April 7, 2011  |   Ableton Tutorials

Ableton Tutorial – Modulation Effects – Chorus

In this free music production tutorial Danny J Lewis guide you through the chorus effect in Ableton Live and how you can use this tool creatively in your mix down.

This tutorial is taken from the Mixing Dance Music in Ableton course which launched this week (4th April 2011). Following the popularity of the Mixing Dance Music in Logic course and overwhelming calls for something similar in Ableton Live, this is what we came up with! The course shows you how to take your productions to the next level and achieve that punchy, professional sound. Check out some of the music styles covered in the video below.

Follow this link for full details of this Ableton Course

Video Transcript

Now chorus was an effect that was originally designed to make things sound as if two people are playing the same instrument. And what it does is that it makes a copy of the original sound, delays it by a certain amount of time, and then the delay time itself is modulated by an LFO. So it’s like an LFO to pitch. You can choose the speed that it’s going to go and also the depth. So they’re the kind of parameters that we’d be looking at. I’m going to bring on Ableton’s chorus onto this pad that I’ve got soloed. I’m going to bypass it firstly. Let’s have a listen to the pad without the effect.

Let’s turn it on and listen to the default settings. You can hear that immediately there’s a richer stereo pitch, a richer pitch modulation, you can hear that. And what I want to do is go through some of these parameters for you. I’m going to give you a little bit of a tour so you can get an idea of the possibilities. When it comes to working with chorus, often what can happen is that it has a sense of gelling sound into the mix, it almost blurs things. If you apply chorus, often it can take away focus. That could be the whole purpose in using it. You’ve got a sound that’s sticking out too much and you think, well I need to just get this blended better with the background. So that’s one of the reasons why you use a chorus. You could be using it as a special effect, a dramatic effect. I’ll show you how you could do that later on. So lots of different ways that you might want to use a chorus.

Let’s have a look at these parameters then. There are two parallel delays. That means these are running at the same time. And so you can choose to have them running at the same time or actually have only one. I can say here, turn off delay two. I’ll come back to that fairly soon, because I want to focus on delay one first. So we’ve got the ability to adjust the time of the delay, so you can see that here. It’s in milliseconds and it goes up to twenty. So we can go for the lowest 0.01 millisecond to 20 milliseconds. That’s the time for the delay. There is a copy of the original sound, 20 milliseconds later.

We can also filter that so that we don’t hear the lows. So the high parts you can say here, all right, let’s hear everything above 2.79, everything above 3.07, everything above 60 and so on. So you can adjust that. You can stop it being too thick so that you control there for reducing some of those low frequency energies in the delay one. So that’s there. And we have some other parameters. What I’ll do is I’ll get this playing so you can get a sense of it. What I’ll do is also bring the high parts down so you can really get to feel the whole thickness of the sound. Let’s have a look with the maximum delay time on delay one.

The other thing that we’ve got is this LFO modulation. And what I’ll do is I’ll take this to 100% wet so we can hear this in more detail. If I increase the amount that’s the depth of the pitch modulation, speed up the LFO. It’s all like a real kind of trippy flavor with that going so slow. I’m going to take it faster. You can hear that pitch modulation very distinctly now. Getting faster, very distinct LFO to pitch now, so the speed and amount high. Let me come back to the beginning. It’s a juicy amount. That’s a little kind of shimmery texture at lower amounts. Slow the speed down, very distinct when you go to the high amounts.

Now Ableton being Ableton, they flipped in this little thing here, times 20. Now when we flick this switch on, it gives us extreme amounts. For you sound designers out there, you might want to flick this on. I’ll show you what happens, so let’s just do it normal first, and I’m going to flick it on. We’re talking an incredibly fast rate. That sort of thing will be great for automating, wouldn’t it? That’s a very, very powerful extra addition to be put inside. Now the unique thing about Ableton’s chorus is as well as the parameters we looked at so far is we have the addition of the feedback. And much like a delay feedback, what it does is it creates additional echoes. And the larger amount that you have combined with a large delay time, you’ll start to hear these individual echoes. It’s almost like a cone filled kind of effect.

Let’s go faster. So that buzziness is coming from the high feedback, and we’ve got the larger delay time. Let’s make that shorter. So because we’ve got the shorter delay time, we’re not hearing that buzzy texture anymore, a very different effect. Let’s take the delay time bigger again for contrast, back to the beginning of the track. So at the higher delay times you get to hear, it’s almost like little grains, very similar in a way to sort of granular resampling.

That’s what’s going on there, the amount of echoes coming back. That’s the basic parameters there on the chorus. So we’ve also got another delay here, so you can see this. Now if I switch this on, basically what happens with the fixed mode is that only delay one is going to be modulated by the matrix over here. Let’s increase the size of delay two and take the feedback up. Shorten delay two. Let’s take delay one thinner. Now if we had this set to modulation mode, then what happens is that this receives exactly the same modulation now as delay one. So if I take this lower, this will be modulated now by this modulation matrix over here. Let’s have a listen to that, so two contrasting ones.

Now this is definitely the one if you’re off to something a big more eccentric. Even shorter on this one. Bring this down as well. Let’s flip onto the times 20. So you can see there is a whole world of possibility there. Now for this track I think I’m going to go for something really quite subtle. And so, I’m going to take the dry-wet mix back. Let’s take the feedback down for the moment. The amount is probably somewhere around here, I’m going to test it in a minute. I’m going to do delay two off, and let’s take the high parts just up a little bit, possibly around 300 or so. A bigger delay time I think, but I’m going to confirm that when I play that. Let’s have a listen. And you can see how it really does push it back in the mix.

Sometimes, you need to bring up the overall level afterwards. Let me just have a play around a bit. I don’t want to be too obvious with the modulation in terms of hearing rapid movement on the LFO. Just taking this, too much there, take the 20 off as well, that was distracting me. I didn’t realize that was on. Let’s give it some more level, and see how that sits in the mix. Back to the beginning. Just easing back on the dry-wet mix here. Don’t want it to be over saturated with the chorus. Try with a bit more feedback, too much. Let’s try it with a slightly faster delay time. I think it’s working quite nicely, so a real large range of possibilities there from the chorus effect. And you’ve seen with the times 20 we’ve got the ability to start going to really quite out there sound design possibilities.