Studio Log: Week of April 11 2021

Written by Sean Armstrong

Starting this post on Tuesday night after a successful day of casual tinkering, thought, and some practice at the end.

I’ve found that my creative hours are truly in the daytime.. either morning or late afternoon.. sometimes I’ll retain the edge and be able to do stuff at 9PM+ but usually that is reserved for practice of performance, turntablism, or DJing. “Performance”.

Granted.. now it’s Wednesday evening and I’m battling the “Do I play Overwatch with my wife, brother-in-law, and friends… or tinker..” and at this hour (8:30-ish PM PT) I’m apt to play games because of my fatigue from the day of ‘dayjob’, parenting, being a home owner, chores, etc. Such is life.

Anywho.. I wanted to throw up this epiphany, of sorts, I had while knee deep in this “DAW-full” experience I’m going through.

Melodic Step Sequencer

Using the LaunchPad Pro (MK2), I have once again downloaded and installed the truly glorious “Launchpad pro95” plug-in/scripts for Ableton Live! ( https://motscousus.com/stuff/2015-12_Novation_Launchpad_Pro_Ableton_Live_Scripts/ )

You’ll get a nag screen about the note handling of the script being out-of-date. While I believe the creator will eventually find the time to update it, you can get through the nag screen and tell it to never bother you again. For my purposes, so far, I haven’t had any issues.

I grabbed it because my hardware/hybrid performances relied heavily on the sequencers present in the Korg Volcas, IK Uno, Electribes, and TR8-S, with additional support from live/improv looping from VSTs/virtual instruments and non-native sequenced hardware (Striechfett).

The melodic step sequencer mode of Launchpad pro95 is a fantastic way to get some sequences going along side the live playing of virtual instruments in this form of the studio I have right now.

Automation Recording

In addition to that, I realized I needed a way to record automation. The TR8-S has that feature. All Korg synths seem to have that feature. I forgot that there’s a handy button that lets us record automation into our clips in session mode! ( https://help.ableton.com/hc/en-us/articles/209070629-Working-with-Automation-and-Modulation )

So I’ve added the melodic step sequencer, automation recording, and there is a third thing to talk about: pre-set clip lengths for dubbed recording.

Pre-set Clip Lengths

You can jam all you want into a record-armed session-view clip slot and then end the recording for your live-looping style of play. I’ve found that sometimes I want only to record a specific 2, 4, or 8 bar progression (or work on building one over time) and was looking for a way to jump into a clip to record/dub and have Ableton Live! automatically end recording/loop back to the beginning at the end of the length.

Thus, you just create empty clips of the length you want! Mine are color-coded (i.e. blue for 2, yellow for 4, pink for 8 or some such things).

However, if you’re using the stock LaunchPad Pro (MK2, not sure about 3) implementation you’ll notice that the “Duplicate” function dupes the clip into the slot below. Not if you’re using LaunchPad pro95!

With LP Pro95 you can hold down the “Duplicate” button, tap the source, then tap the target slot and it will copy it there! Immensely powerful for taking the empty dummy clips and placing them where you want to record.

I’d recommend putting them on each page of 8 so you can easily Duplicate them in your set as you navigate around (should you find yourself using more than 1 page of 8 rows).

Use the FX

Thursday night brought me to more instrument work. I’ve been unhappy with most of the sounds coming out of my use of Reason’s Monotone Bass Synth, so I tuned down the Viking VST for some nice bass sounds and added a “sub” bass that is pretty basic to help fill out low-end when I need it. We will see how it works in the coming weekend’s jam session.

I then was playing with my favorite instrument of the 8 virtual channels <insert proper name here> Keys in Reason. During that, I had the idea to put Reason’s “The Echo” on a new Return C track.. wow.. I need to get my effects chains revamped and in a usable way to apply to more than a few tracks easily. Maybe I do it via knobs or TouchOSC, but that’s something that is missing in my sets that is present in most of the ones I really enjoy or the music that I often listen to… swathes of echo/delay, reverb, and some destruction.. bring that stuff in and play with it in an easy-to-route way.

I have been forgetting one of my old mantras to production that proved useful for me: “Ambience, emotion, texture, passion.”