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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.
Time stretching audio to different tempos is one of Live's best-known features. In this video, we will discuss how Live analyzes and processes audio in order to time-stretch clips and learn to choose a work mode that matches the musical situation. So time stretching enables audio clips of different tempos to play at the same tempo, and it does that without changing the pitch. So how this works in Live is that Live analyzes each audio file and clip to determine where transients, or attacks, are located. And when those attacks are periodic, it's able to derive tempo and length information.
So I am going to go out to a folder here that contains some audio that I have got in this set. And we can see here that I have got the .wav file, but then right next to that, Live has analyzed that and created this .ASD file. And that's the file that contains that audio analysis for that transient location. So I am going to choose an audio clip. You can see that down here in Clip Overview. And then I am going to open up the sample box, because in the middle of that I have my Warping controls. This button here, the Warp button, is what enables Live to play this clip at different tempos. And if that is disabled, Live will just play it at its native tempo that we can see down here in the Segment BPM, which is a little more than 80 beats per minute.
Below that we have a chooser here that chooses the mode that Live is going to use to warp this particular audio file. And if I click on that, you can see that there are several other options. But Beats is best for drum files, and that's what we have here. So let's take a listen and hear what Live does as I change the tempo. So I am going to play this clip, and then I am going to go up to the control bar and change the tempo as playback as occurring. (Drums playing.) So something important there is that when you speed a clip up, the transients get closer together, and we really don't hear any audio artifacts when we change the tempo. But it's when you slow down the tempo that funny things start to occur, and that's where the real work that Live has to do.
So Live does that based upon these other two parameters down here in the Warp area. In this case, it's trying to preserve the transient location. Other options are to set that at a rhythmic increment, and that's useful for creating some interesting effects. But if you're looking to just have a natural sound, Transients is your best choice. Now, when you slow down the tempo, the transients get further apart, and we end up with gaps in the audio. And it's this setting here, this Loop mode, that determines what happens. So if I put it on the first setting, that's Loop Off, it will play each transient, and then it will stop and wait until the appropriate time to trigger the next transient. And that can create a gating effect, or leave gaps in the audio.
Let's hear what that sounds like. I am going to slow down the tempo here dramatically so you can hear this. (Drums playing.) So Live isn't filling in those gaps, and they're very, very obvious. The other two modes are called Loop Forward and Loop Back and Forth. So in Loop Forward, Live is going to play the transient till the end, and then it's going to returned to about the middle of that where there is a little bit of a cross fade and play it forward again. Let's hear what that sounds like. (Drums playing.) So at that very slow tempo, we can actually hear a little bit of ringing, a little bit of the weirdness going on.
The last one is Loop Back and Forth. And in this case it's going to play each segment of the audio, and it will go to the end, and then it will actually play it from the backwards to the forwards, until it gets to that midpoint, at which point it will play it forwards again. That yields a little more natural result. Let's hear how that sounds. (Drums playing.) Even at this really slow tempo, we can hear that that sounds a lot better. It's not perfect, but it's a lot closer. Okay, so if I speed that back up to little bit closer to the original tempo, let's give it a listen - (Clip playing.) A little bit of artifact here and there, but really pretty darn close.
Okay, let's take a look at a different situation. If I look at this bass audio clip, we are much more likely to use Tones mode, which is optimized for more monophonic material, like a bassline, a vocal line or maybe even a lead line. And in this case, we also get this Grain Size setting. What we need to do here is think of the audio as a pile of sand, where we were able to control the size of the grains of sand in that sand pile. In some cases, having a really small grain size is going to yield better results, and in another, a larger grains size will work better. And where the pitch is fairly constant, that smaller grain size is going to work the best.
Let's give that a listen. (Music playing.) So the pitch is pretty constant in this example. And if I leave it down here at lower setting, or a smaller grain size, we are going to get the best results. In other cases, you may want to use texture. If you're working with polyphonic material or if you want to re-pitch something, you can use that mode. And then new with version 8, we've got Complex Pro. The Complex Pro is really great at working with loops that are whole songs.
In that case, your clips are typically much longer, and Live has to work a lot harder to do it. In addition here with Complex Pro, we also have control over the formants, and that is part of when you transpose a file keeping those elements that are not supposed to be transposed in the same place. And that helps us get rid of that chipmunk effect. So if I transpose this loop a little bit and play it, there is a little vocal part in here that you'll hear that sounds very, very funny at this point. (Music playing.) Let me do that one more time. We are at such a slow tempo that it's not doing a really good job.
So I am moving from 117 down to about 70. That was quite a difference. But let's try it about 95 and hear what sounds like. (Music playing.) You can hear that chipmunk effect happening with that vocal line. And if I move this formant parameter to a higher setting, it will sound a lot better. (Music playing.) It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than it was. And if I'm doing this at the normal pitch, I can pull the formants down, and I can change the tempo to a much greater degree (Music playing.) Pretty remarkable. So, Live's audio warping is so effective that it's pretty transparent to the music-making process.
In the next video, we will take a closer look at warping and learn how it can be used to help create loops and fix rhythmic errors.
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