Ableton Erosion – How To Use It To Enhance Mixes, & Sound Design

Ableton Erosion is a stock plugin included with a copy of Live, that distorts your audio signal by modulating a short delay with a filtered noise, or a sine wave. This creates a digital sounding distortion, which sounds a lot like a bitcrusher.

Erosion has 3 different modulation modes:

  • Noise – this modulates the audio signal using a noise generator.
  • Wide Noise – this modulates the audio signal using 2 noise generators, from left and right channels & creates a more stereo distortion sound.
  • Sine – this modulates your audio signal with a sine wave.

This tutorial will explain what Erosion does, and how you can use it to improve mixes and sound design sessions.

How To Use Ableton Live Erosion

ableton live 11 erosion 808

To use Ableton Erosion, all you’re going to do is:

  1. Open up an Ableton session
  2. Find Erosion in the Ableton browser
  3. Drag it onto your desired audio track
  4. Alter the settings to taste

Ableton’s Erosion has 4 different knobs you can change the settings for:

  • Mode – this let’s you switch between the different modulation modes. You can choose from Noise, Wide noise, and Sine.
  • Frequency – this changes the frequency of the Erosion effect in Hz.
  • Width – this changes the stereo width. It doesn’t work with sine.
  • Amount – amount is the amount of modulation applied to your audio signal.

Using Erosion To Make Your 808’s Slap

Erosion can be used for loads of things, and really helps to accentuate specifically the highs of an audio signal. This can sound great on hats, snares, & other bits of audio you want to sound raspy.

My favourite use of Erosion, is using it on 808’s to bring a high end fizz to them. This allows the 808 to become more prominent in the higher frequencies.

(really useful for 808s becoming audible on shite tinny speakers on phones, laptops etc)

Depending on the context of your track, this can work exceptionally well. I tend to use Erosion on my 808’s 9 times out of 10 because it sounds awesome.

The wide noise is my favourite to use, but you can use either and I would encourage you to play around with the different settings.

808 without erosion
808 with erosion

To add this effect, you’re going to want to open up Ableton Live Erosion on your 808 channel. This can be a sample, synth or whatever you’re using. For this, I’m going to be using a sample.

Then you’ll want change the modulation mode to wide noise.

ableton erosion wide noise

Wide noise adds a little bit of stereo width to your 808 in the higher ranges. This means it won’t make your track sound muddy, and gives your bass sound a really awesome dimension like sound.

Some people might tell you that bass should never be stereo, but what they mean by that is that, sub bass should never be stereo. So anything below 60Hz should be in mono. Anything above is fine to have in stereo, and can give your bass extra dimension + presence.

Move the frequency slider to around the 11.4kHz region, then put the amount up to anywhere between 30-50. This entirely depends on your sample and taste, so don’t be afraid to use your ears and mess around with the settings.

ableton erosion frequency

Then you’ll want to change the width. The width will widen the frequency range that the Erosion is affecting. We’re going to put ours at 0.73.

Now you should have a present, raspy 808, that sounds so much better than it did.

When you’re applying this effect, you don’t wanna go too overboard with it. You just want to add a little amount in to give that 808 a bit more of a raspy sound. I would usually stay between 0-120 on the amount knob, but use your ears.

Using Erosion To Add Weight To Hats

Erosion is also a really useful tool to add a bit of thickness to your hat loops/drum channels. Sometimes hats can sound a bit too thin.

The amount of Erosion you’d use on hats is minimal, and just acts as an effect to accentuate a certain frequency range.

hats with erosion
hats without erosion

To do this, we’ll pop an Erosion effect on our hats, use the noise modulation option, then put the frequency to anywhere above 10kHz.

You’ll want to play around with this setting in Ableton Live, to really dial in you sound and get it how you want it.

Then you’re going to put the amount up slightly. Notice, if you go above 15, it will start to sound grating to the ears. We want a tiny amount to add a bit of depth and thickness to our hats.

If we add too much we’ll lose the clarity, and they will become a wall of digital sound. Add anywhere between 5-10 (on the amount setting), on Ableton Live Erosion.

This will add some underlying distortion (or Erosion), and make your hats sound a little bit thicker.

Summary

To recap: Ableton Erosion is a stock plugin included with a copy of Live, that distorts your audio signal by modulating a short delay with a filtered noise, or a sine wave. This creates a digital sounding distortion, which sounds a lot like a bitcrusher.

Ableton Live Erosion is an incredible effect that sounds much like a bitcrusher. You can use it on pretty much anything, but I personally find 808s and hats to be exceptionally good to add it on.

Open it up next time you’re in Ableton, stack it with some other FX, and get creative! That’s what music making is all about 🙂