One of the cool things about the internet has been the decentralization of education that has occurred, in large part due to sites that allow people to upload and share their own content with viewers directly.
Back in the day, it was much more difficult to find resources for learning, generally being limited to whatever happened to be available at the local library. As a teenager, i checked out every book on guitar that my library had, and quickly ran out of resources for developing further musical understanding, having to resort to a very limited selection of magazines, instructional VHS tapes, tablature books, etc, to advance my knowledge.
Nowadays, there is no shortage of content being continually created and easily available for instant perusal via the web—so much, in fact, that the problem is now one of sifting through the vast amount of material available, to find what is actually worthwhile. If you just choose at random, the quality is likely to be of sketchy credibility. Rather than squandering my time copying people who are mimicking other people who are copying something they read in a forum, i’d rather focus on sources that will provide more a raw investigative slant.
So which Yootoobz does PerforModule officially recommend? And whyz? Read on to find out! (Headings are links to video pages.)
We’ve got a new pack for you, Super Awesome Sounds, featuring samples of the Casio SA-20 Keyboard. This was my first instrument as a kid and thus has a very nostalgic place in my heart, so i recently re-acquired one and went nuts sampling its 100 patches and making instrument and drum racks for ableton live out of them (plus audio effect racks inspired by them), using the amalgamation of my accumulated knowledge over the years to create the most refined PerforModule instrument pack to date.
Since it seemed to fit nicely with his existing collection which includes quite a lot of 80s- and 90s-esque sensibilities, i’ve teamed up with Brian Funk to release the pack. We talked about it as well as various other random topics on his show, the Music Production Podcast. Many thanks to Mr. Funk for having me on, always an interesting and insightful time.
There is a free version of the pack as well as the full version linked below, which can be currently had for just $6 by joining Brian’s Music Production Club this month (along with a bunch of other cool stuff). That’s a sweet deal! The MPC is a great way to acquire a constant influx of goodies into your inbox every month for a very accessible sum, so that even poor, cheap bastards like me can afford it. It’s rad! The price for Super Awesome Sounds is otherwise $15, itself a tubular deal considering the vast assortment of wonderful gadgetry it contains within.
While we’re going through some crazy times right now, it has been heartwarming to experience how humans have upped their compassion game in response to shared crisis. I’ve seen more freebies and crazy deals going on this past week than any other time i remember, which seems because people want to help each other, share and be nice (well, not so much a certain political faction in the usa who seems to prefer that regular people suffer as much as possible. But that’s another topic). With graciousness and care for their fellows is how humans should act, rather than trying to take advantage of each other sleazily—which happens all too much.
In this spirit, i am offering up my super secret stash of “Sweetie Pies”—a small collection of effect racks for Ableton Live Suite 10, each crafted to address a specific need in a sweet manner. These are highly practical yet fun racks with the primary purpose of “getting stuff done”.
i WAS planning on releasing this pack eventually anyways once it grew a bit more, but to expedite the process of getting you the goodies, i’ve decided to simply omit the not-quite-finished devices, give everything a good once-over, and release the pack for free as it is now.
The mbira (aka kalimba aka thumb piano) has a peculiar sound all of its own. I think they tend to sound pretty cool, with a distinctive tone that is reminiscent of some other types of instruments but not quite exactly like anything else.
But what’s this? The Array Mbira? It has four octaves, you say? Including multiple copies of the notes? Well, then. That’s sure nifty.
Madeleine Bloom, whose Ableton Live Tutorials i wholeheartedly recommend, has sampled one such Array Mbira and assembled the results into a series of 34 Instrument Racks for Ableton Live. There are only a small handful of Ableton Live instrument craftors whose work i’ve encountered that put in the depth of care that i consider the level of the adept, and Sonic Bloom is one such. I’ve had the grateful opportunity to give the instruments a deep look and am here to report on my findings.
Well, now we’re ratcheting it up a level to give you ultimate control of your own personalized device organization structure, with the ability to decide exactly what those categories will be.
If you’re like me, you’re obsessed with systematizing your production tools and resources into a cohesive configuration, making it easy to access what you want when you want it, for maximally optimized workflow when diving into creativity.
While working along with the default categories for years, i was never quite fully satisfied by Ableton’s built-in selection of available choices, so i did some research and testing and determined that it’s not only possible, but actually fairly easy to set up your own custom categories. The trick is to plan things out logistically.
If at this point you have no idea what i’m talking about, please check out the above-linked blog post for background on how Ableton’s category structure works. Then come back here and continue on. The gist is that by including devices in folders of particular names, you can get them to automatically show up in Live’s Core Browser. Normally, we’re relegated to using the default built-in categories that Live comes supplied with. All PerforModule Premium Packs are set up with devices like this, so they install and devices show up in the Core Library for anyone who purchases them. But now, should you want to, you can modify those actual categories. Sweetness.
Virtual Folder Config
The trick to setting up your own categories lies with the VirtualFolders.cfg file.
VirtualFolders.cfg Locations (for Ableton Live 10, similar for Live 9)…
PC: C:\ProgramData\Ableton\Live 10 Suite\Resources\Core Library\Ableton Folder Info
Mac: Ableton Live Application (show package contents) > Contents/App-Resources/Core Library\Ableton Folder Info
Always Back Up!
When starting out on this mission, firstly save a copy of the original VirtualFolders.cfg file in a safe place in case you make a mess out of things and need to restore the default state. You can always reinstall Live to do so as well, but that’s not necessary if you back up the file.
In addition, you definitely, absolutely will want to save a backup copy of your own custom-crafted VirtualFolders.cfg in a safe place, because every time Ableton updates Live, it will get overwritten and you’ll need to replace it (just like with Themes aka Skins). Maintaining a backup of your custom configuration is essential in order to continue using it in the future, so do not forget to save a copy of it after you complete it.
Your Custom Configuration
If you open up the VirtualFolders.cfg file in a text editor (such as the recommended Sublime Text 3) and gaze around at it for a while you’ll get an idea for how things work.
Virtual Folders are arranged in Groups. Each Group can include an arbitrary number of Virtual Folders, which will be the names of the folders that show up in Live’s browser. Each Virtual Folder allows two parameters: the Name (a single string of text that will show up as the category title), and the Patterns, a list of text strings which will trigger search results for devices in that category. Neat!
To set up your own system, simply alter the existing entries, and/or add your own new ones. I would recommend starting slowly, perhaps by adding in one new category to one group and testing it out, before planning a major overhaul to the entire scheme. Be extra cautious about deleting existing options, since while doing so won’t affect any devices directly, it may reduce your ability to easily access certain existing patches.
In the image below, see how on the right i’ve added the “Chiptune” Virtual Folder to the Drum categories. Now i can find chiptune-style drum hits easier. Radical.
After you backup both the original and your new configuration, replace the original with the new one, restart Live and check out what happened. Chaos? Euphoria? Now ponder whether you made a wise decision.
PerforModule’s Configuration Strategy
I’ve found Ableton’s default categories for the Sounds group to be mostly adequate, and so i haven’t altered much there. Notably, i’ve removed the “Booms” entry (new with Live 10), which i find useless and annoying to exist as its own folder, since anything i’ve found that could be classified as such could instead fit into a more appropriate category.
Because i was already invested in having sorted thousands of patches into the existing categories, it made sense for me to keep them, but perhaps in your case it might be a good idea to reassess the default categories and use ones instead that make more sense to you. Perhaps you would prefer to have multiple categories of basses available, for example—coordinating your clean, distorted, and wobbly bass patches separately. I might change “Synth Misc” into “Chiptune”, since that’s basically what i use the category for anyways…
Note that the Drums group is for drum hits, not drum racks. (Unfortunately, i’m still not sure of a way to suavely organize drum racks by type, so for those i still use User Library folders.)
The AudioFx group is where i’ve shifted stuff around a bit more.
The “Analysis” category is added, and it is much welcomed. “Distortion” has keywords added so that degradation effects show up there. Various effects previously crammed within “Mixing & Mastering” have been granted their own categories… I’ve added a “Compression & Transients” category to align with the Elemental Mixing Template. “Gating & NR” category for dynamics-increasing and noise reduction effects. “Console & Saturation” has been added as a category, since i tend to use those for different purposes than more overt distortions. “Delay” (previously placed inside “Modulation & Rhythmic”) now has a dedicated category. “Enhancement” category added for exciters and other special-purpose, hard-to-categorize processors. “EQ” now has its own category apart from “Filter”. “Generative” category added for audio effects that generate sound. “Channel Strip” category added for multi-effect chain plugins. “Loudenating” category (shoutout to chris from airwindows for that term) added for limiters, maximizers… things whose purpose and result is to make stuff louder. “Multiband Dynamics” category added, because those beasts are unique and special-purpose enough to have their own demesnes. “Parameter Control” category because all those MaxForLive gadgets are so damn nifty to have on-hand in an accessible fashion. “Routing and Playback” for all the odd toys that do strange things with channel routing, signal sending, and et cetera. “Verb” because why the heck is there not a reverb category to begin with? They used to live in “Space”, which now i can designate only for things to do with stereo panning, perceived positionality, phase, and depth of field. “Drums” and “Instrument” still exist as effect categories, and are used for instrument-specific plugins (examples: eddie kramer DR, bass professor).
Should you use the same custom categories as me? Probably not. But you can use these examples as thought-food to inspire your own devious system planning that suits your particular preferences.
“I can just custom organize stuff however i want in my User Library, and ignore the Core Library. What’s the practical point of this?”
I dunno… i guess if you’re an anal-retentive nerd. It just streamlines stuff and feels like a cleaner, more unified experience. If you can’t see the appeal, then this is not for you. Have fun with your disorganized midden heap of chaotically-organized junk. Just kidding. It’s all love. Well, mostly.
As swagtastic as implementing a custom system in this way feels, it’s still far from perfect. There are various improvements that could certainly be had.
Being able to classify individual Samples, Loops, and Clips might be kinda neat. As mentioned above, drum racks don’t count as a group like the other device types, and that’s kinda dorky.
Being able to access things with a sort of tag-style metadata system might be more elegant than folder trees. I know some DAWs can do this.
“But what if i want ALL of them?” you ask. Not to worry—the Brian Funk ANTHOLOGY is available, allowing you to snag all of the packs at a greatly reduced total cost. Brian spent a ridiculous amount of time creating these devices in the first place over the years, and then i spent an obscene amount of time assessing, organizing, fine-tuning, and packaging them up into self-installing ableton live packs. The price for the full anthology might seem kinda hefty at first glance, but when you realize the scope of what you are getting, it’s actually an insane deal. (By the way, be sure to check out Brian’s awesome Music Production Podcast, if you haven’t yet.)
End-of-Year Sale on PerforModule Instrument Packs!
Until the start of 2020, all of PerforModule’s Legacy Instrument Packs are available for just $1 each! That’s 40 to 80% off their normal [already discounted] prices. w00t.
The PMX instruments were fully multisampled (all 88 keys for each instrument) through a tube preamp at 96kHz for ultra-high-quality source audio. What’s extra cool about them is that i spent a huge amount of hours researching the physical instrument counterparts of each patch, setting up effects and macro controls which mimic aspects of the playability of their real physical versions. The Crystal Goblets pack is also cool, including instruments made from one of my first ever sound design projects, sampling notes played from water-filled crystal goblets in Oregon in 2006.
For the past close to a year, i’ve been working on recording and mixing a collection of original songs by Shavano, an 79-yr old piano player / singer who lives in the same mountainous, forested region of Colorado as me. He dwells in a house built with his own hands, which is powered exclusively by solar and wind energy, on an amazing property with stone-lined paths twisting here and there. It feels like something from a fantasy novel, a magical space that is totally separate from the rest of the world.