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?

Acoustic Guitar Shimmer: go-to for brightening up that sparkle of an acoustic strummed instrument. It adds tube, saturation and glue to a slice of the upper top end in an attempt to add brilliance without getting tinny or harsh. I’ve also used it on vocals or drums from time to time.


Anima EQ: Dead simple, this was made after analysis of my older work against a range of commercial material, meant to counteract my personal tendency to mix too much low-mid around 250Hz and not enough mids around 1k. I find that twisting the knob can help to remove muddiness without sacrificing much if any punch. I’ll apply touches of it by ear to various tracks in a mix, after most other processing has been done. If you also tend to mix a bit on the dark side, maybe it will help you too?


Banshee: i wanted to make a rack to be able to play Ableton’s newish Echo device like an in-track performance dub delay. This one is crazy, awesome fun. You can obliterate sounds to the extreme, with distorted, filtered, glitched, infinitely sustaining delay repeats and the levels always stay under control. The amount of possibilities of sound textures it can create with different combinations of settings, especially with modulation, is insane. Just go wild with it.


Channel EQ++: i really like Ableton’s new Channel EQ device, but sometimes i want more than one of those mid bands, you know? This rack provides you with three adjustable mid bands plus the usual low and high. Good for EQing by ear to help things stand out in a mix without worrying about the specifics.


Drum Rack Endcap: Quick fix for any/all drum kits. I get annoyed when drum racks that are loaded from my treasure-hoard library are either way too loud or way too quiet. So this was designed to slap on the end of such boastful or insufficient drum racks. Too-loud kits are instantly curtailed to a more manageable level, and controls are also provided to “juice up” weaker kits.


InstruClip: Kinda like the Drum Rack Endcap but more simple, InstruClip is designed to simply put in place after any instrument rack. With no adjustments needed, it ensures that peaks never surpass -6.00dB with tasteful soft clipping.


Irrational Compressor:
This one is based on the concept of using irrational numbers for the ratio values, rather than the rigid integers our simple minds tend to go for. It provides a selection of four Ratio choices: φ, π, δ, and , which can between them cover pretty much any compression need. The ratio will be set to the chosen irrational number, with values precise to the furthest decimal place possible (even though you can’t tell by looking at Ableton Live’s text display which rounds the numbers). Irrational numbers exist all across nature, so maybe these ratios harmonize with the universe or something. It’s hard to say… but they do have a very natural sound to my ear at least.

φ (“Phi” aka “The Golden Ratio”) gives light compression, almost subliminal, with ratio of 1.61803.

π (“Pi”) is easily audible but not super intense; a good choice for melodic instruments, with a ratio of 3.14159.

δ (“the Feigenbaum constant” aka “functions approaching Chaos via period doubling”) is a tad more grabby than π, with a ratio of 4.6692. Try it on drums!

e² (“the exponential constant” aka “the natural logarithm squared”) provides very deep compression; not quite at the point of limiting per se, but fairly intense with a ratio of 7.38906.

I tested out how much approximate gain reduction was occurring (and therefore how much makeup gain would be used) at each ratio at various thresholds on a hip hop drum loop (with a loudness of -24iLU):

RATIOGR @ -24GR @ -32GR @ -48
φ “Golden”2.5510
π “Pi”4.5918
δ “Chaos”51020
e² “Exponent”61224


Mordgrim Bass Contour: Implements a tonal contour inspired by analysis of the frequency response of my first ever instrument which i still absolutely love: a black Epiphone P-Bass named Mordgrim. The rack provides adjective controls to adjust various aspects of the tone in musical, intuitive ways. Great for all sorts of bass from bass synths to DI bass guitar, or maybe to make something that’s not a bass sound more like a bass. Bass.

Mordgrim

Neutral Dry-Wet: i already wrote about Ableton Live’s Chain Fade Problem and offered this device. But it’s contained here as well, because i use it all. The. Time. Many Ableton Live users haven’t yet realized that when crossfading between two chains in a rack, it causes a progressive volume bump, maxing out at +3dB in a 50/50 blend. This is not good for times when we need gain-neutral precision during in-track parallel processing, so i made a solution. Use this as a blank template to apply perfect parallel processing to whatever, anytime. You’re welcome.


SafeRedux: Ever notice that when you turn Redux’s Bit Depth down really low, the volume level gets… really, really loud? This can be problematic if you are messing around with knobs and all of a sudden your speakers explode. To solve problem, me make better version of Redux which give you even volume levels no matter what BitRate be. Not only is this safer, it also makes it way more usable for things like sound design or live performance, since you can freely sweep all the way down to 1 Bit with no fear. It’s quite liberating! Crunch time!

Skylark Studio Reverb: A fine-sounding custom reverb built from six mathematically-calibrated reverberation bands, roughly based on the acoustic properties of my project studio (a fairly large room comprising most of the basement level). Originally built to model the ambience in my room when mixing on headphones, i found myself using it in actual productions a bunch. Due to the multiband modeling, with different tonal regions having their own calculated settings, it exceeds the stock reverb’s usual flat & bland 2D quality with a more realistic sense of dimension, and thus has become one of my most-used room style reverbs. It includes “natural tone” and “natural width” controls which, instead of brute-force post EQing or adjusting MS, alters how much of which band gets sent through where.

Tube DC Filter: This is super nerdy shit right here. Ableton’s “Utility” effect has a built-in DC filter switch, but it’s non-adjustable; it’s either on or off. One day i realized that you could use Dynamic Tube’s dry/wet control to fine-tune the percentage of DC filter applied, to be able to shave off exactly how much subsonics you want or think you need. So if you really want to cut 1dB at 5Hz, you can now. You almost certainly will never need this, but at some point you might think that you do.

Tube DC Filter set to 10%. Notice the dB & Frequency scales. Yep, that’s -1dB @ 5Hz.


Tuned Sub Kicker: Go-to sub enhancement for drum loops. Another one spawned from analysis of lots of songs, realizing that it’s very common (particularly in hip hop) to have a sharp bump in the sub bass that doesn’t exactly fit within the “goldilocks curve”. Tuned Sub Kicker provides a way to create this sub bass boost from a drum loop or a kick drum in a super sick manner, with the ability to set the root key signature. Infuse resonant sub boost covering targets below 100Hz, plus add in a touch of softer, rounder thump to the low bass 1 to 2 octaves above the sub.

That’s it. Enjoy your free Sweetie Pies. Peace!
(I mean it. Don’t be a greedy hoarder or a selfish brat. We’re all in this together…)



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 is 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?

Nifty Ableton Option: Auto Adjust Macro Mapping Range

-AutoAdjustMacroMappingRange will make it so that when you map a parameter to a macro control, the current value becomes the minimum value of the newly-created mapping (rather than 0).
I prefer enabling this option because it streamlines workflow by helping to map macros faster, saving the step of typing in the minimum value when it is already in place.

With -AutoAdjustMacroMappingRange off, when mapping a parameter to a macro control, it will always result in a range of “min” to “max”, ragardless of the current position.

Say i want to map a parameter to a macro, and i want it to range specifically from 37 to 127.

With -AutoAdjustMacroMappingRange set to off, i would first have to map the parameter, click “map”, and then edit the minimum value to be 37.

However, with -AutoAdjustMacroMappingRange set to on instead, by mapping it, the minimum value will automatically be set to the current value (in this case 37), while the maximum will default to 127.

For cases where the maximum is meant to be 127, this reduces the mapping process to a single quick step, without even needing to open map mode. Other types of mappings might still require turning on map mode to adjust the values, but will still save a step of action if you map it while the current value matches one of the target values.

The unprocessed screengrab below demonstrates various mapping strategies, depending on what you want the minimums and maximums to be.

. . .

NOTE: i believe that a recent update of Live 10 enables AutoAdjustMacroMappingRange by default, whereas in previous versions it was off unless you enabled it manually. Either way, it’s handy to know that you can change it around when desired. Just remember that if you do change it, you’ll have to restart live for the change to take effect (i think).

“How the heck do i implement this?” you might ask. To answer that and for more swag info about Ableton Live’s mysterious Options.txt, Madeleine Bloom’s series on the topic is highly recommended.

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..

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Skip Plugin Scan to Load Ableton Live Faster

This is just a quick, simple tip.

If it takes forever to scan plugins every time you open Live (due to certain poorly-coded plugins taking longer than others and bottlenecking the process), you can set it up to skip plugin scan. Keep in mind that if you do this, you’ll want to perform a manual scan (from preferences) any time you install or update any new VST plugins.

How to do it?
Add “-NoVstStartupScan” to your options.txt file

But how to do that?
To familiarize yourself with Ableton’s options.txt, i will point you towards sonicbloom.net’s awesome article and series of videos on the topic.

That’s it! Live will no longer do a scan every time it opens.

Ever since i applied this option, the stupidly vast size of my plugin collection doesn’t adversely affect my workflow. Live startup time is way snappier. When i occasionally buy or grab a free plugin, i just run a scan after installing it. Every once in a while you might have to do a “deep” scan (hold alt while clicking the scan button) if something doesn’t show up when it’s supposed to.

Note that from Live 10.1 onward, the plugin rescan button is located in the new dedicated plug-ins tab in Live’s preferences, rather than under file/folder, as previously.

Hopefully this nifty tip is inapplicable to you, as that means your plugin scan is not bloated. However, for those of you that are having issues with slow startup of Ableton Live (or in case it eventually becomes an issue) this may be a viable solution.