August 29, 2013  

9 Lives Of Ableton: Episode 6 – Audio to MIDI

In episode six of our 9 Lives of Ableton series, Point Blank course tutor and experienced producer Anthony Chapman explores one of Live 9’s most exciting new features: Audio to MIDI. Audio to MIDI allows you to analyse the melody or beat from an audio file and converts its pattern or notes to MIDI. In this video, Anthony looks at editing drum patterns from audio loops, layering beats, creating new melodies from audio files and adding harmonies using this creative new feature.

If this video has got you feeling creative and you want to get more deeply into making music in Ableton Live 9, you can take one of our online courses!
By the end of this course you’ll have learnt Sound Design, Electronic Music Composition and how to mix your own tracks in Ableton Live. You will come off the course with your own EP and the option to sign it to Point Blank’s label (distributed by iTunes, Beatport, Juno Download and Amazon).

For more details, click HERE or contact one of our course advisors about how to enrol.

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Video Transcription:

Anthony: Hi I’m Anthony Chapman, and I’m a tutor here at Point Blank Music School. I’ve got over 20 years industry experience as a producer, engineer, mixer and composer working with the likes of Fran Ferdinand and Crassen [SP], and you’re watching Nine Lives of Ableton. If you’re new to making electronic music, these videos would give you an overview of how to get started using Live and an idea of what it’s capable of. If you’re experienced with other platforms but new to Live, you’ll probably find these videos really useful as well.

In the last video, we saw how Live can manipulate the timing of audio material using warp markers and how we can automatically slice audio into midi tracks for the manipulations. Now Live Nine introduced some even more advanced ways to transform audio to midi so let’s take a look at them. Now I’ve got these three clips in my user library here. These are audio clips and I’m going to bring these into my session and I’m going to transform the audio into midi and hopefully this will demonstrate how to get really creative using this technique.

So I’m going to take this drum loop first and I’m going to drag this into a new track, OK? Now let’s just have a listen to what that is. So as you can hear, it’s like a live drum loop. So I quite like the pattern that that’s playing but I don’t want to use those sounds. So the easiest way to experiment with this is to transform this into midi notes and then I can use any drum samples that I’ve got the play that same pattern. So to do this it’s as simple as a right click, come down to here, convert drums to new midi track. And so now it’s made this new track here and if we take a look at that track we can see it’s got a drum rack on it already. We just got a 606 drum machine on it which is just the default and then if I play that clip…OK, so you can hear that pattern from the drum loop and we’re going to ply the drum loop alongside it. So you can hear. It’s made an extremely good job of converting that loop to audio.

Now, if I really wanted to be pernickety about it, I can go in and let’s take a look at the midi. Now it’s actually picked up an extra high hat here and here. And I think there’s one here as well. Now they’re actually fine. They’re running fine. It’s got quite a nice little groove to it, but if I wanted to be very particular and say “No, I want this to be exactly the same as the loop that I’ve used,” I can just go in and take them out. OK, so I’ve got the pattern playing there. So now that that’s playing let’s try some other sounds maybe. So let’s have a look in the drum section of the library and I’ve got this kick selected here and I’m going to drop that onto my midi track to replace the 606 and let’s have a listen. So it’s kind of a crazy electro sound.

Let’s hear it with the original loop as well. They work really nicely together, so as you can see, it’s not necessarily about completely replacing your audio with midi. Sometimes it can be about bringing midi in to add to the audio that you’ve already got. Great. So let’s take a look back in my user library. I’ve got this arpeggio, which I really like. Let’s preview that. Great. So I like that. But I want to use Live Nine’s audio to midi features to extract the notes from that so that I can take it further and I can change the notes, because obviously, this is an audio loop at the moment. So in terms of changing the notes and the melody I’m a little bit limited. So I’m going to add a new audio track…drop the arp into there.

I’ve put it on a new row. Let’s have a listen. OK. I’ll right click on it, go to convert melody to new midi track. OK so now let’s have a listen to the new midi track. So there it is. Live’s done a very good job of picking out those notes. Now at the moment, it’s using a default sound, but remember now this is midi, I can make that any sound I want. So let’s take a look in the library. I’m going to go into instruments and let’s have a look in the instrument rack section and let’s go synth lead, drop this down and let’s just try one. We’ll drop that one in. [Ten sores] lead. And let’s have a listen. Here it comes.

OK, let’s try another one. That one’s got an overtone in it which is really nice. Let’s hear it with the drums. So you can see, in a matter of clicks, I’ve created a bunch of new content which I can use maybe to create a completely different section in my song. Now finally with the audio to midi there’s something else that Live can do which is it can extract chords and harmonies from audio. SO I’m going to go back to my user library here and I’ve got this synth chords clip. So again, I’m going to create a new audio track and I’ll drop this in on its own row. And let’s have a listen.

OK so I’m going to right-click “Convert harmony to new midi track.” So let’s see what we’ve got. Yeah, pretty good. So the only thing that’s missing there is this upper note on the first note there and it’s easy enough to put that in. So now I’ve got those notes from that harmony out I can quantize them. And I can also let’s say maybe I wanted to add a lower octave. So let’s have a listen to that. With the drums. So as you can see, just in a matter of a few clicks, I’ve taken three audio clips and I’ve created midi data from the three of them and I’m free now to edit them in any way that I’ve want. So I hope this has given you a good insight into Live 9’s audio to midi features. In the next video, I’m going to start recording my session into arrangement view, ready for mix down and mastering.

At Point Blank online, you’ve got two methods of interaction with your tutor. Firstly, you’ve got the weekly online master class, which is in real time. And then also we’ve got feedback on your assignments and that’s known as DVR. So the online master class is a one-hour session you get with your tutor every week. You can ask questions about lesson content, you get instant feedback, and also demonstrations on the fly from the computer desktop with our streaming technology. DVR stands for direct video response and the concept is really simple.

You upload your Ableton Logical Key based project file to your tutor, he downloads it and then pushes record on the screen capturing software and evaluates your work, so basically, giving you one-to-one feedback. You see all of the mouse movements and every parameter changes made by your tutor. It’s kind of like sitting in the studio over their shoulder watching what they’re doing whilst they work. We have found this DVR process has truly revolutionized the way that we teach online and the results speak for themselves. Book your place in a course now by visiting

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