Forum Information

Dear users, I have decided to phase out the posting on the forums on this website and move any discussions over to this private facebook group or join the Discord for realtime chat. I will not make the forums offline as there is a wealth of content, but posting has now been disabled. Thanks to all those who have contributed over the years, and I'll see you over on the Facebook group or Discord! -Tom

Ten Essential Ableton Live Tips & Tricks - Part 4: The Stop Button

Stop Buttons can be added (or removed) from clips slots that do not contain any samples or loops. Triggering a clip slot with a Stop Button will stop any clip that is playing in that individual track or layer after waiting for the period you define in the Global Quantization drop down box.

As well as adding Stop Buttons into blank Clip Slots, Each track or layer has a Stop Button at the bottom that will also stop any clips playing in that track.

There is also a Stop Clips button to stop every single clip in Ableton, good if you want to stop all clips without having to stop the overall tune from playing.

Stop buttons can be added or removed from the Edit menu.


Say you have all your loops and samples laid out how you want them, working their way down various scenes so you can progress through the tune. At a certain point through the tune, you have a section where everything breaks down and just a synth loop plays. Instead of clicking on the individual Stop Buttons for the tracks you want to take away (kick, bass etc), you can set up a scene with just the synth sample, and Stop Buttons everywhere else.

When this scene is triggered, everything will stop apart from the synth.

Bonus Tip #1

You can set up specific scenes with just Stop Buttons, to have a quick way to stop groups of tracks.

If you decide you just want the kick and the bass to play, you have a scene ready to fire that will take everything out, apart from the kick and the bass, using stop buttons.

These scenes can be assigned Key or MIDI values, so now when we push [ 1 ], only the percussion will play, [ 2 ] will just leave the synths playing, and [ 3 ] will break it down to the kick and the bass.


Ten Essential Ableton Live Tips & Tricks - Part 3: Modulation

Modulating clips is a way to automate parameters of instruments and effects so they move along with the clip as its playing.


For this example we will make a hihat loop sound more natural and human by modulating the individual hits to give them character.

To start, we need to load up Ableton’s native multi sample instrument, Impulse, into a new MIDI track, and drop in a hihat sample into the first slot. This can be any sample you like, but I suggest an open hihat or a hihat with a long tail as we are going to be manipulating the length.

To create a new MIDI track, choose Insert Midi Track from the Insert Menu, and rename this new track to HiHats.

Next, we will add an Impulse Sampler to this MIDI track. Ensuring the new HiHats MIDI channel is selected, double click the Impulse instrument from the Live Devices Menu (second little circle button from the top left group of circle buttons) to add it into the track. The Impulse will appear down the bottom as a new instrument for our new HiHats track.


Ten Essential Ableton Live Tips & Tricks - Part 2: Send Return Channels

Send / Return tracks are like audio tracks that can be stacked up with an array of effects that lay there waiting for you to send them an audio signal from your main tracks. The audio that gets produced from these effects stay within the return track, so the original audio track continues unaffected.


You have a percussion loop playing and you want to quickly add a delay just to the snare hit, while leaving the rest of the percussion as it is. By having a return track set up with a delay effect, you can send the audio from your percussion track across to the return track just as the snare hits. The return track will receive the audio from the percussion track, add the delay, and let the snare delay fade out within the return track while the original percussion track continues on as usual.

To do this, we need to add a return track by clicking on the Insert menu and selecting Insert Return Track (this is if you don’t already have return tracks there, Ableton adds two to the default template, A Return and B Return).

You will now see, over on the right next to the Master Channel, a new return track. Give this a name by choosing Rename from the Edit Menu, and call it Delay.


Ten Essential Ableton Live Tips & Tricks - Part 1: Follow Actions

A Follow Action is a small set of instructions which can be applied to an Audio or MIDI loop, telling it what to do once it has finished playing.

When I first began teaching, I was very surprised at how many of my students didn’t have a grasp of Follow Actions and how powerful the function is to free up valuable time while you go off and be creative somewhere else.

To me, this has been one of the most useful functions of Ableton, and I use it throughout my live performances.


Lets say you are playing a tune from the beginning, and there are 128 bars until the first breakdown. Over those 128 bars you have 8 x 16 bar percussion loops that play one after the other, each adding in more elements, getting busier, until the breakdown where they stop and no clips are being played.

You could manually trigger each loop one after the other, just as the last one is finishing, but this is not that much fun and is just a process needed to keep the tune moving along. The solution to this is to assign Follow Actions to these clips, so that when clip #1 comes to an end, clip #2 automatically kicks in (and so on and so on).

To set Follow Actions to all these clips, simply select all the clips (clicking the top clip, holding down the shift key, and clicking the bottom clip), then opening the Launch options box, down the bottom right (if it is not already open, click the small circle button with an L).


Ten Essential Ableton Live Tips & Tricks

I’ve been a faithful user of Ableton Live since version 3, and have had the pleasure of watching its features evolve over the years. During my learning process, I have picked up various tips, tricks and ideas which have helped me evolve into the live laptop musician that I am today.

As I discovered each one of these ideas, my workflow increased quite significantly, so my hope is that you can at least discover one thing in this guide that will spark something similar.

I will update this guide as frequently as I can, hopefully one a day for the next 10 days. Once completed, it will be available for download as a PDF with images and all the fancy bits.

The reason I opted to publish these one by one, is so that I can gather feedback from you and other users in the comments section, so that they can be included in the final PDF document, as I am sure there is always something I have missed.

So, if you find something new in these tutorials please feel free to post the link around to others who might benefit also. If you already know some of these techniques, I encourage you to elaborate deeper in the comments section so the final free product can be as useful as possible.

I look forward to see how this project goes!

Ten Essential Ableton Live Tips & Tricks

1. Follow Actions

A quick and easy way to automate what happens when a clip finishes playing so you can shift your focus away from the mundane task of constantly triggering clips, and moving on to something more creative.

2. Send Channels

Using send/return channels to group specific effects that can be accessable to any track that is playing audio, saving CPU power and using effects in new interesting way.

3. Modulation

Programming parameters of effects so they move themselves along with the audio, freeing up valuable time and allowing the same clip to have many different styles of playing.

4. The Stop Button   

Adding and removing the stop button on blank clips, not only to help with the progression through the tune but also to create special scenes that can be used to stop groups of clips at your command.

5. Routing Audio

Using empty audio channels to group together similar audio tracks, so effects can be applied to specific sounds (all of the percussion etc.) rather than individual tracks, cutting down CPU and opening up new doors for effect automation such as dummy clips.

6. Advanced Quantization

Utilizing Ableton’s various methods of Quantizing clips, and notes within the piano roll, allowing real time recording of MIDI clips as well as qantizing loops outside of the global settings.

7. Audio Racks

Chaining up various effects and assigning parameters to Macro knobs to create custom built machines that create outside the square effects

8. Audio Racks within Audio Racks

Stacking chains of effects within chains of effects to create an infinite amount of possible machines that can do some very interesting functions

9. Dummy Clips

Using Dummy Clips to create audio-less loops that modulate effects in sync with the music, so you can create a pool of handy automation clips ready to mash up your sound

10. Assigning MIDI and Keys

Attaching key commands and MIDI controls to various aspects of Ableton Live, so you can utilize all the previous tips without looking like you are emailing your mum on stage.

11. Bonus!!??

Have I missed anything important? Leave a comment in the comments section below and we will put those ideas here.


Silly Face Competition

I've been wanting to try this idea out for a while, and I am pretty happy with how it turned out!

This is the view I had from up on the stage at the AOE After Party, LOOOOOOOOOOOSE huh?

There will be a few prizes for the best faces in a few categories announced soon, but you gotta make sure your face is tagged on facebook (click here to visit the photo). Make sure I'm your friend as well!

Thanks to Tony from Ecodigitography for taking such an excellent photo.


 click for a bigger image


Why all my music is free

I treat music as a form of communication that completely overpowers that of any other kind of human interaction, and here’s how I have come to that conclusion.

The appreciation of music (or any art) is a human trait that still has a lot to be discovered, and I can see a lot of producers/artists learning more and more about why we have this appreciation, and leaving the old way of producing music for the popular market, or tying to get that "big hit" behind.

Creating music that moves people is a form of communication that is so special and needs to be explored in depth as soon as possible. I treat my kind of music and knowledge as something that should be available to anyone at anytime, not just those people who have the money or the technical ability to steal it. I constantly evolve and better my sound (and promotion) due to all the feedback I get (including yours).

Our perception of the outside world is completely restricted to what our senses are capable of picking up, and for this spiel I am going to use sound as an example. Forgive me if I explain this out too much, I’m not trying to sound patronizing, I just want to make sure you know exactly where I am coming from as it’s a touchy area.

Our audio sense can pick up a certain band of frequencies (very small on the scale of things, which could very well be infinite) … for instance let's take the sound of a baby you know (or are the parent of) laughing. The baby is in a positive state. It has all the resources it needs in order for its mind to conclude that it is happy, and that physically displaying this state for others to observe is required.

The baby's brain uses energy to expel a force of air from the lungs, which passes through the voice box and facial cavities to produce a tone, which is constantly being manipulated as the brain keeps track of everything and decides how the sound should be shaped next . The combination of all these mechanisms result in a particular waveform or vibration leaving the baby’s mouth and disturbing the air particles that lay outside.

The particles vibrate until they reach your ear where it converts to energy, then this energy is fired down the cochlear nerve into the cerebral cortex, which then sets of a chain of amazing reactions, ultimately resulting in your brain coming to the conclusion that this particular set of information your sense is receiving means that an organism you care about (or have a genetic attachment to) is in one of the best possible physical and mental states that nature currently allows (hopefully) putting a big smile on your dial as well (which the baby most likely sees and learns from, but that's getting onto another topic all together) . This is a very strong and clear communication link between the baby, who hasn’t even learnt a single world yet, and the person at the other end. I think that link is something that should remain as sterile and pure as possible.

This is the same sort of mindset I have when I am creating my music. I have an idea/feeling/emotion in my head that I want to communicate, but have absolutely no possible way to do so with conventional language. I sit there for countless hours crafting a particular sound using the knowledge of synthesis and mathematics I have learnt over the years, to hit that particular spot in my head that triggers something. It may be something simple like anger, or love, or lust… but often it is something that I have no idea how to explain and have never felt before.

I believe these strange feelings and trance like states we can get into with music, are tapping into emotions and feelings which were necessary when our bodies were evolving, so they became hardwired into our genes, but as soon as that first human recognized its mate as being another self thinking human, information started to share, consciousness became collective, sparking up a new way of life, evolving culturally to what it is today. This drastically eradicated the need for many of these states/emotions/feelings that were necessary in our race for survival (apologies if you are a creationist, actually – no I’m not).

I'm just at the very tip of the iceberg here, and I'm not nearly as qualified in psychology/philosophy/science as I would like to be, but isn't it so blatantly obvious that associating this kind of creative process, and direct communication between cognitive human minds, with the dollar symbol……marketing…..hierarchical institutions…royalties etc, is going to distort this link? We're talking direct manipulation of someone's state of mind here… people don't put up their cheater detection/bullshit filtering systems up when they let music into their head… they open up with complete trust in whoever is providing them with the information, but when the drivers of this start getting the power rush of money (combined with other benefits of being a popular artist) it starts going in strange directions, and the punters follow.

I know this is just a form of evolving, and who I am I to say what direction it should go in, evolution doesn’t necessarily mean it has to go in a positive direction (Again defined by us!?), but I know what direction I would like to see happen.

If the process of funding music and artists was swapped around from listen > pay > enjoy > get hooked to listen > enjoy > get hooked > pay, I think this would be a huge step forward with a little amount of effort, and I this is what I am trying to achieve. Yes of course I will gain some promotion from trying to instigate something like this, but overall I think if everyone laid their cards down on the table, all knowledge and music was open there would be huge gaps opening up in the technological advancement of music, increasing the demand for developers, thinkers and new interesting tools.

So, this is why I don’t sell my music. There is the odd occasion where I will sell USB keys, DVDs or CDs, but the profit of these just covers production/shipping/time involved costs and is for people who are technically challenged and just want a physical product, you will always be able to fund my creations (and how I made them) available for free directly from the source.


Free Psy, Minimal, Techno and Electro Ringtones

Feel free to download these ringtones to your mp3 capable mobile device. The are all seamless loops.



Moving from the studio to live laptop performance


My Method Of Creating Glitchy Techy Fat Basslines

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