Creating A Full Track Out Of MP3s (Part 1 – The Lead)



This article was written by our guest contributor Eric Dubois. 

Check out the second part here (drums).

Tired of using the same instruments? Or can’t find the right instrument for the particular sound you have in your head? You want to create your own sound but just can’t get the programming of your synth or plug-in correct? Well, there is a very simple way to obtain your own sound, making it easier to translate what you hear in your head into a full record. You have two type of producers; the ones who program their own instruments in Massive or other synths; and the others who use samples.

Programming is very precise to obtain any sound you want, but very complicated if you are just beginning. Sine wave or square wave? One, two or three different signals? Which ones to filter and how?… That is a lot of hours spend and you still might not obtain the sound you want.

Sampling is very easy but you don’t have the same freedom as programming your own synth. You’ll get closer to the sound you want but someone else just might be using the same sample…

I’m going to show you how to create a full record by taking samples out of your favourite MP3s! From the lead to the drums!

In this first part we will create our lead synth out of one note pulled out of the hottest song in the moment!

Here is how it will sound once we are done:


 Building a lead out of your favorite song


For this example I love the sound of the synth on Major Lazer’s record “Lean on” produced by Diplo. I want to use that sound, tweak it and turn it into a full instrument. If I just sample the part I like, I am restrained by the melody of the original song. Yes I can chop it up, pitch it up or down; but I don’t have the same creative freedom as playing one of Ableton’s Instruments on my midi keyboard. I want to recreate that freedom…

Create a new Midi track and just drag and drop your mp3 directly on to the instrument section.

It’s as simple as that.


Drag and drop the Mp3 file directly to the rectangle box at the bottom of your midi track. Not on your timeline.



 The file is automatically loaded in Ableton’s Simpler instrument.


We now need to select the specific part of the song we want to use as an instrument. If you play your keyboard without finding the specific part, you will play the whole song every time you hit a note…

Use the two triangles on the right and the left of your audio waveform to select the specific section you want. You can zoom in and out by clicking on the waveform and maintaining while you drag your mouse up or down.

Expert advice: In order to obtain the best quality and sound for your new instrument select a note or section with no drums or any other instruments in the background. For this example, the intro is perfect!

Make sure to be very precise in marking the start and the end of your sample. While selecting, I like to tap notes on my keyboard to hear the start point. This allows me to pin point the perfect part of the song I want.



 I have selected the very first note of the song.


And there you go! You can already play your new full instrument. But let’s tweak it a little more to make it different than the original and more playable!

Expert advice: The notes will not be correct! Don’t be surprised if you play an E and hear an F#. Use the Transposition option to tune your instrument. You can either do it by ear or using Ableton’s Spectrum analyses.


Making it your own


First I am going to pitch up the sample an octave (+12st).

 I am also going to use the filter to eliminate some of the frequencies I don’t want. In this example, I am going to use a Band Pass 24 at around 1khz. I am also going to boost that resonance to around 3 or 4.



Play around on your keyboard while you are tweaking to find the perfect sound. That’s what I did! There is no trick in knowing these values, I just played around until I found the sound that I wanted. In the sample I used to create my instrument, there is a lot of low frequencies that I wanted to cut out. This filter section acts exactly the same as an EQ (with a little extra that we will see later on).


I find the attack and release a little hard… I’m going to raise the attack to about 25 to 30ms and the release to around 1,67s.


Attack: Time needed to travel from the initial value to the peak value. (acts like a “fade in”)

Release: Time needed to travel to the End value after a Note Off message is received (acts like a “fade out” after releasing the note on your midi keyboard)


Ok it’s sounding pretty good but we’re not done yet! I’m going to add an LFO to the filter to get a little more movement going. Turn on the LFO section and for this example I put the rate on “sync” (little note sign) and set it to 1/6. Once again be creative! Play around and find what you love!


LFO settings


Go back to your “filter” section and raise up the LFO to about 9 or 10. Play around with the velocity and frequency again to see if you can’t find a better spot for the LFO.

 Here is how the Simpler looks once done:


Final settings for Ableton’s Simpler


Going a little deeper


Lets add little more colour and presence to our instrument! There is one trick I like to do and it’s to add Ableton’s Chord Midi effect in front of our instrument. By simply adding some octaves (one at +12 and one at other -24 to get some bass!) it will fill up your sound, make it more present and colourful.


Ableton’s Chord Midi effect


It is sounding pretty good but I am going to show you one more little secret! It’s true we have done a lot of modifying already but there is always more! This secret is called “Layering”. It is the same principal as layering tracks but this time we are going to layer several instruments on to one track! This is very easy in Ableton live and it’s a great trick to add some texture and more personality!


Maintain the “shift” key and select our Simpler and Chord effect. Now do this simple shortcut “ctrl+G” to Group them together. You can also right click – “Group”. This will create what Ableton calls an Instrument Rack.


After using the Grouping option


Inside this Instrument rack we can add more instruments to play at the same time! You need to open the Chain section of the Instrument Rack. To do this just click the “bullet points” icon on the far left of the instrument rack. It should look like this now:



Perfect! Now let’s duplicate the Simpler we just created. Click on the Simpler, Maintain ctrl while dragging it over to the Chain section. And Voila! We just added a new instrument! Let’s modify it a bit once again to add more colour and personality.


I want to get some of the original sound of the MP3, to fill in the low part of my instrument. In order to achieve this, I am going to pitch the instrument back down to 0. Modify the filter to a Low Pass (LP24) and decrease the frequency to around 300 – 400hz. I am also going to lower the LFO to avoid too much movement. Here is how my chained instrument looks:



As you can see I have lowered the volume of this new chain and panned it a little bit to keep it discrete. Once again, trust your ears and play around!

Now time to add all of your EQ, Reverb and Delays to reinforce the personality of your new instrument! Amazing what we can do with just one note ripped off a killer MP3!

Here is the Soundcloud link again to hear the MP3 part I used and our brand synth. I added a basic drum loop.

Hope you enjoyed these few tricks and stay tuned for the next part where we are going to use another MP3 to create a full Drum set!

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below or email me directly! Thanks again and be CREATIVE!

Eric Dubois

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Twitter: @ericdubois_prod


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