not everybody likes to stutter. but in the context of modern production it can be a cool effect to add to a vocal or synth. a fast stutter can give a sound the energy it needs to stand out or make it more transparent by making it more a percussive element. one of the most basic and versatile effects, here are three ways to achieve gated stutters in ableton, each with its own pros & cons.


method 1: beats warp mode

the beats warp mode is one of my favorite features of ableton - it can reveal odd asymmetric rhythms in heavily warped audio or tighten up a drum kit. generally, one would set preserve to 'transients' but you can set it to note divisions to achieve the gated stutter effect we're after. in this example, I set it to 1/8 notes & adjust the transient envelope to taste.

1. transient shaping.gif

this method is very fast, effectively a few clicks away from every clip in your set. the downside is that it doesn't do triplets & the parameter can't be automated. there are some ways to work around this latter flaw, however. one method is to split the clip up & apply varying amounts of the transient envelope to each. then, fade each clip into the adjacent ones to smoothly transition between each. in this example I wanted a my sound to start with staccato 8th notes & get "fuller" as the clip progressed. I consolidated the clip at the end to provide a visual representation of this technique but it is not required to make it work.


if you're really missing the feel of automation, you can always use resampling techniques to record out the envelope modulation. all you have to do is route the clip to a new audio track & use your cursor to raise or lower the transient envelope amount in real time. 


method 2: auto pan

an age-old, dirtier solution is to simply use an in-phase saw-wave sync'd auto pan. the key is setting the phase to 0˚ so that the cycles align on either channel and work together. from there, adjust the controls to taste. syncing the rate is usually a good idea, I like the amount very high but it functions as a handy dry/wet control if you're looking for subtlety (or a parameter to automate that can achieve results similar to the resampling method above). the shape mode can be very interesting - it makes the cuts "harder", closer to a square wave. you can also try using the 'sine' shape for smoother rolls & the offset knob to find where the peaks best snug into your groove.


all of the parameters of auto pan are automatable & can be stored into presets &, as it is a standard device it can be grouped into racks for further sequencing & parallel processing. this offers some obvious advantages over the beats warp mode method, of course, but the downside to using auto pan for this job is you can't really get a tight staccato from the fixed shapes. if you need those desirable click sounds, cut the sustain by running the auto pan into a gate with a high threshold & low hold/release. of course, gates are useful for a whole other method of stuttering...

method 3: sidechain gate

this might be the hardest to set up but it gives you by far the most options. add a gate to the sound you want stuttered and activate the sidechain mode. feed it a muted track of a very short sound hitting the pattern you want. in this example I played in eighth notes on a sampled bongo drum with a tight decay. then I used the release of the gate to control how extreme I wanted the effect. 


what I love about this method is you can make the gate only a tiny fraction of your sound at each division. I love how staccato this can become; staccatissimo, if you will. another nice feature is you can very easily vary the release to make your stutter less machinist -- an evolving gate sounds much more organic and can open compositional possibilities. in fact, all the controls are automatable. the best part of all is you can feed in any rhythm you want - even a dynamic one that isn't simply hitting every 16th or 8th note.

those are three ways you can stutter sounds in ableton live! I encourage you to experiment with these techniques & see what results you come up with.

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