Ableton is a powerful tool for live im-provised musical performance, but let’s start with the basics – playing two tracks together like a DJ. First step, you need to warp your tracks so that they play in time, no matter what the tempo. Try this step-by-step method, it works!
1. Load a full length track into an empty audio clip slot.
2. Un-warp the track in the sample editor.
3. Turn the metronome off.
4. Play the tune and carefully tap the tempo (top left corner).
5. Turn track warp on.
6. Find the first beat or start of the rhythm.
7. Right-click on the transient of the first beat and set 1:1:1here – this will create a yellow warp marker.
8. Check bar 5, 9, 17, 33, 65 etc to see if they are on time.
9. Move the transient; don’t set a warp marker unless there really is a tempo change.
10. If the tempo is unstable, place warp markers where necessary.
11. If the tempo is stable, one warp marker at the beginning of the track and maybe one at the end should be enough.
12. Set the track loop so that the tune continues when it comes to the end – you’ll never have dead air.
13. Check that your track is in time with the metronome and with other tunes.
14. Repeat with the next tune.
Now you need to choose the best warp mode. Re-pitch delivers the cleanest quality by pitching the track like a turntable or CDJ. Complex keeps the original pitch. Complex Pro sounds good but chows CPU. Don’t use Beats, Tones or Textures on full tracks, although they are fine for beat-loops and acapellas.
You need to adjust the track volume so that all your tunes have the same level when mixed. Most modern tunes are all mastered to 0db peak level, but the RMS or “perceived volume” can be radically different. I use a useful function from Traktor Pro – in the “analysed” column check out the gain amount, and turn your track volume up or down in Live accordingly. Alternatively you could use the RMS function in Sound Forge to give you an idea of how loud the track sounds. For the less technically inclined, use your ears!
If you are using Complex or Complex Pro warp mode, you can adjust the pitch of the track independently from the tempo by using the transpose knob in the Ableton sample editor.
Final tweaks – rename the clip to something useful to you and change the colour according to genre or style. Remember to click save in the Ableton sample editor so that your tune re-loads with the same settings next time!
It seems like a lot of work, but you only ever need to do this process once per tune (unless you forget to save!) and the track will always play on time and in key now and forever after. The whole process should only take you a minute or two when you get practiced at it.
Now that you have warped your tunes, it’s time to start playing around with mixing tunes together. Experienced DJ’s will probably find that it’s a little boring doing plain old beat mixing! All the tempo matching work has been done, so there is a lot more time to play around with live remixing different elements of tracks together.
I encourage you to break up your tracks into different parts like intro, breakdown, buildups, etc. To do this, duplicate the clip (CMD/CTRL D) and set different start and loop points. Make sure to turn loop on in the sample editor. Rename the clips accordingly and start making your own bootleg edits and remixes of your favourite tracks.
Next we are going to look at setting up effects on every channel and working with midi controllers.
Written By : Fletcher Beadon