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Posts related to Ableton Live (DAW).

My Ableton setup explained

Vlog pilot episode

Many people find my humble advice blog useful and I’m happy to hear that. However, the number one request that I get asked all the time is to make videos, not just articles in the written form. I find myself watching more and more YouTube channels lately, so I totally get that.

Well, you asked — you get it. In fact, I’m thinking to make this whole vlog thing on a regular basis, although I’m not entirely sure yet. Think about this video as a pilot episode.

I know some people prefer to watch a video on Facebook, so I’ll put that link here as well.

Three fun facts. I had to cut almost half of the content from this video, otherwise it would be 40 minutes long. This video took me about 20 hours to make, not including time spent on a couple of failed attempts. Since it was the first montage I made in Final Cut Pro X ever, I’ve watched 70 video lessons alongside with making it.

Aug 17   Ableton   Behind the scenes   DJing and performance   Vlog

Beat Repeat MIDI-mapping

Hi Daniel, as far as I’m aware you are using Xone K2 controller. How did you control Beat Repeat when played a set at PDJ TV (at 0:37 sec)? It seems that you turning on and controlling the repeat value by a single rotary knob, but I can’t figure out how to map it that way.

Neil Paterson

Well spotted, Neil! Yes, I use Allen & Heath Xone:K2 in my current setup, and I trigger Beat Repeat and controlling its value with a single knob.

Effects like reverb or delay typically have a Dry/Wet parameter, so it’s easy to adjust the desired amount of parameter and the rotary knobs of Xone K2 are perfect for this. But Beat Repeat is different, and basically you have to map two separate parameters: turning the device “on” and “off” and the repeat value. And this is very clumsy when playing a set.

Beat Repeat default parameters

The trick is to make some starting point where nothing happens whilst the device is “on”. It can be achieved in few different ways, you can just set the same parameters as I do:

  • Interval to 1/4
  • Grid to 1/6
  • Gate to 4/16
  • Turn on “No Trpl” button

You see, since we turned on the “no triplets” button and set the initial grid position to 1/6, nothing really happens. it means we can map this as a maximum left position of the knob to emulate the “off” state.

Beat Repeat trick

Half work is done, now we have to make a proper mapping. By default, when you map the Grid parameter, it sets 1/256 as a minimum value (left position of the knob) and 1 Bar as a maximum (right position of the knob). Obviously, we don’t need that.

First, you need to do the right-click choose “Invert Range” because we want our knob to control the grid in the opposite way. And now set the minimum value for 1/6 as this is Beat Repeat initial state as described above. I also suggest limiting the maximum at around 1/48 because 1/256 is way too extreme.

Mapping the Grid parameter with inverted range.

That’s it — this is exactly what I used during the set at PDJ TV.

But we can go further and bring this effect into a level by adding an extra EQ that would cut the low frequencies along with the intensity of the Beat Repeat. Here’s how to do it.

Add EQ Eight with a low-cut filter after the Beat Repeat and group them into a new Effect Rack (Select both → ⌘+G). Now do the right-click on the Grid and select “Map to Macro 1”, and then do the same for the EQ’s filter frequency:

Mapping both parameters into a single macro knob

Now open macro mapping tab by clicking on the “Map” button and set a maximum value for the filter frequency at around 1000 Hz. It doesn’t have to be precise, but I suggest limiting the frequency that way otherwise the signal will be completely filtered.

And here is a tiny video I’ve recorded (excuse the shaking camera and the editing, I’m not a pro on making videos). You don’t need to do this effect that often obviously, this is just for the demonstration purpose:

Track playing on the video: Daniel Lesden – Ignition (Waveform Remix).
2017   Ableton   Advice   DJing and performance

Controlling parameters in Ableton using modulation

How to make a non-destructive editing of automated parameters so I could change it one place and apply to the entire clip’s length?

Ilya Birman

Let’s say, we have some bassline with a cut-off automation recorded using a MIDI-controller:

The automation curves recorded for the bassline’s filter cut-off parameter (highlighted area)

It’s only an eight bars long loop and we want to stretch it out for the entire track’s duration. Then problem is when you stretch out the clip, the automation didn’t follow along the way:

The automation curves are not stretched out along with the clip (highlighted area)

The obvious ways of make the automation keep going are:

  • Flatten automation into a solid piece of audio
  • Copy-paste automation manually throughout the entire duration

As you can guess, both of these methods aren’t perfect: flattening is a destructive type of editing meaning you cannot go back to fix it if anything is needed, and copying-and-pasting manually is just not very productive. Besides, if you want to change anything in this automation, you would need to copy-paste all the changes again and that’s not what we want.

But here is a better way to solve this — using modulation.

Modulation is pretty much the same as automation, but with two key differences: it controls parameters within the clips (not on the global timeline) and relative to the defined parameter value.

Modulation vs. Automation. Ableton Live knowledge base

Do the right-click on the parameter you want to control and select “Show Modulation”:

Filter’s cut-off in Spire synthesizer is the parameter we what to modulate

You’ll see a MIDI editor with the Envelopes tab opened. Copy and paste there all the curves from timeline automation to this area. Like this:

Now delete the automation since we don’t need it anymore. Do the right click and select “Delete Automation”:

Deleting the automation which is no longer needed

Now all you have to do is to drag the parameter (the little black triangle) up to its maximum value. Remember that modulation controls parameters relative to their volume:

Dragging the parameter up to its maximum value

And that’s it. Now you can stretch out your MIDI-clip as long as you want, and the modulation will follow. I’ve recorded a quick screen video just to show it in action:

2017   Ableton   Advice   Music production

How to freeze Ableton channel with sidechain

Hello, Daniel. I make music in Ableton Live running on a pretty old PC. I always have to freeze channels in order to save up some CPU resources, but it doesn’t work if I have a sidechain compressor on a channel. Any advice on this?


I used to make music on a laptop so I feel your pain on computer resources. It may sound obvious, but first of all I suggest revising your plugins and keep using only those which you really need for that particular project. Less plugins — less resources usage.

Less is more

However, I like to use Freeze function regardless of CPU usage. To me it’s kind of a way of moving forward, otherwise I can stuck on tweaking and more editing all day long. But just like you said, Ableton can’t freeze a channel if it has any kind of sidechain routing on it:

Computer audio resources and strategies. Ableton Reference Manual

A typical error that pops-up when you trying to freeze channel with a sidechain

Luckily, there is a trick.

Let’s start off by putting some sound supposing that it is your arrangement that you would like to freeze. I’ve put some kind of synth pad sample for this purpose:

Audio channel with our sound source

Now let’s add a sidechain routing. I’m going to use a sidechain ‘pumping’ compression effect to make it sound obvious:

A typical sidechain compression with a kick as a modulation source

This stage is exactly where we usually see an error when trying to freeze channel. And here are a couple easy steps to bypass this:

  • Turn on a tiny I·O button on the right panel to show routing section.
  • At the signal source channel, seek for an audio out dropdown menu, it shows ‘Master’ by default. Click to choose a new Audio channel you’ve created instead.
  • At that Audio channel, look at the monitoring section with In, Auto, and Off buttons, with Off being turned on by default. Choose ‘In’ instead.
Routing our signal source to a new Audio channel

From now, sound output of the signal source channel goes through the Audio channel, named ‘Signal Out’ in this example. All I need to do now is to cut-and-paste compressor to this channel and freeze the original channel.

As the result, we’ve got a frozen channel whilst having a sidechain routing going on. Quod erat demonstrandum.

2016   Ableton   Advice   Music production

Getting started with Ableton Live

Recommended tutorials and courses

cover transparent white

Dear Daniel, one of these questions you’ve probably been asked a thousands times if not more .... You inspire me to produce all the sounds I have in my mind, so I bought Live 9, and I’m at the step to start the learning journey of producing music with it. But I don’t know how to start :)

Is there a special tutorial about Live you would recommend me, or a good course on the web that for you is a must for whom is willing to learn in a proper and professional way with Live? Thank a million time, and also thank you for the hard professional work you share us with your music.

Nicolas Gateff

I appreciate your words Nicolas, and very pleased to be an inspiration for you to start music production. Congratulation on getting Ableton, this software is amazing.

Perhaps my advice may sound obvious, but I’d recommend starting off with Ableton Reference Manual. Unlike of other software manuals which are usually too complex and outdated, Ableton team did an amazing job on creating a full guide written in simple words, and what’s even more important — they keep it up-to-date with each new Ableton release.

That is the reason why I won’t do my own beginner’s guide on Ableton. I mean, these are the guys who’ve made this software in the first place, they know it better than anyone else! This manual is enough to get started, everything else is just a matter of practice and experience that you’ll gain throughout the learning.

Although, I’ll be glad to help with some more specific issues, for example, stuff like creating a pitch rising effect.

Ableton Reference Manual on covers all aspects from the ground up

However, if you want someone to teach you or just prefer to watch rather than read, here are several schools, courses, and tutors which I would recommend. Their programs vary a lot, but all of these are trustworthy names. You can choose any up to your budget and needs.

Online schools

Video courses

Free YouTube tutorials

Maybe our dear readers would recommend more tutorials and ways to learn Ableton in the comments below?

2016   Ableton   Advice

How to make 432 Hz tuning in Ableton

I’m new to Ableton (switched from Logic), and I’m looking for a way to pitch tuning down to 432 Hertz. Is there some sort of global project settings for that in Ableton?


I use standard “A440” pitch in my productions, so to be honest I don’t know much about 432 Hz tuning. As far as I know, there is no built-in way to change global pitch in Ableton unlike of Logic. However, there are some tricks that might you find useful.

A440 standard pitch

First things off, there is a Max For Live plugin called Microtuner. I haven’t used it myself, but according to its description and users comments, it should work exactly as you need — just put it on a MIDI-channel, and your synthesizer’s pitch will be tuned to 432 Hertz automatically. 

Max for Live allows to build instruments and effects for use within Ableton Live, and it comes bundled with Live Suite edition

Method number two requires some preparations, but in my opinion it even better.

Open a synthesizer or plugin you’re using, find the oscillator pitch section, and tune it down to -32 cents in Fine tuning knob. I’m using Sylenth1 in this particular example:

Cent is a 1/100th of semitone

Do this for all other plugins, including Ableton built-in devices like Sampler, Simpler, Operator and more.

Then from here you have two options. You can either save it as device preset by clicking on the disk icon on the top right:

... or just save as default preset for this particular device:

Let’s say, if you’ll save tuned Simpler as a default preset, every next time you’ll add a new instance of Simpler, it will come already with 432 Hz, i.e. with -32 cents. As easy as possible! I would advise sticking with that option. 

Default presets in Ableton Reference Manual

Fellow producers out there! How do you tune your plugins? And what do you think about 432 Hz tuning in general as an alternative to the standard pitch? Share it in the comments box below.

2016   Ableton   Advice   Music production

Creating a pitch rising effect in Ableton

Hi Daniel, can you advise how to make a pitch rise effect on a vocal? E.g. like in this video at 2:42, they call it the “dub delay”. I can’t find any good tutorial for this. Many thanks!


In Ableton Live, there are at least two easy ways to do that using built-in devices: Ping Pong Delay and Simpler. They give slightly different results, so choose whatever better suit your needs. Let’s go over the both methods.

Method #1: Ping Pong Delay

First things off, we need to take an audio sample which we will use for the processing. I’ll grab just some random phrase from my library, a one-shot speech sample says “Dark”. It’s pretty raw and dirty, but okay for this example.

Put this sample to a new Audio Channel, and add Ping Pong Delay on top. By default, Ping Pong use an algorithm called “Fade”, we need to change it to “Repitch”. Click right mouse button on the device title and select it from the list:

From now on the modulation of the “Beat Swing” parameter will affect the sample’s pitch. Change it to the maximum value of 33.3%, and draw an automation down to the end, at -33.3%. Here is what we’ve got so far:

The effect itself is fine, but as you can hear the sound fades out over time, and we don’t need it. To fix this, simply turn on the freeze function, a small square “F”. Now the delay effect will last infinitely as long as the freeze is turned on:

Method #2: Simpler

Now let’s take a look at the alternative method. It requires few more steps, but I like it more. I’ll put the same source sample to a new MIDI Channel, Ableton automatically creates a Simpler device. By default, Simpler has some parameters that we don’t need, let’s change it in four clicks:

  • Turn on the “Loop” button. With this, we can use a single MIDI note in order to repeat the sound.
  • Turn off the “Snap”. Snap to grid a nice feature, but to make the effect smoother, we don’t it here.
  • Change Warp method to a “Tones”. Other algorithms can work too, but I found this one is better in this case.

I highlighted these changes on the screenshot:

Now create a new MIDI clip, and draw a single MIDI note up to full length. Make sure to put it on C3 — this is a default note for most samplers where a sample is played with the original pitch. Since we turned on the “Loop” function, it will sound like this:

Now comes the most interesting part. Select the Simpler and press ⌘+G (or click with right mouse button on the title and select Group), it wraps the device into Instrument Rack. Then click on the top left button to open a Macro section, like this:

Then we have to make a MIDI mapping on length and transpose parameters. To do that, do right click on the Length parameter → Map to Macro 1, and right click on the Transpose → Map to S Length, as highlighted on the picture:

By default, it maps the maximum values of the parameters from left to right direction. It means that the maximum amount of the Macro knob (127) equal to 100% sample Length, and +48 semitones of Transpose. But we want quite the opposite, at 100% sample Length pitch should remain unchanged while reducing the Length should drop down the Pitch.

To do so, click on the “Map” button near to the Instrument Rack title, it opens Macro Mapping window. Then right click on the Transpose parameter and click “Invert Range”, set maximum value at 0, and minimum up to your taste — I’ll set +36 semitones, which equally to 3 octaves.

That’s it. Now just draw an automation curve of the Macro 1 parameter, and enjoy the result:

Dear readers, if you know more viable methods how to achieve the same result, feel free to post it in the comments below.

2015   Ableton   Advice   Music production   Sound design

Time traveller’s archive — 7

Some stuff to read (and watch) on the weekend

The Wikisinger in the quiet room with no reverb
  1. The Wikisinger’s reverb difference in action. Clear visual explanation of acoustics in actions, great for educational purpose. Bonus: behind the scenes video.
  2. “Interspecies” music interface. This is really weird.
  3. Ableton Reverb Techniques: In The Studio With Mad Zach. I’ll just put it here.
  4. Free-to-use space sounds from ESA, European Space Agency.

Time traveller’s archive — 1

Pretty often I find an interesting stuff and think “would be great to get back to it someday”. Usually, I add it to Safari favorites. But eventually my favorites bar, even well-organized, will be overwhelmed.

So I’ve decided to collect interesting links here, in the blog, and name it as «Time Traveller’s Archive» series. It’s like I’m from today share links to myself in the future. Cool, huh? :-)

I’d be glad if someone will find it useful too.

  1. Ableton dev team shows how they works in the 15-minutes documentary video. One the hand it’s straight development, on the other hand — very creative. True science. I like the “hack fair” part the most.
  2. Ableton also introduced a book Making Music. Haven’t read it, probably will do once it will be available in the iBooks.
  3. Thoriq Firdaus tells How to display update notifications in the browser tab, the way Twitter, Facebook or Trello do.
  4. Concept artist Ruairi Robinson shares trailer of short film “The Leviathan”. A something for inspiration.
  5. Promodj editor wrote an article The secrets of artists promotion you didn’t know before (in Russian), like a summary of many newbie questions and answers. I do not agree with the most things there, still interesting to read.

Long-awaited upgrade

Probably I’m the last man on Earth who used Ableton 8 till this day. Just got latest 9.1 version and gonna install it now. Wish me a good luck! Hope I’ll be able to open all my tracks after that.

2013   Ableton   Music production   Studio