Ableton Essential Exercises Level 5: Chopping Breaks | STRANJAH | Skillshare

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Ableton Essential Exercises Level 5: Chopping Breaks

teacher avatar STRANJAH, Music Producer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Ableton Essential Exercises Level 5: Introduction


    • 2.

      Exercise 1: Chopping Breaks as Audio


    • 3.

      Exercise 2: Chopping Breaks as MIDI


    • 4.

      Exercise 3: Recycled Breaks into Drum Rack


    • 5.

      Exercise 4: Advanced - Warp Modes


    • 6.

      Exercise 5: Advanced - Slicing as MIDI


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About This Class

Learn how to chop up breaks using audio, MIDI and advanced sample manipulating techniques.

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Music Producer


Hello, I'm Stranjah and I am a music production instructor!  Through my 20 years of producing music for international labels such as Hospital Records and Metalheadz, I bring a wealth of knowledge and insight to students who wish to learn music production but are having a challenge getting started.  I have been teaching for almost as long as I've been making music.  I started by teaching friends and colleagues, and later evolved to teaching professionally in group and 1 to 1 classes.  My teaching style is direct with a simple step-by-step approach, ensuring that students can follow along and progress.

Feel free to drop me a message if you have any questions!

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Level: Intermediate

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1. Ableton Essential Exercises Level 5: Introduction: Hey, my name is strange and welcome to my Ableton essential exercises level 5. In this level you're going to be learning the basics of cutting up and chopping up breaks. I'm gonna be showing you basic concepts on how to chop up and rearrange breaks. And then we're going to be increasing the difficulty level by adding more complex patterns and different techniques of chopping up breaks, make sure you download the exercise files so you can follow along. All right, I'll see you over at my class. 2. Exercise 1: Chopping Breaks as Audio: So welcome to lesson 4, chopping up breaks. If you haven't already opened up the lesson file. And in the Arrangement View, you'll have this break beat in the track here. Now, if you want to start from scratch, if he have your own breaks in audio format, that's WAV or AIFF. You can just drag it into an audio track and follow along. But if you'd like to follow exactly, you can open up the project file and use the break that I've provided here. So the first level of chopping up breaks is chopping up directly as audio. Now you'll see specific transient or visual cues where certain hits, the breaks appear. So if, for example, you can tell that this big piece here must be a new sound because you have a big impact here, here. So if you play it, you can hear that That's the snare. Similarly, you'll find that kicks have a certain appearance. They have these wider wave forms indicating that there's lower frequencies here. So this is a kick. And this one's also okay. And then you'll find me smaller slices here. These typically are either hi-hat ride symbols. Sometimes they're a little shuffle, so a little ride followed by a ghost there. There's another Shuffle here. And there's one here. So that's the anatomy of a break of a kick. You have to snare and then you have low shuffles or rides. So it's important for you to identify these sections of a Trump break because they're going to be using it, it, rearranging it to create your own sequence. Now, to chop it up, all you have to do is highlight a section and then move it around. Or you could copy it, just Command or Control C and then paste it to where you want to paste. So Command V or Control V will paste out there shortcuts are Control Command D, which has duplicates your selection. So just to remember those shortcuts, Control C for copy, control V to paste, as well as control D to duplicate. You can also use Control X which cuts. So when I say control for max, that's command. Just remember that. Now you'll notice that if you copy or cut displace, don't know. So there's a bit here That's a bit left out from the snare, so it's not a perfect cut. The reason is, most of the time these breaks are recorded by a live drummer or maybe it's recorded off. And all the record and the transits may not be perfectly aligned with your grid. So what you can do is go into the audio file, double-click on it, and then on the bottom here you can see little transient markers. Ableton to texts the transient to transient, or simply the attacks of different percussive hits. If you don't see a transit, you can just double-clicking create a transient. What we wanted to do is just a line the transients with the grid so that we can perfectly cut up the break. So for example, the snare should be moved across here. And what I like to do is double-click it because that anchors it. So that creates a warp marker. So when it's gray, it's a transient marker, but when you double-click it, it anchors until warp marker. So we can do the same for the rest of the hits. Can just make it snap onto the grid. That helps if you just right-click and change the granularity of your grid, usually quarter note or eighth notes or bus. That way can see where the main hits are. So there's one more here. Now I typically like to leave the shuffles a bit groove. You're off the grid because that's what gives the feel of your drum brakes. So I typically don't move these guys, but if you want, you can align to little shuffles if you want. Right? It's really up to you. I'm going to leave the shuffles alone like that. So its groove here. And now you can copy and we arranged a different slices little more cleanly. So again, move into eighth notes. So let's create a new audio track. I find it's easier if you have a new audio track to rearrange. I'm just going to mute the break and then I'll just, for example, copy this piece, paste it here, maybe duplicate it. So I have four kicks, right? And then you can perhaps to subdivide this, copy, this, paste that, right, and then loop this section here. So that's a common jungle rhythm. You can experiment with other rhythms as well. We could try something like this. So another way that a copy is highlight, hold Command or Control click and drag. And a we can copy this guy and do like that. Now we have this loop. So that's a really fun We're them. Let's try some more. Let's copy. This guy will bring the snare down this time and perhaps bring the high hats like that. Remember all the rhythms we've learnt in the previous lessons. Because that will come in handy as you we arrange our break. Or you may want to shuffle here. So maybe like that. There's so much you can do. You could add a ghost kick over here. They'll bring a high hat back here. So get comfortable rearranging the break, creating new rhythms. Now a couple editing features. For example, this little ghost kick, maybe it's too loud so you can go into your audio editor. Shift Tab will bring it up, or you can just double-click this vice. And then we can bring the gain down. So that makes it more like a ghost. Also, you could patch it up if you want. It might sound weird, but the possibilities are there. Since a bit weird, so we'll leave it down. But just so you know, you can have these options. You can bring the gain up or down, change to pitch. You could also maybe fade out this law, goes kick like that. Also you could reverse slices. So take this slice here and you can hit the reverse button, which is this button if you're on Live 10, there's actually a button called href and down reverse it, live 11. So some of the buttons are different. So lots of fun stuff you could do. You could create a complicated sequence by duplicating this again. And for example, when you could have this second bar pitch down. So if you select all the slices and then Shift Tab and change the pitch, changes the pitch of each slice. So that's helpful. So now listen. So lots of fun stuff you can do with these simple tricks. Now, nav, you want to go a little more advanced, then you can split the different sections into different tracks. So for example, the high hats and the law shuffles can go down on this third track here. And the snare could come down here. So now we have separated kick, snare and ride and shuffles. Now the benefit of this is you can then perhaps applied different processing on each hit. So for example, the LED all shuffles here we can apply an EQ and get rid of perhaps some of that, the rumble that may be coming in from the kick and snare before it. So notice how this sound sounds more high-pass now. Similarly, we could do the same thing to the snare. Perhaps we want to get rid of some of the low end from the snare. You could also add some reverb to the snare to sway. So this gives you a little more flexibility. Just experiment. The only thing is I wouldn't go too extreme with the processing. You still want to break decide cohesive as one break. There's definitely different tricks around that. You could select the three tracks, right-click and group the tracks. Control G is the shortcut that sent it into a group. So now you can clubs to crack if you want and apply individual effects to this break group, right? So we could perhaps add an EQ to the group. We could add a glue compressor to bring it all together. So lots of fun stuff you can do with breaks. 3. Exercise 2: Chopping Breaks as MIDI: All right, welcome to Exercise 2. This is where we're going to be chopping up the break as Midea instead of audio. And there's benefits to both approaches. So it's good to learn them both and then decide which one to use for specific track. So if you have a break in audio format, you can click and drag it into your simpler. So this is the sampler. We're using this, the more simplified version of Ableton sampler and lets you pulled it into simpler. There's this slice mode on the far left here. If you click on it, then it identifies the main transients of the break. Now you can zoom in and fine tune that a little transient if necessary. For example, maybe this one's a bit too far off to the left so you can bring this closer to the transient. Most of my transients are okay because we did fix it prior in the previous lesson. But notice we may want to chop up the little shuffles here so you can double-click. And that creates a little transient here. Now what this does is that each slice is then placed into a different key, are mapped to different key on your midi controller. So now if we create a midi clip, usually start that C1. So now we can sequence it by middy. We can add dot shuffle. So remember all these sequences we learnt in the previous lessons, because this is where it's going to come in handy. You can try a two-bar sequence. Let's try that jungle rhythm we had earlier for kicks. So the difference of this type of sequence is you're going to have to remember where each hit is located on your midi track because we don't have the visual cue of seeing the audio. So it takes a little bit of getting used to, but actually, I sequence most of my breaks in Midea. I just find there's a little more control. You can do interesting pitch shifting effects with Midea. So i've, I've always done it in Midea. It's up to you. Both methods are valid. So for example, since we have this enmity that we can control the pitch, you could perhaps use a automation lane and then you can do cool pitch shifting like that, right? That's probably too extreme. But what I would do is perhaps make it a four bar sequence. We could then automate and bring this 14 semitones down. So lots of fun stuff you can do. You can also play with the fade in and fade outs of your slices. So that makes it tighter if you fade out each slice. We can also add a fade. And if you'd like, if you break a little bit quiet, it can right-click and then normalize the volume. And of course they have the benefits. All the other features of your sampler, you could filter it. So definitely interesting things you can do with your sampler if you are cutting up your brakes this way. 4. Exercise 3: Recycled Breaks into Drum Rack: All right, on to Exercise 3. And this goes out to anyone that wants to get a little deeper and a chopping up breaks. You can get a piece of software by propeller heads called recycle. I've been using the software for nearly 20 years now. It hasn't changed much, however, it has a bunch of different features that make it a little more superior for chopping up rakes. Now here's my break in the recycle. Now that break is a bit quiet and the first thing we can do is just normalize the volume here. Now, we can use this little pencil icon it and draw into slices, just like we did in Ableton. I like to zoom in and really pinpoint exact transients. I just like to be a little more precise. You can move to small slice over like that. However, if you like your beat, the lumbar, looser, totally fine too. It's really down to your style of music. I like it really precise. It really pinpointing the beginning of each hit, right? So there are my slices. We can use this little cursor icon to preview each slice. Now notice each hit ends abruptly, and this break is playing probably at a 100, 70 beats per minute. So if you were to play it at a slower tempo than you would have spaces in between each slice and it would sound choppy. So here's where one of the awesome features into recycle comes into play. First click the little speaker icon and it is got you. How long is your break? It's typically one bar, so just enter one. And then this layer here becomes enabled, the stretching layer, we can increase the stretch perimeter to a 100 percent. Simply what this means is at the end of the slice is going to artificially create a tail so it trails out instead of ending abruptly. Notice note how each slice plays a little more smoothly now. So if we were to play this at a slower temple, it would send smooth. So notice how smooth sounds even down at 135 beats per minute. And that's thanks to the low tails and created in between the slices. Now you could argue that able tendons stretching feature could alleviate that problem as well. Only difference is that it's a different approach. Able ten, we'll use an algorithm to stretch a slice and that may create little anomalies are artifacts into break, whereas recycle appends a little tail after the slice, so it doesn't do anything. The actual audio, it just adds onto the audio and that makes US side a little more smoother. I like how it sounds and that's how they're doing for years and it's a great functionality. So once your slices are right or you can just go and save the file as an Rx2 fall, which is the typical file format for recycle. Just save your slice and then just go into Ableton, look for your break. And I right-click on it and then click Slice to new midi track. And then it's going to say we're going to create one slice per Rex file. So it's going to place each slice on a different key on drum rack. And it also gives you a low midi file. So that's one benefit is that it exports the midi file as well. And then you can take this and we're sequence it. For example, I might want to move these guys over here at the end, delete these guys, and perhaps quantize these guys. So very handy. Now, the difference with drum rack as you have a little more flexibility because each slice is on it's own. Little simpler. For example, we might want to pitch this snare down. So it's as easy as going into the controls and pitching it down. Or we might want to reverse this particular snare so we can right-click reverse number for reversing. You might want to move the start point a little closer so you could place the entire slice. So there's definitely benefits to doing it this way. In drum rack. There's a lot more flexibility. Maybe let's undo that, reverse. Maybe we want to filter to kick, right? You could also make copies. For example, we want a copy of this, kick, move it to another slice, paste it, and maybe this one is pitched up and maybe filtered. So now we can go here. Filter a little more. Lots you can do. I would probably, maybe filtered a snare so we can go into the snare, copy this generic and paste it here. Maybe let's also paste and reversed version. So now we have lots of weapons here for our breakbeat. So this one, I've reversed. And then this one lets out a low filtered. For this one. Let's high pass this one. And maybe pitched us one as well. All right, so we can make a longer loop here. And maybe like that should be too much filtering. There we go. So a lot you can do with manipulating your break with drum rack and its individual samplers. 5. Exercise 4: Advanced - Warp Modes: All right. So I got a question from you guys asking about tips on advance manipulation of breaks, especially around adding warp markers and at different stretching algorithms in Ableton. So after the Amen break here and notice it's longer than two bars. And there's a question around how do you preserve the transients when you stretch the sample. So I'm going to show you guys a couple of different ways. Now personally, I don't like to walk my brakes to get them to match at tempo because then you can never get around perfect sending breaks when you stretch them, you'll always get weird anomalies are artifacts. So I personally like to just chop every single slice and re-sequence it to the exact temple. And that's the best way to get around not having to artifacts and on your transient. But if you guys prefer to stretch your sample to match the tempo of your truck, then there's no way around that. And you'll have to, I'll have to show you the different algorithms to preserve the transients of the break. So first and foremost, we want this breakdown loop a perfect one bar. So since this is longer than a bar, you'll have the first identify. Where's the end of the first bar? Now, I know this break quite well and I know that it ends here and this section here as part of the second bar. So the first part is to add enabled warp mode. And click. No. Oh, yes. Actually, we must start from scratch. What you saw earlier, just the warp markers I had from a previous session. I'll show you how you get to that later on, but we want a fresh start, so just make sure you click Yes. Now, first thing we wanna do is add a warp marker at the end of the first bar, which again is this hit here. So if we play right before the crash, right? So that's the end of the first bar. But notice at ends on this section here past the second bar. So we had to bring this over to here. So now it's a perfect bar. So if we look this, so now it's looping perfectly. Now when you've warped your sample, now you can choose different algorithms. And what did I calculate rhythms tried to do is it tries to fill in the gaps. Say if you're, if you're stretching the sample. So our break here as playing on the regular tempo is a 157 beats per minute. So if we played a sample slower at say 100 and let's say 70 beats per minute, then it's going to have to stretch to sample and fill in the gaps to make it seem, to make it more seamless, right? So currently what it's doing is it takes every transit. So remember, the transients are identified by this little triangular marker here. So it's identified that there's a transient under each one of these markers. So the Beats algorithm tries best to preserve the transits of the break. So depending on your audio material that will dictate which algorithm you use. If you're doing something more musical like a piano, then you would use tones. Also, something more texture like a pad or piano. You could use texture. We'll get into pitch and complex. Well, I'll show you read pitch. So if you use repeated just a pitches the sampled down to match the tip of your truck. Now she just says, if you don't want to affect the transients, this is probably the best way, but then you lose the original pitch of your break. Notice if we speed it up, right now It sounds good. So it changes the pitch depending on your tempo. We'll get into complex and complex pro after, but let's go back to the beats section. Let's bring it down to 70 beats per minutes. So just to make it extreme, so you can just to show you what's happening with this algorithm. So currently beats mode as using transit. So it's trying to preserve every transient. Now. There's different ways to preserve the transient. We can use this mode, which is. For word looping mode. So every time it reaches the end of the transient, then it starts back at the top again, which is why it sounds choppy. Now you can use this low parameter here. Just fades out every transient. Notice every time you hear it, see a transient here your hearing. So that's it. Cool way to cut up your brain. Don't want that to increase your desk mode here. Nationally, if you leave us somewhere between that gives it a cool effect as well. Now, the other mode is ping pong mode. This mode what happens and when it reaches the end of the sample, then it reverses. It comes forward and back like that. So that might seem a little more seamless. And then this mode, I just, it means it just plays a slice once and if it ends it just stops. So you're going to hear more like choppy very. Now you'll notice that there's little shuffles here, but we don't have a transient here. So what you can do is we can add a trend and we can add the warp markers in, right? And then this will fix that. So let's add a warp marker here and here as well. And then it should send. And now I'll play every little slice. Now let's go through the different modes again. So that's a cool way that make robotic sounding beats. Just notice if you bring the temple back up to 170, you're not really going to hear defect anymore because since it's playing at a faster tempo now it's not required to stretch the sample. All right, let's try the other modes. Let's try it hones. Again. You're going to have to bring the tempo down to here to fight. With tones you have the specified to grain size. What it does is it takes a sample of the break to fill in the gaps, right? So 12 is the smallest. The grain size can be. The larger the grain size, the more choppy. Feel sad because then your samples in place in-between the gas will be bigger. Okay, Now let's go to texture. Texture is when you can make a sound flanging. I almost sat time stretchy like the robot sounding breaks founded and 90s jungle records. So small under grain size, the more metallic or kinda time stretch it sounds. And the bigger the grain size again, the more choppy. So if you want that Dylan, Judge, John Doe, your big sand and increase the grain size. Now flux, just add some randomness to the grains. Have gotten if you want more metallic robot time stretched and decrease the grain size. You can also increase the pitch. Let's bring the tempo back to 170. Let's bring it up to 24 semitones. So you can make some pretty cool breaks by using this parameter and changing the grain size and pitch. Alright, and then lastly, the complex modes. I use these more for vocals, but if you want it, this sense move complex, maybe a way to go. And notice that you do here, you lose some fidelity. And the complex mode, Complex Pro is the same thing. Complex Pro does provide some initial parameters such as the format. Again, I think this is more from musical sounds such as vocals and pianos, and it doesn't sound good for breaks. So I don't use complex for breaks. Typically I would use, if I were to do it this way, I probably use beats, tones or texture depending on if you want that time stretch sound that was used. One of those three back two beats. I forgot to mention that. Instead of using transient, you can, you can use an actual notation. So if you use 132, every 32nd note will be chopped up. Let me bring it down to 70 beats per minute so you can hear. So what I mean by that, and there'll be a chop every 30 second notes, sixteenths. So that's a got that kinda gated kinda transformer says if you want to do that. So yeah, these are the different algorithms you can use. The structure sample. Again, you will get different artifacts. Sometimes it is desired if you want that time stretch or kinda John Doe, your big Amun kinda sound. Otherwise, again, personally I wouldn't do it this way because I want to avoid the artifacts. And then so in the next video I'm gonna show you how I would get around that. 6. Exercise 5: Advanced - Slicing as MIDI: All right, So how I personally like to chop it is I like to add to warp markers. So this is for those that don't have rest cycle, how do you make RX or how to chop it up into a drum rock? Well, first you add all the white warp markers to the slices. And then once you have all the warp markers, you can then right-click on the sample and then slice to new midi track here. So what this does, now, it asks, do we create one slice per warp marker, or per transient, or per bar or second note, or quarter note, 16th note and so forth. What we want is for criticise Every warp marker. Now there's different slicing presets. What this means is you may have presets where you have low filters are different parameters on your macro. You can just built then preserved work timing. What you want is make sure this is off. Otherwise you're going to get weird artifacts because it's got to apply, is going to apply warping to each slice and we don't want that, so make sure it's off click, Okay. Okay, Now let's listen to the break. So this is chopped up in a middy. I notice it is set a bit weird. There's some some looping going on at the end of each slice. So what you wanna do is nose on left of the drum rack here, this is loop length here. If you turned us all the way to 0, then there's no looping at all, and then it should set smoother. So now we can open up the midi track. We can re-sequence this break if we like, we can quantize it if you want. It's up to you. I like to preserve the, the group, the amen. So instead of quantizing every single slice, I'll take this section here, move it here. This guy will probably go here. This guy would probably go here like that. And now we have a pretty groovy aim and you can bring these two guys here. That's okay. These two guys can move as well. I just like them move it like the shuffles need to be. I like to look as each shuffle as one unit. So this is a shuffle, hi-hat and snare, so that makes us shuffle. So every time you have a high hat is snare combo that I see that as one unit. So I move that as one because that preserves the groove of the shuffles, right? So this is the way I like to do it. I like doing it in Midea. It's up to you and your personal style. There's no wrong way to do it. It's up to you and what works. So now I can resequence this pattern again. And we move this here. That the benefit of this mode is that now you can go into your controls and you can, for example, vicious sampled data, let's say four semitones. And right-click. Now, this is only pitching one slice, so if you want it all the others, right? Right-click and copy value to siblings. And that will pitch every sample down to the same setting. Just know that every time you change a parameter for one slice, you have to right-click and choose Copy value to siblings. Otherwise, it will only be on that slice. Then you can play with like these, decay and sustain. If you want a tight sending Amun. Fun stuff you can do with chopping breaks this way. So that's all I wanted to show you for now. I just wanted to show you some advanced ways to chop up your brakes and get a little more out of your brain. So once again, you can chop it up and audio and use the different warp modes. And remember you just get different kinda sounding artifacts with those modes. Or you can chop it up like we do in recycle using Ableton and then, and then chop each slice into a drum rack. And that's the way I like to do it. So try each weigh, each mode, see what works for you, and then practice and practice until it becomes second nature for you. Other than that, thanks for following along. I hope you guys enjoyed this and I'll see you in the next video.