August 11, 2012  

Beatmaking with Found Sounds in Ableton Live / Win Pioneer Headphones

In this Ableton tutorial Point Blank instructor Ski Oakenfull creates a track idea with found sounds from Japan in Ableton Live

This post was originally published in DJ Magazine’s free online edition DJ Weekly issue 114

Collecting ‘found sounds’ for your production palette is a great way of stepping away from the sample libraries and plugin presets that every man and his dog uses, and moving towards organic sounds that are completely unique to your music.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a recording device like the Tascam DR-07 mk2 that I am using in this tutorial… the voice memo recorder on an iPhone is perfectly adequate for capturing sounds to add some background textures to your tracks. Once you have built up a library sounds it is time to load them into a sampler in Ableton and start to get creative!

Software samplers in modern DAWs like Ableton Live and Logic make sampling as quick, flexible and convenient as ever compared to the pioneering yet limited hardware samplers of the past such as the Akai S900, S1000 and Roland W30. Now, with a memory limited only by your computer’s RAM, you can count yourselves lucky to have this much creative scope at your fingertips! So to finish let’s take a quick look at the three main samplers in Live. It is important to learn each of their strengths and weaknesses for specific applications:

This is one the tools I use in this tutorial – A basic but powerful sampler that is actually at the heart of Ableton Live’s Drum Racks. If all you want to do is trigger a single sample for composition this is your ‘go to’ sampler. It has plenty of sound shaping possibilities too including looping, a filter with envelope and a pitch envelope.

Impulse is designed for drums but its strength is the independent time and pitch shift controls that allow you to break free of the traditional sample playback constraints. Despite Live’s audio warping capabilities at a clip level this is the only sampler in suite that can offer this control.

This is the big daddy, the most comprehensive sampler available in Live. It is capable of creating multi-sampled and velocity switched instruments for optimum realism.”

Learn more about sampling and sound design on our Ableton Sound Design course
Watch free exclusive music production tutorials on Point Blank’s sample course page
Download Ski’s collection of found sounds from Japan for free here


Competition – Win a Pair of Pioneer Headphones!

This week, we have teamed up with Pioneer to offer a free pair of HD-500 headphones.

To enter simply subscribe to Point Blank’s youtube channel and email your youtube username with subject line ‘Pioneer Comp’. The winner will be drawn at random from all subscribers and announced on Facebook on Wednesday 15th August 2012.

Good luck!


Hi there.  My name’s Ski Oakenfull and I’m a tutor and course developer at PointBlank Online Music College.  I’m here in Japan for the summer, so I thought I’d do a little Japan special tutorial.  I’ve come armed with my Taskcam 2R07 Mark2 Digital Recorder that I’m holding right now and I’m going to go around and try and find some interesting sounds, capture them, and then take them home, put them into Ableton and see what we can do with them.  So I hope you enjoy the video.

So I’m back at home now and I’ve transferred the samples from my Taskcam Digital Recorder into the computer just using a USB cable and I chose to record them as WAV files, so they come up in a folder as a series of WAV files and I’ve done a bit of organizing.  It’s always a really good thing to do is to give them a name, try to top and tail them, normalize them if possible.  For this example, I’m just going to try and get a quick groove together, using only the sounds that I’ve found. The first thing I’m going to do actually is to put them into the Ableton library so we can then kind of build up our own library of found sounds which is really useful. So let’s open up the Ableton library folder.  I’ve actually got it bookmarked here on the left hand size, but you can find it at this location here.  It’s your username, library, application support, Ableton, Ableton library, and there’s a folder in there called samples and it’s got various WAV forms and I think some third party samples as well, but I’m going to create a new folder and I’m going to call it Ski’s found sounds.  There we go. And let’s just drag these two folder, day one and day two, I’m just going to copy those into there.  So they’re just copying over. And we can close that for the moment.  I’m just going to launch Ableton, and if we then go to this section, left hand side in Ableton and select our library folder and double click the samples folder, we can then see our Ski’s found sounds folder.  I’m going to double click that again and you can see day one and day two. So let’s just have a little flick through some of these sounds.

This is a sort of water blog that I found in the local park.  This is a drinks vending machine.  You find these everywhere in Japan.  This is a local temple to throw in some money.  There’s a whole wide variety of sounds here.  This is me walking along some gravel. This is the beeping of a ticket machine in the local station.  I’ve got a bouncing ball here. So I think what I’m going to do is look for two types of sounds.  The first sound is going to be the more percussive type sounds with very sort of defined transiences.  Ones that are going to work well may be in using the drum racks where we can find the exact start point and we can maybe use it in a kind of drum programming way, create some interesting rhythms maybe.  And then there are some other sounds which are longer sounds which maybe would work better at different pitches that we could put into a sampler and then we could maybe try to play something over the top of the beat that we’re going to create. So the first thing I’m going to do is look for some percussive sounds.  So I’m going to drag over a drum rack and there are lots of spaces here to put some different sounds.

Let’s go back to our library of sounds here, and remember, this vending machine here, in Japanese is called (?).  There were some good little kind of coin noises there.  There’s probably about two or three different sounds that I can get from that.  So I’m going to drag this over to the first pad on drum rack and I’m then going to copy that over another two times and if I double click on it then we can see the WAV form and I can then play this from the keyboard and I can hear a sound there.  That’s very nice. And I’m just finding the start point here.  I’m going to zoom in as much as possible just to try to get it at the start of that WAV form so it’s nice and tight.  There we go.  We’ve got our first sound there.  Let’s go to the next one here, see if we can find something from this.  There, that’s a nice sound there. Okay, so let’s see if we can get a groove together with the palate of sounds that we’ve got now.  I’m going to increase the tempo.  You have it around, I’m at 22, I’ve got the metronome just to start off with to keep me in time.

I’ve also got the record (?) on as well.  So I’ve got the overdub button on.  Let’s just start with a kick drum. Okay.  Okay, so straightaway I’m just going to look for some kind of groove to put on that, some kind of swing.  So I’m just going to go to my library section, just click on the grooves and I’m going to go for (?) on this actually.  Let’s just go for a 16 beat swing and let’s just put that on there now and let’s find another element to put.  Maybe we could use this sound here as a high hat sound.  Just take the overdub off for the moment, that kind of vibe. There we go.  I can take the metronome off now.  I’ve got this sound which works really well as a snare.  I might increase the pitch of that actually.  Let’s put it in first. Okay, let’s just quickly go to that sound.  Cool. I’ve got this sound which is quite nice.

I think I might take a bit of the low end frequencies off of that, so let’s just put the high pass on it and let’s just see where it can fit in the groove. Cool, so that’s a nice little vibe.  Let’s maybe go for this kind of bass sound.  I’m just going to have a look at that sound again, maybe take a bit of the filter off a bit of the high frequency. Quite nice modulating that cut off frequency there.  That gives that quite a nice sound.  Maybe we could actually control that with the LFO.  Let’s try applying some LFO too and let’s synch that to the beat as well. I quite like that.  Let’s see what that sounds like.  I’m going to put that in.  Cool.  And let’s add some spread on that as well to kind of widen the sound. Now let’s see what we can do with this sound.  Remember this is the sound, it’s from the ticket machine.  It was just a single note but I’m just playing some chords now.  That might sound good with a bit of spread on it as well.  Let’s just try jamming something over the top of that. Okay, here we go.  So you can see you can really build up some nice kind of grooves here just with a limited amount of sounds really.

So I hope that’s inspired you to go out and find some sounds yourself.  You really don’t have to rely on pre-sets or any of the devices.  There’s so much you can do just with your own sounds and a little bit of playing around in Sound Design.  You can really have a lot of fun.

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