WRITTEN BY Kevin Hart, Sound Effects Editor at BOOM BOX POST

Ableton Live is a DAW that has been blowing up the music production scene in recent years. With its powerful ‘in-the-box’ effects processors, built-in Sampler instruments, and MIDI data parameters galore, Live has been the go to workstation for pioneering beat makers and EDM artists around the world. So why can’t us Post-Sound peeps have a little fun too? Using Live’s built-in Drum Rack and Simpler instruments, I’ll share with you a simple technique to build a Game of Thrones type battle scene ambience.

I’ll start by opening a blank session and adding a midi track (shift cmd T). I’ll give it a name, Sword Fight, and insert a midi clip into the timeline (shift cmd M) that is around 8 seconds in length. Next, I’ll drop a Drum Rack onto the Sword Fight track by selecting it from the Instruments list in the Categories section on the top left, and dragging and dropping to the effects rack at the bottom.  

Now I’ll load a bunch of sounds into the Drum Rack. You can add multiple files at a time by simply dragging and dropping. For this example, I’ve chosen to use the Medieval Weapons Bundle from BOOM Library. I’ve picked out a good number of sword clangs, axe hits, and quarterstaff impacts. I’ve also added a some chainmail, plate, and leather hits.

Once I’ve have all my sounds loaded into the rack, I like to add a bit of randomization for better dynamics and a more organic feel. If you select a sound by double clicking its container, you will open up that individual sample, which Live has automatically added to a Simpler Instrument. (Simpler is a simpler version of Live’s Sampler). Now as you can see, each sound now has its own Sampler! 

Now i’ll select the Controls panel from the top right. I’ll enable the LFO function and set the rate to Hz and change the waveform to random. I’ll increase the percentage of Volume, Pitch, and Pan automation to an amount that sounds good to me. Now the sound will trigger differently each time I play it. I’ll also adjust the Transpose knob to around -10st, making the sound more heavy and less “tingy”. I like to audition the sound while I’m messing around by clicking the play button on the container in the Drum Rack.

Now for a very important step. If I mouseover and right click any parameter within the Simpler, a list of options will pop up. The most important of all these options is the Copy Value to Siblings. This will copy that parameters settings to all the other sounds in the Drum Rack. Make sure to do this for each setting you have adjusted!

Once I’ve finished adjusting settings and everything is sounding good, I will add a bunch of random MIDI data to the timeline. If I double click the midi clip on the track, a piano roll will pop up. I like to use the pencil tool and randomly draw in midi notes until it sounds good, but you can also record it with a midi keyboard if you prefer. I also like to draw in velocity automation at the bottom for a more dynamic feel.

Finally when you're ready to play it back all together, it should end up sounding something like this.

I can further adjust the overall amount of stuff going on by duplicating the entire track, adjusting the amount of midi notes, or just adding more samples to the Drum Rack. Now is a good time to add any additional effects such as delays, panning effects, or reverbs if you choose!

This technique can be used in many different ways by loading different types of sounds and experimenting. Heres some examples of other sounds I’ve made this way.

I am constantly finding new ways to use Live in my workflow, and so far I’m really enjoying its capabilities.

What is your favorite tool for creating original sound effects?  Let us know in the comments!