! This post hasn't been updated in over 2 years.
Ableton Push (approx. $599/€489) is an amazing tool for musical creation. It’s got lights, LCD screens, endless encoders, and soo many buttons! It’s fun, responsive, and you wanna take it everywhere.
This where Push users start finding things a little difficult: Ableton has always framed this device as a music creation tool, and the best way to streamline the song-starting phase is to limit options. This is why Push is what it is. It has a great deal of features, but very little flexibility compared to Ableton.
Of course, it can be used as a clip launcher for live performance, that’s tons of fun! But what if you want to handle more like an instrument, by using the sequencing or finger-drumming features of Push? Well, there’s a handful of great ways to perform with Push, and in the following posts I’ll walk through them in detail so you can start jamming fun, flexible sets everywhere.
Make sure to click on the pictures to view them at full-size and check out the video at the bottom of the page…
Stock Options: Part 1
My current favourite way to perform with Push is with completely stock software/scripting, and with all sound sources within one track. AND, all of the sequencing is done within one clip. The result is that user interface is focused at one point, easily manipulated by Push. Requiring some prep-work, like any good performance, but once it’s set up I find Song-Ina-Clip to be reliable, immediate, and flexible technique whether the genre is sequence-heavy [steady tech-house] or finger-drumming [stop/start glitch hop]. At the core of the idea is an Ableton Drum Rack. Push’s note view in a drum rack gives access to 4 ways to manipulate sounds:
A: Drum Pads- 16 pads for finger drumming or selecting pads to manipulate.
B: Step Sequencer- 4 rows of pads for per/pad automation.
C: Loop Length Control- 16 pads for determining the length position of the loop
D: Encoders- 8 knobs for controlling Device macros
Start by dropping drum samples on drum rack pads. It’s a standard convention to place the kick on C1: please do that.
At this point, we have a standard drum rack where each pad plays one sound and then stops. This can be applied to tonal instruments as well, which I’ll get to later, but right now this track needs a repeating bassline to compliment the 4-on-floor groove. I’m going to set it up in another track and then import into the drum rack when I’ve finalized the groove.
1.Write midi, and perform sound design. Check pattern against drum sequence.
2.Freeze, Flatten, Crop
3.Drag the bassline onto a drum pad.
– Now a single note will trigger the entire pattern
– Sequence that pad trigger to begin on beat 1.1
Great! This is the basics of Song In a Clip, and is usable right away. You might have noticed that the last procedure makes the rack less flexible by restricting the tempo to 125 bpm. You’re right about that and I’ll remedy that later, I just needed to simplify the bassline source for the big trick of Part 1. I’m talking about Nested Drum Racks.
Because I made two, slightly different, bassline sequences that I want to control via the macro knobs of the drum rack. Mapping macros to device parameters is fine for awhile, but I need to add two for every one I need. For example, a reverb device after Bassline1 requires a reverb device after Bassline2 so that the two chains are consistent, if I wanted to switch between the two. This starts hogging way too much processing power, so the solution is to rack ‘em up.
(This is what it should look like)
1.Select all the Chains that require a common output
2.Group. (Cmd+G)(Cntrl + G)(right-click, select from menu)
3.Rename, Assign Macros
Bassline1 and Bassline2 are now ‘bussed’ through the same instance of audio devices, all within a drum rack. Way cool.
We’ll dive deeper into this concept in the next post…