One of the coolest things about Ableton is that it can
keep absolutely everything in a session in perfect sync. The secret lies
in mastering its warping tools—and not relying on Live’s “assumptions”
as to where to put warp markers when you import a track. For syncing
recorded audio, this feature can be a godsend, but when you’re working
with flawlessly timed modern dance music, it’s time to roll up your
sleeves and perfect those warp markers so that every track is absolutely
in time with all of your other elements. Here’s how.
Zoom way into your audio track and find the first
downbeat (usually a kick) of the track. Then place a transient/warp
maker at that position, right-click and select “Set 1.1.1 Here”
Next, delete all other warp markers after this point by right-clicking again and selecting “Warp From Here (Straight).”
Zoom into the final measure of your track and select the final kick drum
on beat 4 of (for these examples, we’re using four-on-the-floor tracks
to keep things clear). Add a warp marker to that kick and make sure its
transient is falling exactly on the correct beat. Once you’ve done this
with a few tracks, test them against each other by mixing the end of
each with the beginning of the others. If there are any consistencies,
repeat the steps with a closer zoom.
Finally, I’ve often been asked how I mix without headphones at my shows.
Some people think I’m cheating and “just pressing play.” Nothing could
be further from the truth. Instead, I simply add warp markers at the
exact points where the bass and/or melodic parts begin and end, since
the majority of well-produced tracks include eight or more measures of
isolated drums and percussion at their start and end. This is a standard
production trick to make tracks easier for DJs to mix. By placing these
warp markers at the musical high points of a track, I can avoid the
dreaded “bass clash” effect where the low frequencies of conflicting
bass lines wreak havoc with mix transitions.