Explore Ableton Live 10’s Simpler

Francis

Francis

Composer ⎜ Sound Engineer ⎜ Sound Designer

 

For those unfamiliar with Ableton Live 10‘s Simpler, let’s explore a virtual instrument that integrates the basic elements of a sampler with classic synthesizer parameter settings.

Concretely simpler…

Simpler includes some of the features of live clips such as Warp. Warp mode audio clip playback in Simpler automatically plays the loop at the tempo of your composition. It doesn’t matter what note you play on the keyboard or with push2, interesting…

Let’s discover the interface.

Simpler to a simple interface, so to speak! It consists of two parts:

  • The Sample tab which manages samples.
  • The Controls tab which manages the commands

Small tricks by clicking on the button as in the image below, you will get a split view where the settings in the Controls tab take up all the space in the device window.

Simpler with loop
The detached view of Simpler

Swiss Army knife in Ableton.

One-shot samples or audio loops are dropped in.

  • Can be used to play a bass or synth sample over the entire keyboard range.
  • Default with the Drum Rack to play drum samples. One Simpler per Pad or
  • Work the layering in the Drum Rack with a rack instrument on a drum pad to stack several samples of claps or kick for example. Remember the article on the Drum Rack
  • Insert several Simplers into a rack instrument to make layers of sounds such as atmospheres or synths.
  • Do slicing to reappropriate the playing of an audio loop.

Which forces me to talk about reading modes.

What sample player do you want?

In Simpler, the display mode selector allows you to choose one of three sample playback modes. For information we find the management of these modes via the Push2. As shown in the picture below.

Play Modes
Simpler modes

So Classic, 1-shot or Slice?

– The Classic mode

  • Default mode when using Simpler :
  • Optimized for the creation of melodic and harmonic instruments.
  • Polyphonic.
  • Has a full ADSR envelope and allows looping which allows samples to play a sustained note.

– 1-Shot mode

  • Exclusively dedicated to monophonic reading.
  • Optimized for unlooped drum hits. However, this mode has simplified envelope controls and does not allow looping. Warning: the default setting in trigger mode triggers a playback of the entire sample when a note is played, regardless of how long the note is held.

– Slice mode

  • Automatically cuts the sample non-destructively.
  • The slices obtained are read chromatically.
  • You can create the slices from the following options :
    • Transient: to detect attack transients.
    • Beat: according to the time grid of the Warp mode.
    • Region: from 2 to 64 slices from the whole sample or a a part of it.
    • Manual: create and move slices manually.
Sliced by menu
Sliced by menu

I confess to being a fan of this mode that I regularly use to reappropriate sounds from loops and reinterpret them at my convenience.

Let’s go back to the classic

To give you a better understanding of the Classic mode, let’s detail what we see in the Sample tab.

Classic Simpler mode
Classic mode settings
  • Gain: determines the reading level of the sample. It is different from the volume potentiometer that determines the output level of Simpler.
  • Start: Starting point of the sample reading in percent, as it is determined by the start marker.
  • Loop: define the percentage length read in the loop within the sample. This mode only works if the loop button is activated.
  • Length: the percentage length of the sample playback between the start and end marker.
  • Fade: Fades between the end and start of the loop to attenuate digital clicks. This is very useful when making sounds like pads or textures.
  • The Loop and Snap buttons: Loop activates loop playback within the sample and Snap forces Simpler’s loop and region markers to set to zero amplitude points.
  • Voices: sets the maximum number of channels Simpler can play for this sample.
  • Retrig: the held note will be cut if the same note is played again. Only works with long samples and if the Voices setting is greater than 1.
  • WARP: I will discuss the WARP mode in more detail in a future article, but please note that it is identical to the audio clip mode and works in all three modes.

Some information about the 1-Shot mode

1-Shot Mode view
1-Shot Mode
  • The markers (triangles) on the left and right define the playable region, as in Classic mode, without the Loop and Length controls. The 1-Shot mode is strictly monophonic.
  • Gain same as in Classic mode
  • Trigger activated, the sample continues to play even after the note is released.
  • Gate stops playing the sample when the note is released, the reverse of Trigger mode.
  • Snap works as in Classic mode, affecting only the start and end markers.

This is a very useful mode for percussion or drum samples.

Slice mode to reveal your talent

Sliced Mode
Sliced Mode view

Slice mode is one of my favorite modes.

  • Gain is the same as in Classic mode
  • Trigger activated, the sample continues to play until the next slice.
  • Gate stops the sample playback when the note in the slice is released.
  • Sliced by, determines the slicing mode of the sample.
    • Transient, the sound attack transients determines the slicing mode.
      • Sensitivity sets the sensitivity of the transient level limited to a maximum of 64 slices.
    • Beat uses rhythmic divisions to determine the slicing mode
      • Division allows you to choose the rhythmic division for cutting the sample
    • Region sets the cutting mode at regular time intervals.
      • Regions determines the creation of the number of slices of identical length.
    • Manual this setting allows manual positioning of the sample cutout.
  • Playback determines the number of slices that can be triggered simultaneously.
    • Mono for monophonic; only one slice can be played at a time.
    • Poly, several slices can be played at the same time. The Voices and Retrig controls work as in Classic playback mode.
    • Thru playback is monophonic, but triggering one slice causes the rest of the sample region to play.

Little trick to use !!!

In Transient mode, using the CMD shortcut by clicking on a slice will toggle between manual and automatic slicing. Slices created manually in Transient mode are preserved regardless of the Sensitivity setting.

A little bit of Warp

The Warp mode in Simpler works just like for audio clips, as I said earlier in this article, it allows you to work with samples that instead of having their own rhythm and being played at different pitches because of the playback speed, are playable at Ableton’s tempo speed. This is very handy for drum beats to quickly synchronize them to different playing tones from the original version. I’ll come back in a future article about the Warp mode. Because it’s a very powerful live tool.

Apart from using it with drum loops, it’s extremely powerful with guitar loops and really I’m a big fan of it.

Flirting with the Filter

On the left the filter in Clean mode and on the right in OSR mode.

The Filter section of Simpler offers various types of filters:

  • Clean is a high quality, CPU-saving model, identical to the filters used in the EQ Eight.
  • OSR is a state variable type with resonance limited by a single clipping diode. Modeled after the filters used in a rare British mono synthesizer called Ableton.
  • MS2 uses a Sallen-Key design and soft clipping to limit resonance. Ableton reports that the modeling comes from the filters used in a famous Japanese semi-modular mono synth.
  • PRD uses a ladder design and has no clear resonance limitation. Modeled after the filters used in an old mono synth with double oscillator from the United States according to Ableton.
  • SMP is a customized model not inspired by any particular material. It is based on the characteristics of the MS2 and PRD circuits.

As with synthesizers the most important filter parameters are:

  • Frequency the frequency or Cutoff for aficionados, determines where the filter applies in the harmonic spectrum.
  • Res for resonance, which accentuates frequencies near this point.

When using a filter other than the Clean filter, an additional potentiometer called drive appears to add distortion upstream of the filter.

When we talk about a filter we obviously mean high pass, low pass, notch bandpass. In Simpler there is a special filter called Morph that you find when you select Clean or OSR. The Morph knob continuously changes the filter type in a loop from low-pass to band-pass to high-pass to notch to come back to low-pass. I recommend that you experiment with this filter.

Morph Filter mode
Morph via OSR filter

Oldies but goodies

Open a Set that was created in a version of Live prior to 9.5, any Simpler in the Set will open with the old filters instead of the filters mentioned above. These are standard 12dB or 24dB filters, which do not have a Drive control. Each Simpler loaded with the old filters will display an upgrade button in its title bar. Having all my sets updated for Ableton Live 10, I have not found any older versions in my hard drives to show you.

Envelopes

In Simpler there are 3 Standard ADSR envelopes.

Simpler's envelopes
Filter, Amplitude and Pitch Envelopes

Each with its own settings as in the picture above. The influence of the envelopes on the filter’s cutoff frequency and pitch can be adjusted via the Amount parameter. For the amplitude envelope, the following list of settings can be found in the mode setting at the top next to Time:

  • Loop: If a note is held at the end of the decay phase, the envelope will start again from its initial value.
  • Beat allows a note that is held beyond the Rate slider setting to restart from its initial value.
  • Sync Same as Beat mode
  • Trigger same as in Loop mode

Time defines the time required to go from the hold level to the initial value.

LFO low frequency oscillator history

The LFO window
The LFO window

The LFO offers sinusoidal, square, triangular, sawtooth down, sawtooth up and random waveforms. It oscillates freely at frequencies between 0.01 and 30 Hz, or synchronizes to divisions of the set tempo. In Simpler, the LFOs are applied individually to each voice, or note played, which is particularly interesting.

  • The Millisecond Attack control determines how long it takes for the LFO to reach maximum intensity.
  • The R knob switches the retrigger. When activated, the phase of the LFO resets to the offset value called Offset at each new note. Note that Offset has no effect when retriggering is disabled.
  • Key controls the speed of the LFO to the pitch of the notes received via the midi keyboard.
    • A high Key setting affects a higher LFO speed to higher pitched notes.
    • If Key is set to zero, the LFOs of all voices have the same speed and can just be out of phase.
  • The Vol, Pitch, Pan and Filter sliders determine the amount of volume, pitch, pan and filter modulation by the LFO respectively.

It’s very interesting to spend some time on the envelopes and the LFO. Believe my experience.

Global parameters

Global parameters
Global parameters

For information Simpler plays the sample at its original value on the note of C 3rd Octave. Delicate when importing a sample in another key than C 3. Fortunately in this section of Simpler the transpose parameter allows you a range of +/- 48 semitones to tune your sample correctly.

It’s a shame that you can’t find the same mode of operation as in Sampler or that you can enter the sample note directly in Root Key mode.

A quick word about Glide mode. This glide mode allows you to switch from one played note to the new played note. Glide exists in two versions Glide which works monophonically and Portamento which works polyphonically.

Spread allows you to enlarge a mono sample to be tested with discernment.

Pan or pan in standard setting. It can be modulated by the LFO.

Ran>Pan assigns a random factor to panning.

In conclusion

For me Simpler is a real Swiss Army Knife in Ableton Live 10. Its evolution over the versions makes it indispensable and allows to have a simplistic approach quite different from an extremely complex sampler. It’s a pure joy to build your own banks in Simpler knowing that you can access if you right-click on the Simpler title bar to a drop-down menu to convert to Drum Rack or to Sampler. Certainly some will tell me that you lose the Slice mode, but it’s still interesting.