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Ableton Live 9: Six Follow Action Tips

askaudiomag.com · May 8, 2015

If you've never used Ableton Live's Follow Actions before then be prepared to
have your mind blown with these 6 ways to use them by Ableton Certified
Trainer, Noah Pred.
Did you know you can program instructions into Live's Session view clips that
will tell those clips to play for a specified period of time before playing another
carefully specified clip—or a randomly selected one? In this tutorial, we'll explore
six exciting usages of Live's under-utilized but highly powerful follow actions for
use in both performance and production.

Configuring Clips for Follow Actions
First thing you need to know is that follow actions can only be programmed to
control a group of clips on a single track. What do I mean by a group of clips? A
group of clips are vertically contiguous—in other words, direct neighbors above
and below one another, not separated by an empty clip slot. In the picture below,
we have two groups of clips on a single audio track: the purple clips are in one
group; below, separated by an empty clip slot, the blue clips constitute a separate

but as you'll see. or the follow actions may not take hold as expected. .clip group. Two clip groups on an audio track. The Launch properties pane of a one-shot clip. you could set follow actions up on the fly so long as you haven't triggered any of the clips in question yet. You should now see a Launch properties pane. the bottom third of which is devoted to follow action settings. Now that we've got these clips organized into groups. A clip's follow action properties are located in the launch panel of a clip's settings: in a clip's detail view. In theory. without follow actions configured. click the “L” button in the lower left corner so that it lights up. it's advisable to set them up in advance. It's important to set these up before any clips in the group have been triggered. we can set about configuring our follow actions. Before going further. it's worth mentioning that follow actions behave identically for MIDI clips as they do for audio clips.

to play the first or top clip in the group. or to play itself again. This already opens up a world of possibilities to program intricate sequences. But why are there two identical follow action menus side by side? Beneath each of these menus is a numerical field that determines a probability that the follow action selected above it will be taken—so rather than leave . and sixteenth notes. any random clip in the group including itself. Beneath this are two drop-down menus with an identical set of options.At the top of the follow action settings are three boxes that allow you to specify how long the clip. You can tell the clip to stop. excluding itself. which is the default setting—meaning the clip will continue to play as normal. beats. The first is to take no action. looping or not. the last or bottom clip in the group. respectively—before assuming the specified follow action. or any other random clip in the group. randomize playback. which is the one below it. the next clip. will play—in bars. or create a balance of the two by injecting randomized fills into steady patterns. The follow action menu. It can be made to play the previous clip. or the one above it in the group.

it will never be triggered. which means that each clip in this group will play for two bars. Let's get to it then. completing an eight bar cycle before starting over. If the left action is set to two and the right action is set to one. However. I've simply taken four drum clips and told them each to play the next clip in the group after two bars. allowing for all sorts of odd fractional ratios worth experimenting with. .selections to be completely randomized. each numerical field can be set from zero to 999. the next clip instruction triggers the top clip of the group again. When the bottom clip of a group is playing. first select all the clips in the group using the Shift key. now you can program your follow actions for all selected clips simultaneously. shall we? Cascading Clip Sequence To quickly configure the same follow actions for an entire clip group. the left action will occur twice as often. When either of the action menus' probability is set to zero. you can create your own weighted gambles between two specific options. For this first example.

The top clip will play either the next fill clip immediate below it.Cascading clip sequence follow action settings. but I'd like it to play the first fill clip more often than the second. Weighted Fills To create probabilistic drum fills. I'll have the top clip in a group of three clips play for 3 bars and 3 quarter notes. Below this are two fill clips. . each a single quarter note in length which have both been programmed to play for one quarter note before playing the top clip in the group again. or the second fill clip at the bottom of the group. each clip could be told to play for any length of time and you could include more clips in this way as needed. Naturally. so I'll weight the ratio accordingly.

Weighted fill settings from the top clip. . setting playback to the top clip again. I'll take a main drum loop and ten half-bar fills. Meanwhile. The top clip will be set to play for 7 bars and 2 quarter notes before playing any other clip in the group. I'll select all the fill clips simultaneously—being careful not to select the main drum clip up top—and set them all to play for 2 quarter notes before the first clip in the group. Randomized Fills To create fully randomized fills less often from a wider selection of clips.

4. or 5 quarter notes before playing any other random clip in the group. The important thing here—aside from them all being . Settings for the randomized fill clips. I'll take a set of five breakbeat loops and have each of them to play for either 2.Settings for the main clip at the top of the group. 3. Beat Juggling For this next example.

Then I'll use the follow actions to tell it to play itself every quarter note. resulting in a pulsing 4/4 kick without any looping enabled. eight.warped properly. Unwarped Looping While Ableton's warping algorithms are better than ever and in many cases sound pristine. once triggered. or quarter notes – or even three sixteen or eight notes for a hemiola feel – you can easily configure this using follow actions. Legato switched on for a beat clip that will play for five quarter notes before playing another clip in the group. . If you want to have a clip play back at a repetitive interval. of course—is to have the Legato box below the Launch Mode drop-down menu enabled. some people prefer to not warp their audio clips at all. picks up playback at the current playback interval rather than starting on the first downbeat as it would by default. This makes it so that each breakbeat. they'll all stay locked in rhythm with the main clock. resulting in beats being juggled at odd intervals while maintaining their core rhythmicity. such as sixteenth. For a basic example I'll take a bass drum sample and turn the warping off so there's no time-stretching whatsoever. The result in this case is that while each drum clip is being triggered for playback at odd intervals.

Simply select all the clips in your group and tell them to play a random clip from the group—including or excluding itself. two or three sixteenth notes. Eight oneshot clips configured for randomized rhythmic playback with a chance of retriggering. PRO-TIP: Create unique clips out of thin air by recording randomized patterns into a new audio track: record the randomization until you've heard a few segments you think might be useful.Retriggered quarter note unwarped kick drum. eight. To create rhythmic patterns out of drum or other short one shots. as either work can work in this set up depending what you're going for—at whatever interval you need. to trigger. then select the desired section for playback with the recorded clip's loop brace. say. Randomized Patterns You can also use follow actions to randomly generate new loops from one shots or longer clips. you'll want to select one. you might only want them to happen every four. triggered as programmed. or sixteen bars—or even further apart. Follow actions will be recorded into the arrangement as discrete clips. dubby effect shots. Whether generating unique patterns in the studio or injecting some randomization into otherwise repetitive loops to spice things up on stage. . or at less standard intervals.

.follow actions are a powerful feature built into Live's clips that every Live user should know how to use.