Introduced in Live 7 back in 2008, the Slice-To-MIDI feature has become a mainstay for Ableton-based producers, thanks to its one-click approach to dicing beats in a manner similar to Propellerhead ReCycle (and before that, MixMan). In Live, you can opt to slice your samples according to note values, warp markers, or the transients of individual hits (Figure 1). Better still, since the slices are assigned to individual drum pads—a boon to Ableton Push users—you can process each slice individually with effects and plug-ins.
Though the feature has been around for nearly a decade, I find that many users have never ventured beyond the standard array of factory slicing presets, many of which are based on Live Suite’s Sampler instrument. These are varied and capable, but may not be the perfect fit for the treatment you’re after.
Fortunately, there’s a way to create your own highly customized presets that go beyond the factory options. The process is tucked away in the documentation and often overlooked, so let’s take a closer look at it using Simpler, which comes with the standard version of Live.
Step 1: To begin, locate the Slicing folder in the User Library (Figure 2). It’s easy to miss, because it’s tucked into the Defaults folder. This is where you’ll place your original slicing presets as you complete them.
Step 2: To create your own slicing preset, start with an empty Drum Rack and place the Simpler instrument in the C1 pad, leaving all other pads empty. For drums, it’s often best to turn Snap and Loop off for the Simpler. Now, any macros you assign to this Simpler will be inherited by all of the slices in your original preset.
Step 3: Each of the Drum Rack’s eight macros can be assigned to a different Simpler parameter. You can also use the macros on any effects chain after the Simpler. This custom configuration will be inherited by all slices. That said, if you place a process intensive effect like high-quality reverb on every Simpler, your CPU may groan under the weight of 16 or 32 instances applied to each of your slices. A more economical approach would be to add a Reverb to your Drum Rack’s aux returns (Figure 3) and add a global send as the macro.
Step 4: For a more straightforward approach, try mapping classic synth parameters to the macros. Figure 4 shows the filter cutoff, resonance, filter envelope, filter velocity, filter attack/decay, and amp attack/decay mapped to the eight macros. Try using this as your basis, then save the results to your Drum Rack user library.
Step 5: To turn this into a preset for Live’s Slice-To-MIDI function, just drag the customized Drum Rack to your Defaults/Slicing folder (Figure 5) outlined in Step 1. Now, any time you use the Slice-To-MIDI function, your preset will appear on the list of slicing options (Figure 6).