The Lazy Guide to Ableton Live: Part 4 – Follow Action

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Last time, we looked at some of the easy ways to get creative with clips. Following on from there, we’re now going to look in more depth and detail at Follow Actions and automation. Check out more from our lazy guide with part 1, part 2 and part 3.


follow action


For extra clip variation, it’s time for Follow Actions. These might seem fairly complex at first but, believe us, they are a lazy person’s dream feature! They essentially allow you to trigger clips in a more random way to bring lots of variation to a tune. In our example, we’re going to have variations of a clip all within the same track and we’ll use Follow Actions to determine how they are played.

For this tutorial, we’ll use them on an audio clip to create a variation in beats. You’ll see that you never need to think of Live as a straight looping tool ever again, as your loops are suddenly creatively transformed into very varied beats!

First, we need to follow some of the clip edits we have already covered – that is, repeating and copying clips into the same track and changing the start and end points so that we home in on certain parts of the percussion loop. We are essentially cutting out half-bar chunks of the loop to play individually and using Follow Actions will determine just how. So we get four additional but different clips, all from the same initial audio clip and all on the same track.

Now select Follow Actions in the clip area. You then go through all five of your clips and select an Action for each i.e. what happens after it plays. You can play another at random, or the next or previous clip – you have a choice of nine in total. This creates a completely new playback version of your original loop but importantly for our purposes here, it doesn’t sound looped!

In our final part of the Lazy Guide to Ableton Live we’ll take a look at clip automation.

Follow Action Step-by-Step



1. Now it’s time to turn our attention to Follow Actions. For now, we’re going to use them just on beats – specifically, a loop to create easy variation within it. Load in any loop!



2.  We’ll now bring together everything we’ve done in this tutorial up until now, to bring some variation in on the beats. So first copy the clip five times onto the same track as shown, using Alt>drag.



3. Now we’re going to adjust the start and end points of each of the new audio clips we’ve just created to home in on specific areas of the drum loop. Here, we’ll start with the first kick drum.



4.  On the second repeated clip (third clip overall), we’ll home in on the snare sound plus a little bit of the percussion action. As you’ll see, this is a start point of 1.2, for a duration of 0.2.



5. Keep going until you have dissected the audio clip into four different sections to make up the five clips overall. You can do more clips, of course, but we’ll stick to this number.



6. You can also do shorter sections, but we’ve kept ours fairly long, each over half a bar in length (we’d even recommend going to one bar). Now go to the Follow Actions by hitting the L in the clip area.



7.  The Follow Action section will now determine how the clips you have just set play and interact with each other. Click on each and you can determine how long each plays with bars, beats and ticks.



8. Click on the drop-down menu and you will see a list of Follow Actions that determine what happens after the selected clip plays: from nothing to playing another selected clip at random.



9. Now you simply need to go through the five clips you have on the track and determine what you want to happen after they play,
by selecting one of these options from the drop-down menu. Here, we have the third clip selected and have opted to simply play the next clip.



10. And on the final clip, we have selected ‘Any’ as the Follow Action so any of the selected audio clips will play at random afterwards. This is obviously great for adding a completely off-the-wall variation to proceedings, but doesn’t have to be completely random!



11.  A really good option within the Follow Actions section is the probability number. Set it to 1, as shown, and the probability of the next clip doing the selected Follow Action will be 100 per cent.
Set it higher and that probability drops proportionally.



12. Another cool thing is to use a second drop-down menu to determine what happens the rest of the time. So you could, for example, have a random other clip triggering for half the time and the first clip in the track triggering for the other half of the time.



13. Now to hear all of your Follow Actions in, well, action! Select all
of your clips as shown and press one of them to start playing. We have all of ours set to play another clip at random after each…



14. And it’s a bit wild to start with, almost as if someone has taken control of your Live session and is triggering clips for you. The result is a bit too DJ Shadow-like on ours to start with…



15. Experimenting with the original clip length that you create (from step 3) is key here. You can either go back and adjust them from scratch, or adjust the clip length in the Follow Action area for each.



16. Essentially, the more stuttery beats you want, the shorter you make the clips. You can go completely wild here by slicing into beats for some old-skool mid-90s Aphex beats.



17. We did find on our particular loop that increasing the clip length to a bar for all clips gave the best results and took it far away from the original loop, but this will vary depending on your loop.



18. As if that’s not enough, you can of course go into editing each of your new clips to make the variation on the original loop even greater. Here, we’re transposing the audio from one clip.


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