Ableton Live 9 is a popular DAW that includes many features that people often overlook. Below is a short summary of features that I find useful!
Send / Return Effects
With CPU power getting ever greater, people often overlook the need for Send / Return effects. Send / Return can give varied and interesting results when used in a creative manner. People often only use them for simple effects such as reverb, or delay. How about experimenting by adding a frequency shifter, distortion effect, chorus and a reverb?
Firstly, create a return channel (by using one of the header menu tabs), and try inserting multiple effects. Do remember that somewhere in the chain, one of the effects should be 100% wet, otherwise there will be possible phasing / doubling of volume when using the Send A knob.
On the channel strip (where you have the audio clip), slowly increase the Send A knob, and you should start to hear both the original audio clip, as well as the modified version (Send A). You can now either control how much of the Send A effect you would like by controlling the Send A knob, or control the volume slider on the Send A channel strip.
Drum racks are used often within Ableton Live 9 and allows you to send each individual ‘slot’ to multiple Send effects. For example, this enables you to send a closed Hi-Hat to a Reverb (send A), Delay (send B), and to multiple other send channels, all at the same time.
To achieve this, firstly slice a drum loop into a midi file (this automatically places it into a drum rack). Once done, press the ‘R’ button which can be seen to the bottom far left of the drum rack. Then right click in the ‘Drop Audio Effects Here’ and select ‘Create Return Chain’. Once completed, press the ‘S’ (send), in the bottom left of the drum rack, as well as ‘I/O’. Now you should be able to see a dropdown box next to ‘a Return Chain’ which once selected, allows you to select ‘Send A’.
Now you should be able to see a volume box next to each chain (Slice 1, Slice 2 etc.) that allows you to control how much of each slice goes to Send A effect channel strip e.g. reverb, delay.
Below is the final output of using the Send A, alongside the original drum loop.
Auto fade is a new feature to Ableton Live 9 which is easy to implement and very useful. To do this, add a file to the arrangement window, and on the right hand side select the drop down box (on the correct channel strip), and select ‘Fades’. Red lines should now appear on the audio clip. Simply click and drag either left or right to give a natural fade.
Grouping racks enables you to split a sound into multiple layers and then place different effects on each ‘layer’. For example, I could have a synth pad on layer one, as the original. Then on layer two, I could add saturation, and a delay. Then with the volume slider, I can blend the two together until I achieve the desired effect. This is achieved by adding a number of effects into the audio effect area, selecting them all, then right clicking, and ‘Grouping’ them.
Once done, select the ‘Chain’ button (middle one) on the left hand side. Now right click in the ‘Drop Audio Effect Here’ area, and create new chain. Now there will be two ‘levels’ or chains, an Effects chain and a dry/original chain. With the volume sliders on the individual chains, I am able to modify the mix between the original synth sound vs the modified sound.
When listening to potential samples in the browser, Ableton Live 9 automatically attempts to pitch the sample to the correct speed of the track. This can be useful, but there are also times when you want to listen to samples at their original pitch. This can be achieved by pressing the ‘raw’ button in the browser window.
When working with midi notes, tracks can sometimes have a robotic ‘feel’ due to all notes falling exactly on the ‘beat’. To eliminate this, it is often best to play notes by hand, or if you do not have a keyboard, or any drum pads to hand, you can do so by moving the individual midi notes by small amounts. This can give a ‘swing’ feel to a drum loop/melody.
To do this, right click in the midi area and in the grid area, select ‘Off’. You will not be able to drag midi notes without the notes snapping to a grid.