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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.
Setting up custom MIDI mapping assignments can be time consuming, so the program designers at Ableton Live have worked with their counterparts at companies that produce MIDI controllers to enable instant mapping of device parameters in Live to MIDI control surfaces. Those controllers that are specifically designed to work with Live are designated in the software with the term "Native." If we go into Preferences, which is Command+Comma or Ctrl+Comma on a PC, and click on the Control Surface dropdown menu, we will see a list of those devices. Now the devices that support instant mapping, depending upon the functionality that's available in the control surface, will allow control of device parameters, transport controls, and even mixer controls.
MIDI controllers offer a number of rotary knob encoders, often a total of eight, in addition to the more conventional pitch and mod wheels. These knobs can be used for continuous control of synth and effect parameters, and they are way easier to use than the mouse, and they automatically map to the controls. For example, on this drum track here, I've got a macro that's down in the Device view. And if I Click+Select that and I go to one of the knobs on my controller, we can see it's automatically mapping. There's number two, number three moves HiHat, number four moves the Open HiHat, number five moves the Tom, and so on and so forth.
Now if I go to another track--let's go to the bass track here--and I will move that same number one knob, you'll notice that it's now assigned and working with the oscillator. And if I go to Pad on the track three here, and I first need to select the device there, and now I will move the knob. There we go. Number one is now controlling Oscillator. So as I move from device to device, all I need to do is select the device and then the knobs automatically map. For example, on the same track if I move from the Pad device over to this audio effect and move number one again, look at that.
It's controlling the Amount. And if I move over to the Warm Tube audio effect and move number one, now it's moving the DryWet control. So that same Control knob can be used to control a number of things all in the same session. Now depending upon the device you're using, the knobs that are available are either absolute knobs, or they might be rotary encoders that are relative. Now an absolute knob will have fixed values, meaning that as I turn it all the way to one side it will get to a place where it won't turn anymore, and that will be either your high or low value. And then if I turn it the other way, it will get to its highest value.
For example, if I move this knob on my keyboard controller, you will notice that when it gets down to the lowest point, I can't turn it anymore; it's done. And if I turn it now to the right, I will get up to the highest point, and that's as far as it can go. Now that can cause some problems when you're using instant mapping, and you're moving from device to device to device. For example, if I'm using knob number one and I move to a second device and click it to select it and now start moving that knob, it is going to be at a different value, and it may cause a sudden jump in the value.
With more modern rotary encoders, as I move the knob, when I get to the highest point--for instance, with Slow & Steady chosen and if I move my knob number one-- I will get to its highest value. I can continue to turn that knob. And if I go the other direction, I get to the bottom, I can still continue to turn that knob; it's relative to its setting. And when I switch over here to DryWet and move it, it's immediately on the right value. So it immediately assumes the setting of the new device. But with these fixed encoders you get these sudden jumps, and there are a couple different ways to manage that.
I am going to go back into Preferences-- that's Command+Comma--and on the MIDI Sync tab we will see this parameter that's called Takeover mode, and there's three settings that you can choose there. None, which when you move the knob after you have moved to a new device, you'll get sudden jumps. I can also choose Pickup, and when I choose that no change will result until the encoder is moved to the previous setting. After that, turning the encoder will result in changes or updates.
And the last choice here, Value Scaling, as I move to a new device and move that knob, Live will calculate a gradual convergence of the original hardware setting and the software setting. And then when they are equal, changes will occur as normal. So in addition to being able to change device settings with instant mapping, depending upon the controller you will get other functions. Now I've got the Akai APC40 here, and in addition to being able to set device changes, I can also do things like control mixer by using the faders that are available.
I have got a bunch of other buttons like I could activate the track, or I can solo a track, and I can use the Transport controls, and I can even trigger and launch things like clips and scenes. Now if you are wondering about controllers that have extended functionality, you can go to be Ableton web site. And at ableton.com/controllers, there is a list of controllers that use instant mapping and are even dedicated to working with Live. For example, we have got to Akai APC40 and the Novation Launch Pad, which are probably the two best-known, and then there's other controllers that are available for specific functionality, like for DJs.
So if we click there, we will see some recommended controllers. And as it says here, they all provide instant mapping. So if you want to make a custom assignment with a device that does instant mapping, you will need to go into Preferences--that's Command+Comma again, or Ctrl+Comma on a PC--and you will need to make sure that the Remote column is enabled for that device. Now you don't need to do that just for instant mapping. Having it listed, and having inputs and outputs listed here will do that. But the second that you want to do any custom setting, you'll need to make sure that the Remote switch is enabled.
So now, I can go to, for instance, this Resonance knob. And if I go into MIDI Map mode, which is Command+M--or Ctrl+M on a PC--select a device and move a knob, it assigns it. Hit Escape and now I've got control over that parameter in a custom fashion. Now just beware that that knob is now assigned for that parameter, and you may run into problems where that conflicts with instant mapping. So hopefully you have a MIDI device that allows you to take advantage of Live's Instant Mapping future.
If not, it's something to consider for the future.
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