• “No Wrong Notes” Is that a good thing?

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    One of the most popular features of the Ableton Push is its “scale” functionality that places all the right notes in a chosen key across the grid of buttons. This makes it incredibly easy for anyone to play chords, melodies and progressions without any music theory experience. The new Kontrol S series of keyboards from NI also unlocks countless scales and modalities for beginners unfamiliar with note structures on a traditional keyboard. At first glance, this appears to be welcome progress – but when you take away all the “wrong notes”, have you also stripped away the magic of possibility?


    First, a basic primer on music theory to bring everyone up to speed:

    The traditional keyboard contains all possible notes in the Western scale – there are 12 notes in an octave. However, most songs are in a single key, which contains 7 of those notes. This key is their “sonic flavor” and create a relative pallet which lends each key its own unique feeling. If you are playing in one key, dropping notes that don’t traditionally belong to the group usually sounds “bad” and are avoided – except in jazz (more on that later).

    When writing songs on a keyboard, a lot of time is spent figuring out the correct scales and notes to play, and which ones to avoid.  Naturally, technology companies made the logical leap: why not take away the notes that you don’t need?


    In jazz music, there are no “wrong” notes and it’s usually off-color chord combinations that provide this divisive genre with its dissonant-yet-funky energy. Not just exclusive to trios, blues and even rock and roll find new moody pallets by mixing up notes and keys to cut through the noise and convey emotion. In this amazing video, jazz band leader Stefon Harris demonstrates how there truly are no wrong notes, just missed opportunities.

    If you have followed me this far, then let’s leap a bit further into the cave of possibility. Writing music is all about discovery and listening, some of the best moments are very happy accidents that just work. We don’t know how or why, but MAN – that chord sounds so cool, play it again! If you are writing music on an instrument which has removed all possibility for error, has it not also killed all the opportunity for discovery, for accidents, for funk?



    Ok, bear with me now as we put on the spelunking gear and launch even deeper still down the rabbit hole. Evolution, or natural selection is a result of happy accidents – “wrong” things end up working better than the “normal” behavior and so that variation sticks – eventually becoming the norm until some new accident improves on the idea. We will avoid going into a full-blown explanation of natural selection on a DJ blog (watch Carl Sagan’s explanation instead here), but there is a connection. If we eliminate all possibility for accidents then how can our sounds evolve and change over time.

    Auto scale mode might be amazing for finding a melody quickly but it probably is not the best song writing tool for standing out. Instead I suggest you sit down at a piano and play some random chords without much intention or idea what is even happening. Chances are some random combination will be the most interesting thing you have written all day.



    Original post found here:



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  • How To Layer Patches Across An Ableton Drum Rack

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    Rack Patching: Layer Patches Across An Ableton Drum Rack


    Drum Rack Patching In Ableton Live

    Here’s how you set up Rack Patching in a soundpack or any type of Drum Rack:

    1. Group the Drum Rack that you’re building your soundpack with into an Instrument Rack (right-click then group, or CTRL/CMD + G).

    Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 10.29.17 PM

    2. Drop sample/patch/instrument-rack below Drum Rack in chain-list of the newly made Instrument Rack. Use CTRL/CMD + G again to group this into an Instrument Rack if it isn’t already one. Rename this to ‘Container’. This patch can be for nearly anything: bass, pads, melody, or even an 808-style kick. Get creative here!

    Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 10.33.36 PM

    3. Determine what notes you want to trigger your sample with by checking the slots on the Drum Rack. In this case, I’m wanting to trigger 4 different tones of a bass patch I’ve sampled from the Korg Volca Bass and Keys, and these will be on G#1, A1, C2, and C#2. Keep in mind these are not necessarily the notes that you will hear when you press the buttons, these are only the buttons you want the patch to cover.

    Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 10.38.07 PM

    4. We can use Ableton’s Scale MIDI plugin to act as a ‘Button Chooser’. Drop a Scale in front of your Instrument Rack Patch. Right click it and Rename it ‘Button Chooser’. Unselect any notes that you do NOT want triggering your patch. I’m going to leave G#, A, C, and C# checked.


    Tip: Make a temporary MIDI clip with a ‘chord’ of the notes that you want to use and hit play; they will flash in the ‘Button Choose’ and it will be easier to see what to unselect.

    5. Drop a Pitch device inside the Instrument Rack but in front of your patch. I’ve bumped the pitch that the patch will play up by +24 semitones so that the notes will trigger within the C3 octave just like the cells in a drum rack do. Label this one ‘Octave Fixer’.

    6. Let’s open up the Key Zone editor of our Container and use it to ‘block’ any extra incoming MIDI notes outside of the desired octave (such as C2/C#2 in this example).

    Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 10.40.51 PM

    7. Finally, put another Scale directly after your Octave Fixer and rename it to ‘Transposer’. This scale plugin will let you determine which notes each button will actually play. Copy the same buttons from your Button Chooser, then move them up or down in the columns accordingly to make them play the notes you want to hear.

    Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 10.41.37 PM

    Tip: Use the other features of scale to adjust the range of what notes will be sent. The MIDI clip from earlier will help you line up the notes as the columns may change with the Root note. Also try the Transpose and Fold functions!

    Test Your Ableton Rack Patch!

    Now when I play the buttons on the soundpack, the patch that is layered below the drum-rack is also triggered, but only on the appropriate buttons. You actually can still layer other things IN the drum rack cells if you like, and turn those on and off via a knob, or with CC mappings and vice-versa.

    You can also set any other macro mappings you would like to adjust on the fly for more control during your performance. In this example I’ve mapped the Decay/Release of the bass patch, as well as the Glide time.


    Original post found here


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