Properly Subdividing the Click in Ableton Live


ableton_live6_logoAbleton Live is becoming more and more popular with Worship leaders and churches because of its ease of use, and its ability to adapt to what you want it to do.  It’s so easy to open the program and plug in a few tempos, drag in a few loops and your good to go.  The only complaint that I’ve gotten from people that have used Live for a while (myself included!!) is that there isn’t a built in option to subdivide the click out of the box.   In this article we are focusing on how to effectively Subdivide the click in Live.  We will look at the process and steps to solve a few problems associated with the issue.

#1) Double the Tempo

Subdividing the click in Live is simply a matter of basic mathematics.  If your at 60 bpm then the space between each click is pretty big. When your playing a song in 60 bpm this means its harder to stay in time because of the gap between each click. If you double the tempo (now 120 bpm) then you hear double the amount of “clicks” which will make it easier to lock into the tempo.  At 60 bpm you would count it (1,2,3,4). At 120 bpm it would be counted (1,&,2,&,3,&,4,&).

PROBLEM: If you throw in a Loop it will play too fast.  Your tempo is now 120 but the loop is still set to play  @ 60 bpm.  This problem can be quickly solved…

#2 Double the Tempo of the Loop

If you speed up (Double) the overall tempo then you must also double the tempo of the Loop.  This will allow Live to play the Loop at the Doubled Tempo and it sounds like the normal tempo. This is easily achieved by clicking “Double Original Tempo”.

Double Original Tempo

This will now play the loop at the proper tempo. The loop may sound choppy and if it does then simply just change the warping mode to “Complex” which will clean up the sound of the loop.

Complex warp mode

PROBLEM: The problem is that if you trigger the loop it will fire too early.  By default in Live, loops are set to fire on the next downbeat of one after you trigger the loop.  So you can click to fire the loop anytime in the measure before you want it to come in and it will come in on the next measure.  If you have doubled the click then live is treating (1&,2&,3&,4&) as (1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4). So if you fire the loop on 2 it will come in on 3 because Live sees that as 1 of the new measure.  This problem can also be quickly solved…

#3 Double the number of Beats in the Measure

If your playing a song @ 60 bpm and you double the click to 120 (to get eighth notes) You need Live to start treating 120 bpm as a measure of 4/4 and not two measures of 4/4. (1&,2&,3&,4&) not (1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4).  The easiest way to solve this problem is to double the number of beats in the measure.  Instead of playing 120 bpm in 4/4 we will play 120 bpm in 8/4.  This means that each click we hear, Live will treat as an eighth note and not a quarter note.  So now Live is finally treating the click as (1&,2&,3&,4&).  This will give us a subdivided click with Eighth notes and Quarter notes and if we fire the loop it won’t come in until the next downbeat of one.

8/4 measure

This won’t cause any problems, as long as you double your tempo and your loops.  This will allow you to effectively subdivide the click.  Here is a quick overview of how to do it that you can use it for quick reference.

Quick Overview

#1) Double the  Tempo (i.e. 60 bpm to 120 bpm)

#2) Double the Clip’s Tempo (for loops) (via. Double “Original Tempo button”, you may also need to switch to “complex” warp mode)

#3) Double the number of beats per measure (Now all the clips will fire and function just as if you were in 4/4 with just a quarter note click)

The functionality of Live has now been improved  by allowing you to subdivide the click and Live will still function as normal.  You will find that for the slower tempos this option will be huge and improve your bands ability to play with loops at slower tempos.  So try it and watch the band get ever tighter.