Use envelopes to add extra expressiveness to your clips
By Craig Anderton
Why settle for static audio and MIDI tracks when you can use clip envelopes to add animation and expressiveness? Envelopes aren’t just about fade ins and fade out, but altering parameters over time in a way that adds interest.
Ableton Live makes it easy to create modulation envelopes, as well as edit them “on the fly,” using virtually the same procedure for both MIDI and audio tracks (this example shows how to use clip envelopes with MIDI tracks).
All of this envelope action takes place in the Clip Overview pane for the sequence you want to edit; after opening the Clip Overview pane, click on the E button (in the Clip View box).
Now you need to choose where you’ll apply the automation. Click on the Device Chooser, and a pop-up menu will appear. Choose the target Device for the automation (the screen shot shows Redux being selected).
Right below the Device Chooser, you’ll see the Control Chooser field. Click on it to show a drop-down menu, then select the parameter you want to modulate with the envelope. Here, Redux’s sample rate is being selected.
Choose the Pencil Tool, as this is what you’ll use for drawing the envelope.
Right-click within the sequence using the Pencil Tool to call up a context-sensitive menu. Here you can change the grid to which envelopes will snap, choose a triplet grid, or turn off the grid altogether. Note that there are several keyboard shortcuts for changing the width, as well as turning snap on and off; check the manual for a listing.
Draw the desired envelope shape.
To keep track of which parameters are automated, click on the Device Chooser or Control Chooser. Devices and controls with automation will have small red squares to the left of the device or control’s name.
Craig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.