Understanding the power of clip envelopes
Video: Understanding the power of clip envelopesClip automation envelopes are overlooked but powerful aspect of Live. Let's take a look at how you add automation to a clip in Session view, and while we are at it, we will see a couple of innovative types of automation that are unique to Ableton Live. So in an earlier video, we took a look at how to write automation in the Arrangement view. This time we'll take a look at Session view and how to write automation to a clip. So if we choose a clip, we look down here in the Clip Overview area, we can see automation by clicking the Envelope Show or Hide button. Then we get this extra box that appears, and we get a couple of choosers that work just like the choosers that are in the Arrangement window.
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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.
- Putting together a DAW system
- Setting up Ableton preferences
- Importing and exporting content
- Recording MIDI
- Editing and quantizing MIDI data
- Recording audio
- Recording in Arrangement view
- Using sends and returns in the Live Mixer
- Grouping tracks
- Signal processing
- Creating and editing automation envelopes
- Using fades to mask audio pops and clicks
- Looping and warping audio clips
- Mapping device controls to a MIDI keyboard
- Working with virtual instruments
- Integrating Live with Pro Tools and Logic
Understanding the power of clip envelopes
Clip automation envelopes are overlooked but powerful aspect of Live. Let's take a look at how you add automation to a clip in Session view, and while we are at it, we will see a couple of innovative types of automation that are unique to Ableton Live. So in an earlier video, we took a look at how to write automation in the Arrangement view. This time we'll take a look at Session view and how to write automation to a clip. So if we choose a clip, we look down here in the Clip Overview area, we can see automation by clicking the Envelope Show or Hide button. Then we get this extra box that appears, and we get a couple of choosers that work just like the choosers that are in the Arrangement window.
But we get a few more additions in this case. So for instance if I click on the Device or Clip chooser, I will choose Mixer here, and then in the sub-chooser, I can see the same types of options that were available in the Arrangement view. So if I click on Volume, I now get a volume graph, or a volume envelope. And we can add automation in the same way as we did in the Arrangement view. I can click with my mouse and add break points, and I can make adjustments to that, so on and so forth.
And when I play back the track, we will actually get those changes in real time. I can delete that automation by simply selecting it and hitting my Delete key. In addition to that, we also get these options that are available at the clip level. These are a little bit different. So I get Volume again, which is a little bit confusing, in addition to Transposition and Offset. Let's first talk about why we have clip volume in addition to the Mixer volume. So the clip volume actually happens at a different point in the signal path.
So as the signal is traveling through the channel, and we get to the clip, Clip volume will actually change the level. And then as we proceed through the path and go through the devices and then get to the fader, we actually get the mixer volume level. So Clip volume is pre-effects, and it affects any volume that actually input into your effects. But in addition to that, we get these other two functions, and let's first take a look at Transpose. So Transpose is actually going to allow me to draw in changes that will change the pitch of the audio file that's passing through this track.
So I'm currently at a quarter note. And let me change the grid background, so that we are more in line with the rhythm of the actual audio file. So if I right-click, let's try an 8th note, see if that's line up. And looks like it does. So I am going to zoom in a little bit on that. And now if I take my Draw mode, I can draw in changes. And as I do that, we can see that I can do this in steps. And I can draw in changes of pitch there, in terms of steps, so two steps is going to be a whole step, so on and so forth.
So as I play that back, it's going to actually change the pitch of the clip in real time. Let's give that a check. (Music playing.) If I undo that, we can hear what the track sounded without that automation. (Music playing.) So we can hear it's a single pitch here for the first four notes until we change chords. So that could be very useful in taking a pre-existing audio clip that you like the rhythm, and you like the note lengths, but you need different notes to fit different chords or a different chord progression.
On the next track, we have a MIDI clip. Let's take a look at some of the differences that are there. So again, I can show and hide the envelopes by clicking on this E button, or the Envelope Show or Hide. And again, I get the Device chooser, and I get the sub-chooser. In this case, because I'm using a rack, I have got quite a number of things to choose from. I've got the virtual instrument itself and a number of effects and other virtual instruments that are being used here. But if I choose that one, I can also see the other available parameters.
And in this case, I've got some filters and level and things like that. And if you look at the Pad1 filter, you can see some automation that I have actually already written here on the track. In addition to those parameters that are associated with the actual virtual instruments or effects, I can also go to the mixer. If I click on the sub-chooser here, we can see that we've got volume yet once again. So I can do that either at the clip level, or I can do that at the mixer level. And I would just alert you to the fact that at the MIDI level that's only going to be 0 to 127 resolution for your volume changes, where at the mixer level the resolution is going to be quite a bit higher.
In addition, I get some quick chooser buttons here, so that I can immediately go to some of the more commonly used MIDI continuous controller. So I get Pitch Bend information and your MIDI Volume and MIDI Pan. And while we are at it, let's go back to that audio clip, and we can see that I have also got some quick choosers there as well. In this case I've got Transpose, Volume and Pan. Last but not least, let's take a look at this other audio clip. And I want to take a look at one other type of clip automation that's really, really powerful.
And that is the sample offset. And what's sample offset does is actually take pieces of your clip and move them forward or backwards in time. So as I draw an automation, if I go above the 0 line, I'm actually advancing that particular part of the clip. And if I draw below the line, I'm actually delaying that particular part of the clip. Okay. And we are set at 16th notes. I am going to zoom in just a little bit, so we can see what we were doing a little better. I am going to randomly draw in some changes.
By the way, I can advance things 8/16ths, and I can delay them a maximum of 8/16ths. So let's give that a check and see what that sounds like. (Drums playing.) --which is different when we hear the original, (Music playing.) which is just a conventional loop. So let me redo that. Bring that back.
And you can see that it's scrambling that. Now this isn't the surgical way that we can do this in Arrangement view, but if you've got to make some quick changes, this can be very inspirational. You can come up with some really cool things. Now one other thing that can actually make this even more powerful is that I can unlink the automation from that clip itself. And in that way, I can have clip automation that's a four-bar loop-- I will drag this out to bar five, beat one to accomplish that-- while the audio clip itself is only two bars long.
And that's going to allow me to vary that clip even more across the four-bar span, rather than just limiting it to the exact length of the clip. So again, I'll use my Draw mode to draw in some changes. Let's hear what that sounds like. (Drums playing.) So if this is the first time you've seen the power of clip envelopes, you will probably agree that it's fantastic way to alter the way clips play back.
Give it a try, and see what you can come up with.
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- A: For the most part, yes. However, there are a few limitations. For example, there are some drum sounds that won’t work with the Lite version. Lite also has a limited track count, which may cause problems with some of the larger Live Sets in the course. If you do not have the full version of Ableton Live, you can download a demo of Ableton Live Suite (http://www.ableton.com/download-suite-trial), which will run for 30 days. This will allow you to do everything in the course, and get a look at what the full version can do at the same time.
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