How to Route External Audio Effects in Ableton Live

March 15, 2012 § 2 Comments

A couple weeks back we explored the basics of audio effects on our blog in an effort to help our readers who are just getting into the world of music production. Audio effects can add depth and dimension to your sounds and they are really one of the essential building blocks of electronic music. This week we will explore some options for expanding your sonic palette with external hardware effects routed through the aux send and return channels in Ableton Live. Most music production software such as Logic, Reason and Ableton Live come with built-in audio effects which can sound fantastic. But a problem you may run into is that tracks coming out of these programs can end up sounding very similar. This is advice that Moby offered in a recent interview that we did with him:

Today it’s all software based so it’s much more accessible. But the danger is that it all sort of sounds the same.. It’s very easy to stay purely in the digital realm because it does everything. – Moby

Using Hardware Effects for a Unique Sound

One of the easiest ways to incorporate an outside element into your Ableton Live workflow is to route sounds out of Ableton and into a hardware effects processor, then back into Ableton Live. If you happened to catch DJ Kiva’s APC40 dub performance in May, he used this technique extensively to create his dubbed out sound. In the video above you’ll find Kiva using a Korg Kaoss pad that has been routed out of Ableton and back in again to create effects that you can’t find inside the program alone. After seeing this video I asked Kiva to go over the basics of how to set this up.  It wound up being easier than I thought it would be and it’s brought a lot of new ideas to my workflow.

Routing External Hardware Effects into Ableton Live

Below is DJ Kiva’s setup for routing external effects into ableton Live. I’ve replaced his Kaoss pad with a Roland SP-404 sampler, which offers audio-through and effects processing on that audio. You may find that hardware gear that you own such as Korg Electribes, Monotrons, synthesizers or drum machines can process audio. Guitar or bass pedals can also create unique sounds that can help create your sonic identity.

Make Sure You Have Two Sets of Outputs from your Audio Interface

You can use any sort of effects processor for the following setup as long as you have an audio interface that can handle the inputs and outputs. To make this work you’ll need an audio interface with at least two outputs and one input. They can be mono (and your effects will also be mono) but optimally you’ll want two stereo outs and at least one stereo input. One output is your master sound output and the second output will be routed to the effects device. The input will be used for the effected signal. In the following example I’m using a Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 (channels 3 and 4 for input and output) that is connected to the Sp-404’s ins and outs. The master output is set to 1/2 volume.

1. Go to your preferences and go to the audio tab. make sure you have your interface selected as the input & output device..

2. Under input & output tabs, activate the additional ins & outs you will use.

3. Open Ableton’s i/o tab by the master track.

4. Select the “Return A” track.

5. Under the “Audio To” tab, select “Ext out” and then output pair 3/4.

6. create a new audio track in session view and set i/o to Ext. 3/4 and monitor mode to IN.

7. Connect a set of cables output 3/4 on your interface to the inputs on your effects device. In this case we have connected to the inputs on our SP-404.

8. Connect a set of cables from outputs of your effects device to inputs 3/4 on your audio interface.

9. Enable your effects processor..

10. Now back in your Ableton session view you’ll find Send levels for channels A and B above the volume faders on each track. Try playing a loop of some kind on audio track 1 and turn up the Send A knob to route effects to your hardware processor..

11. Make sure that the level on your audio track (“Aux Signal” in the examples) is turned up when you hit send A knob on any music channel, it will now send signal to your device and come back into the session. You can now easily record the incoming signal and have it on a separate track in your session.

12. One thing to note about this setup: there can often be a small delay when routing these sorts of effects. When I asked Kiva about this he mentioned that this can sometimes add to the character of a reverb or delay. If you want to fix this timing offset you can adjust the start point of the sample in Ableton.

(Originally published on

Synchronize Brainwaves & Alter Consciousness w/ Binaural Beats

March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

In the mid-1970’s Brian Eno hypothesized that music and sound would someday become “wallpaper” and used as backgrounds to our state of mind. Much in the way that we paint a wall you could also paint your space with sound. Today this seems to have come true as most of us have a favorite playlists, tracks for different states of mind and we use a lot of our productive time compiling these moods and grooves for future use. But what if we could take this one step further – into the realm of affecting your consciousness (painting the brain, so to speak) through sound?

I am here to tell you that we can, in fact, alter our state-of-being through the use of binaural beats. Although it hasn’t been a widely-researched topic until recently, binaural beats have been (very effectively) used by therapists as well as people looking to heighten their state of meditation for almost 100 years now. They are also used by people interested in lucid dreaming (the waking sleep state) and out-of-body experiences as they can help induce these states of mind as well. Now I know what you’re thinking – a combination “that happened to me at my first rave,” and “this sounds hokey,” which are both true. There seems to be some new-age sort of language (and music) that comes with a Google search of “binaural beats.” And most of us intuitively understand the hypnotic and trance-like states of mind that can be achieved by listening/dancing to electronic music with repetitive rhythms. But this is something entirely different.

In a nutshell here’s how it works: You put on a pair of headphones and in one ear is a sine wave of 315 hz. In the other ear is a sine running at 325 hz. Your hearing ears can’t tell the difference between the slight variation in sounds.. but your brain is doing the math inside and a resulting “beat” happens in your head. It sometimes sounds like a low pulsing sound (depending on the source material) and sometimes it sounds like not much more than a soft phasing. The best method to create a binaural beat is using sine waves but these sounds (which are very subtle) can be applied or mixed with almost any other material for heightened or altered effect.

The Monroe Institute (a company who’s founder helped discover binaural beats) explains the phenomenon as follows: When two tones of slightly different frequency are presented separately to the left and right ears the listener perceives a single tone that varies in amplitude at a frequency equal to the frequency difference between the two tones, a perceptual phenomenon known as the binaural auditory beat.

The science behind what is happening relates to the way that the human ear perceives distance and physical space through sound. The brain uses small frequency ranges called critical bands to detect small time differences between right an left ears. Because these critical bands have small frequency ranges the difference in frequency between sounds (in right and left ears) can be no greater than about 30hz to create a working binaueal beat.

I found binaural beats through a friend who works as a therapist in Santa Monica during a session to “center my being and relax” – a result of me asking a lot of questions about the subject. During our session he put on a set of headphones on me and guided me through a spoken meditation session. It worked fairly well but I was really intrigued by the cd he played for me. It was 45 minutes long and sounded like white noise phasing in and out – a nice relaxing sound. But the effect it had on me was incredible and left me with a wonderful, almost child-like sense of peace. After incessant pestering he gave me the CD which is called “Hemi Sync” by the Monroe Institute.

To say the CD changed my life is an understatement. For the past few years I have used that same 45 minutes of sound to help reduce stress, reduce tinnitus, enhance my creativity, find the solution to a problem, sleep deeper and wake more alert. I sometimes listen to it every day.. and sometimes I forget about it only to find it again as the solution to a problem of my body not being in sync with my brain. Like most people I am receiving input on so many levels that I need something to balance things out – and binaural beats help.


While Hemi-Sync is a trademarked product (that costs a bit of money to buy) there are many free programs to create your own binaural beats as well as many sites where you can download them for free. Healing Beats is a great site to gain more information (especially through their forums) and download some sounds for free.To create your own –  Gnaural is a popular open-source program (all platforms) that allows you to create binaural beats on your computer.

In application to music the binaural beat has been present for at least a couple of decades. Many psy-trance and ambient producers use this method to enhance the mind-state of the listener. Ambient composer Michael Mantra created a small niche for himself in the early 90’s by creating what he called “tools for brain hemisphere synchronization” on the now legendary Silent record label. More recently his work influenced DeepChord / Echospace / CV313’s Rod Modell as he explained to Textura: “Rod Modell Plays Michael Mantrais a project that I did that contains two thirty-minute tracks. More ambient than most Deepchord. It’s a sonic emulation of a late-night train ride. I love this one. Good for drifting-off to. Like a dream state. With tracks by my good friend Michael Mantra (the undisputed master of the binaural beat). Mike understands the deepest levels of sound.”

(Originally published on

Mix of the week: Brendon Moeller at Deep Space (Cielo NYC)

November 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve loved Brendon Moeller’s productions as Echologist and Beat Pharmacy and was excited to come across this four hour DJ set he posted to Soundcloud. The mix crosses all boundaries and styles – this guy is a music fanatic! Psychadelic and spacey with bits of groove and breaks make for a really interesting mix.

From his soundcloud page:

Over 4 and a half hours of my set. unfortunately batteries died on my portable recorder so I couldn’t get it all, but this will give you a fair idea of why deep space is easily one of my favorite parties to play :)

Trax from vladislav delay, dorian concept, lone, king tubby, calibre, stereolab, harmonic 313, gang star, lou rawls, the orb, tribe called quest, einsturzende neubaten, suicide, lee perry, ian dury, deep chord, the specials, jimi hendrix, the commodores, inxs,,modeselektor, steely dan and more :)

Shackleton has finalized mastering on a new LIVE mix to be released as Fabric 55

October 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

Sons and daughters of the dark bassbin gospel – rejoice. Fans of Shackleton clamor for anything he releases and for good reason: his music sounds like nothing else and he rarely releases it. On top of this Shackelton and Appleblim closed down the legendary Skull Disco imprint that was home to these dark dub visions of the dancehall.. marking the end of an era. Since then we have seen slow output of some remixes, dj mixes and some EPs on Perlon.. But wait! Fabric has just announced this week that Shackleton will be creating the Fabric 55 mix – an all live recording from this master of sub-sonic mind control. Watch this page for more info (and tracklist we hope) in the near future. In the meantime enjoy the below interview he did for Fabric.

BORN: I was born in an archetypal Northern English milltown.  It’s seen better days.  My dad still lives there but a lot of people seem to want to move away.  That said, I had a very happy early childhood.

FAMILY: I moved to a more pleasant neighbouring town with my mother and stepfather in my early teens and stayed until 19.  It wasn’t the happiest period of my life, although it was during this time that I discovered psychedelics and music, so that was a saving grace.

MUSIC ROOTS: Mine and my friend’s lives had a diverse soundtrack, but I remember that Stooges, Can, Throbbing Gristle, Kraftwerk and Faust were all favourites.  To be honest, I haven’t really moved on from that stuff. I started playing guitar in a punk band at 14.  We were not very good and got booed off stage and things thrown at us.  Plus ca change, really!

FIRST PROJECTS: I got into making music on a computer by default.  My previous partner in music went to the other side of the world and converted to Islam, and I didn’t want to be a one-man karaoke outfit so I bought a computer.  This turned out to be a good thing for me as it made it easier to make the music that I wanted to make.

LABELS & PRODUCTION: Me and my friends, including Appleblim, started going to a night called FWD at this time, probably late in 2003.  We really liked some of the stuff that Youngsta and Hatcha used to play, though we just called it all garage.  I liked the heavy percussive tracks best.  What the MC Crazy D would call “Oingy Boingy”.  That’s the context in which Skull Disco was set up.  It lasted a few years and released ten 12″s.

FABRIC: I never thought that Fabric would be interested in my music to be honest and so it was a pleasant surprise when they asked me to play in room 1 back before most other London venues would touch me, or indeed had probably heard of me.  It was an even more pleasant surprise for me that some people enjoyed it.  I’ve since been asked back quite regularly and every time it seems to go better.  I think this is because of the sound system.  It is amongst the best I have played on.  Moreover the guys running the sound are very good.

THE MIX: I had such a good time the last time I played at Fabric.  Judy asked me if she could put the set online.  I suggested that if she liked it she could put it out as a Fabric cd.  I didn’t expect a reply to be honest but she was into it with the proviso that I make a studio version.  With the mix I’ve made, I have tried to make a set that would best represent the set I played on the night, but minus the mistakes.  Some of the tracks are re-jigged versions of older material, some of them are new.  Some of them will never see a release in any form aside from this.  Some of them are not even tracks just coincidental parts merging with each other between tracks.  Those are the best bits actually.  I don’t expect everyone to like it.  I know it is not to everyone’s taste.  That’s why I appreciate Judy sticking her neck out for this and I hope some people like it.

THE FUTURE: I try not to think about my future too much.  For me this is just something that I do rather than a career that I have mapped out, so I don’t really plan it.  I would love to be able to make music as a living for the rest of my life but just as it is a pleasant surprise that some people are interested in the music, it would equally be no surprise for me if people stopped listening someday.  I will just carry on making the music that I want to make and can only hope for the rest.

Sandwell District “Radio Mix # 2″ mysteriously appears at Where Next?

September 22, 2010 § Leave a comment


Dupstep pioneer Rusko offers new album, O.M.G., as free streaming tracks + new mix

May 8, 2010 § Leave a comment



The self-proclaimed “The human bass tornado, and current reigning champ of the dubstep scene” is at it again with a new album of Diplo’s Mad Decent imprint. You can hear the album for FREE on Rusko’s Myspace page.

Rusko has also whipped up a new mix for the stylish Fenchurch clothing company. I’ve posted the mix on hotfile to save you the hassle of signing up on their site. Download below.

Rusko Dubstep mix for Fenchurch

Rusko – Dial My Number
Redlight – Feels So Good
Stenchman – Puking Over – Rusko Special Mix
Chase & Status – Saxon
Bassment Jaxx – Feelins Gone – Rusko Remix
Kid Sister & Rusko – Pro Nails
Calvin Harris – Not Alone – Doorley Remix
Neeka – Heartbeat – Chase N Status Remix
Rusko – Go Go Gadget Rusko
Skunk Anansie – I Can Dream – Rusko Remix
Rusko – Everybody Dance Now
Kid Kudi – Day And Night _ Rusko Remix
Rusko – Jahovia
Skream – Murdera Instrumental
Rusko – My Mouth
Trolley Snatcha – Rock The Funky Beats
Rusko & Chali 2na – How Low Can U Go?
Jakes – Code Zebra
Little Boots – Remedy – Rusko Remix
Nero – Blinded By The Lights
Flux Pavillion & Trolley Snatcha – F**king Noise
Marco Del Horno – Samurai – Rusko Remix
Rusko – Cockney Thug
Rusko – Cockney Thug – Buraka Som Sistema Remix
Benga – Night – Buraka Som Sistema Remix
Marco Del Horno – Gunman Remix
Prodigy – Take Me To The Hospital – Rusko Remix
Dj Luck & Mc Neat – Little Bit Of Luck

Deep Chords & Echoes in Space [mix] by NorthernShore

April 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Nice mix of deep dark dub for your spaced out journeys to the void. Classy stuff here..  a lot of Soultek, CV313, Deepchord and Intrusion – some of my faves of the new wave of Maurizio and Basic Channel-inspired dub techno.  I don’t know much about this guy but you can check his myspace and soundcloud profiles for more info.

Deep Chords & Echoes in Space by NorthernShore

01 Intrusion – Never Forget
02 DeepChord pres. Echospace – Celestialis
03 cv313 – Subtraktive (Intrusion’s Twilight Dub)
04 DeepChord – Vantage Isle (Echospace Spacial Dub)
05 Intrusion – Tswana Dub
06 cv313 – A World Apart
07 Echospace – Sonorous (Version Dub)
08 Intrusion – A Night to Remember
09 Kaito – And That Was The Way (Echospace’s Shinjuku Sedative)
10 DeepChord pres. Echospace – Sunset
11 DeepChord – Vantage Isle (DC Mix III)
12 cv313 – Dimensional
13 Sons of The Dragon – Orbiting Planet Arp
14 Echospace – OBMX (Original Remastered)
15 STL – Checkmate (cv313 Remodel)
16 Intrusion – Intrusion (Phase90 Reshape)
17 Model 500 – Starlight (DeepChord Mix)
18 cv313 – SailingStars
19 Soultek – Glacial Blue
20 Brock van Wey – A Gentle Hand To Hold (Intrusion Reshape)
21 Intrusion – OceanView
22 DeepChord – Grand Bend (Echospace Restructure)
23 Intrusion – Reflection I
24 cv313 – Space (Live Mix)
25 Sons of The Dragon – The Journey of Qui Niu (Unreleased Live Mix Madrid)
26 DeepChord – Vantage Isle (Echospace Spacial Dub)
27 DeepChord pres. Echospace – Elysian
28 cv313 – Lost Sequence
29 Soultek – Dreaming Under a Starlit Sky
30 STL – In My Dreams (Intrusion Dub)
31 DeepChord pres. Echospace – Spatialdimension (Echospace feat. The Howard Street Rhythm Section)

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