September 19, 2011  |   Ableton Tutorials

Ableton Live Tutorial – Stretchy Impulse Synths

In this video Jonny Miller (Jus’Listen/Sonarpilot Audio) experiments with the Impulse device in Ableton Live. This is commonly used for drums but here Jonny uses it to stretch and skew whole loops of audio into unrecognisable new shapes.

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Video Transcript

Hi there, it’s Jonny Miller from Point Blank Online Music School back once more to show you some cool tricks with Ableton Live, sounds and samples from Tonight I’m experimenting a little bit with the impulse device which we mainly use in Ableton for drums. We load in individual drum sounds into one of these eight sample cells or pads. And then we can control and shape and mold the sounds along with creating MIDI clips with all our rhythms.

But I’m going to use Impulse for something slightly different tonight. I’m going to load in some synth loops into Impulse, and use the way Impulse triggers sounds to create some really, really interesting effects on the loops. For that I’m going to use a really cool pack from Loop Masters called Dirty Dutch House. In here we’ve got the standard Loop Masters quality, really, really high quality sounds. A whole series of different loops, vocal loops, side chaining loops, they are really, really cool, lead loops and drum loops. I’ve got a little drum loop here I’ve just put in. This is just going to provide me with a little backing track for the tutorial tonight.

Now the lead synth loops all seem to have a real kind of street attitude to them. I think that’s what sets this particular sound pack apart from other house music sound packs. Just the sort of attitude, an edge to the loops. It’s almost like there’s some kind of reference from Reggaeton, and Bashment, and Dance Hall in these loops rhythmically, but also just the flavor. I think you can use some of these sounds for hip-hop dub step, not just house and electra house. I’ll just play some of these. It just shows some interesting things. Quite a lot of pitch bending, and side chaining, and there’s just loads and loads of things you can do with these loops. Now I found one that I quite like, this one. Actually it’s not that one, it’s this one, it’s all beat two.

Now instead of just dragging that into session viewer and making a track out of the loop, I’m going to use Impulse. I’m going to load that loop into Impulse and work with the very first part of that loop. Now I’ve got the sample inside Impulse. I’m going to start using all the different parameters of Impulse to create interesting kind of stretching effect sounds, if I just program up a MIDI clip quickly for this. I’m just going to create a little pattern, like so. Just to give me a little rhythmic stab. Let’s solo that now and have a look at Impulse.

Now the first parameter I’m going to start working with is decay. Because I’ve got a loop in here, if I bring the decay value right out it’s going to play more of the loop. Every time those MIDI notes are triggered, we’re going to hear more of the loop. But you’ll hear it gradually fading out, especially if I hit stop. So that’s how Impulse works, it plays the note
but it fades it out gradually over time. And the decay value determines how long it takes to fade out. If I take the decay value way up, we’re only playing a tiny, tiny little bit of that first note of the loop. As I bring the decay out, I’m allowing more and more of the loop to play, including some of the second notes that you can just hear staring to creep in now. I can move the start point forward, too. You get a slightly different rhythmic effect. Let’s put the beat on.

Now what I want to do is show you a really cool trick with the stretch value as well. What this does is it kind of squashes and stretches out each sample to create these glitchy effects. When we bring the stretch value right down into the negative values, what’s happening there is we’ve got the long decay and the short stretch value. And they’re kind of like working almost against one another and inadvertently creating this kind of glitchy effect. If I bring the stretch value up, what’s happening there is the very beginning of the samples being stretched right out. So again, working with the decay value you get that interesting kind of stretched out but tailed off sound. The minus figures something completely different.

That would sound really nice if we add side chain to this, and if I switch on the side chaining and take the input from audio one, that’s the beat. I’m just going to bring the threshold down and start to get a bit of a side chain kind of pump on here, and for this I’m going to bring the ratio right up. Instead of just working on the overall signal, if I switch the EQ on and bring the low shelf and the frequency value right down, now the compressor is really going to work just on the kick drum from audio track number one. And we get a lot more of a kind of heavy pump effect. So here, just again, I’m working back on that stretch value now to create a really, really interesting effect. Let’s try maybe, moving the start value back. You get a slightly different variation.

Now, of course, we can use stuff like clip envelopes, transposing to change the pitch of our sample. So this is completely against what Impulse is designed to do which is play back drum samples. We’re using the device in the functions on here that are normally used for drums to stretch out how the beginning of a loop plays the side chain action with the compressor. It just brings in that extra contemporary dance music value where we’re
getting a nice kind of pumping effect. It works really, really well with the drums. You can learn lots of cool tricks like this at, and I’ll be back again next week to show you more cool tricks with Ableton Live Eight and sound samples from Peace.