
I have a question: if I use a MIDI plugin to generate some CCs or MIDI notes and that MIDI track's output is just set to "Master", and if I also in Live's preferences -> MIDI tab have, say, OUTPUT to "LoopBe internal Port2" activated, will my MIDI track with output routed to "Master", actually be sending all it's messages to "Internal Port 2"?

I ask that because I think the possible solution it to get a MIDI plugin (i.e. MIDI step sequencer or MIDI envelope) to send MIDI to one of my virtual/internal MIDI ports, and have the same port sending MIDI to the whole set in Ableton Live, then I could use the MIDI messages coming from that port to effect the parameters (stop, rec and play buttons) on Live's loopers.

Does anyone know if that should work? Everytime I try testing it I end up really confusing myself and usually cause MIDI feedback loops :(
I'm kind of at my wit's end here, I've been trying to hammer out some kind of crazy workaround for this for weeks now.

Any advice or info would be hugely appreciated and thanks again for reading all this.

Here are some other VSTs I have tried already and not really had success with:
Mobius looper

I've also messed around with about a million MIDI utility VSTs. I think they do what I need but I don't know if Live will let me send the MIDI from them where it needs to go (i.e. to the Loopers)

I have MAX for Live and I'm going to see if there are any MIDI utility plugins I can find along those lines that will work but I think my biggest problem is that I must just not understand how to correctly route MIDI from a plugin/VST to affect parameters of the Ableton Looper or indeed of most other plugins in other tracks.


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Re: Quantizing Looper in useable way / Quantize MIDI to Looper?

Post by mojofunk » Mon Mar 07, 2011 3:15 am

This may be of use: http://www.cosm.co.nz/index.php?option= ... id=20:news

(for pc, look up Bomes & Midi Yoke)

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Re: Quantizing Looper in useable way / Quantize MIDI to Looper?

Post by ronanconlan » Mon Mar 07, 2011 9:32 am

Thanks, the technique he describes sounds like exactly what I need, he even talks about using it for the very reason I want it, i.e. an autosampler

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Re: Quantizing Looper in useable way

Post by auron » Thu Jun 23, 2011 2:20 pm

here's a different method, I don't know if it solves everything you are trying to do...but I've run into similar issues live looping guitar.
for other guitarists out there, you need a foot controller able to send multiple midi messages with one foot pedal hit.

basically the trick is to have all loopers record with the first looper so that they are all originally the same length.

I have been quantizing the loopers to 1/32 so that right when I hit the pedal it is recording. if you turn quantize off it gets weird.

Looper-1: record x bars, the play. sets tempo of the song
Looper-2, 3, etc: record x bars, then play. follows song tempo

I do use the big record button on the looper, just change the default from overdub icon (+) to play. but I also have midi notes programmed for all the little control buttons too.

when I hit record for the first time for a song, all the loopers record so that they are all the same length...even though only one is actually armed for recording.

now they are all sync'd in terms of your human bar length. so Looper-1 which has song control mapped is always running kind of like the "master" looper, but that doesn't mean you can't manipulate it...

if you MIDI map the buttons (/2,x2) that change the length of a looper then you can have loopers of different lengths that are still sync'd since they are all have relative lengths based on the original loop.

later in the performance if you want to record over a looper without changing its length you can send a MIDI message for Feedback 0% and mute the track until you are finished recording.

the main thing is that you should be aware of the bar length of the first recording so that as you manipulate the other loopers for different lengths you don't have unintentional spacing.

hope that helps,

to the ableton developers: it would be helpful if their was an option to sync a blank looper to the length of an already recorded looper.

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Re: Quantizing Looper in useable way / Quantize MIDI to Looper?

Post by ronanconlan » Fri Jun 24, 2011 10:34 pm

I think I get what you're saying. Record on them all at once and then just use the overdub buttons after that?

The (other) solution to this problem was actually staring me in the face and I went making that huge post in this thread before I even realised it, haha.

I just put a MIDI track in my set and created MIDI clips in it (different clip for each Looper). I drew envelopes in the control change ("MIDI Ctrl") part of the clips that hit record on the Looper as soon as the clip is triggered, and send a message that hits stop on the Looper 1/8 or 1/4 note later. So it's quantized independent of tempo, etc.

So now I have 8 keys on my MIDI foot controller that are set up to trigger the MIDI clips that trigger the record and stop buttons on the loopers.

Drawing the envelopes etc for separate CC#s for each looper and everything was tedious but it works perfectly now.

I just wish the looper had a "one shot" button, I could play short samples a bit more fluidly together on different loopers then. (At the moment I have to hold down the "play" key on my MIDI controller for the whole 1/4 note length if I want the 1/4 note sample to playback in full)

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Re: Quantizing Looper in useable way / Quantize MIDI to Looper?

Post by auron » Mon Jun 27, 2011 4:56 am

like you mention, your way has some setup issues. but if it works well for you, obviously keep going with it.
From your description it seems complicated for live performance.

I used to have a boss rc-50 for a short while before I discovered ableton live. I got my idea from how the rc-50 is setup.

There are 3 phrases that you can record on the rc-50. However your loop length is limited by the first loop recorded.

so then I moved to ableton and recently I got around to programming my midi pedal board to finally work the way I wanted.

I realized why that loop limitation was there...every looper you want to sync perfectly needs to have exactly the same length or else over time you will have drift.

however, in ableton if you set up all your loopers like I suggested then you can manipulate the loop length afterwards because they will be derived from the original loop length that you played. I couldn't do that with the RC-50.

also, you can do all this within ableton and MIDI map the buttons directly. you don't need all that other stuff you mentioned.
Quantization can be turned OFF completely because all the loops are sync'd from the beginning.

my setup is so simple you can create a new project pretty quickly from scratch depending on how many looper tracks you want (what the rc-50 called a phrase).

I setup the pedals the same for every looper so during performance it isn't complicated.

try it, I think you will find it is an easy solution that gives you full control over looping once you figure it out for yourself.


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Re: Quantizing Looper in useable way / Quantize MIDI to Looper?

Post by nebulos » Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:22 pm

I believe this is my first post on the forums, so hello!

First, thanks for this thread.


I'm new to Ableton, but I've been looping guitar for a while, starting with my now deceased Boss DD-5, then the Boss RC-2, and now the DigiTech JamMan Stereo. The shortcomings of the Boss RC-50 and RC-300 (no patch-to-patch!) are, to me, tragedies I've come to accept as fatal, and as the JamMan lacks (explicit) BPM awareness, I continue to search for a good way to loop guitar, such that it can be done to a precise BPM and integrated with other instruments, computer, etc.

I think this is such a basic and obvious need for a musician that I find the lack of obvious solutions really baffling.


I will need to digest the details of this thread a bit, but for now I wanted to ask for recommendations on foot controllers? and also on other reading? (other threads, videos, etc.)


I want to be able to open up Ableton, play a guitar loop, play a different guitar loop, on a different track, same with bass, keys, etc., (in Boss language, a bunch of phrases), then move on to a new section (patch). Or, start with a few one-phrase guitar loops, (verse 1, verse 2, chorus), and go back and add the other instruments. (Isn't this what we all want to do???)


Aside from looper, I chose Ableton because I hoped that session view could help me achieve this goal. You can of course record a phrase in one track of session view, then record another phrase in a different track (of any length), and I believe you can quantize their lengths to BPM too, though I haven't made it that far yet. So, what about session view? Is there a reason you guys don't use that?

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Re: Quantizing Looper in useable way / Quantize MIDI to Looper?

Post by yur2die4 » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:05 pm

Session clips:
From the get-go, multiple different ones to switch amongst in a channel.
Compatable with scene triggers.
Can retain pitch at tempo change.

Can't be deleted directly via midi.
Or reversed (if you're into that sort of thing)
No overdub.
Cannot start or loop independently of master bpm (unless quantized is off)

Honestly, I like using a combination of clips and Looper.
What I was doing for a while was having one main audio input channel(set to 'in', possibly Sends Only??), and having a Send out to a Looper. That Looper would sit in a Return channel and I would use it to loop something simple to determine a bpm. (remember to always always assign looper's main button with a midi Note and not a CC).
Then I had 4 audio channels for recording Clips from the main audio channel (set to "off", all armed for record).

The result is one main channel that is always playing out through the Looper channel incase I want to add to the Looper clip, and four channels that do not make any sound except for when a clip begins to play back.

All fx were on that first channel, controlled or whatever.

Instances of Looper have an advantage of having their controls via one button (or pedal). With session clips, you want up, down, trigger for that channel and Maybe stop. And possibly Scene launch.

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Re: Quantizing Looper in useable way / Quantize MIDI to Looper?

Post by auron » Fri Mar 09, 2012 2:53 am

Roland FC-300 is a great controller but with a free app called MIDI PIPE you can get many midi foot controllers to work if they don't send the right messages, use the other free app MIDI Monitor to figure out where the problem lies.

Looper quantization: since the original discussion I figured out a simple way to have loopers of different lengths stay in sync: just quantize them all to 1 bar. On your first loop triggering the record button is instantaneous. subsequent loops you hit the pedal just before a bar ends and the looper starts on the next bar.