Quick MIDI Mapping Tips for Clip Focus

So, there you are in the DJ booth. You’re cueing up tracks, you’re twiddling knobs with indefinite purpose, you’re adjusting your headphones and spraying Cristal onto the crowd, all without messing up your hairdo.

Then it hits you: you have no idea where you are in the track.

Is this the second verse or the third? Wasn’t there supposed to be a breakdown midway through minute 27? Panic ensues. The track screeches to a halt, the disco erupts in chaos. You get trampled.

Hairdo: ruined.

Luckily Ableton, in their infinite wisdom and benevolence, has given us a way to assign a MIDI button to automatically focus (bring into view) a playing clip. Oh thank you, Sages of Berlin!

How to MIDI Map for Clip Focus

The actual button, though, is somewhat difficult to find. First, enter MIDI map mode and you will see that there is a blue box below the Clip Slots for each track. Select this blue box and press a button on your MIDI controller (or keyboard) to map it. Now, if you press that MIDI button, you’ll see the playing clip pop up right away, no matter where you are in your set. This is a great feature to have when you want to switch between manipulating effects and manipulating clips really quickly. Since many FX autoselect, meaning that, when you turn a knob on a given effect, that effect will pop into view, having a quick way to get back to the playing clip is essential.

Context-Dependent Clip Controls

Another perk to using this mapping is that many mappings to Clip Controls (like Loop Length, Transpose, etc.) are context-dependent. This means that, if I map a MIDI button to set the loop length, it will perform that action on whichever clip is currently selected, not necessarily the one to which I made the initial mapping. Using this Clip Focus mapping, plus these context-dependent Clip Controls will really go a long way towards making your mappings more efficient.

Make sure to leave me a comment and tell me how this tip works out for you!

Get Patching: Introduction to the Live Object Model

If we want to do anything worthwhile in terms of controlling Ableton (and by worthwhile, I mean things that are impossible or difficult to do with conventional MIDI mapping), then we’ll have to delve into the Live Object Model (LOM). The Live Object Model is a like a map to the mystical forest which is your Ableton Live Set. It will allow you to navigate to (almost) any element within a Live Set and, in many cases, manipulate it, make changes based on it or just retrieve parameters for the fun of it (weirdo).

In this video, I explain the basics of the Live Object Model (through the magic of drawings!) and then I show how to use the live.path and live.objects objects to fire clips in Max for Live, as well as another tip on monitoring your outputs in M4L. While we don’t build anything snazzy in this video, it is the first step in our next project: Building a better clip launching matrix, this time with pretty colors!

You can check out the online documentation here.

P.S. Thanks to the Ableton Blog for the idea for the new series title!

Shut it Down

I have some bad news.

I’m going to close enrollment for the Ableton Cookbook Live Course in 6 days.

You’re probably pulling your hair out, gnashing your teeth and beating your breast, crying “Why?”

Well, calm down.

I’m closing enrollment because the amount of students has become somewhat…unmanageable. As you know, when I answer emails, I REALLY answer emails.

But this takes time. Like, to the tune of hours a day. And, unfortunately, I have other things to attend to.

“What things?”, you may ask.

I have been on a super secret mission, calling upon all of my internetting powers to improve the course even more. I’m really excited for the upcoming changes to the site and to the course, but these changes also take time.

So, in the interest of providing a high quality product, both now and the future, I’m closing enrollment for the Ableton Live Course (and Complete) on May 16th at midnight. Get in on this while the getting is open.

Sign up Now

P.S. Remember, Email List Members, apply your discount at checkout to get big ole discount!

Gobbler: Like Ableton Share, but Real?

Where are the Ableton Shares of yesteryear? Oh, Ableton Share, how little we knew ye.

And so on.

Ableton Share promised to make sharing among Live users effortless, by some undisclosed means. It was touted as one of the main selling points of Live 8 (a fact that you can read about in all its ranty glory at the Ableton forum), but the feature disappeared quickly after being introduced. But due to its ungoogleability and some great damage control on the part of Ableton, I haven’t even been able to figure out what it was, much less what was wrong with it.

But I am curious, since it seems like it could have revolutionized the way we make music.

Right now, producing music is often a solitary activity (your cat does not count as a companion). But what if we had a service like Ableton Share to help us not only connect with collaborators, but to discover new ones as well?

Many people have gotten into using Ableton’s “Collect All and Save” feature and a Dropbox account in order to share their sets with their collaborators. My experience with this has been mixed, tbh. It still seems like a kludge to me, which is great, but I’ve always said “Dare to Dream” (my therapist gave me a poster to that effect). I’ll tell you my preferred method after the fold.

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Intro to Max for Live: Making a Simple Arpeggiator Pt. 2

If you watched the last video where we shook hands with Ableton’s Max for Live, you might remember that the device we left off with was functional, but far from optimal. Our main goal was just to get the darn thing working. So, in this video, we are going to discuss a few ways to optimize our arpeggiator. First, we are going to discuss how to make the unit interact more closely with Live’s global tempo (since that is the reason most of us use Live). Then, we are going to talk about making our User Interface, if not nice, at least comprehensible and “Ableton-like.” We’ll do this by using some of Max for Live’s built-in interface objects. And, last but not least, we’ll make sure that our poor little device has some sort of labels to explain what it is and what it does.

Make sure to tune in next week, when we discuss how to extend any MIDI controller with the power of MaxforLive!

The Ableton Cookbook, Brought to You By Halliburton

James Taylor-Giant Steps

The other day, I sat down with the homie James Taylor to talk about my second favorite subject: Cash Money. James is what we in the biz call “a baws” (like Rick Ross): he’s the General Manager at the Beauty Bar here in Austin and is the don of his own company, Giant Steps Productions, which is a one-stop shop for management, booking and publicity for a grip of local acts.

We sat down to have a beer(s) and debrief about a presentation that he gave recently about novel ways to make some money in this business that we call: Music. I’m going to put up a few of his insights over the next week or so, but let’s begin with James’ ideas regarding getting sponsored as a musician.

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Intro to Max for Live: Making a Simple Arpeggiator

Max for Live is quite a confusing piece of work for the average human being like me and you. But Max doesn’t lack for documentation. It is actually very well documented, but I’ve alsways found that the documentation seems to be written for people who are already a Live ninjas/gurus/yogis, whatevs.

So, I (along with some help with my homie Nate) decided to embark on this tutorial series to show you how to get down the very basics of Max 4 Live. And I’ve decided to do it by focusing on a number of small projects, after the completion of which we’ll have a pretty good handle on the necessary components of Max 4 Live. But what that means is that we’re going to skip the preliminaries and jump right in by starting to build a simple MIDI arpeggiator!

In this video, we’ll cover: How to get MIDI in and out of an M4L device, How to monitor what’s happening in M4L, Simple math in M4L, Using sliders and the unpack objects.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions!

Why Max for Live?

So, as those of who follow me on Twitter may be tired of hearing about, I’ve been working with my main man Nate to get together some basic video tutorials together on how to use Max for Live. But it might be worth taking a moment asking ourselves, Why do we care?

As many of you know, Max for Live is basically a port of Max/MSP, a graphical programming environment that can be used for normal computation (boring) or Audio Video applications (huzzah!). What this means in human-speak is that, instead of programming by staring at a black screen full of green text, you can program by connecting pretty little boxes and, when they inevitably don’t do what you’d like them to do, you just unhook them and connect them to something else. Think about like the modular synthesizer of the programming world. And Max for Live extends this functionality by allowing Max to run inside of Ableton as a Device, the format that we are all so fond of.

For many true-blue geeks, like myself, this is exciting simply because it is. Game of Thrones isn’t on Netflix, so what else am I going to do?

But for the novice, you might need some convincin’. So here’s why I think learning Max for Live is worth your time.
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Performing Generative Music with Ableton Live

Friends! As most of you know, I’m into somewhat infatuated with generative music. Generative music is exciting to me because it allows us to do things that would be almost unimaginable with conventional instruments, but it does so without getting rid of the excitement of live performance: it is truly technological music.

But getting a consistent live setup for my generative sets has been tough, since it has to fulfill two criteria: Maximum control over musically pertinent parameters and enough randomness to make new things possible. It also must be optimized for radness. But after months and months in the lab (my bedroom), I’ve been able to whittle the setup down to what I demonstrate in this video.

I’m really happy to share this with y’all because it incorporates several different MIDI FX and demonstrates some cool routing techniques. It also employs a technique that I explored here. Enjoy!

Make sure to let me know in the comments if you have any questions!

How to Use Multiband Compression in Ableton Live

One of my favorite uses of Multiband Compression is to use it to add a little extra punch and clarity to the low end of my mix. I’ll show you how I do that in the video below. Multiband compression is an effect that allows you to isolate and compress different “bands” or areas of the frequency spectrum. This means that you can compress, say, the bass and the kick drum together without squashing the entire signal. While this won’t be the end of your tricks for mastering audio, it’ll be a good start!

To understand why we’d want to do that, it might first be important to remember what Compression does. It allows you to raise the perceived volume of a signal because it attenuates the volume spikes that might cause distortion. With compression, you can raise the average volume of a signal, but often at the expense of dynamics, since the distance between the quiet and the loud sections of the signal will be closer together.

One way that we can have our cake and compress it, too, is to apply more compression to areas of the signal that may not have that much dynamic variation, such as a kick drum. Usually a kick drum is playing or not. There’s very seldom a reason, in electronic music, to have quieter and louder hits of the kick drum. So, squashing this frequency range and leaving the rest untouched, will allow you to raise the perceived volume of these parts without sacrificing the overall dynamics of the track.

In this little video, I show you how to do just that. I also illustrate (unwittingly!) some common missteps when applying this kind of compression, so be sure to look out for these and not to fall in the same traps that I do!