Share your favorite Ableton Live tips, tricks, and techniques.
i like my cut up breakbeats to be not only well produced, but lavishly edited as a unit, as if i were listening to impossibly complex dj juggles. there is something about that chunky cut and paste aesthetic that i really can't get enough of.
if you love percussion like i love percussion, you're going to enjoy this routing concept: route your percussion into a drum bus not only for sound design, but for use as a musical instrument in it's own right.
the percussion routing of the nefilim
-----------making the drumkit
we're going to make what is called a 'stack' here. this means that each single midi note will trigger multiple samples, designed to be unified and percieved as one drum hit. this is a handy trick for breakbeat based music, but it really is universally applicable.
get some drum kit bits sampled from a real source. this will be your texture, what you percieve with your ears as the 'sound of the kit'. this kit can a studio drumkit, or even just pieces of an old drumloop sample from the 70's. what is important is the TEXTURE. load them into an impulse so you can control them with midi.
find some synth drum one shots to 'beef up' the kit. what is important here is the IMPACT. make sure these drums are clean, and hard. you can add distortion to the textural drum samples, but it's a good idea to keep your electronic impact drum samples clean and relatively unnoticeable if you don't want your drum stack to sound like more than one sample at a time.
load these into another impulse so that their slots correspond with those in the first impulse (ie kik slot 1, snare slot 3, hats slots 6-7-8, etc... think of a system and stick with it.
----------- routing the midi
route your midi from impulse one, to impulse two (set midi from to 'impulse one' on the dropbox of track two in the i/o editor and then move impulse two to monitoring 'in' status). ableton kicks so much ass in the department that it will even route the automation through. this means if you, for example: timestretch and distort your snare at the end of a fill, it will do this for BOTH impulses
-----------making the stack sit right
there are a lot of little tweaks you can do on a kit to make it sit right. here's a few:
-take the bottom end out of your texture drums, you might want to do this with the individual cell filters in impulse, you might want to just eq the whole output. you have to be careful here to make sure that your stack sounds like one kit.
-you should also mess around with the tunings of your impact drum hits until you find the 'sweet spots' where it all just lines up golden.
-distortion/saturation is a really nice tool for bringing out the oomph. there's a reason why each impulse cell has a seperate saturator
-----------supplemental percussion bits
it's always good to have a few channels of supplemental drum sounds, like a conga loop, some rides, or a nice shaker (the one from lyn collins - think about it comes to mind.) try taking these in and out of your drum patterns when your beat needs a little progression halfway through a long section.
-----------route the drums to a drum bus
route all of the outputs of your impulses (and whatever other percussion you are using, audio loops, other vsts, whatever) to a new audio track called 'drum bus' with monitoring set to 'in'. this is where you will unify your drum elements. maybe a fancy distortion/compressor would be nice here. filters/eq are a must, and a beatrepeater here is handy too.
-----------drum bus automation
arrange view - it is a good idea to leave some long continuous audio on the drum bus channel. you don't hear it, but it will be handy later if you want to copy and paste patterns of automation around.
dummy clips - in session view you can automate the drum bus with dummy clips. this is where an audio clip is placed on the drum bus channel and the drum bus is set to monitoring 'in' status. this means that the audio in the clip does not play, but the automation data still affects the audio coming through the drum bus.
unfortunately you can't turn a plugin on and off from the clip automation yet, but you CAN automate the wet/dry or 'chance' fields to achieve a toggle effect. the classic hiphop beat double up is: interval 1/4 grid 1/8, but you should really experiment and try to make as many different patterns as you can. the grid parameter is especially fun. when automated from a clip it sounds tighter than a nun's knees and will really turn some heads if you start doing it in a live band situation. next time you need a drum fill, trigger one and there you go...
filters, etc -
whenever i write i keep clips of stock filter sweeps on hand in the session window, there are many times when you just need a simple one bar highpass sweep or something and it's not necessary to program new ones each time if you just save them into a template you start all of your tunes from. they can always be edited in the arrange window later. it is handy to have a few delay bus send spikes as well. often you just need the last beat of a bar to delay.
-----------adding extreme/random mashes with control and precision
MIDI - it's important to keep in mind that the first impulse is the impulse you are going to be sending your drum performance data to. editing MIDI is much cheaper than editing audio, so it might be cool to toggle a midi arpeggiator to stutter single notes faster than your hands can manages. the randomizer is great too. use your imagination.
midi munching is something that a lot of producers ignore ("arpeggiators are for trance man") but if you creatively take advantage of midi plugins it can really make you stand out from the rest. midi processing is also ill as fuck in a live situation because then your frantic button mashing will come out quantized all pretty
AUDIO - automating the drum bus is a great way to get percussion edits, but it can take a while, and the effects might not be as extreme as you would hope. what i usually do is:
late in the production stages of a song, when i am sure than i have the drums just how i like them, i record a five minute wav file of completely mental drum bus mashery using a plugin like livecut, crazy ivan, dblue glitch, supatrigga, or some of the reaktor granular FX. this will generate a lot of extremely complex and modulated drum edits that sound awesome, but are complete gibberish unless edited. if you chop a few choice mashes into the drum mix on a seperate audio channel it will sound amazing.
***be careful not to layer the same drum ontop of itself and cause phasing problems. you should also make sure to keep it tasteful, it's really easy to lose the plot at this point (unless you're making breakcore).
-----------kontakt, battery etc...
You can use this same principle much more effectively in Kontakt, Battery, or any other sampler program. One of the many benefits of this is being able to seperate the kicks vs. snares vs hats before they go to the drum bus. I used to be somewhat hesitant about going to wild with multi-channeled percussion, but Ableton's routing abilities allow you a great deal of control over the entire drum submix so that really isn't a limitation anymore.
PS: If you want to hear some of this in action, you can check out this teaser from the album I'm working on with my band The Department of Motion www.thephatconductor.com/DeptOfMotion-Teaser.mp3
Last edited by The Phat Conductor on Thu Feb 09, 2006 6:48 am, edited 9 times in total.
thanks matePatch wrote:WHY hasn't this dude written a book yet?!? The finest tips on this board ever are coming thick n' fast from The Phat Conductor...
the ebook is in the works. my students get a word file with what i have in it, and loads of ableton templates.
i haven't made a percussion routing demo yet, but i'll do one before long. i can make one to order if anyone wants.
Nice work! I just finished a drum day in the big room and am sorting the beats right now.. Just wondering if you know of a mac program that would work like protools beat replacer....it seemed so easy to change up the kik and layer it with out flamming....nice sounds on the track to Phat
music is the universal language of the world!