Recipe 3: Chopping a Feel

Clip envelopes are the key to many of Live's more radical sound manipulations. Using a clip envelope, for instance, you can gate a sustaining sound to produce an urgent "transformer" rhythm. For this example, we'll start with the audio file "RnB - 84 - Pad 1.wav" from the Live library's Pad directory. (In the audio example files, I'm backing it up with the rhythm clip "Beat Bugz - 80 - Main.alc" from the Beats/Electronic directory.)

1. Double-click the clip to open the waveform in Clip View.
2. Click on the E button to open the Envelopes control panel.
3. Select Clip from the upper drop-down menu, and Volume from the lower one. Your screen should look more-or-less like Figure 4.
4. Zoom in on the left end of the waveform until you're looking at just one measure. This will bring up 32nd-note grid lines.
5. Hit Ctrl-B (Mac: Apple-B) to turn the mouse cursor to a pencil tool, and draw a square notch from the top of the envelope to the bottom between the time points 1.1.3 and 1.2, as shown in Figure 5. (In Live, "1.1.3" means bar 1, beat 1, 16th-note 3.)
6. Continue drawing until you have a rhythm you like in the first measure, as shown in Figure 6. If you hit Play at this point, you'll hear the pad sound cutting in and out in the first measure, but the other three measures of the loop will still sound the same, because we haven't done anything to them yet.

Fig. 4: Volume Envelope Figure 4. Selecting the clip's volume envelope for editing.

Fig. 5: Creating a Volume Envelope Figure 5. Drawing a volume envelope.

Fig. 6: Multisegment Volume Envelope Figure 6. Creating a multisegment volume envelope for the first measure of the loop.

If you're feeling creative, you can draw a rhythm manually in all four measures using the same technique. But here's a shortcut:

1. Zoom out to display the whole loop.
2. Hit Ctrl-B (Mac: Apple-B) to get rid of the pencil tool, and drag across the first measure with the mouse (as shown in Figure 7) to select the envelope breakpoints you just created.
3. Hit Ctrl-C (Apple-C) to copy the breakpoints.
4. Click-and-drag in the area directly below the beginning of measure 2 (the "2" in the time ruler). In the default color scheme, this one region, an eighth-note wide, will turn a dirty orange.
5. Hit Ctrl-V (Apple-V) to paste, and your breakpoints should appear in measure 2. Repeat this procedure for measures 3 and 4. Your envelope should now look more or less like Figure 8, and sound like this:

* Transformer Envelope 1 (360KB MP3)

Fig. 7: Selecting the Envelope Figure 7. Selecting the envelope in the first measure.

Fig. 8: Four-bar Rhythmic Envelope Figure 8. A four-bar rhythmic envelope.