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How to use Ableton Beat Repeat to keep your loops interesting

ableton
(Image credit: Ableton)

Loops are great. Working with loops gives you a quick way to create music, or form the foundations for a track, but loops can get boring quickly. Is there an easy way to keep short loops interesting every time?

Ableton Live’s Beat Repeat is an often overlooked tool, probably because it can sometimes create predictable results. With a little tweaking, however, we can turn it into a powerful tool for creating variation and interest in loops.

We’ll make use of Beat Repeat’s Chance control to automatically slice the beat up based on a set probability, so that each cycle of the loop ends up being slightly different. We’ll also set up some control over how often the effect will automatically rearrange the beat.

We’ll start by configuring some basic values for the Beat Repeat’s controls then create multiple copies to affect different parts of the bar. We’ll group everything into a Rack and map a Macro control to adjust the probability of slices occurring, then save it all as a preset to reuse in future sessions.

This technique works particularly well for drums, but can work equally well on all kinds of material.

ableton

(Image credit: Ableton)

Step 1: First, load Beat Repeat onto the track you want to affect. Set the Output Mode to Insert, Gate to 4/16, Grid to 1/6 and Chance to 50%. Make sure all of the other settings match the image.

ableton

(Image credit: Ableton)

Step 2: Next, duplicate the Beat Repeat using CMD or CTRL + D to create four copies. Adjust the Offset control of each Beat Repeat so that you have the first Beat Repeat’s Offset set at 0, second at 4/16, third at 8/16 and fourth at 12/16.

ableton

(Image credit: Ableton)

Step 3: If you listen to your audio now, the effect should already be doing its thing, but let’s give ourselves some control. Select all four devices, then press CMD or CTRL + G to group them to a Rack. Right-click on each Chance control and map to Macro 1.

ableton

(Image credit: Ableton)

Step 4: Use the Chance Macro to adjust how frequently slicing occurs. Set up Macros for other controls if you’d like, then click Save Preset to save your Rack. Experiment with adjusting things like the Gate and Grid controls to see what other results you can get.

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