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A Guide for Creating Ableton Effect Racks

Sunday December 31, 2017. 05:34 PM , from Audiotuts+
What You'll Be CreatingIntroductionA couple of years ago I tried a lot of different VST effects for my music making process. I demoed plugins from major brandsAfter some time, I discovered that Ableton can make Effect Racks with the stock plugins. To explore further possibilities, I turned my attention to this system.This technology is simple and easy to use. It can make almost any effect combination I want. The only limiting factor is my imagination.With Effect Racks in Ableton you can create various effects. These effects can be made with simple building blocks. These blocks are the stock plugins or external VST or AU plugins.The Rack DefinedAccording to the Ableton manual:'A Rack is a flexible tool for working with effects, plug-ins and instruments in a track‚Äôs device chain. Racks can be used to build complex signal processors, dynamic performance instruments, stacked synthesisers and more.''Yet they also streamline your device chain by bringing together your most essential controls. While Racks excel at handling multiple devices, they can extend the abilities of even a single device by defining new control relationships between its parameters.' Signal Flow Inside the RacksThis illustrates parallel chains. Each chain consists of 3 plugins in series.Parallel signal flow: from top to bottom, all chains are parallelSerial signal flow: from left to right, the flow is serialYou will see in the following examples how it is made.Examples of Effect RacksRack With One ChainA simple rack with two effectsThis is the easiest Rack to start with. It has got an Auto Filter and a Simple Delay.Drag and drop an Audio Effect Rack from the Audio Effects onto a channelPlace an Auto Filter into the RackPut a Simple Delay after the Auto FilterBefore:And after:Rack With Two ChainsThis rack features two parallel chainsThis Rack contains two parallel chains. A little bit more complex than the previous one.Drag and drop an Audio Effect Rack from the Audio Effects onto a channelPrimary-click inside the Rack then Create ChainPrimary-click again, inside the Rack then Create ChainPlace a Ping Pong Delay into the first chainPut an EQ Eight, then a Reverb into second chainSet each chain's volume to -3 dB to compensate the gain amplificationPrimary-click each chain and rename the text to: delay and eq-verbPrimary-click each chain's colour and select green and blueBefore:And after:Rack With Three ChainsIt is important to adjust the volumes of chainsFor more flexibility consider using three chains in a Rack. This example shows how to do it.Create a Rack with three chainsPut a Redux in the first chainPlace a Saturator in the second chainDrag and drop a Multiband Dynamics and a Ping Pong Delay inside the third chainPrimary-click each chain and rename the text to: redux, sat and comp-delayPrimary-click each chain's color and select brown, green and pinkSet each chain's volume to -9 dB to compensate the gain amplificationBefore:And after:MacrosMacros are useful to simplify the changing of one or more parameters simoultaneously. For example I can map several parameters to one know. With each turn of the know it will modify the assigned properties.Rack With Two Chains and Two MacrosCreating Macro knobs is an important feature in LiveThis Rack consists of an EQ, a Reverb and a Delay. In of itself not so interesting, but the macros will bring some interesting play to use in the workflow.Create a Rack with two chainsRename each chain to delay and eq-verbPut a Ping Pong Delay into the first chainPlace an EQ Eight and Reverb into the second chainColour the first chain to green and the second to blueSet each chain's volume to -3 dB to compensate the gain amplificationCreate your own setting for the EQ and the ReverbActivate the third band of EQ EightPrimary-click on the Gain know of band three, then Map to Macro oneSelect the Reverb's Decay timePrimary-click on the Decay time, then Map to Macro onePrimary-click on the Ping Pong Delay's dry wet then Map to Macro twoBefore:And after:Fine Tuning the Mapping of a MacroThese settings will prepare Macro One and Macro Two.Click on the Map button on the top of Audio RackSet the EQ mapping from -7 dB to 11.5 dBSet the Reverb Decay mapping from 466 ms to 8.45sSet the Ping Pong Delay dry wet from 19% to 70%Playing With MacrosMacros can add change, movement, life and happy accidents to music-making challenges. It is very good way to avoid searching for new external plugins and maintaining an interest in sound shaping.Effect CombinationsThere are no rules how to combine effects; start with anything and explore where it leads you.Effect OrderingThe order of the serial effects are also another key factor in creating new sounds.AutomationIf you right click on any Macro know, you can automate it. This gives you great flexibility on how to use it.TipsSetting and inverting the mapping range can help creating more interesting macrosInvert range: this command reverses the range. It will give you another dimension for using the macrosColorising and naming: it is a good advice to colour and name each macro and parameter. This way it's easier to use themSummaryIn this tutorial about Effect Racks in Ableton. I demonstrated how to:Create a RackExplained the difference between serial and parallel signalsShowed how to name and colorise elementsShowed how to set up macros
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