The Official KSAND Kent Sandvik Web Site

Producer, guitar player, composer and maker of noise.

Production DJ Mixing with Ableton

Posted on | October 19, 2006 | No Comments

takeout_bus.jpgOk, let’s talk more about doing the ‘production style’ Ableton Live session work.

If you have songs, it’s good to chop things into specific sections for easy mapping. The most natural ones are to find places with just drums, ending, beginning, no keys, so those could be used as the backbone for any new remixes when playing Ableton live. The other natural clips are any acapellas or clips with no drums (those empty buildups in many dance tracks). So now when you have clips with just drums, and clips with just instruments, you could mix together two totally different songs, assuming the BPMs variations would not cause problems. I even have separate colors for these now, as colors are quicker to see than text strings mentioning the clip style. Anyway, it’s VERY IMPORTANT that you could clearly see in the clip what it’s about, so you need a system to mark up clips for reuse later.

Secondly, you could make clips with just the bass and drum section. Using complex warp mode you could change the pitch of such things and map them with any other clips with keys. Small changes are fine, let’s say D and D#, or C and A. With wider changes things start to sound strange, so you need to think about chromatic mixing. That’s another story and requires some musical background to learn what fits together, and what not.

A big problem is to add together too many layers of musical material, so it sounds like a big Eno soundscape with drums behind — this is where taste is important, and layering of clips where there’s a dominant part, and supporting parts, is important.

You could also use the EQ to block out the low end for certain clips to just get the high-end, pads, or hihats, and let other clips take care of the low end.

If you are really good, you could use very long loops, 32 bars or so, it’s easier to get all this to work reliably with short loops, so it’s good to start this way.

When you play track live, put aside such clips you would like to use later in the show, place into a dedicated other audio track (I have two, drums and Misc where misc has non-drum loops). Then, any time you wish, you could trigger these loops later.

If you are really, really good, you could even change the loop length for any saved loops and reuse them this way, or put the starting point somewhere else than in the beginning of the loop, and this way make variations. Or, you could trigger the same loop over and over again for rapid loop styles.

It’s also sometimes fascinating to start the song with the ending of a track, and then continue, or mix-and-match sections of the song out of order, let’s say start with the first buildup, empty section, jump to the end drumming, then start with the first verse. This while you use other clips underneath from other songs.

Also, for buildups, it’s good to use the levels to introduce clips instead of starting them immediately. Same with fading them out rather than stopping immediately.

One big key is to train your memory to remember songs and clips in your head, the more you kind of remember the character of a song, the easier it will be.

The warping must be perfect, otherwise mushing will easily happen.

I must say, all this is still a big experimentation for me, myself. I’m learning every day something new about having a pool of clips and doing remixes on the fly. But it’s fun.


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