Remixing Tips in Ableton Live: Part 4

In Part 4 (the final part) of our remixing tips for Ableton Live series, Noah Pred investigates using the Grove Pool and the extremely useful new features in Live 9.5's Simpler.  

So far we've looked at a range of techniques for remixing in Live, including non-destructive Clip Modulation envelopes, MIDI Conversion, and Arrangement view editing. In this final instalment, we'll look at the Groove Pool, and some enticing new features in Live 9.5's revamped Simpler.



With the latest free update to Live, Ableton introduced a major upgrade to what's arguably the program's core device: Simpler. As the primary sampling instrument included with all versions of Live, Simpler was originally intended as the most basic sort of re-pitching sampler with a stripped-down complement of filter and modulation options. Simpler's 9.5 revision sees the implementation of 1-Shot and Slice modes, along with a clever implementation of the Live's Warp engine for time-stretched sample playback at all notes and pitches.

The new Simpler's default mode, selectable along the left of the device, is set to Classic—using the same re-pitching and looping as the old Simpler. It's also the only mode that features looping, so if you intend to turn your samples into oscillators or sustained tones, this is the mode to use. Beyond the deservedly hyped new filter modes, there's not much new here—aside from the Warp mode.

Toggling Warp on in the lower right area of Simpler's Sample view, you can select from the same six warp modes as audio clips, and adjust their corresponding settings just to the left of the Warp toggle. With warp engaged, the sample will now play back in time with the Global Tempo regardless of which note I use to trigger it—allowing me to make synchronized chords with melodic sounds (so long as 2 or more Voices are selected), or do crazy pitched beat edits with drum loops and other percussive material. 

Pic 1: Classic mode with Warping engaged.

Pic 1: Classic mode with Warping engaged.


PRO-TIP: Use the Classic mode for atmospheric pads and Granular style re-synthesis by engaging the Loop with a reasonably short Length, and adjusting Fade to taste if Warping is off; record a note or chord, then adjust or automate the Start point parameter to scroll through looping segments of the source material.

The monophonic 1-Shot mode is useful for sampled phrases or drum hits that don't require any looping. In the default Trigger mode, the entire selected playback area will be played whenever a note is triggered, regardless how long the note is held. Alternatively, Gate mode—selectable at bottom left of the Sample view area—will only trigger the sample for precisely the duration the note is held. Warping is also available in 1-Shot mode.

Pic 2: 1-Shot Gate mode with Warping off.

Pic 2: 1-Shot Gate mode with Warping off.


PRO-TIP: Right-click on the Sample waveform in Simpler to access context-menu commands such as Normalize Volume, Reverse, Crop, and sample management.

Slicing & Dicing

Slice mode is where Simpler's update really shines. Designed to integrate seamlessly with Ableton's new Push 2 controller instrument, Slice mode still works great even without the hardware.

Putting long and somewhat noodley 91-bar lead line into Simpler, I can now trigger different segments of the sample via MIDI-note directly within the single Simpler instance. The Trigger and Gate modes work identically as in 1-Shot mode, with three playback modes available: the default Mono mode, a Poly mode that allows for different Slices to be played back and overlapped simultaneously, and a Thru mode that lets Slices triggered earlier continue to play through Slices triggered later. Warp mode is useful to keep playback synchronized if you plan to change the Global Tempo.

PRO-TIP: There's no Amplitude Envelope available for 1-Shot or Slice modes, but you can use the Fade In and Fade Out dials in the lower-right of the device to smooth onset and release as needed.

Perhaps the most useful feature of the Slice mode is the freely adjustable Sensitivity control which determines the number of Slices: the higher the value, the more Slices you get. This is extremely handy for intuitively dialling in the right amount of segments for whatever kind of playback you're looking for.

Pic 3: Slicing with Polyphonic playback and Warping engaged.

Pic 3: Slicing with Polyphonic playback and Warping engaged.


In contrast to the Slice to MIDI function discussed in our previous instalment, there's no guesswork required with regard to slicing intervals, durations, and the like—you can simply tweak the Sensitivity value 'til you've got it just right. Better yet, adjusting the Sensitivity in Simpler works as a perfect precursor to Slicing to MIDI, since you can now do just that from the new Simpler by right- or control-clicking the Sampler display waveform in Slice mode and selecting either “Slice to Drum Rack” to instantly convert the Simpler device to a Drum Rack on the same track with Slices at the Sensitivity-specified intervals, or “Slice to New MIDI Track” if you want the same sliced Drum Rack available on a new track while retaining the current Simpler device alongside it. Naturally, slicing to a Drum Rack affords discrete per-slice effects and other benefits examined previously.

It would be a disservice not to briefly explain the new filters included in Simpler, as they afford a new depth of sound-shaping capabilities for remixers and producers alike. Five new modes provide a range of filter circuits modelled on classic analog tools, each with 12- and 24-pole slopes. A new Drive control is available with each model except for Clean, allowing a heavy burst of punch and harmonic attitude where needed. Along with classic Low, High, Band, and Notch filters, there's a Morphing filter available for drastic tonal changes with the Clean and OSR circuits (at the expense of the Drive control)—and with self-oscillating Resonance values up to 125%, there's a new level of sonic mangling right there in Simpler.

Groove Is In The Pool

Now that we've got a few enhanced ways to manipulate audio source material, what about capturing the ineffable rhythmic feel of the original—the way it swings or shuffles? Luckily, that's just what Live's Groove Pool is designed to do. 

Looking at the sample detail of an audio clip—preferably one with plenty of transients, such as a full drum loop—you can sort of see where certain hits might be early or late. Right- or control-clicking the waveform, you can select Extract Groove(s) from the context menu to store the rhythmic feel of that clip in the Groove pool. Alternatively, you can drag a clip directly to the Groove Pool to place its Groove there.

Pic 4: Extracting a groove.

Pic 4: Extracting a groove.


Now that we have it available in the Groove Pool—viewable by clicking the two wavy lines at the bottom left of the Browser—we can apply it to any other clip in our set by selecting it from the clip's Groove drop-down menu, which displays all Grooves currently residing in the project's Groove Pool.

Pic 5: Applying a Groove.

Pic 5: Applying a Groove.


Within the Groove Pool, five controls help control the timing translation. Base determines which notes will be adjusted: 1/4, 1/8, 1/8 triplet, 1/16, 1/16 triplet, or 1/32 notes. Quantize is useful when the clips being grooved aren't quantized yet; you can quantize them to the Base interval selected by a percentage adjustable here. Timing determines the strength of the adjustments applied, corresponding to the Global Groove amount—available only once a Groove is in the Pool—located to the right of the Global Time Signature in the upper Tempo transport area. Random allows for a corresponding amount of global fluctuation, useful for a degree of “humanization”, while Velocity determines how much of the Groove's velocity is applied to clips at positive values, or inversely at negative values.

PRO-TIP: A Groove can be applied to multiple clips simultaneously by selecting the desired clips together and applying the same Groove to all of them in the multi-clip detail view.

Even if you go a completely different musical direction from the original, the Groove Pool allows you to imbue your remix with the same timing impulse—or a cleverly adjusted version of it.

Remixing Life

Armed with Live's new Simpler device and the Groove Pool—along with the Clip and Warp Editing, Modulation Envelopes, Arrangement Editing, MIDI Slicing and Conversion that we've examined already—you should be ready to approach your latest remix project with a wealth of tools to keep you inspired even when the source material doesn't. Factor in the manipulation possible with Live's myriad effects and routing, and a universe of remix potential is just a few clicks away.

Want more Ableton Live tips, tricks and tutorials? Check out our Video tutorials here.


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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