York YSWN explore Ableton and Push

The second meet-up of the York branch of Yorkshire Sound Women Network (YSWN), held at York University’s Department of Music, may have been a slimmed-down affair occurring as it happened the day after Easter Monday, slap bang in the middle of the Easter holidays. But despite (or perhaps because) of the modest numbers (there were three of us present) we had an intensive, inspiring and very productive time, getting hands-on with and learning about Ableton Live music production software with Ableton Push2 hardware.

As inspiration, Liina Turtonen, our group leader for the evening, shared some of her recent violin and piano based arrangements in Ableton Live, part of her final MA work. It was great to hear how her live instrumental input was developed with in the software. Liina helpfully provided some contrasts and pros & cons of using Ableton Live over other commonly used music handling programmes such as Logic or ProTools.

For this evening’s learning, we focussed mainly on the session view in Ableton Live, as this allows us to add in instrumental input. To create this input we selected a drumrack and put it into a grid. We then learned how to use the keypad on the Push2 to manually ‘play’ the drumgrid, creating rhythmic content, which appears in Ableton Live’s software to manipulate. This way of playing the Push2 as an instrument felt more intuitive and sensory than creating by mouse clicks alone.

Ashley and I worked together to create different layers of percussive sound across a simple two bars. Working with a metronome beat, we then learned to ‘quantify’ the rhythm bringing it into a suggested best alignment and adjusting manually to taste after.

We learned how to put these samples into separate “clips” or columns so that they can be played as “scenes” in a verse-chorus-verse pattern. Then finally how to export these scenes into Ableton Live’s arrangement view, ready for further composition and manipulation.

Furthermore, we had some fun simply playing with the Push2 and exploring its tactile, live possibilities. We learned how to set its keypad up as a keyboard in different keys and differentials e.g. A maj or min; in 3rds or 5ths. Lit up keys help you to navigate the keypad. Or how to vary the pitch, decay, tone of notes using manual controls on the Push2. Also creating simple ‘breaks’ by the manual push of a button.

It’s easy to see the performative potential of the Push2 used in combination with pre-recorded sound patches, to rhythmically release and adjust sounds live.

We had such an inspiring experience, exploring the possibilities of this software-hardware set-up and are keyed up for more training sessions involving the two. Big ups, big thanks to YSWN and to Liina for making this learning possible. Very excited to explore Ableton some more on my own now!

– Anna Lilleengen, 07/04/2018

Anna Lilleengen is a visual artist, based Yorkshire and Scandinavia, working with traditional and experimental photographic processes, with an interest in developing a sound based practice. For more info see www.annalilleengen.com

Published by: Liz Dobson

Lecturer in Music Technology at The University of Huddersfield. Interested in fostering undergraduate multi-disciplinary collaboration, blurring community boundaries for the benefit of learning in informal settings.

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