Creating Pads From Vocals In Ableton Live

In the second part of our 4 part 'Creating The Sounds of Jon Hopkins' series, we delved deeper into the production process, showing you how to create pads from vocal samples.  By combining the organic tones of the human voice with some super easy processing, we're able to create sprawling landscapes and pads that will set you apart from the crowd.

Not seen part 1?  Check it out HERE

In this video / article, Rich shows you just how easy it is to create detailed, textured pads from vocal samples.  



Adding samples into Abletons 'Sampler' plugin. 

Ableton's sampler is an incredibly powerful beast.  By dragging any audio file into the plugin we can create a sampler that can be triggered by MIDI.  We using a loop from our Ethereal Harmonies pack which show off our favourite female vocal loops)

Below is a vocal sample that I dragged into the sampler (You can download this & The Ableton Rack at the bottom).



If we just trigger the sample it will only play the sample once then end when the vocal sound stops.  To provide an endless loop this is what you do:

  1. Set the sustain mode to forwards & back.  You'll find this under the 'Sustain Mode' section.
  2. Drag the small playheads from the start of the loop into the middle - this is our looping section (see below).
  3. Increase the loop 'Crossfade' to your desired length.  This is the amount of time it will spend cross fading before it starts to loop back int the coloured area.
  4. Now we have the sample in loop mode, try pressing a few keys on your keyboard, this should trigger the loop and it will endlessly loop whilst the midi note is played.


Modulating Your Sample In Sampler

Across the top of the sampler are numerous tabs that give us options for modulating, this area is perfect for adding movement when creating pads from vocal samples.   This is what I did:

  1. In the 'Osc' section, I turned on the oscillator and set the 'type' to noise.  This has created a noise oscillator which will be triggered by the same MIDI as our vocal sample.
  2. The envelope on the left will control how long it takes for the noise sound to kick in.  I've set mine very slow.
  3. The volume of the oscillator is set low as to not overpower the sample.



Adding Reverb & FX 

Now we've got our sample looping it's time to add some reverb & FX.  BY starting with Ableton's stock reverb we can add depth and movement, placing the sound into a world of its own. 



Tip: Try using the filters and chorus section in the reverb - these dials can create great movement and sound design changes. 


Using Max4Live's LFO To Modulate Reverbs

An often overlooked tool is Ableton's LFO Tool - found in the Max4Live section.  This tool allows us to modulate anything inside Ableton from the volume of a channel to the size of a reverb.  IN this example we' re slowly modulating the room size by 6.3%.  As the reverb is digital, this creates really strange abstract textures, elevating the pad into something new. 


Ableton Echo - Grab Those Harmonics 

As we all know, I love the Echo plugin.  This incredible delay not only offers traditional delays but also has a great sounding pre-amp, noise & modulation section.  Try using this at the end of your chain to add more movement, interest and texture to your newly created vocal sample pads. 




There you have it, a swift but comprehensive guide on just how easy it is to create pads from vocal samples.  You can download the vocal sample, Ableton FX Chain &  Drum Loop featured in the video HERE