Set Up a Shuffle Playlist in Ableton Live Using “Follow”

Have you ever wanted to use Ableton live just to drop a bunch of tracks into session view and have them play randomly like a shuffle playlist in a media player?

Natively, you could always use follow actions for each clip to trigger random other clips after a set number of bars. However, this only works with warped clips. What if we want the next clip to trigger once the one currently playing ends, regardless of how long it is?

A nice solution (assuming you have MaxForLive) is to use the Follow CLIP device from Isotonik Studios. Simply place your group of adjacent clips together on a track in Session View, drop Follow onto the track, select the options shown below, and hit play on the first track you want to launch. As soon as the track ends, it randomly selects and starts playing another one in the batch. Woohoo!

Follow CLIP Settings for a Shuffle Playlist

Often, like when reviewing a mastering job the day after, i like to sit back (or walk around) and listen to music without actively working on it. Doing so can often be much more convenient in Ableton Live rather than opening an external program to do so.
The capability to send the signal to different speaker sets through my audio interface is a bonus. I even have a template for listening to any stereo material up-converted in realtime to 5.1 channels for immersive sound (more on that at a later date).

Playlist in Session View.

Pleasure & Practicality

Using Follow as described is done for reasons of pleasure and also for more practical scenarios.

Examples of pleasure listening could include dropping a custom shuffle playlist in the background while doing chores or other non-audio work, checking out the tracks of a newly-acquired album, or setting up a dope jukebox-style playlist for a casual house party.

A practical example for a random playlist as such would be to drop some recently-completed drafts (arrangements, mixes, masters) into a playlist of commercial music and let them play at random, letting yourself perceive how they compare when heard unexpectedly in context as a pure observer. For me doing so can help to step outside of overly analytical “mixer” ears into more emotionally raw “listener” ears. Generally when this is done, all songs are LU-normalized to -16LUfs to ensure objectivity (unless loudness comparisons are specifically desired).

A way to implement aleatoricism during live performance using Follow would be for layered tracks which bounce around between different clips at random. To do this, simply place an instance of Follow Clip on each track that you want to play randomized clips, and make sure they’re adjacent (in the same group). Then you can make the clips bounce around just like you can with follow actions natively in Live, only they won’t have to be quantized, nor will you have to explicitly state the lengths.

The Follow devices, crafted by Darren Cowley of Isotonik Studios, have much deeper functionality than my simple described use-cases. Check them out at the site to learn more. Super highly recommended!

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