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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.
After recording MIDI, it's likely that you're going to want to adjust or fix some aspect of the performance. In this video, we'll take a look at how to use quantization to fix rhythmic errors, or improve a groove. So, all MIDI editing starts with making a selection, and we can select MIDI notes in the MIDI Editor with the mouse. I am going to zoom in here by clicking on the beat timer while we're dragging down to zoom in a little bit, so we can see some more detail. So if I click on one of the note blobs, I select it. If I Shift+Click, I can extend that selection to contiguous or noncontiguous notes.
I can also click in the background of the Note Editor and drag and close a group of notes. Another way I can select notes is to go over into the piano roll and click one of the lines or spaces that the notes are located on. Doing that selects every note on that line or space in the clip. And lastly, I can click in the background of the Note Editor and then go Command+A to select all the notes in the clip. Now, before I do this, let's play and hear what's going on with this clip. (Music playing.) Okay. So there are a couple of things happening there.
First of all, we can hear that there are some rhythmic errors. But when I start playback, I don't actually see my cursor. Now, I'm zoomed in, and that's causing a problem, but I can get Live to follow the movement of the cursor by going up and clicking the Follow button up in the control bar. Now, when I start playback-- (Music playing.) the window scrolls with playback. If I hit Start again, I'll hear the playback from the beginning of the clip. (Music playing.) At times, you actually want to start playing from where the playback stopped, and you can do that by holding your Shift key down and clicking your Spacebar.
(Music playing.) Another way to temporarily start playback from a different point is to go in the lower half of the beat time ruler and click with your mouse. (Music playing.) Now, a note on that is that that is actually affected by the global quantization, and that's set at one bar right now. So it's going to move to the closest bar upon playback. So if I click here, it just started at bar three, and that's what it did. So as I was playing this, I did notice that there's one thing that I want to fix here. So I am going to drag back out, so I can see everything.
And notice that my clip is not set to be four bars long. So I'm going to drag the loop end point here and drag that over, so it ends at bar five, beat one. Let me zoom back in. Now, one way I can quantize a note is by simply selecting it and clicking and dragging it, and it will snap to the marker. Now, if necessary, I can change the quantize grid, or the marker grid, by right-clicking on the Note Editor background and choosing a different rhythmic value from the menu here. Now I can also select multiple notes and drag them at the same time.
If I want to override the grid at any point, I can hold down my Command key and click and drag that note. Let me select it first, Command--that would be Ctrl on a PC--and now I can click and drag that closer to the location I want it to be at, but not have it snap to grid. So another way I can quantize notes is select one note, or more--and I'll drag and close a few here that are onscreen-- and then use one of the Quantize commands. Now, those are available under the Edit menu. Quantize would be Command+U, and Quantize Settings would be Shift+Command+U. And on a PC, that would be Ctrl+U and Shift+ Ctrl+U. So let's first start by bringing up the Quantize Settings dialog box.
This allows us to set a rhythmic value that we're going to quantize to. And remember that the general rule is so that you want to quantize to the smallest rhythmic value contained in your selection. Now, in this case, that is going to be 16th notes with this clip. While we're here, let's take a look at it. I also have the ability to set this to a triplet. So if you're quantizing a selection, you want to make sure that it contains either straight sixteenths, like in this case, or if there is triplets, you're going to want to choose a triplet format. Otherwise, when you quantize, you can end up with some funny results.
So I'll choose 16th notes. Then before I move on, I am going to point out this Amount field here. I can actually quantize by percentage, and this allows you to retain some of the human aspects of the original performance. So if a note is way off base, if I quantize it 90%, it's going to move farther than a note that was already close to where it needed to be, and I can quantize that as well. So let's give this a shot. I will click OK, and we'll notice that that looks like it's snapped to grid. But if I zoom in even further, we'll notice that my snare hit is still further away from the grid than either of this hi- hat hit up here or this one over there.
I am going to invoke the Quantize Settings dialog box again, which if you remember was Command+Shift+U or Ctrl+ Shift+U. So what amount is it good to set to? Well, the general rule of thumb is that it really depends upon your own personal playing. For me, I find that settings between about 85 and 90% result in the groove that I like but still retain some of that human performance. So I'll quantize that. I am going to zoom out just a little bit, so I can see more. And let's go ahead and let's quantize the whole thing and check out what that sounds like.
So, Command+A to select all the notes, and then Command+Shift+U, set your parameters, say OK. Now, it's quantized. So we will give that a listen. (Music playing.) Okay. So, that's making a lot more sense now. Some considerations to think about when you're about to quantize: So first, try to re-record a part until you get it right. It's going to make it feel more human, and like everything else, practice makes perfect. But if you need to quantize something, do it judiciously.
Don't quantize at 100%, unless that's what's you're going for, or that's what the music calls for, and only quantize what needs to be quantized. So knowing when and how to apply quantization to a MIDI clip can really make the difference between a MIDI project that feels awkward or one that feels good. Now that we've discussed how to quantize in Ableton Live, you are ready to make music that grooves.
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