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Tips

Tricks
Tutorials

GETTING IT LOUD
To get oriented, put your RMS meter on the track you want to want yours to sound
like (more or less). Listen to a full, loud portion of the song and take a look at the
Average RMS:

Now, put the meter on your own song and take a reading. Let's say the unmastered
song shows an average RMS of -19. That would mean we have an approximately
10dB defecit to make up.
Just for laughs, let's dive right in and make up the gain using Limiter:

You can use the meter to fine tune this, but don't spend too long with that. Switch
over to using your ears. A/B the tracks and give a good listen. The loudness is
probably in the ballpark now.
Pay close attention and you may find that even matching the RMS level very closely,
your mix still doesn't sound as loud. This may be because the track you're comparing
yours to is exceptionally well mixed, or has been mastered by a professional who has
other tricks for maximizing the apparent loudness.

EQ: CHECK THE GAIN


A simple but useful feature of Live's EQ 8 is the Gain control:

It's just a simple volume control, but it comes in handy for A/B-ing your EQ setups.
If you're making an EQ adjustment that raises or lowers the volume of a signal
noticeably, you can cut or boost the gain a return the signal to the volume it was at
before you applied the EQ.
If you're not familiar with this process, give it a try. After making your EQ settings,
turn off the EQ completely...

...and listen for a gain change. Take a guess at how much you need to adjust the
Gain control, then turn the EQ on and off again. Repeat until you the volume sounds
the same whether or not the EQ is on. Now you can A/B the signal with and without
the EQ while listening to the entire mix and get a real sense of what the EQ is (or
isn't doing).

BEAT REPEAT: THE SILENCER


I'm working on a new glitcher/beat masher for my upcoming gigs, and I had the
idea to flip the Beat Repeat on its head. What if, instead of having it generate tons of
repeated hits, I used it to generate lots of silence. Check it out:

Decay is set to 100%. This means that the repeats fade out to silence almost
instantly.
Output Mode is set to Ins which means that every time repeats are triggered the
original signal is cut out.
Gate is set to 6/16 which is longer than the time it takes Decay to fade the repeated
signal to silence.
When you add these three parameters together, you get a Beat Repeat that triggers
silence instead of repeats!
Interval and Grid are important here as well. With Interval at 1/8, there's a Chance
(77.8% in this case) that silence will occur every 1/8th note of the bar. Grid is set
to 1/16 which is slow enough that Decay fades the repeats to silence before you
hear them. Try Grid at a faster setting (like 1/96) and you'll hear a buzzing as the
repeats fade away.
How is this useful? We'll get into that in the next tip.

RACK OF REPEATS

So, now that you've checked out how to make a Beat Repeat insert silence into a
sound, what to do with it? Well, what I'm experimenting with is layering and
offsetting several Beat Repeats set up in this fashion.
Use the Group command to put the Beat Repeat into a Rack, then Duplicate the
Chain a couple of times.

Now you'll have three chains all doing roughly the same thing, but not quite - each
has a bit of randomness to it.
Into the second chain, insert a few effects:

The most important part of this chain is the Simple Delay at the beginning. It's set to
100% Wet and has its Feedback set to zero, so all it's doing is offsetting the second
chain by 3/16ths. The Redux is helping to differentiate the sound from the first
chain, while the Auto Filter is removing most of the Kick drum (I've been using it
primarily on drum loops).
Now add effects to the third chain. Again, use a Simple Delay to offset this chain to
a different value, and use different processors to differentiate the sound in a another
way. Things should start to sound pretty nuts by now.
In the next tip, we'll get into adding performance controls.

SLOPPY CLAPS
Since we've been discussing some issues related to Simpler and velocity, I thought
I'd show you a rack I made for a remix I'm working on. There's a section of this track
where we need a really loose sounding hand clap section. At the moment, it's not
practical for me to get a room full of people clapping along, so I've figured out a

way to get a similar result with an Instrument Rack.


The first step is to drag a bunch of samples into an empty Instrument Rack, so you
get something that looks like this:

Notice that I've panned the samples a bit, and used a few snaps as well for variety.
Also, some of the clap samples have a little space at the beginning:

That's a good thing - it adds to the sloppiness. Next, I'll do a little trickery with the
velocity. I'm gonna give each of the samples a different velocity sensitivity (30%,
40%, 50%, etc.):

Now, depending on how hard the key or drum pad is hit, different samples will
respond differently, making the volume balance of the samples a little different for
each hit.
This gets us off to a good start, but there are still a few more tricks for adding
realism that we'll get into tomorrow.

DUPE THAT LOOP


Since I've been talking about the MIDI editor for the last two days, I'm going to take
this opportunity to answer a question that a reader asked about the best way to
duplicate loops during MIDI editing.
When programming parts, it's very common to start with a 1 bar loop to get the
basic feel, then duplicate that loop out to two, four or eight bars to create some

variations. There are lots of ways to get this done - I'll show you mine. It's nice and
quick, and requires very little use of the mouse.
Once you've got your one bar loop programmed, click on the Loop Brace. This will
turn it's horizontal bar solid black, and highlight the entire bar in yellow as seen
below.

Now it's time to duplicate the loop, which we'll do using the Duplicate Time
command (cmd+shift+D on the Mac). We could just as easily use Duplicate, but that
would move the loop. Duplicate Time leaves the loop position alone. To make the
pattern four bars long, you would use Duplicate Time three times. Zoom all the way
out, and you'll have something that looks like this:

The final step is to extend the loop length to four bars. Cmd+up arrow (Mac) or Ctrl
+up arrow (PC) doubles the length of the loop, so double the length of the loop
twice and you're there. Remember that the loop has to be selected (as shown above)
for this command to work.
That's it! Now you've created a nice four bar loop with a minimum of fuss, and
you're ready to start programming variations.

A LITTLE BUZZED
Here's a simple trick to get a little glitch into your sampled drums. Set up Simpler like
this:

What you're seeing here is a snare hit with a short loop at the end. Instead of having
a natural decay, the hit will buzz at the end.
First, make sure that the Loop switch is turned on.
Length specifies the end point of the loop while Loop is used to dial in where the
looping begins.
Whether or not you hear the loop depends on the length of the midi note that
triggers it.

So, in this example the first note will produce a straight snare hit, because the note
cuts off before the loop begins. The second sustains longer so you'll hear the
buzzing towards the end.

A LITTLE MORE BUZZED


The interesting thing about setting loops in Simpler is that the Loop parameter is
specified as a percentage of the sample's Length. In other words, if Loop is set to
20%, you'll always be looping the last 20% of the sample regardless of what Length
is set to. This means that adjusting Length adjusts both the loop's start and end
points and changes the length of the loop. (Try it).
What this also means is that you can get some very interesting and strange results by
automating the length parameter.

Above you'll see that I've created a clip envelope for the Length parameter, which is
going to cause all sorts of different loop positions and times.

I've also Unlinked the envelope which means that the envelope's length is now
independent of the length of the MIDI clip. The Length of the envelope is set to an
odd value (1.0.1) which means that its position will shift relative to the MIDI clip
over many bars, producing a wide variety of results.

PRODUCING FOR THE GIG


Lately, I've been doing a fair amount of "speed production" while on the road. This
just means producing tracks with only my live set in mind. Rather than try to create
something that develops over 4-7 minutes and is ready to release, I'll create material
that works really well for two minutes during a performance.
I typically would do this in a separate Set, export a stereo file, then bring it into the
performance Set. But lately I've found a better way: work directly in the performance
set. The advantage here is that I can listen to other material in my set while
developing the new beat. This is really helpful because it allows me to hear how
everything will mix together.
The trick to keeping this manageable is to use Group tracks:

The tracks at the far left are two Group tracks containing two different production
sessions. My normal performance set begins with the track named "1 - Tracks".
The advantage here is that you can unfold the group to work on the new beat...

...or fold it to treat the scenes as if they were clips. The group track also serves as a
master channel so you can listen with some limiting to get it up to the volume of
finished songs.
Once you've got your basic material for the new track together, just grab the group
track and drag it into the browser to save the new song as its own Set.

Now the group can be deleted from your performance set.


There's lots more details to discuss regarding this process...more tips to follow...

LISTEN TO THE STEREO STUFF


As I've mentioned in prior tips, the Utility device can be used to remove all of the
mono information from a signal so you can hear the purely stereo information. Just
set Width to 200%:

Something I like to do is listen to my reference tracks at 200% just to get a sense of


how "wide" they are, or more specifically how much panning and stereo effects are
in the mix for a particular track.
Just like it's important to contrast sounds that are bright and dark, etc. it's also
important to know how to contrast pure mono sounds with panned sounds and
sounds that use stereo effects to create width. However, it's also instructive to notice
that some great sounding tracks are almost completely mono! All you hear at 200%
is a little bit of reverb...
Pay close attention to what you hear. Hihats? Snare? Sound FX? Reverb? Bet you
don't hear any kick or serious low frequencies of any sort. (let's keep those mono,
people!)
If you need to get a little more stereo width into your life, make sure to explore
Simple Delay, Grain Delay, reverb, chorus, auto filter (with the LFO), flanger, phaser,
etc...

Creative Mid/Side Processing


Ableton Live Tips & Techniques

Here we can see EQ8 in L/R Mode. The left channel is being boosted by 4dB at around 4.5kHz while the right channel is cutting at exactly the same
frequency. Try adjusting the Scale parameter to change the stereo effect.

mid/Side processing is a clever technique which, once learned, will probably find its way into all your mixes. Its strength lies in
making subtle and creative changes to the stereo image of your audio tracks, and it has the potential to make you feel like a real
audio nerd. Its one of those tricks that never fails to impress, and, thankfully for us, Ableton Live makes it easy to achieve.

So What Is It?
Mid/Side processing works by decoding a stereo signal into two components. The Mid channel contains just the information that
appears in both the left and right channels, and the Side channel contains all the information that differs between the left and right
channels. Once encoded into M/S, these two signals can be processed completely separately, before being matrixed back into
conventional L/R stereo.

Here we can see EQ8 filtering out all frequencies below 700Hz in the Sides signal.

The easiest way to demonstrate Mid/Side processing is by using Lives own EQ8 device. You might use EQ8 a lot already, and so
you should. Its a great EQ device with eight bands, six filter types, and a scale function that allows you to adjusts the gain in all
bands at once. It also sounds good and is easy on the CPU. The cherry on the cake, however, is the often overlooked Mode
parameter.
EQ8 can work in three modes. The first mode is the default Stereo. The second is L/R mode, in which the left and right channels can
each have their own EQ settings. In this mode, you can try boosting the high frequencies in one channel while reducing the same
frequencies in the other. This will have the effect of panning only the high frequencies of a stereo signal while leaving the low
frequencies centred, which is much more subtle than simply panning the entire signal left or right.
The third mode, and the focus of this months Live technique column, is the M/S mode.

How Do I Use It?

Using the Group (Ctrl-G/Cmd-G) command, we can create two chains in an Audio Effect Rack to process sum and difference signals separately.

There are some great uses for a Mid/Side equaliser. Remember, what EQ8 is doing is allowing you to equalise the sum and
difference portions of your signal completely separately. To start with, lets demonstrate exactly what Mid/Side processing is by
listening to the two elements in isolation. Load up a song (either your own or something commercial). Now insert EQ8 on the master
channel and switch the mode to M/S.
Firstly, well listen to only the Mid portion of the song (the summed mono left and right signals). In the Edit field, make sure that S is
showing, indicating that we are editing the Sides signal. Ensure Filter 1 is enabled and in Low Cut mode and bring the Frequency all
the way up to 22kHz. In doing this we effectively cut all of the Sides, leaving only the Mid. What you hear now will be only that
component of the signal that is present equally in the left and right channels.
Now lets reverse things and listen only to the Sides signal. Disable Filter 1 on the Sides signal so you hear it again, switch the Edit
mode to M and repeat what we just did, cutting the entire Mid signal using a Low Cut filter set to 22kHz. This will leave us listening to
the Sides signal, matrixed back to L/R stereo. Interesting isnt it? (To hear the true Sides signal, which should be mono, youll also
need to reverse the polarity of the right channel.) Listening to some of your favourite artists in this way can be very revealing. Try
cutting the Mid signal in and out to compare only the Sides signal with the full mix. You will get an entirely different view of how your
favourite records were mixed!
Lets move on and look at some practical tips for mixing your tracks.

Mono The Bass

The Mid chain uses the Utility device set to zero percent Stereo Width.

Its accepted as standard practice that low-frequency instruments such as kick drums and bass should be kept in the centre of the
stereo field. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, the human brain finds it very difficult to locate the source of low
frequencies, so its fairly pointless to pan them anyway. The second reason is linked to the production of vinyl records. If bass
frequencies are heavily mismatched in the left and right channels, the needle can potentially bounce right out of the groove, causing
skipping.
Lets say we have a huge synth bass that has not only a lot of sub-bass energy, but also a lot of additional harmonics created by a
stereo distortion effect. Our mix will probably be more successful if we can restrict the stereo component of this effect to higher
frequencies. Apply EQ8 and enable M/S mode. In the Edit field, make sure that S is showing, telling us that we are editing the Sides
signal. Now ensure Filter 1 is enabled and in Low Cut mode and bring the Frequency up to about 700Hz. By doing this, we have
effectively filtered out any Sides signal below 700Hz, leaving only the Mid signal. This will, in effect, make the bass mono below
700Hz, while retaining the nice stereo effect on the top end.

Adding Air & Space

The Sides chain uses the Utility device set to 200 percent Stereo Width.

On either your master channel or your reverb return channel, try inserting an EQ8 and gently boosting the low-mid and high
frequencies in only the Sides channel. This will enhance the stereo space of your track without muddying up the Mid channel.
Another way to achieve this is to scoop some of the mid-range frequencies from the Mid channel on your reverb return.

Further Stereo Adventures


EQ8 has built-in Mid/Side functions, but with a little ingenuity, we can isolate sum and difference signals for processing with any
plug-in. Grab a Utility device from the Live Library and apply it to the track you wish to process. Now right-click on the Utilitys header
and select Group. This will put the Utility device inside an Audio Effect Rack. Click the Show/hide Chain button to show the Racks
chains, and then duplicate the existing chain by right-clicking on its name and selecting Duplicate (or Ctrl-D/Cmd-D). Name one
chain Mid and the other chain Sides. Now select the Mid chain and set the Utility devices Width to zero percent, then set the same
parameter on the Sides chain to 200 percent.
What you have now are two chains working in parallel, one providing the sum and one providing the difference. Note that this is
not M/S as such, as both are still stereo chains as before, what you have are the Mid and Sides channels separately decoded to L/
R stereo, which means that the Sides chain contains the same signal in the left and right channels, but in opposite polarity.

Before we get creative, save your new stereo processing rack to your Ableton Library by clicking the save icon in the audio effect rack
header. Now youll be able to quickly apply the rack to any audio track. At this point, no real processing is happening. If you bypass
the whole audio effect rack you wont hear any difference. Whats more, because the L and R signals in the Sides chain have
opposite polarity, any plug-in that sums its input to mono wont see any signal at all, so a typical stereo compressor or mono-in/
stereo-out reverb will do nothing. However, processors that take a stereo input will produce extremely wide effects. For example, a
true stereo reverb on the Sides chain alone can add space and width without the main signal (the Mid part) being muddied up with
reverb.
From here on, experimentation is the key. Try applying just about anything to the Sides signal: delays, phasers, even glitchy
processors such as Beat Repeat. The effects of processing the Sides signal can be very subtle, so its often best to work on buses or
groups of tracks. Try grouping your drums and applying EQ only to the Sides signal, or group all your synth tracks together and apply
some delay to the Sides signal to add depth without clouding the main content.

Mid/Side processing can change the width and depth of your mixes in subtle and effective ways, many of which would otherwise be
impossible. Once mastered, these techniques could start appearing in all your mixes. Go forth and widen!
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Hi-Quality Mode
Heres a quick general EQ8 tip: right-click on its title bar and make sure that Hi-Quality mode is enabled (it should be ticked). Now,
without making any other adjustments to the device, select Save As Default Preset from the same menu. This will ensure that EQ8
always works in the high-quality mode. It uses slightly more CPU power, but with modern computers this is negligible, and it does
sound better.

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