Sometimes it is the simple things in life that are the most gratifying. Sometimes less really is more. This week’s installment of my free weekly Ableton Live AfroDJRacks (a term coined by the good people at Ableton) is a fairly simple effects rack I have been using on my Master channel in my live performances. Currently (and I say currently, because if the past is any indication, this will certainly evolve) my live set-up consists of Ableton Live, an Akai APC40, an Akai MPK mini or MPK 49 (depending on my mood), a Novation Launchpad, and my OP-1. Although I am trying to keep things down to a minimum, this set up sure makes for a lot of controls to play with. And just like a little kid when he sees buttons, I have the almost uncontrollable urge to push them. Maybe it is a self-conscious thing that makes me want to show the audience that I am actually doing something and not just pressing play on iTunes, but I sometimes listen back to my performances and think that maybe I made things a little too busy. As my performances have matured, I am learning to resist the urge to constantly push buttons and move faders. Just because they are there asking for it doesn’t mean I should do it. So, I’m working on appreciating subtleties. Nothing can be subtle if everything is doing something. Subtleties only work when they have room to breathe and are not overshadowed by other elements. The rack I am about to share with you has proven to be one of my favorite things to toy with during live performances. It is a pretty simple, yet powerful, effects rack I place on a master channel.
I divide my live set up in to two general sections: prerecorded loops and live instruments. I like to be able to place effects on each section independently, so in order to achieve this, I route my prerecorded loops to an audio track (commonly referred to as a “Dummy track,” and I route my Live instruments right to the master output. The advantage to doing this is that I can mess around with my prerecorded loops in a myriad of ways while leaving my live instruments (soft synths, vocals, OP-1, melodica, guitar) unaffected, and vice versa. The Master FX Rack that I am sharing with you today is kept on that Dummy Audio track that all my loops are routed to.
So, I use this rack to do high and low pass filtering, add some reverb, bit crush the signal a bit, and put a subtle flanger over the mix for movement. It also has a control for a beat repeater, which is nice for glitches and stutters. And the final component is a combination high pass filter and delay. As you turn up that knob, the signal is simultaneously hi passed with a delay on top. Turn it all the way up and you only hear the delay and none of the original tracks. I find this useful for ending one song and beginning another. These effects are great for keeping a groove interesting. Sometimes just some movement in certain frequencies or little effect can be enough to keep the audience engaged without disrupting the flow of your songs. Now of course this rack has the ability to completely mangle your audio, so if that’s what the situation calls for, let her rip! I have found its true strength lies in a subtle dose. Have fun and enjoy!
In other news…
I’ve released an exciting new Ableton Live Pack in collaboration with Voltage Disciple. Check out the AfroVolt Pack 1, a collection of glitched up drum sounds made with the Moog Slim Phatty, a step sequencer for the Novation LaunchPad, and some other goodies. Get it at Voltage Disciple. Enjoy!