In this tutorial, using only devices native to Ableton Live, we are going to be learning two methods of building customizable multi-staged band pass filtering systems that give us a phenomenal level of control over any sound.
I personally use these systems for advanced side chaining. That is when I want to side chain only the sub and low level frequencies of a complicated wave form while leaving the mid to high frequencies unaffected by the compressor.
Some of you might already be saying, multi-band? Compressor? Side Chain? Why not just use the Multiband Dynamics device?
Well, although that is a multiband compressor, it isn’t capable of side chaining only the low end frequencies or adding saturation to the mid frequencies alone. You still need to side chain or add saturation to everything or nothing that is sent through it. It can, of course, compress up to 3 bands of an audio signal differently which is awesome, but we can make it better!
As it turns out we can use Multiband Dynamics to do it we just need to use three of them to get a 3-band system!
We can also use the EQ8 if we want more than 3 bands and that will be demonstrated in the second half of this article.
Method One: Multiband Dynamics
This method is slightly more transparent than that of the EQ 8 method that will be shown later. If you only need 2 or 3 bands, this is the method I recommend. However, if you are looking to use 4–8 bands, the EQ 8 method is for you.
Drop an instance of Multiband Dynamics onto a track and solo the High Band. Then right-click the title bar and group the instrument.
Now expand the Macro Knobs & Chains panels of the Effect Rack that was created when grouping the device. They can be found on the left-hand side of the rack itself, under the on / off button.
Rename the chain to something along the lines of High Band. Then right-click the Frequency parameter of the HIGH band on the Multiband Dynamics and select Map to Macro 1. The macro knob’s name will auto update to Mid-High Crossover, which is perfect for our purposes.
If you send a sound through the rack at this point you should only hear the frequencies above 2.50 kHz. Success! 1 band down and two to go.
Next, in the Chain section of the Effect Rack where it says “Drop Audio Effects Here” add a second Multiband Dynamics.
For the new instance of Multiband Dynamics, solo the Mid section, but again map the HIGH frequency parameter to the same macro as the last time. Now when you move the Mid-High Crossover macro knob, the low shelf of the High Band filter and the high shelf of the Mid Band filter will move together at the crossover point.
Now, add one last instance of Multiband Dynamics to the Chain section of the Effect Rack and rename it Low Band. Make sure to solo the Low section of the device. Then Map the LOW frequency parameter to Macro 2. The knob’s title will rename to Low-Mid Crossover.
At this point we need to jump back to the Mid Band chain and map the Low frequency parameter to the newly formed Low-Mid Crossover macro knob.
The last thing we need to do before saving this as a preset is moving the two macros knobs to good starting positions. Using the default Multiband Dynamics as a reference, we might set the Mid-High Crossover at 2.50 kHz (click the macro’s parameter value and type 2500) and the Low-Mid Crossover at 120 Hz (click the macro’s parameter value and type 120).
*Note that the overall gain is slightly boosted do to the added frequency levels at the crossover points.
This is a great place to save the rack as a preset. Click the floppy disc icon in the rack’s title bar and name your rack. Something along the lines of 3-band pass filter MD (for multiband dynamics).
Putting the system to use
Now that we have the preset, let me show you a good way to use it.
Imagine you have a full bass sample with sub, mid and high frequencies coursing through its core. You want to side chain that sub and a bit of the lower mids while letting that raspy & crisp mid to high end flow over your kicks and snares. Have no fear!
You can do one of two things. You can drop a compressor on the Low Band chain of the new rack or you can use the side chain functionality of the Low Band’s multiband dynamics.
Here I will show you the first method.
Select the Low Band chain and drop an instance of Live’s compressor device to the right of the Multiband Dynamics. Expand the side chain panel and select the kick & snare group or channel, then dial in your side chaining preferences.
Now when you play your track the sub end, or anything below the Low-Mid Crossover will be side chained while everything above that point won’t be.
You can even go further and add a bit of saturation to the Mid Band and maybe some stereo width to the High Band. The possibilities are numerous.
Method Two: EQ 8
Using the EQ 8 method has a slight advantage over that of the Multiband Dynamics method and that is you can have more than three bands. I will show you how to make a 4 band system, but you can get up to eight by following the same steps.
Drop an empty Effect Rack onto a channel. Then add an EQ 8. Turn off all but 2 filters. Make filter one a low cut x 4 and filter two a high cut x 4. These filter types are as close to brick walls as we can get with Live’s EQ 8 and that will factor into the rack’s transparency later on.
What we have done is made a band pass filter. The reason we have done this is because we want full control over the low and high ends independently. Now, to save time, we want to duplicate the chain 3 times, so we have a total of 4. It is a good idea to label them. Copy these names to make the next part of the tutorial easier to follow: Low, Low/Mid, Mid/High, High.
Now we need to map the Freq parameters of each active instance of the EQ8’s filters to the correct macro knobs.
Map the Freq parameters as follows
- Chain: Low
- Freq 1 -> Macro 1
- Freq 2 -> Macro 2
- Chain: Low/Mid
- Freq 1 -> Macro 2
- Freq 2 -> Macro 3
- Chain: Mid/High
- Freq 1 -> Macro 3
- Freq 2 -> Macro 4
- Chain: High
- Freq 1 -> Macro 4
- Freq 2 -> Macro 5 (if you didn’t deactivate it earlier)
Now go to the macro knobs and input the frequency crossover points to these starting points.
- Macro 1 -> 30 Hz
- Macro 2 -> 140 Hz
- Macro 3 -> 2.0 kHz
- Macro 4 -> 10.0 kHz
Now if you click on each of the chains one after the other, you should see the 4 bands all spread out covering the full width (spectrum) of the EQ 8. Here they are superimposed.
As you can see there are frequencies that are getting left out, about -2 to -3 dB, above the crossover point and a few more than that are being doubled below the crossover point. You can hear the difference if you A B the rack by turning it on and off while audio is being passed through it.
The overall volume will be increased due to the doubling, and a slight dip in the frequencies at the crossover points, but other than that there really is too much being altered by the rack itself. Nonetheless it is important to keep such things in mind when utilizing this tool.
The last thing to do is rename the macros and save the preset.
I have chosen the following names:
- Macro 1 -> Low Cut
- Macro 2 -> Low/Mid Cross
- Macro 3 -> Mid/Mid Cross
- Macro 4 -> High/Mid Cross