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Building with the Impulse virtual instrument


Ableton Live 8 Essential Training

with Rick Schmunk

Video: Building with the Impulse virtual instrument

One of the benefits of owning and using Ableton Live is the instrument devices that come packaged with the various versions of the program. Let's take a look at Impulse, a simple, yet surprisingly powerful drum machine that is included in all versions of Live 8. So on this first track, I've got an Impulse preset loaded, and down here in Device view, you can see the actual device. Now the way this works is that there are eight sample slots across here, and each hold a sample for different drum. And those are, by default, mapped to C3 through C4 on your keyboard.
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  1. 1m 30s
    1. Welcome
    2. Using the exercise files
  2. 8m 43s
    1. What is a digital audio workstation?
      4m 13s
    2. Choosing the right gear and setting up a system
      4m 30s
  3. 12m 59s
    1. Setting up audio preferences
      3m 54s
    2. Setting up MIDI preferences
      3m 31s
    3. Optimizing performance
      5m 34s
  4. 35m 42s
    1. Understanding Session view
      8m 7s
    2. Working with Live browsers
      5m 3s
    3. Working with Live clips
      7m 57s
    4. Understanding clip properties
      7m 52s
    5. Working with Live scenes
      6m 43s
  5. 28m 16s
    1. Building Live Sets and projects
      4m 25s
    2. Learning Live file management
      4m 2s
    3. Exporting content from Live
      7m 32s
    4. Importing and exporting Live Packs
      3m 17s
    5. Searching for and auditioning clips
      4m 58s
    6. Setting up frequently accessed folders
      4m 2s
  6. 23m 3s
    1. Preparing to record MIDI
      5m 51s
    2. Recording and overdubbing MIDI
      4m 32s
    3. Working with alternate MIDI entry methods
      6m 49s
    4. Using multi-output virtual instruments
      5m 51s
  7. 24m 26s
    1. The MIDI Editor
      4m 49s
    2. Quantizing MIDI data
      6m 6s
    3. Advanced MIDI editing
      6m 49s
    4. Setting up groove in editing
      6m 42s
  8. 9m 18s
    1. Preparing to record
      5m 0s
    2. Recording audio
      4m 18s
  9. 22m 37s
    1. Understanding Arrangement view
      3m 41s
    2. Recording in Arrangement view
      3m 51s
    3. Recording from Session view to Arrangement view
      5m 21s
    4. Reworking clips
      9m 44s
  10. 27m 57s
    1. Understanding Live's mixer
      12m 38s
    2. Using sends and returns
      3m 47s
    3. Building headphone cues
      3m 49s
    4. Grouping tracks
      7m 43s
  11. 43m 14s
    1. Working with effect devices
      4m 56s
    2. Understanding EQ and filters
      7m 14s
    3. Using compressors and dynamic processors
      7m 28s
    4. Building interesting effects with delay effect processing
      8m 18s
    5. Using reverb effectively
      8m 22s
    6. Setting up side chain effects easily
      6m 56s
  12. 15m 37s
    1. Creating rhythmic patterns with the Arpeggiator effect
      8m 38s
    2. Building background parts with the Chord and Scale effects
      6m 59s
  13. 25m 22s
    1. Building automation patterns
      8m 44s
    2. Editing existing automation information
      5m 2s
    3. Using fades to mask audio pops and clicks
      4m 10s
    4. Understanding the power of clip envelopes
      7m 26s
  14. 20m 17s
    1. Understanding the basics of looping
      6m 54s
    2. Creating tracks that loop smoothly
      7m 50s
    3. Using warp features to quantize audio
      5m 33s
  15. 17m 47s
    1. Using the computer keyboard to control Live
      6m 39s
    2. Mapping device controls to the MIDI keyboard
      4m 36s
    3. Using Live's instant mapping feature
      6m 32s
  16. 10m 43s
    1. Exporting audio
      5m 37s
    2. Freezing tracks
      5m 6s
  17. 20m 45s
    1. Building with the Impulse virtual instrument
      11m 35s
    2. Working with the Simpler virtual instrument
      9m 10s
  18. 36m 22s
    1. Overview of Live racks
      10m 13s
    2. Combining instruments and effects into a single device
      8m 22s
    3. Adding effects with Drum Rack
      11m 28s
    4. Assigning rack parameters to macros
      6m 19s
  19. 13m 53s
    1. Setting up ReWire with Pro Tools
      7m 3s
    2. Setting up ReWire with Logic
      6m 50s
  20. 33m 43s
    1. Preparing audio clips with the Warp tool
      14m 31s
    2. Triggering clips using follow actions
      8m 9s
    3. Using Live as a sound source
      11m 3s
  21. 7m 21s
    1. Working with video files
      7m 21s
  22. 37s
    1. Further Recommendations

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Watch the Online Video Course Ableton Live 8 Essential Training
7h 20m Beginner Dec 10, 2010

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Ableton Live 8 Essential Training with Rick Schmunk offers a comprehensive overview of Ableton's live audio and MIDI sequencing software and the techniques required to compose, record, and edit music, in real time, on stage, or in the studio. The course includes tutorials on compiling live sets from audio and MIDI clips, loops, or samples, applying MIDI effects, warping audio, and recording and producing songs in any number of contemporary styles. Exercise files are included with the course.

Topics include:
  • Putting together a DAW system
  • Setting up Ableton preferences
  • Importing and exporting content
  • Recording MIDI
  • Editing and quantizing MIDI data
  • Recording audio
  • Recording in Arrangement view
  • Using sends and returns in the Live Mixer
  • Grouping tracks
  • Signal processing
  • Creating and editing automation envelopes
  • Using fades to mask audio pops and clicks
  • Looping and warping audio clips
  • Mapping device controls to a MIDI keyboard
  • Working with virtual instruments
  • Integrating Live with Pro Tools and Logic
Audio + Music
Ableton Live
Rick Schmunk

Building with the Impulse virtual instrument

One of the benefits of owning and using Ableton Live is the instrument devices that come packaged with the various versions of the program. Let's take a look at Impulse, a simple, yet surprisingly powerful drum machine that is included in all versions of Live 8. So on this first track, I've got an Impulse preset loaded, and down here in Device view, you can see the actual device. Now the way this works is that there are eight sample slots across here, and each hold a sample for different drum. And those are, by default, mapped to C3 through C4 on your keyboard.

So if I press C3, we will get this first slot, D the next one, E the next one-- the white keys only on your keyboard. Over to the right, we have three parameters that the global, and then underneath that all of these parameters can be set independently for each sample. So as I clicked the Snare slot, you'll see these parameters change. Percussion change again. The slots themselves have a Preview button. If I click on that, we will hear that kick.

(Drum playing.) We've also got a Mute button for the slot, and a Solo button. On the lower right-hand corner, we have a Hot-Swap button that allow us to swap out a different sample for the one that's in use. So if click on that, it goes to the Hot- Swap browser, and it will gradually fill with available alternate samples that I can use. For instance, I can double-click on this E-kick 10, and that will exchange that sample for the one that was in use. (Drum playing.) So I have got that sound now.

Let's go back and I'll choose the other one. (Drum playing.) You can hear the sound change. So we can load an Impulse preset by going into the Live Devices browser, into the Impulse category, and then in either the Acoustic or Electronic subcategory, you can grab a preset and drag and drop that or double-click it to add it to the session. I can also create a preset from scratch by dragging the Impulse instruments straight in to the session without choosing either a clip or a preset.

So now when I click on this track, we will notice that the slots are empty. Now there are individual drum samples available down in our library, and those are located in the Samples area, so let me take you through that. So we've got Samples and then Waveforms and in this case the Drum category, and then there is a subfolder for each area of the drum set. So if I go into the Kick category, I can scroll down very quickly, and I'll grab the E-Kick 14, and I'll drop that on the first slot.

Then I'll go back up and go into the Snare subfolder. Again, scroll down and find one that I want to use. I will drop that on the second slot, and I will just grab a couple of others. Grab a couple HiHats. So I will grab the E-HiHat 10 Closed. I am going to drop that on B, or the seventh slot, and I'll grab the Open HiHat, and I will drop that on the last slot.

Now I chose to put those four in that order because this is the conventions that Ableton Live follows with all of their Impulse presets. So typically you have kicks on C, and you've got snares on D, and then over here on the last two slots you've got Closed HiHat on B and the Open HiHat on C4. So let's take a look at some of these individual parameters that are available below. So I'll choose the Kick slot first, and below that I've got first the start parameter, and that allows me to control at which point in the audio file that will actually trigger that.

So I can delay this start point up to 100 milliseconds. I can also transpose a sample. So if I move this up--by the way, this is in half steps, and I can go either +48 half steps or -48 half steps. So if I move that up a couple, and we will click on the Preview button-- (Drums playing.) Let me move that down, so you can hear it changing. (Drums playing.) Now these values can be modulated by velocity. So the harder I strike the keyboard, the more that you are actually going to hear that pitch change.

So I move this up and I trigger that-- (Drums playing.) So you can hear the pitch changing depending upon how hard I hit the key. I can also do that randomly by setting a percentage. So each time I hit the key, it's just going to change the pitch based upon some random factor. (Drums playing.) I can also stretch the sample so that the decay lasts longer. I will do this on the Snare track.

So if I dial that out-- (Drums playing.) Now, if you dial that a little bit too long, you can actually hear the samples start to kind of break apart. Back that off a little bit. And I can also do that based upon velocity again. So the harder I hit the key, the more I'll get that stretch feature happening. Again, that's one that you got to be a little bit careful with. Now the Stretch feature can be further enhanced by using the mode A or mode B.

Mode A is good for low-frequency sounds like kick drums and maybe the tom toms, and mode B is a better mode for your higher pitched things, like hi-hats or symbols, or even perhaps the snare in this case. In the middle here, I have got a Saturation feature. Now this is going to add a little amplitude and a little drive, or distortion, to the sound. So I am actually going to come over here and pull the volume down on the snare, so as I pull this up I don't get too much volume. (Drums playing.) In that case, you can really kind of hear it amplifying and kind of distorting the decay.

Now next thing I have in the center here is I have a Filter section that can be enabled by clicking on this Filter button. I have a number of different filters that I can choose from. I've got low-pass filters, band-pass, high-pass and notch Filters. So I am going to put a low-pass filter on. And as I tap the snare, I am going to pull the cutoff frequency down, and you should hear a lot of the high frequencies being attenuated as I do that. (Drums playing.) And that can be further enhanced by dialing in some resonance, and the Resonance features amplify frequencies around the cutoff frequency, so you get a little bit more aggressive results with whatever cutoff frequency you choose.

I will dial that down a little bit, put a little more resonance on. (Drums playing.) Now this can also be modulated by velocity. So the harder I hit, the more I get based upon how much velocity percentage I dial in. (Drums playing.) And that can also work randomly just like we saw on the transposition and stretch parameters. (Drums playing.) And that's nice because one of the things that you want to avoid is that typewriter effect when you repeatedly trigger the same sample, and any change in the timbre or the velocity can make it a much more musical experience.

Over here on the right-hand side, we can also do a number of these same things in regards to the pan or volume of a particular sample. So if I choose the HiHat sound, I can actually modulate the Pan placement from left to right by setting a Velocity amount. So the lighter I hit the key, the more this will pan it to the left, and the harder the more it will pan it to the right. (Drums playing.) And that can also be done by a random factor.

Now one thing that's different about this last slot is that it can be linked to the seventh slot, by clicking on this button over on the far left. Now that allows one sample to cut off the other sample. As you can imagine, you wouldn't have decay happening each time you hit the instrument. It's going to renew the envelope. So we don't want the open hi-hat ringing while the closed hi-hat is actually happening. And by linking those two together, triggering one will actually choke the other one.

And last over here, we've got Global parameters that can either raise or lower the volume of the entire drum set. Or, we can actually transpose the entire drum set by a half step again: either higher or lower. I am going to choose this first track again. And the last thing I would like to show you about Impulse is a very powerful feature, in that I can map the outputs of the different drums to different tracks, and that will allow us to place differing amounts of signal processing on individual tracks. So, for example, I'm to create several audio tracks after that first track.

And I will use the key command Command+T or Ctrl+T on a PC to create several audio tracks. Now on this first audio track, I am going to go to the Input of that, and I'm to choose the first track, which is this 1- Impulse. And then on the second chooser, I will come in and choose the actual specific drum that I want flowing through there. So on this track I might put the Kick, and on the next track I will choose Impulse again and I'll choose the Snare, and let's just get a couple more here.

I am going to choose Impulse again, and let's grab the Closed HiHat, and on the next one I will grab the Open HiHat. Now I am going to trigger this clip, and we should see signal flowing out these different tracks. (Drums playing.) Okay, so that did not work, and the reason it didn't work is because there is not actual audio on these tracks. So to get the audio to flow through them and act more like a return track, I actually need to put the tracks into Input Monitoring, so that we are monitoring the audio that's actually input into the track.

So let's try that again. (Drums playing.) Okay, so I see the kick flowing through the Kick and the snare through the Snare and the hi-hat through the two HiHat tracks. So at this point, I want to have a little bit different signal processing on the snare. So I'm going to choose the snare track, and then I go back to my Device browser, and I am going to go down into the audio effects and the compressor, and I am going to look for something that might be appropriate. Lo and behold, I've got a Snare Compressor preset, and I am going to drop that on this track where my snare is at.

Then additionally, I might want some reverb. Now I've already loaded a reverb on this return track. You can see it there. And I can now send and get reverb returned by simply lifting the Send amount on that particular track. So I don't want it on the kick, but I probably want some on the snare and on the hi-hat. So let me send a little bit from those tracks, and now let's listen to this preset. (Drums playing.) Okay, so very obviously, I have got reverb on that track.

In addition to drum samples, Impulse can trigger any audio file. So when you're working with Impulse presets and clips, don't forget to experiment and see what else you can come up with.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Ableton Live 8 Essential Training .

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Q: Can I use Ableton Live Lite to work through this course?
A: For the most part, yes. However, there are a few limitations. For example, there are some drum sounds that won’t work with the Lite version. Lite also has a limited track count, which may cause problems with some of the larger Live Sets in the course. If you do not have the full version of Ableton Live, you can download a demo of Ableton Live Suite (, which will run for 30 days. This will allow you to do everything in the course, and get a look at what the full version can do at the same time.
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