Ableton Live is an incredibly versatile digital audio workstation that allows you to be really creative in many different ways. One tried and true creative tool that DJs, mix engineers, and live performers have been using for years is delay effect. Delay effects delay or hold a copy of a signal for a user-defined amount of time, and add a sense of depth or dimension to the overall sound of a song when mixed back in with the un-processed signal. Creatively using delay effect can add depth and interest to just about any song, and the family of Ableton Live delay effects is extensive including both modulation-rich effects like flanging, face-shifting, and chorusing, and modulation-free effects like doubling, echo, and slapback.
Using Ableton Live you can apply a delay effect to a single, individual audio tracks, or to Return tracks to create an effects loop that can be tapped into by multiple tracks. When applying a Simple Delay effect, there are a number of parameters that you have to tweak to create your own unique delayed sound. The Feedback control sets the number of repeats of a sound. Delay time settings establish how long it takes for the signal to be repeated, and are often linked to the tempo of the song, enabling you to set the delay time to subdivisions of the tempo (for example, 16th notes, or 8th notes). The Dry/Wet parameter controls how much of the original (undelayed) signal is mixed with the delayed signal. Setting your Dry parameter to 100% means there will be no delays heard, while 100% Wet means that only the delayed signal will be heard. Adjusting the Dry/Wet parameter to taste will allow for just the right balance.
A PingPong delay effect enables you to set how you hear stereo delays. That is, you can control how often echoes are heard in the left and right sides of a stereo mix. You can also control the frequency range (EQ) of the echoes with the Filter Delay effect and the PingPong effect. Reducing the frequency content of the delay, often making the echoes sound more lo-fi, is an effective treatment to create separation between the original sound and the delay-effected sound.
Chorus effects utilize very short delay times and modulation to create a slightly detuned “double” of a signal. With multiple “doubles” that are slightly different from each other, the signals add together to create a sound that mimics multiple singers singing almost exactly the same thing (hence the name Chorus). The slight variations in performance yield a thicker overall sound. Adjust the delay time and modulation to taste to achieve a thicker or thinner chorus effect.
In Ableton Live 8 Essential Training, author, and USC professor, Rick Schmunk offers a comprehensive overview of Ableton’s live audio and MIDI sequencing software and the techniques required to compose, record, and edit music, in real time, on stage, or in the studio. In the video below from chapter ten of the course, Rick demonstrates how to set up and tweak several types of delay effects in Ableton Live 8.
Suggested courses to watch next:
• Foundations of Audio: Delay and Modulation
• Foundations of Audio: EQ and Filters
• Foundations of Audio: Compression and Dynamic Processing
• Audio Mixing Bootcamp