Building Dynamic Layered Claps From Scratch In Ableton Live 9

Where would modern music, to say nothing of electronic music, be without a heavy downbeat accent on the second and fourth beats of a 4/4 bar? Noah Pred shows how to create stacked claps in Live 9.  

While the classic synthetic drum machine snares and claps may suffice for harder techno, those looking for a more organic feel might be well served by looser, live-feeling clap sounds. Using Live's racks, you can create your own stacked claps from scratch, imbuing your drums with a newfound sense of vitality.

The Clapper

To start, we'll record ourselves clapping into a track in Live. If you have a nice mic plugged in, that's great, but you can even use your built-in computer input. Arm an Audio track in Live for recording, and record yourself clapping a few times—since you might want to choose your favorite instance. Once that's done, you'll have a nice little audio clip to work with.

The sound of two hands clapping.

The sound of two hands clapping.


Now we'll navigate to the device browser and add an empty Simpler instance to a new track. Where the Simpler suggestively implores us to “Drop Sample Here” is where we'll drag the clapping clip from our audio track so we can edit it in the Simpler.

Ready for editing.

Ready for editing.

Clap on the Beat

In order to hear what we're working on in a proper context, we'll make a basic MIDI clip on our Simpler track with the default root note, typically C3, written in with quarter notes on the second and fourth beats.

Get up for the downstroke.

Get up for the downstroke.  

Creating the Basic Clap

This first clap will form the foundation of the subsequent clap stacks that will join it soon enough. If you've triggered your MIDI clip but can't hear the clap being triggered, that's probably because you have to adjust the start point play marker in the Simpler waveform view to make sure the sound is being triggered almost instantaneously.

PRO-TIP: Click and drag up or down on the Simpler waveform view to zoom in or out, respectively. 

Now we'll want to bring the Sustain and Release times for the Volume Envelope all the way to their minimum values and increase the Decay amount. We'll also switch to a 12-pole High Pass filter with Resonance turned up just a bit.

Rack Up

Now we'll select the Simpler and hit Command-G to Group it to an Instrument Rack. We can now right-click on the Decay and map it to Macro 1, then right-click the Filter Cutoff and map that to Macro 2. These mappings are important because they'll be copied to our duplicated layers which is very useful, as you'll see later.

Motion Dive

At this point we'll activate the LFO on our Simpler, turning off the Retrigger function, and slowing the Frequency down to somewhere around 0.20–0.30 Hz. We'll now apply the LFO to the Transposition amount so that it changes the Pitch over time. We can also now increase the Random Pan amount to anywhere from 20–40%.

Stack Array

What we have so far is maybe intriguing, but not anywhere near the end result. If we go to the Chain view of the Rack, we'll now want to select the first and only chain, and hit Command-D to duplicate it. Before going further, we'll rename them both so as to allow for differentiation.

Our clap stack is beginning to take shape.

Our clap stack is beginning to take shape.

From here on out, this is the key: make adjustments to the Simpler of each new duplicated clap instance. In this first one, we'll lower the default transposition to -5, increase the LFO frequency and LFO amount, and reduce the panning randomization. We'll also move the start point of the sample back just a nudge in the waveform view area to give this second clap a bit of a late feel.

PRO-TIP: Experiment with the Spread control, Filter, and Pitch envelopes to give certain layers a bit of added character.

We'll duplicate this second clap chain again now, once again adjusting the transposition, LFO frequency and transposition amount, as well as the panning randomization. What's crucial on this third layer is that I've moved the transposition up to +2 to further differentiate it from our previous clap layers; I've also adjusted the start time once again. 

In standard “rinse and repeat” fashion, we'll continue this process of duplicating clap chains in the rack, adjusting the parameters further from our existing layers with each new chain until we've got six or seven clap layers stacked up in our rack.

Six layer dip.

Six layer dip.

PRO-TIP: If you want to retain control of each layer's panning, leave the pan randomization off and use the Simpler's panning or that of the Rack chain mixer to determine the stereo placement of each clap layer.

Paddy Cake

Now that the claps are layered and dynamically shifting according to a few key parameters while also differentiated from one another by fundamental transposition and start time, you should be hearing a fairly “live”, organic and wide clap sound—almost as if there were as many people clapping as you have chains in your rack, with each clap from each person slightly different than the last.

At this point, we can adjust those Decay and Filter Macros that we had assigned earlier to taste—and which now conveniently control all of our duplicated layers, since the Macro assignments were duplicated as well—and also sweeten our clap sound with a few more devices: adding a Dynamic Tube and a Saturator set to a Sinoid Fold can really fatten things up, but feel free to experiment with the Glue Compressor, different Reverbs, or whatever you think might suit your ideal clap rack.

PRO-TIP: If you want to change a parameter on one of the Simpler instances and have that parameter change take effect on all the other Simplers in the rack, right-click and select “Copy Value to Siblings” from the context menu that appears.

 Now we can select the Instrument Rack along with those additional devices and hit Command-G once again to group them to a new Instrument Rack that also includes the added devices. To be sure the Decay and Filter are accessible from the newly-created initial Macros of the parent Rack, we'll right-click each of them to assign them to the Macros of the top rack; we'll also assign the Drive of both the Dynamic Tube and the Saturator to the third Macro, and the Tone of the Dynamic Tube to my fourth Macro—both of which we'll have to set in the middle now as a default. Once again, we'll have to adjust the Decay and Filter Macro to taste, since those parameters will have been reset upon being mapped to the new rack.

Once that's all done, we'll save the new rack into the User Library by clicking the save icon and name it Megaclap Rack; now safely stored in our Library for future use, it can then be dragged into any Live set—or, better still, a pad of any Drum Rack.

Megaclap Rack, saved to the User Library and ready for duty.

Megaclap Rack, saved to the User Library and ready for duty.

Clap Attack

With just a quick recording and a bit of homework, you can have your very own squadron of loose-fitting wide-spectrum claps stacked and ready for the filthiest drum sessions. Disco, house or experimental jams can all benefit from this kind of sound design.

Noah Pred is a Canadian record producer, sound designer, technologist, DJ, and Ableton Certified Trainer living in Berlin, Germany. Releasing dozens of records and touring extensively since the '90s, he currently teaches a wide variety of techniques for stage and studio at the BIMM Institute. For more information, please visit: http://... Read More


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