Side-Chaining Tricks in Ableton Live 9

Hi guyz. Its me. PuzzleVortex.

This week, i’ve been experimenting with some super-secret side-chaining tricks in Ableton Live 9.  

Currently, I’m using my side-chaining techniques to create ‘inverse gating’ on my pads, ‘stutter effects’ on vocals, and to add ‘percussive filter effects’ to my basslines.

Below, I discuss the following topics:

  1. Side-Chaining Basics
  2. Pumping Basslines with Side-Chain Compression
  3. Side-Chain Filtering Effects
  4. Rhythmic Side-Chain Gating
  5. Experimental Side-Chaining

Side-Chaining Basics

‘Side-chaining’ is a technique where you use the envelope of a track to ‘trigger’ an effect, like compression, gating, or filtering on another track.

Side-Chaining can create effects like:

  • reducing the volume (ducking) of a bassline each time the kick hits
  • triggering a filter sweep (auto-wah effect) on pads in a rhythmic pattern
  • breaking up a synth pad into rhythmic parts with gating

How to Setup a Side-Chain in Ableton Live 9

Side-chains are very simple to setup in Ableton Live 9 with their native plugins.

 

The native plugins which allow you to setup a side-chain input include: the compressor, gate, and filters.

How to set up a sidechain: First, open the side-chain menu, by clicking the ‘arrow’ button on the top left. Next, choose the ‘trigger track‘ from the drop-down menu.

  • (NOTE) You should MUTE the the side-chain trigger track, if you don’t want to hear its output.

How to Create Pumping Basslines with Side-Chain Compression

Side-chain compression is an effect which is often used to create “pumping basslines” in electronic music.

Side-chain compression can also help to separate the kick and the bass, by removing some low-end frequencies in your mix.

This makes the kick more clear and audible.

How to Trigger Filter Sweeps with a Side-Chain

Side-chaining can also be used to trigger filter sweeps in a rhythmic pattern.  

It create an auto-wah effect which sounds good on pads, basslines, and percussion.

To add a sidechain: First, click the arrow in the top left. (see left image)

Next, choose a trigger track, from the drop-down menu.

Side-chains can be used to trigger all types of filters, including high, low, peak, and bandpass filters.

Inverse Side-Chain Gating on Pads to Thicken Drum Sounds

Inverse Side-Chain Gating can be used to open up a gate at the same time as a trigger track.

This is a great way to fatten a kick or drum sound.

It allows the pad to come through the gate at exactly at the same time as a drum sound, which gives it a full, rich, sound.

The vid below discusses side-chain gating:

Shaping a Bassline with Side-Chain Compression and Gating

A bassline sounds the best when it’s attack is the loudest, right when the kick hits. 

Side-chain compression or gating can also be used to sculpt a bassline’s attack.

This be used to fix mistakes a bass player makes, by accentuating the attack directly on the beat.

Experimental Side-Chaining Effects

Side-chaining can also create more experimental effects like: an 808 sub kick with gating, vocal stutter effects with gating, and rhythmic gating effects on pads.

  1.  Adding an 808 Sub Kick using a Gate

You can use inverse side-chain gating, to add an 808 sub which is triggered along with a kick drum.

An 808 sub can be created by adding a gate to a sine wave patch, triggered by the kick drum.

Try changing the pitch of the sine wave, to create a ‘tuned 808 sub kick’.

2. Side Chain Gating to Create Vocal Stutter Effects 

I’ve also been experimenting with ‘vocal stutter effects’ created by side-chain gating.

Vocal stutter effects can be done by creating a percussion track which triggers your gate. The vid below explains in more detail:

3. Use Beat Repeat to vary the rhythms of your Side-Chain Trigger Track

Try adding the beat repeat plugin to your trigger track. This can alter the rhythm of your ‘trigger input’ to create cool rhythmic gating, compression, or filter effects.

4. Separate the Bass and Kick With Side-Chain Compression

One way to help your kick cut through your mix, is to add some side-chain compression to your bassline.

Adding some volume reduction with side-chain compression will remove some of the low frequencies each time the kick hits.

This lets the kick be very audible in your mix.

You have any super-secret, side-chain tricks i should add? Tell me @puzzlevortex

Powerful Midi Tricks in Ableton

Hi Guyz. Its me, again. Your friend, PuzzleVortex. (@puzzlevortex)

This week, i learned some extremely powerful ‘new midi tricks’ in Ableton Live 9

I love working with midi, because it lets you create unlimited revisions of your notation, your effects processing, as well as parameters like pitch bend.

Ableton 9 even has a new feature that lets me record audio parts with my guitar, then turn them into a midi track. (its awesome.)

In this article, I’m going to explain how to:

1) and convert live audio (including a guitar signal) directly into midi notes
2) create melody variations, with Midi Effects
3) slice up loops, into individual parts, that you can control with midi
4) create melodies and loops more quickly in Ableton

Why Writing with Midi is Vastly Superior to Audio

Over the last few months, I’ve been experimenting with my production like a mad scientist.

I’ve been testing new gear (DDJ-SX2 DJ Controller), a new DAW (Ableton Standard), new VST synths (Serum and Cycle), new effects plugins (like StutterEdit), and new techniques. I want to improve my production in every respect.

I’ve also completely switched from writing in audio, to writing with midi. It is a superior way to work. (it seems kind of obvious now)

Ableton Live 9 allows you to transition from live audio to midi, with one simple click.

I’ve been using this feature to transform my guitar parts, into midi parts.

I think Ableton is a great writing tool, in addition to being a great DAW.

How I Create Quick Melody Variations with Midi in Ableton

One simple midi trick in Ableton, is to use the doubletime, or halftime button to test variations of your melody.

Just click the +2, or :2 button, when you are working with a clip.

Your midi notes will become half speed, or double-time.

You can also invert the melody, or put it in reverse, with just one click.

This is great when you are create additional loops, to be arranged later in Arrangement View.

Here are some additional Midi Tricks:

1. Hold SHIFT with your UP/DOWN arrow keys (or trackpad) to Transpose by an octave instead of 1 semitone.

2. Midi notes can be quantized (placed directly on the beat) with the hotkey command-U.

Using Midi Effects to Alter Your Melody

A great feature of the Ableton DAW are its Midi Effects.

Midi effects allow you to change the speed, pitch, rhythm, scale, and more by dragging a midi effect into your track.

I love to try unusual scales with my midi parts, using MIDI Effects.

It’s very easy to drag a Harmonic minor, or Ukrainian Dorian scale onto your midi part, for example, with one click.

Other types of midi effects allow you to change the note length, velocity, add an arppegiator, even add glitches for effect.

The video below goes a little more in depth with Midi Effects:

Transforming a Live Guitar Signal into Midi Notes in Ableton 9

I just learned that you can turn a live guitar signal into midi notes as a new feature in Ableton Live 9.

I’ve been playing guitar since i was 10.

Its been difficult to translate guitar performance into electronic music, because most controllers are keyboards.

 

But, in Ableton Live 9, all you have to do is ‘right click’ on your audio part, then click ‘convert melody to midi track’.

You can even convert chords into midi, by converting ‘Harmony to Midi’.

This ‘audio to midi’ feature works with any type of live audio, like strings, piano, etc. (But, i’m sure some stuff will convert better than others)

The video below explains it a little more in depth:

Slice a Drum Loop or Sample into a Midi Track

The Slice to Midi feature allows you to ‘cut up an audio file into slices’, which can then be controlled via midi notes.

This is especially cool for drum loops.

Its easy to slice up any drum loop into a brand new drum kit, which you can control via midi.

I did a quick test of the slice to midi feature with a Neil Degrass Tyson vocal clip.

It was really cool to control these sliced up vocal snippets, via midi and automation.

You can even alter the vocal parts with pitch bend, LFOs, and other types of midi controls.

Warping in Midi

Ableton lets you easily warp a sample to fit ANY tempo, by placing warp markers at key points on your sample.

I haven’t really gone too in depth with sample warping in my music, but I can see myself using it with vocal samplea.

It allows you to stretch or compress a sample with ‘warp markers‘ which are easily adjustable, instead of stretching or compressing each part of the sample individually, like i would do in Pro Tools.

Here’s a vid that better explains how to warp your samples to fit any tempo:

There are MANY new features that i am testing in Ableton. But i’m still learning, so if you have any midi tricks that you think i should include, let me know @puzzlevortex

My Serum VST Synth Review (One of the Best Synths i’ve ever used)

Hi Guyz. It’s me again. PuzzleVortex. Below, i review the Serum VST Wavetable Synth. BUT first, I have confession to make…

I just bought about $2000 worth of gear that i can’t afford. I put it all on layaway at Guitar Center. (dont judge me ;/)

Within the last month i bought a Pioneer DDJ-SX2 Dj Controller, Ableton Live Standard Edition, Serum VST Wavetable Synthesizer, and an Ebow.

I needed new gear because my production was getting stale. I think these new tools will help me improve, and change my sound.

I’ve been testing lots of new DAWs, plugins, and hardware. I think reviewing them will help my own production, but also to help other producers learn about new gear.

Below, is my Serum review. (spoiler: I love it.)

My Serum VST Review

So, 2 weeks ago, I bought a new DAW, Ableton Live.

I’m getting the hang of it, but there’s a learning curve.

I like Ableton because it is more of a writing tool and DAW combined. I love its advanced midi tools. I can create a track very quickly, and revise it very easily.

Along with my purchase of Ableton, I also bought an Advanced Wavetable VST Synth Plugin called Serum.

The Ableton Live (Standard Version)  comes with 100’s of samples and virtual instruments.

BUT, i personally think the Ableton Standard sounds are just average.

 

The Serum VST Synth Plugin is by far superior to the stock sounds.

I needed to own it. (so i got it with Xfer’s rent-to-own plan)

Here are the main features of Serum VST:

  • 4 sound generators
  • 2 wavetable oscillators
  • a flexible noise generator
  • and a nice sub oscillator.
  • 10 effects processors

Serum’s Interface

Serum’s interface looks pretty damn slick, and is extremely easy to use.

You can even use images as Wavetables (<—see left).

There are also a multitude of parameters to modulate and automate.

The cost of Serum is $189.

The only negatives of Serum are that it might be a little taxing on your CPU power. But, i haven’t had any problems so far. I’ve only made one track in Ableton so far, and i haven’t had any problems with my CPU power. (I’m on a macbook pro 2.5 gz)

Creating Midi Parts, Then Cycling through Serum Presets

One of the ways in which Ableton excels, is with its midi tools.

Ableton allows you to: create variations on your midi parts, put them in double time with 1 click, reverse them, put them in a different scale, add an arpeggiator, there are unlimited possibilities.

 

One of my favorite things to do when i create some midi parts, is to cycle though all of the presets in Serum. (especially with basslines)

Serum really excels with its bass and lead sounds.

It is very inspirational to create midi parts, then cycle through Serum’s many different, unique sounds.

Drawing in Plugin Automation with Serum

One way to get evolving, changing, morphing sounds out of Serum, is to automate and draw in some parameter changes.

This is very simple to do in Ableton.

In order to automate parameters, all you have to do is click ‘configure‘, in the upper right corner of Serum.

After you click ‘configure’, the plugin will open.

Then, you can tweak any of the parameters in Serum.

The parameters you ‘tweaked’ will now show up in Arrangement view.

You can then draw in automation of parameters like the filter cutoff, or resonance on the Arrangement view.

 

Download Serum Presets Here

I just got Serum, So I haven’t created my own Serum patches yet. But, here are some links to some Serum presets i found, which you can download below:

  1. https://www.reddit.com/r/SerumPresets/
  2. https://cymatics.fm/free-download-vault/
  3. https://www.audiobombs.com/items/641/25-free-serum-patches-from-xenos-soundworks
  4. http://patcharena.com/downloads/comment.php?dlid=1315

Other VST Synths You MUST Check Out

I also tried a demo of very cool synth called Cycle. (d/l the demo here).

Cycle is a “visual workflow for synthesizing sound at the waveform and spectrum level.”

Cycle allows you to ‘morph’ a sound over a period of time. It has some great sounding patches. I need to spend more time with it. It is worth testing the free demo. The Cost is $150.

It also looks very, very cool.

The Massive VST Synth

One other VST Synth plugin that i’ve heard great things about, is the Native Instruments Massive VST Synth.

I’ve not had time to test it yet. But, I’ve heard its on the same level as Serum.

It is a synth you should test out. Download the Massive VST demo here.

More Xfer Records Plugins

Since I was really impressed with Serum, i decided to check out the other plugins that Xfer offers.

They include:

  • Cthulhu: The Chord and Arp Monster
  • Nerve: a beat manipulation and creating tool
  •  LFOTool: for tremolo, auto-pan, trance-gate, side-chain compressor simulation, and dubstep-type wobble effect creation.

They offer demo versions of these plugins, so i think i will give them a shot. (you can d/l the demos here). I am particularly interested in testing Cthulhu. (Video  Below)

*I plan on doing many more reviews. If there is any DAW, Effects Plugin, or Synth you want me to try out, pls contact me on twitter @puzzlevortex