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Slicing Vocals in Ableton Live – Tutorial by Ashley Young

Slicing Vocals in Ableton Live

In this Ableton Live tutorial, we’ll be looking at a method of slicing up a vocal sample and then using it in a techy beat. This method is a fairly common one in various genres including dubstep and house. To start with I’ve taken a simple kick and snare pattern with some high-hats and chosen a fairly boring vocal sample to manipulate.

Right-click on the audio and select “Slice to new midi track”. Let it use transients to decide where to slice and its built-in slicing preset like so:

Slicing Vocals in Ableton Live Tutorial

It will then slice the audio into small sections and load it into a drum rack and allow you to manipulate it via midi. You now no longer need the original audio so you can disable the track. You may want to use the original audio later on so it is better to not delete it quite yet.

Click on the midi clip that was created and delete all the midi data. We are going to be placing our own notes. The midi clip is 16 bars long but it is better to work on it 4 beats at a time, so drag the loop end marker(1) down to 2 and make sure Loop is enabled(2).

Also, make sure you’ve enabled midi preview(3). This allows you to hear what each slice does without having to play the clip.

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Now you need to play around with the different notes. Simply place one note and then drag it around the piano roll. Because the preview is enabled you will be able to hear exactly what you are doing. It really speeds up the whole process. Simply find a rhythmic pattern that you’re happy with.

Slicing Vocals in Ableton Live
To add a bit of variation to it, move your loop end marker so that it is now 2 bars. Duplicate the pattern you already have and make one change to it. Only one. Move a note or change a note to another one. Anything really.

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Then move your loop end marker all the way to the end. Duplicate the entire pattern again, go to the last bar and make an edit. For the end of a bar, you’d usually want a flourish.

Slicing Vocals in Ableton Live

Now that you have something basic to work with, you can either apply FX or carry on mashing it up. Right-click on the track and select “Freeze Track” then create a new audio track and while holding CTRL, drag the clip down onto the new audio track. You now have an audio copy of what you did in the midi clip.

You can now chop it up as you see fit (you could very easily just repeat this entire process again using slice to midi). Working with audio is very easy though, highlight a section of the audio that you want to work with and press CTRL-E and it will slice it into a new piece of audio. Reverse parts, and change their pitch using the transpose knob.

Experiment with their warp modes or simply ‘detune’ them. Keep playing until you’re happy. Half the fun of making this kind of glitch audio is messing around and discovering cool sounds. The warp modes will give you a ton of control over the way it sounds.

To end this tutorial I will simply duplicate the audio, and then transpose one copy down 6 semitones. Group them into a single bus and then apply FX to the bus. All I’ve used is an EQ to remove the low frequencies.

And you’re left with it looking like this:
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