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Re: Any experienced Ableton users able to give me a hand?

At 12:48 PM +0100 6/2/09, Simeon Harris wrote:
>i really like the plugins in Live and i'd like to use them in 
>conjunction with my favourite AU plugins to replace my rack of fx


I see you've gotten some fine advice from Os (I'll especially concur 
with his recommendation for turning plugs on/off to save CPU). 
Here's another $.02.

I've been using Live as my primary host for quite some time, since 
Live 4.  (I keep attempting to get away from it.  But every time I 
find an alternative, I put it through a CPU usage test and Live beats 
it.  By now, I've almost given up trying.)

I took Live's racks through their paces a couple of software 
revisions ago, then chucked the idea.  I'm not saying that's what you 
should do, but here's my alternate approach.  As always, YMMV.  :)

I use almost all my effects in Send/Return channels.  Why?  Because I 
frequently swap around the order of many effects, and found that 
shoehorning that functionality into a rack was a pain.  I later 
abandoned racks entirely.  The brilliant thing about the Return 
channels is that each of these channels contains the same Sends as an 
Input channel strip.  So you can feed one Return channel into any of 
the next channels.

I then turn effects routings on or off by simply using CC messages to 
control the Send amounts on each channel (0 for off; 128 for full on; 
and anything in between).  Of course, if I'm not using an effect, 
I'll also send a parallel message to turn it off completely, to save 

Additionally, at the end of the row, I'll create one extra 
Send/Return with no effects on it whatsoever.  I'll turn all the 
channels to pre-fader, with the exception of this channel and the 
Master.  I can then use this channel as a pre-mix sub to tap the 
output of any other channel before it goes to the next in the chain. 
For some reason, it often seems easier to use this than juggle the 
track fader on the input channel.  So I'll usually put the input 
channel to "Sends Only" and use this to mix the dry signal too.

You've got a great deal of flexibility with this architecture, 
IMNSHO.  Not only can you switch the effects order on the fly, you 
can also split and recombine effect chains at any point on the fly 
(you want both delay and reverb on a line without 'delay --> reverb' 
or 'reverb --> delay'?  Easy.)  As I mentioned above, you can tap any 
effect into the final mix at any point, too, and in any proportion. 
Don't forget, these are knobs, not switches.  You don't have to use 
100% on or off for any effect, but rather mix the amount you want 
very easily in real time.

The other advantage of this (which isn't immediately obvious) is that 
you can also set up feedback chains.  You can mix a portion of an 
effect back into itself to thicken of effect it further.  Live's 
reverb, for instance, is wonderful.  I love it.  However, you can 
hear it become even more lush by feeding about 20% of its input back 
into itself.  Although I probably need to mention watching your 
levels here, or the effect can run away with you.

Additionally, I've found it pretty easy to fire off MIDI clips to 
control the Send levels (amongst other things) of each effect.  You 
can come up with some wild synchronized effects by using clips to 
blast audio into different effects on different beats.  Or, you can 
come up with some insane tremolo-ized effects by automating the Send 
on and off faster than you could ever humanly work a foot pedal.

And of course you don't really have to limit yourself to one effect 
per channel.  If, for instance, you *always* use a compressor with a 
particular delay, you might as well marry them together on one 

Doing it this way made it easier for me to control; at least to my 
little dinosaur brain.  This was not for any real added functionality 
(you can access everything just as easily in racks as like this). 
But I could look over and *see* most of what was happening.  Racks 
just seemed to obscure too much information for my liking.

So, that's one suggestion.  I just find this architecture easier and 
more transparent than jerking around with racks.  Perhaps you may 
consider a hybrid too, with both racks and Send/Return paths.  This 
is merely what worked best for me, but it is one more option to think 

"we're no longer sure where home is; homesickness is our only guide"