Ableton Live 9 Tips and Tricks
Illustration by John Hersey

Sound designing with dummy clips and Follow Actions


From:

Ableton Live 9 Tips and Tricks

with Michael Kiraly

Video: Sound designing with dummy clips and Follow Actions

So far, I've kept the emphasis on utilizing dummy clips and follow actions for creating arrangement transitions. Now I'd like to show you a technique which combines those processes to create exciting and often unforeseen audio events of a different nature. First, let me tell you my goal before I start making changes. I think that utilizing prepackaged samples is a great way to kickstart song projects, and Ableton comes bundled with a wealth of samples and clips to start users off in the right direction. But the best way to stand out in the crowd is to create your own sounds.

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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

Sound designing with dummy clips and Follow Actions

So far, I've kept the emphasis on utilizing dummy clips and follow actions for creating arrangement transitions. Now I'd like to show you a technique which combines those processes to create exciting and often unforeseen audio events of a different nature. First, let me tell you my goal before I start making changes. I think that utilizing prepackaged samples is a great way to kickstart song projects, and Ableton comes bundled with a wealth of samples and clips to start users off in the right direction. But the best way to stand out in the crowd is to create your own sounds.

On this first track I've got several drum loops that I've borrowed from the Abelson Library. (music playing) These samples are available to everyone who uses Live, so if I were to use them in their original form, I run the risk of having the same exact drum sounds as someone else. Creating new sounds from scratch can be time consuming, so I'm going to make Live do it for me, and I'm going to use these loops as source material. Just like before, I've got audio routed through a dummy track.

It contains clips set to trigger different effect combinations. (music playing) The initial focus of this tip is going to be on follow actions. I've really kept the follow actions attached to my dummy clips rather boring. It's usually just a measure or two, and then I return back to the dry sound. But I'd like to push it farther this time; I'd like to create fast dynamic changes adding movement and excitement. So I'm going to change the duration of each follow action to something short, like one beat, and then I'll change the Action to Any.

This will create quick automated and quantized switches between the dummy clips and their corresponding effect chains. Because the action is set to Any, these switches will be random. Which clip plays next is a matter of chance. (music playing) Already, the underlying drum loop sounds more exciting. I'm going to take it further, and I'm going to copy my group of dummy clips down so that I have duplicates. And then I'm going to change the length of their follow actions to two beats, just for the sake of added variety.

(music playing) I'm happy with this result so far, but changing the effects doesn't really change the sound of my drum loop. It's still completely recognizable, and I'm going to change that right now by repeating this same process on the audio clips on the first track. First, I'm going to select all of the drum loops, and then I'm going to change their follow action settings to 1 Beat and then Any, just as I did on the dummy clips.

(music playing) Now the drum loops are switching at random every beat, just like the dummy clips, and hopefully that's going to create a new mashed combo of all five. It works, but something is wrong. The problem is in how the drum loops are being triggered. Launching a clip usually means that it'll start from the beginning. In this case this, results in the first beat of each loop being triggered when it switches; therefore, there is no variation in the drum hits themselves.

So I need to add an additional setting to ensure that the audio continues to move forward, even though the clip is being retriggered and retriggered and retriggered. And this is a setting called Legato mode. Switching this setting keeps the playhead moving forward regardless of a clip trigger. I'm going to switch this on for all of my drum loop clips. Now, let's listen again. (music playing) Much better. I'm going to do just one more thing. Like before with the dummy clips, I'll duplicate these Drum Loop clips to add variety.

But this time, instead of changing their follow action length, I'm going to go to increase their Pitch parameter. And I'll do this again, but this time I'll decrease the Pitch parameter. Let's take a listen. (music playing) How about that? Using follow actions and dummy clips, I've quickly transformed stock loops into sounds that are distinctly my own.

It's very easy to hit Record and edit, cut and paste, find the loops that you like, and use them in your own project. I really encourage you to push this technique as far as you can. You'd be amazed at the unheard-of kinds of sounds you'd be able to create with Live.

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