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!
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?
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.