In this video Jonny Miller (Jus’Listen/Sonarpilot Audio) shows you how to add an interesting extra texture to your Ableton Live beats using random vocal hits, EQ and sidechain compression.
Jonny Miller is celebrating 20 years in the music business throughout 2011. His musical roots lay in the early 90s rave/drum&bass scene while his DJing and productions have seen him journey through the full spectrum of electronic styles. Most notably he is known for his broken beat, dubstep and cosmic disco releases. Jonny lovingly curates his own Jus’Listen Recordings label but now also runs the brand new Sonarpilot Audio imprint, recently featuring the music of Ramadanman and Simbad. Watch out for see further developments and releases on the label in 2011. He teaches the Ableton Production and Ableton Dubstep Production online courses at Point Blank. For more about Jonny head to his soundcloud and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
Keep up to date with all of Point Blank’s news, tutorials and giveaways by subscribing to our Youtube channel, or following us on Facebook and Twitter… and if you have something to say about this post, start the conversation with a comment below. Thanks!
My name is Johnny Miller. I’m a Point Blank online tutor, and I write courses and I teach Ableton live courses for Point Blank.
Today I’m just experimenting really, not really putting a track idea together, just working with a little beat and a little piano riff that I’ve taken from a sound pack I did a video on quite a while ago actually, the Swedish House from Loopmasters. I wanted to get a little vocal texture, a little vocal backing into this beat, and I picked up recently from Loopmasters the verbalism sound pack, and this one’s quite nice. It’s got a whole bunch of different styles of vocal from raps and spoken word, so little short phrases from rap, perfect for dub step, perfect obviously for hip hop, too. Lots of little vocal hits, again perfect for dub step, perfect for sort of leading into a big bass drop on a dub step track or an R&B track, anything really. Sung vocals, for coda vocals, obviously if you like the kind of R&B, the auto tune sound. You got loads of the kind of coded and auto tuned samples that are great fun to play with.
I’ve gone for, though, the minimal cuts, and I like these vocals because they’re just very short and they’re like little kind of glitchy, short stab vocals. If I just use my arrow keys to scroll through these, I just like the fact that they’re really, really short. And actually even scrolling through them gives me a little idea of how I can use these. What I’m going to do, I’m going to pick up a whole bunch of these samples, I’m going to hold down shift and just click on the top sample there. I’ve highlighted a whole bunch from the Ableton browser. I’m just going to pick those up and drag those into live, so I’ve just got a whole bunch of these clips now and they’re all real small. If I just flick through some of them, you can see the wave forms are tiny.
None of the warping’s on at the moment. I’ll switch that on in a moment, but I’m just going to highlight one clip, go down to the bottom with my mouse, click on shift and click on the bottom one. So now I’ve got all those clips highlighted to scroll up and down. I’m going to turn the warping on. Then I’m going to set up a follow action here. I did a follow action video a while back, this one is slightly different. I’m going to set up a faster follow action now. Instead of just having a couple of beats or one bar on the follow action, I’m just going to set this up so it’ll last for a sixteenth note. So, each one of these vocals is actually going to be triggered every sixteenth note. And to do that, all I need to do is take this one digit here on the follow action and just turn it down to zero, and that’ll automatically take me to one sixteenth. And then from there, on the follow action number one, I’m just going to set up any. Now, as I play you the sample at the top, let’s say, I play just the top clip, every sixteenth we’re going to get a different clip in audio track number one playing.
You can see what’s happening there. We get real fast playback on all these different clips and because they’re all ever so slightly different, we’re never going to get the same thing twice, we’re always going to get slightly different patterns. Now also, while I’m here, while I’m still setting that follow action up, what I could do is another technique I’ve covered recently in videos which is the transient loop envelope, and if I just set that to sixteenths and take the transit loop mode to play stop and then the envelope decay, take it right down. You get more of a kind of staccato, glitchy sound on those vocals, because now after each sixteenth plays, the first sixteenth of each sample is fading out so we’re getting a slightly tighter clip sound. Now that’s set up, let’s just leave that to do it’s thing and let’s have a look at the beat. I just bring the vocals down.
This is how I want this to work. I want my beat to just play and the vocal textures to just sit kind of in the background, constantly changing. It’s a nice way to retain a bit of interest in a beat, especially if you’re just using the same couple of bars over and over. To have an extra texture behind it, like a vocal part or even a percussion part, you could try this same technique with short little measures of conga patterns or bongo patterns, maybe not set up to sixteenths but up to maybe eighth notes or some kind of triplet pattern that would just be really, really interesting. But here, I’ve just set this up to sixteenths so we get this fast inter- play, this fast kind of chopping effects with the vocals.
Now, what would be really nice is if I set up some effects on this track as well. The first thing I’m going to do is use EQ3, just to take off some of the bottom end, so the vocals have got that kind of transistor radio effect on them. We get that with EQ3. We get more of a kind of filtered effect with EQ3. I’m also going to set up a side chain compression action on the vocals. If I just open up the side chain option on the compressor, switch it on, take the audio from Swedish beats. There we go, but now because the Swedish beat has got kicks and snares and high hats in it, I’m going to use the EQ just to home in on the low frequencies coming from that beat. So what we’ll get now is the kick. You can see it there on the input, the threshold.
The beat is triggering that compressor now. And if I bring the threshold now, we start to get that nice pumping effect that we get with side chain compression, and it’s just mainly whatever the kit plays we’re getting that ducking effect and the vocals just kind of sit in the back. And that just bounces along really nicely with the beat. This little riff is just, again, one of the older samples in my collection from the Swedish house sound pack and all I’ve done, I’ve taken the same loop, just transposed one of them up by a few semi-tones and one of them down by a few semi-tones. This is the one that’s higher register, actually. Two semi-tones up, and the first one four semi-tones down just to give me kind of a little riff.
That’s my little track so far, just the experiment really. I just wanted to see how those vocals would sound with the follow action set underneath the beat. And this is just going to keep that beat interesting now, as I kind of think about adding other elements. You can learn loads of cool stuff like this at PointBlankOnline.net, and I’ll be back again next week to show you some more little cool tricks with Ableton Live 8 and sounds and samples from ClickProduce.com. Peace.