How to create a DJ effects rack in Ableton

Creating a DJ effects rack in Ableton Live

Today we are going to learn how to create a DJ FX rack in Ableton Live and also how to use macros and midi mapping to control it in real time.

The idea is to reproduce an FX section of a DJ mixer, map some functions and route them to a hardware controller. It’s easy and fun!

  1. Open a new Live Set and add an Audio Effect Rack in the Master channel (Categories > Audio Effects > Audio Effect Rack):

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2. Now we are going to add audio effects sets inside the rack. Let’s start by adding an EQ. Go to Audio Effects > EQ Three:

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3. Now add two Filters – use them as low cut and high cut filters. Go to Audio Effects > Auto Filter:

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Notice that we set the first as a low pass while the second is a high pass filter.

4. It’s time for the Beat Repeat. In Audio Effects, choose Beat Repeat:

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P.S.: I have disabled the Chance feature and set the output to insert mode (‘ins’).

5. The next step is to add a delay processor. In this case, I chose the Ping Pong Delay:

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6. And finally a reverb:

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7. The first part is done; now let’s assign some parameters to the Macro buttons. We do this by clicking on the Macro menu:

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8. To assign any parameter to a macro knob, just right-click the desired function and choose “Map to Macro”. I’m doing this, as an example, to the EQ’s low gain:

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Repeat this procedure by assigning the EQ’s mid and low gains to the Macro 2 and Macro 3 buttons. Live indicates that a parameter has been assigned to a macro by displaying a green dot in the original knob:

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After assigning any parameter to a macro button, the original knob will be disabled.

9. Let’s configure the Auto Filters; I’m going to assign each filter’s frequency to a macro. So, the Low Pass Filter will be assigned to Macro 4 while the High Pass Filter go to Macro 5:

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10. The next one is the Beat Repeat. I’m assigning the ‘Repeat’ button to the Macro 6:

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11. I’m now assigning the Reverb and Delay’s Dry/Wet buttons for Macro 7 (delay) and Macro 8 (reverb):

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12. In the picture below, you can see all 8 macros identified. You can freely rename the macros so you can locate every parameter:

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13. The macro’s setting is ready. You can now assign each macro knob to a midi controller. Do it by clicking the ‘Midi’ button at the top right of the screen:

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Live lets you assign any parameter displayed in blue to a midi controller button, pad or knob. Yes, you have a lot of options!

P.S.:  APC 20 and APC 40 have dedicated knobs for Macro control. There are several midi controllers on the market with presets for working with Ableton Live.

That’s it! As you can see, it’s possible to create a DJ effects rack in Ableton Live and map everything you need, making it easy (and fun!) to perform changes in real time.

Happy productions!