ForumsNews ← Better workflow for Aalto

I was making a little music with Aalto over the holidays. I was trying to set up a flow where I could just tweak the knobs while recording audio out of Aalto, and record a lot of tracks that I would just mix together to get the finished piece. But, as you may have found, this is easier said than done! I have ideas on how to make things better.

Tweaking while recording

One problem is that the main DAWs don't let you record audio while tweaking knobs of a synth or effect. Logic has a real time bounce, for example, but locks out control changes while it's going on. Live won't record audio out of a synth unless you are in render mode.

One workaround is to use Numerology from Five12. It's great for on-the-fly sequencing and tweaking, and will let you record audio while you do this. It's a little less than ideal in that the audio is all sent to automatically-named files that you have to sort out later. But in even allowing recording while tweaking it offers a cool feature that the big DAWs don't. The drawback for me is that it's not the environment I want to mix in.

I checked out Reaper and did not get far enough to decide whether this would be a good solution for live recording. I could deal with learning to mix in it if it offered this capability. Anyone tried this in Reaper?

Finally, one solution might be a simple record button in Aalto. But I try to avoid adding things that the DAW should be doing well. Anyone up for writing a DAW this year with Live’s ease-of-use and timing, Logic’s MIDI implementation and Reaper’s efficiency?


Another problem with the flow as it stands is resetting Aalto back to a patch at the start of a loop or arrangement. I'd like to set up one patch, do a take of knob-tweaking, and then automatically have Aalto recall a previous patch or saved state back at the beginning to set up the same jumping-off point for exploration. This is a little difficult now.

One way to do it, currently, is using MIDI program automation. Aalto 1.3 added the ability (underdocumented, currently) to switch programs via MIDI program change messages. See here for details. So, you can make a patch, save it to the "MIDI Programs" directory, and record a program change message in your DAW of choice. This is fairly easy in Logic, and in Live looks clunky but possible. There's an extra step of saving a patch, though, every time you want to define a new starting point. Not ideal. Maybe I don't care about the patch in general but just as an element in one song.

Resetting the patch is also needed to make the flow sort-of-good in programs like Live and Logic that don't allow control changes. An offline bounce (much faster than real time) after each tweaking pass may not be a bad price to pay for recording in my environment of choice, and so I can simply record the parameter change data---but the reset is also essential here.

There are a few ideas I have for a solution. One is to add a menu choice "broadcast all parameters." This would do what it says, allowing parameter automation systems to capture the entire state of the plugin. I think that with more than 100 parameters, though, this might overwhelm the capabilities of the DAW, and would certainly make a mess of the param menus.

A refinement of that idea is to have two menu options, one to say "start keeping track of what parameters I changed," and another to reset only those changed parameters. This would definitely work, the only drawback is a little added complexity. You would still need to be careful to save your song with all the params at their initial states!

I'm happy that Aalto 1.3.1 is very solid after the 1.3 shakeup, and I'm looking forward to working on some of these workflow details now. I welcome your suggestions!

@Sanne.... this works as expected for me in Live 9.7.4 / Mac OS X.
i.e. in arrangement , start record, it tracks all changes, when you switch presets it records the new values, and subsequent changes...
and no need to hit rearm automation.
(it works identical in Aalto as for other plugins e.g. u-he diva/ace )

one thing you do need to be careful of, is when you do playback, you must start aalto in the same state as you did when recording ... which Randy in his OP alluded too.

you can achieve this in one of two ways

  • use a program change on the recorded clip (MIDI Programs folder)
  • when you start recording, switch to your starting preset (and hence save all automation values)

as fars as I see this achieves what you want... i.e. start recording, select preset, alter values to get a nice sound, repeat many times... then use playback, and find the place you liked... stop, and hit 'save preset as'

note: when you do playback it will NOT change preset name, this is because ableton is as such recording the preset change, just recording the values of the preset.
... btw: i didnt try changing presets via Program change messages, Id assume that would be recorded. (though you'd have to be careful between sessions to NOT change your program ordering )

@randy, I dont think aalto needs to track changes, surely this is exactly what DAWs do with automation, why replicate the functionality... the only thing id prefer, is an easier/quicker way to assign program changes. perhaps just assign to existing presets into different banks/programs #. (rather than copying presets around)

hi sanne,

i know what you mean about the 're-enable autoamtion' kicking in when changing presets. one way that this could be avoided is if aalto had the option to 'lock out' its parameters. then you would just need to set any automated parameter to 'locked' so it wouldnt jump when switching presets. u-he's instruments have this and it's very handy and works great for just this scenario.


hi technobear,

as you say, there's no problem IF you keep recording while changing presets. but if you are wanting to change presets on an already recorded looping clip, that's when the problem arises.

Hi Randy,

regarding: "One problem is that the main DAWs don't let you record audio while tweaking knobs of a synth or effect. Logic has a real time bounce, for example, but locks out control changes while it's going on."

in Logic just send the instrument track to a bus and create an additional audio track with that bus as input. You can record Aalto's output this way in realtime whilst turning knobs without having to use the bounce functionality.

I do the same thing in Samplitude that others have described doing in Live (and probably other DAWs): routing the output of a VST on one track into audio recording on another track. Then the impact of my real time knob tweaks (which I do using the Novation Ultranova as the controller, because it has 8 knobs each of which has a LCD display telling you what it is) gets recorded in the audio track. AND the midi information gets recorded in the original track. AND you can draw automation curves for any parameter as well, before recording.

I made Automaps (controller map files) for the Ultranova for Aalto, Kaivo and Virta. They include nearly all the parameters of each synth. Help yourselves here

I really like the clarity of the audio quality in Samplitude. And, there are things about it that I find confusing. Which I guess makes it a typical DAW.

So nice to see everybody sharing pointers and solving problems together.