Ableton Live 9 Tips and Tricks
Illustration by John Hersey

Exploring dummy clips


From:

Ableton Live 9 Tips and Tricks

with Michael Kiraly

Video: Exploring dummy clips

I'm in the beginning stages of a project and I've already got a few looping elements that I'm happy with. I've been messing around in Session view, triggering clips to come up with new idea. To add a little polish and sheen to my spontaneity, I'd love to have some creative effect combinations and sequences ready to audition when the moment of inspiration strikes. Here are the sounds I've come up with so far. (music playing) Now watch and listen to this again. (music playing) After the sounds began playing, I triggered this clip.

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Watch the Online Video Course Ableton Live 9 Tips and Tricks
1h 7m Intermediate Mar 22, 2013

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Join Ableton Live expert Mike Kiraly as he dives deep into some of the advanced features that Live offers for unique and creative manipulation of sound. First, discover how to use clip envelopes to create constantly changing transitions between clips. Then Mike demonstrates how to create playable effects and effects transitions with dummy clips, build automated playlists and song arrangements with follow actions, and use dummy clips and follow actions together to generate complex effects.

Topics include:
  • Creating clip envelopes and putting them to work
  • Unlinking clip envelopes
  • Exploring follow actions
  • Creating song arrangements with random follow actions
  • Creating a basic dummy clip
  • Sound designing with dummy clips and follow actions
Subject:
Audio + Music
Software:
Ableton Live
Author:
Michael Kiraly

Exploring dummy clips

I'm in the beginning stages of a project and I've already got a few looping elements that I'm happy with. I've been messing around in Session view, triggering clips to come up with new idea. To add a little polish and sheen to my spontaneity, I'd love to have some creative effect combinations and sequences ready to audition when the moment of inspiration strikes. Here are the sounds I've come up with so far. (music playing) Now watch and listen to this again. (music playing) After the sounds began playing, I triggered this clip.

It resulted in all of the sounds being processed by a preprogrammed effect sequence created by this device chain down here. It would be easy to assume that this is simply the result of clip envelopes or automation, but what really happened when I triggered that clip? The resulting effects sequence was processing several tracks simultaneously. Would that even be possible while triggering only a single clip if I'm using clip automation or clip envelopes? Not really, because those control features are embedded within individual clips and will only impact that clip.

I would've needed to create the exact same chain of devices on each track, as well as reproduce the same envelopes or automation for each clip playing. But that's not what occurred. There aren't any effect devices on these other tracks. And the effect sequence only occurred when I triggered a totally different clip altogether. So what's going on here? The answer is dummy clips. Dummy clips are regular audio and MIDI clips that don't contain any audio or MIDI. You did hear that right.

Instead of outputting audio or MIDI, dummy clips process audio or MIDI routed through them. Essentially, they're empty vessels that contain device instructions which you control. These instructions can accomplish a variety of tasks, including what you just heard: a sequence of events triggered by a single clip processing multiple channels simultaneously. Allow me to demonstrate. I have my tracks, each containing a looping audio clip. And over here, I have a track labeled Dummy. Take notice of two things.

First, I've routed the audio of all of the first tracks to the dummy track. And second, there are several clips on the dummy track itself. Initially, this might not seem like it makes too much sense. Routing multiple audio sources to a single output is certainly a common practice. You can use the Group function to control mixer and trigger actions for multiple tracks, or you can route multiple audio sources to an audio or return track to process them together like a bus.

But you can't place a clip in a group or return track, and it wouldn't seem to make sense to place a clip in an audio track that has multiple tracks routed to it. You can only listen to the rerouted tracks or the audio clip, but not both simultaneously. So here's the thing: the audio clips on this dummy track don't actually contain any audio. They're empty. Well, not exactly empty. There isn't any audio present, but there are actions lurking behind the scenes waiting to be triggered.

Listen to what happens when I trigger the clip 2 Bar low cut to Reverb. (music playing) It creates the effect transition described in the name. The low end is cut for 2 measures and then ends up in splash of reverb. Now I want you to listen again while I trigger another clip named 2 Bar Redux Delay. (music playing) Another transition effect occurs, but this time with completely different devices, multiple sequences each creating their own dynamic effects transition, and they all come from different plugin devices.

It is a repository of improvisational effects tools at my immediate disposal, like preprogramming intricate device automation for spontaneous use or in automation event macro that you can trigger on a wim. But here's the really cool part. I can now record a complex track arrangement on the fly using all of these transitions, all without having to create automation for each plugin parameter. (music playing) Tabbing over to Arrange view, I can see that the dummy clips have been recorded, along with the audio clips.

I'll jump back and hit Play. (music playing) You can clearly hear that Live plays back the actions created by the dummy clips. I can now move or cut or paste or copy any of these clips as I see fit. I can also change the output routing of the individual audio tracks to remove them from the dummy clip signal path, or I can route new tracks which weren't previously being processed.

With just a little bit of prepwork, I now have the ability to improvise polished track arrangements complete with complex effects transitions. This is just one of the many things that dummy clips can do for you.

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