BUILD YOUR OWN STEP SEQUENCER IN ABLETON LIVE 7

April 30, 2009
Although Ableton Live 7's MIDI effects collection does not include a
step sequencer, it has all the ingredients for building one in a MIDI
Effect Rack. I'll start with a basic 8-step sequencer and then go on to
describe several useful enhancements. You'll find all the tools
mentioned here in Web Clip 1. For an alternative approach, check out the free Fib 02 step sequencer from TrackTeam Audio (trackteamaudio.com).

I'll use notes C2 through G2 (MIDI Note
Numbers 48 through 55) to trigger individual sequence steps. Trigger
notes can come from MIDI clips, live playing, or an arpeggiator, and
each has its advantages. Separate racks for Velocity, length, and pitch
will have their eight Macro knobs mapped to individual steps. If you
have a MIDI control surface with continuous rotary knobs that is
supported by Live (such as the Novation Remote SL series), you can
quickly shift its focus between the three racks to update step values
in real time.

Eight Is Enough

Insert a MIDI Effect Rack on an empty MIDI
track, reveal its Chain List, create eight chains, and rename them Step
1 through Step 8. Use the Key Zone editor to limit each chain to one
note: Step 1 to C2, Step 2 to C#2, and so on. Create two copies of this
rack so that you have three racks in series, and rename them Velocity,
Length, and Pitch.

Insert a Velocity effect in each chain of the
Velocity rack, map its Out Hi knob to the corresponding Macro knob, set
its Operation to Velocity, and set its Mode to Fixed. Insert a Note
Length effect in each chain of the Length rack, set its Mode to Time,
and map its Length knob to the corresponding Macro knob with range 25.0
ms to 4.25 s. (Controlling the length in milliseconds rather than beat
divisions gives you greater flexibility.)

In the Pitch rack, insert two Pitch effects in
each chain and map the Pitch knob of the second one to the
corresponding Macro knob with range -48 to 48. Delete the first Pitch
effect in the first chain, and set the Pitch knob of the first Pitch
effect in successive chains to -1, -2, -3, and so on. The first Pitch
effect ensures that each Macro knob has the same range: C-2 through C6.

FIG. 1: In this 8-step sequencer, the Scale effect at the left displays the active step in green, and the Macro controls of the three MIDI Effect Racks control the step Velocities, lengths, and pitches.
FIG. 1: In this 8-step
sequencer, the Scale effect at the left displays the active step in
green, and the Macro controls of the three MIDI Effect Racks control
the step Velocities, lengths, and pitches.

Insert a Scale effect before the Velocity rack
and rename it Trigger Display. That lets you see when each step is
triggered, and you can also use it to turn off or remap steps. Group
everything into a new MIDI Effect Rack and save it. You now have an
8-step sequencer that you can route to any instrument plug-in (see Fig. 1).
When you create sequences you like, save the whole sequencer rack or
save the individual Velocity, Length, and Pitch racks to swap into
other sequencer racks.

To create a sequencer with 16 steps, duplicate
the chain in the 8-step sequencer and precede it with a Pitch effect
having a fixed offset of -8. Notes Ab2 through Eb3 will trigger the
second chain (Steps 9 through 16). You can create larger sequencers in
the same way.

Trigger-Happy

You can trigger steps in real time by playing
the trigger notes on your MIDI keyboard, or you can create a looping
MIDI clip for more-complex step sequences. The MIDI clip determines the
rhythm, quantization, and order of the steps but has no effect on their
Velocity, length, or pitch. Try adapting a percussion MIDI clip to
trigger sequencer steps while using the original clip to play
percussion (see Web Clip 2).

Inserting an Arpeggiator effect before the step sequencer is a more traditional solution (see Web Clip 3).
Hold mode lets you set up sequences adding one step at a time. Use the
Style setting to change the step order or to make it random. Also
explore the Retrigger and Repeats controls.

You can insert Chord and Arpeggiator effects after the sequencer to create chord sequences and then arpeggiate the chords (see Web Clip 4).
Use a Scale effect to filter or correct the sequence to any scale as
well as to transpose the whole sequence. Web Clip 1 contains step
sequencers of each of these types with their Macro knobs mapped to the
important parameters.

http://emusician.com/tutorials/sound-design-workshop-step-time/
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