Making Music with Ableton Push

What is the Ableton Push?

The Push is a MIDI controller specially designed for, and by Ableton, and manufactured by Akai Professional. The Push is Ableton Live’s hardware instrument. It allows us to come up with musically and ideas on the fly, add effects, record automation, control the live set. And perform live, all without touching or even looking at the computer. With Push, you can make beats, melodies, harmonies, baselines, or any sound you can think of all with hands-on control and incredibly intuitive workflow. When you touch the Push, you can feel the sturdy, quality construction. It weighs almost three kilos or 6 and a half pounds. The Push is great for musicians and beginners alike as we’ll see later. The Push can help us make music without any prior music theory knowledge. But also offers freedom and inspiration for the experienced musician. Push only works with Ableton Live 9, and ships with Live intro. To get the full experience, I recommend getting Suite 9, which comes packed with instruments, effects.

And over 3,000 sounds we can start using straight away. We are only going to use sounds and effects that come with Live Intro, you can follow along even if you don’t have the standard All Suite version. Push is bus powered and works with a single USB cable. Additionally, you can connect the AC Adapter which will make the LEDs brighter. Very useful in a dark venue. Push setup is mostly automatic, and everything should be setup for you when Live is open, and the Push is connected to the computer. To make sure everything’s connected, go to Live > Preferences, under the Live > Preferences.

If your in Windows, it’s going to be under Options. Go to the MIDI Sync tab, and just make sure Push is selected under the drop-down menu, under the Control Surface. And under indicator the Push is connected, and working, is the colored square surrounding Live’s Session view. The Push was designed to work best with Live’s built-in devices in the Session view. One reminder, make sure you are using the latest version of Live. Since Ableton continues to add features and improvements to the Push with almost every update. You can review the release notes on the Ableton website. Ableton Live is a full-fledged music production application. And version nine is even better than ever.

With the push, you get the most comprehensive controller that was especially made to be an Ableton Live instrument. Regardless of your musicianship or skill level, you will start making music in no time.

Working without your computer screen

The Push has 64 velocity and pressure sensitive pads with RGB LEDs. It has a USB connection, power input, on, off switch, and two expression control inputs for sustain pedals, volume pedals, breath control, etcetera. The push is bus powered, with an option for brighter LEDs with power supply. It’s got 11 touch sensitive encoders, a forward LCD alpha numeric display.

And a 17 centimeters touch strip for pitch bend and scrolling, with 24 LEDs for navigation. Let’s look at the Push interface. Here, we have the tempo section, the edit section, the transport section, touch strip, the pad section, scene and grid section, display and encoder section. Selection control, state control, note section, add section, and the focus navigation section.

Browsing and loading sounds

Let’s start off by logging sounds. Click on Browse and notice the the LCD screen changes to Browsing mode. In Browsing mode, we have three columns, device name, the preset category, and all the presets. Depending on the version of Live you may have installed, this list may vary. We can use the encoders above each column to scroll, or use the Selection Controls buttons to go up and down. Once we select the sound, load it using the greens selection control. Note, that we can also load the default preset of the device by loading them from the device name column.

After loading a sound, Push will remain in Browse mode. We can load a different sound or exit Browse mode by hitting the Browse button again. To load the new sound to a different track, we can navigate to it by using the navigation controls left and right and go into Browse mode again. If we don’t have any more tracks available, we can hit the Add Track button, which can create a new track for us after we choose a preset.

To add an audio effect, hit the Add Effect button. Browsing mode for effects works in a similar way to browsing sounds. To access the Media Effect browser, we will have to be focused on the instrument first. Hit the Device button. The LCD will now display all the devices there loaded up to the track, and any available parameters, we can change with the encoders. Once you’re focused on the instrument using the selection controls, simply hold Shift while hitting the Add Effect to access the Media Effects browser. Your user library may vary according to your personal saved presets. Your presets should appear in each designated category. For example, all your Instrument Tracks presets should appear under the Instrument Track Device Name in Browse mode.

That as you have the sound loaded, you can start playing.
Now, that’s a lot to take in.

But, we’ll see that everything is very intuitive and straightforward as we touch on each one of these sections throughout this course. So, let’s make some music.

How to count music

While it is possible to use the Push with no knowledge of music. It helps to have a common language or frame of reference, which is referred to as music theory. That’s the language that musicians use to communicate with each other, and to be able to play together. If you already know about bars, and beats, and time signature, you may even want to skip this video. There are few rhythmic concepts that will allow us to discuss sequencing, making beats, and ultimately creating songs.

Now, I know we’re all eager to make beats, me too. But before we do that, let’s break down the concept of rhythm, or musical time. Looking at the Push itself, you can see numbers on this row of buttons, and the main pads are all related to how we count music. We count musical time by using two reference points, Beats and Bars. The speed at which each Beat is played is set by the Tempo, and is expressed as beats per minute, or BPM. Which is set by adjusting the Tempo knob, right here. Before we start counting beats, we should discuss time signature. A time signature consists of two numbers, for example, you’ve probably heard of four, four.

The first number tells us how many beats in a bar. And the second number tells us what the note value is for each beat. So, example in Ableton Live, we can see the time signature at the top left. I’m going to change it to six eights. I am going to turn on the metronome using the two dots, and I am going to use the Spacebar to start the transport and let’s count. One, two, three, four, five, six. One, two, three, four, five, six. One, two, three, four, five, six.

Now, let’s change the time signature to three, four. And now if we count,  one, two, three, one, two, three, it’s safe to see that the majority of the music we listen to is in four, four. And that’s the time signature we’re going to focus on here. But I encourage you to experiment with other time signatures. Some popular ones are 3 4th, 6 8th, 7 8th, and 5 4th.

Let’s turn on Live’s metronome using the Metronome button right here. And I’ll start counting the beats of four bars out loud, so you can hear what I’m talking about. But first, let’s change the time signature back the four fourths. I’m going to hit the Play button on the Push, then will start counting the bars. One, two, three, four, two, two, three, four, three, two, three, four, four, two, three, four. The time signature describes the overall rhythmical feeling of the music. Put a certain number of bars together and you’ve got a musical phrase. And once you arrange and sequence those musical phrases, you’ve got a song, or a tune.

And as I’ll show you, the Push makes all of this very easy and intuitive. For example, if you listen to the most electronic dance music, you notice that every eight bars, a musical change occurs. I’ll show you how to create eight bar phrases and sequence them easily, as we move forward. I have a percussion instrument loaded up on the drum rack. Lets get a MIDI clip by double-clicking anywhere in the empty clip slots. Because the time signature is set to four four, we know that each beat that we count is a quarter note. Let’s right-click anywhere on the grid to change it to a quarter note. Here we can see all the other note values, which we’re going to get to them. I want to hit the quarter note.

Now we can create simple, rhythmical patterns by placing a note on each quarter note, or skipping to the next to create a quarter rest. Which just means a quarter note of silence. So, I’m going to create a quarter note on the first beat, and on the third beat, I’m going to turn off the metronome using the Metronome button. And I’m going to launch the clip using the Clip Launch button right here. And with the metronome, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. So we only hear a sound on the first and the third beat. We can combine two quarter notes to get a half note, and combine two half notes to get a whole note, equals to one bar.

So here is our half note and here is our whole note. I’m going to hit Delete and delete this note. if we go back to our beats which are quarter notes, we can also divide them up to get smaller note values, which will give us faster quicker nodes. We can divide a quarter node into two eight notes, giving us 8 8th notes in a bar. I am going to right-click on the grid and change it to an 8th note, now lets get a few 8th notes . We can divide an 8th note into two 16th notes giving us, 16 16th notes in a bar. So again right-click on the grid, change it to sixteen and lets get a few sixteenth notes.

Taking this idea further, we can divide a 16th note into 2 32nd notes, given us 32 32nd notes in a bar. So, let’s right-click again, change it to 32nd and clear a few of them . All music software’s today, allow us to divide the beat even smaller than that. In Ableton Live, we can divide the grid up to 16,384 to one. In addition to dividing notes into two, we can also divide them into three, which will give us what are called triplet notes.

So a quarter note can be divided into 2 8th notes, or it can also be divided into 3 8th note triplets. To do this, you need to switch the grid into a triplet grid. First, I’m going to delete all the notes by focus on the grid, hitting Cmd or Ctrl+A to select all the notes, and hit Delete. I’m going to change the grid to an 8th note, place one note. Once I focus on the note I will hit Cmd+D to duplicate, and let’s listen to this.

(MUSIC). One, two, three, four, and select all the notes again using Cmd or Ctrl+A, hit Delete, right-click, and now turn on the triplet grid. Note how each beat now has three blocks instead of two. Let’s create some triplet notes, again, using Cmd or Ctrl+D to duplicate. Let’s listen, one, two, three, four.

Remember that for all this note values which are represented by the spaces in the grid you can place either a note only with empty to create the rest. So combine all these note values let’s create a one bar loop. I’m going to delete all these notes by hitting Cmd+A and hitting Delete. I’m going to right-click and turn the Triplet Grid off.  Let’s right-click again, choose quarter note grid, place a quarter note on the first beat, change the grid to eighth note,  place an 8th note. On the first and second 8th note of the second beat, I’ve clicked 16th. Let’s create a few 16th notes.

Leave some of them empty to create rests, and also Triple Grids. Create a few 16th triplets and let’s listen to what we have.  Without the metronome, and with the metronome, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. Now, this is only an overview of rhythmic theory.

But it should provide you with a good foundation, as you not only start using the push to sequence beats, and create songs. But also when you are playing or collaborating with other musicians.

Programming beats using drum racks

Ableton Push adjusts itself to your currently selected track, by switching between different modes, as you select different tracks, automatically. The first mode I’d like to show you is Drum Rack mode. Push will switch to Drum Rack mode whenever it detects an armed Midi track with a drum rack. So let’s load the Drum Rack preset. I’m going to to into Browse mode, scroll down to Drum Rack, scroll down to Loop Masters, and let’s load a preset called Cold Cut.

Hit the Load button. In Drum Mode, the main 64 pads grid is divided to three sections. The drum wreck pads, step sequence and controls, and loop length controls. The Drum Rack pads let us play the samples in the drum rack in the same order that appear on the screen. The drum rack pads just like the drum rack device in Live is only showing 16 pads at a time. You can use the touch strip to scroll between pad banks, or alternatively, use the Octave Up, Octave Down buttons.

The Touch Strip also gives us indication to which banks have samples on them. A pad slot with sample would be highlighted in bright yellow, and an empty pad will be highlighted in dark yellow. To load individual drums, click on the device button, hit a pad, and select it using the selection controls, and then hit the Browse button. While browsing, you can hit any pad to load a new sound to that pad allowing to quickly change into visual sounds in the drum rack.

For that pad, I’m going to load a different hat, the less selected drum rack pad is highlighted in blue and can now be sequenced using the step sequencer controls. I’m going to go down and select my click. A step sequencer will basically give us a visual and physical interaction with our midi clip inside Ableton Live. You can change the step sequence or solution at any time using the grid select tool buttons to select. I am going to hit the high heart sample and choose the eighth note grid. When I turn on the entire first row, I have created one ball with high heads played on the each note.

Note, the sequencer doesn’t stop at the first ball and actually gives you four balls. Whenever you start a new pattern, or in other words, create a new clip, Push will populate as many bars as it can to fit into this four eight button rows. According to the selected grid resolution, we got four bars. The loop length can be changed from the loop length control section right here. You can make loops up to a maximum of 16 bars you can edit each individual bar by hitting the pad or selecting a loop length by holding one pad and hitting the other like so. This is two bounce, and this is four bounce.

If we go into life (NOISE) and look at the clip, we can see that it’s 16 bounce, 4 bounce and I can also edit individual bounce. Let’s go back to two bars. Let’s create a drum beat using the step sequencer. I create a two bar clip, but first I’ll change the master tempo using the dedicated knob. And if you want to change it in small increments, you can hold Shift and move the tempo knob.

I’m going to delete the high hats. Let’s change it to 16 and start with a kick. Let’s play some notes. Let’s hit play.  the snare. And some hi-hats. Notice that you can add or remove multiple notes at once and therefore each note division you also have its triplets division labeled with the note value and a small t.

In triplet grid, Push will color the last two columns in red giving us only six pads on h, o, eighth note triplets, 16 note triplets. So the Push gives us complete control over Drum Rack. And has the added functionality of step sequencing just like the old school drum machines like the TR808 and the (INAUDIBLE) drum. With the power of step sequencing in Drum Rack mode, on the Push, you can make beats on the fly and you don’t have to play them live.

Humanizing beats

Using Drum mode, we aren’t limited to sequencing drums in a straight square manner, like old school drum machines. But you can also easily humanize the individual notes or steps of your beats, check it out. I’ll load the drum rack, by going to Browse, going to Drum Rack, and scrolling to Loopmasters. I’m going to load a preset called Classic Records. Let’s load preset, let’s select the high hat sound by pressing it once.

Then, I’ll change the grid resolution to 16 and I’ll press all eight buttons across the four rows to create a simple 16 note high hat pattern over two bars. Right now this pattern sounds very straight, you can tell its sitting right on the musical grid. Let me show you how to introduce some variation to these notes to humanize them a bit.

Push allows us to change the velocity, which is the volume of each note, length of the note, with more fine tuning than actual rhythm note values, and also notes position on the grid mean you can nudge them left or right. Now, if you click and hold on one of the pads, the display shows three options nudge, note length, and velocity. If you still changing the velocity, you can see the shade of blue getting lighter or darker.

If you look at the clip in Live, while changing the velocity, you can see change as well. If you change it in Live, it will also change on the Push. You can do the same for Note Length. Once again, this does not set the note value by a determined good resolution, but rather allows you to do a small adjustments to your notes duration. It’s important to point out, that when change in a note length this will not always change the sound, depending on the sound’s volume envelope.

Which can be located under the device the sample is playing from. By default, any audio file that you drop on a Drum Rack, will be placed inside a simpler device. In the simpler, you can change the volume envelope using the attack, decay, sustain, and release parameters. You can nudge the note slightly off the grid to create your own groove, and you can also select multiple notes at a time and nudge them all together.

So, let’s create a more groovy high hat pattern by adjusting velocities and nudging the notes slightly to create a shuffled rhythm feeling. To save time, I’m going to hit and hold four pads at a time, and adjust the velocity while I hold them. If you want to change any of these parameters for every instance of this pad’s sound in your pattern, hold the Select button while pressing and holding the Pad, and then you can let go of the Select button. You’ll see the same values on the display.

This will also allow you to select the pad without actually playing the sound, which is very useful feature for making beats live on stage. You don’t want your audience to hear you messing around with your sounds. You just want to start sequencing them. Finally, you can solo or mute pads by holding the Mute or Solo button. And that’s also solo. Soloed and muted pads will be highlighted in dark blue when focused, and in orange when not focused. You can also mute individual steps in your sequence, as well, by using the same method.

As you can all the see using the step sequence in push is a great way to make beats on the fly, but it also give you precision control without the need to touch your computer.

Recording drums in real time

Creating drums with the Step Sequencer is fun and intuitive. But you can always record your drum rack elements, or just some of the elements of the drum rack in Real Time. Note that I’ve said drum rack elements, and not just drum sounds. Because you can load any type of sounds you want into the Drum Rack pads, and not only drum sounds. I have a drum rack preset loaded, but before I start recording, I’ll turn on the metronome, by toggling on the Metronome button.

You can use the Tap Tempo button to set the tempo by Feeling, or simply adjust the BPM, using the Tempo knob.  . To start recording hit the Record button right here. See how the Play Head Marker turned red instead of green indicating that you’re recording. Notice that Live immediately starts recording a new clip. If you want the count in, you need to go to Live, and set the counting from the drop down menu, under the metronome.

Hit the New button to jump to an empty clip slot, and hit the Record to start recording. When you’re done recording you can hit the Play button to stop recording or hit the Record button to stop looping to overdub additional products.Push pads are velocity sensitive, and sometimes especially when making an electronic music, you might want your main rhythmical elements to hit hard every time.

To turn off the velocity sensitivity for the pads toggle the Accent button. One cool thing is that you don’t have to record all the elements at once. You can record, let’s say only the Kick and Snare, and once you have them recorded, hit the Record button to loop. Turn off the Accent and then hit the Record button again to overdub the high hats. So let’s hit the New, make sure the Accent button is on, and let’s record the kick and the snare. I’m going to hit the Record button to start recording, and remember, that we have a count in for one bar.

Turn off Accent, and I’m going to hit the Record button again, to overdub.  You can go into Overdub mode at any time on the selected clip by just hitting the Record button. If you made a mistake you can hit the Undo button which will undo the last thing you did.

In our case, the high hats. Note that Undo is not built into the Push, it’s simply activating Live’s undo function. Hit the New button again, and Live will give you a new empty clip slot. As you can see, it’s very easy to come up with multiple ideas quickly, overdub, build on them, and move to a new scene. Continuing to create new musical patterns in real time. You can focus on production and keep making music without the fear of losing anything.

With Push you can be irresponsibly creative. One more thing, if you hit the Play button to stop recording, Live will adjust the clip length to the nearest note value that you have set in the global quantization. So you don’t have to worry about stopping your recording at the exact right moment. So if the global quantization is set to one bar, which it is, by default. Your clip will automatically adjust its length to the beginning of the nearest bar.

If it’s set to an eighth note, it’s going to fix the clip length to the nearest eighth note. Once again, Push is keeping our work focused on music making. With push the current drums in Real Time can be a powerful composition technique, while keeping your work flow flexible.

Recording a fixed-length clip and using Repeat mode

If you know the length of the loop you want to record, you can turn On Fix Length. If you hold the Fix Length button, the Push screen will display the Loop Length option. Let’s choose two bars. Let’s load the drum rack preset, by going to Browse, scrolling to Drum Rack, let’s scroll to the Loop Master pack. And then I’m going to choose a preset called Grozhy, and load it. Now, when you hit the Record button, Live will create the clip for you, and will automatically jump into Overdub mode. So you don’t have to worry about hitting Play, or Record again, to set the Loop Length.

And because you are already in Overdub mode, you can record your elements one by one without hitting any other buttons, except the Drum Rack pads. When you are ready to stop recording, hit the Record button to turn off over dubbing or the Play button to simply stop, so that check it out. going to turn on my metronome, make sure my BPM is on the right BPM,126 is good and hit the Record button.

Let’s start with the snares,  after recording a two bar fixed length loop, I can then hit the Double button to duplicate the loop I just recorded.

So I can then edit the duplicated two-bar loop for rhythmical variation, adding notes, removing notes, nudging and changing velocities. You can see that once you hit the Duplicate button, the Loop Length section has four pads highlighted, instead of two. Let’s make some variations. On the push you can also use the Repeat button to record notes.

When the repeat button is on, the grid selector sets the notes value for repetition, so you can jump between different note value very quickly. Remember that the 64 pads on the Push are velocity-sensitive and pressure-sensitive. So you can create interesting and dynamic grooves using the Repeat button. Let’s set the percussion pattern to our Drums. Note that if the Accent button is on, you won’t be able to use the pressure-sensitivity feature.

Let’s hit the Record button. Fixed lengths and repeat function are very useful features in the Push, and can help you create beats, bass lines, melodies, and harmonies very easily.

Using Real Time recording, in conjunction with step sequencing, can result in a very enjoyable, quick and efficient way of making musical patterns.

Adding swing and fixing human timing errors

Any time we’re recording drums, we don’t always keep perfect time. To fix this, you can use the Quantize button. Hold down the Quantize button and you will see the Quantize settings. You can choose the nearest value that you would like the notes to be quantized to and how much quantization you would like to apply. Set to 100%, the notes will be fully quantized and will lose any natural groove you might have while recording. If you want to retain your natural groove, try to quantize in smaller amounts.

I have a drum rack preset loaded. I’m going to record an eighth note pattern. Notice that the Fixed Length button is on. For more on this button, check out the movie where I show all about the Fixed Length. I’m going to set the quantization to eighth note and hit Quantize after I record. And you can the notes are aligned in the step sequencer. As well as inside Live MIDI clip, so let’s check it out.

Lets hold the Quantize, change the Quantize to 8, I’m going to do 100%, and now, we’re going to hit Quantize. Nice. You can also add swing to your note after you recorded them, by going back to the Quantization settings, and turning up the swing amount. Now, after you hit Quantize you’ll hear our notes swing.

When using the Repeat button, you can also add the Swing to the repeat with the swing knob. I’m going to turn on Repeat. Hold the hi-hats, and now, we can adjust the Swing with no swing and add some more swing. I have a drum pattern that I’ve made with four drum elements. Let me launch it.

When you are dealing with multiple drum elements, you can quantize or swing only one element at a time, by holding the Quantize button and then hitting the desired pad. I’m going to set up the Swing Amount, let’s bring it to 16, and turn down the Quantize Amount. Still keep holding the Quantize and then hit the hi-hats. In Live, we can see only the hi-hats move, and the rest of the elements remain in the same place. If you want to record live drums and always keep on time, you can turn on a Record Quantization from the Quantization Settings.

Hold down Quantize button and turn on the Record Quantization. This will apply the set quantization value immediately after you record your notes. So let’s hit the New button, turn on the Metronome, and hit the Record. So we can see that our draw wasn’t on time. The push corrected me because of the Record Quantization.

So as you can see, the Quantize button is a great way to correct your human timing errors. Turn on the Chord Quantization to keep you in time while recording Live and even add in swing to your patterns.

Understanding notes and scales

Music theory is the language that allows us to understand and communicate music with one another. In the movie about counting music, I discuss rhythm, which is the element of timing spacing, pace, and groove of music. Now I’d like to discuss another essential element in music, pitch. In Live, I have a piano sound loaded up. On the piano, you can find the following notes on all of the white keys.

These notes make up the C major scale. When you look at a musical keyboard, you can see these notes repeating over and over again. Each time you finish a cycle of these seven notes, you’ve played an octave. For example, C3, which is the third C on the keyboard, sometimes called middle C, up to C4, the next C above middle C on the keyboard, is an octave.

And back to C. Now, let’s take a look at how this applies to Push. Remember the Push is a smart instrument. It will detect what type of device you are focused on. If it’s a drum act, the Push will display drum mode, and if it’s an instrument, it will display, the key mode. In key mode the Push will present us with an isomorphic keyboard which is a two dimensional grid designed in such a way that every note you play will be within a predetermined musical scale.

This can allow you to play different notes, scales, intervals and chords with similar hand position so you only need to remember shapes instead of specific notes as you would on a traditional keyboard. Now what is a scale? A scale is a collection of 5 or more notes that have a certain musical relationship. Whole steps or half steps between each of the notes. This relationship give a scale its unique feel and mood.

By default, Push is set to the C major scale. The dark blue pads indicate the root note of the scale, which in this case is the C note, in different octaves.

So there’s a lot of ways to play the same scale on the Push. There are a few repeating notes within neighboring scale and ranges. And Push will light up the same played notes in green.  You can use the octave up, an octave down button to switch octaves until you reach the upper and lower limits of the instrument.

On the piano, in between the white keys, you can find the black keys. These keys have the same note names as the white keys, but with the addition of flat or sharp. If you go up from the note, you call it a sharp.  . And if you go down, it’s called a flat. So in different situations, the same black key will actually have two potential names.

C-sharp. Might be named, as D flat. Or another example, A flat might be G sharp, depending on the context in which you played the notes. On the Push, you can switch to a chromatic keyboard. Let’s hit the scales button. Here we see end key. And I’m going to hit the state control to switch it to chromatic. Which will give you all the notes on the piano, including sharps and flats. But the Push will still highlight the notes within the selected scale. This is handy especially for compositions that follow most of the rules of the western scales.

But, rules are sometimes meant to be broken, and if your composition needs some notes outside of your pre-selected scale, this might be the way to go for that song. I showed you the notes names and how to play the C major scale on the piano and on the Push. In the next video let’s take a deeper look at scales, intervals and how to build chords.

Understanding intervals and chords

In music theory we measure the distances or interval between the note by tones. Semi tone and whole tones. You’ll sometimes hear me refer to semi tones as half steps and whole tones as whole steps. This is common in musical discussion. So to move from C to C sharp, you go up a semi-tone. But if you go from C to D, you go up a whole tone.

So how much do you go from E to F, and from B to C? Only a semitone or a half step, because we don’t have any keys in between. Just for clarification on this point, going from one key to the very next key on the keyboard is always a semitone, whether the keys are black or white, and skipping a key also makes a whole tone. So, if I go from C to D, that’s whole tone. C to D-sharp, that’s a tone and a half. C to E,  that’s two tones.

Now let’s build the scale. If you follow a formula of steps from any given starting note, you can build any type of scale. For example, you can build the major scale by starting from C and going whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step.

For another example, to build a natural minor scale starting from C, the formula is, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step. Starting from C, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step.  Since you are only following a formula of steps, you can start from any note and build its minor or major scale, like G major. Whole, whole, whole, half. Whole, whole, whole, half.

Minor/g played the exact same way. The push plays the whole and half steps intervals for the scales automatically. Now let’s talk more about intervals. The distances between the notes can be called by names. For example, C to G, that’s a fifth, and C to C, that’s an octave. So if you know the names of the distances or of the intervals between the notes you can start building chords.

If you take for example D add its major third. And the fifth, that’s D major chord. Same thing with C major. Major third, and fifth, that’s the C major. On the Push, let’s look at the notes. Let’s switch back to c major and we’ll play the scale. C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. So if we want to build a c major chord we’re going to play the c, e  And with G and this is also G so I’m just going to play a triangle shape. Now if I want to play a C Minor, I’m going to switch to Minor, play the same shape and get the minor chord which will play the same exact way.

Now, each type of scale has its own diatonic chords, which are the chords that appear naturally from within the scale. On the Push, if you play the same shape as the C major chord, but in a different location on the grid, you might get different types of the chords, like D minor, or B diminished. But they will all be diatomic to the C major scale. Meaning the chords will fit into the scale according to the music theory rules.

So you can start making chord progressions very easily. Let’s switch back to C major. I’m going to play the C major chord. I’m going to keep the same shape. And move forward. We get D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor, B diminished, and back to C. So for example, a very famous and popular chord progression is the one, four, five. And because if we go up, we go in fourths, It’s very easy to play one, four, five.

One, go up, same shape, four , five.  Back to one. Now by default, the position of the LEDs won’t move according to the selected key. So if I’m on C the blue ones which are the root notes will be C  . I’m on G. G G and so on. If you turn on fixed, the notes will remain at the same place. So, C will always be C unless it’s not in this scale for example, D major, only have C sharp, so the C will move to the closest note which is C sharp.

Ready fold is turned off. In keyboard mode the dots sleep functions as pitch bend. Remember that the pitch bend range depends on your instruments settings. We can also plug in a sustain pedal that you can find on acoustic pianos. Just plug it in in the back. Put it on the floor. And now you can sustain your notes or chords. Lastly, holding shift while displaying the scales will access additional layered featured.

So, for example, by default, it goes up by fourths. We can go to the side fourths, and we also have other options, like thirds and sequentials. As you can see, in Key mode, the Push allows you to compose melodies, harmonies, chord progressions, and even bass lines without any prior music theory knowledge. But knowing what we talked about, intervals and chords and scales, will help you understand how the Push work and collaborate with other musicians.

Controlling the mixer

Push is not only a composition tool. But it’s also a mixing tool. I’d like to show you how to control Live’s mixer using the encoders and the display section. I have 9 tracks loaded up with different sounds. First, I’ll focus on the display section. All these different buttons will change the display view. Let’s start with the volume display. This will display the tracks volume and label. You can change the volume from the top encoders.

If you have more that 8 tracks in your live set you can switch to the Session mode using the Session button. And use the left and right navigation buttons to change the focus of the push. So basically you can have as many tracks as you want and still have full control over your set. See the colored square in your session view live for indication of where you are. Now, let’s look at the pan and send button. This button will switch the display to show all the panning for all the tracks in the our live set. Just like you did with the volume, you can change the top encoders to change the panning of each track.

The panning display changes to send A Once you hit it again, and with each additional button press, the display and controls will control to the next send value. Notice that you only see the sends that correspond to your return tracks. So if you have two return tracks, you only see send A. And send B. If you want to control the track volume, the pan, and sense at the same time, you can use the track display.

The display will change to show the select a track parameters, and you can change them using the top encoders. Use the selection controls, to quickly switch between different tracks. I’m going to adjust all the volumes and all the pannings of our tracks to get a balanced mix. I’m going to hit the Play button, switch to the volume display. Navigate all the way to the left, and start adding the kick and snare. I don’t want to add too much volume, because we have a lot of elements we can mix together, and we don’t want to get the master track peaking.

Let’s add the hat. Some percussion, some bass, little vox, pads mid-sound. And turn on the vocals.

Let’s just adjust the panning, for the hats, and percussion. Shake here. I am going to leave the base in the middle. And we can also use this encoder to change the master volume. And note that, on touch encoder to see the master volume becuase they all touch encoders. The quickly toggle one of the display modes, press and hold the Display control.

Once you release, it will return to the previous selected display mode. So if you’re adjusting pan, but quickly want to adjust the volume of one of the tracks, you can press and hold the volume control. And once you release it, it will revert back to descend and pan. If you look at the state controls, you can switch the controls from mute to stop clips, to solo. To sort on multiple tracks hold one and select the rest. If you want to delete tracks press and hold the Delete button and hit one of the Track Selection Controls.

Lets say the Shaker. To jump to the master track, simply hit the master button. In addition to being a great song and writing composition tool. Push is also a highly capable mixing and mastering tool. With hands on control and visual feedback.

Controlling Live devices

With Ableton Push its very easy to control every parameter of a live device. If it’s an instrument media effect or audio effect push can control it. I’ve loaded up an auto filter effect on the lead track. Click the device button to change the display to show all of the devices on the currently focused track. Right now we only have the auto filter. You can select the device you want to edit using the selection controls. And you can turn on and off the device using the state control.

The display we show us, key parameters from within the device. You probably noticed the push only displaying eight parameters. And most devices have much more than eight. To see all the parameters, hit the in button. To go back, hit the out button. Once you hit the in button, the selection controls will allow to change between the different sections of the device. In our case, you can see the filter, filter extra and side chain categories.

Let’s load another effect, the cause of the phaser audio effect preset to the vocals. So first I’m going to go to volume. I’m going to navigate to my vocals. Hit the add effect. Navigate to audio effect track. Modulation and rhythm and load the course oval phrasal with the load button. Exit browse mode, and now if we hit device, we can see, we have it loaded up in a vocal track. If you’re using Rex with parent chains, you can navigate to the different chains in a similar manner.

If you’re using Rex, chances are you are also using microcontrols. Note that is a microcontrol is mapped to a parameter, that parameter cannot be changed from a device, but only from the microcontrols. So if we look at the device we just loaded, we have all the micro controls, and if we hit the in button we can see the different pattern chains. When I hit them, we can also see the focus in live change. To delete devices hold the delete button and select a device.

Let’s go out. Hold the Delete, and hit the device. Feel free to add as many audio and media effects as you’d like. Remember that on audio tracks, you can only add audio effects. The device display on the push is useful not only for pushing and mixing, but also for live performance. Every time you are focusing on a different track, the device display will change to represent the devices that are on that track. If you want to lock the push to a single device, right-click on the device. Of other tracks while still maintaining control over your master effect. Let me show you an example.

I’m going to first unlock the auto filter. Now let’s go to our master track. I’m going to add effect. Navigate to audio effect rack. Let’s go to performance I’m deejaying. And I’m going to load deejay master channel. Now, in Live, I’m going to right click on the device, and lock the control surface. Once I go to device, we can see all the microcontrols in our deejay master channel, audio effect rack. And if I navigate to other tracks, even though they have effects on them I’m still focusing, or locked, on my audio effect track, in a master track. So, it doesn’t matter how complicated your device and reacts are, you can control all of them with push.

Adjusting loops using Clip mode

As you may know, we cannot produce music in Live without clips. If audio and midi clips are not yet familiar to you, you may not want to check out Up and Running with Ableton Live 9, or Ableton Live 9 Essential Training on In order to edit, create, and view your clips from the push, you have to enter Clip Mode. I have an audio clip and a midi clip loaded up in Live. So let’s take a look at the clip mode. I’m going to hit clip.

And a display will update. With midi clips, you can turn loop on and off. Right here. When loop is off, you can change the clip start, clip position, and clip end. When the loop is on, you can change the loop start, loop position, and loop end. So, for example, I have an eight bar musical phrase I made with the piano. Now if I change the loop start, we can see that the loop that I get is only looping the last two bars, seven and eight.

If the loop is turned off on the push, we can also change the clip length or the starting marker, and the end marker. If I have the starting marker and end marker only on one bar, I can also use the position to move around between different bars, as well as when the loop is on. But then it will control the loop bracket, which is the top one. So, for example, if you’re recording a midi clip in real time without using fixed length, and stop recording by hitting the Record button too late. You can quickly jump to your clip view and fix the clip length. Right now it’s on five, I’ll change it to four.

Much more straight. With audio clips you can control the loop start, position, and loop length when the loop is on. And clip start, clip position and clip end when the loop is off. Additionally, you can also change the work mode, detune, change the transposition, and change the clip gain. For example, I have a dumb and base loop.

Loaded up here I’m going to change bpm accordingly, around 170. I am going to play the clip right now it’s muted so I’m going to go to volume and make sure it’s not muted. Go back to clip and now we can change the Loop to turn it on. Let’s launch it. And I’m going to change the Loop Style to loop a very small section. I’m going to hold Shift while just a loop to give me even smaller increments.

And then I can use the position. To jump and score between different section of the loop. In conjunction with the transpose.

Under the parameters, you can see the clip selection, which will be labeled with the clip name. So, if I change the name in Ableton, I’m going to click on the clip, and hit Cmd or Ctrl+R, and then change it to D and B, or Drum and Base, Loop. And we can see instantly Push is changing the clip selection label as well. In clip mode you can also focus on the clips from Live and Push we change its display according.

So right now we’re focused on the audio clip, and if I hit the midi clip the display updates. As you can see, clip mode is very straightforward and gives you all the basic information and control over audio clips and movie clips.

Recording session automation

One of the newest feature in Ableton Live 9, is the ability to record real-time automation’s in the session view. Automation is the automatic change of parameters values over time. For example, raising or lowering the frequency cutoff of a filter effect over several bars of music, or even just adjusting volume and panning over time. To start recording automation, make sure the Automation button is turned on, then hit the Record button to start recording or over-dubbing any existing automation. Note that in Live’s preferences, you can select between recording automation to only the currently armed track, or all tracks.

Let me show you. I go to Live>Preferences. If you run the Windows, it’s going to be under Options, and under the Record Warp Launch, you’ll see, Record Session automation in, Arm Tracks, or All Tracks. Let’s keep it on Arm Tracks. Let’s link our automation to the auto filter on the pads track. I’ll make sure I’m on Device, make sure the automation is on, and hit the Record.

We can also see in Live, that in the clip envelope it shows the automation that we just recorded. Now that I’ve recorded automation, you can see in Live that the parameter now has a red dot next to it, indicating it has automation. I’m going to switch to the device view using shift+tab. And we can see the red dot on the filter frequency cut off. If you right-click on the automated parameter and choose show automation, live will switch to the clip envelope.

I am going to switch back again using Shift and Tab. If you change the automated parameter, after you have recorded the automation, the red dot will grey out, meaning the parameter will now ignore the automation. And nothing happens. You will need to re-enable automation using the button with the left arrow symbol. To re-enable automation from the Push, hold Shift and hit the Automation button.

If you want to delete automation for a specific parameter, you can press and hold the Delete button, and touch the corresponding knob. Make sure that you are focused on the device with the corresponding automation. So lets switch to the clip envelope. I’m going to hold the Delete, and just touch the frequency knob. It is very important to note that in Live 8 you also had clip envelopes, but those were modulations rather than automations.

You still have them in Live 9, but those for this feature you need to use clip automation’s. To switch between them in Live, right-click anywhere in the envelope view (NOISE) and choose Show Modulation. And that switch back to show automation (NOISE). All the clip automation’s that you will record are attached to the clip. So if and when you are ready to start working in arrangement view, the automation will move accordingly.

Let me Undo to go back. So now we have the automation again. I am going to click and hold on the clip, hit Tab to move it to the arrangement view, and we can see the automation moved with it. Automation is an essential part of model music, especially electronic music. And now, in Ableton Live 9, we can make automation in the session view, and using the Push, it’s easier to create and edit automation in a little time.

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