Today’s article comes courtesy of AbletonOp reader Anshul Vishwakarma and covers a work around to a common problem regarding Clip Envelopes. We hope you like it. You can check out Anshul’s music on his Soundcloud.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” A wonderful quote by Leonardo da Vinci which has an almost universally recognized essence. Simplicity is the paramount driving force of evolution in nature as well as in evolution of art, and that includes audio production. I believe that we can all agree that Ableton Live workflows can get complicated to say the least. Given the number of ways the same thing can be achieved, it can get daunting to find the “correct” way to do something. Of course, there’s no universally correct way to do anything, but there are ways that fit well within your existing workflow or ways that allow for the most robust construction of your workflow and ways that are “backwards-compatible,” so to speak. Yet we still want to keep things simple. These two scenarios can sometimes clash.
One quirk I’ve noticed in working with Ableton Live is that adding effects directly to a track is what can be called a subtractive process of adding effects in terms of clips. Once you add an effect to a track, every single clip is affected by it unless the clips’ modulation is modified so it overrides the default settings for the effect. If we only want to apply the effect on one clip, we must go and manually remove or subtract the effect from the rest of the clips one by one (since there’s no way in Live to alter the envelope of more than one clip at a time). This leads the following issue:
If we’re in the middle of song and have let’s say, 12 clips already finished on a track and decide that we need to add an effect to the 13th clip of a track. The normal subtractive process requires us to add an effect to the track and then add an envelope to each of the previous 12 clips that removes the effect by using the dry/wet setting. If the effect doesn’t have a dry/wet knob, then the effect can be added to an effect rack and the Device On switch for the effect can be mapped to a macro control which is then used to control if the device is on or off. Putting this knob at <50% has the same effect as putting the dry/wet knob at 0 if the effect was added directly to the track. This process of subtracting the effect from the rest of the clips can be a huge waste of time because it has to be done for each clip that is not to be affected by the effect.
There is a simple yet powerful solution to this issue using effect racks. The process goes as follows (Bold=Name shown in Live or in Info View):
1. Add a new Effect Rack (MIDI or Audio) to the track – the track that contains the clips on which you want to apply the different effects.
2. Add a new chain to the Effect Rack – this will be the default chain through which the uneffected clips will play. Rename it to “DEFAULT” or something similar to describe it. You may add effects to this chain; they will effect all clips unless their chain selector envelopes are changed.
3. Expand the Chain List in the Effect Rack (Show/Hide Chain List - 2nd button from top on the left sidebar of the rack). Click the Chain button next to the Hide button.
4. Set the Chain Zone for the DEFAULT chain from 0 to 0 by dragging the chain Zone’s left and right ends (like you drag the ends of a loop in MIDI clips) – 0 is the default for all clips so all clips will play through this chain unless their envelope is changed to select another chain. This is your default chain, and any effects that should apply to all clips can be put in this chain.
5. Add another chain.
6. Add a new effect to the chain you just added – for example: Chord. You can add additional effects on top of the Chord/whatever effect you added. Make sure the same chain is selected and drop it inside the Effect Rack to the right of the first effect. The right border of the Effect Rack is thin so this might take a few tries.
7. Rename the chain to [the clip's name + " Effect Chain"] or something similar. For example: 13 Effect Chain.
8. Set the chain to only trigger for a specific range. For example: from 1 to 1 (this allows 128 clips to have their unique set of effects because there are 128 chain selector values).
9. Double click the clip you want to add the effect(s) on.
10. Open its clip envelope (E button in the Clip View on the bottom).
11. Set [Audio/MIDI] Effect Rack’s Chain Selector to 1 (or whatever value(s) you set the chain Zone to in Step 9). When this clip plays, it will temporary set the Chain Selector to 1 (or whatever value(s) you set the chain Zone to in Step 9) and will play only through that(those) chain(s) – in this case, the chain you added effects to earlier. The Chain Selector is reset to 0 when the clip is done playing. This way, all the other clips are unaffected because their envelopes default to chain 0 which has no effects in it. PRO TIP: The Clip Envelope window will update to the last parameter that was edited in the Device Chain. So if you want to edit the Chain Select Envelop of a clip, simply go to the Device View, scrub/edit/click on the Chain Select for the rack. That rack’s chain select envelope will now be in focus when you return to the clip view window.
11. Now, what is happening is this: When you play any regular (non-effected) clip, it will play through the DEFAULT chain, which has no effects in it (because envelopes for chain selectors default to 0 when adding a new Effect Rack). When you play the effected clip, its envelope is set to change the chain selector to 1. When the chain selector goes to 1, it plays the clip through the Chord Effect Chain which has the Chord effect in it. And this way it will apply the effect to the clip and this clip only. Repeat for additional clips!
P.S. – This method can also be used for putting different sets of instruments on different clips in the same track (Like programing Patch Changes). Really comes in handy when you need to organize clips in one track but tweak an instrument for individual clips or simply have multiple instruments in the same track, for example, to play with a different instrument on each clip of the track.
So try it out. Use Clip Envelopes and Chain Select to automate patch changes for Effects Racks, Instrument Racks, or multiple Drum Racks grouped into Instrument Racks.
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