5 advanced sample manipulation techniques in Ableton Live

Sample manipulation is one of the trendiest music production techniques of our time.

The idea is that we take an existing sample with interesting timbral qualities, and transform it into something completely different. There are many ways to play with sample manipulation in Ableton Live and other DAWs, so in the tutorial video above (also summarized below) I decided to put together five of my own favorite methods.

If you’d like to follow along with the samples I used in the video, you can find all of the sounds here.

1. Exploring the Clip View and warp modes for percussion / drums

1. Find a sample you like and split it into shorter slices (approximately 1/16 size). Then, copy and paste this short sample several times to create a rhythm on the Arrangement View.


2. Use the Transpose option in the Clip View to make some of the samples lower or higher in pitch. This will emphasize the groove of the rhythm you’re making by creating elements like ‘kicks’ and ‘snares.’


3. Try using the Complex Pro and Texture warp modes to change the timbral quality of the samples. There’s no right or wrong way to use these modes, as every sample is unique. If you’re confused with what the warp modes are and what they do, you can see me explaining them in more depth here.

4. You can now duplicate the rhythm for another bar and then consolidate the samples together so that you have one solid sample left. Now, use the tools at your disposal to further manipulate this sample – transpose the whole thing up or down in pitch, halve the playback time, etc.

2. Using Simpler to make chord progressions

1. Add Simpler to a MIDI track and drop in a cool sample of your choosing (vocals are great if you want to make a chord progression).

2. By using the Classic mode to create an instrument suitable for chords, you can:

  • …limit the sample using the flags in the Sample View, so you’ll get a nice and even sound.
  • …loop-to-sample so you can get a continuous sound with an interesting character.
  • …add fades and beginning and ending points to create a rhythmic, pulsing effect.
  • …use the filer, the three available envelopes, and the LFOs (especially the wave shapes) to change the sound of your instrument.

If you’re unsure about how Simpler works, check out my tutorial where I explain all of its features in simple terms.

3. Making hi-hats (and other rhythmic elements) with Groove Pool

1. Open the Groove Pool and drop a rhythmic sample (like the one we created with the first technique) into it.

2. Drag-and-drop the groove you created to a cool sample that has a consistent rhythmic identity (like the turkey sound I used in the tutorial video).

3. Use the Groove Pool settings to quantize timing and make velocity changes to your liking.

4. Split and copy a piece of the original sample, and drag-and-drop it to replace the current drums.


Watch this tutorial if you want to learn more about Groove Pool and its features.

4. Creating movement with sample envelopes

1. Add a short sample to the session that (ideally) has clear transients.

2. Go to the Clip View and open up the Envelopes view.

3. Use processes such as Transpose, Grain, and Flux (to access these you need to activate the Textures warp mode) to draw envelope modulation curves for the sample.


5. Using Wavetable to convert samples into synth sounds

1. Add the Wavetable instrument to a MIDI track, activate Oscillator 1, and drag-and-drop a sample into it. Choose a wave shape from the right side of the wavetable, and set the volume of the oscillator using the fader on the left side.


2. To create a bigger and fuller sound, also activate Oscillator 2. You can add another sample there or use the Collections to choose from preset waves.

3. Go to the Modulation Matrix and adjust the modulation options to create movement and timbral changes.


We hope you enjoyed this brief guide showcasing some sample manipulation techniques. Was a particular trick particularly helpful? What would you like to see us cover next? Let us know in the comments below.

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September 10, 2020

Liina Turtonen Liina 'LNA' Turtonen is a music producer, songwriter, and performer who creates content on the audio production YouTube channel ‘LNA Does Audio Stuff.’