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How to count music

From: Making Music with Ableton Push

Video: 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.

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, (SOUND), 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, (SOUND) one, two, three, one, two, three, (SOUND) 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. (SOUND). 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. (SOUND). 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. (SOUND). 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 (SOUND) and change it to an 8th note, now lets get a few 8th notes (SOUND). 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 (SOUND). 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. (SOUND). Let's right-click again, choose quarter note grid, place a quarter note on the first beat, change the grid to eighth note, (SOUND) 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. (SOUND). Without the metronome, (SOUND), 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.

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Making Music with Ableton Push

25 video lessons · 4498 viewers

Yeuda Ben-Atar
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