Finally, Ableton Live 10 has been announced, and is out on beta. There have been a plethora of articles and lists made to spell out the new features and updates to the DAW, but few have focused on what the update offers for making specific genres. Producers of Techno and/or Trance will find that Ableton has integrated much into Live 10 that is well fitting to these genres. So we at SKapade thought an overview of the most useful features in Live 10 for the Ableton user fond of Techno or Trance would prove useful. In this first part, the overview is limited to the new devices in Live 10. Part two will focus on new features that aren’t specifically new devices.
Ableton added four new devices to Live 10, all of which are a treat for Techno producers. These devices all ship with Live 10, and may very well replace some of your favourite plugins.
Ableton gets a wavetable synth
Wavetable is an Ableton native wavetable synthesizer, a la Serum. There are two main differences to Serum, the first being that there is no wavetable editor. However, Live 10 comes with a large swath of presets that are certain to keep you happy while using it, and as far as sound design goes there are plenty of wavetables to choose from for your oscillators. Second, it’s not as ground breaking as Serum when it comes to visual feedback. Not many synthesizers are though, so that’s not much of a loss there. A producer who has never seen or used Serum (if such a producer exists) will be very impressed with the visuals of Wavetable, but Xfer Records has definitely set the bar extremely high on wavetable visualization. Yet there certainly is a lot to be impressed by with this device. What is nice is that you have the power of a wavetable synthesizer without much CPU usage, and which has all the benefits of being a Live native device. The Wavetable device has two oscillators, two filters, three envelopes, and two LFOs. It also comes with a “Sub” option like Serum, and has a Matrix (like FM8, e.g.), and a MIDI mapping table.
Wavetable for Techno: Needless to say, Techno enthusiasts will have more than enough to work with to make some really unique sounds with this synth. The “Ambient and Evolving” tab in the presets might as well be named “Use these if you produce Techno”. The percussive sounds like “Throb Kick” and “Specific Hat” are great examples of how warehouse worthy drum sounds are also synthesizable in Wavetable. Even better is when you combine it with the other new devices.
Wavetable for Trance: If you like using Serum in your Trance tracks, Wavetable won’t be disappointing in the slightest. The pads in particular are absolutely breathtaking, and will be sure to add beauty and depth to your breakdowns. Using the matrix to control your modulations is also extremely easy, and nicely laid out to avoid confusion.
Fatten up your drums
Drum Buss is a giveaway for artists of almost every genre. In the screenshot below, you’ll find that it’s a quite simple device, but don’t underestimate it from how few knobs there are. In addition, Ableton continues their knack for labeling knobs with exactly what they do.
Drum Buss for Techno: The “Boom” knob is a particular favourite, and may be better-adjusted for bass music. However, it does some surprising things with Techno kicks and percussion, so don’t be afraid to turn that knob up a little bit. Drive and Crunch do absolute wonders for Techno, especially when used on hats and claps. Speaking of hats and claps, Damp and Transients are great for them too, but also work well for any sort of percussion sound. You’ll be surprised at how much more of a raw sound your drums will have when boosting their transients.
Drum Buss for Trance: Drum Buss is arguably less useful in trance then in Techno, but like in Techno, it is useful for percussive sounds as well as hats and claps. A little more caution is needed though to make sure you’re not getting too much transient from your drums, which has a higher probability of causing interference in a Trance track, mostly because of the sheer number of elements in modern Trance music. The recommendation here would be to use more drive, crunch, and damp, and less boom and transients. The Compressor is pretty useful too. The “Boom” knob works decent on a kick drum if you want an added sub or big room feel to it.
Guitar pedal with fuzz distortion
Pedal is a guitar pedal device, which has a great fuzz distortion mode. It’s relatively simple, but fans of distortion will enjoy it. There isn’t really much specific to Techno and Trance in this device, other then that it is highly recommended to try fuzz distortion out on lead synths.
Have more control over your delays
Last, but certainly not least is Echo. Echo is a real masterpiece of a device, and gives VST plugins like Native Instrument’s Replika or Waves H-Delay a run for their money. Better yet, combining Echo with Replika, H-Delay, or your favourite delay plugin sounds like a bad idea at first, but actually can have some very sonically interesting results. This is especially due to the intuitive filter curves, and the reverb knob that comes with Echo.
Generally, what’s brilliant about Echo is that it offers an unprecedented amount of control over your delay. The feedback can be inverted, and you can choose between stereo, ping-pong, or mid-side delays. In the “Echo” tab, you have one high-pass and one low-pass filter, the “Modulation” tab allows for total panning control, and the “Character” tab has Gate and Ducking controls, along with noise and wobble generators. It is worth mentioning that a little care is necessary with the feedback knob, because you can enter an endless feedback loop.
Echo for Techno: Maybe somewhat surprisingly, Echo works great as a subtle effect on a kick drum in techno. It’s good for making rumbles and having the kick be omnipresent throughout, just use the pre-delay with it. Also make sure you take care with the filter curves (and mono it out).
In addition, Echo is good for enhancing ambient sounds as well as vocal clips. The reverb knob works wonders, especially when combined with the various panning curves. Also, while editing the panning in the Modulation tab, turn up the “Mod” to really surprise your listeners (and yourself). The noise generator is also highly recommended with techno.
Echo for Trance: With endless opportunities around every corner, echo was basically made for Trance music, which may be an overstatement because it’s good for a lot of other types of music. Still, there’s no doubt many trance producers will agree. This device makes your synths fill rooms to an extent that is beyond your wildest dreams. Just about every knob is worth turning, except that it’s not recommended to use the “wobble” feature for this particular genre. Probably one of you will come up with a good use for it though. Arps, plucks, and leads are all Echo-worthy, and vocal chops are a must-Echo. The reverb knob really is a gamechanger, and maybe in the future we’ll see more control over the reverb in this device, rather than just a pre/post selection and a decay box.
An updated Utility device offers a “Bass Mono” option now, where you can choose to make frequencies below a certain threshold mono, while the rest stays stereo. This is extremely useful to make sure any low end that’s not a kick or a bass stays mono, even if the high frequencies of a layer is needed in stereo.
So now, you should have some idea now about what is useful about the new Live 10 devices as far as Techno and Trance are concerned. It’s still new, and so a lot will come to reveal itself the more it’s tested. These devices are certainly a major bonus in picking up Live 10, and we haven’t even gone over the actual feature additions yet like groups within groups and multiclip editing, which will be saved for next time.
What uses do you see for these devices? Which of them can you not wait to get your hands on? Let us know on social media, SKapade Studios, etc.
Cory Goldsmith is a Trance and Techno producer from the United States. He worked as a software engineering intern for Ableton in the summer of 2016, and worked on Live 10 while he was there. Cory is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado, and is also an Ableton Live instructor at KMGLife Inc., an Ableton certified training centre in Boulder, Colorado. He has been a beta tester for Ableton Live 10 over the last several months.