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Producer, guitar player, composer and maker of noise.

More About Transitions and Ableton Live

Posted on | December 28, 2007 | 1 Comment

I just finished another BioWaves episode (010) using Ableton Live and I used a couple of non-standard transitions that I thought would be fun talking about.

To start with, BioWaves the podcast is not done live, of many reasons. I’m always running out of time to get the episodes done, there’s a lot of work, selecting tracks, doing artwork, finding urls to the tracks (sometimes that takes a while as the MP3 files or web sites don’t have enough information.) There has been many cases where I’ve pulled out one track and added a new one, a day before release. There’s a certain pattern I try to keep concerning track selections (more later.) And I try to play each track three or four minutes without any editing. To do the actual episode live would just add another level of complexity. Anyway, I will mention how these techniques could be done in a real live situation, and if I play live, I indeed play live, no cheating there. Anyway, enough excuses.

The first one was to just suddenly stop one track and keep the other one up, in other words no what-so-ever fade-outs. This is a very dramatic and cool effect, especially if the ending is a big reverb washout or something that ends with a big band. To do this in a live situation, either use a reverb on a bus and let it ring while you quickly take down the volume for that specific track — and meanwhile the other track is playing.

In my case it was just pure luck that the first track ending I’ve selected randomly had a nice washout sound, while the other track then continued happily with its beat.

bm_down_transition.pngThe second technique has to do with how to handle very dramatic BPM changes. In my case it seems I have nailed down a certain pattern on the one hour shows where there’s a build-up to the 50th minute. From that forward I want to take the pace down, play various chill and otherwise non-standard dance music tracks, and those are usually down to 110BPM or below. While the build-up was up to 130BPM or higher.

What to do? Well, my standard trick is to take down the bpm levels as part of the ending track where there are no drums, and hopefully no fast patterns such as arpeggiators. Slow melodies are the best. By taking down the BPM levels — sometimes even 20 BPM or more — few would notice it. If there’s still something unnerving about that dramatic BPM drop, I could add in ping-pong delay och a big reverb effect that further masks out the big drop.

You could also easily do this in a live situation, just find the right spot. If you don’t have one handy, make a loop or a clip with something that could be used to taking down the BPM levels and loop this around.

Which leads to the third trick I use from time to time. I really want certain tracks to play together. Usually it’s easy, but there are always some problem loop_transition.pngcases. The trick I use in those cases is to make a short four-bar or so loop of the ending track, and let this one loop for a while. Meanwhile I fade out this track and let the other come in, either via a filter, or just by plain volume fade outs/ins. By finding a good loop point that works across the whole fade makes this much better. This is especially useful for tracks with very complicated endings, and where you even can’t fade out/in as it starts to suddenly sound strange at some section.

Again, in a live situation you just loop a part, or have a handy Ableton Live clip around and use this one when fading out one track. You could also use a loop for fading in a starting track. Or loops for both cases. As you see in the picture above, I even used two very short loops for the fade in case and two longer loops for the fade-out.

I’m afraid someone might protest about all these artificial transition techniques. That’s fine. Ultimately it’s really the audience that should make any judgments  if they like the mixes or not. Actually my hidden agenda with this posting is to inspire other producers and DJs to use non-standard transitions — the fade in/out is so boring and predictable nowadays…


One Response to “More About Transitions and Ableton Live”

  1. Steven Jones
    April 30th, 2008 @ 12:31 PM

    I have only just read this post now so I apologies for the delay between posting and reply.

    I like this article and for me this is one of the reasons why I got in to Ableton live. I can use my entire hard drive of music and mix anything with anything.

    I have used the 4bar loop quite a bit before, but I like the bpm drop. I have done that before with decks by pitching up or down but I like how you re-edit the track to make it more seemless.

    Thanks for the post


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