1. Compressor: Transfer Curve View
The ”Transfer Curve” view is the second view in Ableton’s Compressor. It’s confusing to a lot of people, so I thought I’d explain it.
Remember what an y=x graph looks like?
The display in this mode is very similar to a graph, but instead of the x and y it displays input volume and output volume. When the Ratio is set to 1:1 no compression is happening - the compressor doesn’t affect the volume at all. That means that no matter how loud the input signal is, the output level is exactly the same. That makes the graph a straight line.
What a compressor does is it turns down the volume of the signal once it exceeds the threshold. However, as long as the volume doesn’t exceed the threshold it’s not affected. Notice that on the left of the threshold (yellow circle) the graph hasn’t changed.
The signal on the right of the threshold is flat now. It means once the input level exceeds the threshold its level will be limited. No matter how loud the input level is, the output level never exceeds the threshold.
That’s an extreme example, because our ratio is infinite. Most of the time you’re going to be using a compressor with a lower ratio. Notice how chainging the ratio changes the shape of the graph.
2. Tuner: Histogram View
Tuner is a useful effect for tuning samples or instruments, like a guitar. Did you know that the tuner has another view?
It shows you a bit of pitch history, which is useful for example for tracking the pitch of a bass in a track when trying to figure out a chord progression. If you EQ out everything but the sub, the tuner will show you exactly what notes the sub is playing. Sub bass is often playing the root notes of a chord progression. The first view however is more precise and I would stick to it when tuning instruments.
3. Resonators: Adding stereo signal to drums
If you have a nice mono drum sample but you’d like it to also contain some stereo content, try adding Resonators.
Kick without Resonators: (Make sure to listen to it on headphones)
Kick with Resonators:
To achieve this effect:
First crank the Dry/Wet knob in the lower right corner of the device so you can hear what the device is doing.
Turn on the IV and V resonators. Adjust the pitch of one of them a few semitones down and the other one a few semitones up.
Resonators II & IV manipulate the left channel, resonators III & IV manipulate the right channel. By changing the pitch of left and right channels we’re introducing difference between them and that creates stereo.
You can bring up the decay (1) to create something similar to a short ping pong delay. Changing resonator pitch also changes decay time what creates additional stereo.
You can filter the effect’s signal by using the filter on the left of the device. I chose a bandpass filter and set the Frequency to 500 Hz.
When you’re happy with your stereo signal you can blend it in with the mono sample using the Dry/Wet knob on the right of the device.
4. Utility: Width control
Utility’s Width control (1) causes a lot of confusion. Let me explain what it does exactly.
With the Width at 100% the signal remains unchanged. As you increase the width from this point, any mono signal (Mid) fades out and the stereo difference (Side) remains unchanged.
With the Width at 0%, the left and right channels get summed up to mono. Each channel is now playing the left & right signal together. That makes the signal mono, because both channels are now playing the exact same signal.
For a long time I thought the Utility at 0% plays only the source mono signal (Mid). It turns out that at 0% Utility sums up L&R channels to mono. It’s useful for checking phase cancellation in a track to make sure the track sounds good on a mono system - like an iPhone speaker. Any mono system is going to automatically sum up left and right channels to mono - just like the Utility at 0%.
5. Vocoder: Formant filter
Did you know that the Vocoder can be used as a powerful formant filter? It’s just like the Formant setting using Complex Pro warp mode, but as an audio effect. It can be used to modify an audio sample to get a different feel out of it.
To do this, you need to set the Carrier chooser (1) to Modulator or set it to External and choose the track you’re working on. These settings do sound a bit different.
Now you can modify the Formant knob (2) to process the sound. To change the sound even more try messing around with the Depth, Attack and Release settings. Once you get something that sounds nice you can blend it in with the original sound using the Dry/Wet knob.
I’m k-pizza, a music maker who likes to share his experiences with other producers. I’m regularly going to show up with music and content at PML.