Splitting frequencies in Ableton Live

Splitting Frequencies is an important element in getting a fat ominous sound.  Spreading the sound in the stereo field without losing punch, adding FX chains to different bands. It's all possible with frequency splitting. Imagine using a bass line or other bass heavy sample in a project. You might wanna lose the rumble but excite the mids adding more harmonic content. Adding more harmonics is easy with distortion but you don't want the rumble to get excited too.  By splitting the frequencies over 3 bands you can add any FX chain to your Low, Mid and High Bands.

In Ableton this is really easily achieved via the Audio Effects Rack. Simply click on chain By clicking on the middle (striped) icon. Now you see the panel where you can set up the different chains. When you frag and drop a Effect a new chain is being created. Once the chain is in place you can in turn drop more effect on the individual chains.

Use the Rack as a 3 bands EQ

Drop the Multiband Dynamic or EQ on there. Repeat this process 2 times. This is the foundation from where you can start splitting the frequencies. By adding a EQ Eight or Multiban Dynamics to each chain you can completely control which frequencies are being passed trough. Set them in such a way that you won't create any artifacts; meaning you don't want the bands to overlap. Reader Bert commented the most accurate way to achieve this is by copying the exact frequency values for the cutoffs into each instance of the EQ's. With the Multiband Dynamics all you need to do is solo each band - Hi, Low, Mid.

Make sure to Solo each band When using the Multiband Dynamics

It's also a good idea to add a utility plugin on the low and high channel. Setting the low band to mono and the high band on wide. Leaving the mid channel on stereo.  (100% merged - 50 -50 % or 100% separated). In utility this translates to 0% on the bass chain and 200% on the high chain. This will create a bigger wider sound, without losing the punchyness in slow waves.

Time Savers

It's a big time saver. And, maybe even more important (and indirectly another time saving aspect) it stops your projects from getting cluttered and you'll find yourself bouncing less sessions over a longer period of time.

So go and enjoy the split loveliness.

19 Responses

  1. eldoogle

    Does “Setting the low band to mono and the high band on wide.” mean turning down the width of the low to 0% and the width of the high to 200%?

    • Durk

      Yes, that’s correct. Load utility on every chain except the mid. Low 0% high 200%

      • eldoogle

        When I put the high to 200%, no sound comes out when I solo the high. Is it supposed to be like this? Thanks for answering my last question.

        • Durk

          Sorry, read this last one just now. At 200% you have panned it outside of the stereo field so to speak. Hence the gain knob. This is to compensate for the fact the sounds are moving a away from the listener.

          Hope this helps~!

  2. bert

    is it best to just copy the exact frequency values for the cutoffs into each instance of EQ then and presumably the curves will sort out the balance…

    ie: if low is cut back to 250Hz.. add a high pass at 250 for mid, with same Q

    • Durk

      Excellent tip Bert. (included the tip in the article)

  3. i dont get it, so what do we put it on? a send channel? the bass track itself??

    • Durk

      On whatever channel you want to frequency split.

  4. nick

    perfect!!!! lovely tip!! with amazing results!!! thanx durk once again!! :))) !!!!

  5. Jeff

    thanks a lot, this really clarified this for me.

    do you also do a high pass on the low end to leave room for the sub? Also, I’ve seen a lot of people who notch out the 250 – 300 range, would you consider having the low end at 250 and the mid start at 300, so you don’t have to notch those frequencies out?

    • Durk

      Sure if the track has a separate sub layer. I’d only only dip the 200/300 range if you have a reason to leave space in the mix(like a making room for a snare) and the full spectrum is being used (no headroom for anything else)

  6. Mew

    Durk –

    First of all, thanks for the tutorials… They’re absolutely great. I really appreciate the time and you spent putting them together.

    Regarding this frequency splitting technique: I’ve been doing something very similar, but using Multiband Dynamics instead of EQ8.

    I set the low/med/hi crossovers on Multiband Dynamics and then duplicate it 3 times, soloing the respective bands in each instance.

    I use Multiband Dynamics because I read somewhere that the slope on the crossovers is steeper than on EQ8… However, seeing you use EQ8 has made me question my methods, because at this point you are unquestionably a better producer than I am.

    So what’s your take? Is Multiband Dynamics really a better way to achieve this effect, or am I kidding myself?

    Thanks again,

    Mew

    • Durk

      Hey Mew,

      Cheers – Tbh I use the multiband dynamic too – It’s mostly because it’s nice and fast. EQ-ing allows more control – kind of like parallel compression/eq-ing in a way. In the end it all start with the source. Get that right and it does not matter if you run it trough Multidyn or EQ8. The difference is that a linear cut(read mulitbands solo-d) will prevent any anomalies and overlaps. If thats what you want is a different question ;)

  7. Chris

    Durk, when I grow up I want to be as good of a producer as you! I watch your tuts at least a few times a month and the techniques you present have steered me to grow a lot and learn Ableton along with FL studio.

    When splitting bands do you split them all by the same frequency ranges? Or do you tailor each channel to the sound your working on?

    Also, when re-sampling do you run the sample through the same splitting parameters to double the width of the stereo image or is that only done once per track?

    I get nervous bouncing out my midi arrangement in fears of running into problems later down the road, your insite is most valuable.

    Cheers!

    -Chris

    • Durk

      Splitting needs to be done linear – pralell processing is best done with overlaps and less hard cuts. Sometimes multiband splitting works with gaps in the freq spectrum, sometimes it makes it sound “boxed”. Adjust by ear is al i can say. ;)

  8. Excellent! I was trying to figure out how to do this… don’t know why I didn’t think of it.

    I’m using this technique on my percussion group, with a compressor sidechained to my kick on the low band. Now I can use low frequency drums with my kick and not have to attach a compressor on each one. In my song template, that means I can freeze my drum rack now! Yay!

    I’d like to point out that you can split the audio more than 3 ways if you want by adjusting the frequency ranges on the Multiband Dynamics accordingly.

    I would also recommend making a template of the entire effect rack :)

  9. Brian

    Never thought about using the Multiband Dynamics to do frequency splitting. The way I do it is to open the Audio Effect Racks folder, and under Bass amp there is a rack called “Bass – Split Chorus”, this uses EQ’s on separate chains. However, I’ve modified mine to have the utility plug-in on the chains, as you’ve mentioned here, and removed the chorus on the low end that’s part of the standard preset.

  10. When I first started I noticed that, “boxed in sound,” which I hated. I sometimes just split into two bands. Experimentation is key and I would agree, use the ears. Found this vst on gearslut forums.

    http://www.delamancha.co.uk/fr33some.htm

    • Durk

      Nice!, cheers for the link. I have their FM synth which is a very nice piece of freeware too!

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