You’ve got tons of devices that let you tweak sounds of synths and effects with knobs. So why not warp time, too?
That’s the idea of FlexGroove, the latest add-on for Ableton Live and Max for Live. Just as you use envelopes and breakpoints to control volume or effects parameters elsewhere in Live, this tool lets you go in and speed up time, slow down time, and transform groove and meter just as easily.
Even as a big believer in words (words rock!), that is something that screams out for a demo. And once you hear this, you’ll get right away why you might want something that does this:
Speeding up (accelerando), slowing down (deccelerando), expressive give and take (rubato), and meter changes are essential building blocks of music in a wide variety of genres and cultures. So on some level, it’s weird that they tend to be hidden in machine music interfaces, in hardware and software – or at least relegated to working on just a master tempo track.
That said, putting them into a dedicated device like this means you can treat these elements in a focused, compositional mindset. And device creator Martin von Frantzius, a composer and musician himself teaching in Germany, has pulled out all the stops.
So you get six timing modes, each with its own presets:
- Free time (drawn in with breakpoints)
- Sine/half sine curves
- Ratio – (which lets you do metric modulations)
And there’s a built-in pair of step sequencers, plus controls for humanization and velocity, plus probability.
Basically, you fire this up, then output real-time patterns – or, if you choose, spit out clips for later arrangement. I think for composers, someone adding excitement to a score bed, creating a dynamic break/drop in dance music, and otherwise spawning a ton of more interesting clips – it looks seriously addictive. Or anyone can use it like an instrument, a kind of groove effect.
(The one thing you can’t do is directly control master tempo, but the existing Live Arrangement does let you do that.)
And it should also cure you of the dreary feeling of a bunch of on-the-grid monotonous and unmusical clips in your Session View. I just now got the NFR, but this looks worth 39EUR to me.
For more on the specific application of shifting tempos in electronic music, check out the interview Ableton did with Telefon Tel Aviv back in October. (It also comes with a free Max for Live device, though not related to this technique – you can use it for making low-frequency sounds and custom kicks.)
It’s easier to see his Max patch in action in this video:
Got patches of your own, or favorites from maxforlive.com? Let us know! The more time-warping devices, the merrier, really!
And it’s great to see Ableton continue to use ableton.com as a kind of label for creative Max patchers.
Check out Martin’s page for tons of interesting teaching and engineering and violin and composition projects, like an online church-organ you can play, and — this, for more experimental time-bending with violin: