How to use Propellerhead Figure iOS app with Ableton Live

Mixer section of Propellerhead Figure - makers of Reason, Record, and ReCycle.

I have a strange affection for iOS audio apps. I think it is largely related to the newness of the platform. Each new app seems to take the platform a step further down the digital audio frontier. Propellerhad’s Figure is no exception.

I really like the app. The interface is simple and interesting. It provides just enough functionality to tweak and tweeze the available sounds to make me happy. The app’s audio engine is built from  two of Reason’s Thor instruments and  and one Kong drum designer, which is to say it sounds great. Like most audio iOS apps it is fun, but that’s about it – generally no serious audio sound design.

With this particular app you’re locked into two bars of audio and you can’t export your sound. It is designed to have fun killing time while riding the train home from work. But what about the moment when you make a killer little groove with this app and you want to use it as the basis of your next song or as a loop in your next live set? They key and tempo function of the app allow you to do this type of sketch, but how do you get the sound out of the app? And what if you wanted to hear each track individually?

Propellerhead made a very cool mixer function (see image above and to the left). The mixer function allows the user to mute any of the three sound engines mentioned above, and it is this little gem that allows you to use this cool little time killer for actual concept design.

To get the audio from the phone I used the following signal path.

Once you have your signal path setup, open a live set and set the global tempo control at the same bpm as your Figure song. Next create three audio  tracks and name them drum, bass, lead. Once this is done you simply mute the two tracks you don’t want to record and record the remaining track to your Ableton session. In the picture above I have muted the bass and lead track and I am preparing to record to my drum track in Ableton.

Individual Figure tracks recorded into a clip with loop in and out points set in the sample editor.

Next you want to begin recording a new clip in Ableton and then start the playback in Figure. I let Figure play through the 2 bar loop about 3-4 times to ensure I could easily identify the beginning and end of the loop both visually and audibly. Once recorded to a clip you adjust your loop points in the Sample Editor window of live. Do this for all three loops respectively.

Once this is done, you can trigger each loop individually, add effects, and continue sculpting your sound. Thats it.

The app will run you a whopping buck in the app store and in my opinion, the sound quality and functionality are well worth the spend. If you want a fun little app to make a legit loop then check out Figure. Coupled with Ableton, this little time killer can become a viable loop creation tool.

Below is the quick little loop I made in just a few minutes. I simply launched the scenes you see in the image above.

[haiku url=”” graphical=”true” title=”Figure demo”]

Making Loops: Software

Let’s be honest.  Who hasn’t wanted to have complete studio in your house?  I know that I have.  Since I bought my first USB recording interface (which was a Tascam US-122) I have had a dream to own a complete Pro-Tools HD rig with keyboards that slide out the wall and everything.  With the recent leaps in software and hardware, companies like Avid, Ableton, and Propellerhead are quickly helping people make that dream come true.  On top of that it’s becoming more affordable as well!

The Players

With the recording industry and music production business shifting toward smaller studios and home production, the innovative qualities of the available software has become outstanding.  Programs like Reason, Ableton, Logic, and Pro-Tools, are now accessible to the masses at a very affordable prices (some even in the LoopCommunity store).  These programs can help any musician or producer, beginner or expert, produce a great mix or final product. Let’s take a look at a few different programs and what they offer:

Propellerhead Reason

Probably the most popular program (thanks to bands like David Crowder Band) is Reason. With the newest release of Reason 6, this almost seems like a one stop shop now (and if anyone would like to donate to my Reason 6 fund feel free to purchase a loop or two 😀 ).  My first copy of Reason was version 3 and it has come a long way. In version 6, with the integration of the Record product, the user really has a full studio at his fingertips.  The new ability to record audio and a new masterfully done mixer, anyone can now create until their hearts are content and never leave the Reason rack. A great addition to Reason the multitude of available refills.  You can realistically create almost any sound with one refill or another.

Reason isn’t without shortcomings however. One down-side of Reason is that if you create different short loops for verse and chorus it is very diffucult to switch between them live. Reason is really more of a full track based program when using it live.  Although, if you are a beginner to programming or just want to try something new Reason is the program for you!

Ableton Live

Enter Ableton.  Ableton is a more complex program that requires more knowledge of MIDI to tap its real potential.  While I have not really sunk my teeth into all that Ableton can offer, I do know it can do almost anything. Ableton is the perfect tool for layering different sounds or using several short loops in a song in a live setting.  You can start and stop loops or even record a live loop while you are playing. I typically use Ableton to run my loops that have been created in Reason.  If we are using several songs that have tracks I will only need one screen with Ableton.  If you are like me and use Ableton only in live settings then the lite version is all you’ll need.  It’s called Ableton Live Intro (side note:  Be sure to enter the Loop Community contest to win a FREE copy of Ableton Intro.  Seriously, who doesn’t love FREE software!).


Between Reason 6 and Ableton you can cover just about every need you will have.  But if you are like me, you want to learn it all.  Hello Pro-Tools!  Pro-Tools has probably made the biggest leap of any software.  Going from almost exclusively in professional studios to being accessible to every home producer.  This program can incorporate anything and has endless possibilities with editing, mixing, MIDI, recording, integration with other programs, mastering, and third party effects.  Pro-Tools can be a daunting program, but to someone who does a lot of chopping and cutting while editing this program can be a great tool.  It offers one of the best editing windows I’ve seen thus far.  I have found it easier to play with some effects, like a reverse, in Pro-Tools.  It can be done in Reason but I find it easier to work to in Pro-Tools.  An example of a track I created using pro tools is the song “Let it Shine” by All Sons and Daughters.

Try Them Out

Software is a great help for any programmer or music producer.  I try to vary what I use to give my creations the sound I hear in my head.  The program you use is really going to fall on what your personal preferences are and your style of creating.  All of these tools are fantastic resources.  Every one has it’s own set of strengths and weaknesses.  My only advice is to give them all a try, you might be surprised how much you enjoy a different program.


About the author: Anthony Kidd is a band leader at People of Mars Hill in Mobile, AL. Describing himself and his work he says: “I love creating music. Hearing something in my head and being able to create makes me happy. I am simple but I love complex. I try to create a simple complexity in all of my tracks……does that make me weird? I am weird I also am greatly humbled that people would be willing to invest something into music that bounces in my head all day.” Be sure to check out some of his tracks on his contributor page here.