Meeting Topic: Ableton LINK and the Phoenix Ableton User Group, featuring Deadbeats artist, "LICK"
Moderator Name: CRAS Instructor Scott Murray
Speaker Name: Dylan Rasimas and Lev Lewis, Organizers of the Phoenix Ableton User Group; Deadbeats artist LICK
Meeting Location: Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, Gilbert Az
The AES chapter of the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences was pleased to welcome the Phoenix Ableton User Group and Deadbeats artist "LICK" to discuss the features of Ableton, primarily focusing on the networking capabilities of Ableton LINK. Scott Murray opened the event by introducing Lev Lewis and Dylan Rasimas. The duo organized the Phoenix Ableton User Group which hosts bi-weekly events such as Beers and Beats, as well as coordinating academic events with AES and ASU. They currently have active pages on Facebook and Discord.
Lev told the story of how he discovered Ableton when Sonny Moore started posting videos to Youtube in 2008 which talked about Ableton being the future of music. At the time, Lev was a Junior in High School, and he worked all summer to afford to purchase Ableton Live. He had no clue how to use it, so he watched YouTube tutorials to hone his abilities. Some of the unexpected applications that Lev has used Ableton Live for include metal backing tracks, in-ear monitoring, lighting, and live performances with the APC 40. According to Lev, "I love someone saying you can't do something in Ableton because usually, you can. The only thing that I've found that I can't do is karaoke."
Dylan explained that he has been using Ableton Live for 12 years, discovering it in raves being used by DJ's to create the type of music that he wanted to. Both Lev and Dylan stated that they primarily focus on the creation of techno music.
The two proceeded to give a brief overview of Ableton, including Ableton Live (software), Ableton Push (hardware), and Ableton Link (network interconnectivity). Lev noted, "Up until Ableton Version 6, there was no Arrangement View. This was purely a live production software."
Lev went through a demonstration of the template that he has been using for seven years for his performances, as well as Key Mode which can assign commands to keys on your computer keyboard if you do not have a MIDI controller.
Dylan presented a custom-made MIDI controller "What I did was I took an old guitar that I had lying around, and I found a (Playtron) board that can trigger MIDI notes based off of an electrical signal. So basically, this yellow cable ends up being my ground wire, and as long as this is touching my body... I become the ground and I'm creating an electrical every time that I touch any of these pads. The pads connect to an alligator clip that then connects to the microchip board." Every connection is assigned to a different MIDI note. MIDI is coming in from the Playtron circuit board and being sent to one channel which then sends to separate channels for different triggers. He noted that he sets it up this way to save on CPU.
Dylan explained that he DJ's with Ableton running simultaneously with the CDJ's and the mixer. He found a third-party software that allows Ableton Link to read with Pioneer and adjust when anything is adjusted on the CDJ's.
"If we were playing a track, Lev would be playing over here on his rig... If we changed the tempo of this track that's playing on the CDJ it would actually change his project, it would change my project, and then any other projects that were connected to it."
Members of the audience who had Ableton Live ensured they were on the same Wi-fi network to become a part of the performance. Lev asked one of the audience members to adjust the tempo of the performance, showing that everyone's project was affected.
Lev then discussed using Ableton Live for vocals and other instruments in tandem with beats for live applications. He demonstrated making live vocal loops that were added into his project that he was able to modify in real-time
Deadbeats artist, Lick, then took the stage. Lick had just arrived back in town from a performance in Utah. Lick is a Producer/ DJ who has been writing music for around 12 years. He has done work for Microsoft, Ubisoft, television, video games such as Valorant. He never went to music school, stating, "It was rough, I really wish I had the education to teach me and excel me in a lot of things, but you just learn things through trial and error... You have to try and do things that are not normal to break different types of barriers... I'm glad I did that."
Lick then described his typical workflow and creative process. He likes to start with drums, using splice to create drum loops. "I use splice a lot... You can sort by key, one shots, loops, and you just kind of see what works and what doesn't work."
Lick then presented one of his remixes for reference. "The reason why I wanted to show you guys this was because this remix was very simple. You honestly don't need a lot of things to make a song sound very full... Just like in a regular rock band, there's like a lead singer, the bass, maybe like two guitars, and drums. And that's how amazing music was made in the past. These days you can be all of those people as one person in the DAW."
When Lick creates a drum loop, he thinks of the genre of the song he's making and gets a mental picture in his head of what it should sound like. "You just adapt to it and try weird things." He then proceeded to explain his process for selecting different drum samples. He prefers to not linger on altering the samples too much, stating, "If it sounds good naturally, it's meant to be there."
Lick then discussed OTT (Over the Top Compression). "I think OTT is the best thing ever created.. You can apply it into all of your drums, instruments, mix, master, everything." He demonstrated by creating a MIDI track and loading Serum. He took a saw wave, then added a sub bass sine wave with distorted white noise. The white noise gives the sound a "beefy" tone. Then, he added Erosion, explaining, "This is going to give it some driving color." At this point, Lick added the OTT. "OTT is essentially a multi-band compressor... I basically put OTT on everything and usually end up triple stacking it." Lick then added an EQ to the end of the chain. "A very cool thing that Ableton does in the EQ is this little headphone button. You can click this button to see and hear exactly what you're cutting out."
Lick gave his advice for developing a personalized creative workflow, stating, "Music is meant to be simple. A lot of us try to overcomplicate things. There's a lot of tutorials on Youtube, and some of those tutorials may not be good for you. Some of them may be good for you technically. At the end of the day, music is meant to be so simple and it's made with passion and love. If it stresses you out, why are you doing it in the first place? That kind of sucks, that's not how we make music."
Upon the conclusion of Lick's demonstration, Lev and Dylan returned to the stage to close out the event by providing those in attendance with a copy of the templates that were used in the presentation, as well as a plugin pack.
Written By: CRAS AES Secretary - William Walton