Adding Ableton to the Mix
By Steph Jorgl
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Richie Hawtin has been spinning and mixing records for over 20 years. But like many who have already proven their mastery of a given art, Hawtin recently decided to move beyond just the realm of vinyl, and into using computer-based, BPM-warping tools namely Ableton Live rewired into Pro Tools HD to expand his options for creativity.
The globe-trotting Hawtin took some time out to speak with us from Berlin and share some tips and tricks that he used to record his latest record, DE9 Transitions, and tracks for his other project Plastikman.
Ableton Versus Turntable Speed Warping
I found that I can use Ableton Live to quickly try out ideas of what will work together with different loops and different sounds from different songs, explains Hawtin. Once I had some sort of idea, I would bring those tracks into Pro Tools using ReWire, and upgrade the sample and bit rate to 96K. I do that just to give it a little bit more clarity and have better processing on the effects and such. So deejays dont just rely on their BPM-warping minds these days!
Ableton Live is a great application, coming from the live performance angle, he says. Its very intuitive to try out different ideas and just experiment. Most of my career, as a performer or recording artist, has always been about using technology, plugging things in, letting things run and seeing what happens. I was never a big fan of planning everything out too much. I like having lots of possibilities for accidents. And Ableton is great -you can load it up, and then just start to play around and have fun and not get lost in the program. You can actually have fun making music and seeing what works together so thats why Ableton was perfect for outlining the basic structure of DE9 | Transitions.
It was also great because I could grab it on a laptop and take that laptop out with me on my performances, he adds. That way I could play some stuff out, mix it into Ableton, try things out and see how they worked on a crowd. So by the time I got into the studio I had a good idea already of where I was going with the album.
Tube Trix in the DJ Mixer
Everything Hawtin does gets processed first through a customized Allen & Heath V6 mixer. I have some Manley and other really high-end Discreet and Solid State hardware, but this DJ mixer is the best sounding thing ever! explains Hawtin. Its not cheap its a couple grand. But I had a modification done to it by the Allan and Health guys. Its the full version and now every output stage has a tube on it but I also have special sends and returns so I can actually use it either as a submixer or just send something into it, through the tubes, and then back out.
So he uses his DJ mixer in the recording process, to send in records that need to be re-encoded and, in some cases, digital files that he wants to process. Ill run through that to warm it up a bit, he adds. When youre doing a project like this, its important to either retain or re-input warmth into some of the tracks, or it would just become a conglomeration of digital files.
Next page: Recording Records with Pro Tools