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?

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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New Packs

Guitaritis
guitaritis
A deluxe suite including combo amp racks making the utmost of Live’s built-in Amp and Cabinet devices, “Stomper” effects designed like guitar pedals and guitar Chord presets.
Stuff it comes with…

Combamps a whole bunch (30) of combo amps which are crafted to optimize Ableton Live’s built-in Amp & Cabinet devices to their utmost. These racks make it much easier to dial in your sound (combination of preamp drive, tone, envelope settings, biasing, and gain structure) without having to constantly adjust the output level to match as well. They also optimize your timbre selection options by providing many “dual” and even three “triple” racks, which combine and balance the tone of multiple amps. In testing, these multi-combamps have been much-appreciated for an expanded range of unique amp flavors, as you now basically have 30 unique amp models, instead of 6. All combamps have been gain-staged at multiple points in the signal chain using both Peak and LU matching with both “Strat”and “Les Paul” styles, as well as bass electric guitars. The dual & triple combamps are gainstaged with a system resulting in relatively balanced levels at all gain settings when using wide panning (so that one amp is not way louder on one side than the other one). Since every guitar has its own tone & envelope character, these values are guaranteed to be imperfect, but it should result in you only needing to make miniscule volume adjustments to fine-tune your ultimate sound.
Post Amp Compressor a simple compressor with settings calibrated ideally for taming an amp output’s transients.
Guitar Chords 35 presets for Chord based on actual human guitar fingerings.
Stompers 18 racks set up like guitar pedals, designed for use with a Combamp akin to a physical guitar routing setup.  If you have a midi foot controller you can use them exactly as such. Includes…
Booster
Chomper
Comper

Dister
Dualay
Flonger
Gater
Glitcher
Phozzer
PitchDownDelay
PitchUpDelay
Smevel
Somber
Sproing
Swamper
Toner
Tremotary
Whamper

Groovification 2
groovenose
A robust collection of groove files which implement rhythmic “chop” effects in quarter, eighth, and sixteenth-note patterns.
Stuff it comes with…

Chopper Grooves 302 of them! Drop a Chopper Groove onto an audio OR a MIDI part, make sure your global groove amount is up, and hear it do its thing. Drop different Chopper Grooves onto different tracks… then when you turn global groove amount up… they all start chopping in their own way.

Harmonicality
harmo
Audio effect and MIDI racks designed for enhancing and manipulating harmonics by various methods.
Stuff it comes with…

Harmonic Colorizer enhance harmonics using various different methods. By using different amounts of each knob, you can set up your own unique boost texture to help a part stand out against its various song elements, or use it to subliminally add a particular color to a submix or mix.
Overtone EQ (3 versions) EQ racks set up to select a target frequency, and then manipulate the harmonics based on that frequency. The Even & Odd version allows separate control of even & odd harmonics. The Even vs Odd will boost Even or Odd and attenuate the other (useful for hearing the difference between those types of harmonics). The Sculptor version is useful for manipulating each harmonic interval individually.
Undertone EQ (3 versions) just like the Overtone EQs, but these manipulate lower harmonics instead (not as common of an operation). They include the same 3 versions.
Harmonic Chord Presets these will add in MIDI notes based on harmonic intervals. Simple, but useful. Includes 2nd through 4th harmonics which each add only 1 note and also CoarsePerfect, and Undertone versions which each add multiple harmonics.
Harmonics Extender (3 versions) MIDI racks which can be used to set (& automate) the amount of added harmonics. Includes CoarsePerfect, and Undertone versions.

Amplitude Operands
ampop
Utility presets allowing to divide or multiply level according to Sound Pressure Level, Acoustic Intensity Energy, and Perceived Loudness Sensation.
Stuff it comes with…

Sound Intensity by Energy (Utility Presets)
Sound Loudness by Sensation (Utility Presets)
Sound Pressure by Voltage (Utility Presets)
divide or multipy audio level by either “SPL”, “SIL”, or “Volume”. This is technical stuff. Check out http://www.sengpielaudio.com/calculator-soundlevel.htm for more info. Basically…
-use SPL (voltage) division when you want to sum parts perfectly (i.e. 5 copies of something each divided by 5 SPL and recombined will equal the exact level of the original)
use SIL (energy) for acoustic energy calculations. Like, let’s say you’ve got a really small sound, like a pin drop. Multiply it by 100 SIL to estimate the level provided by 100 pins dropping at the same time.
use Volume (loudness) for the human perception of level.
So, to make something seem twice as loud, subjectively, multiply it by 2 Volume.
There are also included some racks to choose/automate which multiplier/divisor to use:
SPL Divisor

SPL Multiplier

Volume Divisor
Volume Multiplier

Note Range Setters
noterangemash
An assortment of midi racks, primarily for composers, which filter incoming notes according to standard instrument & vocal ranges, plus tools for making custom note ranges.
Stuff it comes with…

Note Range Setter (Absolute) define a playing range by setting the lowest and highest allowable notes
Note Range Setter (Relative) define a playing range according to distance from a root note
Note Range Blocker (Relative)
set a sub-range of notes to block from being played within a range

Includes individual MIDI racks for a vast range of classical and folk instruments, as well as standard vocal ranges:
Brass
36 instrument ranges
Exotic 2 instrument ranges
Guitar & Plucked 58 instrument ranges
Mallets 8 instrument ranges
Percussive 5 instrument ranges
Piano & Keys 14 instrument ranges
Strings 15 instrument ranges
Voices 35 vocal ranges
Winds 88 instrument ranges
Simply set a note range before a MIDI instrument to allow it to only play notes within that range.

Vinyl Snackler

 

NEW free pack available via AfroDJMac: Vinyl Snackler
“Instrument with 128 Unique Analog Vinyl Noise Loop Samples.”

This is a sampler instrument which is designed to play a loop of background vinyl noise which you can select from 128 unique samples, each with their own character. Some of the samples are primarily background hiss, but some also have pops, clicks, and other artifacts which can be useful as percussion elements. Big thanks to the one and only AfroDJMac for hosting this device.
afrodjmac vinyl snackler
(It’s free! Go grab it!!)

PS…. if you are not already a member of the ADM Music Production Club, then you are missing out on a crazy-affordable source of insanely cool, high-quality, monthly awesome stuff delivered to your face. If you are interested in steadily building up your ableton library full of production and performance assets to be able to more quickly dive in to making your own bizarre unique sounds and developing your own twisted techniques, this is one of the most practical possible methods you can consider, especially if you’re a fan of the more odd and innovative side of things (which, if you’re reading this here now, i’m guessing you probably are).

Free LANDR “Tone Sculptors” Ableton Live pack + other nifty stuff

I recently helped tweak and finalize a set of free audio effect racks in collaboration with online mastering service LANDR.
These are three effect racks suited for quick and easy “tone sculpting” of parts which are centered on low, mid, or high frequency ranges.

Check out the story about it and find download links here: www.ableton.com/en/blog/free-landr-tone-sculptors/
tone sculptors ableton

If you’ve never used LANDR, i highly recommend it as a way to test your mixes. Finish a mix and send it off to LANDR… listen to the master they send back to you, hear problems more clearly, and then go back to your mix and fix. It’s also a great way to get a new track ready for live performance before it has been sent off for professional mastering or officially released.

Also, check out the new ARCHIPEL ELEMENTS live pack, with drum racks featuring juicy recorded samples ranging in the 4 elements – earth, water, air and fire. Great material for sound design and experimental composition.

archipel elements

Enjoy!

“8-Bit Reverb” free effect rack

Sometimes you want a pristine reverb with the most delicate and precious tail imaginable.
Other times, you want a layer of digital dirt to add a touch of gritty color.

For those other times…
here’s another new free audio effect rack for Ableton Live 9.
It’s called “8-Bit Reverb” and is a lo-fi reverb effect that can be used on individual tracks or in a return channel.
It stays at an output bitrate of 8, for an old-school computer noise sound.
It has robust controls for sculpting the timbre easily to apply to many versatile usages.

GRAB “8-Bit Reverb” for Ableton Live 9 for FREE by clicking here
8-Bit Reverb Image

Macro Controls

Wetness:
The amount of reverb.
At 0, effect is bypassed.
To use this as a send effect in a return channel (in order to add amounts of the same reverb to different channels), set it to 100% (127).

Tone Width:
Affects the reverb and erosion bandwidth.
Increase this for a more dense, colored sound.

Shape:
Alters many parameters simultaneously.
Set this carefully for the desired reverberation contour.

Erode:
Adds in erosion coloration to the reverb layer. At 0, no erosion is added.

Lows:
Sculpts the lower range of the reverb. Boost this for more boominess.

Freq Center:
Sets the midpoint of the reverb and erosion tones.
In conjunction with Tone Width this has a great effect on the overall sound.

Highs:
Sculpts the upper range of the reverb. Boost this for more shimmer.

Down-Sample:
Divides the sample rate by the number shown.
(Note that the bit rate is always set to 8; dividing the sample rate further degrades the sound.)

Updated set of free special racks to economize cpu: “The Enablerz”

“The Enablerz”

The Enablerz browser image
What they are:  An Ableton Live rack (one each for effects in audio tracks, effects in return tracks, midi effects, and midi instruments)  used to temporarily disable devices without deleting them, thereby freeing up some ever-precious CPU.

Features:  Frees up CPU of contained racks. Click-free realtime operation (feel free to enable/disable while audio is routing through). Input Trim & Output Gains.The Enablerz - Track

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