This chapter examines how I prepared each of the tracks ready for the compilation, in particular the warping techniques within Ableton 7.
As mentioned in a previous chapter, the mixing for the album was to be done digitally so I could achieve the highest level of beatmatching perfection, and for this to be attained correctly I had to utilise Ableton’s built in time stretching algorithm known as ‘warping’.
Warping operates on the basis of treating audio files as pieces of elastic that are then ‘pinned’ to the global tempo set in Ableton with what’s known as ‘warp markers’.
When an audio file is first imported into Ableton, the software makes a guess at the tempo thus creating a time grid of sorts based on transient detection, and this grid can then be refined by the user by adding and modifying the warp markers.
If any of you reading are users of Ableton then you will share my pain at how much of a nightmare this process can seem at first glance, but once mastered it can really surprise you at how simple and innovative it really is.
As with many areas of Ableton there are a number of different ways to approach the task depending on user preference or the source material, and I’m going to post my personal (and rather OCD) technique that I incorporated into this project:
1. Make a note of the track tempo – I used a free piece of software called ‘BPM Analyser’ from Mixmeister, which can be found here:
It’s not a necessary step but I found that having the BPM of the tracks can really speed things up when warping difficult pieces.
2. Import the track into Ableton and place the BPM into the global tempo and seg. BPM boxes
3. Zoom into the waveform display and place the ‘1’ warp marker at the start of the first beat
4. Left click the warp marker and choose ‘set 1.1.1 here’ and then left click the marker again and click ‘warp from here’
5. Zoom into the end of the track and drag one of the grey numbers so that it aligns with a beat (they may be slightly off) do not place any warp markers during this step as this is just for tidying
6. Turn on the metronome and the loop button in the clip and set the start point to 1.1.1 and the length to 16.0.0 (16 bars)
7. Play the track, and using the loop brace, progress through the track placing a warp marker at the end of of every 16 bars. The loop brace is a handy tool as it enables you to see whether or not the gridlines are drifting and need adjusting – the metronome also comes in handy here too.
8. Finally and most importantly of all: Always use the ‘save’ button on a regular basis!
After all this had been done and the metronome had no problems playing along with the track, I then repeated the process and created warp markers every 8 bars, then repeated again to 4 bars, then 2, then every bar.
As you can imagine this was an extremely time consuming operation, considering there were around 300 bars in each track, it took a lot of dedication and motivation to warp all 36 records!
To test the accuracy of my warping on each track, I decided upon using a strange method of setting a small 2 bar loop brace, and then turning off the PC monitor so I could flick through the track using the shortcut keys without seeing where the loop brace ended.
This technique allowed me to hear rather than see whether or not my warping was accurate, and if I could not tell whether the loop brace had ended or not it was a sure fire sign the beatmapping was spot on.