Tag Archives: clips

How to Remix with Ableton: Fix an Acapella

27 Dec

In the last two posts on how to remix with Ableton, we talked about how to warp an acapella using two different techniques. But, sometimes, especially when you are using an acapella from a song recorded with a live band (not with a box full of wires, like we do har har), there will be minor inconsistencies in the acapella. THIS MUST BE FIXED.

OK, sorry. They don’t always have to be fixed, and you should probably pick your battles. Warping the bejeezus out of a soulful Nina Simone vocal phrase always struck me as…untoward.

But sometimes, little inconsistencies that would fit with the groove of the original backing track don’t exactly fit our purposes. In this case, we should be ready. So, I have this handy, two-step method for handling this. Remember, this only applies when the track has already been warped.


Remember that, when you move a warp marker, everything between them will be stretched. This is, in general, to our benefit. But, in this case, you are liable to try to fix something extremely small and end up pulling the whole acapella out of wack.

The solution to this is to quarantine your problem phrase. Find the phrase that you want to fix and make sure that there are warp markers isolating it from the rest of the track.

New Warp Markers

Regardless of which warp mode you’re using, Ableton should allow you to add a new warp marker at every significant waveform event. Go ahead and double click all of the pertinent bumps in the waveform. Don’t go too crazy, but be thorough.

Now (and this is super important), turn off the grid lock (Cmd+4)! This will allow you be a lot more exact with your modifications. If you don’t do this, you will get frustrated very quickly because you’ll keep on overshooting where you’re tryign to drag the warp marker.

You should now be able to move the warp markers to conform to how you feel the melodic phrase should sound.

From here on out, you are goign to have to play it by ear (har har), because each melody is different and the amount of warping you want to do is up to you. I would recommend, though, that if you are going for transparency, you might want to remove unecessary warp markers when you are done with your modifications.

That just about does it for warping acapellas. To be honest, I think that, if you can warp an acapella (or anything without a drumset), then you can warp anything. So, it’s good practice, even if you aren’t planning on remixing anything.

Next Post: We’ll talk about how to think of new chord changes for a melody that you are remixing. Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions.

P.S. Don’t forget that, if you sign up for the Ableton Live Course before 1/1/2012, you’ll be eligible for a free bonus module on Marketing Your Electronic Music! SIGN UP HERE

Extract Chain: The Good, The Bad and the Minimal Techno

5 Dec

In the last Q&A video for the Ableton Cookbook email list, I discussed how to layer MIDI clips together so that you have multiple MIDI Clips playing the same MIDI Instrument Rack using MIDI routing. This is a really cool way to experiment making complex melodic patterns out of simpler parts. I presented this as an alternative to Extract Chain.

There were questions, though.

The most common question was: How do you apply this to Drum Racks?

So, I thought I’d take a moment and talk about layering MIDI Clips with Drum Racks.

What About Extract Chain?

First of all, for those of you who haven’t experienced Extract Chain…get yourself ready.

Ableton Extract Chain

Click to Biggify

Extract Chains is a command that is found by right (cntrl) -clicking a drum rack chain in the session view. If you don’t see the individual chains for each cell in the Drum Rack, you need to click the small arrow in the Drum Rack’s track title. Once you’ve selected the chain and selected Extract Chains, Ableton will create a new track with a new set of clips that includes only the notes played by your selected chain. So, if I select the “Kick” cell of my Drum Rack and choose Extract Chains, then I will end up with a new track with the clips of all the notes that the kick plays in all the clips on the original tracks.

Ableton Extract Chain

Click to Biggify

Extract chains is a great, GREAT tool to use when you are making a track one of whose main characteristics is the drum pattern. Since you make, say, the snare drum its own track, it makes it easier to lay it out on the Arrangement view. That way, you can get really exact with your automation, etc. A good example of this is Minimal, Kompakt-style tunes. How many DJ Koze tracks come down to changing the amount of delay on the snare? A lot. Since, in this music, little changes in the drum pattern are a big part of the composition, it is nice to be able to lay them out over multiple bars, as opposed to the short-sightedness of the Session View. MHO.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that they are not kidding around when they use the term “Extract.” The extracted notes are no longer in the original clip and the actual Simpler which plays the Kick Drum (remember that each sound in a Drum Rack is actually a separate Simpler) is now absent from the original track.

ABleton Extract Chain

Click to Biggify

There’s a couple of reasons why this isn’t totally ideal. First, it is really best done after you’ve totally completed your Drum Rack programming. Why? Because now you won’t be able to see all of the percussion notes together, which can make it difficult to create cohesive patterns. Second, since the original Drum Rack is basically mutilated, you can no longer really effectively play the Drum Rack with your controller. This is a bummer even if you (like me) are no pro on the MPC Pads, because now you can’t solo sounds, etc. Basically, if you use Extract Chains, you are kind of sacrificing some of the cool stuff about Drum Racks.

This post is getting deep, so I’m going to split it into two parts. Tune in next time for my tips about how to overcome the shortcomings of Extract Chains and open some new horizons in your drum programming.

P.S. Are you on the Ableton Cookbook email list yet? If not, then GET FAMILIAR! And, by all means, leave me a comment if you have questions about Extract Chains.

5 Minutes with Animoog and Ableton Live

18 Nov

A while ago, when I first professed my love for Animoog, I promised to show you how I planned to use it with Ableton Live. Well, it took me a couple of weeks, but I’ve done it! Here is a video of the workflow that I’ve cobbled together between Ableton and Animoog.

How I set up Animoog with Ableton Live

I used the Novation Launchpad
to quickly arm and launch new clips that I am recording the Animoog into. When I use a setup like this, where I am using one instrument (be it a synthesizer or an iPad app) to record into mulitple tracks, I like to map the bottom row of the Launchpad to the record-arm buttons of individual tracks. Remember that the default mapping of the Launchpad can be overridden with conventional MIDI mappings. This way, you can keep the whole affair on one page.

Make sure that your record arming is set to “Exclusive” in the Preferences. This will make it so that only one track can be armed at once. This way, with one button, you can decide which track the instrument is going to.

As for the I/O, I have to confess that I didn’t do anything special. I simply ran a y-splitter from my iPad headphone jack to 2 inputs of my Motu Ultralite. I really think that a lot of the supposedly low-quality of the iPad’s headphone out can be mitigated by having a reasonably good preamp. If you have any money laying around, I would recommend getting a good audio interface.

So, without further ado, here is my improvisation with the Animoog. All sounds except for the drum break are from the iPad app.

A few observations about working with Animoog

I couldn’t get a convincing bass sound out of the app. I think it’s because there is such an emphasis on sounds that evolve over time and I don’t really like that much sonic complexity in my bass sounds.

If you are going to be switching between Presets (as I’ve done here) during improv, I would name them something like _boomtown, with the underscore, or append a number. That will make sure that they are all sequential on the list.

I sure would like to see the ability to make the keys longer, or mess with the scale of the panes in general. I REALLY like the keyboard on this app (the ability to customize is key, har har), but it would be cool if there was more space.

Have any of yall worked animoog into your Ableton life yet?