5 things to know about warping in ableton live tutorial

ableton's warping capabilities are so important & robust it is worth ensuring you know everything possible. having a handle on its many uses can greatly expand your creative palette & give you a whole a whole other musical approach to work from. let's have a look at some of the less obvious techniques you may not know about:


multi-clip warping

sometimes your song parts are spread out across multiple tracks, whether it's a drum kit, stereo guitar, or even double take. the problem is, if you have a timing issue, you might feel you have only two choices: painstakingly create & move a warp marker in every clip & risk misalignment or wait until you're happy with the mix enough to bounce down the entire part & correct it then. neither of those are appealing options, but luckily there is a much, much simpler way to accomplish this:

if you select more than one track, you'll see the familiar "- audio clips with different lengths..." in the clip view.

ableton live multi-clip warping tutorial

but if the selected clips are the same length, you can actually warp & quantize them all together, even though only one waveform appears in the sample editor. keep in mind you can make sure they are all the same length by consolidating (cmd+j).

ableton live how to warp multiple clips

this can be a huge improvement to you workflow. correcting timing mistakes is one of warping's most useful & simple features. warping across multiple microphones may seem dreadfully intimidating before you know that multi-clip warping is a possibility but now you can breeze through these corrections as early as you see them.


transient shaping with beats mode

ableton live beats warp transient shaper

I've previously covered beats mode's usefulness as a stutter effect, but its transient shaping / gating capability is one of my favorite features in ableton. just switch warp mode to beats, change the loop mode to "off" (single forward arrow), & simply pull down the envelope to taste. listen to how it affects this drum loop:


this is a visual representation of the above audio. notice the dramatic change as beats mode takes effect.

transient shaping in ableton live

the drums become far more percussive & tighter as the envelope shaping begins to take effect. this can be an extremely desirable compositional tool. it's almost as though the drummer closed her hi-hat, the engineer applied the perfect gate, & only what you need in the attack remains. one small gripe here is that the envelope amount is not midi-mappable/automatable. a workaround is to use resampling to record out the changes you make in real time (which is how I recorded the above example), so keep that in mind if you want your drum's sustain to "grow" or "shrink" in you track.

using beats mode to accomplish this is great because of how easy & convenient it is, but if you want to get more advanced with transient shaping check out this free transient shaper rack.

lock previous/next warp markers

when warping just about any piece of audio, we inevitably will create warp markers before & after the region we are adjusting to preserve the timing of the rest of the clip. if that doesn't make sense, just try dragging a warp marker around in a clip & observe how you pull & push the transients around it out of time. placing warp markers to "lock" the surrounding regions is therefore necessary to make sure this doesn't happen. for years I would do this manually but there is actually handy shortcut to do this automatically.

warping in ableton live

holding cmd & dragging a warp marker quickly creates two other markers around it, freeing you to make timing adjustments to individual transients without worrying about the rest of the clip.

making things weird with texture warp mode

it's easy to ignore the many different warp modes available in live since complex preserves audio so well during pitch and tempo changes. if you find your tracks to be a little too boring and clean is not what your track calls for, try using texture to add a smearing, intriguing effect.

texture operates by chopping your sample up into tiny bits (grains) & overlapping them in various amounts. grain size, naturally, controls the size of these slices & flux adds a little bit of randomness to the process. the more you change the pitch or length of your clip, the more extreme the temporal distortion & smearing becomes. have a listen to the difference after this marimba has some texture warping applied:


but what if you don't want to change the pitch or length of the sample but you want to introduce that texture mode goodness? here's the simple method I used to record the above example: 

  • double the length and change the pitch
  • consolidate (cmd-j) to "apply" the warp mode
  • inverse step one (half the length and do the opposite pitch change)
texture warp mode ableton tips

consolidating down the features of warp mode is a really handy feature to keep in mind that is certainly not exclusive to texture. try using it with beats mode to lock in the aforementioned transient shaping effect, for example.

complex pro to preserve vocalist timbre

if you've ever pitched a vocal sample with clip transpose you've either been very satisfied with the otherworldly, unusual sound or frustrated by its unnatural qualities. complex mode offers a method to preserve the timbre of a voice while still changing pitch (to a certain extent). it may not always be perfect, but don't forget this is an option when changing the pitch of a vocal sample. I recorded out a quick comparison of the original clip, transpose via complex, & transpose via complex pro to give you an idea of their possible uses:


creative possibilities of warping

I want to wrap up this article by just encouraging you to look at warping beyond it's usefulness for keeping things in time. pulling transients to & fro can unlock new rythmic possibilities & offers a whole new compositional tool.

ableton live creative warping warp markers tutorial

next time you import a drum loop that is too straightforward or synth line that stays too stagnant, try mixing it up by pulling some of its warp markers around. the only thing to keep in mind is you probably want to create new markers before & after the area you are going to play with, just to "lock in" the timings you want to preserve. or maybe you don't! try new things & let the novel sounds & rhythms warping introduces be your guide to where you take your track next.

that's it, hope you learned something new!  stay tuned for more animated ableton tutorials & follow me on twitter & facebook to keep up with everything that's going on.