Adding a software instrument, recording MIDI and quantization in Ableton Live 9

I am Brandon Fallout from Seattle, WA in the USA. This lesson is for week 2 of Introduction To Music Production at Coursera.org. I will be going over adding a software instrument to the Live 9 DAW environment as well as recording MIDI and showing how to quantize it. If you do not have Ableton Live 9 you can download the demo here. If you missed the last weeks post on sound frequencies, you can find it here.

Preparing the tracks

Here is what Ableton Live 9 looks like when you start a new project. As you can see, there are 2 MIDI and 2 Audio Tracks. You normally start in the “Session” view but you can easily change to the “Arrangement” view by pressing the TAB key on your keyboard or clicking on the grey circle with the 3 horizontal lines in it in the top right hand corner of Live 9.

Once the “Session” view is applied, go ahead and remove all but one audio track. It should be noted that this is not a requirement but rather a simplification of the workspace. You could just as easily leave those tracks in if you felt you needed them for later.

Adding the instrument

Next up is adding in the VST. Make sure your “Browser” view is showing and go into the “Plug-ins” selection. If you have VSTs already installed on your machine, you should see a few listed in the right hand column next to the “Browser” menu. For this lesson, I will be using the Analog Lab VST that came with my Arturia Analog MiniLab MIDI Controller. Simply grab the VST in question and drag it over to the “Mixer Drop Area” of Live 9. As you can see in the video, once I drop the VST under the first audio track, it adds a second track for my MIDI instrument.

Setting the click and the count-in

This part is pretty easy once you know where to look. In the video I’ll be showing you, we’ll locate the click (or metronome) and learn how to enable it as well as how to set the count-in. Take note, down in the left hand corner of Live 9 lives the “Info View.” When you hover your mouse over different areas of the DAW, it will display information pertaining to that location or setting in the DAW.

As you can see from the video above, simply click on the metronome button to enable it. You can ether right click or use the down tick on the  same button to access the count-in function. You can set it to an amount that you feel comfortable with from 0 to 4 bars.

Recording the MIDI data

Now for the MIDI data recording. As you can see from the previous video, the track “Arm” button is already armed for the new instrument track. If yours is not, please make sure to arm it before moving ahead. I am also going to change the “Input Type” of the target track to, in my case, Arturia MiniLab to isolate that track to that specific controller type. If you are using just a VST with no hardware component, you may wish to change this to computer keyboard or use the “Config Input” option to sort out how you will be playing your virtual instrument.

It’s a good idea to click on the little wrench icon called “Plug-in Edit” for your VST. It’s down in the left hand corner next to the “Info View” box. Once the VST gui is loaded, you should be able to change parameters and pick the samples you are going to use. This is solely dependent on your VST and may not be included in the plugin of your choosing.

Now you’re ready to record that MIDI data into your MIDI track! Make sure you have your metronome turned on and your count-in set the way you want and that you also have hit the square stop button twice so that you start off at the beginning of the track at bar 1.1.1

Quantization

Now, time to quantize that horrible MIDI recording. I could have set this to auto quantize from the “Edit” menu under the “Record Quantization” option but opted to do this one by hand for the sake of this lesson.

Here I’m going to set the grid to 1/16th, fold the grid view to only what I am using in the piano roll, edge edit the track to a good starting and ending point and then last but not least, apply the quantization. I will be using 100% for my quantize settings as this will mainly be for an electronic style of music. Generally speaking, the tighter the better for EDM.

To pull up the panel in Live 9 to do just that, simply double click the MIDI track. Another option if you already have the track selected is to press ctrl + shift and it will take you to the same location.

I didn’t include all of the edits that I made to this track in the video due to file size and time limitations on YouTube. The above should cover enough to get you started and any more on editing is outside the scope of this lesson.

Here is that not so great performance before quantization.

 

Bonus: Recording MIDI date to an audio track

An important thing to remember is that the data in that track we just made is only MIDI data and not actual audio data. In order to turn it into a full-fledged audio track, we’ll need to record it to a new track. This is the reason we saved the first Audio 1 track in the set.

I’m going to go ahead and skip the full recording how to and just show you in the video. It’s very similar to what we have already been over. Just arm the audio track, make sure your bar is at 1.1.1 and go ahead and turn off the metronome as it’s not really needed here. Setup your audio track to grab from your MIDI track and hit record.

 

And here is after. Amazing what a bit of editing can do!

 

So long and thanks for all the fish!

Seriously though, if you have made it this far, thank you for reading my blog post. I hope you found it informative if nothing else. Please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom with your thoughts or any corrections you feel that should be made.

Have fun and rock on,

Brandon Fallout

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Audio frequency, what’s it all about?

Hello, I am Brandon Fallout from Seattle, WA in the USA. Welcome to my newly minted blog. This lesson is for week 1 of Introduction To Music Production at Coursera.org. I will be going over audio frequencies and how they apply to different hearing ranges.

Can you hear that?

An audio frequency is a periodic vibration that oscillates within the audible range of the average human. It is generally agreed upon that this range is from 20hz up to 20khz and is also the property of sound  that most determines pitch. It is interesting to note that the term audio frequency is based on the human hearing range and not other species. This could be useful to know if composing pieces for specific species such as Elephants (slightly lower range at 16hz-12khz ), birds (parakeet @ 200hz-8.5khz ) or whales (beluga @ 1k-123khz).

 

20Hz to 20kHz (Human Audio Spectrum)

 

Frequencies and descriptions

Audio frequency

Above is a diagram of frequencies with descriptions from Wikipedia tailored to human hearing range. The 20hz – 20khz figures can change based on age or  possible hearing loss due to prolonged exposure to high decibel noise.  Such loss would result in higher frequencies not being heard by the listener.

 

 More information along with sources:

Final thoughts

Putting this blog together was an interesting learning experience and seems like the perfect medium to get musical ideas across to you, the reader.

While doing some research about audio frequencies, I thought it interesting that the information provided by various sources were based solely on human hearing.  I know it seems a bit odd to think outside of that parameter when working on a composition, but why not? I have heard of people writing music for specific species of animal and thought it might be neat to explore what effects music would have on other animals if it was written with their hearing range in mind instead of our own. Just thought I would point that out as it’s an  easily overlooked subject.

I have also embedded a YouTube link that goes through the 20hz-20khz range. I was surprised to find out that my personal hearing range is around 100hz to a bit over 15k. I’ll have to test this again in an isolated environment with some good headphones to see if those numbers change. I find it’s always interesting to learn something new about ones self.

 

Until next time

If you have made it this far then you have read my small blog in its entirety. Thank you for taking the time to do so. Please feel free to leave a comment if you feel compelled to do so, critiquing or otherwise.