Simpler is a sample-based virtual instrument on Ableton. There are three modes: “Classic”, “1-Shot”, and “Slice”. “Classic” mode allows you to control the pitch of a sample with a MIDI controller, like a keyboard. It has looping features to lengthen how long you can play the sample. “1-shot” is similar but without the loop. “Slice” allows you to chop and perform with samples.
Sampling In Ableton
A massive part of making modern music is understanding how to use samples.
Whether the samples are one-shot drum hits or full-on Loops.
Ableton is an excellent digital audio workstation for working with samples due to the sampling instruments built into the software and the tools it has to manipulate the audio.
In this article, we will look at how to use samples in Ableton with the sample-based virtual instrument Simpler. We will also look at how to use this in different scenarios, with examples.
What Is Simpler?
Simpler is a virtual instrument in Ableton that is based around samples. You can drop in a sample, modify it, then play it using MIDI.
There are a few different ways to use it, plus you can use audio effects to get an even more extensive range of sounds.
Using Simpler To Create Unique Instruments
First, let’s look at using Simpler to create original sounds. Rather than using a plug-in that anyone can use to create the sound, try making your own synths based on exciting samples.
Using one-shot samples is the best way to create your own sound. A one-shot sample is a sound with one single clear pitch or hit (for drums). This makes it perfect for creating a new synth sound, as it acts as an oscillator.
Keeping Simpler in the “Classic” mode, the default opening mode, you can drag in your sample.
If the note is already not C, then transpose the note to C in the controls tab of Simpler. If you don’t know the note, you can use the tuner audio effect to guide the transposition of the sample to C.
You can then choose the start and end points of the sample that you want to be used for this virtual instrument.
Within Simpler, you can use the built-in filter and add more audio effects to further sculpt the sound.
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For example, here I am using a vocal one-shot sample in Simpler, with the low-end cut out using the filter. Then I added a second filter to remove some high-end, as I aim for a keys/pad sound.
After that, some further EQ to remove unpleasant frequencies, a chorus effect for some flavor, and then a delay going into a reverb for a sense of space.
You can also use the loop feature if you want your virtual instrument to not stop once the sample is over. Once that selection has been reached, you can select a part of the sample you wish to loop.
Sometimes to get a different sound, I reverse the sample before putting it into Simpler so that it swells into a chord. To learn about this, check out our article on how to reverse a sample in Ableton.
Multiple Instances Of Simpler
After creating one instrument using a single instance of Simpler, you can further layer this with more instances of Simpler.
To have multiple instances of Simpler on one MIDI track, you must use an instrument rack (found in the “Instruments” section of the left-hand sidebar. Just drag an instrument rack into a MIDI track, then drag in as many Simpler instances as you need.
You can then adjust the volume of each Simpler instrument and add audio effects to each instance of Simpler individually and as a whole instrument. Doing this can create even more unique and rich-sounding virtual instruments.
Using Simpler To Chop Samples
On the left-hand side of the Simpler user interface, there are three tabs: “Classic“, “1-Shot“, and “Slice“. We will focus on “Slice” in this section.
Rather than manually chopping a sample, which is less performative, you can use Simpler to chop a sample based on transients, note/bar length, or even your own markers.
You can choose how you chop the sample through the “Slice By” parameter and then further define it through the “Division” parameter.
This then allows you to play these sample chops through a MIDI controller.
By doing this, you can perform and jam with the sample, plus it creates a unique pattern from the sample that you probably wouldn’t have made if you manually chopped it.
The five critical aspects of Simpler to pay attention to when in “Slice” mode are transpose, filter, warp mode within Simpler, divisions, and fades.
We have already looked at the divisions. So let’s look at transpose. For chopping samples, you can transpose the entire sample up or down. This can be for a stylistic reason or to fit the sample into an already-written song.
Then there is the filter. You can use this to remove low frequencies, high frequencies, or both simultaneously. Unless I am going for a specific sound, I will usually use this to remove low-end frequencies from the sample that are overpowering.
The warp mode in Simpler allows you to time stretch the sample to match the bpm of the project.
Finally, the fades allow you to remove any clicking or pops caused by the sample chopping by slightly easing into each section.
Using Simpler With Drums And Percussion
You may be inclined to use a drum rack when using drum samples in Ableton, which is a great tool, but it’s not the only way.
I like to use Simpler for specific drum and percussion samples to change the sample’s pitch throughout the beat and the song.
Hi-Hats, Snares, And Kick Drums
When using hi-hat, snare, and kick samples, you can bring more life and variance to them by changing the pitch. These aren’t melodic elements, so they won’t be out of key if you transpose them.
For hi-hats, I will use a slightly higher pitch for accents. For example, this can create a rhythm within a plain 16th-note hi-hat pattern.
With snares, I sometimes change the pitch slightly for alternating hits. So it goes back and forth between two hits. It adds an exciting dynamic to the rhythm section and can accentuate the bar’s first snare hit each time.
For kick samples, I am much more sparing with it. I usually will change the pitch slightly for the start of a chorus, or other big section, to add further impact to that first hit.
Drum And Percussion Loops
For drum and percussion loops, I’ll use a slightly different technique.
For the verses, I may make the pitch of the loop higher, with a filter cutting out some high-end frequencies. This creates a gentler sound for a softer section of the song.
Then for choruses, I will pitch it back down and take the filter off for the total frequency response of the loop. This opens up the hook in the rhythm section, having a huge impact.
Sometimes you may want to trigger samples after you have treated them with effects. To do this, read our article on how to resample in Ableton Live.
How To Use Automation In Sampling In Ableton?
With Simpler, you can automate any parameter on there. Enable automation mode, then click on the parameter you want to adjust. This will show the parameter in the automation lane for you to write in automation.
How To Sync And Time-Stretch Samples In Ableton?
Ableton warp modes allow you to sync a sample to the bpm of the project and will enable you to time-stretch the sample too.
There are different warp modes for various applications, and within each warp mode, different parameters to further specify how you want to stretch this sample.
How To Layer And Blend Samples In Ableton?
To layer samples, put them on two different audio tracks and ensure they are in the same key.
Then you can use EQ on each sample to cut out any clashing frequencies and make room for each sample.
Follow that up with any audio effects you wish to use to gel the samples, such as reverb, compression, or modulation, and they will sit together nicely.
What Are Some Common Sampling Mistakes To Avoid In Ableton?
– Using samples for the sake of it without any real purpose.
– Not correctly transposing samples to match the key.
– Using the wrong warp mode on specific samples.
– Not removing problem frequencies from a sample.
What Is The Best Place For Finding Royalty-Free Samples?
It is 100% Splice. It’s inexpensive and has every kind of sample you could ever need. Plus, most professional producers use it too.
Ableton is amazing at stretching samples, so check out this in-depth guide to Ableton’s Warp modes.