Quantization is the process of taking the things you input into the program and snapping them to certain time so that they fit with the rest of the music. The most common use for a form of Quantization is when you trigger a loop or sample, Ableton waits until the next bar (or whatever your quantize setting is on) until actually starting the loop. This means you can trigger a number of loops one after the other, and know that they will always start all together in the right place.

You can change the Global Quantization settings by using the dropdown menu situated to the right of the main navigation controls. By default, this is set on 1 Bar, so if you were to trigger a loop it would wait until the start (first beat) of the next bar before moving on. However if this was set to 1/4, it would wait just one beat of a bar (or just one quarter of a bar) before triggering your loop.

This is good if you have a lot of short samples that you want to trigger fast, but still in time to the beat of the tune. For this example I am going to use the free live pack of Heaps Good Strong Board, which can be downloaded from www.TomCosm.com.


In this tune, I have a 4 bar bass loop called Main, which can be found in the Techy Bits track.

This 4 bar loop has lots of different stabs and glitchy hits, and I wanted to be able to trigger any one of these on the fly so I could do quick edits of the bassline.

To do this, I created 16 duplicate copies of this loop, and changed the start point of each one so each loop started on a different sounding hit.

The way I did this was insert a blank scene after the clip, and copy/paste the original clip into the new blank scene (and give it a different color/name).

Next I moved the starting point (little forward triangle) forward to the next visible hit in the waveform so that the loop will start on a new sound.

Once complete, I repeated this 16 times so I had 16 versions of this loop, all starting in different places, with the first loop in the series being the original loop.

Now the fun part! By assigning each one of these new loops a key on the keyboard (by clicking Edit Key Map from the Options menu, clicking on the sample, and pressing the key you want to trigger it with), fast little edits can be done by mashing the keys, but first we need to make sure the Global Quantization setting is set on a short increment, such as 1/16, so it waits for the next 16th beat instead of until the next bar. The shorter the Quantization, the faster the edits can be.

This approach can be used not just for basslines, but for drum beats, synthlines, anything that has rhythm!

Bonus Tip #1

Instead of changing the Global Quantization settings to a short value so we can do edits of the bassline, we can assign the clips a custom Quantization time, leaving the Global Quantization as it is. To do this, highlight all the clips that you want to have a fast time, and open up the Launch box down in the clip view (a little circle with an L in it).

In this Launch Box, we have a Quantization drop down box, open this up and select 1/16th (or whatever setting you like).

Now these selected clips will have their own special Quantization time, separate from the Global Quantization. You can keep the Global on 1 Bar so that all the other loops in your tune stay synced up in bars, but the quick edits can still be done.

Bonus Tip #2

If you are recording a new MIDI clip by inputting notes using a keyboard or other MIDI controller, chances are you aren’t going to hit every note exactly on time.

A quick way to snap all the notes that are wrong into time is to have the clip open, and select Quantize from the Edit Menu.

A box will pop up giving you options to define how the notes will be quantized. You can define the smallest increment a note will snap to (1/16 is pretty fast, only use 1/32 if you have some really fast notes!). You also have the option to quantize the Start and/or End of the notes as well, while defining how much quantization to apply with a percentage value.

If you want the Quantization to happen automatically after every time you record new MIDI notes, select a value from the Record Quantization menu under the Edit Menu.

About The Author
Tom Cosm
Author: Tom Cosm

Tom Cosm is an Ableton Certified Trainer and live electronic music performer from New Zealand. You can find him on G+, Twitter and Facebook.