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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.
Warping audio is one of Live's strengths, and it's especially for useful preparing files that are going to be use as part of a live performance. Let's take a look at some of the issues involved in this process. So I've got a Live set here, and I have already imported two clips here that are actually full songs. As you might remember, we can just navigate through one of the browsers and drag and drop the files onto the tracks. So I am going to start off with this song on the first track. It's currently visible down here in the Clip view.
What I want to do is I want to make sure that this is going to lock to tempo. Now when I look at the Segment BPM marking here, it tells me that the song or the file that we are looking at is originally at 117 BPM. The actual tempo in the session is slightly different right now. I want to make sure that this song lines up rhythmically. One of the reasons that we do that is so that if I'm using any effects that are time based that they'll actually work in time with the music. If want to switch to any of the clips within this set, I also want the rhythmic transition to be seamless.
So to do that, we actually need to dial in a little bit and set up our warp markers and make sure that things are lining up. So if I take a look at the beginning of part of the song--and I'm just here in the beat time ruler, and I'm dragging up or down-- we will notice that it looks like the first warp marker, by default, has been placed here, and there's actually some audio out in front of that. So I'm going to move that first warp marker by holding down my Command and Shift keys. When I do it that way, the warp marker actually stays in the same place, but you will see that the underlying audio is actually moving.
I am going to line that up with what looks like that first transient right there. Now before I start kind of lining up the interior parts of the song, one of the things that you want to do is go over to the very end and find kind of a last transient, or the last rhythmic hit that you can find, where you can lock that down. That way, as we start working with the stuff that's in the middle of a file, we have kind of got the outside edges pinned, so that they don't move. So I am going to come over here to the end of this, and again I'm just clicking in the beat time ruler and dragging up and down to zoom in, and dragging right and left to move over to the end of the file.
So, one of these last two items ought to be something that I can depend upon placing. So I am going to go back up just a little bit, and I am going to hold my Shift key down, which will allow me to temporarily play it from a starting point that's closer to where we are at. (Music playing.) I notice that that hit right there is actually a snare hit, and since snare hits usually happen on 2 and 4, and I am right here by beat 4 here in bar 72, what I am going to do is I am going to turn this transient marker into warp marker by double-clicking on the pseudo-warp marker.
Now I can just click and drag that and snap that onto bar 72. Now as I did that, you can start to see that some of these other things are starting to line up and make more sense. That doesn't mean that it's going to be that way throughout, but that at least tells me that we are getting a good start. At this point, what I want to do is work my way through the song, kind of phrase by phrase, and make sure that I'm still lining up. So looking at the waveform, I can see that something different starts to happen here around bar 9 and then around bar 13 and at bar 29 and 33 and so on and so forth.
The first thing I am going to do is I am going to take a closer look right here around bar 9 and see what's going on, and see if things are lining up. As I look there, I can see that it looks like that's a little bit off, so I'm going to dial in a little deeper there, look at where that transient marker is. That looks like it's in a okay place, so I am going to turn that into a warp marker, and I am going to snap that over to bar 9. Now one of the things that I can do from here to try and make everything in between bar 9 and bar 72, where I put other warp marker, is to right-click and choose one of the Warp From commands.
The two that I like to use are Warp From Here and Warp From Here (Straight). So Warp From Here just means that it's only going to warp to the right of the warp marker that I right- clicked to start this process. The difference between that and Warp From Here (Straight) is that when you choose Warp From Here (Straight) you're telling Live that you think that the tempo to the right of that warp marker is consistent. It's the same tempo. So I am going to choose that one. We saw that that makes some subtle changes in the alignment.
Now as I look over here to the right, I can continue to look, and that's looking pretty good. Now one way you can check this is to turn on your metronome and start playing the track from the point where you dropped that warp marker. You've done some work and listen to see how the click is lining up with the rest of the track there. So let me Shift+Click over here, about bar 8. (Music playing.) So that's starting to line up pretty well.
One of the things that you're going to want to do is make sure that you're using the correct warp mode as you do this. Now as I was playing and listening to that, I was hearing a little bit of wobbling in the audio file. The reason that's happening is because I'm currently using Beats Warp mode, which is good for transients that are related to percussion or drum elements. So I want to click on the Warp Mode dropdown menu, and I want to choose something different. Now Complex and Complex Pro are designed to work with long files, like we are working here.
So I am going to use Pro, and I am going to play that again and just that a listen and make sure that that's sounding better. So Shift+Clicking here around bar 8, and I will start playback there. (Music playing.) That's especially apparent there in the bass part of that file. That's much, much smoother at this point. So again, I am going to continue to check around the points where there are divisions in the form. So the next place I would look is right here. It looks like bar 11 is looking good.
Let me go over here to bar 13. It looks like that's maybe where the verse starts. As I look at that, boy, that's lining up pretty nicely. I'll come over here to bar 29 next. If I look at the right side of the Stereo file, that looks like that's lining up pretty well. Again, I can just back up a little bit and play the track, and just make sure that the click is still aligning with the music. (Music playing.) Okay. Sounds pretty good.
So as you work through a file doing this, you are going to want to make sure that you work slowly and carefully, moving from left to right. That way you can consistently keep things in line with the tempo. Another thing that you are going to want to do as you prepare these files for use is determine what key they're in. So I've also set up this track in the session here with a simple keyboard sound on it. Let me play that. (Music playing.) So I get a little bit of Road sound going on there, and I chosen one that doesn't have any vibrato or anything like that.
I'm going to give that a listen as I play this track, because I want to determine what key this is in. (Music playing.) So as I was doing that, I played a chromatic scale, and I'm just listening for notes that sound like they are kind the center of the tonality. The two notes that sound good to me here are C and the note A. Since they are related being C major is related to A minor, I know that I'm in one of those two keys.
If I put this a little deeper into the song where I've got some bass notes ringing out, it's probably going to be little bit easier to hear. So let me start it at about bar 13 here. (Music playing.) It sounds like that section of the tune is in A minor. A part of it, since I wrote it, I know it is also in C. Now one of the reasons that I do that is because when I save the songs for later use, what I want to do is make sure that I've saved that information.
So I am going to go to one of file browsers here. Let me go up to the top level. And I want to create a new folder here, so let me right-click, and I am going to choose Create Folder, and I am going to call this "Songs." As I get these files prepared, what I'm going to do is I'm going to drag them into this folder for later use. And since I'm going to be using these in different sets and projects later on, I am going to say "Copy." So I will go ahead, and then I am going to rename this particular file.
I leave the name of the song in there. But I'm also going to append some information about the tempo and the key of that. So I will put in here 117bpm, and I'll put in Cmajor. The reason that I put that information there is that when I am going to be putting a set together, if I am using multiple songs here, if I'm going to be transitioning from one song to the other, it can be quite jarring if you go from a song that is of one key to a song that is in a really distantly related key.
Now the two that I've set up are in a pretty closely related key. So this first Song in C major, and the second song is in G major. That differs by one accidental. C doesn't have any sharps or flats. G Major has one sharp. So you are going to find that if you move to keys that are within one accidental, you're going to be okay, because they're very, very closely related. So if I was going to name this one--I would go through the same process by the way and work out the warping and tempo and all the elements that I am going to be working with this particular song-- but when I am ready to name it, I will just drag that over into the folder as well.
Say Copy and in this case, this one is at about 120 bpm, and it's in G major. That way when I look in the list, I'll see these songs that are close in tempo, show up next to each other, and I will also be able to see the closely related keys. Now another thing that you might be doing as part of preparing audio files is to create sections of the songs for use. So I'm going to copy the clip on this first track by selecting that and then holding down my Option key and dragging.
Now what I can do is start to set loop points on this. So, if I come down here and I drag out the loop brace on that track for the first nine bars, which is the first part of the intro, I can set that point to loop. You will also want to go into the Sample box here and click on the Loop button. If I click and fire this off over here towards the end, we should hear that loop. (Music playing.) That's working pretty smoothly.
Now once I've got that down, I can copy that again. Holding down my Option key, click and drag that. I have got a second copy. I am going to go back to the first one, and I am going to go Command+R-- that would be Control+R on a PC--so I can rename that, and I'll call that "Intro." Then I will go down to the second clip, and I can move the braces over. By the way, when I do this, I usually work in bar increments. So you can see that right now I'm not at that. So if I right-click in this area and I go into the Grid, I can set that to 1 bar.
So as I move things, they'll snap to one bar in length. I've got that loop set. Now it looks like this audio material is telling me that this is actually something that I might only want to be four bars long, because I can see a big difference in the waveform below. So I will drag that over and snap that to bar 13. If I hold down Command+Shift, or Ctrl+ Shift on a PC, I can move the play end of loop to that point as well. I can zoom in. Let me just play the end of that by Shift+Clicking up here, and I just want to hear that wrap around.
(Music playing.) That's nice and smooth. That's a big part of setting these sections of tunes to be able to trigger at a later point. You want to make sure that they really loop nicely. So in this case, I am going to rename that one again, and I am going to call that "Intro B." So you would go through both of these songs and set your sections up. I've already done that over here on the 4th and 5th tracks, so let me scroll down there. And you can see that I have both of those songs set up.
Now in this case, I have them on the same scene, and that's going to allow me to transition immediately from any part of one scene into the other, to go into the other song. A lot of times, you'll stagger them a bit; you won't actually put them next to each other like I've done here. Now the way that I can transition from one to the other is by opening up the crossfader. If I click on this X button down here on the right of the Master track, you'll see that I open up this bottom row along the Mixer area and over here on the Master track.
Now I'm able to cross-fade between two different audio files, and I can do that by putting a track on A or B. So I will put this track on A, that track on B, and now I can grab this triangle here, and I can move that right or left to move between output from those two tracks. If it's in the middle, you are going to hear a blend of both. So for instance, if I start this scene number 6 to play, (Music playing.) we are hearing Lynda's song. (Music playing.) You can hear how I am transitioning from one song to the other.
That's working again because these two songs are in very closely related keys. So using audio clips in live performance requires careful preparation. Take your time as you create and warp clips: it will save you a lot of time later on.
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