This week we’re going to be covering how to sync multiple computers running Ableton Live.’ I will be covering all the necessary steps to sync two MacBooks running Live, but the process will be the same for PC users (albeit with the respective PC program equivalents).
Synchronizing the MIDI clocks of two computers running Live is an essential part of collaborating with another Live user.’ While it is possible to play together without connecting the computers, I feel that you put yourself at a disadvantage because you are not fully utilizing all of Live’s crucial ‘warping’ features.’ I have read many different articles on this subject and some have quite in-depth explanations using third party plugins and are, quite frankly, and bit intimidating.’ While I cannot speak to the effectiveness of these techniques on a PC or using other performance software, I use a MacBook Pro and the technique I describe below is what I use on a weekly basis.’ Everything you need is already inside your Mac and can be set up very quickly with a bit of practice.
The first step you will need to connect the computers in some way.’ The two most effective ways are by either connecting them with a single ethernet cable or by creating an ad-hoc wireless network.’ To create an ad-hoc network you simply click on the wifi icon in your top menu bar and select ‘create network’.’ This will prompt you to a window where you can create a name for your network and security.
Once this ad-hoc network is created, the second computer should be able to see it as an available wifi network to join.’ Select it like any other wifi network and enter the unique password (if applicable).’ You will notice that the typical wifi symbol in your top menu bar is slightly different than usual.’ If both computers have this symbol, you know that the network connection worked properly.
Once both computers are connected you need to sync them up via the Audio MIDI Setup application (which can be found in your utilities folder).’ Inside the Audi MIDI Setup app, you will see icons for the various audio drivers and MIDI controllers that you have associated with your computer.’ For our purposes here, you want the icon labelled ‘Network’.’ Double-click on this and you will be prompted to a new window called ‘MIDI Network Setup’, which is where things can get a bit tricky.
Before you adjust any settings in this window you need to determine how the computers will communicate.’ In a two computer setup there will be a ‘master’ and a ‘slave’ computer (i.e. one sending the signals and one receiving the signals).’ In the bottom right hand section labelled ‘Live Routings’ the ‘master computer will select ‘Network Session 1? from the top drop-down menu and the ‘slave’ will select ‘Network Session 1? from the bottom drop-down menu.
In the top left menu ‘My Sessions’ you will want to make sure you have one session enabled.’ By default it will be named ‘Session 1?, but I recommend that you change the name to something unique.’ If you were able to successfully connect the computers via ethernet cable or ad-hoc network you should see each other’s computers under the bottom left window called ‘Directory’.’ Both computers should double click on the name listed in the ‘Directory’ to create a new connection.’ This will prompt the name of the other computer to show up in the window on the right labelled ‘Participants’.’ Once the computers are connected this way I recommend changing the ‘Local Name’ to something unique if it hasn’t already been changed from the default ‘Session 1?.’ If the computers are connected properly you should be able to see the Port number, Latency and IP addresses.
All of the above steps are to get the two computers speaking to one another. Now it is time to sync Live together. In Live, open up the ‘Preferences’ menu (either through the top menu or by pressing command) and go to the ‘MIDI Sync’ tab. Under the ‘MIDI Ports’ section at the bottom you should now see two new items; ‘Input Network (Session 1)’ and ‘Output: Network (Session 1)’.’ Here, the only buttons that should be selected out of these two MIDI Ports are the ‘sync’ button for the output of the ‘master’ computer and the ‘sync’ button for the input of the slave computer.
Once the MIDI Sync for the two computer’s respective input and output have been set, a new button labelled ‘EXT’ will now appear in the ‘slave’ computer’s Live in the upper left corner next to the tempo selector.’ The ‘slave’ computer should click this ‘EXT’ button to enable the external control of the program.’ Once it is enabled you will notice that the transport controls and tempo of the ‘slave’ computers Live become greyed-out and cannot be adjusted.’ This means that the two computers are properly synced and the ‘master’ computer has control over the global tempo and transport controls.
When the ‘master’ computer hits the global play button both computers should now be playing together with both the tempo and arrangement position indicators showing the same values.’ Any clips that are triggered on either computer will now play on the same tempo grid.
Depending on where you are playing, there are a variety of different audio output options to hear both computers playing.’ Ideally, you would want both computers to have their own sound cards and have each output running into a master mixer.’ However, if only one sound card is available you could run an 1/8th inch to RCA cable from one computer into the ‘input’ of the second computer’s sound card.’ Again, depending on the equipment available your audio output may vary.
I hope that the explanation above was clear.’ I use this exact setup to connect with other Live users on a regular basis.’ One thing I have noticed is that these network connections are sometimes quite fickle.’ If you notice that they are not working together correctly, simply repeat the process.’ Sometimes it is as simple as the order in which the programs were opened or the names that you give your network sessions.’ If nothing else works you can also try renewing your DHCP lease on the network you are using through your main System Preferences network menu.
If you want to learn more about DJing and gear we highly recommend you check out our online DJ School Spin-Academy.
Today, Apple officially launched iTunes Radio. This launch coincides with the release of iOS7, Apple’s revamped mobile operating system. iTunes Radio will be Apple’s official venture into the word of streaming radio alongside established giants such as Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, and Rdio.
What sets iTunes Radio apart from its competitors is its integration with the user’s existing iTunes library and generating genre-based playlists based on their preferences. Presumably, since many people are already using iTunes, the level of personalization with iTunes Radio should outshine its competitors and should adapt more quickly.
iTunes Radio is free and ad-supported, unless you subscribe to iTunes Match. In that case, your iTunes Radio will be personalized AND ad-free.
Ableton 9.1 beta was just released and is the first major update since its release in March. The public beta has a few major updates, the first of which is dual monitor support. This new dual monitor option will allow users to fully exploit Live’s two interfaces (session and arrangement view) simultaneously. You could also use it to open a full mix window or a full monitor MIDI editor.
In addition to the dual monitor support, Live will also have an improved rendering engine. This includes improved sample-rate conversion as well using multiple-cores to improve rendering speed.
For Push owners, Live 9.1 will have a brand new melodic step sequencer. This feature will also extend to editing automation with step-by-step automation.
Traktor announced the release of its updated S4 and S2 controllers last week. Updates include adding eight color-coded RGB buttons for triggering FX and samples, jog wheels with higher resolution, and dedicated Flux Mode and Remix Decks controls. The biggest update, however, is that the new S4 and S2 will work with all laptop/desktop Traktor software as well as the Traktor apps for iPhone and iPad. This hardware extension is poised to take Native Instruments‘ mobile DJ offering to the next level. With storage capacity and processing power of mobile devices ever-increasing, it seems logical that a line up of robust hands-on professional controllers would follow. It will be interesting to see how many DJs adopt the mobile gear as their primary setup as more hardware of this nature is released.
Check out the video demo from Mad Zach…
The best mix is not really a mix, but a free preview album stream from Prison Garde. A resident of Montreal and currently playing some shows out west (including Victoria’s Rifflandia), Prison Garde always brings the heat. Check out the 909 and Moog-laden dance vibes of his latest studio effort, Fortresses.
Australia’s Wave Racer has hit one out of the park with his remix of DCUP’s “Don’t Be Shy”. Crisp snares, rolling arpeggios, and pitched vocal work all shine through the glimmering feel-good chord progressions on this track. If this doesn’t leave a smile on your face, I don’t know what will.
Grab a free download at XLR8R.
If you want to learn more about DJing and gear we highly recommend you check out our online DJ School Spin-Academy.
In a previous article I explained some of the waveform basics that every DJ should know. In this article, I’m going to go a bit more in-depth with how you can integrate your knowledge of waveforms into your mixing style.
One thing that might become immediately apparent after spending some time with waveforms is that they are not all created equally. The phenomenon know as the ‘loudness wars’ has resulted in a lot of heavy compression and limiting being used in the mastering phase of track production. This process reduces the dynamic range of the song, resulting in a track that on the surface appears to have more ‘power’ and will stay at a consistent volume throughout.
In the waveform terms we previously discussed, this process results in less variation in the height of the crests and troughs. In addition, the peaks of these crests and troughs will be close to their maximum height (without distorting). You can see examples of a heavily compressed/limited track as well as an ‘average’ track below. Clearly, there are some differences…
Note that when you hear a heavily compressed/limited track it might appear to have more power simply because the ‘loud’ parts are more consistent throughout the track. In reality, this reduction of dynamics actually makes the track less powerful because there is less separation of the musical elements, resulting in a dynamic ‘blurring’ of sorts. This ‘blurring’ works well for radio, streaming, and listening on earbuds, but when played on a properly set up club system it will seem less ‘punchy’.
So how can you use this information when you’re mixing?
When you are loading a new track into one of your decks (Serato, Traktor) or getting ready to trigger a new clip (Live) you will immediately be able to visually compare it’s waveform with the waveform of the playing track. If there are obvious differences in the waveform you should be able to make some preliminary adjustments to your settings (i.e. the volume). This could apply to either a full section of a track that has been mastered differently than your playing track, but also for various elemental sections of a track. For example, if you are going to mix into a verse or chorus of a track that has been heavily compressed/limited you might want to turn down the initial volume to make a smoother transition because it will appear to be very loud. Conversely, if you want to mix into a less busy hi-hat only section you might have to turn up the initial volume for it to cut through the mix.
Normally, you would be doing this in your headphones and by looking at the VU meter on your mixer, but you can use the visual technique to help you when you need it. Also, instead of using the volume faders to mix in/out, you could use your basic EQ controls. In the example of a highly compressed track, you could kill the lows, mids, or highs to make some room for the mix. Killing the low end is usually a good way to cut through because when you have two sings playing the full spectrum, the result can often be quite muddy.
One thing that I find to be helpful is to set your track volume faders at about -6 dB. Depending on the hardware setup, the effects and plugins you are using, and the PA system, you might have several different gain stages that will affect the overall output. If you are running a heavily compressed/limited song through a mixer track set at 0 db, then have various effects on it, which then gets sent to a PA system with limiter safeguards, the resulting sound will probably sound very squashed. By running your mixer tracks at a lower volume you allow room for various gain stages to work on the song without it constantly hitting the limiter ceiling. This is especially true for Ableton Live users that create effects racks for all of their tracks.
One part of the debate between vinyl and digital is the issue of dynamic range. Songs on vinyl records often sound cleaner and more ‘punchy’ because they have not been heavily compressed/limited in the mastering phase. In the two images above, you could think of the ‘average’ track as an average waveform that a vinyl record would produce and compare it to the same track heavily mastered as a digital release.
The issue of digital file size and the audio quality also comes into play as part of this discussion. Lower quality audio files have less audio information in them, so when they are heavily compressed/limited the results sound significantly worse than a more dynamic song of the same quality. You should always use the highest quality audio files available. 320 kbps + or bust!
If you want to learn more about DJing and gear we highly recommend you check out our online DJ School here at Spin-Academy.
As you are probably well aware, DJing with Ableton Live is a bit different than DJing with Serato or Traktor. There is a little bit more pre-production that goes into creating a Live set than with ‘deck’ style DJing. With so many options available, where do you start?
We’re going to talk about one way that you can set up your Live project to create an easy to use hip hop DJ set. There are many other ways that you can do this, but take this as a foundation to build upon and modify to suit your personal style.
Audio and MIDI Tracks
We start out with two audio and one MIDI tracks. These audio tracks will be for the full songs and the MIDI track will be for a drum kit. You can arrange these in whatever order you like, but I personally prefer to set it up and rename as; “Track A”, “Drums” “Track B”.
A lot of hip hop (at least what has been in my current rotation) does not have the ebb and flow of large builds and breakdowns as a lot of EDM does. This will affect where you can logically start playing clips and, consequently, will affect your mixing style. The first thing you have to when importing your songs is warp them. By default, I have auto warping set to the ‘Complex’ mode, but I have found that vocal hip hop sounds a lot better when using the ‘Tones’ or ‘Texture’ warp modes. Higher quality audio files will go a long way when playing with warp settings, so try to use 320 kbps or higher and play with the settings until they sound right.
Once the clips are warped properly I like to make three versions of each song. These versions will all be in the same track and will be staggered with the proceeding clips in the next track. In the first clip I like to find the spot in the song where the first verse (or at least my favorite verse) begins. Depending on the song I will usually let it play our for at least one verse and the chorus, so I try to pick a start spot that I can jump to immediately. In the next clip I like to find an drum break and set a four or eight bar loop. Drum loops like this can usually be found in intro and/or outro sections of the song. I put this clip second because I don’t always want to start each new song with its default intro. Personally, I like to mix out of tracks with these drum breaks because you can control the length and flow of your transitions. In the third clip I will usually find a snare, clap, etc. hit from the previous drum loop and set it as a one-shot. You can do this by disabling the loop bracket and moving the end marker to the end of the sound in question.
Why do this? Well, I like using the drum loops to control transitions, but they can sometimes get stale very fast. By having the snare hit from the loop in a separate clip you can play these two clips as you would play the kick and snare in a drum kit. Voila, instant remix.
Occasionally, instead of a drum loop I will use an instrumental loop. It is good to have a few of these available for the times when you just need to kill the beat and have a moment with the melody. Some songs just have an instrumental break that is too good to pass up, while sometimes others just have drum breaks that don’t fit with what you’re doing. It’s all a matter of personal taste.
I always like to have a playable drum kit in my DJ sets. There’s something about playing an instrument (if only a MIDI instrument) that makes it feel like I’m REALLY performing. There are hundreds of drum kits that come packaged with Ableton Live, which gives you the ability to pick a kit that will blend with the sound of your set. I usually end up using a good ol’ 808 style kit to keep things booming, but you should pick something that suits your taste. You can use this kit in intros, breaks, or just to give a song a little more thump.
Since you are creating an entire MIDI track for this drum kit you can create a bunch of MIDI clips to go along. I like to have a series of ‘elements’ MIDI clips in this track to boost the beats of the currently playing song. What are these ‘elements’, you ask? Basically, they are MIDI clips that only have one or two sounds in four or eight bar loops that can be played with a fully mixed song. For example, a clip with claps on the ‘2’ and ‘4’ or a stream of eighth-note hi-hats. These can be used to add energy, even out mix production between tracks, or to give a remix vibe to your songs.
To give a ‘Trap’ feel to any track you can create a series of clips with streams of hi-hats at different rhythmic values (i.e. from quarter notes to thirty-second notes). You can trigger these clips at different intervals while a song is playing to change the vibe
Between the drum loops, one-shots, verse starts, and drum kit you should be able to come up with an interesting way to play your hip hop set. However, this is only one way to set up and play so you should experiment with various setups and see what works best for you and your style of music.
If you want to learn more about DJing and gear we highly recommend you check out our online DJ School here at Spin-Academy.
A well chopped sample is the backbone of many hip hop and dance songs. For most producers the days of recording a few seconds of audio from vinyl to tape are long gone, but the principles behind it remain virtually unchanged. And while digging for source material may have largely shifted from record stores to blogs, the number of quality remixers producing music has never been greater.
There is a range of different tools you can use to create your samples when working with digital audio. Akai’s MPC line has been a staple for hip hop producers for years and Native Instruments’ Maschine has quickly become a new favorite. For the purposes of this article we’re going to focus on using Ableton Live.
Since Live is a DAW you are not confined to any one piece of hardware. You can use any combination of the mouse and MIDI controllers to do all of your chopping and slicing.
Before you start chopping any samples you need to find your source material. The style of this source material will depend largely on the genre of music you’re going to be making. Many classic hip hop songs are based on samples from old funk and soul records (especially James Brown).
Click here for a list of some of the most heavily sampled artists of all time.
Once the song is chosen, you will need to warp it. Warping will lock the song to a beat grid and allow you to play it at any tempo in sync with other clips and songs. Live will often do this automatically for you, but if the automatic warping doesn’t work perfectly, you will need to find the first beat, place a warp marker, command click and set 1.1.1 on that warp marker. Then command click again and warp it using one of the warp commands.
To select your sample, start off by listening to the song and identifying where different parts of the song begin and end. Depending on the genre of the song, you might be able to visually see these parts in the waveform.
The next step will be to create new clips for every song section that you want to isolate. You can do this by selecting the clip and pressing ‘command-D’ to duplicate the clip as many times as you need.
Within each clip you will now want to move the start marker and loop bracket over the section you want to play. You can do this by simply dragging them where you want them, or typing in the location in the sample box. You can then turn on the loop bracket and adjust it to the length of the section. Most dance music will have sections that are 4, 8, 16, or 32 bars in length.
Apart from the different song structures that you will have in each individual clip, you should try to find any parts of the song that have isolated instrument parts. These parts can often be found in intros, outros, and breaks and are very useful as chopped samples. Not every song will have isolated parts, and the type and length of them will vary significantly. Some might only be 2 beats long, but if you can find them and isolate them you can use them in creative ways.
Things to look for are drum breaks (without other instruments), small solo vocal parts, and any instrumental parts that are free from a lot of background music.
When using these types of samples you will need to add more layers to make it sound like a proper remix, so putting these isolated clips in new tracks is definitely a good idea. If they are in their own track, you will be able to play them at the same time as any other clips from the song or other clips that you want to blend in.
You can create a new track by pressing ‘command-T’. You can then copy clips by copying and pasting, or by holding the option key then dragging and dropping the clip in the new track. You can also rename them to make it clear what the clip is. Depending on what type of clip it is, you might want to have the loop turned on or off. For drum loops and any other repeating patterns you will want to keep the loop on. But for vocals and short melodic clips you might want to turn it off so that the clip only plays once when you trigger it.
All of this is a great way to start learning how to chop samples. However, one of the great things about Live is that you don’t necessarily have to go through all of these steps. Live has a built in feature called ‘slice to MIDI’ which will automatically take any chunk of audio and chop it into equal sized samples in it’s own MIDI instrument. You can select the grid that it chops at (i.e. 1/8 note, 1 bar, transients, etc.) as well as a range of built in effects you can process the audio with. A new MIDI track will automatically be created and you can play the samples with any MIDI controller. This way, you can spend more time playing the samples like an instrument rather than scanning full tracks and tweaking start points.
Note: since you are using MIDI, the audio will be chopped into a maximum of 127 samples.
This is one of many ways that you can chop up samples in Ableton Live. The Simpler and Sampler instruments are also great tools for creating your own samples, but they will take more space than this article to explain.
Try using a combination of these two techniques on your next remix and see how they can work together!