A Simple Rule for When to Use a Dynamic vs a Static EQ.

So you’re working on a song and you’ve found a frequency which you want to adjust. Let’s say you want to nudge down 4.4k a little bit to reduce a bit of harshness. Now you ask yourself: what type of EQ should be used?

As time passes by, there becomes more and more dynamic EQ plugins available. Besides, in Ableton, Bitwig, and other DAWs, it’s easy to make any automatable EQ plugin act as dynamic by the use of envelope followers. On the other hand, when using a dynamic EQ plugin, there may be times when you want to use the bands as typical, with no reactivity.
So, we have a pretty much open choice of whether to use a static or dynamic EQ on a track we’re working on. So what to do?

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Narrow Down Your Plugin Needs

So Many Plugins

Brand new plugins… promotional sales on plugins… they are SO tempting. But do you really need that new compressor plugin that just dropped?

In order to assess which plugin types are lacking in your toolbox, i recommend making a spreadsheet of all the plugins you own by category. You might discover, as i did, that you have such a vast variety of compressor options to choose from, it’s likely that you won’t benefit a whole lot from purchasing any more of them. You also might discover, like me, that you’re somewhat lacking in gate plugins, and could indeed benefit from picking up a few new models. Etc… 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.

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An Alternative to True Peak Limiting: Not

True Peak Limiting is a method by which a limiter adjusts for how the digital waveform will be reconstructed by playback systems which can result in actual peak levels above 0dB even when the digital peak level is technically shown at below 0dB.

Implied Curvature

Basically the way intersample peaks occur is that the quantization points of a digital waveform can at times imply a curve between them which goes up a little bit higher than those actual sample points, resulting in a louder-than-expected actual peak level coming though.

To imagine it, just draw two dots in your mind, and then instead of drawing a straight line between them, draw a slightly curved line. The two dots are at a height of zero, and the curved line connecting them is bumping a little bit above zero. See?

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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.

All About Ableton’s Gate—A Pragmatic Guide

I found some old notes i had taken (for my own reference) about the parameters of Ableton’s Gate audio effect plugin and figured others could use the info as well, so i’ve polished ’em up, expanded on them a bunch, and dropped them here for you.

I’ve found that getting to know exactly how each parameter works with gate plugins leads to attaining desired results exponentially easier, and in particular learning how the more exotic parameters such as lookahead and hysteresis work facilitates sophisticated gate optimization.

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Go-To Q Values

There are not many controls for digital plugins where i prefer stepped options as opposed to continuous values, but the Q factor of EQ slopes is one of those that generally i do. Not really sure why i prefer them that way; i suppose there are a few reasons.

Regardless, i made myself (and you!) up a nifty spreadsheet of “Go-To Q Values”, based on logarithmic steps between the basic Q value (0.70607) and the minimum or maximum ranges. These Q values are optimized for Ableton Live’s EQ Eight, but can be applied to most any parametric EQ, when you want no-brainer go-to Q values to fall back on.

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Faster Freezing + Less CPU Usage: Avoid Processing Silence

This workflow enhancer is really simple.

Just disable VST plugins during times in tracks when they are not being used.

Activation Automation

Automate the nifty device activator (aka “on/off switch) of a device (or a rack of devices) to shut off during times of silence. Set the automation to switch on a little bit before audio starts, and to turn back off a bit after the audio is completely silent again.

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Demystification: The Chain Fade Problem

So there’s this issue with fading between chains in a rack in Ableton Live which i haven’t heard much mention of. Perhaps you’ve noticed it?

Say you have a rack with two chains, let’s call them “A” and “B“.

Starting to Set Up our Chains

Using the Zone Editors in the Chain Selector Editor of the rack, we’ll place A on the left (full at 0), fading out the other direction. Vice versa for B, placing it on the right (full at 127) and fading out towards the left.

A … fades to B

Now let’s map the Chain Select Ruler to the first Macro.

Macro Control to Fade between A and B

Macro 1 will now give us a nifty fader knob between whatever processing we place on chain A versus whatever we place on chain B.

Nice …except for the problem.

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