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Ableton FlexGroove review

A new Max For Live tool from Martin von Frantzius promises to bring unconventional rhythms to Live

  • £29
  • €39
  • $49
Ableton FlexGroove review
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

FlexGroove lets you manipulate rhythms in a way that’s hard to achieve with Live’s core tools. A very handy, creative add-on

Pros

  • Makes it easy to manipulate MIDI rhythms on the fly.
  • Can easily create extreme syncopation.
  • Export To Clip lets users bounce out patterns.

Cons

  • Max For Live only.

What is it?

Adding ‘groove’ to your drum rhythms in Ableton Live has long been a bit of a mixed bag. 

On the one hand, the Groove Pool is a great tool for applying rhythmic variety to pre-programmed beats in an offline manner, but without a global ‘swing’ control – as is found in some other DAWs – Live has always been lacking a way in which to fluidly play around with swing, shuffle and syncopation in a quick and easy way.

Step forward FlexGroove, the latest Max For Live pack, developed by Martin von Frantzius and distributed by Ableton. 

As its name suggests, FlexGroove is a tool for manipulating the timing of MIDI patterns, with results that range from subtle shuffle to completely off-kilter rhythms. It consists of three elements: a probability-based Pattern view, a curved Timing sequencer and the Swing Engine.

Results range from subtle shuffle to completely off-kilter rhythms

The Pattern element of FlexGroove is a pretty straightforward step sequencer, with the ability to set the velocity of individual steps along with a probability level for adding a randomised element to grooves.

Laid on top of this is the Timing window, which is FlexGroove’s headline feature. In its default state, this offers up a continuous automation curve with six markers that can be dragged around to manipulate the speed at which the Pattern sequencer cycles through its steps.

(Image credit: Future)

Performance and verdict

The length of the sequence itself remains fixed whatever timing changes are made – ie, a one bar pattern remains one bar long, however much you manipulate its timing. Rather, dragging a marker upwards around a specific step will cause the steps around it to bunch up as the sequencer rushes through these steps, causing a corresponding slow-down elsewhere.

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(Image credit: Future)

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Along with this freehanded timing mode there are five other automation types. The first four of these are set shapes, for setting ascending, descending, sine and half sine timing modulations. The final mode sets a smooth transition between two tempo ratios – eg, shifting from 3/2 at the start of a pattern to 1/5 at the end.

FlexGroove’s final tool is its Swing Engine. Here users can set a certain number of steps, then adjust the level of each step in contrast to the other in order to create swing offsets. At its most simple two steps can be offset slightly to introduce a classic shuffle, while at extremes it can really throw a groove off-centre.

There’s a lot of fun to be had playing around with FlexGroove, and it can perform several functions not easily achievable using the core tools contained within Live Suite.

There are several handy features included to speed up creativity too, including preset patterns for each of the three tools, user pattern saving and an Export To Clip function, which will bounce creations out as a MIDI clip in Live’s Session view. It’s set up for use with Push too.

Being a Max tool, FlexGroove is available to Max For Live or Suite owners only, and can’t be used away from Live, but its £29 price reflects that. A highly recommended add-on for Live users.

MusicRadar verdict: FlexGroove lets you manipulate rhythms in a way that’s hard to achieve with Live’s core tools. A very handy, creative add-on.

Hands-on demos

Complex Messiah

Ableton

Specifications

  • Type: Max For Live MIDI effect
  • Key Features:  Pattern, Timing and Swing sequencers
  • System requirements: Live 10 Standard (version 10.1 or higher),
    Max for Live 
  • Size: Installation 12.67 MB / Download 8.6 MB
  • Contact: Ableton