Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface Review

I recently made a purchase of a cheap, easy to use audio interface, called the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 for $150.


I also have a Digi 002 interface, which i have used for 10 years, but i’ve never used more than two inputs at the same time, so i wanted to simplify my setup.

I wanted to get a Scarlett 2i2 so i could have a basic lightweight interface to travel with.

One of my goals with my recent purchases of Ableton and Serum, was to be able to make music with just my laptop. I can definitely do this with the setup i have now. Its really minimal, but i love it.

I like going out to Starbucks and working on tracks while i’m drinking iced teas.

What are the features of the FocusRite Scarlett 2i2?

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is about as simple of an audio interface as you can get.

Now, I’m working in Ableton with midi, soft synths, samples, vocals, and guitars that i record directly from a guitar pod.


The feature of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 are:

  • 2 xlr + 1/4 inch inputs and 2 outputs with a USB interface
  • 2 good quality mic preamps
  • phantom power
  • direct monitoring
  • latency control
  • Focusrite Plugin Suite Downloads (including a compressor, eq, reverb, and gate)


The Scarlett 2i2 can also be purchased as a studio package with headphones and a condenser mic in a separate package for $250.

Setting up the FocusRite Scarlett 2i2

The setup was a piece of cake, for me personally.

I was high on marijuana edibles and was still able to set it up in about 15 minutes.

I just plugged it in and changed the output in Ableton to the Scarlett 2i2 and it worked.

I didn’t have to download drivers, or change settings, it just worked for me.

Watch the video below about the Scarlett 2i2 Studio Bundle. (Also, follow Warren Huart’s youtube channel. He’s got some nice videos about production and the skills to back it up.)

Reviews of the FocusRite Scarlett 2i2

The majority of the reviews for the Scarlett 2i2 were very positive.

It received 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with a few bad reviews from people that could not figure how to set it up.

The majority of the complaints seemed to come from people who were using it with Pro tools. I haven’t personally tried it yet with Pro Tools.

I think some of these people with complaints may be a little bit technologically retarded. It was easy in my experience.

I literally just plugged it in via USB, then changed the output settings in the Ableton preferences. That was it!

Plugin Package Included with the Scarlett 2i2

When you purchase this audio interface, you get access to 4 plugins that include: a compressor, eq, gate, and reverb.

I have not tested these plugins out yet, but i did watch the review of them above and it seemed pretty positive.

 Cost of the FocusRite Scarlett 2i2

The cost of this interface is $150, which is pretty decent.

There is also a Focusrite Studio Package that comes with headphones and a condenser mic. This studio package costs $250.

I’m working mostly with midi, samples, guitar, and vocals. It works great for what i need to use it for.

If you are a beginner, or just want a very simple, portable recording solution, this is a good option.

Other Cheap Audio Interfaces You May Want to Check Out

The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is the most popular cheap interface, but there are a few other options you may want to check out.

These include:

Prosonus AudioBox – $99 – includes 2 xlr + 1/4 inch inputs and 2 outputs with a USB interface and a Studio One DAW.

Steinberg UR22 MKII 2-Channel USB Interface – $120 includes – includes 2 xlr + 1/4 inch inputs and 2 outputs with a USB interface and Cubase LE.

Super-Secret Electronic Music Promotion Guide

Its me again. PuzzleVortex. (@puzzlevortex)

Hello Guys. I’ve just created this 8-step
Electronic Music Promotion Guide” for you.

This 1398 word promo guide includes ‘8 paid + free methods’, to help you spread your music around the internet like a contagious virus!

My top 8 ‘super-secret’ music promo methods:

1) Paid Soundcloud Promotion
2) Free Soundcloud Reposters
3) Youtube Channel Promotion
4) Making Social Media Connections
5) Radio Promotion
6) Print Media and Blogs
7) Email Campaigns to DJs in Your Genre
8) Video Creation to Promote Yourself on Youtube

Low Cost Paid Soundcloud Promotion

Soundcloud promotion can be an effective strategy on a tight budget like mine (i’m a broke musician like you).

Most Soundcloud Promo providers use: reposting networks, large aggregator accounts that they controlblogs, and paid advertising to get you plays, likes, and new subscribers for a fee.

Some promo providers are better than others!

I’ve tested about 5 Soundcloud packages ranging from $10 – $50,  on Fiverr. I also tested some other independent promo providers.

Most promo packages really sucked, but a few worked well, and were pretty inexpensive!

Recently, I tested a great Fiverr promo package, which was priced at $15.

It got me over 3200 plays in 1 day.

(Read below to see the results.)

My Fiverr Soundcloud promo Package Test

Recently, I tested a $15 Soundcloud promo package, on an old project of mine on Fiverr.

Here are the results:

  • The cost of the package was $15 and i got over 3200 soundcloud plays in 1 day.
  • (i didnt have any downloads, because i hit my 100 download limit previously)
  • I got 63 likes, 32 reposts, and 25 comments.
  • I thought this was a pretty decent result. It was the best package i’ve bought so far.


Another Package i Bought had Alot of Fake Plays

I bought another soundcloud promo package that didnt work as well. I think some plays were real, but i’m pretty sure some were fake.

  • 1/4 of the listens came from South Korea. And 350 listens came from one city in Canada.

SO this tells me that at least some of the plays were probably fake.

BUT, i picked up residual plays and followers, so i think that a percentage of them were real listeners probably coming from a repost network.


My Enormous List of Free Soundcloud Repost Accounts

I’ve been collecting a ‘giant list of Soundcloud repost accounts’ for electronic music below.

I also started my own repost account below.

  • (If you want a free repost from me, please follow @edmsanity and edmsanity on soundcloud, then email your soundcloud link to I’ll repost you on both above accounts.)

Here’s my big list of active soundcloud repost accounts:

Should You Buy Soundcloud Reposts?

YES, you should buy reposts to promote yourself.

Paying to repost your track is a great way to get plays, likes, comments, and new followers.

If you’re a new artist, its what you have to do. Pay to get some plays.

You need a little, tiny ‘promo push’, to get natural re-posts, re-tweets, new followers, and go viral.

Finding Repost Accounts

  • You can find free ‘repost accounts’ by typing “repost” +”your genre”, in the search bar of Soundcloud.

Just follow the instructions the repost accounts give. (which usually is to follow their accounts). Then send them a DM with your track link.

I would recommend DMing large accounts in your genre, with a website and followers across many social media sites. (They account are much more likely to have legit, real listeners that will follow you if your track is good. Just pay them!)

Emailing Databases of Djs in your Genre

I recently connected with a email promo service provider that emailed trance and house tracks to a database of top djs, and music industry professionals.

The service costs $60.

This provider emails your dance track to his database, then sends you a spreadsheet with a yes or no’s from DJs, as well as feedback about your track from some top industry people.

  • I have not personally tested this, because i dont make trance or house.
  • I think promoting directly to DJs might be a good way to help your song gain some traction.
  • I’m going to search for more providers like this in my genre.

Independent Blog and Music Review Site Promotion

It can be difficult to get music blog or review sites to listen if you are a new artist.

They are flooded with new music constantly!

You should ask if you can pay them for promo. 

Here are a few sites + blogs you may want to contact about paid promo for electronic music: (paid promo services ranging from $200 – $1000)

These promo services have press connections and relationships with media that can help get your music heard. (But, you will have to pay.)

Here are some electronic music blogs you might also try contacting to get some promo:

Consequence of Sound
Fact Mag
The Music Ninja
The Electronic Current
Daily Dose of Bass
Raver Rafting
Gorilla VS Bear
Dancing Astraonaut
Pigeons and Planes
EDM Assassin
Good Music All Day
Dance Music North West
EDM Nations
Aquarium Drunkard
Electro Mind Set
All Access Electronic

Electronic Music Youtube Channel Promotion

Finding popular youtube accounts in your genre is a good way to promote electronic music.

Some large electronic music youtube channels have over 100,000+ subscribers!

  • If you give a youtube music channel the right to publish your tracks before they are released, they will be more likely to post your track.

These Youtube EDM channels ‘make their money with Adsense’.

They are looking for original music that they have full rights to publish on their channel and make around $2 – $4 per 1000 plays of the video. (These channels are a good way to get some free promo.)

Channels you might contact in the EDM genre include:

    1. Monstercat
    2. Proximity
    3. Majestic Casual
    4. UKF
    5. My Suicide Sheep
    6. Subsoul
    7. EDM City
    8. La Belle Musique
    9. Trap and Bass
    10. TheSoundYouNeed

Radio Promotion for Electronic Music

I have NOT experimented with radio promotion yet. Ny music isn’t really radio friendly.

I’m making drum and bass music right now, so i could maybe get some play on an obscure internet radio station, but i doubt i could get anything on mainstream radio.

  • The radio promo packages i’ve looked into were in the price ranges of $300 – $1000 per month.

Here are some companies that do EDM radio promotion to contact:

Planetary Group

I’m sure they work more with popular genres of electronic music like house, trance, and vocal EDM.

Video Promotion for Electronic Music

I’ve been dying to make a cool, psychedelic animated video for one of my tracks, but i always thought it would be too expensive.

I really want something similar to the video below:

I emailed the artist who worked on the project above. (He quoted me at $1000 for one video and a discount if i made multiple videos.)

I also got some quotes from other video makers on freelance websites.

These freelancers gave me a quote of around $500, but the work looked subpar. So, i’m not sure i would work with them.

I thought this was a bit expensive, so i’m going to make my own video in iMovie.

Making your Own Video with Stock Footage

I have been messing around with video editing in iMove.

I was surprised at how easy it was. I was able to piece together pretty cool videos using stock footage.

I plan on putting my own video together, then getting a little bit of help from a freelance video editor.

Some amazing digital artists even create free stock video for you that you can use in exchange for giving them credit.

One such artist named Beeple, makes great stock footage that you can just edit together to create your own video in imovie.

Give this a shot, and send me what you make.

Good luck promoting your music.

If you have any promotional ideas you think i should add, let me know me @puzzlevortex


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:


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

Review of Ableton Live 9 (from a Pro Tools User)

HI guys. Its me again, your friend PuzzleVortex. (@puzzlevortex)

I have a serious confession to make.

I just switched from Pro Tools 9, to Ableton Live 9.

Below, I’m going to explain why i’m switching to Ableton Live 9, even though i really love Pro Tools

(sorry digidesign, but i had to do it)

In this article, I’m going to summarize the features that i think will help me create better music, more quickly, as well how Ableton is a very different type of DAW when it’s compared to Pro Tools.

The Ableton features i liked included: midi effects, its ability to generate new melodies by altering your midi notes, its simple light weight interface, the Drum Rack plugin, its emphasis on looping, the ability to perform your music live with a controller, and Serato Scratch Live integration.


Why Would I Dare Switch From Pro Tools, when i really like it?

I’ve been using Pro Tools for over 15 years. I like it, alot. I hit the Save Hotkey unconsciously at this point. If my session crashes, i’m not even worried.

BUT, The whole point of this blog is to experiment with new music production software and post the results. For you, and for ME.

I felt like my production techniques were getting stale, and that i might be missing out on something, by just sticking to Pro Tools. (and i definitely was…)

Recently, I was told about Ableton by a friend, who is a very skilled and successful musician.

I really respect this person for his musical talent, so i thought it would be smart to listen to him.

This convinced me to try the free 30 day Ableton demo. (you can d/l it here)

Once i gave it a shot, i understood why alot of producers are talking about it.

Ableton Live is NOT just a recording DAW. It provides tools to help you create better music, more quickly. It is especially good, if you like working with midi and virtual instruments. It will even help you generate new melodies, based off of a parts you create in midi.

In addition, Ableton Live also has tools to help you perform your creations live.

You can also use the Ableton DAW in combination with Ableton Push (or any other type of controller), to trigger loops, volume changes, effects, or other parameters.

Adding a controller like Push allows you to perform the music you create live.


With its emphasis on looping, Ableton allows me to throw a song together, faster than i ever have.

For electronic music or hip-hop producers, i think Ableton is a great choice as a DAW.

BUT, if you’re more interested in recording live instruments, i think you might be better off in Pro Tools. (which is what it focuses on)

Is It Hard to Get Used to Ableton Live 9?

At first, the transition to ANY new DAW is a little bit painful.

There is definitely a learning curve. You won’t be fluent in ANY new DAW immediately.

Watching Ableton tutorial videos on youtube, is KEY to picking it up quickly. BUT, once you learn the basics, its not that hard.

Here’s an introduction to Ableton video (like the one below), to get you started:

How is Ableton Live 9 Different from Pro Tools 9?

Ableton Live gives you tools to create music with midi, virtual instruments, samples, and looping. Pro Tools focuses more on recording live instruments.

The Ableton DAW centers around the creation of clips, loops, and scenes in midi or audio. These loops are then recorded onto the Arrangement view, for further refinement of your musical ideas.

The loops, clips, or scenes are created in Session View (left image).



You can then arrange the loops, clips, and scenes that you create, in Arrangement View (left image).




Once the parts are recorded in Arrangement view, you can still alter the midi notes, instrument patches, and effects. Working with midi gives you alot of flexibility, that’s why i prefer to work in midi now.

Its easy to adjust all parameters in midi, as the song develops. (That’s why i like working with midi, rather than with audio) If you work with audio, you are stuck with what you have, unless you want to re-record.

This helps to quickly create musical ideas, arrange them, develop them, and then work them into a more structured song.

Which of the 3 Versions of Ableton Do You Need?

There are 3 different paid versions of Ableton which you can purchase.

There is also a full demo version you can test free for 30 days. (try the demo verison here)

If you want to buy Ableton, there are 3 versions:

  • Intro – $99
  • Standard – $450
  • Suite – $800

Here is a feature comparison of all 3 versions on Ableton’s website.

  • The Intro version of Ableton lets you make 16 tracks, 8 scenes, and 2 send/returns. (Its the bare bones version, and its NOT enough, in my opinion.)

BUT, Ableton does offer an upgrade from the intro version at a discount price ($375). So, its ok if you just want to get your feet wet in creating music.

  • If you are more serious about your music, you will need the Standard – Version. This version costs $450. (i just bought this one)
    • The Standard version lets you create unlimited audio and midi tracks (as many as your computer processor can handle). But, it doesn’t contain MAX for live performance, as well as the additional soft synths, and samples that come with
  • The Suite Version of Ableton costs $800.

It comes with extra virtual instruments, sample packs, live tools, and effects processors. I haven’t tried it, so i’m not really sure if its worth it.

(I purchased the Standard Version of Ableton and i’m very happy with it.)

The only additional piece of software i want to purchase for Ableton is the Serum VST, which i completely loved when i tried the demo.

Using Midi Effects in Ableton

One feature which i really liked about Ableton was the ability to use Midi Effects to change or create variations of your melodies.

Midi effects let you alter your midi notes in different ways including the pitch, velocity, length, etc.


For example, midi effects let you use an arppegiator, change the scale, pitch, or add some random changes.

These midi effects can help you create variations on your melody or bassline, which you could use as an additional part.

Here’s a video that shows you how to use Ableton to generate melodies:

Creating an Ultimate Drum Rack in Ableton

I really love creating drum loops with the Drum Rack Virtual Instrument in Ableton.

It is so easy. You just drag in any drum samples, then program your beat with midi.


Drum rack also lets you add effects and modulate any parameter on each individual drum sound. You have complete flexibility.

This allows you to use just one drum rack plugin, so you can keep the strain on your processor low.

Below is a video that teaches you how to put together a flexible Drum Rack in Ableton:

How to Perform Live With Ableton

Ableton was created with live performance in mind, its provides tools to help you do so. Pro Tools does not have this (at least not version 9 which i was using)

Ableton gives you improvisation tools, allowing you to trigger loops, samples, and keep everything in sync.

Ableton lets you to map certain keys on a keyboard (or other controller) to trigger loops, as well as faders, sends, and effects.

Serato Scratch Live Integration

You can sync Ableton Live and Serato Scratch Live by opening them both at the same time. They should sync automatically through software called The Bridge.

Here’s a video that gives you an idea of what is possible with Ableton + Serato Scratch Live:

Now That Ableton is my Prefered DAW, Will i Ever Use Pro Tools Again?

YES. Even though i plan on using Ableton alot, I will still definitely use Pro Tools.

I will use Pro Tools to record live instruments like vocals or guitars, but not for beat creation using virtual instruments and midi.

i think the Ableton software does midi, virtual instruments, and looping better than Pro Toos. (that’s how i prefer to work)

Also, note that i haven’t tried Pro Tools 12 yet! (I’ve only used Pro Tools 9.) So, there might be some new features in Pro Tools that i haven’t been exposed to.

If anyone at Digidesign wants to hook me up with a demo or copy of PT12, I would love to do a review of Pro Tools 12. (I still really love Pro Tools, I just cant afford to buy it right now.)

Also, if anyone has any questions about Ableton, or any software designers want me to review their plugins, VSTs, or DAWs, please contact me @puzzlevortex


Review of my new DDJ SX2 DJ Controller

HI guys, its me again. Puzzle Vortex.

In this article, i’m going to do a review of my new DDJ-SX2 DJ Controller.

I’m also going to talk about my plans to release an album of electronic music. Hopefully in the next few months.


In the near future, i’m going to release an album of drum n bass music, some videos i made myself, put up my new artwork, promote everything on social media, and try to start playing live with my DDJ-SX2.

A Little More Info About My Musical Background and My Upcoming Music Projects

Here’s my musical background:

    • I started playing guitar when i was 10 years old.
    • I was in a heavy metal and punk band when i was in high school.
    • I went to Berklee College of Music and got a degree in music synthesis.

At Berklee I learned the basics of hard disk recording, how to create and edit of synth patches, music theory, ear training, counterpoint, how to play instruments like drums, piano, and further education in guitar.

  • Since then, I’ve been mixing music in Pro Tools for about 15 years.
  • I’ve self-produced about 4 of my own projects in the genres of electronic and rap music.

  • Currently, I’m working on a new Drum N Bass Project (under the name PuzzleVortex).

The first PuzzleVortex album will hopefully be finished in the next few months.

    • A month ago, I created this website to write about music production, as well as build an email newsletter.

I wanted to use the site to promote my personal music, art, video projects.

    I also plan on promoting myself to film makers for film scoring projects using online advertising.

For my PuzzleVortex project, I’m doing everything myself including: songwriting, recordingmixing, artwork, videos, etc.

I plan on hiring some freelance voiceover artists, singers, and video producers to add the final touches and help me finish the project.

I also am going to try to play live drum n bass music with my new DDJ-SX2 Dj Controller. I’ve been practicing with it about 3-5 hours a day since i got it. I love it.

My DDJ SX2 DJ Controller Review

I got my DDJ-SX2 DJ controller about 2 weeks ago. I completely love it.

I’ve been practicing with my controller about 3-5 hours a day, since i got it.

Previously, I’ve worked with 2 Technics turntables, but this controller is much different.

The new DJ controllers allow you to create and remix electronic music on the fly. The DDJ-SX2 has alot of tools to help you improvise in a way you can’t with 2 turntables.

The DDJ-SX2 lets you layer, loop, slice, re-mix, and add effects to your songs off the top of your head.

Currently I’m streaming live DJ sets over twitter @puzzlevortex (almost every night).

I love DJing. I see myself doing it alot in the future.

DDJ SX2 Features That I Like:

Hot-Cueing of up to 32 parts

The DDJ SX2 allows you to cue up 32 parts simultaneously, which gives you the ability to create, layer, and remix tracks on the fly.


It has 16 well-made colored pads that let you mark, and easily remember which parts are cued up. You can also use the pads to do auto-looping, and slicing up of the track.


There is also an auto-loop feature which lets you loop 32nd, 16th, quarter, etc, just by hitting the pad.

I find myself doing 32nd, 16th, and 8th note loops alot on snare or kick hits to create improvised drum fills.


One feature that i’m just starting to grasp is the ‘slicing’ feature.

The slicing feature lets you re-arrange parts of the song on the fly. As the beat plays, the pads slice 8 bars into 8 pieces.

The pad turns red on the section of music which is sampled.

You can then re-mix the track off the top of your head by using the pads to play with these 8 different pieces.

Auto-Sync Grid and BPM adjustment by 10th of a BPM

A nice feature i just discovered is the Auto-sync grid.

When this is turned on, Serato shows a grid that tells you exactly where each beat of a song is! It even shows you where the the 1st beat in a 4 bar phrase.

This allows you to mix tracks with really complicated drums, like drum n bass.

You can also adjust BPMs by 1/10th of a BPM.  This allows you to get 2 tracks perfectly in sync pretty easily.

4 Channels are Better than 2

I almost got a 2 channel DJ Controller. Thank baby jesus that i didn’t, because i’m SO glad i got 4 channels. Having 4 channels allows you to do so much more.

You can get a good 2 channel Dj controller for $250. BUT DONT! Get the 4 channel controller. Its better.

It also gives me an extra channel to play my guitar through.

I have my guitar strapped on, and i can mix while i play parts on top of it with my guitar.

6 Simultaneous Effects

The DDJ SX2 also has 2 banks of 3 effects. You can use 6 effects simultaneously.

The mix % can be controlled via knobs at the top of the controller.

You can also download more types of effects from Serato’s website. You can have up to 6 different effects.

I not sure if you are able to control different parameters of your effects other than the mix % by altering it in Serato. I havent really explored this yet.

I’m mostly using the lowpass filter, LFO filter, flange, reverb, and delays. I’ll try downloading some additional effects like flange or chorus to test on my mixes.

Using The Serato Software to DJ

I love using the Serato DJ software.

It lets you look at your music visually, so you can see the changes that are coming before the track plays.

Seeing the music visually is really helpful when you aren’t quite sure if the drums are coming in on the current beat, or after 4 more bars.

Looking at it visually also helps when you are using the auto-loop feature (especially for longer loop times). You can see which parts are about to be looped.

You can also add different effects which can be downloaded from Serato’s website. I’m not sure if you can cue the effects knobs to change different parameters of the effects like the rate of a chorus, or a delay time, which would be cool to do.

Top Features that i Like:

  • Hot-cueing up to 32 parts at once
  • The auto-loop feature lets you do drum fills and re-mix on the fly
  • 8 different effects to choose from. Plus you can download more effects as an addon
  • Serato DJ is included for free
  • Smart Sync Grid in Serato
  • Splicing Feature is interesting. I’m still learning how to use it.
  • BPM adjustment by 1/10 of a BPM
  • High quality pads and knobs compared to cheaper models.

Features i Dislike:

  • It would be nice to control certain parameters of an effect like the LFO rate or delay time. (maybe you can, but i have figured out how to yet)
  • It is a little pricey at $1000, but its worth it.
  • Honestly, i love this thing. I dont have much bad to say.

Where do I get music to play on my DDJ-SX2?

My musical taste has been moving toward drum n bass.

I find myself listening to the sub-genres of liquid, deep, crossbreed, and neurofunk. Sometimes a little bit of hardcore or industrial.

I’ve been getting my tracks off of Beatport, because they have a setup which is similar to a social network where you follow artists you like.

The cost of a track on Beatport is $1.50 – $2.00.

There are also alot of good tracks which you can download for free on soundcloud or bandcamp.

I’m trying to build up a set of about 30 – 40 tracks, that mix well into each other, and in keys that work together, and have parts that i am familiar with.

Streaming My Live Sets on Twitter

One of the reasons i bought the DJ Controller was to start streaming live sets on Twitter (follow me here @puzzlevortex).

There are a 4 services which you can easily stream live music from which include Twitter, Periscope, Twitch, and Instagram.

Hopefully this will get me prepared to play some local clubs.

Please say whats up to me on Twitter @puzzlevortex.