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Quick Tip: Smart Mixing in Ableton Live

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Difficulty:IntermediateLength:ShortLanguages:

During a traditional DJ mixing session we need to be able to keep an even volume level during a transition and also keep a good spectral balance by utilizing EQ. I am going to show you a quick method of setting up a set in Ableton Live to achieve just that using sidechain compression.

We will be also utilizing the EQ3 device to split the signal between low and mid-high frequencies. As you will see, the technique described here is quite straightforward and can also be applied to other sequencing software. Source files included were made in Ableton Live 8.0.9.


Setting Up

Create two audio tracks that will hold your tunes. Drag an audio effect rack on the first track, rename the rack to Low. Drag an EQ3 device on the first chain. Leave the default values but deactivate the Mid and High band. Set FreqLow crossover to 200Hz. Drag a Compressor device after the EQ3, activate sidechain select the second audio track from the drop-down list as an external source, then Post Mixer from the External tapping Point. Set values as follows:

  • Gain: 8.00dB
  • Dry/Wet: 100%
  • Envelope: RMS
  • Attack: 0.01ms
  • Release: 20.0ms
  • Threshold: -28.0dB
  • Ratio: 2.8
  • Knee: 8.0dB
  • Model: FF1
  • Lookahead: 1ms
  • Output: 0.00dB

You can try out different values later on to see if they work better with your set.

Next, create a second rack, rename it Mid/High and drag a copy of the previously created EQ3 device. Deactivate the Low band and activate the other two.

Drag the copy of the resulting audio effect rack to the other track. The only thing you need to change is the compressor's sidechain external source. It needs to come from Track 1 this time. Also External Tapping Point must be set on Post Mixer, as well.


MIDI Mapping

Map a keyboard or a midi key to the Audio Effect Device Activator for both tracks. You can also map a midi slider to the main Crossfader. Assign the Crossfader Switch to A for the first track and B for the second.


In Action

Load up two beats on both tracks hit play and drag the main Crossfader to the left so that only the first one is heard. For this method to work the Audio Effects rack of the first track needs to be activated with the second track's Audio Effect Rack Device Activator deactivated.

Now, as the tracks play, drag the Crossover to the right to mix in the second track and notice how the low-end of the first track gets compressed to make space for the low-end frequency range of the second beat. If you don't need to use the Live Crossover, you can just bring up the volume level of the second track. In this case, though, make sure the Crossover Assign switch of the second track is properly set.

Once the second track has been fully introduced and the first track is not heard anymore, hit the key you had assigned to the previous step to switch on the Audio Effect Rack of Track 2, which will automatically switch off the Audio Effect Rack for Track 2. Then mix in another track from Track 1 and notice again the sidechained effect.

By repeating the above process Live makes the necessary volume adjustments allowing you to concentrate into more creative decisions. I inserted a Spectrum device on the first track to illustrate the spectral change on the signal once the second track is introduced.

Spectral Graph of first track before introduction of the second track.

Spectral Graph of first track after second track has been mixed.


Further adjustments

We could also use a Multiband Dynamics device instead of an EQ3 one to achieve a similar effect. If we wanted to mix in a vocal or any other medium or high frequency sound into the mix we could split the signal to three frequency ranges (using chains) adding three separate sidechain compressors to each range then MIDI map each compressors' Device Activator button so we could select which spectral range we need to compress. I have included such a device on the 3rd audio channel inside the Project File.

Finally, I am sure that once you understand the concept, you will be able to apply it to your setup inc case you are working with any other sequencing software.

So, there you go, thanks for your time, I hope you find the technique useful!

Download the Play Pack for this tutorial (16 KB)

Contents

  • Ableton Live Source Files
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