Modulating Drums and Synths with Ableton Live

Learn to build a track from scratch, and learn a ton of knowledge along the way, to improving your skills.
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Instructed by Sam Gill Music / Music Software
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  • Lectures 39
  • Length 2 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
    30 day money back guarantee!
    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 7/2015 English

Course Description

Learn to build a track from scratch. Automate Drum and Synth plugins, to create variation and enhance your track. Learn how to tweak VCO's and a VCF on an old analog synth. Learn how to modulate effects and other plugins, on a per clip basis, so that you attain more variety in your composition.

I go step by step, and cover everything you need to know. I recorded this course non-stop for 1 hour and 45minutes, and you get all of it. Every parameter I tweaked, all that went through my head, plus lots of pro tips along the way, for you to use and apply.

I have over 20 years experience recording, fixing, repairing, and arranging electronic music. Working with synths since 1992, I have been fully entrenched into the synth movement. Now I am taking my experience, and creating these awesome videos, where I share my total knowledge, and help you to do, what too me years to learn and understand. I skip you right to what will work, and give you the basis to launch off on your own.

I love to share, and this course I want to share with you. I have take then time to break down all of the lessons, into concise and easy segments, that are easy to digest, and easy to consume. I show you what my mouse is doing, and where my hands are. I show you step by step all the moves. I even add in pop-ups to help you understand a concept better, or add additional industry experience to what you are learning.

I have other courses for beginning, and learning to record with Ableton or Logic, and how to set all of that up, and how to arrange tracks, and take your compositions to the next level.

In this course I wanted to focus on exactly how to take you right from start to finish. From a blank canvas to a fully working track. Many songs today, are but a few simple pieces placed together, but how do you get those pieces? How do you get to that sound. How do you become a musical artist.

That is one of my primary goals, is to ignite the fire inside of you, to allow you to fall in love with writing music, and making music. I teach you how to become an artist again, or improve your artistic skills. When you take this course, you will walk away a better artist, and you will grow an awareness, or the things that I teach you about, so no matter which style you go to write in or play, you will walk away with more skills and knowledge than you had before.

What are the requirements?

  • This course uses Ableton Live, a Drum Plugin and a Synth plugin. You do not need to own a drum plugin or synth plugin, to take this course. There are concepts in this course that can be applied to any style of music, or any set of plugins.
  • Some of the information in this course, assumes a basic understanding, and not all aspects of Ableton are covered. I have a course which walks through the basics of Ableton, if you find yourself getting lost.
  • The purpose of this course is to go from scratch, to a functioning bass and drum track. I built this course, like I was sitting next to you, and showing you what to do.
  • I made the lessons in small pieces, so you can concentrate on a single idea, without have to scan across all the lessons looking for how to do something.
  • Even someone with regular knowledge of music, will learn something, even if only to rediscover how to fall in love with making music again.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Work with a Drum Plugin
  • Work with a Synth Plugin
  • Learn to Modulate Plugins and effects
  • Learn Basic Drum Programming
  • Learn how a Synth works
  • Learn how to make a track from scratch
  • The course is designed to take you step by step through creating a track.

Who is the target audience?

  • If you want pro advice, and lots of tips, this course is for you!
  • If you want to see what I was thinking, when I created this track, this course is for you!
  • If you want someone to show you every mouse move, and every cursor, and all the things to get from A to B, this course is for you.
  • If you don't want to learn, and you just want a finished product, this course is not your best option.
  • If you don't want to understand what you are doing, and just copy and paste settings, this course is not your best option.
  • Even though this lesson focuses on an electronic composition, the knowledge learned can be applied to many styles of music, and will enhance your general knowledge, when working with a platform like Ableton.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Introduction

Learn about the overview of the course.

Section 2: Working with a Drum Machine

Select a pattern from the drum machine.

Working with the Plugin

Trigger the plugin, the drum machine, from within an Ableton Clip.


Learn some basic drum programming.


Learn how to use Subtractive programming.


Copy clips, and make modifications to the drum patterns/clips within Ableton.


You will learn how to add variation to your drum patterns.


You will learn how to add effects to the drum track.


You will learn how to adjust the compressor and limiter.


You will learn how to modify the effect chain, to reduce distortion, and solve some common issues with volume levels. We will also add and work with a ping-pong delay.


Learn how to work with envelopes and modify effect parameters from a clip level, to give variation and enhance your patterns.


Learn how to modulate the filter frequency. I will show you how to work with the envelopes, and give you tips about how to achieve the sound, and effect you are looking for. I cover a lot of territory, and provide pro tips along the way, coming from my 20+ years of experience with programming, and automation.


In this lesson, I show you how sometimes, you need to modulate a second parameter to get the effect you want. Many parameters are dependent, and interconnected to other ones, and need to be worked in relationship to each other.


Be sure to watch all the videos, as I give lots of tips and hints along the way, and you don't want to miss anything. I add a lot of pop-up notes in some sections, to guide you great guidance, so you can work smarter, and jump over the common pitfalls. So just because the course says modulating another parameter, watch each one.

6 questions

Take a quiz on what you just learned, and see what you have retained.

Section 3: Working with a Synth Plugin

Pick out a Synth, and then create a midi clip, to use for the bass line.


Learn how to adjust your mid notes, with note-pitch MID filters.


In this lesson, I am going to walk through the process of getting glide to work. I could have left this out, but I felt that it is important, to understand about old synths, and that they had to be discovered. This also enforces the concept, that to be good at something, you have to know the equipment you are working with, and part of that experience comes through experimenting, and moving knobs around, and then trying to replicate what you just did.


Learn the differences between these two modes, what they mean, and how to use them.


Learn what a VCO is, the parts that make up a VCO, and what you can change about it.


Here we are going to listen to each VCO, one at a time, and in different combinations. It is so important, to understand the tool you are working with, and by exploring your tool, in this case the synth, you can find ways to make it do what you want it to.


Learn about the VCF, and the ADSR filter structure.


Exploring the relationship between Resonance and Cutoff. Learning how one control effects the other, and ways to use that to get the sounds you are looking for.


Before you start modulating, and automating something, its best to work with the knobs manually, or with a mouse or control surface, to find the combinations and patterns that you want to replicate. Here I show you some patterns that can be achieved in the filter section.


I go over quite a lot in this lesson, so I've broken down modulating the filter into two lessons, so it is easier to digest.


Here I go and modulate the rest of the Filter Section. Along the way, I add notes, so don't skip this section, or you might miss some tidbits of knowledge.


Here I add in some White Noise. Its good to know what elements make up a good sound. White noise has a specific characteristic, identifying that, will help you shape your sounds quicker.


When you modulate one clip, other clips can be affected. I show you how to straighten this out, and how to resolve issues like that, which frequently come up.


Here I go back, and revisit the glide control, to give you some ideas about how to add more variation to your clips, and patterns.


Now we are going to manually trigger a MIDI pitch filter, to see how it interacts with how we have setup the synth.


Now that we know what sounds good, we are going to automate the MIDI pitch filter, so that it enhances our clips.

6 questions

Lets review what we have learned.

Section 4: Combining the Synth and Drum Parts

By now, you have recognized my teaching style, and know that I like to experiment first, before I start automating the modulations. In this lesson we learn to see what works, and then in the next lesson, we will start modulating the parts and pieces.


I show you how to creatively add the mid-boost effect, to give variety and signature to your clips and tracks.


Here we talk about the difference between clip and track automation. Show an example of what can or can not be done, and then show the comparative advantages of both methods.


I take a second to review what we did, and what we accomplished.


Now we look at the last effect, a 3-band EQ, and apply it like a kill switch on a DJ mixer, to add and create more variations to the clips.


Here we put all the elements, and play the scenes, to hear what it all sounds like. This is the reward for our hard work.


I review everything that we did, and all that we accomplished. Now you can go on and add more, or make what you already to even better.

13 questions

This is to help you retain some knowledge, and have some fun learning.


Listen to the track that we build from scratch in this lesson. This is the audio from Lecture 37, so you can have a preview of what is to come. I will be walking you through how to arrange this track in another lesson.

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Instructor Biography

Sam Gill, Instructor, Sr. Consultant, Executive Director, Producer

I have been making music, since 1992. I have 3 labels, and 2 bands. I have programmed and written over 800 sequences, and when I have time, write about 80-100 songs a year. At one point I owned 19 keyboard synths, and 20+ synth rack modules. I used to record and arrange on a setup that consisted of a 24 channel Soundcraft, with 3 DA-88's and a Roland MC-50Mk2. I came to Logic and Apple in 2007, and picked up Ableton Live in 2009. I sold most of my hardware, and bought in to soft-synths, after I sampled my most used sounds, and was able to reliably use those. I continue to write to this day, and keep learning new techniques, and new ways to improve my music. Now that I have amassed such knowledge, I have found the joy of sharing what I know with others who can benefit from my years of experience.

Beside music, I have worked with electronics since 1990, and have built, repaired and fixed many things along the way. I got really sucked into electronics, when my synth passion ignited, and I found out that they need to be repaired frequently. I started repairing synths as early as 1998, learning about the ins and outs of the electronics that they were founded on.

I took an interest in programming keyboards, with my first programmable keyboard, which was a Kawai K11, which I bought in 1992. I did not know it then, but programming a keyboard, and programming a computer, are not very far off.

In 1994, I bought my one and only sequencer, a Roland MC50-Mk2, which I have to this day, and it writes in DD floppy drives. I have a collection of DD drives, since they are not easily found today. I composed over 800 sequences on that sequencer over a 10 year period. I learned how to arrange, and that arrangement method was directly transferrable to Ableton Live.

Since 1984 I also been an avid Photographer, and have invested in cameras, lenses, video equipment, and other sorts of gear, to not only share what I know, but how I think. Over time I have also developed a deeper spiritual sense, that has come to offer comfort, to those I hold dear, and has helped me to achieve peace within myself. I have published my photography works, and use my photography skills for a number of different uses. I also will have courses on photography and video techniques, to share, ones that I have learned over the years.

In 2007, I began to build up my contemplative skills, and began to think more about the world, and who I was. In 2011, I was forced to speed up this process, and went through a number of breakthroughs, and revelations. In 2013, and into 2014, I experienced spiritual awakening, in new and different ways, and had a lot of my beliefs turned upside down, or replaced, or expanded. As you may have guessed, I have now a lot to talk about on this issue, and I will be making courses for self-development, and personal development, along with helping you to understand some of the things that you may be going through, and how to cope or grow beyond them. Hope is always possible, in all situations, and a better outcome can always be pursued.

If you have a course that you would like me to teach, just send me a note, and I will add it to my list. I am always looking to help others, and mentor people, as I have the time. I hope that I have been able to help you, and grow your skills and talents, as you look for ways to express them.

I hope you enjoy watching and learning from these courses, as much as I enjoy teaching them. Be well, and take care my friend.

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