MPC style sampling in Ableton Live Part II

A lot of you still come to this website to learn how to do MPC2000 style sample playback with Ableton Live.

While you can still do the slicing method like I wrote in this article a few years ago, we made things a lot easier with Ableton Live 9.5 and above.

Basically everything you want to do can be done in Simpler, or in a drum rack that has Simpler in it.

Simpler has a new one shot mode which plays the sample through after hitting it:

The slicing mode is a lot of fun for automatic and manual slicing of samples. By default, they ‘choke’ each other in Mono mode. And you can convert your chops into a Drum Rack if you want to for instance add effects to each slice.

There’s a lot more you can do with it, I’m more than a little biased when I say this is a lot more fun to do with Ableton Push 2…there’s a lot of videos on Ableton’s YouTube channel and here’s my presentation from a few years back (the Push and Simpler part start at about the 3:20 mark).



Ableton Push Movies + Live Set

Here’s a few of the movies I worked on for Push. I’m the hand model and made the music (you can download the Live 9 Set here: Push Demo.alp). That’s the smooth sound of Dennis DeSantis you hear doing the voice over. Sorry, I meant Dr. Dennis DeSantis.

Ableton Push highlights

Making beats with Push

Playing notes and chords on Push

Working with Sounds

Recording and Improvising with Loops

Using External Synthesizers with Ableton Push

There are good articles out there on setting up your external synthesizers with Ableton Live, such as this one from Sound on Sound magazine.

But in this post I wanted to gather info on going a bit further, and show how I use Push with my setup:


The basic idea is to use Ableton’s External Instrument Device, along with Max for Live editors, so I can leave all my synths to the side of my studio, and load and edit presets, and play all my synthesizers directly from Push (though you could do this with any other MIDI keyboard too).

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 12.43.56 PM

Once you drag the External Instrument onto a MIDI track, you need to set the MIDI output to go to the synthesizer you want to control, and the Audio Input to come from the synthesizers outputs. I use an RME Fireface 400 for both, and an additional MIDIsport 4×4 for more dedicated MIDI channels. If you have a lot of synths, it’s helpful to have a patch bay or mixer too to bring the audio back in. I use a Focusrite Octopre, connected by ADAT to my RME FF400, which gives me 18 ins/Outs, connected to my half-normalled patchbay, so I can route anything to anything. This way, I have all my ins and outs permanently set up — with my setup I save this external instrument as a preset, and call it up from Push’s browser, and I can play notes from Push’s diatonic grid, with all the correct routing already setup.

Some synthesizers, like my Arp Odyssey and Sequential Circuits Pro One only take Control Voltage, not MIDI. So I can convert MIDI to CV with Stretta’s max for Live tools (Stretta has some crazy shit going on).

For MIDI to CV, you’ll need to have a DC coupled audio interface or a MIDI to CV converter. I found my RME FF400 already has a DC output (the headphone jack 7/8 only). MOTU makes DC coupled interfaces too, more info on compatible audio interfaces here.

I ended up buying a hardware midi to CV converter to make things simpler, and I just split the CV from one unit with a Y cable to go to the Pro One and Odyssey. That’s probably not supposed to work but it does just fine.


But I also want to be able to change presets on my synth with Program changes. So now I need a Max for Live device to send Program changes. Here‘s a cool one that lets you store some of your favorite presets too.

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 8.35.20 PM

Note that many synthesizers need to be set to ‘allow’ external program changes in their setup menu, and many older synths like the Arp and Pro One don’t have a way to save or access presets. So now I can play, and change presets of my external synthesizer. What if I want to edit the parameters of that synth?

Some synths make it easy, and accept CCs. Here‘s a cool Max for Live device that lets me do that. You can write the parameter name and CC number on the device and save presets for each synth.

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 8.35.26 PM

You need to read your synth manual to see what CCs to send it.

This is about the limits of my knowledge — I can open these types of patches up, change some CCs around enough to make a few editors, so here’s a few I made for my synths:


Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 8.40.02 PM

Fender ChromaPolaris3.amxd

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 8.40.16 PM

These are very hacked together, are not bi-directional and some parts don’t work (like bank switching). I offer no support – but please let me know if you improve them!

Other synths need to be controlled by Sysex. Here‘s a really cool editor for the Roland JX8P, which sends syses to the Roland to control it, and also syncs with your iPad, so you can control parameters with your iPad.

It’s on my list to make these kind of editors for my Oberheim Matrix 6R and Xpander (unless you or Christian Kleine do it for me first).


How to crop/split recordings in Ableton Live.

Here’s the fastest way to crop small portions of a longer recording, for instance after recording a bunch of record samples in one long recording session.

– Make sure your recording is in arrangement view.

– Double click on the file to show it in clip view below.

– Make sure warping is off:

– Open the track view:

– Turn off the grid (Command-4)
– Listen for the part you want and select it.

– Command-E to split the file.

– Command-R to rename it (this is important – the new file you will make will have this name.

– Command-J to consolidate the audio file. This creates a new audio file in your “Current project” which you can find in Live’s browser:

Now navigate to the “Consolidate” folder in your set:

You can also right (control) click on the file to show it in your finder:

Another technique is to select the area you want in Live’s clip view, and right click to “Crop” — this has some further advantages, in that it leaves warp markers intact. But the consolidate technique is a bit faster for me.

Automatic Clip Chopping with Follow Actions

Here’s a way to randomly chop up drum samples (while making them stay in beat) in Live.

From the manual: Follow Actions allow creating chains of clips that can trigger each other in an orderly or random way (or both).

1) Drag a bunch of warped drum samples into Live onto one track, and select them all (Command-A)

2) Down below, in the Clip View (you may have to press Shift-Tab to get there if you are currently looking at Effects/Devices) make sure the Launch settings view is open by pressing the L button.

3) Now let’s set the Follow Action time to 1/16th note (which means something will happen every 16th note)

4) Now we’ll the Follow Action for all clips to “Other” — this means that, after 1/16th note, any other clip on the track will be launched (Note that Follow Actions only work on Clips on a track touching each other).

5) If you triggered a clip above (don’t yet), you’d hear the first 16th of each clip randomly played back. But we don’t want just the first beat, we want each clip to take over the play position from whatever clip was played in that track before. To do this we press the Legato button.

You also want to set the samples to RAM (meaning they are loaded in your computers RAM so you don’t get dropouts).

Here’s a track that uses this technique:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

If you want to record this into arrangement view, just press the Global Record button up top.



How to warp Multitrack audio files in Ableton Live

UPDATE 7/5/11.

J Period schooled me on this one after only using Live for a few months! Here’s the faster way to warp multitracks. Thanks J…

[Note: Your stems need to be exactly the the same length, or this won’t work. If they aren’t the same length, read the old lesson below to show you how to consolidate them to the same length…]

1) In your record/warp/launch preferences, make sure that Auto Warp Long Samples is turned off.

2) In Live’s Browser, navigate to the multitracks you want to warp.

3) Drag in the drum track. Warp as you normally would (tutorial here.)

4) Click on the track name and right click to Duplicate the drum track (or press command-D)

5) Double click on the newly duplicated audio file, to make sure you see the Clip view below).

6) Drag the next multitrack stem directly from your Library onto the clip waveform down below. It will now take on the drum part’s warp markers.

7) Repeat for the rest of your stems…


[Old method below (there are some good tips for editing/fine tuning warp markers…]


By popular demand. Remember, this is probably too difficult and you’re a busy musician, so you really should just give me the multi-tracks so I can do it for you… ;)

1) In your record/warp/launch preferences, make sure that Auto Warp Long Samples is turned off.

2) In Live’s Browser, navigate to the multitracks you want to warp.

3) Click on the first audio file, hold the shift button and click on the last audio file.

4) Drag them onto an audio track in Live’s arrangement view (don’t let go of the mouse yet!)

5) Press the Command button, so that the audio files will go to parallel tracks, and release the mouse button.

6) At this point, when you press play, the multitrack should sound normal/aligned. You may want to lower the master volume a bit if it’s clipping. If they are not aligned…well you need to align them manually with the grid off, but that’s out of the scope of this lesson.

7) Select all (Command-A). If the files are the same length, you’ll see a message that says ‘X Audio Clips in X tracks Are Selected. Move on to step 8 if this is the case.

If the audio files are not the same length, you’ll see a message saying the clips have different lengths.

If this is the case, press Command-J to consolidate the tracks (and create new audio files the exact same length. Reason: Multitrack warping only works for files of the same length.

8) Press the Warp Button. You’ll see a hatch mark indicating that you will be editing multiple files at once.

9) Now you need to find one of the tracks with a good drum part to work on (it’s easier to warp this way). Once you’ve found that track, move it to the top of the screen.

10) Scroll down to the track on the bottom and click on it to select it (track 26 in this case).

11) Scroll up, hold Shift and click on the drum track you found before at the top of your screen. The last clip you select is the one you will warp, but the warping will apply to all tracks.

12) Now you have to manually warp that track. Unfortunately, “Warp from here” doesn’t work for multitrack warping, so you’ll need to adjust it manually, bar by bar, like back in the Live 4 days ;). You’ll want your metronome on while you do this.

13) It’s a good idea to rename (Command-R) all your tracks, so that once you’ve warped a multitrack file, you can always navigate to that Live Set in Live’s browser, and drag in individual tracks from other projects into the one you’re working on.

Scene Launching at Set BPM…

Hey yall,

been awhile since a new tip. Here’s a quick one:

If you want a Scene to launch at a specific BPM or time signature, just rename the scene (command-r) and type in what you want, i.e. “100 BPM” or “5/4.” When you launch the scene, the BPM and/or time signature will change upon launch.

More stuff soon…

Vocal Stutter Edits in Ableton Live

Got a question about how to do house music style stutter edits in Ableton Live. There area few different ways to do this, here’s two:

Arrangement View Editing

This gives you the most precision

Zoom in in Arrangement view, select a 16th or 32nd length slice:

Duplicate it a few times (command-D to duplicate). You can select shorter-duration slices, etc.

Effect Stutters

There are a lot of different plugins that do this stuff and get really in depth, I’m doing it here with a simple Beat Repeat preset. Make sure to check the other Beat Repeat presets, and also the DJ/Performance presets in the Audio Effect Rack section of Live’s Library.

To install the preset, right click and save as to download, navigate to where it’s located on your hard drive from Live’s browser, drag it into your set.

You can save itso you’ll always have it in your Library after that (you could also drag it directly to Live’s Library Presets folder if you know where that is, I keep an alias to this on my desktop).

Turn the Repeat knob up to start chopping, and then you can set the level of repeating you want with the other knob.

You can automate this in arrangement view:

…or play it in session view, and record your tweaking with the Global Record button (this will record the automation into Arrangement view).

Mackie Emulation for your MIDI Footboard for Ableton Live

Here’s a cool/quick way to map a MIDI Footboard for Live Looping using Mackie Control emulation (basically we are tricking Live into thinking your Footboard is a Mackie Controller, which has lots of MIDI functions).

1) Set your footboard pedals to send these MIDI notes:

96: Up
97: Down
98: Left
99: Right
100: Launch/Record Selected Clip
76: Undo
101: Launch Selected Scene

2) Select "Mackie Control" in Live’s Preferences. You’ll want to make sure the In and Out sections are set to your footboard (in my case here, I have a Behringer FCB1010 Plugged into my RME Fireface 400 Audio/MIDI Interface).

Now you can move up down left right in Session View, and record/loop on whichever track you want. You can assign a button for Record Arm, or leave all tracks armed.

You can do a lot more than that with Control Aid or Selected Track Control for Ableton Live.

Variphrasing in Ableton Live

This lesson shows you how to change the relative pitch of a clip in Ableton Live with your MIDI keyboard in realtime, something for which you used to need a lot of

and a


1. Go into Live’s MIDI Preferences (Command-,) and make sure Remote is enabled for your MIDI keyboard of choice.

2. Bring a clip into Session View in Ableton Live and press the MIDI Map Mode Switch.

3. Click on the clip you want to pitch.

4. Press and hold a key on your MIDI keyboard, don’t let go (in this case I pressed C2)

5. Press another key on your MIDI Keyboard (I pressed a C3) and let go.

6. Exit MIDI Map Mode

7. Go down and press the L button to show Live’s Launch box

8. Press Legato (so that the notes you play will affect the clip mid-loop, and not re-trigger the clip)

9. Select ‘None’ from the launch quantization menu, so that your keyboard presses will happen immediately, instead of waiting for the global quantization.

10. Select Complex Pro, as this is the best warp mode for Pitched Warping.

11. Sell your VP-9000 on E-bay

12. If you want to get tricky, you can press a high note first (i.e. C2) and then a low note (C1). Or you can mess with the Transpose of the clip to make the changes relative to some other pitch.

13. Press Global Record to record your experiments for future editing.

14. Or you can just edit the transpose Clip Automation and forget all this madness.

MPC Beatmaking in Ableton Live (Slicing Preset)

NOTE: Please see the update, this is a lot easier with 9.5 and later:

MPC style sampling in Ableton Live Part II

These slicing files let you chop beats like you’re used to on an Akai Professional MPC2000 in Ableton Live.
– you hit a pad, it plays to the end without having to keep the pad depressed.
– each pad chokes (cuts off the sustain of) the next pad you hit.

1) Right click and save this slicing preset:MPCSlicingPresets
2) Put it into your Live Library:Defaults:Slicing

3) When you want to slice a beat, control (right) click a drum beat/audio clip in Session view in Live and select “Slice to MIDI.”

4) Choose MPCDrumRackSimpler. You can select “Slice to 1/4” to start with, but you may want to try Slice to Warp Marker, the way Ski Beatz does it in this video I worked on with the always hilarious filmaker Chandler Kauffman

5) Bang away with your beatpad, Launchpad/APC20 in Note mode, keyboard, etc.

How to make Ableton Live Follow a Variable-Tempo Audio File

Our goal here is to set a “master” clip in Live, so that other files you record or drag in will follow the original tempo of the master audio file.

1) Warp the audio file you’d like follow very tightly. You can follow my fast warping instructions to get started, and use Beats mode for the most transparent sound.

You may want to make other audio files follow the Master clip even tighter by quantizing the audio to 1/4 notes.

To quantize audio: Command-click on the audio file in Clip View:

I choose 1/4 note here, that should be fine enough for my purposes:

Now click Master — this sets this clip as the master tempo for the set, all other clips will be slaved to this clip’s tempo.

Note that if you have multiple clips set to master, the one highest in the set in arrangement will be master (there can be only one master at a time).

If you look at the Arrangement view’s tempo automation, it is following the tempo of this clip.

Next you’ll want to know about multi-track warping, coming soon…

How to Warp an Acapella in Ableton Live 8

UPDATE 8/23/11:

There’s an easier way to do this. Follow J. Period’s instructions for multitrack warping (but you’re only warping the beat, then having the acapella follow those warp markers.


Old lesson just in case:

1) In Live’s Browser, navigate to the folder that has your acapella and instrumental (or the original mix). Hold shift to multi-select the instrumental and acapella and drag them into Live’s arrangement view.

Note that holding command/apple when you drag the files in brings the files in in parallel on different tracks.

2) Select both files and turn warping off.

Make sure the Start Marker flag in the clip waveform of both files is set at the very beginning. Press the space bar to listen.

If your acapella and instrumental don’t sync up unwarped, you have little chance of making them sync up warped. If they are out of sync, you can try moving the Start Marker flag of the acapella around to sync them up.

3) Once they are playing in sync unwarped, you need to make sure both files are exactly the same length. You may need to consolidate the files to make them exactly the same length. To do this, drag around both tracks in the arrangement view, with a length longer than the longest of the two tracks and Consolidate (Command-J).

4. Now select both files (select one and hold shift to select the second) and turn warping on again.

5. Mute the Acapella track and warp the Instrumental/Mix file as you normally would. See here for more info on how to do this.

6. Now we need to duplicate the instrumental track. Click on the Track Name

And press Command-D to duplicate the track:

7. Drag the acapella back into your browser to create a Live Clip and press enter:

8. Double click on the duplicated instrumental file to bring it up in the Clip Waveform below:

9. Now drag the Live Clip into the clip waveform of the instrumental track. You can delete the original acapella track.

10. Your acapella should be warped like the instrumental/original.


The CheeseteaKalbi is a fusion of two great cultures, Philadelphia and Korea. It’s self explanatory, and is the best thing I’ve ever cooked or eaten.


This is generally done to taste, so I don’t have the exact measurements, but…just wing it and it will taste good.

In a cuisinart or blender, blend:

1 Asian pear, peeled and cored (this tenderizes the meat)
1-2 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
Sesame seeds
Hot Sauce to taste
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Sesame oil

Then add:

4-5 Scallions diced

Use cross cut Korean ribs found at a korean market, cut about 1/4 inch thin, and well rinsed.

Marinade the meat for 4-5 hours (not too much more, as they get too mealy).

Grill the Kalbi until it just starts to singe/blacken in places and is cooked.

Remove the bones, and add fried onions and Cheeze Whiz.

Serve with Ketchup and enjoy.

Loop Length Shortcut

Clicking on the word Length snaps the Loop Brace to fit the Sample Editor window. Loop Length

Splitting up a DJ mix for discrete CD tracks in Ableton Live

How to split up a mix from vinyl and cut it up to have discrete tracks on a CD in Ableton Live.

1) Record your stereo mix from your turntables/mixer into an audio track in Live. (this lesson assumes you already know how to do this).

2) Double click on the audio file to show it in clip view, below.

3) Likely you don’t want this long file warped, so turn warping off:
Note: If you plan to fix tempo problems and bring in other audio files to embellish your mix, you may want to leave warping on here, but that’s a subject for another lesson.

5) Make sure the start marker starts at the beginning of the file by dragging it to the left.
6) Now we’ll put in some “Arrangement Locators” to tell Live the sections you want to export.

7) Click on the spot you want the first marker (i.e. break between songs). Likely the first one is at the beginning of the arrangement:

8) Now press the set button over on the right hand side of Live’s screen:
Note: You can click on the flag of this marker and press command-r to rename it to the name of the first song if you want.

9) Press command-4 to turn off the grid in Live, as likely your mix doesn’t fall on the grid lines.

10) click on the next spot you’d like to make a ‘split’

11) press the ‘set’ button again to make another arrangement locator.

12) repeat for as many song breaks as you need.

Exporting the individual tracks with no gaps

1) Right click (control click on mac) on the first arrangement locator and select “Loop to next locator:”

loop to next locator

2) Click on the Loop bracket:

3) Select “Export Audio/Video in the file menu or press (Shift Command-R):

For CD burning, you’ll want your settings to look like they are here:
Picture 12

(Aiff on mac, Wav on PC, 16 bit, 44100 don’t normalize, triangular dither is best at all times except if you are exporting to 32 bit.

Repeat as necessary between each segment of arrangement locators.

Other tips

You might want to name files with numbers as you go, i.e. “1.Intro.aiff” 2.Firstsong.aiff” so that they show up in order in your finder when you’re done.

Here’s a nice Live 8 preset I put on my master fader for a little multiband compression and limiting:
Picture 2

Jethroe Mastering Chain.adg

Make sure that your mix never goes above 0db if possible, a Limiter is key here.

The Fastest Way to Warp a Track in Ableton Live

Warping tracks let’s you easily timestretch tracks for beatmatching, mash ups and sampling in Ableton Live. I find this the fastest way to do it (using Live 8 here) thought I will manually tighten up every 4 bars or so to double check that everything is right.

Drag an audio file (wav, aiff, mp3) into Live, from Live’s browser or directly from iTunes.

Live will attempt to auto-warp the file. If Ableton gets it right, you’re done. If you want to ‘tighten up’ the warping’ or if it just plain didn’t get it right…

2) Double click on the clip…
…to show it in the clip view below:

Picture 17

Then launch the clip (press the triangle). You need to find the ‘one,’ or in this case I’m just looking to warp the file once the drums come in.

For my MP3, I hear the ‘one’ around the -1.2bar. I’ll want to zoom in here, using the magnifying glass above the audio file.

I see the first beat is slightly off. I’m going to double click on the transient above the “one” to create a yellow warp marker (you can double click on a yellow one to remove a warp marker as well).

Picture 2

Picture 19

Right click on that warp marker, and select “Set 1.1.1 here”


This is the hardest thing for any computer autowarping to find. If you guide Ableton to this point, the computer can basically figure out the rest. Now you need to right click again, and select “Warp From Here.”


Live generally gets it right from this point. Let’s turn on the Metronome…


…to hear that the track is warped right. Seems good in this case.

Next let’s turn on the Loop button:


Set the Length to 4 Measures:


And set the position to 1.1.1.


Now we hear a four bar loop. You can click on the word “Length” to snap the view to that loop. Click and drag in the tempo field to change the tempo of your loop.


You may want to play with the warp mode for better sound.


Complex or Complex Pro is good for mixed down songs, Beats is good for drums, and Tones is best for guitar, vocals, piano, etc.

To check the rest of the track and make sure it’s warped right, you want to click on the loop bracket, and using the arrow up and down keys you can hop through the rest of the song and add, adjust or get rid of warp markers.