Master Class: Going Live

In live performance, Ableton Live 1.5 is far more versatile than first meets the eye...
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Ableton Live is a multifaceted tool for looping, processing, and sequencing audio. It offers a deep feature set that's equally suited to real-time performance and desktop composition.

To get the most from Live, it helps to develop a set of standard procedures, a hands-on familiarity with Live's user interface, and a good grasp of how Live does what it does. Using Live is like learning to play an instrument, because, at heart, Live is just that: a live-performance instrument. In this article, I'll examine Live's capabilities and its user interface, and I'll offer some techniques that will help you take advantage of some of its less obvious features.

I will focus on Live 1.5, which offers several enhancements over version 1.1 (see the June 2002 issue for a review of Live 1.1), including rendering to disk, full ReWire 2 support with bidirectional MIDI synchronization, and built-in, high-quality reverb. If you're still using Live 1.1, you can download a free update to version 1.5 from Ableton's Web site (www.ableton.com).

MAKING THE SCENE

For users who are new to the program, here's a quick overview. Live's single-window interface has two different but intimately connected views: the Session view and the Arranger view. The Session view holds individual audio Clips whose playback can be triggered in various ways. It uses the metaphor of a standard mixing console with controls at the bottom and Slots for holding individual audio Clips in columns above the controls. The Arranger view resembles traditional sequencers and arranges Clips sequentially on tracks.

At the top of the Session view, you'll find a timeline overview that corresponds to the tracks of the Arranger view. Those views are connected in two important ways: they share audio channels, and the Arranger view can record and play back any activity in the Session view (such as Clip triggering and control automation).

It's important to remember that although only one view is displayed at a time, both views are active at all times. You can remotely trigger audio Clips from the Session view while viewing the Arrangement, and you can start the Arrangement playing while in the Session view. In fact, triggering a Clip from the Session view automatically starts Arrangement playback.

You can switch between the Session and Arranger views using the Tab key or an onscreen button. The two views share a number of common components arranged around their periphery (see Fig. 1). The File Browser (on the left side) lets you grab audio Clips and plug-in effects. The Control Bar (at the top) manages song playback. The Detail view (at the bottom right) provides editing for Clips and also controls effects plug-ins. The Info view (at the bottom left) describes features when you roll over onscreen objects with the cursor.

Because each Live audio channel is hardwired to a specific Arranger view track, audio channels are simply called tracks in the Session and Arranger views, and I'll use that terminology here. Keep in mind that each track has its own audio configuration, including volume and pan settings, effects sends, insert effects, and input and output assignments.

Another important thing to consider is that each track can play only one audio Clip at a time. Because tracks are shared between the Session and Arranger views, that can lead to some confusion about which window “owns” the track, but as you'll see, that sharing of tracks can be very useful. I'll start with a look at the Session view; that's the view that appears when you start Live, and it's the most unusual.

GET WITH THE PROGRAM

Creating a song template

Examine the Session view of the Live song that I use as a template (see Fig. 2). At the top is an overview of the Arranger tracks with colored lines indicating audio material. The vertical black line indicates the current playback position. At the bottom is the Mixer view, which contains a channel strip for each track. The colored bars above some of the channel strips indicate that the track is playing (and that there is audio at the current playback position on that track).

The area with the gray Slots in the center, called the Clip Pool, holds individual audio Clips. I've divided the Clip Pool into four sections and added my own color coding to the screen shot (red, blue, and dark green) to indicate their intended use. My section divisions are somewhat arbitrary; you can, of course, change them to fit your needs. All of the Slots are currently empty. Some Slots contain a gray square on the left; those are Slot buttons, and they're very important. (I'll discuss them more in a moment.)

Live allows you to trigger individual Clips as well as Scenes, which are entire rows of Clips. You trigger Scenes by clicking the gray triangles in the Master column on the right. Because only one Clip per track (meaning one Clip in each column) can play at a time, playing a Scene might cause Clips in other rows to stop playing. If a Scene doesn't have a Clip in one of its Slots, then another Clip playing on that track will stop playing only if the Slot contains a Slot button. Carefully arranging which Slots do and which Slots don't have Slot buttons is essential to efficiently managing the Clip Pool and Scenes. You can select a Slot or group of Slots and toggle Slot buttons on or off, either from the Edit menu or by using the key command Command + E on the Mac or Control + E on the PC.

Here's how the Clip Pool in Fig. 2 is set up: the top five rows are intended for playing individual Clips, and the remaining rows are for holding Scenes. Because of the one-Clip-per-track restriction, separate tracks are used for the individual-Clip area (outlined in red at the top left) and the Scene playback area (outlined in blue at the bottom right). Slot buttons below the individual-Clip area have all been removed so that Scene selection won't affect Clips playing on those tracks.

The Scene area has six tracks, which are named for instruments in the song, and 12 Scenes, which correspond to 12 sections of the song. You can, of course, set up as many tracks and Scenes as you like, but starting each song with a standard template that has everything visible will speed up your song-creation process.

Notice that the Scene area has some Slots with Slot buttons and other Slots without. I use the Slot buttons to indicate which tracks will be playing in each Scene; that's one way to outline a song before you start adding Clips. That method has a couple of less obvious advantages that I'll point out in a moment. Before I do, look at the Scene and track labels.

I've labeled the Scenes alphabetically with lowercase letters to indicate the computer keyboard key that I've assigned to trigger the Scene. You can assign each Scene and Slot to an upper- or lower-case letter. (Note that assignments remain with the Slots and Scenes — moving Clips around doesn't move the assignments.) The track names start with a number to indicate both the track number and the MIDI Channel I use to automate the track's channel-strip parameters. The first five track names also indicate the upper-case letters that I've assigned to trigger the top five Slots. In short, I can trigger any Scene with a lower-case letter and any Clip from the individual-Clip area with an upper-case letter.

In the sixth row, I've set up a Scene labeled Z-Silent that I use to turn all Clips off. I've assigned an upper case Z to that Scene because it's easy to type whether Caps Lock is on or off. (The button at the bottom right labeled Stop Clips serves the same purpose, but it cannot be assigned to a keyboard or MIDI trigger.) Because triggering any Slot in the Session view that contains either a Clip or a Slot button gives the Session view control of its track, the Z-Silent and Stop Clips buttons also serve the function of turning off all tracks in the Arranger view. Clicking the Back To Arrange button in the Transport section of the Control Bar (function key F10) returns control of all tracks to the Arrange view (I'll discuss that in a later section).

Back to the Slot buttons: in addition to providing visual clues, setting up a Scenes template and removing buttons for all Slots that you intend to play greatly increases your Scene sequencing flexibility. Suppose, for example, that you have Clips in the Bass track for Scenes “a” and “c” and Clips in the Drums track for Scenes “b” and “c.” Scene sequence a-b-c-b will play bass-a, bass-a with drums-b, bass-c with drums-c, and finally, bass-c with drums-b. This very simple example offers four Scenes for the price of three. Extend that technique over more tracks, and the possibilities grow exponentially.

Filling a Scene Slot with a Clip offers the advantage of always triggering a Clip with its Scene. However, if you want a Clip to continue playing through a Scene change (rather than being retriggered with the new Scene), an empty Slot with no Slot button is the way to go.

The individual-Clip area (the red rectangle) is a good place to drag Clips from the File Browser during song construction. I drag alternative Clips to the same track and switch between them while playing the Scene I'm assembling. Once I choose a Clip, I drag it to its position in the Scene. After the Scenes are constructed, the individual-Clip area is useful for one-shots and effects that you want to trigger individually rather than as part of any Scene.

The two remaining areas in the Clip Pool are not necessarily wasted. The area labeled “Scene Add-Ons” is a handy way to bring Clips into a Scene at the last minute without having to create new tracks. The area labeled Track Alternatives is handy for temporarily substituting individual Clips for tracks in an Arrangement.

Get more for your MIDI

In addition to using the computer keyboard to trigger Clips, you can use MIDI Control Change and Note messages to trigger Clips and automate mix and effects parameters. If you use Live in performance, you will definitely want to create a MIDI setup to work with. Live receives on only one MIDI port, but it does receive on all MIDI channels, so with a flexible hardware controller layout, you can control almost everything. Live can “learn” MIDI assignments — simply click the MIDI Map button (Command + M on the Mac and Control + M on the PC), select the target Slot or control, and send the desired MIDI message from your controller.

For mixing controls, a MIDI fader box is the most obvious choice. Live 1.5 will also accept data from infinite rotary encoders — such as the ones on Tascam's US-428 and Native Instruments' 4Control — and try to detect the encoders' format (which determines the direction and update speed of the values they send). If Live doesn't recognize the format, you can select it yourself. Live sends out MIDI control data, which you can use to update motorized faders.

I use three basic controller setups with Live, each with the same computer keyboard assignments. For a compact setup, I add a Peavey PC-1600 fader box to control mixing, and I use the computer keyboard for triggering Scenes and Clips. When I'm playing with a full-size MIDI keyboard controller, I use the area around the bottom octave to trigger Scenes. For percussion parts, I use a Roland HPD-15 with the ten peripheral pads assigned to trigger Scenes, the larger central pads assigned to individual Clips, and the ribbons and D-Beam assigned to effects parameters. I always start with those assignments as templates so that I don't have to relearn the setup each time and can concentrate on the music. To define your template as Live's default song, save it with the name “LiveTemplate.als” in the Ableton Preferences folder.

CLIPTOMANIA

Ableton Live streams audio directly from your hard drive. However, not all audio files are created equal; for example, they may be short hits, loops, segmented compilations of hits and loops, or dubs of entire parts. Consequently, you need to manage how Live interprets those files. For that, Live offers Clip files — data files containing information about the audio files on your hard drive. Because Clip files are small, a Live song can hold many of them without unduly straining computer memory.

When you drag an audio file into Live's Session or Arranger view, Live looks for an associated Clip file (with the .asd suffix added to the audio file name). If none is found, Live creates one. When Live creates a Clip file, it initializes some settings and tries to calculate others. You can change almost all of the settings. In fact, you can have different settings for different copies of the same Clip file (in different Slots). Those individual settings become part of the Live song. However, if you want the settings saved in the Clip file on your hard drive, you need to save them manually. The settings in the Clip file are the ones that appear every time the audio file is dragged into a Live song.

Fig. 3 shows the Clip view (available at the bottom of either the Arranger or Session view) of a Clip file. It has four data sections and a Sample Display window with a waveform view of the audio file. The section labeled Clip applies only to Slot playback and controls how the audio file is triggered. The Sample Settings section controls audio-playback properties such as transposition and gain. That is also where you replace the audio file the Clip file refers to, save the Clip-file data to disk, and open the audio file in your favorite sample editor. The Loop section controls the loop boundaries, as well as the playback start-point within the loop. The Warp section contains the most critical settings; it determines how Live time-warps the audio file to match the overall song tempo. Understanding how Live time-warps your audio files is the key to successful Clip synchronization.

Don't assume

It's important to understand that Live treats long and short files differently. Live assumes that short files are properly cut loops and assigns them a tempo between 87 and 174 by further assuming that the number of beats in the file is a power of two (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and so on). However, you can override those assumptions, as you'll see shortly. Live assumes that long files are the same tempo as the song, which will cause the files to play back without time-warping; that's usually what you want for dubs and remixing. For poorly cut loops and single hits that are not intended to be tempo-synced, such as individual drum hits and sound effects, you need to manually adjust the Warp markers and tempo settings. (I'll get to that in a moment.)

In the Sample Display window in Fig. 3, you'll notice a tempo grid over the sound file. At the ends of the grid are green Warp markers (labeled 1 and 3). Those were automatically placed by Live after it calculated the Clip to be eight beats (two measures) long at a tempo of 130 bpm. The presence of Warp markers at each end is the tip-off that Live is treating the Clip as a short file with a calculated tempo. For long files, Live places a Warp marker at the beginning only and assigns the song tempo to the Clip. By adding, deleting, and moving Warp markers, you can define the boundaries of a poorly cut loop and indicate tempo changes within a Clip. Remember that Warp markers delineate metered regions (beat counts) within the Clip. Live will time-warp the playback between Warp markers to match the tempo of the song.

Extracting loops

To deal with a poorly cut loop or, as is often found on audio CDs for sampling, a Clip that contains several loops, you need to adjust the Warp markers to the ends of the desired loop and indicate the correct number of beats. First, eliminate all but the first Warp marker by double-clicking on any others, and then move the first Warp marker to the exact beginning of the first loop. (Click in the waveform display at the position of the Warp marker and drag down to zoom in as necessary for accurate placement.)

Next, find the grid line that matches the number of beats in the loop and double-click it to create a new Warp marker. (Note that the grid line might not be anywhere near the actual end of the loop.) Finally, drag the new Warp marker to the exact end of the loop, using whatever zoom resolution is necessary for accurate placement. If you want to do it by ear, set the loop playback Start and End points to match the Warp marker numbers using the numerical values in the Loop section of the Clip view, and trigger the Clip to start playing in Loop mode. You'll hear the effects of time-warping as well as the accuracy of the loop.

To deal with an audio file containing several loops, simply repeat the above procedure for each loop. It doesn't matter what meter position you pick for each beginning Warp marker, so pick something convenient, such as a bar division. The end Warp markers must, of course, be the proper number of beats later. Typically, some dead space will be between the loops, so you won't be able to use the Warp marker for the end of one loop as the beginning of the next. The top of Fig. 4 shows a Clip cut into three loops starting respectively at Warp markers 1, 6, and 9.

Once you've sliced up a multiloop Clip, it's easy to select the desired loop. Simply set the Length numerically in the Loop section of the Clip view and scroll the Start value to the desired Warp marker. Note that if you copy the Clip to a new Slot, your Warp marker settings will be copied with it, so you can easily create a Clip for each of the loops you've extracted. If you intend to use the loops in another Live song, click the Save button in the Sample Settings section to save your Warp marker setup in the Clip file on your hard drive.

Hits and kits

Another case in which you'll have to override Live's calculations is with Clips containing one or more hits that you do not want to be time-warped. Live's treatment of long files indicates how to do that: eliminate all but the first Warp marker and move the marker to the beginning of the hit. If Live calculated a tempo for the Clip, it probably won't match the song tempo, so change the Orig. BPM numerical to the tempo of the song. Remember that if you change the song tempo or use the Clip in another song, you will need to adjust the Clip tempo accordingly.

For multiple hits in the same audio file (again typical of audio sampling CDs), the loop technique just described is not particularly satisfactory, because you need to change the tempo setting for each Warp marker whenever you change the song tempo or use the Clip in a different song. What's worse is that changing the tempo at a particular Warp marker moves all the Warp markers to its right.

Here's how to avoid those hassles: In the Clip view's Warp section, select Bar from the Transients menu, and place bar-division Warp markers at the beginning of each hit. Because Live's time-warping is quantized to the Transients setting, it will not time-warp the hits regardless of the song tempo. That method has the added convenience of allowing hit numbers to correspond to measure numbers (see Fig. 4, middle). If you set the Length to 1.0.0 and select the left-most Start numerical, you can step through the hits with the up and down arrow keys.

A hardware percussion controller is ideal for use with sampled drum-kit elements — especially when using Live in performance. Depending on your playing abilities and preferences, you may find two of the Clip setup options useful. At the bottom of the Clip section of the Clip view, you'll find a quantization menu (new in Live 1.5) that allows you to set an individual triggering quantization for each Clip. The Repeat Launch mode causes the Clip to retrigger at the quantization rate.

For example, you might use quarter-note quantization in Repeat Launch mode to lay an automatic four-on-the-floor kick pattern, while using finer quantization or no quantization at all with Trigger mode for playing other percussion. The one drawback to using Live as a kit is that there is no Velocity sensitivity. If you can program your percussion controller to send different notes for different Velocity zones, you can partially compensate by assigning notes to Clips with different sampled dynamics.

You can use Live's internal, real-time recording feature to create instant loops from your kits. Begin by choosing a track for recording, setting its input to Master Out in the Input/Output view's top menu, and arming it for recording by clicking the button with the microphone icon in the Mixer view. The Slot buttons will turn into red Record buttons. Triggering any Slot or Scene that contains a Record button will start the recording process. (To avoid accidentally triggering unwanted recording when triggering Scenes, I remove all but one Slot button.) Stopping Live playback (Spacebar), clicking the recording track's Stop Clips button, or triggering any other Slot on the Recording track will terminate recording. Everything that appears at Live's Master Out is recorded, so be sure to mute tracks that you don't want to dub. The new audio file, along with its Clip file, is placed in the Audio Record Directory specified in Live's Path Preferences.

Setting up the Slots for recording can be a little tricky to handle at first, but Fig. 5 shows one simple way to record a three-part drum loop. The track on the left, labeled Record B4, has its input set to Live's Master Out, and its top Slot is armed for recording. I've assigned MIDI Note B4 to trigger that Slot. Slot buttons have been removed from the other Slots on that track so that only that Slot will record. The three other tracks have a hit on consecutive Scenes and MIDI Note messages C5, D5, and E5 trigger their Slots respectively (Live defines Middle C as C5).

Finally, MIDI Note A4 is set up to trigger the top Scene; it will play the Kick and start recording. Playing MIDI Notes C5, D5, and E5 will cause their associated hits to trigger and be recorded. Playing MIDI Note B4 will stop recording and immediately start looped playback of the recording. Playing A4 will accomplish the same thing, but it will also trigger another Kick.

SLICE AND RELOOP

Live's automatic time-warping is what makes it such a convenient tool for combining loops of different tempos, but time-warping comes at a price: there is an inevitable sacrifice in quality. In critical cases, such as when the loop is up-front in the mix, you can get around Live's time-warping of loops by creating your own slices and sequencing them individually. However, you will need to search for the slice points and, in many cases, do a little editing when reconstructing the loop.

To hear the difference, listen to the MP3 file “ReLoop”. It begins with a two-measure guitar Clip at 120 bpm, followed by the Clip automatically time-warped to 100 bpm and 144 bpm, and ends with examples of the Clip sliced and relooped at the same tempos. Everything was done within Live.

The bottom of Fig. 4 shows the guitar Clip with Warp markers inserted at the slice points. The Clip has strums on the first four eighth notes with the last strum sustaining to the end of the measure, and I've created a Warp marker for each strum. The Clip has its Transients parameter set to Bar, and a separate copy has been made for each slice.

You could record the results in real time, as with the previous example, but in this case, it's often better to record into the Arranger view, edit, and then Render the loop. That's particularly true when you lower the tempo, because the slices won't completely fill the space and Live will pad them out, causing unwanted artifacts. In that case, you can shorten the Clips in the Arranger view and decide whether you prefer the gaps or the padding. (A little judicious reverb can help mask the gaps.) If you're raising the tempo, the slices will be truncated. Almost all you can do in that case is to alternate the slices between two tracks and allow them to overlap slightly. (Note that once you are dealing with individual hits, you can adjust for syncopation or bad timing, either as you trigger the hits or after the fact in the Arranger view.)

If you still can't get satisfactory results using that method, consider using Propellerhead ReCycle, which offers better tools for selecting slices and its own set of time-stretching and pitch-shifting algorithms. From Recycle, you can export the Clip as a single sample with its tempo adjusted, and then use it in Live.

Alternatively, you can export the individual slices for use as separate Clips. That offers the option of making minor tempo changes in Live without having to repeat the relooping process. If you intend to use ReCycle often to work on Live Clips, consider selecting it as your sample editor in Live's Path Preferences; clicking the Edit button in the Sample Settings section of the Clip view will automatically open the Clip in ReCycle.

Finally, if you have Propellerhead Reason, you can use the REX file generated by ReCycle in Reason's Dr. Rex module and ReWire the results back into Live (see the sidebar “Reason to Live”).

BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

As I mentioned in the overview, Live's Arranger view (see Fig. 6) is similar to a traditional audio sequencer; audio Clips are arranged sequentially on a timeline for playback on multiple tracks. Each track corresponds to an audio playback channel, and a track can play only one audio Clip at a time. The sharing of audio channels between the Session and Arranger views, the means of getting Clips onto Arranger view tracks, and the tools for manipulating those Clips are what distinguish the Arranger view from traditional sequencers.

The first and most important thing to remember is that Arranger tracks are always playing when Live is playing. When you trigger Clips or Scenes — which you can do from either the Arranger or the Session view — you automatically start playback of Arrange tracks at the Arrange view's Start marker (the blue wedge at measure 129 in the top center of Fig. 6). However, all Arranger tracks used for playback of Clips or Scenes from the Session view are disabled in the Arranger view.

The Return-to-Arrangement button in the Control Bar at the top turns red to indicate that some Arranger tracks are disabled. You can click it or press F10 to return control of all tracks to the Arranger view (and consequently terminate playback of any Clips in the Session view). Conversely, you can disable all Arranger tracks by clicking the Stop Clips button in the Session view. That's a very handy feature when you want to go back to working exclusively with Clips and Scenes after constructing an Arrangement.

You can place Clips on Arranger tracks in two ways: by recording Clip and Scene triggering, and by dragging a Clip to a track from the File Browser. To record Clip and Scene triggering, simply click on the round record button in the Control view at the top. Any Clip or Scene you then trigger with the mouse, the computer keyboard, or MIDI will be placed on the appropriate Arranger track at the current play position. Note that once a Clip appears on an Arranger track, it is independent of its source; you can edit its parameters in the Clip view, and those edits apply only to that instance of the Clip on that Arranger track.

Once you have a Clip on an Arranger track, you can slide it around freely, and you can stretch it from either end. Stretching it in either direction will make it loop to fill the space, but stretching it from the left will also cause its Start marker to shift in an attempt to keep it synchronized in time. For example, if you shrink a Clip by one quarter note from the left, its Start marker will shift one quarter note later in the Clip.

A Clip's Launch mode and quantization parameters have no effect when the Clip is on an Arranger track, but all other Clip view parameters have their usual effect. In particular, the Clip's Loop markers set the playback boundaries of the Clip; the section between the Loop markers will be repeated or truncated as you stretch the Clip in the Arranger track.

Everything that I've discussed in the context of Clip editing can also be carried out directly in the Arranger view. You can extract loops and hits, construct loops from kits, and perform slicing and relooping. You can add automation of mix and effects parameters either by directly adding automation break-points with the mouse, recording onscreen changes made in the Mixer and Effects views, or recording MIDI automation. Finally, you can record the Arrangement into Slots in the Session view, using exactly the same procedure as for Scene and Slot playback. Remember you can trigger any Slot or Scene from the Arranger view as well as the Session view.

Live 1.5 lets you render from an Arrangement back into a Slot. Rendering allows you to bounce audio from any portion of any selection of tracks faster than in real-time recording. Rendering always applies to the selected region, and all output appearing at Live's Master Out will be rendered. Therefore, to render only selected tracks, you need to mute the unwanted tracks using the green buttons with the speaker icons in the Mixer view of either the Arranger or Session view. If Live's Pre-Listen Preference routing is set to Routed through Master, you can use the buttons with the headphone icons as solo buttons.

Rendering includes all effects processing, so if your Arrangement starts pushing the CPU envelope, bounce a few tracks with effects on them, and you'll be back in business with a lighter load on your processor.

WHADDYA WANT FROM LIVE?

One area that I haven't touched on explicitly is Live's strengths as a remixing tool. You've seen how easy it is to create and record parts in the Session view. Sequencing those parts with automated mixing and effects in the Arranger view is also straightforward. Those two processes let you create remixes with full automation; in many cases, you never need to leave Live's domain. When you do, Live supports the necessary links through ReWire and external sample editor integration.

Because Live offers several ways to perform almost any task, it's necessary to develop specific work habits that suit the way you use the software. For live performance, you'll want a full-featured MIDI control setup, whereas for desktop composition, you can probably get by with the computer keyboard and a basic control surface for mixing and effects. If you're creating parts for use in another audio sequencer, you'll probably spend most of your time in Session view with occasional forays into the Arranger view for basic editing and Rendering. If you want to use Live to create a finished product, you'll surely use the Arranger view as you would any other audio sequencer.

The bottom line is that although Live is built for speed, it is not necessarily built for simplicity. Time spent learning your way around and customizing Live to your needs will put a tremendously powerful tool at your fingertips.

Len Sassocan be contacted through his Web site atwww.swifktick.com.

REASON TO LIVE

You can use Live as a ReWire 2 master or slave application. When Live is the master, audio from other ReWire applications is routed to Live's inputs; when Live is the slave, its audio is routed to other ReWire applications. ReWire 2 also synchronizes tempo and transports for all applications.

Typically, you would make Live the master when working with programs that generate audio, such as Reason, and you would make Live slave to another audio sequencer in order to record Live's output to that sequencer. Setting up the relationship is easy: launch the master application first and the slave application second, and then select the slave as the input to channels in the master application. It's that simple, but bear in mind that you can not use Live as both a master and slave simultaneously.

Reason is an excellent match for Live because it offers the two things that Live lacks: sound generation and MIDI sequencing. While you can import ReCycled loops into Reason's Dr. Rex REX file player as an alternative to Live's time-warping, the Redrum module, with its built-in pattern sequencer, provides a way to play sampled drum kits that is easier and more full featured. Furthermore, Redrum adds Velocity sensitivity, and it's easier to generate patterns. It also provides envelope generators and pitch and sample-start modulation. For much finer pattern-sequencing control, consider importing whole Clips into Redrum for triggering from its pads.

Reason is also a great tool for generating Clips that you can use in Live. You can record Reason's output on the fly, just as you can Live's output. That allows you to quickly capture synthesizer and sampler loops, pads, and sequences and then use Live's Clip tools to manipulate them.

A convenient way to set up your Reason Rack for ReWiring Reason in Live is to cable each Reason Instrument to its own audio output (there are 64), bypassing Reason's mixer. Use a separate Live track for each Reason Instrument. You can simultaneously record the output of each Reason Instrument into a separate audio file, and you can apply your favorite Live or VST plug-ins to individual Reason Instruments. Reason, ReCycle, and Live clearly make a formidable combination for loop-based performance and composition.

JUST FOR EFFECT

Fig. A shows Live's Effects view with the Arranger view above it. Live comes with 11 CPU-efficient effects that cover compression, EQ, chorus, delay, distortion, and reverb, as well as some quite unusual effects such as Auto Filter, Filter Delay, and Grain Delay. If you can't find what you're looking for in Live's kit, you can use your favorite VST plug-in.

The Effects view shares the same screen space with the Clip view, and either view is available in both the Arranger and Session views. Some of Live's built-in effects and all VST effects have an onscreen x-y control for managing two parameters at a time with the mouse. In the case of VST effects, you can assign any of the effect's parameters to either axis.

Live provides two control panels for VST effects: the effect's control panel and a layout of horizontal sliders within Live's Effects view. The advantage of the slider layout (in addition to being more compact) is that you can use Live's MIDI Learn feature to assign MIDI controller messages to the effect's parameters. All VST effects settings are saved with the Live song; however, the effect's preset selection is not, so you might think you've lost your effects settings when you reopen a song. Fear not; they're still there.

Live's flexible effects routing allows for complex effects setups. Any effect can be inserted into any Live track, but you can also have up to four send buses, which can tap either pre- or post-track gain control. Send buses show up just like regular tracks in the Session and Arranger views, each with send controls of their own. That means you can route effects to other effects and even back to themselves (watch out for feedback). Finally, you can put effects on Live's Master track, which is a good location for mastering and spectral-analyzer plug-ins.

When your CPU runs out of gas, don't forget that you can bounce tracks. Note that you can show or hide the Sends view independently in the Arranger and Session views. If you want to see and manipulate a send effect's automation, make the Sends view visible in the Arranger view.

The MP3 file “GrainyDay” illustrates the Grain Delay effect as well as cross-busing. The source is a four-on-the-floor kick-drum pattern. Each kick has its own Grain Delay, and alternate kicks are sent to a pair of Filter Delay effects on two send buses. The send buses are cross-fed to each other to create a three-over-four-rhythm feedback pattern.

Keys to the Kingdom

Live has built-in keyboard shortcuts for many of its menu items, onscreen controls, and view toggles. Here are some of the most useful, broken into two categories.

Better Viewing Key Modifier Mac/PC Action

?Hide/Show Info viewOCommand/ControlHide/Show OverviewICommand/ControlHide/Show Input-Output viewSCommand/ControlHide/Show Sends viewMCommand/ControlHide/Show Mixer viewF11ShiftHide/Show File BrowserF12ShiftHide/Show Detail view (Clip & Effects views)
For Getting Things Done Key Modifier Mac/PC Action

F1-F8Toggle Tracks 1-8 output buttonsF9Record automationF10Back-to-ArrangeF11Select next File Browser tabF12Select next Detail view (Clips>Effects>Buses)RCommand/ControlRenderECommand/ControlAdd/Remove Slot buttonMCommand/ControlToggle MIDI Map Learn functionKCommand/ControlToggle Keyboard Learn functionArrow Up/DnMove Loop by loop length (Clip view)Arrow Lt/RtCommand/ControlSelect next (previous) Warp marker0…6Command/ControlSelect Trigger Quantize (None, Bar, Whole-Note, and so on)GCommand/ControlToggle Snap-to-Grid/Snap-to-Quantize (Arranger view)