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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.
Live has several MIDI effects that allow you to alter a MIDI signal before it enters a virtual instrument. In this video, we'll discuss how you add a MIDI effect to a track and learn to use Live's MIDI Arpeggiator Effect device. So let's see how this works. I have got one track in the session here, and I've got this brass patch loaded on it. So I am going to go into the Device browser and open up the MIDI Effects folder here, come down, and grab Arpeggiator. And remember, I can either load the Arpeggiator device, or I can load a device with presets if I open up and choose one of these items here.
I am just going to choose the default. I am going to drag and drop that on the track. Now, you'll notice that if I try and put it after the virtual instrument, then I am getting a warning message down there at the bottom of the screen that says, "MIDI effects have to be inserted before the instrument." So I'll drop it over there, and what's going to happen then, as the MIDI signal comes through the channel, it's first going to go through the Arpeggiator device, whose purpose is to take multiple notes that you hold down in a chord and break them into an arpeggio. I am going to hold down one note and let's listen to what it does.
(Music playing.) So we hear that one note pulsating, and it's doing it at the rhythm of an 8th note, based upon the tempo that's currently set in my control bar. If I speed that up to a 16th note, we'll hear that pulsate twice as fast. (Music playing.) So if I hold down two notes, it's going to alternate those two notes at that rate. (Music playing.) If I hold down three notes, it will alternate the 3. (Music playing.) Now, if I go up to the style chooser, we'll see that there are several arpeggio shapes, or styles, available. So I was on Up.
Let's try Up and Down. (Music playing.) Okay. That's pretty easy to understand. If I chose Converge, it's going to play the notes on the outside of the arpeggio, the lowest and highest, and then the middle. (Music playing.) If I choose Diverge, it's going to play the middle note and then the outer notes. (Music playing.) Now, we can combine those in several ways to get different patterns. I like the Converge and Diverge.
This time I am holding down four notes. (Music playing.) You get a much more random sound out of that. Now, let's take a look at a couple of the other parameters. So I've got the rate set. The Gate setting is going to allow me to control how smooth or short the notes sound. (Music playing.) So, smaller values are going to yield a very staccato, or short, sound; whereas, longer values are going to give me more of a sustained, or legato, sound. (Music playing.) If I go over 100% and change chords in the middle of that, you will actually get some overlapping that occurs.
(Music playing.) Now, if I hold something down and have the Hold button enabled, those notes will continue to repeat until I change to other notes. So here, I'll hold down the C chord. (Music playing.) And that continued until I change to a D minor chord. I can also set time, by the way. Instead of being locked to the rhythm, I can set that in Free mode, which allows me to set a length of time in milliseconds or seconds.
Typically, when I use this, I use it in Sync mode. In the middle section, we have a Transpose function. This is a little bit complicated. So when I am in the Shift mode, the amount that I transpose is set by this distance parameter, and that's in half steps. You can see I can set both positive and negative values. If I set that to +2, I'll go up a whole step. And I'll go up a whole step a number of times, depending upon the Step setting. So if I move that to 1, I'll transpose one time a whole step.
So I am holding down C, and we'll hear both C and D. (Music playing.) Let me dial that gate a little bit shorter, so we get a little more separation. (Music playing.) If I move the step parameter to 2, I'm going to transpose the original note, C, two times, each a whole step. My distance is +2, so I'll get a whole step to D and then to E. (Music playing.) Now if I hold down multiple notes, I'm going to get that same effect applied to each note that I am holding down.
(Music playing.) So I was holding down an A and an E, and I was transposing both of those two times a step. Now, if I change the Transpose function to Major, I'm actually in a mode now, and it's going to force all notes that I play, or that would be transposed, into that mode, or key. I am in Major, and right now I'm in the key of C. One thing that changes here is that the Distance function is no longer in half steps, but is now in scale steps.
So if I set that to +1, I am going to go up a whole step. If I set that to 2, I am going to go up a third in the scale. So again, I am going to move this down to 1. Now, if I hold down a C, it's actually going to transpose it up a major third to E. But if I hold down D, it's only going to transpose a minor third because from D to F is a minor third, and that would be the note that's in the key. (Music playing.) So if I hold down two notes, I'll transpose both of them by that increment.
If I hold down three notes, I'll transpose that, and it will all stay in the key. I can also transpose this and be in another Key. So if I wanted to go to the key of D for instance, I can shift it there. And now instead of the notes being forced into the key of C, they will be forced into the key of D. So for instance if I hold down an F natural, it's actually going to play an F sharp. (Music playing.) So I was actually holding down a D minor triad there, and it was actually arpeggiating based upon a D major triad.
I can do the same thing in both major and minor. Let's put this back on shift. I am going to set this to one of my favorite settings, which would be a 5th above, and I am going to put that on a 2. This time when it transposes it, it's going to transpose each note that I hold down by a perfect 5th higher than the note, and it's going to transpose that twice. I am going to hold down three notes, and we'll hear that. (Music playing.) So we're getting a quite interesting pattern.
Now, I want that to change in time, so I am going to turn on the Velocity function. What will happen now is that as I hold the notes down, they're going to change to a target velocity set by this parameter here. So if I want them to get softer, I'll turn this down to a target velocity near 0. And we'll hear, as I hold this down, that it's actually going to decay over time to that velocity. Now, 1 second is pretty quick, so I am going to make the decay time just a little bit longer by dialing up this parameter. (Music playing.) That gives us that ability to change over time, and that's a very, very cool effect.
Okay, and the last thing that we'll look at here in the Arpeggiator plug-in is this Retrigger function, and this determines how a pattern is retriggered. So if I turn on Retrigger, and I go to this area over here, I can set this into Beat mode, Note mode, or Off. In Beat mode, it'll retrigger the pattern based upon a length of time. Now, it defaults to 1 bar. So if I turn this up, for instance, to a longer time, I'll hold those notes down, and then you'll see this little yellow light flash when we meet that length of time, and it will actually retrigger and start the pattern again at the full velocity.
(Music playing.) So we saw that pulsate at the end of two bars. Now I can also do this based upon when I actually play another note. So I'll hold down a pattern, it'll trigger the pattern, we'll hear the decay, and then when I play the next set of notes, we'll hear that retrigger at the top velocity, and then begin to decay again. (Music playing.) So it's a very useful effect to have the pattern actually change over time.
That creates a lot of interest. So Live's Arpeggiator effect can be used to create parts that dominate a song or to create underlying parts that add interesting detail to a song. Give Arpeggiator a spin, and try it in combination with other MIDI and audio effects.
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