Ableton Live 8 is here, and by now, you’re like familiar with some of its banner features. But we wanted to learn more about how features could be used in creative, new ways, or even misused. I sat down with Ableton’s Dennis DeSantis in the Ableton office here in New York to talk about some creative applications of new Live 8 features, starting with groove extraction and quantization.

Dennis is the right guy to consult when it comes to rhythm: he’s a talented composer, a classically-trained percussionist, and a founding former member of the ground-breaking Alarm Will Sound ensemble, which plays music from Varese to Aphex Twin. (Dennis himself was responsible for some of those Aphex Twin remixes.)

In part 1 of our 3-part series, Dennis looks at ways in which groove extraction can be used as a powerful dynamic quantization tool. That was always my hope for Live, going back to very early versions; it was incredibly frustrating that you had only limited, mechanical-sounding “swing” features that couldn’t be controlled. To some, Groove Extraction may simply mean copping specific grooves from samples, but it’s actually capable of dialing in a custom groove with real ease.

In part 2, Dennis shows how a similar technique can bring a simple percussion pattern to life, replicating the sorts of organic variations that happen with real players.

See also part 3 for alternative techniques with the Frequency Shifter – tune percussion with this effect instead of getting the usual metallic special effects.

These are “power features,” capable of a wide variety of results, but they’re also accessible enough that anyone could easily learn to use them. Have a look.

Incidentally, the audio is a bit odd as we recorded this on St. Patrick’s Day, and even twelve stories up, the shouts on the streets in Manhattan made it sound like the French Revolution was happening below us.

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