Ableton Dj Set

Technology is intrinsic to techno – it’s right there in the name. Influences that fed into the Detroit-born genre were already testing new modes of musical expression, but techno heralded a more decisive break away from tradition fuelled by the runaway developments in electronic music equipment.

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Ableton’s Limiter is simple in design making it very easy to use. Why DJs Love It – Slap this on your master track to prevent any clipping that can happen during a DJ set. Even though you’re usually using only 2 songs at a time when mixing, the low end of 2 tracks at once can sometimes create major clippage in Ableton. (Image credit: Ableton) Another feature that could be useful in a live context is the introduction of a probability lane in the MIDI editor that controls the chance that a particular note will play. It’s also possible to set a range for a note’s velocity level that one could use to create a more natural-sounding performance when playing live.

Ableton makes Push and Live, hardware and software for music production, creation and performance. Ableton´s products are made to inspire creative music-making. Apr 20, 2021 John Type, a DJ and producer based out of Italy + long-time turntablist and electronic musician, has discovered a unique way to play and sequence a vinyl record as a synthesizer using the new features available in Ableton Live 11 in his latest YouTube video. In a new video, his setup uses vinyl records that. Ableton really stepped up their game with Live 11, introducing a bunch of great new features. If you've used previous versions of Live, then you're definitely going to want to check these out. First up is the new track comping feature, which helps you organize and edit multiple takes to cut together the perfect performance.

In modern terms at least, the computer’s assimilation into the trad-techno studio setup was relatively cautious, veering in extremes from a sterile digital purism to anti-laptop hardware elitism. Now, the general consensus seems settled on a mixture of disciplines as the key to fruitful techno exploration. Most producers active since the early days will have ridden at least some part of this wave of popular opinion and studio practice.

Eric Dulan, aka DJ Bone, is one such figure, active since the early ‘90s, releasing his first record around 1996 and relentlessly making mind-bending techno ever since. As a DJ, Dulan is more renowned today than he’s ever been. A three-decks and upwards spin master with the chops and flair to send any room into a frenzy, he’s rightly captured the imagination of successive generations of party people the world over, but he’s equally prolific as a producer. As his label, Subject Detroit, celebrates 25 years in business, we caught up with the Detroit man in Amsterdam to find out how his approach to making techno has evolved in line with the vast technological changes since the mid ‘90s.

Community spirit

Like so many DJs-turned-artists, Dulan’s journey into music-making was as much out of necessity as curiosity.

“I was DJing all around the city,” he says, “and there was a certain sound I wanted to play and I just wasn't able to find enough of it, so I said, ‘OK, I'm gonna start making my own.’ The first thing I bought was an all-in-one workstation – the Kurzweil K2500. I’d saved up all my money and at that time, it came down to the choice of buying a car or a keyboard… and I bought the keyboard.”

The learning curve on the hardware was steep, but Dulan was fortunate to have access to a world-class community of forefathers in Detroit. From afternoon’s spent picking Mad Mike and Juan Atkins’ brains in Submerge to hanging out in Kenny Larkin’s studio, Dulan found the first and second wave of Detroit techno pioneers to be friendly and forthcoming with advice. Initial troubleshooting from MIDI patching to hum cancellation soon progressed to mixdown tips and special techniques such as reverse edits using a reel-to-reel (imparted to Dulan by Mad Mike during a late night editing session).

“I squeezed the most out of that [Kurzweil],” Dulan laughs. “I didn't even have a mixing desk. I mixed it down on the onboard sequencer, EQ'd and everything, and it just went straight to DAT.”

The first time Dulan even got to play with a drum machine was a memorable experience. Around 1993-1994 he was living in a loft on the eastside of Detroit with neighbours including Carl Craig and Kelli Hand.

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“One day Claude Young came through with an SP1200,” Dulan recalls. “He's like, ‘You wanna come downstairs to Kelli's place? I'm doing a remix for her.’ That was the first time I'd ever been on any drum machine, and he was showing me how it worked. I ended up doing a remix on the spot for Kelli Hand [which can be found on a rare white label called Love Games]. It was a good community, and in the early days a lot of people did work together. It was more artistic, before the business element came into it.”

Hardware benefactor

In the early stages of his career, access to equipment was relatively limited for Dulan. He did however have a surprise turn of luck through his best friend Paul Staricco, who had always expressed a keen interest in analogue synths and drum machines without being active as a producer.

“Paul moved from Detroit to San Fran around 1994 or 95,” Dulan explains. “I went out to visit him in his small-assed place, and he has his living room full of gear. The freakin’ Jupiter 6, the Juno 106, the JB 2080, the Arp Axe, all kinds of drum machines. He had just been collecting all this stuff. He's like, ‘since I knew you were coming out, I figured you could hook it up for me.’ I hook it all up and I'm testing everything out, and he's like, ‘so if you want to, just go ahead and make some stuff while you're out here.’”

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Dulan ended up making trips to the West coast every few months to work with Staricco’s machines, coming up with swathes of new ideas which would go on to form the basis of tracks like “Body Bags”, “Knowhere” and many more besides.

Early releases

Dulan’s first outing on vinyl was the aptly titled Electronic Birth EP for German label Molecular Recordings in 1996. It was another two years before he quietly launched Subject Detroit with the anonymous pseudonym Subject No. 1. Dulan’s intention was to remove all ties to his established DJ career and see how the music fared on its own merit. Musically, it set out Dulan’s table early on as a fearless innovator seeking to push against the already established ‘norms’ of techno as a genre. His commitment to Black politics was front and centre with the still-relevant mantra of “black lives… poverty… aspiration” running through “Black Lives”. It’s a position he’s maintained ever since, using his platform to confront issues of racism and inequality head on with the same vigour as Underground Resistance or his favourite hip-hop group, Public Enemy.

“When I started creating music it was natural for these songs to have a message,” Dulan explains. “When I did “Black Lives”, those three things were every day for me. ‘Black lives. Poverty. Aspiration.’ If you're Black, you can't hide it. And when you're broke, you can’t help it, but the aspiration… you're always going to want something, whether you want to be better or do better. There's always a hope. Most broke kids, the one thing they all have in common is hope.”

From a production angle, the four-track EP was just as forceful in its declaration of identity, not least with the ear snagging drums. Amazingly, more than 20 years later, the ubiquity of the 808 and 909 still dominate techno music, but it was the same issue when Detroit techno was barely 10 years old.

“[From the beginning] I wanted to use different drums,” Dulan declares. “I didn't want to just use a preset. I wanted to mess with it. That's my main thing I've always loved to do. I love 909 drums, but I don't want to use only 909 or 808 drums. It's so weird that we always use the same drums for a genre that's supposed to be very futuristic.”

To achieve unique drum sounds, Dulan turned to his Akai sampler to layer different timbres into his drum hits, and used other drum machines such as the LinnDrum which he could tweak and process so it wouldn’t sound “so Linn-y”.

“A lot of people tune the drums all the time. I don't mind tuning the drums but the thing to me is more about the impact and the feeling the drums give you as opposed to whether it's in tune or not. To me drums are more a leader as far as a pattern goes. Like James Brown used to say, ‘everything is drums. The horn is drums, the guitar is drums.’”

By his own account, the Subject No. 1 12” sold well and could have launched his production career and record label comfortably in tandem with his burgeoning reputation as a DJ. However, with his increased exposure to the professional dimension of a music career, Dulan found himself disillusioned with different aspects of the industry from financial wranglings to ego-driven politics. His experiences drove him away from pursuing careerist goals in favour of a pure focus on making music.

“The music business is really shocking when you first encounter it,” he explains. “I felt instead of releasing and being in that pool, I'd rather just make music. I was stockpiling songs when I met my wife. She helped me jump-start releasing again. She was like, ‘you should just get in there and let people hear this music.’”

Breaking the silence

DJ Bone re-emerged in 2004 with a tidal wave of releases that revealed just how much progress he had been making in pursuit of his own unique take on the Detroit techno tradition. Tracks like “Wind Slaves (Fog)” eschewed the familiar thump of a 4/4 kick drum while using angular rhythmic figures and lush pads to capture the kinetic energy of techno. “Effects Of Change” bubbled and bumped with a groove as funky as it was weird. “The Hold (Tight Packing)” created a claustrophobic clamour that matched the painful transatlantic slavery subject matter, though from a musical perspective Dulan’s head-on approach to Black politics was shot through with hope and fortitude at every turn in an echo of his earlier sentiment about aspiration. Indeed, Dulan’s politics could scarcely not be detected in his music, sampling the anti-Apartheid radio broadcasts from the African National Congress And The People’s Army Umkhonto We Sizwe for “Cause Of Action” or placing Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ 1968 Black power salute at the Olympic Games on the center label for the Struggle EP. One of the few instances where the tone of the music and sampling content tipped over into a more explicit fury was 2005’s “Body Bags”, which matches the grim hook of “I’ve got Detroit on the line, they need 4,000 body bags” to an unhinged synth stab and pummeling, doubled-up beat. The frustration and anger positively leaps out of the speakers.

“It’s sad, but “Body Bags” is a culmination of growing up in Detroit and being around death all the time,” Dulan explains. “Any time you turn on the news, somebody got shot, or even if you don’t turn on the news and you’re watching TV, all of a sudden you hear gunshots outside, it’s almost a daily occurrence and it puts you in this weird state where it becomes normal. Most New Years Eves when I was a child, we’d get instructions from our parents to stay away from the windows and sit on the floor at midnight. And the next day you might hear a stray bullet came through a house and killed a kid. Just stupid shit. Reckless violence. That’s “Body Bags”, pointing out how senseless it is for that to be normal.”

Advanced techniques

It was apparent with Dulan’s new surge of material that he had advanced techniques at play in his music now. Gone was the raw machine attack heard on breakthrough Metroplex single “Shut The Lites Off”, making way for wildly expressive synth motifs and uniquely textured rhythms rendered with clarity and precision. This comes through no clearer than on “Metallo”, which pushes closer to electronica territory with its jagged angles, sea sick chords and madly modulating threads pulsing away behind the lead beat. When the groove kicks in just past the midway point, it’s pure Detroit, but the execution shows how far the DJ Bone sound had travelled in his time out of the spotlight.

“I think I made “Metallo” right around when I started using Live,” Dulan reveals. “I saw you could drag and drop your samples in Live and it time stretched them for you, and it just flashed me back to all the time I used to spend trimming samples on my Akai S2800. That let me know that I could just mess with everything and not worry, because of the undo and the autosave.”

On “Metallo” specifically Dulan used two Doepfer sequencers running different pattern lengths to trigger his samples in Live in intriguing polyrhythmic formations. Once Live was incorporated into his workflow, his tangled studio set up hinged around a MIDI patch bay, enabling him to experiment with different connectivity, sending CC messages to different machines and daisy-chaining for constantly surprising results. He’d often work on two or three songs simultaneously, testing out different ideas with specific patches before recording a batch of live takes to DAT, rewiring everything again and moving on to the next project.

“Initially I was straight up using outboard gear with Live. I was on a mixing desk and I was just using Live to sequence and for any sampling that I needed and that was it. I didn't even mess with the sounds on Live for the longest time because in my mind I'm like, ‘Presets? No, thank you.’ I just created a bunch of sound banks of my own through tweaking and sampling rackmount gear like the EMU Planet Phat and the Orbit.”

Deeply rooted rhythms

One thing that clearly set Dulan’s take on Detroit techno apart from the outset was his approach to rhythm. Even when, with the steady count of a seasoned DJ, you can lock his tracks to a 4/4 pulse, sonically they move with nuanced polyrhythms that keep the brain guessing and the dancers on their toes. The groove on a track like “Body Bags” can easily throw you off, even if the kick is steadfast at the bottom of the mix, while the percussion whirling through “Motherland” calls back to Africa as explicitly as the tribal chants. It’s no surprise to learn Dulan has taken his grasp of rhythm seriously.

“I started to study a lot of African rhythms,” Dulan reveals. “I got a couple of books and I bought tonnes of CDs of actual tribes so that I could listen to the rhythm and figure out where it was regionally and exactly what they were expressing, and it just sounded so good constantly. Whenever I would hear it, I could feel it. It motivated me. So that's why I like to incorporate a lot of the African rhythms in there, because it's the motherland – the birthplace of the drums, of the beat.”

Club smashes and curveballs

While he may be more of a household name now, for much of his career Dulan’s releases have largely bubbled below the surface – revered by those with their finger on the pulse, but too out-there for the mainstream club scene. But in his back catalogue there are certain tracks that seem to teeter close to the idea of a club smash. Among them is 2008’s “Circus World”, his self-voiced call-out to the aspects of the music industry that had dismayed him in the early days. “Borrowed our soul, return it with interest, you can’t replicate it in your Circus World,” he sings pointedly. As well as having a pertinent message about the appropriation of techno culture, it’s one of Dulan’s catchiest, most potent tracks. Even the intro clap on the two and the four is a head turner, made by layering up three different claps with ample reverb and nudging them apart to increase the size and impact.

Dulan describes the “Circus World” groove as a painstakingly crafted “auditory illusion”, not least the slippery lead made using two separate synth sounds and some light FX. He nudged the compound sound forwards while slipping the beat back to create a unique funk. As he attests, it was the exact idea he had in his mind that just took some careful work in the studio to achieve.

Although you’d be hard pressed to boil Dulan’s style down to one definable description, there are stand out moments in his catalogue where he’s thrown out a curveball. Vocoder-powered cut “Himbot” is one such example that emerged from the same late ‘00s period, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place alongside the crossover electro-techno of artists like Miss Kittin & The Hacker.

“I thought, ‘this isn't like anything I would do, so I have to do it.’” Dulan says of the moment he struck upon the idea for “Himbot” deep into a studio session. “At that time I was ready to ditch my desk and just straight sequence on Live. The sound quality still needed to be better but as far as function goes.. With DJ mixers, I'm always about the function over the quality because of the performance, and it was the same with Live. Even if some things were lacking or I could get better quality with my desk, the function of Live freed me up to do crazier shit.”

Different expressions

For more than 10 years Dulan has been progressing his sound in the box, and while there have continued to be DJ Bone releases via labels like Sect and Leftroom as well as Subject Detroit, he’s also been channeling his energy into a new concern. His Differ-Ent alias emerged in 2015 on UK label Don’t Be Afraid, eventually resulting in the It’s Good To Be Differ-Ent album two years later. While Dulan’s music has crackled with electric ingenuity from the outset, he sees Differ-Ent as a markedly different vehicle to DJ Bone.

“[With Differ-Ent] I was embracing the software side,” he explains. “It was more structured, like I was trying to piece together electronic songs. It was more science than it was music. The newer DJ Bone stuff is going to be funkier than the Differ-Ent stuff.”

This notion of new material hangs in the air over our conversation. For the past few years Dulan has been busier than at any other time in his career as a DJ, and it’s noticeable that he hasn’t released any new material since the 2018 DJ Bone albums Beyond and A Piece of Beyond. As we talk Europe is in the midst of the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, and Dulan and his wife have not long been living in their new house on the outskirts of Amsterdam. A new studio space and a significantly reduced gig schedule seem likely to signal a change in direction for Dulan’s musical output to encompass a more “engineered” approach.

“Honestly, 80 percent of the music I've released has been expressions,” he says. “From Ship Life, through stuff like “Circus World” all the way up until now with “All My Heart” and “Rosedale Park”, those are all vibes and expressions. Every once in a while I'll toss in a track like “Dreamers 9” – that was purely me engineering a track, and it ended up being played by everyone from Josh Wink and heavier techno DJs to Peggy Gou. They have no clue what's coming. It's almost like I’m a chef that's been just freestyling in the kitchen with no recipes.

A smile can be heard breaking across his face as he teases. “Wait until I really try and do a strict recipe, and then see what happens.”

Keep up with DJ Bone on Bandcamp, Facebook and Instagram.

Text and interview: Oli Warwick

This tutorial demonstrates how to bounce audio in Ableton Live and explains the differences between resampling audio and freezing and flattening audio.

At some point in your project, you may want to resample audio for various reasons. Ableton Live offers three ways to bounce source material to audio. You can export a track via Live’s ‘Export Audio/Video’ command, or you can resample audio using either the ‘Resampling’ command and the ‘Freeze Track’ and ‘Flatten’ commands. For this tutorial, we will look at the benefits of bouncing audio and then compare the differences of bouncing audio using the ‘Resampling’ command and the ‘Freeze Track’ and ‘Flatten’ commands.

Bouncing Audio Benefits

There are several beneficial reasons for bouncing audio. Below are just a few common reasons you may consider bouncing audio.

Conserve CPU Usage

Using a lot of instruments and audio effects in your project can quickly overload CPU resources. Bouncing tracks to audio is an invaluable approach to freeing up CPU usage or memory limitations.

Creative Reasons

There are many more creative possibilities available when working with audio vs. working with MIDI. Audio is extremely flexible and allows you to do fun things in Live such as reversing, time-stretching, slicing, resampling, and many other artistic editing approaches.

Progressive Workflow

Bouncing tracks to audio commits your ideas and crystallizes your focus. When working with MIDI, it can be easy to fall into a vicious cycle of continuously changing things, essentially slowing down your workflow. Committing your ideas gives you direction and momentum to move forward and complete projects.

Visualization

Having the ability to visualize audio waveforms is much more helpful than looking at MIDI notes. With audio, you can hone in on the waveform and make ultra-precise editing moves such as applying fades to remove pops and clicks, adjusting the timing, observing waveform levels, investigating sound problems, and more.

Saving for Future Projects or Collaborating

Audio files are much more manageable and easier to save for future projects. In addition, you may want to work on another computer or collaborate with someone that may not have the same plugins you used or even find that you lost an instrument’s’ preset in a crash. Audio files ensure you always have your sounds ready to go anywhere and on any computer.

Resampling Audio

Ableton Live offers a feature called ‘Resampling’ that is available from any audio track’s ‘Input Type’ chooser menu. This option allows you to record the output of one or multiple tracks into a new, editable audio track. This approach will give you an exact copy of source material with the same bit depth as the original or what is set in Live’s Preferences.

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Ableton recommends setting internal recording to 32 bits to ensure neutral recordings of plugin instruments and any audio signals that are being processed by effects plugins. Please note, that if the source audio is already at a lower bit depth, internal recording at that bit depth will also be neutral assuming that no effects are used. In addition, internally recording an unprocessed 16 bit audio file at 32 bits will not increase the sound quality. Also, keep in mind that the bounced audio will use the ‘Warp Mode’ set in Live Preferences which could affect the playback quality.

When ‘Resampling’ audio, there are a few other things to be mindful of that can alter the results. The ‘Resampling’ option will route the Master output to that track. You can decide on what exactly will be resampled by muting or soloing the tracks that are feeding the Master output. Be aware of the signal path and the effects the signal is passing through before it reaches the Master output. For example, if you solo a track within a group and resample it, the results will capture any effects on that track, the group track, the Master channel, and any Return tracks that the source audio is sent to with the Send controls. If you only want the unprocessed signal to be resampled, first deactivate any effects along the signal path as well as any Return tracks.

How to Resample Audio

Setting up a track or a group of tracks to resample is fairly easy. You can bounce audio in either Session View or Arrangement View.

  • Create a new Audio Track below the MIDI or Audio Track you would like to resample.
  • Select ‘Resampling’ from the tracks ‘Audio From’ chooser menu.
  • Arm the ‘Resampling’ track for recording by clicking the tracks ‘Record’ button.
  • Solo the track or group of tracks you wish to resample.
  • Enable the ‘Arrangement Record’ button in the transport controls at the top of Live’s interface to begin recording.

Freeze and Flatten Audio

Ableton Live has an extremely useful ‘Freeze Track’ feature that can greatly help manage the CPU load of your project or be used to quickly resample audio. Freezing a track temporary renders a pre-fader bounce of the tracks output signal which includes all devices and automation. The frozen track can be unfrozen anytime if you wish to make edits with the ‘Unfreeze Track’ command available from the same Edit menu. A frozen track conserves CPU usage because it will play back its ‘Freeze File’ rather than repeatedly calculating processor-intensive device and clip settings in real time. However, once a track is frozen, you can no longer edit clip settings, device parameters or automation. Although as a pre-fader bounce, mixer controls such as volume, panning, and send amounts are all still available to adjust or automate.

The ‘Freeze Track’ feature can also be used to resample audio. You can commit a frozen track to audio by either creating a new Audio Track and dragging the frozen audio to the new track or by selecting the ‘Flatten’ command from the Edit menu to permanently render the frozen track to audio. Freezing and flattening tracks completely replaces the original clip and all devices with a new audio file. The rendered results will include any device or clip settings and automation.

When Freezing and flattening audio, there are a few things to be mindful of that are different from resampling audio. Frozen tracks are rendered as 32 bit files and not the same bit depth as the original material, which ensures that they will not be lower quality than the audio heard prior to freezing. However, there are some special cases that result in non-neutral behavior and should be noted. Frozen and flattened tracks in Arrangement View will include audio material that extends beyond the end of the clip itself, such as reverb tails and delay repetitions. Frozen and flattened tracks in Session View, on the other hand, will cut off audio material that extends beyond the end of the clip after freezing. In addition, frozen clips are always played back and rendered with ‘Warp’ on and in ‘Beats Mode,’ which means they are subject to the same non-neutral behavior as any other Warped audio files and may sound different from the original material.

How to Freeze and Flatten Audio

Bouncing audio with the ‘Freeze Track’ and ‘Flatten’ commands is less involved than resampling tracks. Below is a quick guide to achieving this method.

Ableton Wiki

  • Right-click any track you wish to bounce and select ‘Freeze Track’ from the Edit menu. Be aware that it is not possible to freeze a Group Track.
  • Once a track is frozen, right-click the track again and select ‘Flatten’ from the Edit menu. Alternatively, you can create a new Audio Track and drag the frozen audio to that track.

Ableton Live Producer Certificate Program

At Dubspot our world-class instructors provide the most complete and cutting-edge Ableton Live learning experience. The Ableton Live Producer Certificate Program is the flagship of our music training. After completing this program, you will leave with a portfolio of original tracks, a remix entered in an active contest, a scored commercial to widen your scope, and the Dubspot Producer’s Certificate in Ableton Live.

About This Program

This program is about learning Ableton Live by going through the entire process of being an artist, by developing your own sound through a series of sketches and experimentation. You will also learn the ins and outs of this powerful software through a series of exercises designed to help you master the steps involved in producing your own music. After a level of getting familiar with the tools that Ableton has to offer, you will then develop your sonic ideas into full-length tracks. You will be exposed to a variety of approaches to arrangement and composition, storytelling techniques, ways of creating tension and drama in your music. At the end of the day, it is the sum total of your choices as an artist that define your sound, and levels 2 – 6 will give you the experience of actually completing tracks to add to your portfolio.

What’s Included

  • Ableton Live Level 1: Beats, Sketches, and Ideas
  • Ableton Live Level 2: Analyze, Deconstruct, Recompose, and Assemble
  • Ableton Live Level 3: Synthesis and Original Sound Creation
  • Ableton Live Level 4: Advanced Sound Creation
  • Ableton Live Level 5: Advanced Effect Processing
  • Ableton Live Level 6: Going Global with your Music

Overview

  • Dubspot’s complete Ableton course load: six levels/48 class sessions
  • 132 hours of hands-on instruction
  • Additional lab hours to work on assignments in Dubspot’s onsite facilities
  • 24/7 access to Dubspot Online’s Ableton Live course videos
  • Access to the course videos for one year after course completion

Additional Information

Visit the Ableton Live course page for detailed information on this programhere.

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If you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.