In this Ableton Live tutorial, Dubspot’s Rory PQ takes us through the steps for building transparent Multiband Phase Inversion Racks and shares his insight into multiband processing. Included is a FREE Ableton Live Audio Effect Rack. Check out our Music Production course with Ableton Live to learn more. Classes start soon, See Dates and Register!
The Power of Racks in Live
One of the most powerful features in Ableton Live that sets it apart from other DAW’s is its ability to create custom Racks for various purposes. A Rack is a flexible tool for working with effects, instruments, samples, and third-party plugins in a track’s device chain. They can be used to build complex signal processors, stack instruments and effects, create dynamic performance instruments, separate frequency bands, and so much more. Racks also streamline your device chain by bringing together your most essential controls using Macros. In short, Racks excel at handling multiple devices, signal paths, and control relationships between multiple parameters.
In this tutorial, we will look at using the power of Racks, clever Macro mapping, and phase inversion to build transparent Multiband Effect Racks that split the input signal into separate frequency bands for applying parallel processing. In addition, we have included a FREE download that includes four different Multiband Effect Racks.
2 Band Frequency Phase Inversion Rack
3 Band Frequency Phase Inversion Rack
4 Band Frequency Phase Inversion Rack
5 Band Frequency Phase Inversion Rack
Multiband Processing in Live
Multiband processing is an essential technique used in sound design, mixing and mastering, and live performance. Many plugins and DAWs have multiband features that allow us to separate sounds into different frequency bands so that each band can be processed independently. Ableton Live’s Instrument and Audio Effect Racks have the unique ability to create multiple device chains that allow us to separate the input signal into different channels that operate in parallel. This marvelous feature gives us the power to create multiple frequency bands that can be loaded with their own custom device chains. Splitting the frequency spectrum into fully adjustable and independent bands gives us the ability to process different parts of the sound separately. This flexibility allows us to have more control over the sound. For example, you could split a bass sound into Low, Mid, and High frequency bands. On the Low band, you could mono the sound to keep your sub frequencies tight and clean. For the Mid band, you could add some saturation to bring out the body of the bass, while adding some stereo imaging and reverb to the High band to create a fat bass sound that is more powerful than a bass sound without multiband processing.
Building Multiband Phase Inversion Effect Racks in Live
There are a few different approaches to building a Multiband Effect Racks in Ableton Live. The simplest way is to create an Audio Effect Rack that has three device chains each loaded with an EQ Eight or EQ Three. On the Low-frequency band set the EQ filter to lowpass, Mid-frequency band to a bandpass filter, and the High-frequency band to a highpass filter. The problem with this approach is that the frequency overlap at the crossover points could potentially cause some phasing issues. Also, there are small gaps where two bands meet causing a dip in frequency at the crossover points. In other words, this approach is the least transparent way of building a Multiband Effect Rack.
Another approach to building a Multiband Effect Rack in Live is to load a Multiband Dynamics device on three separate device chains in an Audio Effect Rack, and then enable the Solo button for each independent frequency band. This method sounds more transparent than using separate EQ filters and works well. However, the sound seems colored and is not 100% transparent. What is transparent you may ask? In this example, a transparent sounding Audio Effect Rack will sound the same when enabled or disabled. There is no audible change in the sound when toggling the rack on and off.
The best way to build a Multiband Effect Rack in Live that is the most transparent is to use a phase inversion technique I learned from Mr. Bill that requires a clever combination of EQ frequency Macro mappings and control over the phase of a channel using Live’s Utility device. This approach is a bit more complicated to set up, but the result is worth the hassle. Better yet, we did the work for you. Download the free racks above and you’re ready to go.
Let’s dive deeper into this approach and build a Multiband Phase Inversion Rack from scratch so you can get a better understanding how this concept works.
Step 1 | Creating an Audio Effect Rack
In this first step, we will create an Audio Effect Rack that will contain multiple devices and chains for our different frequency bands.
- Create a new Audio track and load an EQ Eight.
- Create an Audio Effect Rack by selecting the EQ Eight and clicking CMD+G [MAC] or CTRL+G [PC].
Step 2 | Duplicating Device Chains
For this step, we will duplicate chains rather than creating new chains and loading the devices again. This approach will save time.
- Duplicate the device chain twice so there are three chains total by clicking CMD+D [MAC] or CTRL+D [PC].
- Rename the three chains Low, Mid, and High.
Step 3 | Assigning EQ Frequency Crossover Macro Controls
For this step, we will set up the EQ filters for the High and Low bands as well as assign Macro Controls for the filter crossover points.
- Select the Low chain and set the EQ Eight filter type to lowpass.
- Right-click the filters Frequency control and assign it to Macro 1
- Rename Macro 1 to Low X-Over.
- Select the High chain and set the EQ Eight filter type to highpass.
- Right-click the filters Frequency control and assign it to Macro 2.
- Rename Macro 2 to High X-Over.
Step 4 | Phase Inversion
In this final step, we will create another Audio Effect Rack on the Mid band with three additional chains. Two chains will use EQ Eight and Utility to phase invert low and high frequencies, which will cancel out those bands and leave us with only the mid frequencies for the Mid band. The third chain will allow only the mid frequencies to pass through.
- Select the Mid chain and drop in a Utility device after EQ Eight.
- Enable the Left and Right Phase switches on Utility.
- Group the EQ Eight and Utility in another Audio Effect Rack by clicking CMD+G [MAC] or CTRL+G [PC].
- Duplicate the device chain so there are two chains total by clicking CMD+D [MAC] or CTRL+D [PC].
- Create a third chain that will not contain any devices.
- Rename the empty chain ‘Dry,’ and the other two chains ‘Low Phase’ and ‘High Phase.’
- Select the ‘Low Phase’ chain and set the EQ Eight filter type to lowpass.
- Right-click the filters Frequency control and assign it to Macro 1.
- Select the ‘High Phase’ chain and set the EQ Eight filter type to highpass.
- Right-click the filters Frequency control and assign it to Macro 2.
- Assign Macro 1 to Low X-Over and Macro 2 to High X-Over.
Adding Additional Effects
Using the steps above, you can create Multiband Effect Racks with as many frequency bands as you like. Once you have your racks built, try loading different Audio Effects or your favorite third-party plugins on each band to create more interesting sounds. Think of these racks as the foundation for building more complex Audio Effect Racks. For example, you could load a Compressor or Saturator to each band and instantly have a powerful Multiband Compressor or Multiband Saturator. The possibilities are up to you, we encourage everyone to experiment and come up with truly unique Multiband Effect Racks for all types of musical purposes.
The flagship of our music training, with every Ableton Live course offered at the school. After completing this program, you will leave with a portfolio of original tracks, a remix entered in an active contest, a scored commercial to widen your scope, and the Dubspot Producer’s Certificate in Ableton Live.
- Ableton Live Level 1: Beats, Sketches, and Ideas
- Ableton Live Level 2: Analyze, Deconstruct, Recompose, and Assemble
- Ableton Live Level 3: Synthesis and Original Sound Creation
- Ableton Live Level 4: Advanced Sound Creation
- Ableton Live Level 5: Advanced Effect Processing
- Ableton Live Level 6: Going Global with your Music
This program is about learning Ableton Live by going through the entire process of being an artist, by developing your own sound through a series of sketches and experimentation. You will also learn the ins and outs of this powerful software through a series of exercises designed to help you master the steps involved in producing your own music. After a level of getting familiar with the tools that Ableton has to offer, you will then develop your sonic ideas into full-length tracks. You will be exposed to a variety of approaches to arrangement and composition, storytelling techniques, ways of creating tension and drama in your music. At the end of the day, it is the sum total of your choices as an artist that define your sound, and Levels 2 – 6 will give you the experience of actually completing tracks to add to your portfolio.
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