How to Create Instruments from Found Sound in Ableton Live

In the below tutorial Ableton Live Instructor ELPHNT shows you how you can use found sound to create uniquely textured instruments that you can play on your keybord. Since these sounds are very organic and coloured, they serve as great starting point for creating lo-fi samples.

The problem with found sound is that it usually doesn’t have any specific pitch to it. They do have certain frequency ranges obviously – and in these ranges is a particular frequency that will generate a note which we can use to create our sound. So let’s look how we can get that note with native Ableton devices.

Finding a Note in Found Sound

First we add an EQ Eight device to our audio track and enable any of the eight bands. We set the Q to the highest possible settings, so we can really hear that narrow frequency and not all the other information around it. In this tutorial we are setting the frequency to 440Hz, because tuning to 440Hz is a musical standard. This frequency represents the note A3, so by setting this frequency we are extracting the note A3 from our found sound.

Initially you might not hear anything particularly interesting, but once you increase the gain you should hear the note emerge – but only very slightly. To make this more apparent, duplicate the EQ Eight to achieve another 15db of gain at the same frequency and you should definitely hear a tone now.

If the balance between note and found sound is off, you can either duplicate the EQ Eight again or double the frequency. Doubling the frequency adds a note an octave above, so in this case 880Hz gives us A4. Because we are consistenly adding devices to boost the underlying note, you need to watch your levels. Keep an instance of Ableton’s Utiltiy plugin at the end of your chain, to keep your levels in check.

That’s it for this step – now write it to an audio file by freezing and flattening the existing track.

Creating the Instrument

Next grab the native Ableton Sampler device and add it to a new Midi track. Drag & Drop the sample you just created to the Sampler and set the root key to A3 since that’s the note we emphasised in this found sound.

Voila! You can now play the sound chromatically on your keyboard.

Watch the full tutorial

For more insights into this process of creating instruments from found sound as well as downloading a ready to use instrument rack, check out the full tutorial courtesy of ELPHNT below.