Ableton Live Certificate Course

Level 1 Overview

This week, we’ll be getting straight into recording audio and MIDI with Ableton Live. We’ll be looking at recording different types of instruments, editing your performances after recording them, how to start putting a track together in the arrange view, and also some tips for mixing various instruments together.

Level 1 Goal
Get up and running with Ableton Live, getting familiar with essential functions like recording audio, adding MIDI instruments and editing clips.

Download Course Materials

Mac Windows
Create Audio Track Command + T Control + T
Create MIDI Track Cmd + Shift + T Ctrl + Shift + T
Open Preferences Window Cmd + , Ctrl + ,
Insert MIDI Clip Cmd + Shift + M Ctrl + Shift + M
Export Audio/Video… Cmd + Shift + R Ctrl + Shift + R
Play/Stop Spacebar Spacebar
More Shortcuts…


Getting Started

Overview

We’re going to tell your computer where sound should be coming in from, and where it should be going out to.

Setting up Audio I/O Preferences

In order to record audio, you need to make sure your audio preferences are correctly configured. If you have an external sound card, make sure the device is properly connected and that all necessary drivers are installed before opening Ableton Live.

  1. Open the Live menu at the top of the screen and select Preferences.
  2. Click the Audio tab if it is not already selected, then choose the appropriate drivers, input device and output device for your system.
  3. For more detailed instructions on setting up audio devices, go to the Help Menu and select Help View. Here you will find detailed information on setting up your audio interface, as well as a selection of interactive lessons to help you get started with Live.

Elements of the interface

View Options

We’ll start by looking at the view options on the right hand side of the screen. Each of these buttons shows or hides a different section of the interface: To keep things simple, hide all the view options except for the mixer (the M button).

Ableton has two distinct interfaces for creating music. The Session View and the Arrangement View. We’re going to stick with the Arrangement view for the first few classes.

Info View

Click the arrow in the bottom left of the screen to show the Info View. The Info View tells you the name and function of whatever you place the mouse over. This is helpful when you’re getting to know the Live interface.

Tracks/Channels in the Arrangement View

In the Arrangement View, each horizontal row represents a track (also known as a channel). You might put vocals on one channel, a synthesizer on another, a guitar on another etc.

Adding External Samples

Exercise

  1. In the Course Materials folder, locate the file under Level 1/Loops for Class/kk_FourOnTheFloor_127bpm.wav. Drag this file onto an unused Audio Track (you may need to create a new Audio Track – see the shortcuts list above for this command).
  2. In the Arrangement, go to the edge of the clip until you see the Resize symbol, then drag the edge of the clip to the right to create several repetitions of the loop. 
  3. In the Course Materials folder, locate the file under Level 1/Loops for Class/XF_Loop_013_127bpm.wav. Drag this file onto a second unused Audio Track (you may need to create a new Audio Track – see the shortcuts list above for this command), then drag the edge of the clip to the right to create several repetitions of the loop.

Recording Audio

Exercise

  1. Arm an audio track: The track arm button arms the track for recording. When the Track Arm button is lit red, it is ready to accept and record incoming audio or MIDI signals. If your audio interface is correctly configured you should be able to record a clip of audio on this track.
  2. Set the Global Tempo to 127BPM. The tempo display is located at the top left of the screen.
  3. Switch on the metronome. The metronome is located at the top left of the screen, near the tempo display.
  4. Click the Global Record button at the top of the screen, then hit the spacebar if playback doesn’t begin automatically. 
  5. Clap along to the metronome for a few bars. The level meter at the bottom of the channel strip should be bouncing. If the meter shows green it means the signal is at an appropriate level. If it starts to show yellow, orange or red, the signal is too loud.
  6. Hit the space bar when you’re ready to finish recording
  7. To hear back your recording, click the coloured bar at the top of the new clip to select it, then hit the spacebar.

Editing Clips

Exercise

  1. Double click on the clip you have just recorded to show its contents in the Clip View at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Locate a full bar or two bars of clapping, then highlight the waveform in these bars with the cursor. 
  3. Hit Cmd + L (Mac) or Ctrl + L (PC) to define this selection as the loopable portion of the clip.
  4. In the Arrangement, hover the cursor over the edge of your clip so that it shows the square bracket symbol. You can now drag the edge of the clip to create multiple repetitions of the selection you defined for looping. 

Adding MIDI Instruments: Bass Synths

Overview

Now that you know how to record an audio clip, you can use the same method to record midi clips. However, first you need to create a MIDI instrument. The Live Standard package comes bundled with several software instruments, while the Live Suite package includes the complete collection of Live instruments.

Some of these emulate hardware synthesizers (such as Analog and Operator), while others emulate acoustic instruments (such as Tension which emulates string instruments, and Collision which emulates percussive instruments). Finally, Drum Racks are software drum machines that can emulate classic drum machines like the 808 and 909.

Exercise

  1. Go to the device browser and open the instruments folder.
  2. Go to Analog/Bass and dig through the presets until you find a bass sound you like.
  3. When you have chosen a preset, drag it onto an available MIDI track.
  4. Make sure the Track Arm button is lit red, then use your keyboard to try out the synthesizer. The middle row of keys on the computer keyboard (from A to the L key) represent the white keys on a piano style keyboard, while W, E, T, Y, U and O represent the black keys. Z and X move the keyboard down or up an octave respectively, and C and V lower and raise the velocity of the notes. 
  5. To edit the different parameters of the instrument, double click the track title to display the device view at the bottom of the screen. Try playing with the controls to see what kind of sounds you can make.

Recording MIDI clips

Exercise

  1. Turn on the metronome to keep you in time.
  2. MIDI clips are recorded in the same way as audio clips. Make sure the track is armed, then click the Global Record button and hit the spacebar to start recording.
  3. Use the keyboard or your MIDI controller to play a bass line.
  4. When you are finished, hit the spacebar.
  5. Click the coloured bar on your new clip to select it, then hit the spacebar to play back the recording.
  6. Using the same method as before (see “Editing Clips” above), find a bar or two of your recording that works well, then loop this selection.

Music Theory Basics

Overview

Don’t worry about trying to remember everything from this lesson. We’re going to go through a few of the basics of music theory, just so you can get a better understanding of what some of the elements of Live’s interface refer to and how to use them. You don’t have to focus too much on the details.

  • The musical notes/pitches used in Western music are: A B C D E F and G
  • There are no notes after G (so there’s no H, I or J in music), so if you keep on going up past G you get to A again.
  • The distance, or interval, between A and G is seven notes. If you go up one more note to A, you are now eight notes up. This interval is known as an Octave (sometimes written as 8ve for short).
  • So the interval between C and the C above it, or as another example, D and the D below that (counting backwards), is an 8ve.
  • When people talk about “Middle C” they mean the C key right in the middle of a piano keyboard.
  • In Ableton and other MIDI applications, each octave has a number, i.e. C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6.
  • Middle C in Ableton is called C3.
  • There are also ‘half’ notes, or semitones, between each note from A-G. They are played on the black keys on the piano and are represented by the sharp symbol, which looks like the hash symbol.
  • There are 12 semitones in each octave:
  • A – A# – B – C – C# – D – D# – E – F – F# – G – G#
Check out these Free Music Theory Websites for more:

MIDI Notes in the Piano Roll

  1. Your clip may need some editing. Double click the clip to see its contents in Clip View at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Turn on cue listening for notes by clicking the headphone symbol in the top left corner above the grid so it’s lit up blue, then whenever you click on an existing note it will be sounded.
  • The red and pink bars represent MIDI notes
  • Pitch is on the vertical axis of the grid, so the higher up you go on the grid, the higher the note. Each vertical step in the grid represents a semitone.
  • Rhythm, or time, is on the horizontal axis. The longer the red bar, the longer the note will be held (and the same goes for the silences, or rests, between notes)
  • Each horizontal division represents a rhythmic division whose value is specified by the user, but we won’t be dealing with that just yet.
  • The timeline above the grid displays rhythmic divisions:
  • The bar number is the first number.
  • Beat numbers are shown with a decimal point after the bar number.
  • Sub-beat numbers are shown with further decimal points after the beat number.
  • To zoom in or out on the clip view, drag up and down over a beat or bar number.
  • If you made any mistakes while you were recording you can correct them by dragging the middle of the note vertically to correct the pitch or horizontally to correct the timing.
  • Notes can also be shortened or lengthened by moving the mouse over the start or end of the note so that the cursor changes to the Resize symbol, then dragging the note start and end points.
  • Turn on draw mode: to draw notes directly onto the grid without the need to record them in real time. Click the pencil symbol at the top of the screen (or by hitting command B on a Mac, Control B on a PC) then click to place notes on the grid. Clicking an existing note with the pencil tool removes it.
  • You can also place notes when draw mode is turned off, by double clicking in the grid. Again, double clicking existing notes deletes them.
  • The velocity, or volume, of the note is indicated by its colour. Darker notes are louder, and lighter notes are softer.
  • Just beneath the timeline are the clip and loop start and end markers.
  • The clip start and end markers determine where the clip begins and ends
  • The loop markers determine what portion of the clip, if any, will be looped.
  • If the loop button to the left of the note grid is lit yellow, loop mode will be engaged, meaning that whatever lies between the loop markers will be looped indefinitely until the user hits the stop button.

Drawing MIDI notes with the pencil

Exercise

  1. Create an electric piano. You’ll find electric pianos in the device browser under Instruments/Instrument Rack/Piano & Keys/Classic ePianos. We’re going to use the “Riders of the Storm” preset. Drag it on to a free MIDI channel.
  2. Use the cursor to select a bar or two in the Arrangement View, then right click and select Insert MIDI Clip, or hit Cmd + Shift + M (Mac) / Ctrl + Shift + M (PC).
  3. To turn on Draw Mode, click the pencil icon at the top of the screen beside the transport buttons, or hit Cmd + B (Mac) / Ctrl + B (PC).
  4. You can click notes on the keyboard to hear them before you draw them on the grid, and you can drag the note ruler, to the immediate left of the keyboard, up and down to move through the octaves.
  5. You can also zoom in and out by dragging the note ruler left and right. Notice that as you move the cursor up and down in the grid, the corresponding note names are shown in the note ruler.
  6. Try drawing the following notes into the grid, and don’t worry about note length or rhythm for now: A3 – C5 – D#4 – F2 – A#6

Adding Chords and Melodies

Overview

We’re going to add another synth, then record some chords to go with the bass line. After this, we’ll add another synth and record a melody line.

Exercise

  1. In the device browser go to Instruments/Analog/Pad. Select a preset you like.
  2. Drop the patch on to a new MIDI track. If you need to create a new MIDI track, hit Cmd + Shift + T (Mac) / Ctrl + Shift + T (PC).
  3. Record a chord sequence on the new track in the same way as we’ve done before.
  4. Double click the new clip to see its contents and find a loopable section to repeat.
  5. Repeat these steps using a preset from Instruments/Analog/Lead to record a melody.

Housekeeping: Organising Sessions

Exercise

  1. To rename a track, click on the track title and press Ctrl+R. Rename the instruments as Drums, Bassline, Pad and Melody.
  2. Right click the Track Title to choose a distinctive colour for each instrument.
  3. Organise your instruments in a logical fashion. This could be Drums > Bass > Pad > Melody, or some other system that makes sense for you.

Mixing Techniques 1: Pan Pots and Faders

Overview

  • Each track has its own mixer section, which you can hide or show with the view buttons on the right of the screen, but most of the time you’ll be leaving the mixer visible.
  • The Volume Fader controls the volume of the track. By default, the volume or level fader is at its neutral setting, where the volume, or gain, is neither boosted nor attenuated. This neutral position is also known as Unity Gain.
  • Beside the volume fader is a level meter. This helps to tell you visually when the levels of each track are too hot.
  • Above the volume fader is the Pan Pot (short for Panorama Potentiometer). When sound is coming from more than one speaker, it is described as being stereophonic, or stereo for short. The pan pot allows you to direct more sound into the left speaker, the right speaker, or an equal mix of both, resulting in the sound seeming to come from the centre (also known as the Phantom Centre). Clicking the orange triangle returns the pan pot to its centre position.
  • The numbered yellow button mutes (or silences) that track.
  • The S button solos the track, silencing all other tracks so you can hear just one in isolation.
  • As well as a mixer for each individual track, there is also a mixer on the Master Track, with a master volume fader and pan pot, and some other controls for the “cue out” mix that we’ll look at later on.

Exercise

  1. Pan the Pad synth track left
  2. Pan the melody synth track right
  3. Use the track faders and pan pots to mix the levels of the different instruments until you are satisfied.
  4. Use the Master Fader to change the overall track volume

Tutorial

Check out this discussion of instrument mix levels with Dave Pensado, one of the worlds top mix engineers (Beyoncé, Shakira, Mariah Carey and more).

Mixing Techniques 2: Adding Effects

Overview

To add an effect to the instrument, go to the device browser and open the Audio Effects folder. Folding up the dropdown levels of folders after you use them helps to keep things tidy in the device browser, which is a good practice to get into, as having to search through the browser to find an instrument or effect when the creative juices are flowing can be disruptive.

Exercise

  1. Locate the Ping Pong Delay effect and drag it onto your lead melody channel
  2. Try changing the parameters to see what effect they have on the sound. The Dry/Wet control changes the balance from clean sound (untreated) to the processed sound (treated).
  3. In the top left corner of of every device is its Bypass Switch. Try bypassing the effect to get a quick A/B comparison.
  4. In the top right corner of every device, we have the Save Preset Button, which allows the user to save the current settings of the device as a preset. When you are happy with your settings, save them as a preset. Use a descriptive title when naming your preset.

The Signal Chain

Overview

There are level meters on both sides of every device. In the device view the signal always flows from left to right, so the level meter to the left of the device shows the signal level before it enters the device, and the meter to the right shows the level of the signal after it leaves the device.

  • MIDI level meters are displayed as a row of dots that light up yellow when a signal comes through.
  • Audio level meters are displayed as vertical bars that light up green, yellow, orange and red according to the level of the signal.

Exercise

  1. Put a Flanger on the melody
  2. Put a Saturator to the right hand side of the Flanger on the melody channel
  3. Follow the Saturator with a Filter Delay
  4. Try out the different controls on each effect to see what kind of sounds you can get
  5. Observe the level meters to either side of each effect

Exporting Audio Files

  1. Go the the File Menu at the top of the screen and choose Export Audio/Video… or hit Cmd + Shift + R (Mac) / Ctrl + Shift + R (PC).
  2. We’ll go in to detail with the Export Settings later in the course, but for now, the settings shown below are usually fine. When you’re done, hit the okay button
Ableton Export Options 1

Assignments 1A & 1B

Assignment 1A

Your first assignment is to check out the following helpful resources. Most of them are online, so follow the links then bookmark them in your browser.

Essential Resources

  • The Secret Sound Facebook group is a great place to ask questions, share opinions and meet likeminded producers and DJs.
  • Pensado’s Place is a weekly YouTube show, presented by Grammy Award winning mixer Dave Pensado and his manager Herb Trawick, featuring interviews with the créme de la créme of the audio production industry. It’s a wealth of knowledge, both from a technical and professional standpoint, and it’s usually entertaining. You can play it on your phone while you cook, or take the bus or the car to work…
  • There are thousands of brilliant production tutorials available on YouTube. Some of the best come from Point Blank and Dubspot.
  • Sound On Sound is a great monthly publication, available in print or online. Perfect for finding reviews of gear, as well as tutorials and other audio news.
  • Gearslutz is one of the world’s biggest audio forums and can be a great place to pick up tips and discuss all things audio.

Recommended Reading

Two excellent resources here on mixing and mastering audio. Both books contain a great wealth of technical information, coupled with an appreciation of its artistic applications:

  • Izhaki, Roey (2008). Mixing Audio: Concepts, Practices and Tools. Oxford: Focal Press.
  • Katz, Bob (2007). Mastering Audio: The art and the science (Second Edition). Canada: Focal Press.

Assignment 1B

Using the methods we’ve covered, you must produce three new sketches.

Each sketch should include all of the following (at least!), but you are encouraged to go further and add more tracks if you feel like it:

  1. A rhythmic element. This can be a drum loop, or you could record shakers, or clapping, or beatboxing… Anything goes, as long as it provides a rhythmic bed for your track.
  2. A bass line. This could be a deep synth, or recorded bass guitar, or double bass, or a bass voice…
  3. A sequence of chords. You could use a synth, or record a guitar, or a harp, or a piano…
  4. A melody line. You might use a synthesizer, or your voice, or a friend’s voice, or a glockenspiel, or a harmonica…
  5. Use the mixer to balance the levels of each channel, and use the pan pots to place the instruments appropriately in the stereo field
  6. Get creative with effects! Try lots of effects and combinations, and don’t be scared to turn all the dials – you never know what you’ll come up with. Do bear in mind also that effects aren’t always necessary – sometimes ‘clean’ is the perfect sound. In this case though, we want to explore lots of sonic possibilities.
  7. Export your track as a 44.1khz, 16bit WAV file. You can use the Upload Audio to Soundcloud option in the Export Audio/Video… dialogue (read more here) or follow the steps below to upload your tracks at a later date.
  8. Upload your track to Soundcloud. If you don’t have an account already, the sign up process is easy and the service is free.
  9. When your track is uploaded, put the tracks in a Soundcloud Playlist (read more here), click the Share button to get a link to the set, then email the link to ross@secretschoolofsound.ie with your name in the body of the email.

 

Level 2 Overview

This week we’ll be getting more comfortable with Ableton Live as you begin to develop your short sketches into full arrangements. Explore Live’s powerful tools for transforming audio, including Warping and Sampler. By the end of level 2, you’ll be comfortable with Live’s core production tools, and have your first full track composed.

Lesson Goal:
Develop a sketch from Level 1 into a full-length arrangement.

Mac Windows
Duplicate  Command + D Control + D
Drag and Drop Copy Alt + Drag Ctrl + Drag
Insert MIDI Clip Cmd + Shift + M Ctrl + Shift + M
Cut Clip Cmd + E Ctrl + E
More Shortcuts…


2.1. Note Values, Time Signatures and Tempo

Note Values

Rhythmic Divisions

    • The note at the bottom is known as a whole note. The U.S. and the U.K. use different names for notes: in the UK system this would be known as a semibreve. Ableton uses the American system, so we’re going to stick with that and call this a whole noteIt’s called a whole note because it fills up a whole bar. We’ll get to what a bar is in just a minute.
    • The notes above this are called 1/2 notes, because each one lasts half a bar. It takes two 1/2 notes to make a full bar.
    • Above that we have four 1/4 notes. It takes four 1/4 notes to make a full bar. 
    • There are eight 1/8 notes in bar, sixteen 1/16 notes, thirty-two 1/32 notes, sixty-four 1/64 notes etc.

For a tutorial on writing these values in music notation, click here.

Time Signatures

  • This is a good time to talk about Time Signatures, or meter. If you look at the top of the screen, beside the metronome button you will see the Time Signature display. By default this is set to 4/4, also known as Common Time
  • The time signature determines how many beats there will be in a bar, and what length each of these beats will be.
  • 4/4 means there will be four 1/4 notes in a full bar, or to put it more simply, four beats in a bar.

Tempo and BPM

Most dance music is in 4/4 time, usually at a tempo between 120 and 140 beats per minute, or BPM (for instance, the tempo of most House tracks is 126-128BPM).

If a song is at 120BPM, this means there will be 120 quarter notes per minute. In other words, there will be 2 beats every second. So if a song was at 60BPM, there would be one beat every second – the tempo of the second hand on a clock is 60BPM.

  • If we change the time signature to 4/8, each bar will be four 1/8 notes long.
  • If we change the time signature to 6/8, each bar will be six 1/8 notes long.

Programming Drums in the Piano Roll

 

Acoustic Drum Kit
Drum Kit

Parts include:

Kick drum

Snare drum

Toms

Crash Cymbal

Ride Cymbal

Hi-hat cymbals

 

Roland TR-808 (Produced 1980-1984)

808 Drum Machine

Deconstructing Tracks: Warping, Splitting & Labelling

Overview

Deconstructing existing tracks by artists you love is a great exercise. By reverse engineering what they have produced, you can learn a huge amount about the techniques they used, but also, importantly, why they used them.

Our first step is to analyse the structure of the track – how the song progresses from intro to verses, prechorus to chorus, and bridge to outro. For a more in depth discussion of structure and form, check out this article on Music Radar. The video below shows how to complete the steps listed below.

Exercise

  1. Before we can analyse the track on the grid, we need to use warping to establish the tempo of the track. 
  2. Next, we can use the Split command to cut the track into its various sections.  
  3. As we split the clip into sections, label these with a consistent colour scheme and name them accordingly.
  4. Listen closely to what changes between sections. Use markers to add notes about what changes.
  5. Observe how devices like filtering out low end, dropping out and reintroducing instruments, or changing the intensity of instrumental or vocal parts can help add tension and drama to productions.

Tutorial

Assignments 2A & 2B

Assignment 2A

Deconstruct a song of your choice. Analyse the track structure, and observe how various devices have been used to maintain the listener’s attention and add drama and tension to the production. You can refer to any of the provided tutorial sets (“Get Lucky”, “White Noise” or “Levels”) to see how other track structures might be broken down.

  1. Select a track by an artist you admire. Open a new set in Ableton and drop the song into the Arrange View.
  2. Refer to the video included above (2.2. Deconstructing Tracks: Warping, Splitting & Labelling in Get Lucky by Daft Punk) for a complete tutorial to help you with this exercise.
  3. Use the warp function to determine the track tempo, in order to have the song conform to the grid.
  4. Use the Split command to cut the clip into sections. This will usually include an intro, verses, choruses, a bridge and outro section. There are also variations on this which might include a prechorus, or breakdowns, buildups and drops in electronic music. Check out this article on Music Radar for a more detailed discussion of song structure and form.
  5. Label the various sections, and use a consistent colour scheme to help visualise the song structure.
  6. Observe what happens from section to section and use markers to make notes of how energy and tension are created or released as the song develops.

Assignment 2B

  1. Take what you have learned from your deconstruction and apply it to one of the sketches from Assignment 1B.
  2. You can use the track structure from your deconstruction as a template for developing your own sketch in to a full length production.
  3. Add a Drum Rack and program your own beats. Experiment with a few different kits to find a sound you like (for example, the Kit Core 808 or Kit Core 909) You’ll need a few clips with some variations to keep help the energy of your track ebb and flow. Try starting simple (maybe just a four on the floor kick pattern), then developing more complex beats as you approach and hit the chorus of your track (maybe add hi hats, shakers/maracas, cowbells, toms etc). You could drop the intensity back down for the second verse, then build again to hit the second chorus etc. You could use the loop from from Assignment 1B to add additional energy, or provide a sonic contrast between sections.
  4. Add at least one Sampler instrument. Load it with a sample of your choice (any audio file) and use the controls to manipulate how the sample is played back and looped. This instrument could provide another hook that will help add energy and interest to your production.
  5. Apply the devices you observed in your song analysis (Assignment 2A) to build energy, tension and drama in your production. This could include adding instruments or parts to build energy, using busier (more intense) parts, or temporarily dropping out parts to build tension.
  6. Use the mixer to balance the levels of each channel, and use the pan pots to place the instruments appropriately in the stereo field
  7. Get creative with effects! Try lots of effects and combinations, and don’t be scared to turn all the dials – you never know what you’ll come up with. Do bear in mind also that effects aren’t always necessary – sometimes ‘clean’ is the perfect sound.

Assignment Submission

  1. Export your completed track as a 44.1khz, 16bit WAV file. You can use the Upload Audio to Soundcloud option in the Export Audio/Video… dialogue (read more here) or follow the steps below to upload your tracks at a later date.
  2. Convert your .wav file to .mp3 format. Windows users can use MediaMonkey. Mac users can use Max Audio Converter. Both are free to download.
  3. Upload your .mp3 track to Soundcloud. If you don’t have an account already, the sign up process is easy and the service is free.
  4. When your track is uploaded, put the tracks in a Soundcloud Playlist (read more here), click the Share button to get a link to the set, then email the link to ross@secretschoolofsound.ie with your name in the body of the email.

Level 3 Overview

Get to grips with the inspiring workflow enabled by Ableton’s session view. Dive into synthesis and process sounds to add a unique sonic fingerprint to your music. Learn the fundamentals of analog-style subtractive synthesis to create basses, leads, pads, and sound effects using Ableton Live’s powerful library of software instruments. Explore fundamental mixing and effects processing concepts.

Lesson Goal:
Use Ableton’s sesson view to create a composition on the fly.Create and process original sounds to add to your music. Save the sounds you create to begin building your own library of sounds. Study alternative methods of composition and streamline your workflow.

Download Course Materials

Mac Windows
Create Audio Track Command + T Control + T
Create MIDI Track Cmd + Shift + T Ctrl + Shift + T
Open Preferences Window Cmd + , Ctrl + ,
Insert MIDI Clip Cmd + Shift + M Ctrl + Shift + M
Export Audio/Video… Cmd + Shift + R Ctrl + Shift + R
Play/Stop Spacebar Spacebar
Export Audio/Video… Cmd + Shift + R Ctrl + Shift + R
More Shortcuts…


Designing pad sounds

  • Volume Envelopes

Attack
Decay
Sustain
Release

 

  • Filters
LP – Low Pass
HP – High Pass

Designing wobble lead lines

  • Volume Envelopes
  • Filters
  • LFO – Low Frequency Oscillator

 

Assignment 3A

Assignment 3A

Compose a track from scratch, creating your initial ideas in the Session View only, then use these ideas to sequence a full track in the Arrange View. You may only use the Drum Rack, Analog Synth and the Sampler to create your parts!

  1. Working in the Session View only, create a rhythm with at least three variations, each in a separate clip.
  2. Add a bass line using a bass patch for Analog. Compose at least two variations on this bass line.
  3. Add another instance of Analog to compose a sequence of chords. There must be at least two variations on this sequence (the variations can be rhythmic or harmonic).
  4. Add another instance of Analog, and use the volume envelope controls to design a pad sound (slow attack and slow release). Compose at least two different clips with this instrument. 
  5. Add another instance of Analog and design a lead sound that makes use of the filter controls, the volume envelope, and the LFO controls. Compose at least two different clips with this instrument.
  6. You must now take the ideas you have produced and build a full arrangement. You can either use the Lego approach of dragging clips from the Session View in the Arrange View, or by using the Global Record function to record a live performance of your actions. You can refer to your track deconstructions from Assignment 2A to guide the structure of this arrangement. 
  7. Your arrangement must incorporate at least 3 examples of automation. These could include volume fades, filter sweeps on the synthesizers, LFO rate changes on the lead instrument 

Assignment 3A Submission

  1. Use the Collect All and Save function (File > Collect All and Save) to collect all of the project media in to the Project Folder. 
  2. Use 7-Zip (or a similar program) on Windows, or the built in Compress command on Mac OS (Right Click folder > Compress) to compress this folder to an archive.
  3. Email the archive to ross@secretschoolofsound.ie.

Level 4 Overview

Build your knowledge of subtractive synthesis by creating sweeps, risers, and transition effects. Use reverb and delay to integrate sounds into your mixes, adding character and texture. Combine your mixing skills to take one of your tracks through the final mixdown process.

Lesson Goal:
Learn to use alternative routings to add reverb and delay effects to your mixes. Use automation and filters to build drama and execute exciting transitions. Combine your mixing skills to create a final mix of one of your tracks.

Download Course Materials

Mac Windows
Create Audio Track Command + T Control + T
Create MIDI Track Cmd + Shift + T Ctrl + Shift + T
Open Preferences Window Cmd + , Ctrl + ,
Insert MIDI Clip Cmd + Shift + M Ctrl + Shift + M
Export Audio/Video… Cmd + Shift + R Ctrl + Shift + R
Play/Stop Spacebar Spacebar
More Shortcuts…


Assignment 4A

Assignment 4A

Compose a track from scratch, combining the composition, arrangement and mixing skills you have learned so far. You may create your initial ideas in either the Session View or the Arrangement View.

  1. Create a Drum Rack and program a beat with at least three variations.
  2. Add a bass instrument and compose at least two variations on a bass line.
  3. Add another instrument to compose a sequence of chords. There must be at least two variations on this sequence (the variations can be rhythmic or harmonic).
  4. Add an instance of Analog, and use the volume envelope controls to design a pad sound (slow attack and slow release). Compose at least two different clips with this instrument. 
  5. Add another instance of Analog and design a lead sound that makes use of the filter controls, the volume envelope, and the LFO controls. Compose at least two different clips with this instrument.
  6. Add an instance of Sampler and use a custom sound to add a unique texture to your track. Compose at least two different clips with this instrument.
  7. Use some effects on each channel to enhance the sonic character of your production.
  8. Build a full arrangement. You can either use the Lego approach of dragging clips from the Session View in the Arrange View, or by using the Global Record function to record a live performance of your actions. You can refer to your track deconstructions from Assignment 2A to guide the structure of this arrangement. 
  9. Use the skills you have acquired so far to mix your track. Balance the individual track levels, make use of the stereo field using pan pots, add reverb and delay return tracks to add a sense of depth and space. Finally, add a Limiter to ensure your track is loud enough to compete with other tracks.
  10. Your arrangement must incorporate at least 3 examples of automation. These could include volume fades, filter sweeps on the synthesizers, LFO rate changes on the lead instrument 

Assignment 4A Submission

You must submit both a Soundcloud link to your track, and an archived Project Folder.

  1. Export your track as a 44.1khz, 16bit WAV file. You can use the Upload Audio to Soundcloud option in the Export Audio/Video… dialogue (read more here) or follow the steps below to upload your tracks at a later date.
  2. Upload your track to Soundcloud. If you don’t have an account already, the sign up process is easy and the service is free.
  3. Use the Collect All and Save function (File > Collect All and Save) to collect all of the project media in to the Project Folder. 
  4. Use 7-Zip (or a similar program) on Windows, or the built in Compress command on Mac OS (Right Click folder > Compress) to compress this folder to an archive.
  5. Email the archive and the Soundcloud link to ross@secretschoolofsound.ie.

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