American guitarist Anthony Pirog is defined by his versatility. A virtuoso reared in the crucible of blues, jazz and rock, Pirog shifts shapes with a battery of pedals and a protean technique. His debut long player Palo Colorado Dream pegged Pirog as something of a guitar hero in waiting, but he’s not the type to rest on laurels or resort to tried and true sounds. Looking for something more, Pirog found a world of possibilities in Live’s Audio to MIDI function. Whether he’s using his guitar to layer analogue synths or trigger arrangements, Pirog’s story is a case study in using technology to breathe new life into the familiar.
What got you on to the idea of using Audio to MIDI? Was there an initial point of exposure?
In March of 2013 I was working on my debut Palo Colorado Dream. I was working on post-production at a studio called The Brink, and I felt that my guitar tone wasn’t all that I wanted it to be. Doubling the guitar parts with synths added great textures, but getting the two to gel wasn’t so easy. It sounded like two musicians performing with personalized feels. I simply wanted to beef up the tone of my guitar in certain areas.
Ableton Midi Out
Enter Live's Audio to MIDI function. I didn't own Live at the time, so I downloaded the free month-long trial version, imported my guitar performance and converted it to MIDI. I immediately checked out the MIDI recording of my guitar track using one of Live’s internal synth sounds and was thrilled that it matched the human, rhythmic feel of my performance from the session. This opened up a whole world of new possibilities using sound combinations. The owner and engineer of The Brink, Mike Reina, who co-produced the record with me, has an amazing collection of vintage analogue synthesizers. We started sending the MIDI tracks that I had extracted from Live to a few key synths, especially a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 and a synthesizers.com modular synthesizer.
While the synths aren't always the sound on display and definitely aren’t overpowering my guitar part, they added extra warmth and sustain that completely enhanced my live guitar performances from the recording sessions. I was so excited to have the option of fading in synth parts that exactly matched my guitar playing.
Computers, synthesizers and MIDI aren’t usually thought of as organic tools. How do these fit into and enhance your style, one that is marked by an unadorned aesthetic?
I've been listening to music with synthesizers for a long time. Synthetic textures are always options that I can consider whenever I'm tracking in the studio. While I was in my early teens I made the distinction between the recorded document and the live performance and felt that they didn't have to be, and in some cases could never be, the same. My plan for this record was to track my trio – with Michael Formanek on bass and Ches Smith on drums – live over the course of two days and then spend time after the initial meeting to produce the tracks into something more than a simple live studio meeting. My idea was to focus on the space around the recorded sounds and make them sound very cared for and not just laid down. Even though I’m considered a jazz musician, I listen to a lot of indie rock and there’s a lot of synthesizers in my favorite current recordings. That piqued my interest and spurred me toward incorporating synthesized sounds on my record.
Was there much of a learning curve when you started working with this set-up?
Using the three Convert modes, you can take a section of a sample and play it back with your own sounds. This week in our Ableton Live Tutorials video, Liam O’Mullane shows us how to use the Convert to MIDI options in Ableton Live 10 to transform our audio clips into MIDI data, which we can then. This is video 4 out of 4 in my Ableton Live 9 Beta series which shows how to use the different Convert Audio to MIDI features in a creative way to start a song or track. This one explains how you can use these features explicitly the wrong way to achieve interesting and unexpected results. Live can receive either MIDI Clock or MIDI Timecode (MTC): MIDI Timecode is the recommended option if the external sequencer supports this, as MTC has a better resolution. However, MIDI Timecode does not transmit any tempo information. You'll need to set the tempo manually in Live to match the tempo of the master sequencer.
It was quite easy actually. There wasn't a real learning curve at all. I imported my guitar's audio track and simply hit the button that converted it to MIDI. The conversion wasn’t perfect but extremely impressive. I had to clean up the MIDI track a little because it picked up on some overtones and missed a couple of notes. The conversion translated the rhythmic aspect of my performance perfectly, so fixing the few off notes was a simple matter. After that was done it was like 'Voila, the MIDI world is now yours!” I was actually blown away by the workflow and results. I plan on using this tool on the drums and acoustic bass for the next record. There’s a lot of potential here.
So what’s next after layering? What else do you want to achieve with Audio to MIDI?
My next goal is to become proficient with using my guitar as a MIDI controller for live performances and various recording situations. I’m not the greatest keyboard player in the world so having the possibility to control MIDI and soft synths with a guitar is a very exciting and inspiring prospect. For me, the mixing of guitars and synthesizers can be aesthetically dangerous territory but I’m very much looking forward to seeing what I'm able to do.
Keep up with Anthony Pirog on his website.
In today’s post, I am going to show you three ways you can transform Midi into audio in Ableton live.
Method 1: Resampling
In Ableton, you can capture audio from any track you would like, and record it. Making use of that ability, we can record the output of a single track to a new track. New ableton push app. Then if it is too our liking, we can delete the original.
Step 1: Create A New Audio Track
This can be done quickly by pressing Command-T
Step 2: Set the Audio from, to receive audio from the track you wish to bounce in place ( Transform Audio to Midi).
Step 3: Record the audio into your newly created track by record enabling that track, and pressing record.
If the audio is to your liking, you can delete the original tracks. Or you can disable them by selecting them and pressing the number key “0” for future editing.
Method 2: Render Selected Tracks
Another way to transform Midi to audio, or to combine multiple tracks into one track, is to make use of Ableton’s export audio feature. It,s export audio dialogue is quite comprehensive and allows you several different options for what it can export.
For our purposes, we will be exporting only a single track, and it will be whatever you select.
Pro Tip: Make sure your Bit Depth is set to 32. This will render an audio file without adding any extra noise
Step One: Select the track you wish to bounce in place by clicking on the track name, then select the range you want to export by clicking on the timeline and dragging. Your results should be as follows.
Step 2: Press Command Shift R to open the Audio Export Dialogue Box.
Step 3: Choose “Selected Tracks Only” from the Rendered Track menu (the very first option at the top).
Step 4. Click Export
Step 5 drag the newly rendered audio back into Ableton, and line it up where it belongs in your arrangement.
Method 3: Freeze and Flatten
Freeze and flatten feels the least labor-intensive of the three options. There is one major downside however: You cannot flatten a track that has a sidechained effect on it. So if you are rocking some sick sidechained kick drum or anything of the like, this method is not going to work.
If your track is not side chained to anything, this is a totally viable and relatively quick method of bouncing in place.
Step one: Right mouse click on the track of your choice and choose “Freeze Track” from the dialogue.
Step two: After your track has finished freezing. Right mouse click a second time, and choose, ” Flatten”
Once it has finished flattening you will be left only with your new audio!
I’d love to connect with you personally! So come join my facebook group and connect directly with me and a whole community of Ableton learners who can help you on your journey. In addition, you can book a private lesson with me using this link!
Free Audio To Midi Converter
I can also be reached at my contact page here.