How to use Ableton in a live band

Hi everybody,

this is my first post seeking help here!

I've got a band nearly ready to start performing live.
It consists of a singer, and myself on synth (and probably another guy on another synth).
 

I'm trying to configure a template in Ableton and have sort of
got an idea.
Originally i thought i'd have to open and close each live set which
would be nice, but may take too long inbetween songs.


So; much like DJing with Ableton, i'd have the setlist worth of tracks all
sitting there in the Session View.
Well, not the whole track but just the parts that i want sequenced (such
as the midi tracks for drums on one track and the midi; sent to a Tetra,for bass on another, etc...).


I'd basically go down the list and hit Scene Lauch to play the midi parts, I think?
But then you can only drop one midi clip into a slot, so how would the parts change anyway ( going from verse to chorus etc...), unless i merged all the midi parts into one, but is that possible?

1.  But then how would i change drum kits or synth patches from song to song?
2. How could i affect the singer's voice with f/x from Ableton at the same
   time?
 
I'm really having trouble figuring this one out, and it would seem that it would work smoother if i did just open and close each live set as needed, BUT what about the down time then? hmmm....
 

6 followers

dubcore 2 years ago | 0 comments

24 answers

  • Mark One
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    Hey guys, 

    I see you've covered the issues, I made a video when I first read the question but I guess I forgot to post the link... it's a bit late but I thought I may as well post it. There are some different approaches in there to add to the ones you have here. Some nice video links in this post too. Anyway here's the vid:

    Mark

    http://www.facebook.com/TheLiveLab

    2 years ago | 2 comments
  • Eppe
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    Hi! First of all, not wanting to close and open different sets in between songs is definitely a smart thought, this would take too long indeed. You want a live gig to flow and preferably not run over to your laptop and staring at the screen in between songs all the time.

    Other than that, that's a bunch of questions rolled into one with a lot of possible answers, my take on it is this:

    If the song structures (meaning the number of bars that a chorus, verse etc consists of) are 'fixed' (I don't know whether they are?), why don't you just export the fixed parts of the song to one audio track, including recording the midi drum parts and Tetra? Seems unnecessary to trigger midi parts live when they're not played live anyway. That way you can have one audio clip for each song and you don't have to worry about switching scenes on time etc. Just make one scene for each song, throw the audio file in there and you're good to go.

    Concerning switching between synth sounds that are played live and different live vocal effects: create a track for each different synth sound you want to use (if you're using midi/vst synths. If you're using actual synths live this is not an issue of course, in that case the signal can go straight from the synth to the mixing console at the venue), and key/midi-map every arm/record button to a different key/midi controller button (I don't know whether you have a midi controller). Just make sure the monitoring mode on all the tracks is set to 'Auto' (instead of 'In' or 'Off') and all the midi tracks respond to the same midi input channel. That way you can switch between synth sounds with the push of one button. Same goes for vocal effects: create an audio track with the effects you want for a specific song on it and key/midi-map it etc. You can map the synth and vocal tracks for one song to the same key/button so you only have to push one key/button to switch to the next song.

    This may be a lot of information even though I'm trying to keep it simple and am not taking other possibilities into account and don't know the specifics about your exact setup, but I hope it helps. I can imagine some things are still unclear or don't work with your specific setup, feel free to ask more questions and if you do so please be specific (are the song-structures fixed, are you using actual synths or vst synths, are you using a midi controller etc).


    Cheers!

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • dubcore
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    Hey, thanks very much for answering.

    I frigged about with it last night and came up with the following:

    Yes the song structures are fixed, and I was going to convert all the midi to audio as you suggested, but then i tried consolidating the drum and bass midi and it worked.

    So i dropped the parts in their slots & in the scene launch slot i typed the song's name and BPM and it automatically changed the BPM from scene to scene!!! ( I had no idea it could do that.  Absolutely brilliant!)

    I figured if i want a different drum rack, then it will have it's own channel (just so I don't have to change drum sounds between songs either).

    The Tetra is easy, as it can just have the one channel with all the midi, BUT is there a way i can program a patch change or will I have to do this manually?

    I will be using some VSTs too.  Razor is a bit of a concern as when it comes to loading my own created patches (fxp), they take a little bit longer to load compared to the presets.  I figured that i'll just have to be on the ball and know to load a sound in advance of the song.

    Hardware set up will be something like this (still need a couple of things):

    Scarlett 8i6 usb into Laptop.

    8i6 midi i/o into Korg R3 (will be used for own sounds and for some vsts, such as Razor, Podolski & Kairatune).

    Korg R3 midi thru into the Tetra (i'll will get another midi keyboard for playing this and/or the vsts)

    Akai apc40 (for launching/editing/glitching/fx).  Actually i'm kind of stuck here as i don't actually have it just yet, so i'm not sure where i would connect it.  Will i need to get a usb hub?

    VSTs: I think i understand what you suggested, here's how i see it.

    Have a track for each VST, and when I need to play one live, then i can quickly arm the track from the APC and play the midi keyboard?  (i'm gonna need to just figure out the routings with the apc and another midi kb once i get them).

    I'm still not sure about the vocals. 

    I know i can have the f/x rack in the vocal track, and i'm guessing i'll have to plug his microphone into my Scarlett 8i6, BUT then i'm gonna have to be careful here as i'll be mixing his vocals instead of the FOH.(?)

     

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • Eppe
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    Hi!

    About (not) exporting the fixed midi parts to audio, I would suggest to do this anyway cause it's just less of a risk: you'd have fewer vsts running which is good for cpu usage and vsts might crash and screw up the whole performance, audio can't crash ;) The fewer vsts running during a live performance the better, I'd say.

    About the Tetra patch changes, this may very well be possible, I've never worked with a Tetra and it's probably different for different synths, I'd say just look if there's anything in the Tetra manual about program changes (or patch changes or bank changes or whatever the Tetra people are calling it ;)), you might be able to program a program change list on the Tetra (or simply store the different presets in the order you want might work: song 1 is preset 1, song 2 is preset 2 etc) and then send a program change from Ableton to the Tetra through the use of 'dummy' clips: create a midi clip with no notes in it and put it in the scene that corresponds with the patch change you want. In the 'Notes' section of the midi clip (left of the piano roll) there are dropdown menus in which you can select Bank and Program numbers. When the midi clip is played it will tell the Tetra through a midi message to switch to a different patch. (note: it doesn't have to be a dummy clip, it could also contain midi notes if you want, but it may be smart to have a seperate midi track for midi clips with only program changes so you can tell Ableton and Tetra to respectively send and receive bank/program changes on a specific midi channel). Same thing goes for changing vst presets, except this happens 'in the box' so it's probably easier to do.

    (note: not every vst is able to deal with program changes through midi, again see if there's anything in the manuals about it: if it's not possible for a specific vst you'd have to have different instances of the vst on different tracks and switch between the tracks, which might be harder on your cpu usage of course.)

    I've never worked with an APC40 but I'm sure it'll have lots of options to achieve what you want, I was in a band that did something similar technically and it worked using just an Evolution UC33.

    About having a second MIDI keyboard: this may not be necessary, you could have a seperate midi track in Ableton for the channel you want to output to the Tetra and have the key/midi button that arm the tracks that correspond with a certain song also arm the midi channel that outputs to the Tetra. Again, the ideal situation would be to switch between songs with just the push of one key or midi button that arms all the tracks you want for that song. The same button may even play the dummy clips that bring about the program changes needed for that song.

    About the vocals: the 8i6 has 4 outputs if I'm not mistaken. You could route the audio output for the vocal track to a different output than the other audio tracks and vsts etc, so you can provide the FOH engineer with a separate signal for the vocals. This would definitely be a plus, since live audio input such as a vocal mic may start feedbacking and whatnot and you'd have to stop what you're doing to adjust input and output levels etc.

    Again hope this helps, I realize some of this stuff may sound complicated, when I read certain sentences back now I hardly understand them myself ;D it's just a lot of steps and technical stuff, hard to put into as few words as possible but I tried :) If certain things don't make sense I would suggest reading up on program changes, midi channels, midi mapping, dummy clips etc. And feel free to ask more questions of course, but like I said there's so much stuff involved it's near impossible to explain everything there is to it in a single post :D so I think a bit of reading on certain topics would help.

    Cheers!

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • dubcore
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    Hi Eppe,  your info is much appreciated.

    MIDI TO AUDIO:That now makes sense, I can see how with other vsts open and running it may push cpu too high, so i'll do that.

    PATCH CHANGES: I"ve never understood dummy clips and you've given me hope on this subject, so i'll try that.  I'm not sure if some of the vsts are capable of this (as some are freeware) but i'll soon find out.

    2nd KB: The Tetra IS sequencing fine, but i forgot to add that it is Mulit-timbral, and i was hoping to figure out how to have one patch being sequenced whilst playing another (but i can't work this out at the moment). Ultimately you're right - I'd love to figure out how to have everything change with the push of a button or scene lauch, but being a musician first and foremost i feel this is getting to be a little bit of a headfuck, and i wish i had someone else in the band to sort all this stuff out BUT i do need to learn this myself one day.

    VOCALS: yes you're correct, 8i6 has 4 outputs but would you believe i'm having trouble figuring out how to route things to seperate outputs (through that MixControl software)? 

    I'll certainly be referring back to your notes, as i can only really do basic midi and need to do some homework in this area.

    Thanks again.

     

     

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • dubcore
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    PATCH CHANGES: It worked, thanks.  I set it in the midi notes, beautiful.

    I suppose i should have read the manual.

    Don't know if it works for Impulse though, but then i'm to go the midi to audio

    route anyways.  That makes sense, seeming then i won't have to have any f/x devices open on the drum tracks then either.

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • Eppe
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    Hi!

    Nice, sounds like you're getting somewhere! I understand it's a headfuck, I got all these things into my system really slowly over the course of a few years, I know it's a lot to take in and put into practice all at once. But I think you're actually getting pretty close to just having to press one or maybe two buttons to switch between songs!

    About routing the vocals: you can do this in Ableton, no external mixer software needed. Watch this first to get a basic idea of how routing audio works: 
    Now, routing the vocal would work pretty similar to what happens in that video, except you'd have more output options in the dropdown menus cause you have 4 outputs on your 8i6 (the guy in the video only has 2). You could route the vocal track to output '3/4' for example (if there are stereo effects on the vocals, otherwise you could just go with mono outputs 3 or 4), and have the rest of the signal go to '1/2' (which it is probably by default). When you do this the left and right signal of the vocal track now comes out of outputs 3 and 4 on your 8i6. So you'd probably have to switch your speaker cables to check if it's working (I'm guessing you don't have 4 speakers at home ;)) 

    (note: if you don't see output 3, 4 or 3/4 in the dropdown menus, check under Options -> Preferences -> Audio, and click Output Config and make sure all the outputs are highlighted.)

    Now, some basics on key/midi mapping: 
    What you want to do in your case is mapping the record arm buttons of tracks to certain keys (or buttons on your APC but since you don't have it yet we'll go with computer keyboard keys). For example, map the record arm button(s) of the track(s) that contain the vsts you want to use in your first song to the '1' key on your keyboard. Next, map the record arm button(s) of the track(s) that contain the vsts you want to use in your second song to the '2' key on your keyboard etc. That way when you hit the '1' key and you then play notes on your midi keyboard, you'll be playing the vsts you want to sound in the first song. This also works for the tracks that output midi notes to any external synths you have, such as the Tetra.

    About the second midi keyboard: it's probably possible to do it with one keyboard, but I don't know the specifics of the Tetra, so yeah I'm afraid you'll just have to read the manual ;)

    By the way there's lots of tutorials and stuff on youtube, often it's worth a check to see if there's anything on a certain subject. Often it may not be exactly what you're looking for but it can give you a rough idea of where you might wanna click ;)

    Cheers!

    Ps If you want to ask more question I'm still happy to help, it's nice to answer questions that go a bit further than the usual 'uhm it doesn't sound good why' ;)

     

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • dubcore
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    Hey there,

    AUDIO ROUTING:  I got it sorted!!!  Although i don't have proper monitors (i just use some actually rather good Logitech desktop speakers and the sub is killer), but i figured out how to route the vocals seperately and saved a preset for the 8i6.  I just need to keep practicing this and changing it up.  I even routed a track to my home stereo (thru s/pdif) and the rest to the desktop, so i'm sure it's gonna work once i've got access to a multi channel mixer or whatever.

    Next stop, mapping the arm buttons.

     I've got alot done in a short time because you've given me the kick in the arse/inspiration i needed, many many thanks!

    ps. for some reason the videos attatched just says 'navigation to webpage was cancelled'. I'll see if it works after refreshing...

    pps. you live near Melbourne by any chance?

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • dubcore
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    ppps. i refreshed, and those videos are very valuable to me.  Man, with this knowledge you've passed onto me i think you're right.  I'm actually gonna be able

    to do this, and only have to press 1 or 2 buttons.  By the way, the first video also answered another thing i had forgotten about: click tracks.  Not that i'm gonna use them at first, but i'd love to play a real drum kit along with my tracks sometime.  I guess it just means having to sacrifice one of my outputs which i can't probably do just yet as I was planning on having stereo f/x on the vocals.

    The great thing is though, I can actually figure it out now.

    Like i said, i'm advanced when it comes to writing, recording, mixing, glitching etc, but still a bit intermediate with the routing and midi.  That's finally starting to change.  I owe you one man, seriously you've been a great help...

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • Eppe
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    Great to hear that, you're welcome! The videos are just Youtube videos, so I'm sure it's a temporary problem. Otherwise just Youtube 'Audio Output Routing Settings in Ableton Live' and 'Key and MIDI Mapping in Ableton Live'.

    Haha, I'm from Holland so no not anywhere near Melbourne :)

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • Eppe
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    Ah, didn't see your second comment, good, you saw the videos :)

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • dubcore
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    yes they're great.

    My free vsts don't accept program changes BUT i had other replies from someone on the kvr forum and AfroDjMac (you probably already know this), and you make an Instrument Rack, and then begin dropping your vsts in (as many patches as you want, I think).

    Make sure they're not 'chained', and map they're on/off button to a key/midi button/knob.  Brilliant!  Everything is solved! woohoo!  Now off to finish the Template...

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • Eppe
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    Nice! Ah yes of course, instrument racks! I hardly ever use them cause I feel I have a better overview of what I'm doing when I can just see all the tracks and don't have to look inside an instrument rack, I dunno they just never found a way into my workflow :) but if you want to keep a live set compact they're great!

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • dubcore
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    G'day Eppe, don't know if you'll see this or not BUT things have progressed nicely.  I also finally figured out how to save my own sounds into the Razor synth (it was so fucking obvious that i'm embarrassed to say how).

    If you (or anyone else) see's this then here's another question:  once we start rehearsing and/or playing live, should i always put certain things on the 'master' track?  Such as your typical (and very good) 'master' chains provided by Ableton.

    I'm assuming there should be a limiter OR is that the job of the house mixer?

    Can anyone recommend anything I should use, such as a plug in or something.

     

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • Eppe
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    Hi! That's good to hear!

    About the master: I wouldn't put any effects or compression or whatever on there, just a limiter to make sure the output doesn't clip. Just turn up your soundcard output volume till it's loud enough and then if the house mixer says it's still not loud enough (which is not likely) you could turn up the gain on the limiter.

    Also, before you put on the limiter, make sure your master output isn't clipping. You can tell it's clipping when it turns from green to red. If it does, just turn the volume of all the tracks down till it doesn't. The limiter should just be a safety precaution. 

    The reason for all this: compression, clipping, limiting etc all fuck with the dynamics and sound of your song, especially when you put stuff on the master. Drums may become less punchy, in extreme cases stuff may become distorted, sounds may start 'pushing eachother out of the way' when there's not enough headroom etc. This goes for 'studio' mixes also: I'd rather turn stuff down than trying to make everything louder all the time, and then in the end turn the main volume up, that way all the sounds have room to breathe instead of having to compete for headroom. Just make sure the mix is right and you should be good.

    Cheers!

     

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • dubcore
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    ah thanks, that makes sense. I had gone through all the tracks to make sure there was no clipping and there's plenty of headroom now.

     Here's another one:  say i've imported a bunch of tunes to play; which have already been 'mastered', and i want to add some more parts/loops/samples that haven't - then what?

    Would it be best to have the 'mastered' songs on one track, and the other 'unmastered' parts on another track with it's own mastering chain?  And then nothing on the master track (except for maybe a limiter again).

    Did i just answer my own question? haha.

    ps. finally got the apc 40!!!! It's a dream!  Was going to go for an Ohm 64 but it was more conveniant and immediate to get the apc.  It does exactly what i want and i know i can look for midi scripts to change it up a bit anyways.

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • Eppe
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    Hi! I'd say put all the mastered songs on one track and then bring the volume of that track down to a level where it sounds right compared with the rest of your tracks. In general I'd say stay clear of mastering plugins/chains in a live situation, just make everything sound how you want it to sound and make sure the master track doesn't clip. 

    By the way when you wrote 'I had gone through all the tracks to make sure there was no clipping' it made me think of something else: the fact that no individual track is clipping does not mean the master track isn't clipping, since that's where all the tracks are added up together. So it's good to keep an eye on whether the master track turns red too. Also, you don't necessarily need to go through the individual tracks, you can select one track, then hit ctrl+a (command+a on mac) which selects all the tracks, and then drag the volume down on one track and the rest of the tracks volumes move along accordingly. This doesn't work when you have automation on some of the tracks volumes by the way. In that case you can put a Utility device with the same negative gain value on all the tracks, by copying the same utility device to all the tracks, which is a bit more of a hassle when you have a lot of tracks but it does the trick. 

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • dubcore
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    ah, yes i've been keeping an eye on the master aswell.

    And the sends.  Infact, as i usually do parralel compression i always

    seem to easily clip on the send that has the 2nd compressor and usually need to

    turn that and the other channel down (which has my drums and the 1st compressor).

    Hey, I didn't know about the ctrl a function, thanks for that, very very handy!

    Gonna have our first proper rehearsal next thursday, so i'm still piecing together the whole thing, and hopefully it should all run nice and smoothly all from the one 'live set' thanks to your kind help!

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • dubcore
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    HEY EPPE!!!

    I got another question for ya!

    ok, so i want to convert my drums from midi to audio.  I was just going to freeze and then flatten to do so but I just realised that by doing that,  the audio misses out on the mastering chain (and any other devices on the sends, such as the 2nd compressor etc.).

    I was going to go through each track and simply resample the drums onto a new audio track so it goes through all the processing BUT is there an easier and quicker way?

     

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • Eppe
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    Hi! Yes there's a very easy and quick way :)

    I'm assuming you are in arrangement view here (are you?).

    Solo the drums track(s) that you want to convert to one audio file (you can solo multiple tracks by holding ctrl (cmnd on mac i think) and then clicking the solo buttons on the tracks you want).

    Now, drag the loop marker so it contains the portion of the arrangement you want to export. Next go to File -> Export Audio/Video. In the menu that comes up, make sure that after Rendered Track it says 'Master'. Now when you click OK it will basically export all the tracks, but because you've solo'd the drum tracks it will only export these, but including all the processing on the mastering chain etc.

    Cheers!

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • dubcore
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    ah ofcourse!  Thankyou Mr.Eppe, again.

    Just like rendering your song but only using the track you want.

    Also, for some reason the ctrl functions don't work. 

    I gave it a try for the faders and solo buttons etc, but it doesn't seem

    to group anything like that.

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • Eppe
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    That's weird, the ctrl functions (on windows, on mac it's cmd I think or possibly alt, do you work on windows or mac?) should work. Works fine here ;)

    First press and hold down ctrl, hold it down the whole time while clicking multiple tracks' solo buttons, then release ctrl. It doesn't actually 'group' them by the way, it just allows you to solo multiple tracks at once instead of just one track.

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • dubcore
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    ah sorry Eppe,  it does work for selecting tracks, but not for the faders.

    I know that can be done in ProTools, and i guess i should find out

    if i can do it for Ableton (as i loathe ProTools at the moment).

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • Eppe
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    Hi! Maybe there's a miscommunication, but once you've selected multiple tracks (that works right?) you can change the volume on one of them and the rest of the selected tracks volumes move along. To be clear: you should NOT ctrl+click the faders themselves, you should ctrl+click the track names so multiple tracks are selected, and then after that change the volume on one of them.

    [EDIT]: also, once you've selected multiple tracks you can click one track's solo button and the rest of the selected tracks will be solo'd too. And remember, for all of this you should hold ctrl the whole time till you're done clicking all the tracks, don't let go of ctrl in between clicks or it doesn't work :)

    2 years ago | 0 comments

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