Adding stutter and beat edits to your live performance is a great way to add interest and differentiation to the way your audience hears and tunes into the performance. iZotope’s Stutter Edit is a great tool to use to incorporate these techniques. This plug-in, designed by electronic virtuoso producer BT, is at its most useful when used in a live context. Different stutter maps can be assigned to individual keys on your MIDI keyboard controller, which allows for easy switching between the stutter presets. I am going to show you how to use Stutter Edit in Ableton for live performances.
Step 1 - How to Set It Up in Ableton
In Ableton Live I usually break up my audio tracks into different stems or audio parts. In my project, I have broken up the audio into Drums, Bass, Leads, and Synths. By breaking the audio up into different groups/stems as opposed to one stereo file allows you more flexibility with your performance and Stutter Edit.
Drag a Stutter Edit plug-in onto each audio track. Now create four MIDI tracks (Command-Shift-T). On the MIDI Tracks under "MIDI From" select "All Ins", and under Monitor select "In". Under "MIDI To" select the respective name of the audio track. I have named my MIDI tracks with the preceding SE to stand for Stutter Edit, then followed by the Audio Track name (so for example my MIDI tracks are called SE Drums, SE Bass, etc.) This will help for easy navigation in the Ableton project, so you don’t get confused between the audio and MIDI tracks.
This now allows the MIDI on the Stutter Edit MIDI Track to be routed and heard on the respective audio tracks.
Step 2 - Making Your Own Preset Bank
The next step is to build up a preset bank with your favorite presets so that you can easily jump between them via MIDI keystrokes. I am not going to go into detail on how to program presets in Stutter Edit. I recommend you to take a look at Bill Burgess’s excellent video tutorial, which explains all the parameters on the plug-in:
Let’s create a new Preset folder. This is how we go about doing it.
Click on the Preset Manager button to bring up the Preset window.
Click on the Empty preset, then click Save As New. This will create a new blank preset that you can rename. Now create a New Folder, by clicking on New Folder. You can now drag the preset we just created and renamed into this folder.
Browse through some of the other presets and see which ones you like. When you find one, right-click on it and choose Copy.
Navigate to an empty slot in your Preset folder and choose Paste. See how you can build up a preset bank with your favorite presets.
In live performances, it is best to stick to a few stutter edit presets that you really know well. It's all too easy to jump through tons of different presets, the danger is that you can determent your live performance this way. The ‘Less is more’ is always a good approach to have.
Make sure to check how the Mod Wheel alters each preset. The Mod Wheel can be used to drastically alter some of these presets. So be sure to test each preset out and what effect the Mod Wheel has on each preset.
What you may not have been aware of is that the Pitch Wheel acts as a Cutoff Filter. So between the Pitch Wheel, Mod Wheel and the MIDI keystrokes (with different Stutter Edit presets assigned) you have much to choose from for live sonic manipulation.
Step 3 - Key Map Some Other Parameters
What also helps to make the Ableton project more manageable is to map the Solo Buttons on the tracks to either buttons on a controller or keys on your QWERTY keyboard so that you can:
- Easily Solo or Mute Audio Tracks.
- Easily Solo or Mute the Respective MIDI tracks, there for enabling which track get the Stutter Edit processing.
For example, you could stutter edit all the tracks as a whole by having all the MIDI tracks active, or you can only have the MIDI Drum track active so that only the drums get processed by the Stutter Edit plug-in.
I have used the Key Map and have mapped the audio tracks and MIDI tracks to numbers on my Numeric Keypad on my QWERTY keyboard. So between my Mac keyboard and Keyboard MIDI controller, I can take full control of the live performance with Stutter Edit.
Now play back your Ableton projects and start stutter editing your audio. Solo different MIDI tracks to effect only a few of the tracks. Jump between the different QWERTY keys for differing Stutter Edit presets, alter these presets via the Mod Wheel, and add filter cutoff sections to areas on the arrangement/performance.
Step 4 - Other Uses for Stutter Edit
Once you are happy with this setup, you can delve deeper into Stutter Edit and start creating your own custom presets that will suit your live performance.
When you start getting into creating your own presets, I definitely recommend looking into the noise generator. This is a nice tool that can help introduce some noise build up into your live performances. For example, you could drop out your bass, synths and lead and have a noise generator build up with the drums, and then get everything to kick back in when the noise generator reaches its peak.
Once you start dabbling with these our settings in Stutter Edit, you will see how this plug-in can really add to your performances.
Stutter Edit is an amazing effect that can be used to great extent in a live context. The plug-in allows you to add the sense of randomization into your performances but to a point where you still have control over this. I would definitely recommend taking the time to learn the interface and the inner working of the plug-in. The more you learn the more you will incorporate the features into your live performances.
For further information on Stutter Edit and Ableton take a look at the following tutorials: