Today Danny J Lewis demonstrates how he scans through a sample pack in Ableton Live and makes his decisions on which loops fit together…
This post was originally published in DJ Magazine’s free online edition DJ Weekly issue 109
“Using pre-made sample libraries can divide opinion in the world of production. The obvious advantage is that they enable you to quickly sketch out track ideas, or find an element that adds a completely new dimension to your track that otherwise might not have happened. The more cynical standpoint is that they can be a lazy shortcut and discourage innovation and experimentation.
The reality is that in Ableton Live we have a fantastic tool to manipulate, chop and twist loops into your own interpretations all in real-time. This gives you the ability to create limitless unique tracks with the same loops and samples. In this tutorial I show some quick and simple but very effective techniques to do this such as adjusting the clip start position and transposing the key up and down.
The pack I am using is one of Ableton’s latest partner instruments, put together by Radioslave and Sample Magic. More than just a collection of drum, percussion, and musical hits and loops, the pack contains some great custom instrument and effects racks which, if hooked up to a midi control, can give a really tactile method of experimenting with the sounds.
Racks such as the Kit Creator use macro controls to scroll through the various samples and adjust parameters like attack, decay and low cut to mould the sounds into something new. It is a great example of the type of racks that we teach you to build from scratch on Point Blank’s Ableton Sound Design course.
One more benefit of using sample libraries such as this is they teach you good practise for building up and organising your own loops that you have created yourself. Who knows, maybe one day you can be selling your own sample pack!”
Watch free exclusive music production tutorials on Point Blank’s sample course.
Hi. This is Danny Lewis, Course Creator and Tutor, at PointBlank Online Music School. This video’s all about the latest partner instrument collection from Ableton Live. This has been put together by Radio Slave; this is a great collection of loops, both drum, percussion, and musical loops, as well as some custom instrument racks and audio effects, as well. If you’re into that side of things, please check out the sound design course on Ableton Live. We actually build our own custom FX racks. If you want to see something in context, the sort of stuff a professional builds, this is a great library to check out. Over the next twenty minutes or so, you’re going to see me check out the library, and put together a track idea in front of your eyes, so this is really me discovering the library for the first time, properly, and using it in context. Sit back, relax, and take a look at how the library can be used to put your track idea together really quickly and easily.
The first thing to do on this Radio Slave demo is to show you where the actual loops are kept. Make sure you access your library from the browser, and come down. You got a whole bunch of stuff, maybe you’re familiar with what’s inside, and maybe you’re not. If we go into Samples and come down to Sample Magic, inside, you can see the Radio Slave for Life folder. There’s a selection of stuff in, and I’m going to suggest this is where we start, because we might get some musical inspiration for working with the other devices.
The top loops, let me have a listen to these. In terms of a definition of top loops, what we’re looking at is stuff that can be put on top of a basic beat. For example, you’ve got a kick and a clap, or a snare, and you want to add some life to it, that’s the whole purpose of these kind of loops. I’m not going to start with these. There are definitely some really good stuff in there; I might come back to that later. I think what I’m going to do is probably start off with something like a bassline or some kind of synth loop, so let me take a look at what we’ve got. I’ve just taken the note of the tempo, 125. I’m going set my project at the same tempo. There are some good elements, some really good building blocks. That’s actually quite bassy; I like that texture. There’s some progression, in terms of the musicality. I really like that. I think I’m going to start off with that. Let’s see how that feels.
With that going, maybe one of these top loops could be good to get some atmosphere. I just want to see where the first beat in the bar is, in relation to that loop. That’s interesting; I was actually hearing that in a different way. I was actually hearing that from this point, see what I mean? What I’m going to do is change the beginning of the loop. Let’s have a listen to that. That’s the great thing about this kind of library, you can be really flexible, because in Live you can change where that loop starts from, and get it seamlessly running. I’m going to roll with that. Let’s see about one of these loops. That’s great; we’re going to roll with that. I’m just going to bring the level down. I like that as a foundation. What I’m going do is drop in one of the MIDI devices. Let’s take a look. If we come up here, the location for these, if you have a look, we’ve got Sample Magic, contained within the Drum racks. We’ve got a drum kit, Kit Creator. This is worth taking a look at. Let’s bring this over.
If you guys are Live users, where you’ve got used to building stuff, for example, if you’re one of our students, on our courses we’re often building custom instrument racks and drum racks. Here is, in fact, a very, very good example of the sort of thing you can build. What you can see is basically a collection of kicks, snares, toms, hi hats, and various percussion elements. These are basically a selectable different selection of kits. The only way to explain this really, is actually just to play something.
You can hear there’s a kick drum. That is, at the moment . . . I’m just playing this back, this is kind of like a default kit. If I wanted to change this kick, what I’m going do is look over here, and we’ve got a sample selector, so when I rotate this, you’ll get different kicks according to the number. It’s a nice way to just scroll through some samples and a feel for what is available. What I’m going do is play this; I’m going get that kick down. It’s not very thick, that one.
What I’ll do is just actually setup a clip to save me having to trigger this all the time. Let’s just do this, and we can audition as we go. It’s actually not too bad, but I want to just see what the other possibilities are. Make a note of the numbers that you like. This is a really nice concept for the rack. I quite like that; it’s got a nice vibe to it. Let’s think about pulling some extra elements in. Let’s have a look at this hat. This hat is being triggered, then we select this, and now we’ve got a sample selector. I’m going go with this one. Maybe just a couple of lows and bring in some other elements, so it’s not too repetitive.
I’m just checking out some of these other sounds. I might record that in. You can see that there’s a little snare; let’s find that, and then change the sample. I quite like that. Let me go back with that other one. There we go. I’m just going turn it down a bit. That’s working nicely. We’ve used that Kit Creator just to get a little bit of a backbeat together. We’ve got the music loop, which is feeling like a bit of a bassline. I’m just going to call this Backbeat, and this one is Tops Loop. That’s working nicely. Let’s take a look at some of those loops again. Let’s see if we can find something that’s going give us some inspiration.
I’ve gone to the wrong library. I’m just going drop down, let’s go to the Ableton library and back up to Samples, Sample Magic, Radio Slave. What I’ve got actually sounds bassy, for sure, but maybe we could add some kind of lower element. Let’s see what we’ve got. I actually quite like that. I’m not 100% on that just yet, but I’m going bring this over, let’s take that off, and let’s keep going with some of these. I quite like that, too. That’s interesting. What I like about that is that fizzy, kind of distorted texture. What I want to do is just see how it might feel in an arrangement, I’m going take off the original loop that I’ve got over here. I really like that; I think that could work well in the structure of the track.
It’s just a little bit hot on the master, so I’m going need to drop in a utility. Come up and get to the Effects. There we go, Utility. It’s just a nice little trick, just to make sure we don’t go over the 0-point whilst we’re working, so I’ll just bring it down a couple of DBs, let’s see how that sounds. That’s good.
When you’re composing with elements like this, what happens is that in your head you can start to almost hear elements that you think could be good. I’m feeling some kind of top-end thing would be great, so let’s revisit those tops loops, and let’s see what we’ve got in there, see if there’s something, I’m thinking about something quite rapid so maybe something that’s hitting on the 1/16ths, like a tambourine or shaker-kind of vibe. I’m actually going to drop in from the bottom and see if that offers anything new. I’m going to play it, and then we can hear things in context.
That’s the kind of thing, but for me, to be honest, it’s not quite right. There’s an element of that I really like, so I’m going bring that in. Let’s try and find something else, as well. I like the energy of that hat. I’m going bring that in, as well. I still feel we need something more. There’s a lot of very usable elements, I like that. Maybe that percussive thing would be good for a mid-lay or something. I’m hearing this, and I’m thinking maybe some percussion could be good. That’s what’s great about libraries like this, they can be really good inspiration.
That’s wicked, that’s really good. I was feeling a little bit too much bottom-end on that particular one, so I should really do a bit of housekeeping, getting carried away with it is very easy. Let’s just take a look at that. Yes, you can really a kick, so what I’m going to do is I’m going to EQ that out. EQ-3 should be fine. 250 is good. Maybe just a little bit lower. Try that original bass back in. Interestingly, now I’m liking that one that I had originally, as well as the bass. Let me just check those out.
Yes, that’s working nicely, I think. You need to just check things out. Sometimes, the initial ideas are actually great, and when you bring in a new one it’s not so good. Always cross-reference stuff that you’ve already done. This is my bassline now, I think. I’m still feeling I need some kind of extra melodic thing on top, so let’s come back and check out those synths. Let’s see what we’ve got, synth loops. Even though that’s not musical, I actually like that texture. Let’s have a look. That could come in somewhere later on; that could be really good. I’m just going to call that Metal Percussion.
I like the sound of that, but musically, that feels out of key to me. What I’m going to do is shift it about. Let’s open this up; I’m going to put the Hi-Q on, which is good if you want to do some transposition. I’m wondering about a couple of notes down, let me have a listen. I’ve twisted it, in terms of the track’s position. I’m not so sure about the actual sound. Let’s keep moving forwards. That I’m really liking; it’s got a real trippy kind of flavor to it. You could really feel that working at certain points. I’m going to use the EQ3 to roll off the bass, though. Let’s see how that feels. That’s great.
I’m just going to move forward and just show you a couple of other bits. I’m confident that I can make a tune of that now. I just need to structure it and arrange it. I want to show you a couple of the other elements that are included within the library. If we come up to the Instruments, we’ve got this collection, so you can see. Let’s get away from the drum rack. We’ve got the instrument racks, if we come to Sample Magic, Radio Slave. There are some drum elements presented in a different way. These are like kind of broken down versions of that custom kit you had before. Let me just show you what I mean. Something that could be really good is to have some crashes on the actual tune.
If I just setup a MIDI track, and on I’m going to double-click, we’ve got a Crash Multi. Let’s get the octave correct, let’s work out where they are. There’s one. A nice selection of crashes mapped on the keyboard. I could perform these on top. That’s the kind of vibe you got in there. There’s also a crash selector you can rotate to choose the crashes, so there’s some extra drum elements. Also, we’ve got some audio effects. If I show you these, we come down to Audio Effects, Audio Effects Rack. If we go to Sample Magic, Radio Slave, there’s a collection. You’ve got drum effects racks, synth effects racks. Let’s, for example, drop the drum effects rack onto the backbeat, and let’s just see what we’ve got. Let’s solo, hi-cut rolling off the tops, low cut, taking the bass away. We’ve got a re-pitch delay, nice trippy beat repeat flavors on there. Some amplification. I’m actually liking the energy that’s coming from that. I think I’m going to have a bit of that.
I’m peaking in the master, I’m just going to bring it down. The track’s really coming alive. I feel very confident this is going to be something that I could use. That’s a big recommendation. From me, personally, that’s a really nice library, very inspirational, well worth checking out. If you’re into the whole concept of building these kind of racks, you definitely want to check out the PointBlank Online Sound Design course, for Ableton, because we’ve got lots of examples of building custom racks.
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