The clip envelopes in Ableton contain great power – here’s how to use them…
Live’s unique interface is loaded with flexible tools. The session view allows for live construction of tracks unlike any other DAW, providing electronic musicians with the ability to jam and perform with their music.
The clip envelopes are one of the most powerful tools in Live’s armoury, however. These allow you to automate just about any parameter of a clip’s channel, including any of its effects or plug-in parameters. These envelopes are best thought of as automation settings that are localised to individual clips. So, when you trigger a clip it will run all of the automation contained within the envelope.
When used in conjunction with scenes, this means you can easily create variations when building an arrangement.
So, they’re powerful tools- but how would you use envelopes in Ableton?
It’s all about variation…
Here we’ll be using envelopes to control the Beat Repeat effect used on a drum loop. This will add several glitchy variations to the original loop.
1. Select a drum loop audio clip and drop it into a cell in the session window.
3. Drop a Beat Repeat effect into the channel. 4. We tweaked the settings of the Beat Repeat before we started. I wont go into too much detail, but here’s a snapshot of what the settings looked like.
5. Double click to uppermost clip to open up its editable parameters.
6. At the bottom of the ‘clip’ section of the parameters, you’ll see three circular buttons- one labelled ‘L’, the next with a wave symbol, on the rightmost with an ‘E’. This selects which clip parameters you can see. Click the ‘E’ (it should go yellow) to open the envelope settings. An Envelope parameters box will open to the right.
7. At the upper left of this box, you’ll find two drop down menus. The first selects the device whose parameters you wish to automate- clicking it will reveal every plug-in and effect on the channel, plus channel parameters, too. Select Beat Repeat.
8. On the first clip, we don’t want any repeating effects. Click the lower drop-down menu, and select ‘chance’ from the options. A red line will appear over the image of the wave. This is the current chance setting. Click on this line towards the left then towards the left, then drag it to the bottom to set the ‘chance’ to zero.
9. Double click the next clip down, and open the envelope settings for this clip. Once again, select the beat repeat from the drop-down menu. Select the ‘chance’ parameter to 100% (all the way to the top) by clicking the red line in the same way.
10. Double click the next clip, and once again set the chance control to 100%. Now, select the ‘grid’ control from the parameter drop down. By clicking at different points on the red line, you can insert ‘nodes’. By moving these nodes, you can create curves, slopes and sweeps. Experiment by putting your own ‘grid’ curve on this clip.
11. Repeat this with different envelope settings on the fourth clip. Experiment with different parameters.
By playing the track, and trigger the different clips. The beat repeat adds variation to each one- invaluable to putting a track together. To demonstrate, I’ve put together a very simple arrangement using these drum clips.
You can download these below….
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.