How to Warp Songs (in 3 Simple Steps)

So what exactly is Warping?
In Ableton Live, you can warp clips, so that they will always play in-tempo along with the grid. For most general composition and mixing tasks, you don’t want to do this, as it degrades audio quality, but for live performance it’s super amazing, since you can basically combine together any audio clips you want like legos. It’s also useful for transitioning between songs in more typical “dual deck” DJ-style setups, wherein the outro of one song can seamlessly blend with the intro of the next one, with a tempo ramp between them happening along the process.

Below the Warping Guide is a video of me warping the song “Put Down That Weapon” by Midnight Oil, one of my favorite songs which i used to listen to on cassette tape as a kid. Ideally you’ll want to read this guide as you watch that video in another window, if possible.

Warping Guide

Preparation: Drop in the Song Clip and enable “Warp”, if it’s not already.
Use the metronome or drop in some warped drum loops to use as a metronome (my preference).

Step 1: “Set 1.1.1 Here”.
Select “Set 1.1.1 Here” at the initial onset of the waveform. If the song has an amorphous intro, set it at the first obvious solid one beat.

To do this, right-click on the grey area just above the waveform in the Sample Editor. Make sure to right-click the darker grey area below the lighter-grey Loop Brace and Scrub Area, otherwise it will just give you “Loop Current Region”. You’ll want the big context menu:

Step 2: “Warp From Here”.
Right-Click on the Transient Marker that was just created and choose “Warp From Here”.

The warping options are just below “Set 1.1.1 Here” in the context menu. Usually the first option, “Warp From Here”, is sufficient.

After you do this, you’ll be able to see the Seg. BPM value for the clip that Live detects (just under the “Leader/Follower” button in the Clip View). If you want, set the session tempo to this value. Or not. That’s a personal preference. Setting to it will result in the most natural playback of the song, but on the other hand playing back at a stretched tempo can be more enlightening.

Step 3: Fine-Tune yer Warp Markers.
Getting good at this comes with experience. At first you might feel the urge to position EVERY SINGLE transient you see EXACTLY on a warp marker (i know i did this for awhile), but this is not recommended for a few reasons. One, it robotically stiffens the natural groove of the performers, which tends to not sound better. Two, it tends to unpleasantly maximize the amount of signal degradation by constantly stretching the audio to different degrees moment-by moment. And three, it’s time consuming and boring to do.

DON’T FORGET TO SAVE THE CLIP AFTER YOU DO ALL THE WORK!

0:07: Warp On
0:18: “Set 1.1.1 Here”
0:24: “Warp From Here”
0:32 on: Fine-Tuning Warp Markers



TIP: Use as few Warp Markers as you can get away with.

You’ll notice in the video that i’m trying to strategically place warp markers to align whole groups of nearby transients. I’m not worrying about each of them being absolutely perfect individually; it’s more about overall feel, looking out for areas where the tempo of the instruments has drifted forward or backward in time, and gently pulling it into place.

TIP: Onset of Transients, not Peaks.
Something i picked up from warping and DJing hundreds of songs over time was to set the warp markers to line up just before the onset of most transients, rather than at their peaks. You’ll notice this in the video when i zoom in closely. This tends to sound more natural when stacking various clips with different timbres, frequency spectra, and grooves, i’ve found. Positioning transients for multiple clips to zenith at the exact same moment can create unnecessarily loud momentary peaking as they all hit in unison, whereas smearing them a little bit, analog-style, may result in more headroom and a less harsh sound.

TIP: Use your Ears above all else.

Sometimes a transient might look like it’s positioned perfectly, but it just doesn’t sound right (or vice versa). Always trust your ears above the visuals on the screen, and nudge the thing back and forth, replaying that segment, until it sounds right. In the video, the main thing i’m doing over the course as i play the song and fine-tune the warp markers is to listen very carefully, so that the blend of random drum loops combined with the song just plain feel good.

Intros?
If a song has an intro with a hard-to determine tempo, i recommend setting the 1.1.1 point to the first obvious “one” hit, rather than at the very start. Then after warping the song like usual, you can move the clip start position to the left, to include the intro if desired, setting it to line up in a sensible fashion… for example so that the intro lasts exactly 2 measures before the “one” drops.

Outros?
A cool way to segue between two songs in a DJ set is to let the outro of the first song loop while you slowly crossfade and tempo-shift to the new track (perhaps with some spicy FX for flair). If you use the loop marker strategically, once the song gets to that point, it’ll keep looping indefinitely until you stop the clip. Setting up your clips with some of these loops points pre-loaded is handy when preparing for DJ sets.

Super Awesome Sounds

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.

The SA-20

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.



Click to check it out at Brian Funk’s site.


Read ON FOR NERDY TECH DETAILS…

Social Isolation Freebie: “Secret Weapon” Racks.













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.




SO WHAT ARE THESE GOODIES OF WHICH YOU SPEAK?

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Array Mbira Pack by Sonic Bloom

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.

The Array Mbira


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.

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Organizing Your Ableton Browser Like a Boss PART 2: Custom Categories!

You might have already checked out the post about organizing your User & Plugin Presets like a boss using Ableton’s built-in folder architecture.

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.

Modified Audio Effect Categories

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.

But Why?

“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.

Limitations

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.

What would you add or change?

Free foobar2000 Theme

Hey!

Apologies for the delay between posts, but i’ve been super busy with the finishing stages of completing production on Shavano‘s upcoming new album Progressive Energy Transfer (among various other things).
Now, on to the topic!

foobar rocks

I spend a good deal of time listening to music and occasionally take stabs at optimizing the experience. A recent subwoofer upgrade to a nicer one i snabbed at auction for super cheap is one example. Another example is fine-tuning my Desktop PC music playback experience.

Lately i have taken quite strongly to foobar2000 as an exquisite audio playback experience, as it is highly customizable and of utmost quality, but feels quite approachable. And also it’s totally free.

Having recently optimized my foobar interface to highly satisfying degree, i figured i’d share it with you / the world. You can use it as-is, or (as i would recommend) spend some time tweaking it to your personal liking, perhaps removing some elements, moving things around, or adding features.

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New Brian Funk Pack: ADM CHIP

OLD NEW IDENTITY
In case you haven’t heard the news, Brian Funk is no longer going by the name AfroDJMac. You can hear his thoughts on the evolution to this “new” identity at his podcast episode here.

MONIKERS CAN BE AWKWARD
I recall, when i appeared on his podcast for episode 13, joking briefly about the awkwardness of monikers. So from my perspective, this shift has been a long time coming and is totally sensible. HOWEVER…. at the time it happened we were smack dab in the middle of the process of releasing a series of ADM packs, epic agglomerations of his instruments, collected into organized, self-installing, themed ableton live packs, ideal for satiating completionists who desire to access to the catalog of devices in the easiest manner possible.

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Pingdemonium

So i found myself slightly annoyed that Ableton Live’s Ping Pong Delay effect always starts the first echo repeat on the left side. Sure, you could flip the stereo field after applying it to reverse the direction—but that also reverses the stereo field of the source audio. What if i want the source audio to stay the same, but have the echo repeats reverse direction?

Well now, it’s easy..

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Using LR Effects as MS (+ free Encoding/Decoding racks)

For this tutorial we’re going to posit an example scenario: a way to achieve the common practice of narrowing the bass content of a stereo track by scooping out the S channel’s low end—but this time, using analog gear instead of plugins. But what if we don’t have any M/S gear? Not to worry.

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Before & After Analysis = Awesome

We could all use less “hmm, i wonder what this is doing exactly?” and more “aha, i understand exactly what that is doing!” moments in our lives, am i right?

Well, perhaps you have everything sorted out with absolutely perfect mental clarity at all times… but nobody that i know of does. The built-in perceptual capabilities of human bodies have limitations. Consequently, methods we can use to uncover and keep track of finer layers of detail to our perceptual input than normally possible can be quite useful for stepping outside our our usual—highly subjective and somewhat amorphous—human frame of reference.

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