How do you import OP-1 tracks into Ableton?

I had my share of frustrations with Ableton which made me ditch it in favor of Reaper. However, today I watched From Dawless Jam To Finished Track with the OP-1 and I was like okay, maybe I’ve been doing it wrong the whole time and I decided to give Ableton another try.

So in the video Jade creates four audio tracks, switched to compose mode and drags OP-1 AIFs into separate tracks. I tried to do the same and the results are… disappointing. :frowning:

I started with setting project BPM to the one that I used in OP-1. I dragged AIFs into separate tracks. Ableton analyzed each file and decided to give it some random ass BPM. I had to go through each track and click on the “Warp” button twice for Ableton to properly set the BPM.

Alright, I hit play and I noticed all the tracks have been shifted in time by varying amounts. I don’t know what’s happening, so I remove all tracks and start from scratch.

I drag the tracks into the compose view and to my surprise, each track has been cut to remove the silence from the beginning, which means the overall tracks structure bears no resemblance to what was on OP-1.

At this point I gave up and decided to ask you.

This whole Ableton experience was so mind-bogglingly complex compared to Reaper, where I just set the BPM, drag the files on tracks and was essentially done. :frowning:

Before you warp and unwarp, make sure you extend the tracks on the beginning fully first. Ableton sometimes leaves some of it off for whatever reason. Then drag them so they all begin on a down beat together. Then warp and unwarp. Should get you going.

u can turn that auto warp stuff off in the preferences…makes it not such a mystery.

GCF, what do you mean by extending the tracks?

I’ve had the exact same frustration as the OP (original poster, in this case).

Here’s a wish for a proper YouTube video that shows the best workflow.

I mean clicking and dragging on the start of the clip and making sure it is to the full start of the track. Sometimes when you drop it in, it clips some of the silence at the start of the track.

Okay, I think I’ve figured it out. I’m on Ableton Lite 9.7.4.

Importing OP-1 tracks into Ableton

1. Go to Ableton preferences, then “Record / Warp / Launch” section.
2. Turn off “Auto-Warp Long Samples” and “Create Fades on Clip Edges”.
3. Open up a new project and set the project BPM to what you had on OP-1.
4. Remove the two MIDI tracks and add two new audio tracks, you should end up with four audio tracks.
5. Switch from the session view to the arrangement view (press Tab).
6. Drop your OP-1 tracks into separate tracks in Ableton. Drop them at the beginning of the arrangement, they should line up to what you had in OP-1.
7. Over the tracks there’s the scrub area. On the scrub area there’s this Loop bar with the start and end points. Drag the points to where you want the first clip to start and end.
8. Click on the Loop bar. This should select all tracks.
9. Press Cmd + E or right click on any wave form and select “Split” .
10. Drag the split sections and press Tab. Drop them at the appropriate tracks. This will create new clips.
11. Great, now the only thing left is to double click on each clip, then press “Warp” and “Loop” and set the loop position. Ableton hopefully set the BPM of the clips to the project BPM rather than some garbage BPM taken from nowhere.

If you want to split only a single track, instead of manipulating the loop bar, you can simply click on any waveform in the arrangement view. This will create a vertical line on the track and when you split (either Cmd + E or right click and “Split”), it’ll split only this track.

You may want to experiment with the “Fade” button for each clip if you hear weird clicking noises at the end/beginning. Why did I tell you to turn off automatic fade on clip edges? Because I think that when you work on a song on OP-1, you’re already aware of how any given track sounds like when it’s cut into parts which are then lifted and dropped, so you want the clip to be as close to what you’d have in OP-1.

Working with clips from OP-1 in Ableton

The approach

There’s a couple of things to remember when you’re recording stuff on OP-1.

1. OP-1 is not always 100% precise with setting the correct clip length. For example, when you stop recording just before the end of a bar, the given clip will not fill out the whole bar and after you cut and paste it a couple of times, you’ll see that the end of the last clip doesn’t line up with the end of a bar. Just be aware of it, otherwise the looped clips in Ableton will sound different than what you had on OP-1.
2. What you record in tape is sound, you don’t have midi notes like in Ableton.

These two things combined pose some problems when moving tracks from OP-1 into Ableton. In most cases you can’t just take the first bar of a track and loop it, since it won’t sound good or natural.

To work around this, I prefer to record one long clip for each instrument on OP-1 (except for drums, unless I have a super complex pattern) and then split the clip into three sections. The first section is the start, which is how the instrument sounds like when it starts (duh). The second section is what I call the “repeat section” – this is how the instrument sounds like when it repeats the pattern for second time, it includes the sounds from the first loop that are still ringing out. The last section is the end section, which is what you want to have after you decide that you want to end a given pattern. Without this section, you wouldn’t be able to “ring out” the instrument during mixing and it would just awkwardly stop. Perhaps you could work around it with some effects, but idk, this seems to sound better in most cases.

Of course this approach adds a lot of additional work. I usually lift the end sections, spin the tape forward and put them there.

Making it work in Ableton

In Reaper, I’d usually copy each section as a separate “clip” and paste it where necessary. So usually the start would be at the start, then the repeat section duplicated a couple of times and the end section at the end.

In Ableton however, a clip is something that you loop most of the times. Having three separate clip sounds cumbersome and tbh if that was how things are done, I don’t know if I’d consider switching from Reaper. However, I figured out how to go from thee clips to two clips.

For each clip, it’s possible to set a start time, the loop position and the loop length. Usually, the clip start is equal to loop position. In our case, we want to start with our first section and then loop the repeat section over and over again. To do that, we have to set the start time to the beginning of the first section and the loop position to the start of the repeat section. This way Ableton will loop the second section instead of starting again from the first one. This is similar to how OP-1 loops sampled sounds.


1. How would you deal with playing the end section in Ableton? I haven’t figured out a better way than to create a second clip just with that, but I guess it’s going to be a PITA (especially in Ableton lite where you can have limited number of tracks and scenes). Also, it doesn’t really play well with the concept of Ableton clips.
2. Does my approach make sense to you? Is there a better way to get the same results?

I’m probably going to create a separate thread for those questions, but maybe someone will answer it here first. :wink:

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Checking if loops are precise

I wasn't sure if the loops in Ableton are going to be accurate, so I made a small experiment. I took a bar from a track in Reaper, duplicated it a couple of times and exported the result as a WAV file. Then I made a clip out of the same bar in Ableton and looped it the same number of times and exported it to WAV as well.

Then I took both files, dropped them into Reaper and inverted one of the tracks in phase. The result is that for the first bar, there's silence, but after the first bar I can hear some imperfections (which of course become bigger if I duplicate both tracks a couple of times). However, I believe that in the context of the DAW of your choice, the clips are still going to be precise, so in the end it shouldn't matter.

Dealing with loop tails in Ableton

I found a thread on Ableton forum about that. However, my friend told me about his approach and it seems to be even better than everything suggested in that thread.

In the arrangement view, create a separate "clip" for the last repeated pattern and manually change the end time of a sound. All clips except this one will be basically loops and the last one will play the tail of the instrument.

The only problem with this approach is that the tail has to be immediately after the end of the loop in the waveform. However, maybe it's possible to experiment with Simpler or some sample editors to work around that – especially since I said that in my approach I usually cut the tails and move them somewhere else.

Update: in the arrangement mode, before you drag a new clip to the session mode, you can rearrange it completely, that is split the long clip into multiple ones and then reassemble it in some other order. This way you can add the ending that were moved somewhere else on OP-1.

I just drag them to audio tracks in arrangement mode and it works easily.

Set the bpm of ableton the same that you have your op-1 tape files to. drag them into arrangement view. this should let you separate all your tracks with every section being basically perfect in time(unwarped). these sections can be further arranged back and forth between session and arrangement view. Since it’s not using destructive editing you can change beginning and end points in arrangement view. Session view is more useful after you’ve separated things in arrangement view.