We are very lucky to have the tools like Ableton Live where mapping hardware to virtual knobs is incredibly easy. ‘Mapping’ is basically the process where a code of directions tells a program what to do when input is received. In Ableton, mapping enclosed details to a higher-level macro knob makes adjusting the parameters easy, and the mapping is saved with the rack, even when dragged into a new project.
To create meaningful mapping in Ableton Live, the goal is to condense many parameters into a few knobs, making performance an expressive and musical act, so mappings should be performed so that adjustments complement each other. The questions a controllerist should be asking are the same questions that any musician encounters while creating/playing a piece, ‘What do I want to happen here?’ As in, what is happening with the piece of music at a certain point in time. Are drums playing? Which drums? How loud are they? How do I want them to change throughout this piece? When those changes are occurring, what else is changing?
Tutorial 1: High Pass Special
In this tutorial we are placing a frequency adjustable high pass filter on the kick and the bass, but leaving all the other instruments unaffected. The result is the low freq. content can be removed from the track, but we leave in little bit of ‘kick-tick,’ and unlike a HP on the master bus this technique makes the bass dropout, but we still get a full-bodied snare drum to keep the track thumpin’.
Place an Autofilter effect as the last effect in the chain of both the Bassline and Kick drum pads. Change the filter type to high pass, then map the frequency to Macro 1. You can map by right clicking on the knob and selecting ‘Map to Macro 1’, or by clicking the ‘Map’ button on the title bar of the Drum Rack, then selecting the parameter you’d like to map, then select the Macro to be mapped. Pressing the ‘Map’ button also calls up the mapping window where the max and min values can be set for per parameter. Faster mapping trick: after parameters have been assigned, start playback and turn the knob to minimum value, adjust parameter mapping to audio sweetspot. Turn knob to max, adjust parameter mapping to max audio sweetspot.
Now place an EQ8 on the snare channel. Change filter 1 to a (low/high) shelf at 300 Hz . Map the gain to the same macro as the HP for kick and bassline. You should have three regular(not inverted) mappings to the same knob.
Testing during playback you’ll find that the low frequency boost to the snare complements the removal of low freq kick/bass. Rename your Macro =’Kik Bas HP’
The previous tutorial had a mapping that opposed another mapping but all the mappings were done in a positive direction. The next tutorial will do the same but will introduce inverted mappings.
Tutorial 2: Room for Reverb
In this tutorial we are using a single knob to turn up the reverb/delay Send from several drums, while clamping down on bassline with the same Macro mapping. These different musical parts compete for room in the frequency spectrum, so when we want to embellish one, the other is slightly removed.
Unfold the Chain View of the Drum Rack. This allows for view of Send (S) and Return (R), click them on. Drag a reverb effect onto the sends Rack area to create a new channel with a reverb effect inserted. Place a Ping Pong device behind it. Map the Send-a parameter to Macro 2 for: high hats, percs and snare. Open the macro mapping for Macro 2 for a nice balance between the sends from the different drums. Oh, it helps to color the Macro.
Make that Macro knob a little more expressive by mapping a Low Pass filter on the bassline. Problem: as the spacial effects increase intensity, so does the bassline. Solution: invert the mapping by decreasing the right column under the mapping ‘Max’ to the minimum value required and increasing the ‘Min’ column value to the max value required.
Testing during playback increases intensity of reverbs/delays to the percussive instruments while filtering out the high end of the bassline. Result: the percussive delays create a new sonic effect that probably couldn’t have been heard if the bassline was unaffected, so we keep the bassline in the track so the track keeps rollin’.
So far we’ve made two Macros that had simple and expressive mapping. Turning the Macros one way got more of something; turning the macro the other way got less. Thinking musically, when some song element is at Min/Max, it usually means that the performer means for something else to be happening at the same point in time keeping the music fresh.
Tutorial 3: Intro to Racks with Ends
Introducing this concept, I’m going to keep it simple and you’ll see the effect in more of utilitarian fashion. It’s definitely useful in this application and we can capitalize on this technique later in future tutorials. So far we know that parameters like the the 0-100% knob in Reverb are macro mappable, but it’s worth taking note that many buttons can be mappable in Live too, such as a Device’s On/Off button. This mapping range can be adjusted with the Min/Max just like other parameter mappings. We want the device to turn off (saving CPU power) when the device is not in use (Dry/Wet Mix knob is < 4%)
Right-click on the On/Off button for the Reverb device and select ‘Map to Reverb Amount’ (that we created earlier- I renamed it). Click on the ‘Map’ box in the Drum Rack’s title bar. You’ll see that the default On/Off mapping for devices is Min=64 and Max=127. If the mapping is left this way it turns the device on at the midway point of the macro. Change the Min value to something really low, like 2 or 4, but not 0. Exit the mapping assignment with the Map button.
Now, whenever the reverb effect is not being heard, it’s also not using computer resources.
Here’s the video:
Hope you enjoyed this article. That’s all for Performing with Push: part 3.
Come back soon for more Performing with Push!