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Resampling In Ableton Live Tutorial

Resampling In Ableton Live

 

About the author: The Creature is an up and coming Bass Music Artist residing in Vancouver, BC. Taking compositional cues from his previous 8 years of drumming in Progressive Rock and Fusion Jazz ensembles, he dishes out musicality not often heard in today’s electronic music. Combined with his voracious appetite for fresh sound design techniques and machine-like work ethic, he is rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Resampling In Ableton Live

Of the many tools in a producer’s belt, resampling is one of the simplest yet most powerful they can wield. It is one of those skills of lore, often discovered when one digs through tutorials and forums online. Moreover, it is a technique not fully understood by many. In this article, I would like to demystify this topic and demonstrate not only how easy it is in Ableton, but why you need to be doing it!

Resampling is exactly what the name implies: turning the sound you have just created (often with a soft synth and potentially long FX chain) back into an audio sample. It is a quick, and easy way to start fresh, as though you have pulled the sound you just created out of a sample pack. Here is how you would accomplish this in Ableton:

  • Create a new audio track under the instrument or audio track you would like to resample
  • Go into the ‘Audio From’ drop-down and select ‘Resampling’

Ableton Resampling Dropdown

  • Arm the ‘resampling’ track (the ‘record’ button next to the channel’s solo button), hit the ‘arrangement record’ button in the transport controls at the top of the project, and watch your fully effected, processed synth turn into an audio sample!

how to resample in ableton

I cannot say specifically (as I have only used Ableton since I started producing), but I have been told by many that this method is far easier and faster than the equivalent methods necessary in any other DAW.

There are some things to be mindful of while using this method, however. The ‘Resampling’ input method actually takes its input from the master bus output. This means that any other routing/FX that the channel to-be-resampled passes through on its way to, and out of the master bus will also be recorded into your resampled audio. Specifically:

  • The audio will be run through any FX that are placed on the group that the track is contained within (if it is inside a group)
  • The audio will be run through any FX that are placed on the master bus
  • The resampled audio will contain signal from any send tracks that the source channel is sent to, unless you turn their mixer channel off

If you are resampling within a track in progress, where you have your sound to be resampled within a group (with group FX on it), sent to a send like a reverb or a delay, and you have placed a limiter or compressor on the master channel~ this could spell trouble as the resampled audio will then be passed through these FX a second time when played back. It doesn’t tend to be an issue for me as I do the majority of my sound design outside my writing projects in advance of writing, which I would highly recommend to anybody. In these project files, I always leave the master channel clean, rarely if ever use sends, and if sounds are grouped it is for the purpose of resampling them together.

In the case that you are left in this sticky situation during a writing session, the easy way to get around it is to select the specific channel you are trying to resample in the same input drop-down menu you would usually select ‘Resampling’ from. It will then also give you the option of snagging the audio ‘Pre FX’, ‘Post FX’, or ‘Post Mixer’. These are generally picked according to preference or situation, though I rarely find the need to resample Pre FX.

So now that you know how to resample, you may be wondering why it’s such a big deal. There are lots of benefits to working with audio in Ableton:

 

  1. Complexity/amount of automation

I don’t know about anybody else, but I sure can’t wrap my head around automating 20-40 parameters on one patch in the middle of a writing session. By the time most of my sounds are finished, if you stacked every effect I used back on the end of the original source patch the chain would likely be 20 or more effects long with different automation on nearly every effect.

Resampling keeps things simple by only having to wrap my head around maybe 5 or 6 automations, at which point I will resample and start again. I feel it also produces better results, because each time I resample I try and evaluate the sound from scratch. What does this sound really need right now? How should I move this filter to accentuate what I like in it, and subdue what I don’t? It also reduces the chance that I will just double out an effect down the FX chain and use the same automation, which rarely produces the desired effect.

 

  1. Giving your CPU a break

Resampling saves CPU headaches during writing. You are left with 0 FX chain once you drop your resampled patch into your writing project. This takes the burden off of your CPU, and allows for lower latency times/buffer sizes. You may need do some simple EQ’ing to fit the sound into the mix, or apply some group FX to meld it with other similar patches, but this is nothing compared to running 5 patches with 30 effects each and then expecting to have a 512 buffer size.

 

Resampling In Ableton Live Tutorial

 

  1. Visual representation of where your sounds are

For me, this mostly applies to drums. There is something that I can’t get from writing with a VST instrument that I do from being able to visually see all my drum waveforms in their own channels. It really drives home how each element fits in the overall drum groove and how they might clash as well. As opposed to using a drum VST, all of sustain/release of a sound is visible and makes mix decisions quicker and easier.

 

  1. Ease of arrangement

For arranging bass sections, audio is king. When you have a super long resample with all of your automations, Ableton makes it very easy to scroll through all of them and pick what fits the track best. You do this by taking your resample/audio clip, shortening it to the length of note you want in the arrangement view, then engaging the ‘Loop’ function on that clip.

Loop Mode Ableton

Once loop is engaged, if you grab and drag the bottom of the two triangles seen above the waveform in the last picture, you can move where the sample starts without changing the length of the overall sample in your arrangement. This is essentially like scrolling through a huge wavetable and makes auditioning different pieces of your resampled patch very easy within a section that already has other parts written (drums, FX, melody, etc).

 

  1. Fades/clip volume envelopes

Fades and clip volume envelopes are both excellent creative tools, but also make mixing easier. On the creativity front, I will choose a fade or clip volume envelope over a sidechain compressor 99% of the time. If you happen to be making house music where all the synths are ducked to the kick and that kick is 4 to the floor the entire track, then I will concede that maybe a sidechain compressor is a quicker way to get the desired sound.

That said, if you are making tracks where the kick drum placement changes in each bar, a sidechain compressor can totally ruin the flow of your bass or percussion. Sometimes you may want the bass and kick to hit together with no ducking for a meatier smack. And when you do want that ducking effect, a fade/volume envelope will give you far more precise control of how much you duck the sound, how long you duck it for, and the shape of the ducking release.

Mix-wise, utilising the fades and clip volume envelops also frees up your channel fader for overall instrument level control. Because you don’t have to use the channel fader to automate the aforementioned ducking effect (unlike if you were using most VST’s), the channel fader is then reserved for when you need a global one or two decibel bump on the instrument throughout your whole track. This saves a lot of time trying to perfectly drag fully automated channel volumes up or down those couple dB’s.

 

  1. Warp modes

This is probably my favourite feature for working with audio in Ableton. Each warp mode uses a different sample playback algorithm, tailored for different source material. When you use these different modes the way they weren’t necessarily intended, you can get some really cool results. It is important to note that none of these modes will engage unless you either re-pitch or stretch the audio in the clip you are working with.

 

6.1 Beats Mode

Meant to preserve transient material, this mode can create really interesting shuffle/glitch effects when used on warped bass samples. I find preserving ‘Transients’ to be the most interesting/randomly cool. You can then select the loop mode to gate, loop forward, or loop back and forth between transients. Each of these will create distinctly different effects.

 

Beats mode can turn this:

[sc_embed_player fileurl=”https://bassgorilla.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/RESAMPLING-SOURCE_1.mp3″]

Into this:

[sc_embed_player fileurl=”https://bassgorilla.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/RESAMPLING-BEATS_1.mp3″]

 

6.2 Tones Mode

Tones mode is listed as being meant for “clearly pitched audio”. Though it won’t produce the most exciting results, it does create the most natural sounding re-pitch when pitching audio that only has one instrument in the sample.

 

6.3 Textures Mode

Textures mode is meant for “polyphonic or noisy sounds”. It allows adjustment of the grain playback size, and grain size randomness (it runs using a granular algorithm). This is probably my favourite warp mode.

When the flux parameter is set to 0, there is no randomness in the grain size. What that means is: when you change or automate the grain size (in the clip envelopes) audible side-bands can be created similar to amplitude modulation or ring modulation. This lends itself nicely to giving bass patches a robotic or metallic effect when combined with some transposition modulation.

Ableton textures mode

 

Textures mode can turn the previous source sound into this:

[sc_embed_player fileurl=”https://bassgorilla.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/RESAMPLING-TEXTURE_1.mp3″]

 

6.4 Re-Pitch Mode

Re-Pitch mode works like audio does when you leave it un-warped. If you stretch or compress the audio, Re-Pitch mode will adjust the pitch accordingly. The difference is that you can control the stretch or compression variably, unlike un-warped audio in Ableton. If the audio is un-warped, you can only set a static transposition value and leave it at that. I don’t use this mode often as I find it hard to control. If I want a pitch bend, I will just drop the sound into sampler (see point 7)

 

6.5 Complex/Complex Pro Mode

These modes are made for “whole songs and complex audio”. While these modes aren’t that interesting, they do provide a clean warp if you want to stretch out one articulation or modulation/automation that is already contained within the audio.

Another noteworthy use for Complex Pro mode is pitching vocals. It allows control of formant preservation amount and the envelope attached to the formants. As you pitch vocals up or down, the position of the dominant formants moves, and this gives a very distinct effect.

For the classic sampler/pitched-down vocal sound made popular by Cyril Hahn’s “Say My Name” remix, formants can be turned to 0. This emulates pitching the audio down with warp mode off, but keeps the timing of the un-pitched source rather than stretching it out.

With formants at a higher value, some very interesting pitch-doubling effects can be created while only using one sample/no pitched-up doubles of the track.This can be useful if intelligibility of the original lyrics/words is desired.

 

  1. Sampler

While this may not technically be working in audio, once a resampled patch has been created it can be dropped into Sampler. Bringing the resample back to MIDI often makes me feel more like it is an instrument again, and allows it to be played with a keyboard.

For my workflow, this gives me a little more musical flexibility as the MIDI clip used for the sampler can then be copied over to my sub patch. The sub will then perfectly match any bass pitch bend I can create, which can be difficult when using your ear to find the bend you made in audio.

There are so many features in Sampler, it likely warrants its own separate write up. A short list of my favourite features will suffice for now:

  • FM with the internal oscillator
  • Soft/Hard shaping
  • Note velocity > sample offset control
  • Pitch envelope
  • Multiple glide modes

I hope this has shed some light on why resampling is essentially the basis of going into beast mode. The possibilities it affords are endless and are difficult to realise if you are stuck working in MIDI. There are plenty more techniques that weren’t discussed in this article. So go get in the lab, get out of your go-to synth, and start resampling!

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4 replies
  1. Luke Ward says:

    Excellent article! I really enjoyed listening to the audio clips you provided too – they helped to understand the subtle differences between these different warp modes.

  2. Snugglz says:

    This is exactly what i needed to review to go on to the next stage of production after my own sound design, neuro bass mastery and frequents sound design course.

    Your blogs are brilliant!

  3. AK says:

    Hey! GREAT article. There’s so few good write ups on music production and this is a gem. Well explained and gave me a few ideas. Thanks for sharing!

    I recently did a tutorial on a different kind of resampling. The kind you do ‘indeliberetly’ to get accidental but interesting results to use in your track.

    Check it out of this is your thing: https://youtu.be/tuyhD25SbFc

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