I’m spending today working with my friend Haj (of Sub Swara) on his new Ableton Live setup, and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly you run out of knobs on even the most well equipped controller. One of the advantages of old fashioned hardware mixers and synthesizers is that the interface is already designed and the limitations of the system are presented to you. You adapt to it. When faced with the limitless options offered by software/hardware configurations we have to decide what the limitations are going to be.

Today, we’re going to look at one way to optimize a controller: by using a single knob to do more than one thing. In this case, we’ll create a custom Auto Filter rack that allows us to adjust both the frequency and resonance with a single knob.

Start out by adding a plain old Auto Filter device to a track. Now perform the following steps:

  • Right-click in the title bar of the Auto Filter and use the Group command to put it into an Effect Rack.
  • Make sure the Macro knobs are showing (using the show/hide switch at the far left).
  • Switch the Auto Filter into high-pass mode

You should now have something that looks like this:

The next step is to map both the Frequency and Resonance controls to Macro 1. First, right-click on the Frequency control and select “Map to Macro 1” (see below).

The Resonance is the control directly below the Frequency (marked Q). Right-click to map the Resonance to Macro 1 as well. (It has been temporarily renamed “Frequency”).

Now, turn Macro 1, and you’ll see the frequency and the resonance simultaneously change. Nifty.

The problem is that for most purposes, the range of the Resonance is too extreme. When the macro is turned hard left, there’s too much low cut, and at hard right, the bump in resonance is too high. This is controlled in the Mapping Browser. To get there, hit the Map Mode switch and make sure the Browser is open (see below).


Notice that the Mapping Browser allows you to specify a the range of values for each mapped control. Change the resonance Min and Max values to 0.70 and 2.50 as shown below:

Try sweeping the macro knob now, and you’ll find that we’ve made things a bit smoother and subtler. There’s still more work to do on this one, so we’ll return to it tomorrow…