New Years 2023 Freebie: “Introspection” Pack.

Effect Racks for Live Intro.

‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎ ‎Since my son has now acquired Ableton Live 11 Intro, I thought it would be interesting to make a pack of effects that utilize only effects native to that iteration of the software. These include Audio Effect Rack, Auto Filter, Auto Pan, Beat Repeat, Channel EQ, Chorus-Ensemble, Compressor, Delay, EQ Three, Erosion, Gate, Grain Delay, LFO, Limiter, Looper, Phaser-Flanger, Redux, Reverb, Saturator, Tuner, and Utility. This is no paltry collection to smirk at! Quite a range of possibilities. But also — a nice change of pace, being arbitrarily limited in options according to what I am used to as a rack craftor. I saw it as an exciting challenge. At the end, I’m super proud of what I’ve come up with. Methinks I’ll definitely be using these racks in the full version of Live 11 Suite aplenty moving forwards.

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-> Download the Introspection pack for Ableton Live Intro, Standard, or Suite <-

Read about the process of the device creation below.


The Research Phase: Planning the FX.

…Wherein I try to figure out a cohesive game-plan for a brand new set of racks.

Brainstorming notes for the Introspection pack.

‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎The first step was listing out the effects on paper and pairing them up, with the basic premise of using each effect one time in order to showcase their general capabilities. Here’s what was envisioned:

Auto Filter (bandpass) + Erosion.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ I thought that it might be cool to match up Erosion’s frequency focus with a bandpass filter, to supplement each other. Why not? Since so much can be done with Auto Filter, I didn’t want to get lost in a rabbit hole. This keeps the purpose very intentional.

• Auto Pan + LFO.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ How nifty is it that Live Intro comes loaded with LFO? I didn’t know that before. I experimented a bit with the idea of using the LFO to add a new dimension of movement to Auto Pan, struggled for a while, but then honed in on a wicked way.

• Beat Repeat + Looper.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ As the previous, It took a while to find “the way” to implement the concept, which in this case was to combine Beat Repeat with a Looper to make it more interesting. A devious glitch machine was fashioned. Making an exception to the “one device per rack” rule for the pack, a Grain Delay device was also added in order to use its pitch-shifting capabilities for extra fun.

• Channel EQ + EQ Three.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ I figured — since Live Intro doesn’t come with EQ Eight — why not try to make a “more robust” EQ Rack? Fiddling around with the combo, I found it to have a sweet bonus capability which is a pultec-like result when boosting and cutting the same frequencies using the mid-frequency bands of both the classic EQ Three and the newer Channel EQ. More on that below!

• Chorus-Ensemble + Phaser-Flanger … (Chorus + Phaser + Flanger).
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ I started making the Introspection pack in Live 10, in order to have versions for both Live 10 and Live 11 available, as I try to do when feasible. However, Live 11 has evolved Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger, into new beasts: Chorus-Ensemble and Phaser-Flanger. I started making the rack for Live 10 first. The rack I came up with using the legacy Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger devices turned out so nifty that I decided to not also make a more differenter Live 11 version. This makes it extra cool I think for Live 11 users who may not be used to using the legacy versions of the classic “modulation trio” of effects, providing quick access to them.

•Compressor + Gate.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ During development I sat on this combo last. Tried to make a Tightener rack. It was lame. Came up with a better idea! The Gate sits in the sidechain signal that a compressor listens to, and uses the built-in sidechain filtering (soloed) to create an ultra-frequency-sensitive compressor!

• Delay + Reverb.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ The classic combo. How to make it unique / interesting? Ok. The classic query: does reverb sound better with delay before it, or delay after it? Sometimes either. I decided to use a delay plugin instance to pre-delay the reverb in a special manner. And then a post-reverb, longer feedback delay instance to augment / spaceify the reverb. Have both and eat it too. A reverb sandwich with delay for bread.

• Grain Delay + Redux.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Dunno what’s gonna happen here, but know it’s gonna be crazy. Basically what happened: a delay that can be really crunchy and smeared — not all that crazy in fact, but definitely purposeful, especially for textural sound design.

• Limiter + Saturator.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Placing a saturation device pre-limiter seemed like an obvious choice if the goal was “how to make Limiter more powerful and exciting?”

• Channel EQ + EQ Three + Auto Filters (lo & hi cut).
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ EQ Seven ended up more like a unique weird tone box; not really a full-fledged EQ. I felt there may be something more helpful to offer Live Intro users for general surgical EQing tasks. The idea here is if someone would want to robustly EQ material using native devices, they are probably going to go for all of these effects, and want dedicated controls, for maximum flexibility… so that’s what it provides. It’s the only one that has sixteen instead of eight macros.


The Development Phase: Building the Racks.

…Wherein I start putting together the pieces, choosing mappings and adjusting value ranges, all the while testing the audio results and functionality (both by ear and with before/after analysis) over various assorted loops. After many revisions and fine-tunings, ultimate versions of the devices are settled upon, and macro help info text is composed for each device header and macro control. Read below for info on each.

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• Auto Filter (bandpass) + Erosion = Filtrosion.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Tone highlight / sweep FX device using an eroded parallel bandpass filter.

‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ This simple idea turned out pretty rad. Use Poke to add in the Filtrosion spike as a parallel effect. Fine-tune the exact Hz value that is affected with Freq, from 300 to 18k (unfold the rack to see the value — or better yet, adjust it solely by ear). The audible effect of Width depends on the Mode. Spice things up with LFO and/or Envelope Modulation, and alter its behavior with Mod Wiggle.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Use this effect subtly, set to enhance specific frequencies of different instrument parts like you might an EQ boost, helping them to stand out in a cluttered mix… OR go extreme, with wild automation for crazy fun sound design. You could use Filtrosion to temporarily transform any sound into an “uplifter” or “downlifter”, for example, by automating frequency sweeps fading in and out. It’s a delicate beauty, or a raging beast, or both — whatever you need it to be.

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Auto Pan + LFO = Revolvotator.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ This dual-action stereo tremolo revolves as it rotates, adding a new dimension to the traditional Auto Pan with controllable oscillation of the LR offset. Think of a normal rotary panner like two moons orbiting around you, opposite each other. Think of this, on the other hand, like those two moons orbiting around a third moon, which is orbiting around you! Or something.

‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Amount is like a dry/wet control. Turn it up to hear the effect in action. Offset Amount determines how much the phase alignment between the L and R channels is modulated, for the dual rotation effect. Dialing in various values for each of the two Speed controls leads to endless rhythmic combinations for creamy stereo width modulation. Offset Swing skews the timing of the supplemental LFO for a more swung or syncopated feel. Smooth vs Skittery will make the panning more unpredictable and also more abrupt as you turn it up, which can leads to pops and clicks on some material and thus is usually reserved for more experimental purposes. The device opens by default with extreme offset rotation settings so that it is easy to hear for dialing in, after which one can reduce the Amount knobs to taste. Doing so automatically adjusts output gain slightly, but if you need a touch more, use Volume Recover.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Note: While you can — technically — set the timing values to be beat-synced, this is not usually as much fun… since imperfect timing alignments between the rotations are often the very thing that provide that special element of dreaminess we so desire.

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Beat Repeat + Looper = Glitch Grabber.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Grab stuff! Glitch it! Wacky expanded edition of Beat Repeat, adding in bonus capabilities for bizarre glitch shenanigans.

‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ 1. Use the Looper‘s big button to capture a loop of playing audio during a live jam.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ 2. Adjust Grid to glitch the audio in realtime as it plays. Leave at certain values and/or move it around as you go. Snap to zero to turn glitching off.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ 3. Adjust the other macros to mess with the way the repeats are played back. Ideal with a MIDI controller, so that you can alter multiple controls simultaneously.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Think of the Glitch Grabber as Beat Repeat in “Super Saiyan” mode. In the past, I’ve generally only used Looper during live performance (usually with guitar). However, this rack opens it up for experimental usage in the studio for sound design as well. During production, resample glitched-out snippets into separate tracks to generate raw audio material for arrangement composition. Or use it during performance, but be careful about coming back on-beat after going down a crazy wormhole! You can still use most of the controls even without using the Looper button, but by grabbing a loop you gain access to two additional fun and dangerous functions: Speed and the Reverse toggle. The Repeat? control is a switch; turn it on temporarily to “grab” a specific beat to emphasize by repetition, while adjusting other controls still causing interesting effects.

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Channel EQ + EQ Three = EQ Seven.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Simple rack set up for easy “Push-Pull” EQ workflow.

‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ In order to fit everything onto eight macros, and for convenient workflow, the frequency adjustments have been distilled to one control, which has been carefully calibrated so that EQ Three and Channel EQ’s mid bands are perfectly aligned with one another. EQ Three’s mid band (labeled Mid B) is more rounded, with both a more broad peak area, and yet steeper Q edges. Channel EQ’s mid band, on the other hand (labeled Mid A), is more “triangular” — poking more precisely to a specific frequency, but also, at the frequency edges, tailing off more gradually. This means that you can’t really say that either of them are more narrow or wide than the other… at the focus point, EQ Three is wider — but at the outer edges, Channel EQ is wider. If you boost and cut the same frequency with them, they do not cancel out, but create an interesting contour. For example, by boosting Channel EQ’s mid band and cutting the same frequency with EQ Three’s, you get a little poke at the chosen frequency with a bit of a ripple effect, dipping the immediately adjacent frequencies (due to the EQ Three mid band’s more rounded shape). This so-called “push-pull” EQ technique can be a great way to highlight certain tones whilst curtailing the total amount of added energy and headroom reduction. For this reason, EQ Seven‘s dual mid bands are set to the same frequency, but you can adjust their gains independently. MidA moves about 150% more energy than MidB does, so if matching them, adjust dB values by that percentage. The other macro controls show the frequencies they affect, namely 80Hz Low Cut (toggle), 160Hz LoShelf, and 3k HiCut / ShelfBoost. The Variable Lo and Hi Shelves will adjust the frequencies below and above the chosen mid band frequency, respectively. By adjusting the various shelving options carefully, one can also achieve “pultec-like” effects.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Since it’s not obvious at a glance what’s going on with these interactions and they are delicate to balance, I’ve figured out some tasty “push-pull” setups using careful frequency analysis and provide the following nifty cheat sheet for engaging certain desired behaviors (also saved in the racks as Macro Variations). The Focus Bump and Adjacent Bump variations are meant to be used with variable frequency of your choosing; the other variations, however, are less adjustable, being only balanced at the shown freq macro values (namely: 33 and 78). To get two instruments in a mix to stand out from each other, place Focus Bump on one instrument, set to a chosen freq value, and place Adjacent Bump on the contrasting instrument, set to the same or a slightly lower frequency value. Thud Reducer could be useful on non-bass, non-drum instruments and Mud Reducer for lessening the dreaded boxy tone from pretty much any home-recorded audio. Upper Mid Bite happens to enhance a frequency that is perfect for making distorted guitar or synth tones sound more gnarly, and Bright Antiharsh might serve as a nice contrasting counterpoint to that.

SetupChannel EQ Band & dB ValueEQ Three Band & dB ValueAudible Result
Lo AntiThud160Hz LoShelf +12dBVariable LoShelf -11dB (freq 33)bottom end bump w/ 120 dip
Lo AntiMud160Hz LoShelf -5dBVariable LoShelf +6dB (freq 33)bottom end bump w/ 300 dip
Focus BumpMidB +6dB (any frequency)MidA -4.5dB (any frequency)focus boost 180 to 13k; adjacent dips
Adjacent BumpMidB -5.25dB (any frequency)MidA +4.5dB (any frequency)focus dip 95 to 12k; adjacent bumps
Upper Mid Bite3k HiCut / Shelf + 7.5dBVariable HiShelf -8.25dB (freq 78)top end dip; 2.5k hi-mid bump
Bright Antiharsh3k HiCut / Shelf -5.5dBVariable HiShelf +6dB (freq 78)1k mid dip; 4.5k bump; >14.5k hicut
EQ Seven “Push-Pull” Cheat Sheet

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Chorus + Flanger + Phaser = Triple Liquid.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Classic modulation effect trio, sympathetically integrated.

‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ This rack is a reliable go-to for when you want to add modulation to something, but are not sure what or how. The first three macro controls — Phaser, Flanger, and Chorus — each implement their respective effect, with evocative default parameters that immediately elicit the characteristic flavor of the device type chosen. You can alter the overall vibe with the Tone, Reso, and Wave controls. Add a degree of source-reactivity to the Phaser and Flanger with the Tone Envelope Mod control. Mix and match how much of each of the three effects to blend in with each other.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ A couple of things about Chorus: The C Width macro affects its stereo width. Certain settings can make a chorus device sound more like a flanger and this objective has been intentionally sought out and cross-mapped; by turning up the Flanger control, the Chorus module morphs more towards the audio process of flanging. Thus, combining the Flanger and Chorus knobs together results in the formation of a “Super Flanger” (well deserving of two exclamation marks)!!

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Compressor + Gate = Focus Compressor.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Highly selective compression engine.

‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ It’s a compressor which allows you to squish down based on very specific frequency content of the material it’s listening to. You can already set a compressor to be frequency-selective using its built-in sidechain EQ, so… what’s the point of this? It’s even more frequency-reactive than ever before. Plus the sidechain focus can be gated, for choosy intentional character response. Want a compressor to ONLY compress when a certain timbre strikes? It’s now more doable than ever. It’s not quite the same as a dynamic EQ or multiband compressor, because it ducks the whole signal whenever it’s triggered. It’s unique, and potentially very helpful. Setup is a breeze, with instant auditioning of the focus frequency and gating isolation behavior. Switch Focus Listen on to isolate and listen to the trigger signal. Adjust the Focus Freq, Reso, and Gate macros to isolate exactly what you want the compressor to be reacting to. Bold Reso values are recommended for a more blatant effect. After honing in on the desired offending frequency, turn Focus Listen back off and adjust Press to increase the amount of potential compression. Select between a Tight or Punchy mode — Tight will curtail peaks more abruptly, for a more controlled sound (optimal for the purpose of controlling wayward level); Punchy will allow transients to breathe and restore release in a less linear manner, for a generally louder, more aggressive sound (possibly more well-suited for enhancing groove & vibe). You will probably want to adjust Press after switching between modes, because they hit differently.

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Delay + Reverb = Spaced Verb.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Reverb Sandwich.

‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ -> Pre Reflect provides custom enhancement to the reverb’s initial onset, coordinating a tempo-aware pre-reflection along with the reverb’s built-in pre-delay and early reflections parameters. Bigger values sound like there’s more distance between the listener and the nearest reflective surface. Try to set it so that the reverb fluctuates in groove with the beat. Verb is the main parameter to determine how much reverberation diffusion sound is evident. Post Delay -> provides further echoes tailing off, resulting in the feeling of more connected areas branching off from the listening room. Spread increases a sensation of stereo width and Mass alters the apparent size of the sound-generating object and inclusion area, leading to lusher, longer decays (but without messing with the groove timing). Tone provides effortless sculpting and Swirl adds some subtle modulation, helpful for emulating environments that include non-uniformly-shaped and/or non-static surfaces and objects. After dialing in all your values to taste, you may wish to use the Wet Mix knob to blend in some dry signal with the now-diffused effect signal chain.

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Grain Delay + Redux = Grit Delay.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Lo-fi, pitch-shifted, ducked Delay.

‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ G-Delay Level will bring in the grit delay layer. Delay Decay increases both the decay time and the feedback amount; macro settings of 18 or higher generate tempo-synced echoes, while below that (the “flam” zone) it switches to using raw milliseconds. Crush destroys bits, and at maximum switches to the hard decimation mode. Downgrade simultaneously reduces sample rate and grain size. Pitch transposes the delay repetitions, while Flux adds randomness to the pitch and grains for a more scattered sound. After all of this, there was still something missing… and so an Antigate was incorporated which adds ducking capabilities using an inverted gate. Setting the value carefully according to the material passing through it lets you add breathing space by tastefully dropping out the delay signal during louder moments. This can be especially useful when Crush is bumped heavily which can greatly reduce overall contrast. The more you turn up AntiGate, the more it listens to the pre-redux signal (using built-in parallel sidechaining), helping to retain a musically rhythmic behavior despite any transient obliteration caused by the Redux effects.

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Limiter + Saturator = Loudifier.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Make stuff louder.

‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ It’s so dumb, it’s brilliant. Slowly turn up Push until things start to sound definitely a little fuzzy. Reduce the Push dial a little (maybe by 5 or 10). Now, turn up Tuffness Mode until at some point suddenly it becomes very obviously too fuzzy. Lower the value by about 20 from there (to back down one mode). Finally, reduce Push another slight touch, just to take the edge off. You should now be left with a tasty degree of loudness at this point, threatening the boundary of what is considered polite.

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Channel EQ + EQ Three + Auto Filters (lo & hi cut) = EQ Nine.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ A robust equalizer encompassing Live Intro’s tonal shaping tools.

‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ This is meant as more of a fully-featured tone-shaper than EQ Seven quite amounts to. Since Live Intro doesn’t have access to EQ Eight, providing the ability to tweak as many frequencies as possible — as easily as possible — in that version of the DAW seemed a worthwhile endeavor. Sixteen macro controls in total are provided, split across two sections. Section B is first, followed by Section A. While as surgical as is manageable, I’d still think of it more as an “analog EQ” than as a “clean parametric digital EQ”, since it’s not flat at default settings and is somewhat quirky.
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Section B includes a clean digital HiCut Filter followed by an instance of EQ Three. Why a HiCut Filter as the very first process? As mentioned in the PerforModule Effects Order Recommendation blog post, removing ultrasonics prior to anything else reduces the likelihood of unpleasant digital aliasing being generated by harmonics-altering effects later in the chain (such as EQ Nine‘s output circuit drive, for example), and so is an advantageous workflow when seeking to generally maintain a pristine sound. Use the Lo-Mid & Hi-Mid Split macros to determine which frequency zones the Variable Lo & Hi Shelves and the Mid B bands will affect. Changing these values will certainly change the phase response and can also alter the frequency contour at certain settings… even without altering band gains! You have more control than EQ Seven here, which is also more unpredictable when randomly sweeping knobs around. The energy of Mid B wholly depends on the frequency settings — with a wide berth between low and high, Mid B acts like a plateau filter, creating a flat boost or cut area between the extremities. Steep Slope?, when turned above halfway, will switch both the HiCut and the EQ Three band splits into doubly strict designations, for more intense frequency separation (and also more phase shift).
‎‏‏‎ ‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ Section A includes an instance of Channel EQ followed by an output LoCut Filter with analog Circuit Drive enabled. Like with EQ Seven, the nonadjustable bands helpfully name the affected frequencies directly on the macro. The Mid A band is adjustable from 120 to 7.5kHz and can be used to highlight or attenuate a specific target frequency in a tasteful manner. The LoCut Filter being last in the chain allows for cleaning up any DC offset generated by previous processes. There’s also included a Filter Drive macro for saturating the heck out of weak signals that need some extra vitality. Use Lo Circuit/Slope? to alter both how steep the low cut filtering is, as well as the specific analog filter model applied (at maximum also switching on the Channel EQ 80Hz LoCut Filter). Adjusting this can change the sound greatly and afterwards may require further tweaking of LoCut Freq and LoCut Reso.
‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎You can easily swap the serial order of Section A and Section B by drag-and-drop, if for any reason you prefer the LoCut Filtering and Circuit Drive to take place before the HiCut Filter.

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New Free Pack for Live 11: “𝓢𝓾𝓹𝓮𝓻 𝓐𝔀𝓮𝓼𝓸𝓶𝓮 𝓕𝓧”

This pack includes the bespoke Effect Racks from the 𝓢𝓾𝓹𝓮𝓻 𝓐𝔀𝓮𝓼𝓸𝓶𝓮 𝓢𝓸𝓾𝓷𝓭𝓼 retro keyboard instrument pack for Ableton Live i released in collaboration with Brian Funk (but not the instruments), updated for Live 11.

As usual, care is taken to map parameter values cleverly and gainstage things sensibly so that these racks are highly usable in many situations. I also tried to come up with unique signal processing chains leading to interesting results, like 𝓓𝓻𝓾𝓷𝓴 𝓕𝓻𝓲𝓮𝓷𝓭𝓼 sounding like your inebriated companions trying to sing along with you very badly — or like 𝓣𝓱𝓻𝓪𝓼𝓱𝓮𝓻 giving a one-knob guitar distortion that scales from subtle overdrive to brutal metal fuzz — or like 𝓡𝓲𝓷𝓰𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓔𝓪𝓻𝓼  emulating… your ears ringing (perhaps to be used for film sound design) — or like 𝓢𝓱𝓮𝓹𝓫𝓪𝓷𝓭 𝓡𝓲𝓼𝓮𝓻 performing the auditory illusion of constantly increasing pitch.

(example device info)

Remember that you can hover your mouse over device headers and macro controls to learn about what they do.
Don’t fly blind! Or say screw it and go crazy with the random button. I’m not your parental unit.

^click to grab 𝓢𝓾𝓹𝓮𝓻 𝓐𝔀𝓮𝓼𝓸𝓶𝓮 𝓕𝓧 for free^
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Parallel-Friendly Native FX Racks for Live 10+: “ParallAux”

Which Effects Work Best In Parallel?

So one day i got it in my head to figure out which of Ableton Live’s Effects are the best to use in parallel.

What is the criteria for this? Simply, which processes alter the phase of audio passing through them, either to the least degree, or in a nicely summable way.

Why does this matter? Because phase offsets, when summed in parallel with the original signal, will inevitably cause changes to the frequency contour. Sometimes slight amounts of this phase offset can add a nice creamy touch to the sound of things (and pretty much all analog gear causes it to some degree), but when being surgically technical like during the finalizing stages of a track, they are generally just not helpful.

An example of not altering phase at all is Live’s Compressor effect which is phase-neutral; it can be used safely in parallel with no unwanted frequency coloration whatsoever.

An example of altering the phase in a “nicely summable” way is Live’s Reverb. Technically, it’s altering the phase a whole bunch, but it’s doing so in a time-smeared fashion which results in far less likelihood of perfectly-lined-up frequency cancellations, and so, when at 100% wet, reverbs can be just fine to use in parallel, and are often preferred this way.

After carefully checking the phase response of all of Ableton Live Ten’s native Audio Effects, i came up with five distinct racks providing combinations of the most parallel-friendly native effects, optimized for specific purposes with maximal versatility of application.

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>DOWNLOAD PARALLAUX via Isotonik Studios<

FREE! Requires Ableton Live 10 Suite +

>Download ParallAux PDF Manual<

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Repurposing Bad Controller Knobs

Improvisational Optimization

It’s always been more of my mentality to try to figure out how to make optimal use of what i have on hand — even when flawed — than to try to find immediate replacements… from using a TI-83 calculator to code as a teenager (since that’s what i had access to), to learning how to mic two small guitar amps to sound amazing rather than try to buy bigger amps which i didn’t have space to store. Whether or not this is the optimal way to be, it’s been pretty ingrained in me over a lifetime of dealing with less-than-ideal equipment and environs, figuring out how to increase functionality past apparent limitations, and squeezing every drop of valuable usage i could garner out of existing gear.

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Bad Encoders!

This BCR-2000 MIDI Controller i have happens to have a top row of encoder knobs which act all wonky, sending out their values all slow and choppy and making them pretty much unusable as MIDI controls. However, each knob does have a set of LED lights, and it is possible to send messages to those lights to make them move.

By using a couple of MaxForLive devices in Ableton, i have it set up so that the 8 knobs each provide a VU-meter type experience in reaction to whatever’s playing in Ableton Live. Now they aren’t useless! Yay!

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Beat Shaker for Beat Juggling

⠀⠀⠀I haven’t performed as a DJ in years, focused on raising my son and home studio work instead, but i was pretty active as one around the Colorado Springs area from about 2010 until 2014. One of the my favorite toys to use to manipulate beats live on my laptop was Alexkid’s Instant Haus, which “instantly generates drum patterns to craft into your own house track” (available free via Ableton). It’s great way to add variation to beats in an organic fashion.

⠀⠀⠀Well, i’ve been inspired lately because we now have available the freshest incarnation of beat juggling voodoo in the form of the 501k Creatives new Beat Shaker device, crafted by the very same Alexkid. It’s a similar concept, but greatly expands on the potential and flexibility.

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Social Isolation Freebie: “Secret Weapon” Racks.


***Note: “Sweetie Pies” has been updated for Live 11 Suite! Grab the new version here.

(For the original version, continue below.)



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.