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Ableton Live Tip: Making Gated Synth Patterns

September 1, 2009

Here is a great way to create cool moving patterns and rhythmic effects using just Ableton Live and its devices. You'll find this technique useful in a multitude of different electronic-music styles.

Begin by creating two MIDI tracks.

Ableton Live screenshot

In the first, drag-and-drop a synth patch from the browser—in this case, a synth pad patch called Pad-Filter Up.

Ableton Live screenshot

Next, drop a drum-rack preset into the next MIDI track— for example, the Kit-808 patch. Be sure to mute this track because you won't need to actually hear it.

Ableton Live screenshot

Now double-click on a Clip Slot on the 808 track to auto-create a one-bar clip.

Ableton Live screenshot

In the Clip view, simply double-click on the piano roll to create MIDI notes. You will use these to trigger the cuts. Here, you'll see 808 kick drums because they are relatively loud and will do a good job triggering the cuts.

Ableton Live screenshot

Now add a Gate device to the synth pad track.

Ableton Live screenshot

Click on the tiny triangle to open the Sidechain section.

Ableton Live screenshot

Choose the Kit-808 channel as the input.

Ableton Live screenshot

Now, adjust the Gate Threshold, Attack and Release settings to get them to react the way you'd like. Hit Play on the session, assign a MIDI controller to the synth pad and play some chords. Presto: auto-gated synth patterns!

Get creative with the drum patterns you use to trigger the gate. For example, try dialing in the Threshold, Attack and Release while using this technique on bass lines to get that dubstep wobble or just make cool housey techno patterns using big synced synthesizers. Try it on your own audio loops or atmospheres, adding just a little dynamic bounce to keep those stale loops moving.

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