This week we’ll talk about randomness and it’s role in my creative process, as I use a lot of randomized effects and sequences in nearly all of my tracks and I would consider it to be an important aspect of my sound. It is very hard to achieve true randomness, but we can approximate to a degree with various methods of processing in Ableton Live.
When I work with midi instruments, I like to use the random effect, sometimes combined with the velocity effect also set to random. With a melodic or bass pattern of midi notes, setting the choice, steps, and subtract/add/both options, as well as a carefully chosen randomness percentage (the percentage of notes going through the effect that are modified), you can add just the right amount of change to the pattern without removing the melodic structure which makes it work. You can combine this with an arpeggiator as well, usually before the random instance. I also save these patterns to get some replicability when it comes to mixing the track, or simply to save some cpu cycles. You can do this by setting up a second midi channel to record the output of your randomized channel and crank the tempo up to maximum to do this super quick, and just disable or delete the midi effects on the primary channel and use the recorded midi to trigger your instrument. I like this with bt and iZotope’s fantastic Stutter Edit as well, as it is triggered by midi notes, so having a random midi file can create some great textures. You can listen to exactly that effect on my track out of.
Another one of my favourite methods to create completely different audio loops is to use clip launch triggers within session view, the exact settings of which are in the image, and you can change the trigger length as you like. This is best with more than six similar drum loops – I prefer top or bongo/conga loops but it works with anything. Drop a whole bunch into one session view track, set the clip launch settings to all of the clips as pictured, and record. Again, you can crank the tempo to the max to do this. Then, in arrangement view, you’ve got a nice long recording of random percussion hits to select the best bits from- or just use it all.
The last technique I will cover with this post is random lfos (use whichever you prefer), and the powerful multimap pro. Both of these are Max4Live devices so you will need to have suite to use them. You could use the multimapper included in the old Max4Live essentials pack, but the pro plugin allows you to draw response graphs for each parameter, in addition to the min/max control of the old multimapper. My response graphs start to look a little ridiculous, but it sounds fun and that’s the important thing. This allows one lfo to control up to six parameters, although technically more as one rack knob counts as one parameter. The response graphs allow the control change with the lfo to be non-linear, something I really appreciate – as you can see here (image). This helps me create really interesting textures in my sound design process, and can create some really fun and unique sounds to use in tracks.
That should cover the basics of my usage of randomness in my track writing process, although I did skip over some things so I may come back to this in the future.