Exploring Effect Categories in Ableton Live

Introduction

Hi. I am Darran Kelinske from Austin, TX in the USA. This lesson is for week 3 of Introduction To Music Production at Coursera.org. I will be teaching you about the different effect categories. These categories include dynamic effects, delay effects, and filter effects.

In this lesson we will be using our audio recording from last week’s assignment (found below). Additionally, we will be using Ableton Live to explore an effect in each effect category.

 

Dynamic Effects

To begin, we will look at dynamic effects. Dynamic effects control amplitude. Amplitude is perceived by the listener as loudness.

One device that we have available in Ableton Live that provides dynamic effect capabilities is the Compressor. From the Ableton Live manual we can get a good understanding of how the Compressor works.

“A compressor reduces gain for signals above a user-settable threshold. Compression reduces the levels of peaks, opening up more headroom and allowing the overall signal level to be turned up. This gives the signal a higher average level, resulting in a sound that is subjectively louder and ”punchier” than an uncompressed signal.”

Furthermore, the manual describes the two most important parameters on the compressor device:

“A compressor’s two most important parameters are the Threshold and the compression Ratio.

The Threshold slider sets where compression begins. Signals above the threshold are attenuated by an amount specified by the Ratio parameter, which sets the ratio between the input and out- put signal. For example, with a compression ratio of 3, if a signal above the threshold increases by 3 dB, the compressor output will increase by only 1 dB. If a signal above the threshold in- creases by 6 dB, then the output will increase by only 2 dB. A ratio of 1 means no compression, regardless of the threshold.”

Full Source

After reading the description from the manual, the idea of the compressor starts to make sense conceptually. The compressor is compressing the amplitude of the waveform by removing the peaks in amplitude. Below, you can see a screenshot of the Compressor device applied to an audio track in Ableton Live.

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 7.37.59 AM

Delay Effects

Next, we will discuss delay effects. Delay effects control propagation qualities. One device we have available in Ableton Live that provides a delay effect is Reverb. The Reverb device allows us to simulate the environment an audio recording might be played in by delaying the propagation of all or parts of the audio recording. The full description of the parameters available in the Reverb device can be found in the Ableton manual here.

A Reverb device added to an audio track can be seen below.

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 7.47.53 AM

Filter Effects

Lastly, we will discuss filter effects. Filter effects control timbre. An example of a filter effect found in Ableton Live is the Auto Filter.

This device allows us to filter out particular frequencies in the audio sample. For example, using the Auto Filter as a Low-pass filter we can allow frequencies lower in the spectrum to pass through while preventing frequencies higher in the frequency from being reproduced. In effect, we are filtering out the high frequencies.

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 7.57.27 AM

A full description of the Auto Filter can be found here.

Review

In this post, we reviewed the three effect categories we have discussed so far. These categories include dynamic, delay, and filter effects. We also looked at a device from each category that is available in Ableton Live. If you can, experiment and play with the different devices in your DAW. This will help further your understanding of how the various devices impact sound.

Thank you for reading and please post any questions or comments below. Or feel free to contact me using social media.

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