It’s Sunday night and as usual, you’re in the studio working on a new track…
On this particular day, you’re looking for the right synth lead.
Then it hits you – the perfect synth for the job is one that you used last week, a preset in Operator.
You fire up a midi track with a new instance of Operator and scroll through the presets… only to realize the sound you’re thinking of is actually preset in Serum.
Now you open open up Serum and spend five minutes scrolling through your presets, only to see that it’s not there!
Hold on a minute… that preset was in Spire, not Serum. Or was it Vanguard? Nexus? Or maybe Massive?
Suddenly, you’re not really sure where that preset lives.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have all your favorite sounds in one organized place instead of scattered among different places?
That’s where Ableton Live’s Clips can help us tremendously.
Clips allows you to create and save MIDI clips, along with instruments and FX chains.
If you’re not already using it to organize your production flow, you should be.
With this tool, you can organize presets spread across different instruments, for quick reference when you want to drop them into your track.
In this post we’re going to cover:
1. Creating clips
2. Organizing and scrolling through clips
3. Adding clips to projects.
Creating A Clip
First off, let’s create a place where you want to store all your clips.
Here we have created a folder in User Library called Clips.
Now, let’s make a clip!
In this example, we have created a sound with a MIDI clip with one note, a Live Instrument and Effect, and a third-party plugin.
We got the sound to where we like and now want to save it.
To do so, we simply drag the MIDI clip itself to the Clips folder we created earlier.
Once dragged, we are prompted to name the Clip.
We name it and press enter.
Now that Clip is saved.
Scrolling Through Clips
What’s great about this organizational method is that we can scroll through a bunch of sounds in a similar way that we would scroll through samples.
Here we have a few leads we have created in clips and labeled them in our Clips folder.
When any of them are selected, we can see a prompt on the bottom that says “Click to Preview”.
We may either click it, or we can simply press Right Arrow.
Doing either plays the clip in it’s entirety as to the way it was saved.
So if we, for example, created a cool pluck with a reverb chain, when we preview it we’ll hear the pluck along with the added reverb.
By quickly pressing Up/Down Arrow followed by Right Arrow, we can quickly scroll through these clips, just as we would scroll through a bunch of, say, drum samples!
Adding a Clip to a Project
Now, let’s say we want to use the clip we saved in a new project.
We simply drag the clip into the “Drag Files and Devices Here” area of Live’s Session or Arrangement view.
And now a new channel is created with all the data of the midi, instrument, and effects!
It’s important to note that this method allows you to change the midi notes of your clip.
If you bounce clips to audio, you don’t have the same flexibility.
This especially applies to key signature changes.
When you warp a sample, you destroy some of the audio information and introduce artifacts and imperfections into the sample.
On the other hand, with clips you maintain the integrity of the plugins you use so that the signal is fresh even if you change key signature or move notes around.
While using clips is simple, the applications are far-reaching.
We only used a single midi note in our example.
In practice, this could denote a one-shot or pluck type of sound.
However, if we want to go deeper with our midi, we can do thing such as create chord clips.
That way, we can see what they can sound like with different synth presets.
For example: in the blow image, we’ve created clips for various types of instruments in the chord of C major.
Note that the clip itself does not necessarily have to have instruments and effects on it, as it can just contain midi information.
This means that you can have bare midi clips in your clip library, which you can then load onto any instrument track in a session, as seen below.
As you save more and more clips, you will spend a lot less time opening various different instruments looking for that specific sound you need, and more time creating music!