Lesson 2: Sourcing and Manipulating Audio

Lesson overview 

In this lesson, students are introduced to the copyright legalities involved in making a mashup, and how to ethically source material from Creative Commons artists. Students then use audio editing features in Live's Arrangement View to creatively rework their sourced material into unique loops.

    Learning intentions

    • Critical thinking – Practically apply understandings of copyright
    • Technology literacy – Effective use of audio editing techniques in Ableton Live
    • Creative/musical – Develop creative musical responses to audio material

    Preparation (5-10 mins)

    In the classroom (50-90 mins)

    • Step 1: Introduction – explain and talk about copyright in mashups using key takeaways and other included resources (5-10 mins)
    • Step 2: Research task – students identify and download Creative Commons works that can be used for audio editing (15-20 mins)
    • Step 3: Practical task – students use their downloaded Creative Commons audio files to create unique loops using creative audio editing techniques* (30-40 mins)
    • Step 4: Wrap up – students save their newly-created loops (5-10 mins)

    Activity Option:

    * Students can alternatively work also with the audio files supplied in the Live Set in Lesson 1. 

    Introduction: The legality and copyright of mashups 

    Mashup artists are working with other artists’ copyrighted musical and recorded works to create their own re-interpretations. Understanding the copyrights within music is important to touch on when doing a project like this. 

    Key takeaways

    • Copyright covers both musical works (the songwriting, chords and lyrics) and sound recordings (the recorded version of the song)
    • Permission should be sought when using other people’s copyrighted material
    • Copyright laws are there to safeguard the rights and income of artists
    • For mashups to be made commercially available or shared publicly, you need to have received permission from all copyright owners

    Creativity and copyright resource

    This downloadable PDF provides an overview of what is and isn’t protected by copyright. 

    It also provides a useful visual diagram that helps explain fair use of copyrighted material.

    Read: Creativity and Copyright PDF *

    * It’s important to note that this document covers US copyright law – make sure to check up on your country’s copyright laws. At the end of this section there is a reference for Australia and New Zealand, and another US resource.

    RiP: A Remix Manifesto

    An excellent documentary that follows mashup artist Girl Talk.

    The linked 3-minute section of this film talks to the complexities involved in the question of copyright in mashups and shows Girl Talk creating a mashup using audio editing tools.

    Sampling and Clearances, what's it all about?

    This article is for those interested in understanding more about the complexities of copyrights when sampling.

    Read: Sampling and Clearances Article

    Music Royalties Explained

    This detailed post provides a significant amount of information about the different forms of musical copyright and the royalties that are associated with each.

    Read: Indie Music Academy Article: Music Royalties Explained

    Note that if you plan to use copyrighted material, be aware that copyright laws are subtly different in different international territories. How music is allowed and licensed to be used within the education system is something best identified at your local level. The following two examples show some of the ways that copyrighted material is licensed for educational use.

    In Australia and New Zealand, government schools have a license that covers the use of recorded works within schools. Read about this in the APRA/AMCOS music education info guide.

    For the USA, the National Association for Music Education provides a useful website that links to a range of resources about music copyright, licensing and publishing.

    Research Task: Sourcing Creative Commons works 

    Creative Commons licensing is a way in which artists can share their copyright-protected creative works in a manner which allows others to copy, distribute and make use of them, whilst retaining and controlling their rights. As such, this is often ideal source material for mashups, particularly within education and non-commercial settings.

    Creative Commons

    The Creative Commons website provides you with a range of detailed, but easy to understand information regarding the six main Creative Commons licenses that are available.

    Free Music Archive

    Free Music Archive is an excellent resource where you can search via genre and download songs quickly.


    Netlabels allows you to preview and download creative commons albums, within a variety of genres.

    Practical Task: Creative audio editing techniques 

    Mashup artist Girl Talk can be seen editing songs and splicing them together in RiP: A Remix Manifesto, transforming and combining source material into new musical works.

    This technique of manipulating and reinterpreting musical ideas fits nicely with the ethos of Creative Commons music in which artists may allow others to use and re-use their material in creative ways.

    Task steps:

    1. Follow strategies for setting up Arrangement View for audio editing
    2. Use creative audio editing tips and shortcuts to make unique audio loops
    3. Process audio loops into clips to re-use in Session View

    Creative Audio Editing Techniques

    This is a step-by-step guide to the practical task detailed below. It provides students with setup strategies and a collection of audio editing techniques and shortcuts.

    Guide: Creative Audio Editing Techniques