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RE: ableton live questions

> From: Doug Cox [mailto:dougcox@pdq.net] 

> limitations, but really, the biggest (vs. my EDP mindset) is 
> the inability to set tempo on the fly by recording the first 
> loop or cycle. 

Yes, and IMHO also 
- no overdub 
- no feedback 
- no midi control for real-time pitching of recorded clips

I've spent some time with Ableton Live over the last couple of days and
found different workarounds for all three limitations. Nothing like the
real thing though and I have to say that my first impressions of Ableton
Live is that it is rather limited, compared to the EDP. But this is my
point of view being a performing musician. Of course you can get almost
any sound out of looping with Ableton, but that's not the way I
personally prefere to make music. Talking about intuitive tools for
musical expression, the EDP is still ruling over here. 

For the pitching limitation I tried the free VST plug-in MDA Tracker
(pitching down one octave) and by combining it with a compressor I got a
quite nice bass sound from loops recorded by a guitar. 

The feedback and overdub limitation were partially fixed by the plug-in
PSP42. However I could not get the PSP42 to read the midi Continuous
Controllers I sent it from my Behringer FCB1010 floor pedal (have mailed
PSP on the matter and hoping on support). PSP42 parameters I'd like to
manipulate from pedals while playing are Feedback, RptInf (freeze like a
sampler), DlyX2 (HalfSpeed/FullSpeed), Delay Time.

There seems to be two major concepts for using Ableton as a live looper.
Either you (1) set up a lot of tracks with plug-ins and use a foot
controller to jump between tracks to record clips that will then play
back through the plug-ins, or you (2) use as few tracks as possible but
control the plug-ins in real-time (like you can do with the PSP42). 

Personally I'd like to focus on the second concept and combine it with
foot buttons for as many "scenes" as possible (changing "scene" is
simply to step up one slot in all tracks).  Then you can work on the
PSP42 and build up something nice and then record it into an Ableton
slot (as a "clip"). It's not the plug-in output that is getting recorded
but the input/instrument signal. But if you don't change the PSP42
parameters it will continue to sound the same (but If you keep changing
the plug-in this clip might sound even cooler next time you get back to
it, either by changing "scene" or simply starting/stopping the clip). 

I found a cool thing with midi controlling "scenes": If you close one
slot in scene one and then go to scene two for a while this slot will
still be closed when you come back to scan one. And if you step on the
command for scan one when you already are in scene one it will have the
effect that all stopped clips will be started and all looping clips will
be stopped (I'm running Ableton in "Launch Mode: Toggle"). 

Another thing I was thinking of is how many cool software plug-ins for
live playing there are (and will be ;-). The latency of 4 milliseconds
was clearly recognizable but If you are a musician you are used to play
"before" or "after" the time base and can adapt to latency. But the less
latency the better, of course! I got rid of some latency by skipping my
red POD and lining the guitar right into the sound cards break-out box
input. And I found a good guitar sound in using the Ohmforce Predatohm
plug-in. Other nice plug-ins I liked playing through are the othe plugs
from Ohmforce: Ohmboys and Hematohm. Other great fx I fell in love with
are the PSP84 and of course the PSP42. The PSP84 did very well in one of
Abletons fx loops (with an ordinary reverb in the other fx loop). 

I also found out that I could use Ableton Live as a "fx rack pre amp". I
followed Doug's advice and signed foot buttons to the start/record clip
function and then I also assinged, to the same foot button, a second
midi command for "monitor enable" of the same Ableton  track. So by
stepping between the tracks I also monitored my instrument through these
tracks - including all those lovely VST plug-ins ;-D 

I have only given this a brief check-out yet, since I'm still waiting
for my real copy of Ableton 2.1. This test was done on a cracked 2.0
copy and maybe that can explain some problems I had. One BIG problem was
the denormalizing but in the P4 processor. When using the MDA Tracker
for the bass looping channel I could not leave any channel empty without
that dreadful CPU death starting. I downloaded Digital Fishphones
normaliser plug-in but it didn't help. Maybe I can fix it by putting a
silent audio file in all clips at scene one and then start looping from
scene two? Don't know yet. Will not put more time into this until I have
the real program. On this 1,8 GHz machine I never used more than 27% of
the CPU power with five tracks looping through three to four plug-ins on
each channel. I hope it will work on my 700 MHz P3 laptop. 

Best wishes

Per Boysen