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Create a Huge Build-Up using Ableton Live Cutoff Filter Automation

December 21, 2020

The heart of a great dance track is it’s marriage of build-ups and drops. In this article we’re going to take a look at how you can use automations in ableton live to control a low pass filter to create a huge build-up.

I’ve created a MIDI clip using the built-in “Tower Pad” to create this atmospheric synth sound. To help create some rhythm, I added a 909 kick playing on each beat, a classic four to the floor.

Ableton Live - Tower Pad

I’ve chosen to use the Tower Pad as it comes with a cutoff filter as part of the synth. The same automation technique still applies if you opt for using a separate cutoff filter.

To get started with automation, you’ll need to enable it under
View->Automation Mode

Ableton Live - Enable Automation

You can also use the keyboard shortcut “A” to enable automation, but if you’re using the computer MIDI keyboard you’ll need to disable it first.

Ableton Live - Computer MIDI Keyboard Toggle

Switch your view to arrangement mode and you’ll see a red dotted line running across the track. This line represents the level for the currently selected automation.

Ableton Live - Automation Level

You can control what will be automated by selecting options from the “Device Chooser”, and the “Automation Control Chooser”.

We’re going to select our Tower Pad from the Device Chooser.

Ableton Live - Device Chooser

And the “Filter Cutoff” parameter on the Tower pad from the Automation Control Chooser.

Ableton Live - Automation Control Chooser

Now, using the automation level on the track, create a new point at the start of the track at around 200Hz, then another point at the end of the track at the very top. This will cause the automation to start with the cutoff filter at 200Hz, and slowly increase all the way up by the time the track has finished.

Ableton Live - Automation Cutoff Increasing Over Time

In the example track, I’ve also included a 909 kick and some sidechain compression on the Tower Pad to give it a bit more of a dance vibe. I’ll cover sidechain compression in a future tutorial.

Once again, after following along you should get a build-up that sounds like this!

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