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Quick Tip: Create a Crossfader Controlled Effect in Ableton Live

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Ableton Live is best known as "the sequencer that can be played like an instrument." While you're playing Live on the stage DJ'ing by yourself or playing loops and synths with the band, there are lots of tricks to create effect combinations on the fly. One of these expression tools in Live is the built-in crossfader.

Cover image © downing.amanda

This is a very quick tutorial about how to create an effect transition controlled with Live's built-in crossfader. To get started, download this tutorial's playpack first, then launch the live set called "Crossfade FX - Start". There you'll see 4 loops: guitar, bassline, kick and drums. Play the first scene to hear how it sounds like.

First off, let me explain this technique a little, we're going to route these channels into an AUX Return channel, then assign these channels to the A side of the crossfader and the AUX channel to B side of the crossfader. This way we'll be able to enable the effects on the fly with the Live's crossfader mapped to a MIDI controller.

So let's start with creating an AUX Return track. Go to menu Create > Insert Reurn Track and you're done. Next go to the buttons next to the master fader and make sure you see the Send (S), Return (R) and crossfader controls (X).

Now click on the "A Return" track and drop an audio effect there, I'll use "Audio Effects Rack > Performance & DJ > Dirty Drum Synthesizer" for this example.

After you've enabled the crossfader controls (X), you should see an (A) (B) selector at the bottom of every track. Select (A) for our main tracks and select (B) for the Return track. Also select "Pre" on the master channel for the Return track, see the screenshot below:

Now, for every track, the "Send" parameter controls how much audio is sent to the return track - and to our effect. In this example I'll go all the way up for the drums and the kick, halfway on the guitars and bass.

Last, bring the Return track's level down to -12 db so it matches the other tracks' output level. Now play the song and play around with the crossfader, you'll notice that when it is in the center both the song and the effect is heard, max it to the left (A) only the song is heard. So now you can keep it on the left side, then when you want to add the effect, you can max it to the right (B). Quite like how you do when you're scratching with a DJ mixer.

Here's an example:

When you play live, this trick will give you quick access to your favorite effects on the fly. Enjoy.

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