Layering & Creative Techniques
Welcome to the third instalment learning how to layer & use creative techniques in Ableton Live, in the past two week's we have covered a lot of basic and fun fundamental's, If you have missed any of the written tutorials then please start at the first one Making A Beat, then continue to Chord progression & Basic music theory.
This week we will be looking at another multitude of skills and techniques you can use & see what it can do for us. We will continue from last week and we will be building upon what we have learnt.
We will cover the following in this blog.
LAYERING CHORD PROGRESSION'S
We start by understanding what layering is, lets say we have a bass sound, it's sound is obviously very bassie, we like the bass sound but we think its missing something so we want add another sound to it that will compliment the sound, to show this as a example we will use our chord progression from last week, make a few adjustments and then see what they sound like together.
Open up your previous work from last week and add 2 x MIDI tracks into the Clip/Device Drop area.
Next load the Grand Piano onto one midi track and the Old School Roads onto the other, you can search for this by pressing CMD + F (MAC) or CTRL + F (PC).
Once you have done this click on a empty midi slot, we can now place in notes from what we worked out in last weeks blog, our scale is C major, a nice happy feel to our track.
Enter the following notes into the midi clip on the Grand piano as shown below (left) and enter the other notes on the Old School Roads also shown below(right)
Adding reverb, a touch of delay & compressing the two sounds will make it sound together and in balance. We will first group these two together by clicking on both of the midi tracks and by pressing CMD/CTRL + G, once this is done you should see that the two output from both channels are routed automatically into our new group channel, this makes it easier to compress both sounds and add other effects if needed as a whole, in turn saving cpu power.
We will now add some processing onto our two layered sounds, firstly the Grand Piano (left) & next the old school roads (right) with the overall processing on the group channel below the two.
There is a lot going on in these pictures, The grand piano has a subtle ping pong delay, whilst the old schools roads has a nice chorus adding thickness to it. Overall we have processed the two by adding a nice reverb to make sure the two sounds sound as though there in the same room, Whiles adding the utility and giving it some more width, we then added the saturator to give it a lot more presence we have only changed the curve type of the saturator and you can straight away notice there is a lot more volume and presence, we then added a redux, this reduces the overall quality of the sound via bit rate as you can hear the crackling at the end of the sample, then we overall compressed the two together giving balance & clarity to our layered sounds.
SAMPLING OUR SOUND
Sampling has been the forefront of many brilliant tracks over the years, there is a topic within itself by sampling but for this example we will look how to sample our own sound and use it in our track. Firstly we need to record the overall sound and after our processing this is called post processing, we create a new audio track and set the input to what our group is called in this case its 4-Group, Arm the audio track by pressing the record button at the bottom of the channel, you will notice it turns red & this mean that the track is armed to set to record. Once you have done this press a empty record button within a slot on the audio channel but before you do make sure the two midi tracks are not in LOOP mode, then when your ready click play on the two midi channels, this will record our sound (shown below).
After we have captured our processed sound we can drag the file named 7-Audio-1 into a new midi channel. to do this make a new midi channel and drag and drop the 7-Audio-1 file onto the sample tab. Once you've done that continue to alter the parameters as shown in the 2 picture's at the bottom.
The WARP button is optional I have left it on with the algorithm set to pro, formants & envelopes are also set to minimum and maximum. Try turning the WARP mode on and off whilst having a listen to the sample.
Once you have done this add the following notes into the midi note editor or make you own pattern. (You can then rename the Track of your choosing or name it Piano-Samp), I have also added another noted edit this is for the into of the track, if you notice the velocities of the intro you will see that they are all set to full, this adds digital distortion to the sample by overdriving the sample we turn down the mixer on the main channel by -7.0dB.
Below I have added a pitch bend to show you how to pitch bend inside of a clip using automation, you do this by clicking on the Show/Hide Envelope box in the bottom left hand corner, this will open the envelope box, you will see two box's on top of each other, the top box is what device you want to choose, and the box at the bottom is the control chooser. for the top box select MIDI Ctrl and for the bottom box choose Pitch Bend. You can then make a automated pattern by clicking on the red line as many times you want, you will notice a red dot appears, or you can press B and this will give you a pencil tool on which you can draw in automation to the grid size your in, you can also change the grid size by right clicking on the MIDI note editor and clicking on a certain grid size you would like. For this example I have just added a small curve just before & at the start of bar 7. You can change automation lines from straight lines via pressing ALT (PC & Mac) on the keyboard. This is just a example of how you can utilise pitch bend or other elements depending on what you want within the envelope editor.
ADDING THE BASSLINE
For the Bassline I will add a simple pattern that compliments our piano-samp track, this can be done by playing it in or by copying the pattern used for our piano-samp onto a new MIDI Track, add the Tight Full Bass into this track and press play.
You notice that the track doesn't have any real movement, its very static so we can alter this by making a new pattern or by adding to our existing pattern, add the following notes as shown below & add Notator 16C Swing to our pattern.
With the new notes altered and added, we notice a slight improvement to the bassline, we can make it better again by if we maybe a reverb, delay or both, then un-sync the delay from the grid this will fill in the gaps and add a nice loose feel to our bassline. We will use our BPM to Tempo chart where you can get for FREE when you sign up HERE, and use this to learn what value in milli-seconds we need in order to give our delay a in-synced vibe.
There are many ways to do this but the best way in our case will be via a return track, A return track generally host effects and not clips, multiple channel tracks can be fed into the return track via the sends on the mixer channel which we will show next.
First add a return track by right clicking on the Clip/ Device drop area and select return track. you will notice a new track has appeared next to your master channel, this return track will have a letter in the title starting at A, B, C etc, you will also notice in the track's channel there are rotator knob labelled up with the same letters, these letters are assigned to the corresponding return tracks e.g A goes to A, and with the rotator knob you can adjust how much volume goes through on to the return track from -inf dB to 0.0dB, note if your track volume is at -2db and you have the return track knob all the way up to 0.0dB then the maximum volume you will get on the return track will be the same as the channel's volume, which will be -2dB.
Once you have done this add the simple delay to the return track and click on the two button that say SYNC, you will notice the buttons and sliders are now represented in ms or milliseconds, We want to figure out in ms what value it would be for our track, we will use the BPM to Tempo chart to do this by looking at our chart below, as we want a 8th note delay we will look down the 1/8 note column and we search for the BPM our track is in, which is 120bpm and where the two meet that is our value, which is 250ms, this value shows a synced value very rigid to the grid, if we alter the value just ever so slightly we can make our delay stand out in the track and overall improving it.
Now we have our value we can use this in our mix, we want to subtly de sync the value so in the two time box's in the delay setting's the top box wants to be -1ms (249ms) and the bottom box wants to be +1ms (251ms) as shown below, We then want to set the DRY/WET to 100% as we want the full signal from our track being processed by the delay. Once this is done we can then look at adding SIDECHAIN via the compressor and look to EQ using the EQ eight, you can view a video showing what SIDECHAIN does and how we can use it within our mix's. Copy the values from the picture below and press play.
Below shows the Channel return track value set to full and the return track volume value. As you can hear this is a very subtly effect but it is very effective to fill in the gaps from our bassline, along with playing it against the piano track the bass compliments it really effectively. We can add the piano track to this by turning the sends knob on the piano track to the desired amount, in our case full.
COMPRESSION & FURTHER SIDECHAINING & LEVELS
We now want to get the levels of our track right so the Bass & Piano sits nicely together and with the drums, the bass want's to be at -12.9 & the Piano wants to sit at -2.6.
Next we want to group the Bass & Piano tracks together, we do this by selecting the Bass & Piano track and pressing CTRL/CMD + G, with these now grouped together we can add effects to both of the tracks at one time, this helps with keeping the load of our cpu down.
On the group track add a glue compressor and a compressor, we want to use the glue compressor to control the overall and the compressor for further sidechaining.
Put in the values & levels as shown below along with sidechaining the compressor to the kick.
As you can see if you press play the bass sits well along with controlling the piano sound and letting the drums cut through the mix, this technique is used not just for the pump effect but it can be used against other elements that are clashing with each other, as we have demonstrated with using the delay as a return track.
This week we have covered many main points within making your music creatively and also technically, using these techniques can really make a mix stand out so extra care when mixing your tracks as too much of something could effect something else within the mix, you've got to trust your ears and do what you think is right.