I am an Ableton Live user. From the first time I used Live I was hooked. Live 9 was released not too long ago and I spent the better part of two weeks as a hermit, endlessly digging into all of the new instruments, effects, and samples that came with the thirty-plus gigabytes of Live 9 Suite. However, I think I may have gone a bit overboard because I feel (for the moment) quite burnt out. This Live hiatus has given me time to explore a somewhat different aspect of music production and performance; iPad apps.
Fortunately, there is no lack of apps (and FREE apps at that) for those wishing to make music on their mobile. I downloaded and tried around 25 apps before I narrowed it down to the list below, but there are still quite a few that I would like to try. Everything that I tried was completely free and most had either premium paid versions with more features or the ability to make in-app purchases to boost your experience. Lets take a quick look at what each of these apps does…
Recently released by Novation, the Launchpad app mirrors the look of it’s hardware counterpart and is setup much like you would set up a loop-based set in Ableton Live. It comes with eight sessions in different genres with audio content from Loopmasters. Each session has an array of buttons containing different audio loops and one-shots that you can combine as you please. Coupled with an easy FX an mixer section this is a great app for both beginners and veterans.
Also from Novation, Launchkey is a synthesizer that includes 60 preset sounds. With a keyboard and beautiful multi-function X-Y interface it is easy to play and morph your sounds. The big selling point, however, is the app’s full integration with the Launchkey hardware. Novation has released 25, 29, and 61 key hardware that allows you to connect and control every part of the synth.
Purmagnetik’s Clap Box is an iOS recreation of the iconic 80’s ‘Clap Trap’ synthesizer. All it really does is create clapping sounds, but with features like audio triggering and full MIDI integration you could have some real fun with this app. Nothing spectacular on it’s own, but when combined with other instruments, hardware, or other musicians, you have a definite winner.
From Propellerhead Software (the makers of Reason) comes an addictive little music making app that it extremely easy to use. You get to make a drum beat, bass line, and a lead synth all with very unique tactile interfaces. The sound quality from this app is great and it looks stunning. The learning curve is very minimal, but you still dig quite deep if you want to. Automatic iTunes export along with instant SoundCloud sharing make this a great app for creating beats.
By far, my favorite app that I downloaded was Tabletop. This modular studio workstation allows you to create your own setups by dropping various instruments and effects into the session. Everything you add gets connected through a virtual mixer and you have complete control over everything. This app works almost as a DAW, with the ability to use multiple instruments and effects, sequence them using MIDI, and have a complete mixing section. It comes with several built in instruments and effect, but you can also buy more in-app as well as use other third-party premium apps like iMPC from Akai inside of the interface. You can also import and play songs or samples from your library, which makes this the most versatile music making app I have seen yet.
All of these apps have a different niche, but they all serve the same purpose; making music. There are quite a few bad music apps out there, but I was pleasantly surprised at the amount and diversity of quality music apps. Whether you use them as your primary musical tool, a backup for DJing, busking on the street, or an impromptu dance parties, you should definitely incorporate some music apps into your life!
Special Note on DJing apps!
The new Traktor app is world-class and looks to be the one for two-deck mobile DJs. It isn’t free, but a full-service DJ app for $19.99 seems like a good deal to me.
I mentioned earlier that I am an Ableton Live user. Well, there are a number of apps available for Live that work as controllers, but I have been using touchAble in my live setup for a while now. Out of all of the apps that I tried, touchAble is the easiest, most intuitive, and best looking app that $24.99 can buy. If you are a Live user I highly recommend getting it.
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!
Ableton recently announced the details of their much anticipated release of Live 9. Everyone in the Live community knew that this would be coming soon, especially after the release of a 64-bit Live 8 Beta earlier this year and has been eagerly awaiting the details. While the Steve Jobs-esque launch event left something to be desired, the new features that they are rolling out are definitely eye-catching. They also completely reinvented their website to go along with Live 9. Here’s a look into some of the new features…
New Automation and Session View Features
Live’s use of macro controls and the easy recording of automation in arrangement view has always been one of it’s advantages over other DAWs. The downside was that this automation was relatively useless in a live performance setting unless you cut-copy-pasted individual sections from arrangement to session view. In Live 9 you’ll now be able to record your automation directly into clips, which will speed up a lot of the creative process for many producers and performers. Another handy new feature is the addition of automation curves. Many other DAWs have had this feature for a while, so it is nice to see Live finally add it to the roster.
A new ‘arrangement to scenes’ feature is going to be a huge time-saver for producers who play their own tracks using scenes. In Live 8 you would have to copy and paste each individual stem to it’s own clip slot and manually arrange all of your scenes in order to play it back. In Live 9 all you have to do is highlight an area in arrangement view and there is a feature in the secondary-click menu that will do all the work for you.
The browser has been redone to look more like a split-window browser, almost a hybrid of the Mac OSX Finder. Search functions have been improved, a new ranking system shows how much you use various items, and you can now preview instrument sounds without loading it onto a track. While some of these changes might have negligible results, the instrument preview will probably save some hassle for quite a few people.
Audio to MIDI Functions
One of the biggest updates for Live is the new batch of audio-to-MIDI functions. In Live 8 you could easily slice an audio track into a playable MIDI instrument, but now you can convert individual audio clips into a MIDI representation of it’s composition. The Drums-to-MIDI function will take any percussive audio clip (whether a drum sample or you beatboxing) and convert the waveform into a new MIDI drum pattern that you can manipulate. The Harmony-to MIDI and Melody-to-MIDI functions will perform this same operation on audio that has chordal and/or single-note musical phrases.
While the addition of these functions might trigger a wave of questionable remixes when used improperly, there will be a world of opportunity for producers who can harness them. The accessibility of this technology is a fairly large step in the digital audio production and performance world.
MIDI Note Manipulation
In addition to the new MIDI features described above, Live is also adding a host of new note transformation tools in MIDI editor. Transpose, reverse, duplicate, and invert are just some of the functions that you will be able to quickly apply to any MIDI clip. For producers who work a lot with complex MIDI clips, this could easily become a new source of creative inspiration.
The EQ Eight, Compressor and Gate have all been improved with better sound and controls. They also feature a new interface that includes a spectrum analyzer so that you can see what you are doing to the waveform. Many producers will probably find the spectrum analyzer on the EQ Eight to be particularly helpful. In addition to the enhancements made to these devices, there will also be a new compressor, called Glue, modeled off of a classic 80s console compressor.
Suite 9 will come with over 50GB of sounds! There will be enough new sounds straight out of the box to inspire any producer whether you work with loops, samples, or MIDI. Max for Live now also comes bundled with Suite 9, which can help seasoned Live users find new inspiration. There are already over 900 devices available through the Max for Live community and you can build your own custom devices with a little bit of tweaking.
In a huge step forward for the company, Ableton announced the release of it’s first branded MIDI controller called Push. The previous collaborations with the Akai (APC40/APC20) and Novation (Launchpad) were extremely successful for Live 8, but for Live 9 Ableton will be releasing their own piece of hardware. Upon first inspection it looks like they took the best things from the APC40, Launchpad, and the Maschine and combined them all into a super-controller. There are too many details to go into here, but check back for an upcoming post on Ableton Push.
They haven’t announced an exact release date yet, but it looks like it will be in the first half of 2013. There will be three different versions at different price points; Intro, Standard, and Suite. If you already own an Ableton product they are offering 25% discounts on upgrades to Live 8 with a free upgrade to Live 9 when it comes out. You can check out the differences between the three versions here.