Tag Archives: Device

3 Reasons Why You Should Still Use Ableton’s Impulse

15 Dec

The Ableton Impulse device is like the rotary phone of music production. Or better yet, the fax machine.

It’s around, but no one really knows why. At first blush, it would appear that everything that it can do can be done a million times better by the newer, cooler kid in class: The Drum Rack.

But I’m here to tell you that the Impulse is still the right choice for 3 reasons, which I shall enumerate for you right…now!

Global Transpose

As I’m sure some of you know, one of the best ways to make your beats instantly tighter is to make sure that your drums are (somewhat) in tune with your bassline, chords, etc. The longer the sustain on the drum hit, the more of an issue this is. Think kick drums, toms, woodblocks, etc.

So, let’s imagine that you (like me) have made almost an entire percussion track before you even thought of a bassline. Now you write the bassline and, just like that, your entire drum pattern is out of tune with your bassline. Wah-wah.

If you are using the Drum Rack, you have to go into each individual Drum Cell and transpose your hits. This is somewhat of a bummer, workflow-wise.

Enter the Impulse’ Global Transpose control. Just like the Drum Rack, the Impulse Device in Ableton has a transpose function for each Drum Cell, but it also has one (on the far right, bottom) that controls the transposition of the entire device. Pretty groovy, right?

Ableton Impulse



This is my actual favorite aspect of Impulse. The stretch control, which is available for each Drum Cell literally stretches the audio sample. This does not sound at all natural, which is totally boss. It sounds, to me, like your putting your sample through a granulator. This effect is also available for the entire device, where it is inexplicably called “Time.” Dunno why that is.

This feature, plus Envelope Automation, is great for adding some variation to your clips, like I show in this little video here:

The Frou-Frou Reason

As you might know from reading this blog, I am a fan of “process.” I think a lot about how to make music and how to be more creative and all of that good stuff. And I think that a certain degree of limitation is good for creativity, I really do.

Too often, as Live users, we fall into the “more is more” trap. Something not going right with the track? Add more stuff! I myself do this and know that it leads to paralysis and frankly, messier mixes. So, why not limit yourself to 8 drum sounds per beat? Do you really need 128 drum sounds on each track? I highly doubt it.

The Impulse might not be for everyone, but I guarantee that it will help you add some new flavors (flavas?) to your tracks. Or do you use it already? Let me know what you like (or hate) about this oft-forgotten Ableton device!

P.S. I just completed a whole section on the Impulse for the Device Rack Module, the first Module of the Ableton Cookbook Live Course which will open tomorrow at 9am CST on this very blog! Sign up for the email list and be eligible for a 25% on this 8 Module Ableton Live smorgasbord.

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How to Make a MIDI Multi-Effect Rack in Ableton

12 Dec

The Ableton MIDI Effects are some of my favorite things in Live. Some of them are unassuming, but really powerful. But what’s more powerful than one unassuming MIDI Effect? A whole boat load of ‘em!

In this video tutorial, I show you how to make a MIDI Multi-Effect Rack that lets you apply different FX to different regions of the keyboard (or of any MIDI controller for that matter). This will let you take advantage of your whole keyboard and finally be able to make your dreams of being a one-man keytar band a reality!

Be sure to sign up for the email list if you like this video, because it is excerpted from the Ableton Cookbook Live Course that I will be opening up on Friday; and this baby’s gonna be comprehensive. As usual, there will be a discount for members of the email list, so make sure to get your name on there. And for those of you who already bought the Clip Module, you will get an even bigger discount!

Handy Tip for Using Extract Chain in Ableton Live

7 Dec

In the last post, I discussed the extract chain function in Ableton…as well as what I felt were some of its drawbacks. I like the fact that I can break a MIDI drum clip up into various parts (one for kick drum, one for snare, etc.), but I don’t like the fact that, in the process, my original Drum Rack gets torn to pieces. This makes it difficult to play live, etc.

So, I’ve come up with a solution, natch. In this tip, you can take advantage of the Extract Chain to break the original drum clip up into separate MIDI clips and then use MIDI routing to have these newly minted clips play the original Drum Rack.

I like to do this because, now, since my Drum Rack is still intact, I can still play it live, like a Drum Machine. I can also easily switch out the Drums from the cells and use choke groups, etc. Basically, I’ve salvaged the functionality of the Drum Rack. Yay, me.

Sound complicated? It sort of is…but luckily I’ve made this handy dandy video for you, including on-screen keyboard shortcuts! These shortcuts make all the difference between this taking 3 minutes and this taking 15 minutes, so check ‘em out. Make sure to leave me a comment if anything is unclear!

Text instructions are below the video.


Free Simple Waveforms for Ableton

28 Nov

Simple Waveforms

Some posts back, we discussed how to make a synthesizer out of any sound: found sound, field recording, Kung Fu Panda soundtrack. But what about something a little more, um, conventional? Something like a synthesizer based on a simple waveform? Well, that is totally doable, too!

What is a Simple Waveform?

Simply put (har har) a simple waveform is an audio recording of just one cycle of an oscillator; the “motor” at the heart of all analog synthesizers. These simple waveforms are audio files that are so short that they will generally just sound like a “click” or “blip” if you play them in Quicktime or iTunes. But, when you repeat them over and over, they will form a tone. This tone can then form the basis of a synthesizer much like the ones that we made out of a field recording of a stream.

Luckily, instead of pressing play a 1000 times a minute to create the tone, you can set simpler to repeat the waveform as long as a key is depressed.

The easiest way is to load up a simple waveform in Simpler, and make sure that the “Loop” button is depressed. This should get you started, but here is a great tutorial about how to produce a basic synthesizer out of a simple waveform and a Simpler.

And the best part is, since these waveforms are so small, you can keep a bajillion (don’t quote me) of them on your hard drive and not run out of space. Not too shabby, huh?

Where Do I Get These Simple Waveforms?

Now, that’s all well and good, but where do you get these simple waveforms? Ableton comes with some, but eventually you might tire of these and want to expand your collection. The good news is that a chap who goes by the name of Adventure Kid made this killer simple waveform collection some time ago and it is still my go-to. Not only does it have the standard waveforms, like square waves, sine waves, etc., it also has waveforms sampled from all kinds of sources like oboes, theremins and all kinds of stuff. I’ve reupped the collection below. This is mandatory downloading for anyone who wants to take their synthesis in Ableton to the next level.

Download the Simple Waveform Collection (7MB)

Are there are any other sound packs lying around the internet that we should know about? Let me know in the comments and I’ll put ‘em in the Toolbox section!