Working with sound is, for many of us, the experience that attracted us to working with computers. Field recordings can be the best way to get close to sound – you’re attached to sounds you’ve found in the real world, you’ve experienced and collected, even if you transform them into something very different in production.

Nick Maxwell of the excellent Nick’s Tutorials Ableton Live production site shares some free explorations with us, complete with downloads you can reverse-engineer the instruments and play with the topics the video cover. You can also use these in your own work, royalty-free.

I really like some of the work here, from a kitchen knife to a found sound bass. Here’s Nick:

“Icy Shimmer” Effect

In this video, I use a few field recordings of a kitchen knife being unsheathed as well as a door closing as the layers for the eventual sound effect.  Basic things like reversing the waveforms, filtering , panning, and retuning are employed.  I also go beyond that into some more interesting stuff like using a grain delay, simple delay, and an autofilter to create a little effects section to further realize the sound.


Two Drums Created From Samples

In this video I use field recordings to create a kick drum as well as a snappy percussion sound. Some of the techniques include pitch and filter enveloping, working with non-zero crossings to create an interesting attack for your drum, layering samples, and more.


Jungle-Bass” (2 Parts)

In this video I use field recordings to create a bass patch that might be used in a Jungle or Drum’n’Bass production. I go over some basic intermodulation between LFO’s, describe the Saturator effect’s controls, use the morph parameter to create an interesting filter curve, and more. Additionally, I show two effects that were released with Live 8: The Limiter and the Frequency Shifter.


  • RCUS

    and nobody commented on this one why? great info! apparently everyone is working on their APC photoshop funny and somehow missed the awesomeness here!

    i just went through the found sounds tutorial and it gave me some great ideas; but most of all gave me some focus on approaching sound design. Ableton lends to that sandbox mentality, so anything that focuses me to a small section of the sandbox is GOLD in my book.

    I will watch the others for sure, thanks again.

  • Really really nice.

    But the Jungle Bass Project is an empty zip?

  • Well spotted Peter, Nick's tutorials are great.

    I think I slightly got on my wife's nerves when checking the Jungle-Bass videos though. She was sitting across the room wondering What's that noise? What ARE you doing?! What IS that noise?!!

  • Thanks for the nice words, guys.

    @RCUS: Had a good laugh over your APC Photoshop comment. That thread seems to be getting more attention at the Ableton Forums than anything I've seen in a long time 😉

    @Gijs: Thank you for bringing that to our attention man. Here's the new link: Jungle Bass

    @ronnie: Many apologies to your wife, sir. I used to put my wife through similar torture until we decided it would be better I have a studio to myself 🙂

  • nice work again Nick. Keep them coming.

  • RCUS

    +1 on that!

    Nicks Tutorials has been officially added to my bullpen of morning train ride iPhone browserism. I'm way better than DJ Jungleboy at browserism for sure.

  • RCUS

    Oh yeah, hey Nick, any recommendatios on field recording gear. Are we looking at one of those stereo image handheld doohickeys, or do you have another suggestion for portable recording devices? Mics and such are definitely not my expertise.

    By the way, to all, I think recording your gf/wife is probably a good idea for a field recording too! "what IS that sound!!?"

  • hollsa

    hey nick, and here's another nice word for ya, again. i am still making may way slowly thru your fab tutorials. i would prefer the spock mind meld but i just have to slog onward.

    🙂 cheers!

  • Nice one guys, thanks for that 🙂

    @RCUS: I am using the Edirol R09-HR which has a stereo mic built right onto it. I'm far too lazy to go looking for fancy external preamps and mics, so I wanted something that would do the job by default. The R09 has performed well above-par in this respect, and I couldn't recommend it enough. The Zoom H4 gets rave reviews as well.

  • Some superb tricks and information in these tutorials, cheers Nick.

    I would like to say that personally I haven't used either the Zoom or Edirol recorders, but I'm getting smashing recordings out of my Tascam DR-07. In fact I've never had to be so careful about noise floors before – it's tremendously sensitive!

  • RCUS

    cool. looks like i will add one of the two to my wishlist! my APC is on its way (taking the loong way) but the Edirol and Zoom are looking like a reasonable priced recorders. some neat accessories to buy too, although i wonder if my Goby tripod would work. sweet, i can totally go ghost hunting for EVP's now too…(dude…… what wuz dat, you hear dat?)

  • if you wanna play further with sounds i suggest looking into dummy clips. mainly because dummy clips can be unlinked (meaning phased looped automation) and they are relative to the controller parameter, so if you make a rack with a grain delay and map up two parameters and automate them they sound like so, but if you then start to twiddle the knob(s) while playing back the automation some very interesting things can happen. oh, and they are ofcourse clips, meaning that whatever you can do to a clip in live, you can do to a dummy clip aswell 😀

  • that comment was aimed at rcus btw heh.

  • Good call, gbsr, dummy clips are fantastic!

  • Pingback: kodama.pixel » Blog Archive » Who Writes This Crap?()

  • Pingback: musikgear » Blog Archive » Ableton Live 8 toturiel avec Nick Maxwell()

  • parhelic

    You've sold me in Sampler…thanks for the tips Nick!

  • We run an 8 week course in Ableton Live Sound Design, check out these videos to get an idea of the course and the tutors behind it –

    Take a look at the course page aswell –

    and get in touch with us if you have any questions or need any info