Using Dummy Clips to Trigger Effects in Ableton Live

Learn how to use Dummy Clips in Ableton Live's Session View to trigger a variety of mind-bending effects. Then use these triggered clips to build interesting, non-linear, arrangements.  

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.

Dummy clips

On the LOOP track change the Audio To: DUMMY CLIP.

Audio to

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. 

Audio from: Loop

Monitor On

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:

Chorus chain

Overdrive chain

Delay chain

Redux chain

Reverb chain

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. 

Chain selector

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.

Envelope activate

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.

Chorus Chain Selector

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.

Overdrive Chain:

Overdrive Chain Selector

Delay Chain:

Delay Chain Selector

Redux Chain:

Redux Chain Selector

Reverb Chain:

Reverb Chain Selector

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.

Dummy Arrangement


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: 

Ableton Live 8 205: Live DNA!

Ableton Live 8 205: Hooked On Racks!

Ableton Live 8 303: Ableton Live 8 TNT Tips and Tricks 1

Gary Hiebner is an enthusiastic South African Sound Designer and Apple Tech Head! Gary has been involved in the South African music industry for the decade, and in this time has also been involved in the sound design and music production for many advertising agencies and media houses. Gary is a devoted Logic and Ableton user, but he al... Read More


Hi, nice tutorial. I just worked through it, and put a screenshot on my website in the article on Afloat.

I can't quite get my head around the need for two track, I can hear the same thing just playing the second one, if I change the inputs back to normal. Am I missing something? These dummy clips are copies of the audio loop aren't they?


Gary Hiebner
Hi Fran.

Thanks for posting a screenshot of the article on your website.

You are right, the routing doesn't make much difference if you change the input and outputs on the audio tracks. I have just gotten very accustomed to this form of audio routing in Ableton.

What you could also do with the two audio tracks is change the outputs to the Master and then when you start triggering the processed dummy clips you can mix the dry and wet audio tracks together for a more or less processed sound.

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