Willo dives into the depths of her thumping new track ‘Past Time’

Clock in to ‘Past Time’, the new single from Willo

Willo has been slowly shaping herself into one of Sydney’s go-to dance music weapons. Her sets have always been a talking point, but recently her own beats are also turning heads.

Past Time was the thumping lead single from Willo’s debut EP of the same name, and if you’ve been out dancing in Sydney since clubs were allowed to open again, chances are you’ve heard it played.

Willo was recently kind enough to share a peek behind the curtain at the Ableton Live set for Past Time, showcasing a couple of the creative decisions she made while putting this track together.

Read on for her take on the parts of Past Time she likes the best.

willo past time circle


“The piano pretty much drives the track and is the foundation of Past Time. I found a piano sample on splice that I loved. I sliced up the sample and popped it into an audio rack. This was all routed to my Ableton Push – I had already put down a drum loop so I was able to vibe out and play a new rhythm and chord structure to match the vibe of the drums, which ended up being really quick and full of energy.

I wanted to create a choppy, lo-fi sampled vibe so I added Saturn (saturation), compression, EQ, and sidechained it heavily to the kick so it would pump through the mix.”



“I designed the bass line around the piano sample, occasionally moving the last couple notes up an octave to create some variation. I’m not using anything fancy for the bass line, just a stock wavetable synth in Ableton, a bit of saturation, EQ, and drum bus to create a classic, thick Reese bass.

I automated the bass cutoff frequency to open up and close on the breakdowns to create tension, opening fully by the end of the track to let the harmonics shine through the mix and create a euphoric, complete feeling.”

Bass: MIDI View
Willo Ableton Live Bass
Bass: FX Chain


“I created most of the synths on Arturia’s soft synth Mini. It’s a replica of the MiniMoog. I had just downloaded the bundle of sounds and I experimented heaps with a lot of the presets (which are amazing), automating several parameters as you can see below. 

This is the “wah wah” sounding synth.

This keeps the melody evolving which is important for the listener – bringing life & spontaneity to the track.”

Willo Ableton Live Mini
Pads: FX Chain and Automation
Mini arturia plugin
Pads: Mini Plugin

Bell synth

“The bell sounding synth is ever changing in the song because of automation but the actual processing is very standard; EQ, saturation, sidechain. For a couple of the synths I used this plugin called ml.distance, I panned each synth to opposite sides. This helps the synths all play off each other, pushing the ear candy to the back to create room for the more important elements of the mix.

Highly recommend this plugin! It’s a free download if you have Max For Live.

Lastly, Autopan, to create more of a stereo image, allowing the synths to move around your ears.”

Willo Ableton Live Synth
Bell Synth: MIDI View
Willo Ableton Live Synth
Bell Synth: ml.distance and Auto Pan Parameters


“I recorded some vocals into my iPhone and heavily processed them – I was planning on swapping them out for proper vocals but they just worked. I was humming along to get an interesting synth melody and I ended up singing lyrics that were really fitting to the song.

Melda has lots of free plugins that are awesome – I used this autopitch/autotune on my vocal and brought the formant shift down three, essentially pitching down my voice and I pushed the width up. This created a really warped, distorted vibe that I really liked.

A touch of OTT and CLA vocals (which included pitch, delay, and reverb) added that extra ear candy to the vocal as well.”

Ableton Live Auto Pitch
Vocals: Auto Pitch

Vocal chops

“The vocal chops are my favourite element of the song because it was so fun to create. I used the same vocal to add vocal chops to highlight the melody. I popped the vocal into a sampler and did the same process as the Piano Sample – experimented heaps, changed the slice by beat fractions, pitched the vocal up and down on my Ableton Push to get a vibe for the song and where space needed to be filled.

Past Time is filled with many happy accidents, it’s raw and I think a lot of that is because I played in these sounds with the Push. By playing in notes and samples you feel where things should go rather than just placing them where they’re supposed to go… if that makes sense? Ableton users, I highly recommend a Push, they’re so intuitive when it comes to chopping up samples and you can get so creative.

I played around for like an hour until I got something I loved and finally got this cool counter melody. I got that warped “dreams” vocal this way as well, which is a really special part of the track.”

Ableton Live vocal chain
Vocal Chops: Sampler and FX Chain


“The drums were really fun to program. Basically just your standard house drums, 909s, 16th hats, rides, 909 claps, but I also sampled the famous Think drum break. The break added so much energy to the track.

I reversed it in some places and chopped it up to add variation throughout the song. I glued all the drums together with some saturation, reverb and compression.”


“Background noise really glued the old, sampled elements (breaks and piano) together with the more polished elements, like the synths, and is just essential to bringing the track to life. I found a sample online – I literally searched “people talking in a cafe” on freesound.org. It also complements the voicemail vocal.

I got rid of all the low end with an EQ letting the high end sit over top of the mix so it’s nice and subtle.”

Ableton Live drums
Drums: Arrangement and FX Chain

Listen to Past Time below, and stream the whole Past Time EP here.