- Top 100
April 4, 2012
Welcome to one of DJ Mag Canada’s many new columns. This particular column will be focussing on the wonder that is Ableton Live. Whether you are a first time Live user or a seasoned veteran, this series will go cover a variety of topics that you can learn from and integrate into your own Live setup. The way I am going to showcase many of the various techniques is by dissecting my own Ableton Live setup. I will run through various instruments, audio effects, MIDI effects and routing to give you an in-depth look at many of Live’s features.
Being able to interact with my DJ/production setup is very important to me and about a year ago I was feeling somewhat disconnected with my live performances. Pre-made drum loops, one-shots and MIDI clips got the job done, but I felt like I could be doing more while on stage. After a bit of online research and an evaluation of my own needs, I decided that building a drum step sequencer with real-time playability would serve me best. At this point I did not own Max for Live nor did I have any experience using it, so I decided to try to build it simply with Live’s built in features. This is what I came up with …
A fully selectable and switchable one-bar loop including:
- 16 kick steps
- 16 snare/clap steps
- 16 hi hat/ride steps
- 16 percussion/tom steps
Within the snare steps I have three selectable layers of sound to choose from (usually set as a snare, clap and click). For the hi-hat/ride steps I use a selector switch to change between the two sounds as well as a momentary toggle to switch to either the open hat or ride bell sound. I have constructed a similar setup for the percussion/tom steps, where a selector switch changes the two sounds and two momentary toggles switch between their variations (usually high, medium, low tom and various percussion sounds).
All of these sounds reside in separate drum kits that are completely selectable and interchangeable. For example, if I am using all the sounds from Drum Kit one, but I decide that the kick is a little too boomy for the current song, I can select a new kick sound from another kick with a single button. The step sequencer loop will not be interrupted and will continue along the same kick steps that the old kick sound was playing
In addition to the steps and sound selectors I have also included three start point buttons that allow me to trigger the loop at three designated points- first step, third step, fifth step. When combined with the sound selection and toggles, this creates a completely unique playable electronic drum experience.
In the video below you can see a short example of the step sequencer in action. It’s a short drum jam that showcases the features that I described above. I’m using two Novation Launchpads in ‘User 1′ and ‘User 2′ modes to control all of the steps, switches and toggles. You’ll see me turning steps on and off in the main window of ‘User 1′ using the side buttons in ‘User 1′ to control switches and toggles and using the main window in ‘User 2′ to switch between drum kits. Enjoy!
I have also included a downloadable audio track of the step sequencer jam for you to listen to, use, chop, screw and maim to your own delight.
In the upcoming columns I will dive deeper into this monstrosity of a step sequencer and explore many of Live’s features. If you have any questions or anything in particular that you’d like to see, just comment and let me know!