Norwegian ambient electronica

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Pjusk - Tools and techniques - Quick and easy gating/stutter effects

Added on by Rune Sagevik.

Using some sort of stutter or gating effects can quickly turn almost any sound into something that has a nice rhythmic quality. We often turn to these small tricks to transform different field recordings or sounds that are more drone like into material that has either a very distinct and clear rhythm or to something that just has a small, almost inconceivable pulse to give our sound that extra bit of life or gradual change throughout a track.

To achieve this type of effect we could always turn to a tool along the lines of the excellent LFOTool by Xfer Records, where we can really tune the shape of the curves used for the gating effect, but for a lot of the quick and simple stuff, the built in tools in Ableton Live is more than sufficient.

1. Gating with the warp settings

In session view, load a clip or sample of your choosing. Set the warp mode to Beats and under Preserve, choose a granulation resolution setting other than Transients (for example 1/16 or 1/8). Set the Transient Loop Mode to Off and adjust the Transient Envelope to your liking (a setting somewhere between 10 and 40 often yields a nice result, depending on your source material and wanted result of course). 

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This is a really quick way to achieve tempo synced gating effects on any audio clip. We often use this trick to turn drone like sounds into more pulsating sound material. Used on percussion loops, it can totally change the feel and sound of the clip. Depending on the timing and groove of the percussion, everything from shortening and tightening the hits in the loop, to an almost “dubby” and echoing effect is achievable. We use this a lot.

2. Gating with Auto Pan

Gating effect can also be achieved using the built in Auto Pan effect. Load an Auto Pan on your audio or midi track, set the Amount to 100% and the Phase to 0 or 360 degrees.

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Using the Auto Pan will yield different effects than what you get with the warp settings, and the good thing about using Auto Pan as a tool for gating effects is that you can use automation on its parameters. Automating the Rate, Shape and Offset parameters can give great results.

3. Gating with LFO

We really, really like using the LFO in Ableton Live for different changes over time, both random and tempo synced. Using it for gating is also a possibility. Set the LFO up to control the Gain parameter on a Utility effect and you should be good to go.

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So, there you have it. Three quick and simple ways to create gating/stutter like effects on your sound material with Ableton Live tools.

Have a happy New Years Eve and a great 2019!

Jostein & Rune


Pjusk - Tools and techniques - A sprinkle of randomness

Added on by Rune Sagevik.

To put it simply, our music is often some repetitive parts built up from some number of layers. These parts usually come from recordings of analog synthesizers, VST instruments or different sources of acoustic and electric instruments like guitars, piano and wind instruments. The parts are organized in an arrangement where we bring in and out different parts over the duration of a tune. We feel that monotony and repetition are an important core of music in the ambient genre regardless of what sub-genre within ambient we are talking about. To make monotonous and repetitive music interesting over time we need something more, and for us that usually means to sprinkle our music with some randomness.

After coming up with the primary parts of a tune we often start looking for that little bit of extra randomness to make a track come alive. Here we will present some of our most used techniques for creating just that.

Since we are using quite a bit of field recordings in our music, why not just find a nice and long recording to mix in to give the track that little extra. Well, yes we do that too..but often we might find a small piece of recording that really suits the mood of the track and we want to use that. How can we then go about using that small piece across a whole track without it ending up sounding too static?

For a long time we have been using three particular tools in Ableton Live to make short recordings become longer interesting pieces.

1. Clip envelopes

Using Live’s clip envelopes set to varying lengths has been a go to for as long as we can remember. This can generate interesting stuff of almost any recording. Load up a clip with a loop or recording of some kind. It could be rhythms, field recordings or whatever. Select and loop the part of the clip that you want to use.

In the envelopes section, set the Loop button to Unliked and adjust the Loop Brace to have a different loop length than the sample section of your clip. Preferably even, a loop length that is a bit off. With a loop length of two bars in the audio section, try with a loop length of e.g 1.4.2 or 1.1.3 in the envelope section and adjust your envelope for interesting effects. All your available envelopes can have different loop lengths so you can give your original sound a pretty extreme makeover, and best of all, you will be able to make your loop sound different all across your track and, with tiny adjustments, even different for each time it is played back.

2. Beat Repeat

Beat Repeat is a great effect to create small bits of random occurrences of sound. But beware of overusing it.

3. Max4Live LFO

The Max4Live LFO is perfect for making changes to different parameters over time. I can be mapped to all sorts of things, and we use it all the time.

4. The combination of all the above tools and techniques

All the three mentioned tools and techniques can give you excellent results on their own. Combine them all and there are really no limits to how you can randomize small snippets of sound.

Take care.

Jostein & Rune

Pjusk - Tools and techniques - Ableton Live

Added on by Rune Sagevik.

We’re starting out this blog series with our favourite DAW. ..or our favourite software we might even say.

When Pjusk started out we were using Acid Pro. An application originally released by Sonic Foundry. Later on Sonic Foundry was merged with Sony to create Sony Creative Software, and today Acid is available from Magix. Acid Pro was really a great application at the time (and most possibly still is). We could run a lot of tracks on fairly modest computers, looping clips and tracks was a breeze and it had great automation features. But we did not use it for long. Only our first ever released track, Flyktig, was written in Acid.

Quite quickly after forming Pjusk we discovered Ableton Live. It was live at first sight. Live version 4. With its equally good automation features and easiness of looping. It had everything that Acid had, and then some. The automation features in Live was even better than in Acid, as we could have automation both on clips as well as tracks.

Where Live really shined for us in the start was in its routing possibilities. Everything could be routed to everything. ..or so it felt, and the all new Session View (not new to Live of course, but new to us) was just terrific.

Since then, Live has been at the center for us. If we look at the individual parts involved in music production, Live might not be the best tool. There are probably DAWs out there that are better in editing and manipulating midi tracks and data, that are better for editing audio, DAWs with better performance, and DAWs that sound better, but for us, Live is the tool that gives us the results we want and like, and the tool that has a workflow we are confident with.

Of course we have been using systems like Cubase and Logic, but somehow we feel that Live is more straight to the core of music making. In later years, with additions such as Max4Live and the hardware unit Push (now version 2), the overall system is stronger than ever.  Also with support from online-collaboration systems like Splice , the future is bright. If you don´t know Splice, we recommend checking it out. It is a huge help for us and our collaborators around the world.   

Next blog post in this series will be about what tools we use in Live, how we shape our signature sound and our favourite third party plugs.

Take care.

Jostein & Rune

Pjusk - Tools and techniques

Added on by Rune Sagevik.

Music lovers and artists alike are often interested in how and where the music of their favourite artists are made. We are of course no different. Having a look into artists studios, getting a feel for their tools and techniques are always of interest and often great fun.

Based on this fact, we thought that we should maybe invite people into our world, into our studios and have a look at our tools and techniques..or even lack thereof.

With this we will start up a blog series where we will try to talk a bit about what software and hardware we use. Most artists have their favourite equipment, be it software or hardware, and so do we. We will talk about how we use (and abuse) this software and hardware, where we use it, and why we use it. We will go into how we usually work with fieldrecordings, audio, midi etc., how we get our idèas, have a look at our workflow both together in the studio and over the internet and generally how we go about creating our tracks.

One of our favourite tools is just around the corner with a new update that looks promising, so in our next “Tools and techniques” blog post we will take a look at Ableton Live 10.