In this Ableton Live tutorial, we’ll look at a way of using drum loops to create a custom glitch percussion layer. To start off, I have selected 10 percussive loops and loaded them into a single track in Session view. This will not work in the Arrangement view as it requires the Session views clip to launch a feature to work.
To start you need to double-click on any clip to open it in the sample window below. If the launch box is not visible you can enable it by clicking the “L” button from the “Clip” tab below.
Now you need to click on the first loop, and while holding shift-click on the last loop. This will select them all and you will see the Clip box will change and the Sample box will change to indicate multiple audio clips selected.
Now we need to get creative with the launch properties of the clips. First I will explain how to follow actions work. Follow actions dictate both what a clip will do when it ends, and when it will happen. It is actually very easy to use once you understand the structure.
The three boxes are the time control. It is split into Bars / Beats / Sixteenths, this is where you tell Ableton when to use the following action. Directly under it are two drop-down menu boxes, the left one is the main area to work in, and the right one is to give an element of chance to the following actions.
The boxes directly below them are called Follow Action Chance A and B. With a setting of 1:0, only A will ever occur. With a setting of 1:1, there is an equal(50%) chance of either A or B occurring.
The dropdown menu boxes reveal some options, they are:
- No Action – Nothing happens after a clip ends.
- Stop – After the clip ends, no more clips will play.
- Play again – The same clip will play again.
- Previous – After the clip ends, the previous clip will play.
- Next – After the clip ends, the next clip will be triggered.
- First – After the clip ends, the first clip in the clip group will be triggered.
- Last –After the clip ends, the last clip in the clip group will be triggered.
- Any – Any clip in the clip group will be triggered.
- Other – Any other clip apart from the one playing in the clip group will be triggered.
And in case you’re wondering, a clip group is simply a group of clips. To set up clip groups, just leave a blank slot between them, as seen in the right image.
Now that we understand how Follow Actions work, let’s apply it to our percussion loops. With all the loops highlighted and selected, change the following action to be 0:0:3. This means that after every 3 16th notes, the following action will trigger. The action itself should be set to Other so that it will always be a new loop triggered.
And now the most important step: Make sure legato mode is enabled!
Legato mode will make the next clip start where the last clip ended. So if it was on the 3rd beat, the new clip will start on the 3rd beat instead of from the beginning. This will make the end result sound much more dynamic and much more random since it will always be starting in a new place on the loop.
And now the good news. That’s it. Done. Now we can get to the creative bit.
Switch to arrangement mode. Hit record. And let it play for a minute or so. This will not record the audio output, it will record all the chops that launch mode makes.
Now we can start to use it. Depending on how you prefer to work, you can either select it all and render it directly to audio, or you can choose bits you like and re-arrange them. You can even take certain pieces and reverse them or apply FX. That’s why it’s the creative part of the process, you can do whatever appeals to you.
But let’s just make it sound good. The first thing we need is EQ on the percussion line. There are too many low frequencies coming through, affecting the kick and making it muddy. So a simple high-pass filter on the percussion set to around 150hz/200hz will do the trick.
But we’re aiming for glitch percussion, so let’s make it. DBlue_Glitch is probably the most common VST used, so just drop one on. Don’t even need to change a setting, but I prefer it to be in half beats instead of over the whole beat. Simply change the template from 1 to 2. (Disclaimer: You do actually need to go into it and adjust some settings. Master filter/ Master Mix is a good place to start, but for this tutorial, we’ll leave it as is).
Then to add to it, we’ll add a Filter Delay, on only the left and right channels with the center disabled. Change the frequency response so it’s only affecting the highs and doesn’t forget to lower the volume of the delay. This will give a subtle delay on only certain frequencies and make the audio bounce around.
Lastly, we need to side-chain the percussion to the kick, to allow the kick to be prominent. Since I used a loop for the kicks, I need to enable the EQ on the compressor. Enable the side-chain options and set it to the relevant mixer track, then enable the EQ and set it to high-pass.
Then simply change the frequency to around 100-150hz so that only the kick is triggering the side-chain. Use a very fast attack time so the sound dies instantly, then a low release time so everything else comes back fast.
The end result is percussion that’s only in between beats and never over them. It is worth noting though that you should experiment with the FF1/FF2/FB settings. FF2 usually is better for side-chaining, and the ratio should be to taste. Because it’s percussion we don’t really need to change them.