Get­ting cre­ative in Able­ton Live


Although, with ver­sion 10, Max is now fully in­te­grated into Live Suite, it’s still easy to over­look the bun­dled Max-pow­ered De­vices, see­ing as they don’t sit in Live’s main in­stru­ment and ef­fect list. If you’re not al­ready turn­ing to th­ese tools reg­u­larly though, you’re miss­ing out.

In­stru­ment-wise, we get Poli and Bass, two handy sources of ana­logue-style sub­trac­tive synth sounds, which look and sound a lit­tle more up-to-date than Live’s other sub­trac­tive work­horse, Ana­log. The main dif­fer­ence be­tween th­ese two is their polyphony – Poli is six-voice poly­phonic, while Bass is mono­phonic. Both have fea­tures that add to their unique char­ac­ter too though. Poli has three modes of chorus, along with a flex­i­ble mod-ma­trix, while Bass has a nicely ag­gres­sive fil­ter with built-in drive.

Ar­guably the most in­ter­est­ing of the Max in­stru­ments is the suite of Drum Synth de­vices. Th­ese were over­hauled for Live 10 and sound great – eas­ily up there with the best third party drum synths. Of most note are the meaty, tun­able synth kick, the flex­i­ble FM per­cus­sion gen­er­a­tor and the sim­ple but handy sam­pler mod­ule. It’s worth get­ting to know all of the Drum Synth in­stru­ments – they’ll quickly be­come a go-to for punchy synth per­cus­sion.

The Max MIDI and au­dio ef­fects – par­tic­u­larly those added in the re­cent Cre­ative Ex­ten­sions Pack – lean more to­wards glitchy and ex­per­i­men­tal sounds. Of the newer ef­fects, Spec­tral Blur is prob­a­bly the most ‘out there’. This is a gran­u­lar de­vice that cre­ates a re­verb-like ef­fect. It’s dif­fi­cult to de­scribe with­out try­ing it, so we’d rec­om­mend grab­bing our demo Project and lis­ten­ing to it in ac­tion.

On the cre­ative front, the Gated De­lay is a fan­tas­tic source of rhyth­mic va­ri­ety – it doesn’t take a lot of ma­nip­u­la­tion to turn sim­ple grooves into in­ter­est­ing polyrhythms. The up­dated Buf­fer Shuf­fler – added with Live 9.5 – shouldn’t be over­looked ei­ther. This real-time au­dio ma­nip­u­la­tor is great for stut­ter and pitch-shift ef­fects, but can also act as a more sub­tle de­vice for se­quenc­ing pan move­ment and vol­ume mo­du­la­tion. It’s got some great ran­domi­sa­tion tools too.

There are some more ‘func­tional’ ef­fects in­cluded in the Max bundles too though. The LFO, En­ve­lope and Shaper tools of­fer flex­i­ble routable mo­du­la­tion – think of them as Able­ton’s re­sponse to Bitwig Stu­dio’s ex­ten­sive mo­du­la­tion tools. Each can now be routed to up to eight des­ti­na­tions at once though, mak­ing them pow­er­ful shap­ing tools. Re-En­veloper is a use­ful multi-band take on tran­sient shap­ing – some­thing sorely missed in Live’s base set of tools. Fi­nally, the Colour Lim­iter adds a more char­ac­ter­ful take on the ef­fect than Live’s stan­dard lim­it­ing de­vice.

All th­ese tools – and more – are used in our demo Project. Down­load that as an ex­am­ple, mute and solo sounds, and ac­ti­vate and de­ac­ti­vate de­vices to get an idea of how ev­ery­thing fits to­gether.

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