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ABLETON > Live 8 – American Songwriter
Live’s Arrange view. As a creative, stable and above all fun way of combining audio loops in real time, Ableton’s Live has proved an ideal counterpart to Rewire-compatible applications such as Cubase. With version 4 offering a wealth of new features including MIDI sequencing, could it now replace traditional sequencers altogether?
In their company profile, Ableton co-founder Gerhard Behles describes the idea of Live as software that provides musicians with a ‘studio as instrument’ — a concept that many of us from the era of dance music are very familiar with. The way they have gone about implementing this concept in fact incorporates a lot of the methods ’90s dance music has developed since the arrival of the S and the Atari computer.
Live is essentially a hard disk-based audio player and recorder that takes advantage of today’s fast processor speeds and disk access times, and combines them with some blistering time-stretch ‘warping’ algorithms to deliver what can only be described as an astonishingly fast, innovative and intuitive tool to compose, arrange and play music.
It allows musicians to combine almost any audio, be it on their hard disk or recorded from scratch, with anything else, virtually ‘on the fly’. You can audition material from hard disk alongside running program sequences, drop in live overdubs that can be triggered back off disk in an instance remember ‘Frippertronics’?
All of this can be done mixing most common file formats, sample rates and bit depths for maximum flexibility and speed. Much of the basic functionality was present in version 1 of Live, but Ableton have extensively developed its automation, audio processing and interface facilities through releases 2 and 3.
Version 3 saw the introduction of envelopes for manipulating audio data, with the facility to copy and paste envelopes between parameters speeding up the process of creating more complex automated tasks considerably. Building on their intuitive basic interface, Ableton have added functions such as keyboard and MIDI triggers for audio clips as well as scene-based automation.
Facilities such as the legato mode allowed users to superimpose melody on to audio via MIDI keyboards, or create unique grooves by switching between loops part-way through. This intuitive interface convinced a lot of people in the performing arts to start using the software, with modern dance and theatre companies now being able to perform live to music that was being created ‘on the fly’ while providing a reliable time base if desired.
Mixing and audio processing, meanwhile, was enhanced by introducing more proprietary plug-ins such as compressors, more sophisticated DJ-style EQs and creative effects like the resonator, which generates harmonics around a chosen fundamental note and is useful for both percussive and atmospheric sounds.
VST handling is possible from multiple editor windows and the managing of sounds and banks is comfortable, with a logical filing system. From the basis of the solid ‘audio sequencing instrument’ that was version 3, Ableton have launched Live 4, which is now described as ‘real-time music production’ software for Mac and PC.
Version 4 introduces MIDI sequencing for the first time, along with Ableton’s own plug-in instruments, the appropriately named Simpler and Impulse sample players. Apart from the MIDI sequence editing facilities which I will look at in more detail later , MIDI clips are handled in much the same way as audio, being stored as MIDI files that can be dragged on to the control surface into clip slots for instant combination with any other material running in the application.
I have used Live live on several occasions recently, and its simplicity, reliability the only real crashes I had throughout the reviewing period were Rewire-related, in complex situations with Logic running as the host under heavy CPU load and overall ease of operation make it the ideal tool on stage.
The fact that scenes can now store tempo information opens up a whole new application for the software: triggering loops and any additional backing tracks for bands, since each song can be stored as a scene, providing multiple outputs for headphone feeds and so on. For this I would recommend it to anyone who needs a light and robust tool for showtime.
The beauty of using Live in this fashion is that you can now store the tempo in the scene title, which means it can be changed on a nightly basis as the set develops. Nothing is more annoying than having to re-record the backline sequencing on tour because it needs to be sped up by a couple of bpm, and this is precisely what you have to do if you are using traditional hard disk systems or tape-based media.
With a program such as Live there’s limited point in running bench tests of the ‘how many plug-ins can the software run on how many tracks while standing on its head before crashing’ variety, because the goal here is creative manipulation of audio files rather than simple multitrack playback.
However, Live 4 is a processor-intensive application, and anyone coming from ‘traditional’ HD recording systems should not expect to be able to run the same number of tracks simultaneously as on their other DAWs. A closer look at what Live is actually doing makes it easy to see why this should be so, since most functions in the audio domain are related to real-time time-stretching, or ‘warping’ as Ableton prefer to call it.
And this is offered in the same form by no other application for Mac or PC I know of. Installation could not be easier: starting from a free demo download, you simply drag and drop the folders onto your destination hard drive, which installs all the relevant elements into their respective folders. As normal with audio applications, you have to point the software towards the audio hardware by putting the necessary drivers into the usual folders.
I found that this is a more reliable method than just pointing it towards an existing VST folder using an alias in fact this caused all sorts of problems with my existing Logic setup, resulting in the corruption of the Logic preferences. Audio and MIDI defaults are set in the Preferences dialogue once the software is up and running, along with the record path, default file format and resolution. When these steps are taken you can launch Live, which will open up with a dialogue asking you for the serial number, or alternatively give you the option to run in demo mode.
Demo mode does not allow you to save a set, or render to disk, something that quickly becomes very annoying because you are very likely to come up with something you’ll want to save in a very short time. Once you have purchased the software, the startup dialogue responds to the serial number by issuing a challenge code generated from the serial number and your CPU identity , which in turn will be used by Ableton to issue an unlock code.
If your machine is on-line this happens automatically and takes a couple of minutes; if not, it can be entered into a form on Ableton’s web site from another machine.
All in all the process is very quick and painless, and you are working with your new toy well within 10 minutes of opening the box. Live comes with a single-user multi-platform licence, which means that you are allowed to use your software on only one machine at a time, but you are allowed to install it on more than one machine. The user interface has been kept simple, and in version 4 there are still only two main windows at your disposal. You can toggle between the Session and Arrange views using the Tab key, and these main display modes have in common all the other displays, such as the browser, clip views, plug-ins, and so on.
The bottom left corner of both screens houses the ‘info view’ help text that explains whatever the mouse is pointed at at any one time and virtually makes the manual redundant. Most elements of the screen can be optionally switched on and off, but the default layout is a good starting point for anyone beginning to explore the application. To the left of both views is a browser which gives the user access to up to three different favourite locations for example, two different dedicated audio drives and your sample library as well as the Ableton plug-in folder and any VST folder you might have defined in the preferences dialogue.
The top bar in both pages hold the transport, locator and tempo controls, all self-explanatory, clearly labelled and along long-established conventions. Live 4 comes with a well-written manual which is easy to understand and comprehensive. While trying to stay entertaining and brief enough to hold the impatient would-be-producer’s attention it does, for example, go to the trouble of explaining in detail the phenomenon of latency and its significance to recording.
It offers a step-by-step procedure for setting up your ‘overall latency settings’ which is very useful in order to fine-tune your system when you’re recording live audio and monitoring through the computer. I have found that other manuals often leave out this kind of detail altogether or get lost in technical jargon that is hard for the novice to understand.
Also to be found in the box is a CD of ready-made loops from Big Fish Audio containing all sorts of goodies for fans of prefab music, sorted into categories such as Bass, Drums, Horns, Percussion, Synth and Miscellaneous, the latter consisting mainly of scratching and vocal snippets.
The quality of these sounds is good, and it’s very easy to build an instant track using them — a good way of demonstrating the power of the software, though anyone who builds their entire tracks on the bundled samples can probably only be classified as a sad case!
The Session view looks like a traditional mixer page at first glance, and this is indeed part of its function. However, above the usual mixer controls is a section of ‘clip slots’ into which audio and MIDI files can be dragged from the browser. Once these clips are in place, their playback parameters can be set in the clip view below. Each track defaults to having 20 clip slots, though any number can be added, and can play one clip at a time.
These clips are, in a sense, sitting dormant, waiting to be activated through mouse clicks, MIDI or keyboard triggers. The trigger quantisation can be set individually per clip from 32nds to once per bar in doubling increments or from the global quantisation parameter, which resolves triplets as well and goes up to every eight bars.
In the global menu we also find a ‘no quantise’ setting. At the bottom of the screen is the clip view, where parameters for individual audio and MIDI clips are adjusted. An interesting new feature in version 4 is ‘follow actions’, which essentially allow you to predetermine what should happen in this row of clip slots once a clip has been triggered.
You can set a time in beats and bars that determines how long the clip plays for. After that the clip will do one of the possible actions that can be selected in a pull-down menu: go to the next or previous clip, go to the last or first clip of the group, play the clip again or stop it, or go to any random clip in this group. A group in this context is a column of clip slots that are separated from the next group by an empty clip slot. There are two follow-on actions per clip, and you can set the probability of each happening compared to the other.
This sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is, and playing around with these settings generates more or less subtle variations on repetitive patterns that would take ages with conventional beat-slicing methods or MIDI editing. Another use for this function would be the creation of nested loops, which can be achieved by cleverly combining follow-on actions with varying start points in separate clips, using the same piece of audio.
I’d imagine this to be very useful for DJs wanting to create extended mixes of tracks. Live 4 offers two samplers, Impulse and Simpler. The interface is simple and intuitive, using drag-and-drop to assign samples from the browser and featuring a set of controls for each sample.
There is a resonant filter, plus drive and tune functions, with additional controls including sample start and decay. Velocity can be set to control volume, tuning, filter and stretch settings. Again the simplicity of the device is very much in line with the overall design philosophy behind Live, and it has to be said that this is a very effective little sample player.
A new sampler instrument: Impulse. Live does not provide a sample editor, and although most people probably have a stand-alone application like Peak for this purpose, I did miss it at times, especially when my ASIO driver would only allow for one application to address the audio interface.
Shutting down the application in order to load Peak, which then has to be shut down in order to return to Live, seems rather a palaver if all you want to do is extract 2ms worth of noise to use in a sampler. However, you will encounter the same problem with a number of programs, such as Reaktor, and it’s not a problem in OS X. A new instrument: Simpler. Each instance of Simpler will only play back one sample at a time, but it provides more sophisticated sound manipulation, such as an ADSR filter envelope, key tracking, sample looping and an LFO which is assigned to pitch.
This is obviously designed for melodic or pad sounds, but don’t throw out your copy of Reaktor just yet. And, it has to be said, no sequencer application gives you all the sound-generating facilities you’ll ever need. There are also a number of MIDI effects, including one for rescaling incoming MIDI notes in order to make shifting the pitch easy, a chord effect which builds up to six notes around any incoming note, and a self-explanatory Random device that works on pitch.
The Velocity plug-in looks and acts like a sophisticated compressor with a random element thrown in — very slick! These effects can be dragged very much like audio plug-ins into the signal chain prior to the MIDI instrument, with the audio plug-ins being inserted post-instrument. The arrangement chooser looks very much like a conventional desktop hard disk recording package, but it still integrates all the same functions as the Session view.
The main difference is that it is used for a more off-line approach, in the way that you might use a Pro Tools setup with copy and paste functions to assemble loops into a structure. It still allows you to trigger audio using the same sources, but it renders the results visually in the more conventional horizontal track view we all know from other packages. This mode could be used to construct a track from scratch by dragging and dropping parts from the browser onto the track slots, or to fine-tune and edit a performance that was created using triggers.
It also allows us to superimpose more linear graphic envelopes that don’t repeat with each trigger of a sample as they do in the Session view. Another, obvious reason to use this view is to copy and paste, cut and generally mess with an arrangement. On the subject of copy and paste, though, there were a couple of situations when I was the Arrange view and I had worked on a section in detail using envelopes in the clip view, but then wished for the possibility to paste them back into the Session view.
This doesn’t seem to be possible, and would be on my wish list for further updates. Live calls the pieces of audio or MIDI data used in a session or arrangement ‘clips’, and in order for clips to work in the context of a Live arrangement they have to be prepared in the clip view, which — like the effects and instrument editing pages — uses the lower section of the Session or Arrange page.
Here, we decide how a piece of audio is being triggered. There are four launch modes: trigger, gate, toggle and repeat.
Trigger is what is also known as ‘one-shot’ in the world of sampling, whilst gate plays a clip for as long as the key is held down, toggle uses one key-press for on and the next for off, and repeat plays the looped clip until another clip is triggered in the same track.
For audio clips, the clip view shows a waveform display, and is where playback parameters such as ‘warp mode’ the type of time-stretching algorithm that is most appropriate for the job in hand , level and tuning can be set. A clip is more than just a bit of audio, though, since it can be prepared for playback in the clip view in a multitude of non-destructive ways, setting a host of playback parameters such as pitch, trigger points, panning, levels, warp modes, warp markers which can be thought of as quantisation anchors within a piece of audio, corresponding to slice points in an application such as Recycle and even the grain size of the time-stretching cycles over time interesting for textural variation , with the aid of controls as well as envelopes.
This way, the same piece of raw data can be made to sound completely different without the need to create a new audio file, and the variations are virtually limitless. A nice feature is that the length of the envelopes can be decoupled from the sample length, in order to have variations in the envelopes over multiple cycles of the sample. This way a one-bar audio loop can be turned in something more interesting using envelopes that repeat over a longer period.
8 Audio Editing & Warping tips for Ableton Live & Logic Pro – Hyperbits
An audio clip’s warping properties are set in the Sample tab (see ), which is a sub-section of the Clip View. The Sample Tab’s Warping Controls. The most significant control here is the Warp switch, which toggles an audio clip’s warping on or off. The Warp section of Live’s Preferences will determine the default warp settings for. Download Ableton Live Suite 11 for Mac full version program setup free. Ableton Live is a fast, fluid, and flexible software that offers the latest effects, instruments, sounds for next-level music creation and performance. Ableton Live Suite 11 Review. Ableton Live Suite 10 is an industry-standard program for creating professional sounds and. This service works with Ableton Live 7, Ableton Live 8 and Ableton Live 9. Brought to you by and. Warp Digital Tracks in Ableton Live – € 1,46 per track. Warp your digital downloads or CD rips of digitally produced music (released after ). Warp Recordings from Vinyl in Ableton Live – € 2,80 per track. Warp your vinyl rips of electonic.