Ableton is a very interesting DAW/Sequencer. With its Arrangement and Session view, one can make use of different approaches to build up compositions. The nice things is that it doesn’t have to be in a linear approach either like other DAWs. Using the Session View you can trigger different clips to build up your arrangement. I am going to show you how you can use dummy clips to trigger different effects, and how you can use these triggered clips to build up an interesting arrangement.
Step 1 – Create The Dummy Clip
The beauty of Ableton is that with each clip you create, you can assign different envelope settings. I will show you how we can make use of these different envelopes to build up different effects with our audio, and therefore build up different arrangement ideas on the fly with Ableton. But let’s first get started with creating the dummy clips.
Make sure you are in the Session View. Create an Audio track (Command-T). Add a drum loop onto this track. Warp this loop and activate the Loop button for this sample. You can rename this Audio track ‘LOOP’
Make a duplicate of this track (Command-D) and rename this track ‘DUMMY CLIP’ (Command-R). Rename the Drum loop clip to ‘DRY’. This will be our dry clip with no effects. Now make a few copies of this region (by selecting the clip and dragging it down to the next clip while holding down Alt, or by pressing Command-D) and rename them. I have renamed mine to: CHORUS, OVERDRIVE, DELAY, REDUX and REVERB respectively. I will be applying these effects to these clips.
On the LOOP track change the Audio To: DUMMY CLIP.
On the DUMMY CLIP change the Audio From: LOOP, and make sure that the Monitor is set to In. This channel strip will now receive the audio from the LOOP channel.
Step 2 – Apply the Effects
On each clip I am going to apply an effect except for the DRY region that will have no effects. Create an Audio Rack on the DUMMY CLIP track. Then create a Chain for each of the effects mentioned above (DRY, CHORUS, OVERDRIVE, DELAY, REDUX and REVERB). On the chains, add the respective effects. These are the effects I have added and their settings:
Step 3 – Use a Chain Selector
Now time to apply the correct effect to the correlating clip. This is where the Chain Selector comes in handy. Click the Chain button on the Audio Rack to make the chain selector visible.
On the right is the MIDI numerical value from 0-127. Keep the Dry Chain set to 0. Now move each of the other chains to different values running from 1-5.
Let's move onto the clips now. Go to the Chorus clip. Double-click on it to open up the audio file view at the bottom. Make sure the Envelope editor is open by clicking on the E on the left. Under the Envelope tab make sure that the Audio Rack is chosen and that the Chain Selector is chosen on the box under that. Now you can view the chain selector and edit the parameter.
Drag the pink line up from 0 to 1. Now this clip is activating the Chorus Chain on the Audio Rack. Play the clip to test it out. You should hear the chorus effect on the loop.
Repeat the same procedure for the other clips and assigning the Envelope to the number that correlates to the effect. Listen through all the different clips to make sure they reflect the different effects.
Step 4 – Create an Arrangement in Realtime
The beauty of this is that you can now use the different dummy clips to switch between the different effects on the loop. You can record these changes and build up an interesting loop in your Ableton project.
Press record and activate different clips to see how it works. When you move over to the Arrangement view you will see that your changes between the different clips was recorded.
Here is a picture of the different audio I captured in my tests. As you can see the different clips are created from the different dummy clips.
Try these Dummy clip techniques out in your future productions when you feel that you need some extra inspiration. You might be quite amazed at the results that can be had.
For further Ableton production techniques check out the following tutorials: