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Device Racks In Ableton Live

Ableton Live Tips & Techniques By Len Sasso
Published April 2022

Screen 1. Pitch‑bend controls the Chain Selector (top) to crossfade between the pad, EP and arpeggiator chains of the Rack.Screen 1. Pitch‑bend controls the Chain Selector (top) to crossfade between the pad, EP and arpeggiator chains of the Rack.

What can Live’s Device Racks do for you?

This month we’ll use Live’s Device Racks to get more out of Live devices and third‑party plug‑ins. We covered the basics along with a couple of applications in the December 2011 Live column and explored using Racks for complex audio effects processing in the February 2021 Live workshop. Both articles are available on the SOS website. This time we’ll focus on using Racks to create complex instruments and MIDI processors.

Fender Bender

One thing I like to do is layer other instruments with an electric piano. That’s easy with an Instrument Rack. Start by creating a new MIDI track (Command+Shift+T/Control+Shift+T) and dragging an electric piano instrument to the track (the ‘E‑Piano MKII Bright’ Electric preset is a good choice for layering). Select the instrument and enclose it in an Instrument Rack (Command+G/Control+G). Reveal the Rack’s Chain List by clicking the bottom button along the left edge of the Rack. Now select the instrument you want to layer with the piano and drag it to the Drop Instrument area to create a second chain. The Operator preset ‘Camels in the Desert’ is an arpeggiated preset that works well for this. Simpler’s ‘Aroura Pad 1’ preset is a softer and less active sound that also compliments the electric piano. Screen 1, above, shows how to give yourself both alternatives.

With the three Instruments in separate chains of an instrument Rack, I’ve configured the Rack’s Chain Selector to fade from the pad through the EP to the arpeggiator, mapped it to the Rack’s first Macro knob and assigned the pitch‑bend wheel to that knob. I used the Less Macro Controls button (‘‑’) to hide the other Macro knobs. Pitch‑bend’s default position is centred, which leaves only the EP audible. Pulling the wheel backward fades in the pad, pushing it forward fades in the arpeggiator, and releasing the wheel jumps back to the solo EP. A MIDI keyboard’s wheels can only be mapped if Remote In is enabled for the keyboard in Live’s Link/Tempo/MIDI preferences. The downside is that, once pitch‑bend is mapped it is no longer sent to Live tracks — you’ll need to send it from a different MIDI device to bend pitch.

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