Making Music with Ableton Push
Illustration by John Hersey

Understanding notes and scales


From:

Making Music with Ableton Push

with Yeuda Ben-Atar

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Video: 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. (SOUND) C, D, E, F, G, A, B.
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Watch the Online Video Course Making Music with Ableton Push
1h 46m Appropriate for all Aug 01, 2013

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Imagine making digital music without having to touch or even look at your computer. The future is here with the Ableton Push, which allows you to compose melodies and basslines, make beats, arrange music, mix and master your tracks, and perform live—all from an intuitive, touch-sensitive interface. Join author and DJ Yeuda Ben-Atar, aka Side Brain, for an introduction to creating and performing music with Push.

First, Yeuda demystifies the many trigger pads, knobs, and buttons on the Push and shows how to map the device to Ableton Live. Next, learn to browse and load sounds and create drumbeats with the step sequencer. Humanize the sound of these beats by changing individual note velocity, length, and position and adding in quantization and swing. Then, learn to play Push like a pitched instrument, and use it to remotely control a Live set and Live devices. Along the way, Yeuda offers valuable lessons about basic music theory—concepts like notes, chords, scales, and time signature—that will make your experience with Push more rewarding.

Topics include:
  • What is Ableton Push?
  • Browsing and loading sounds
  • Programming beats
  • Recording drums in real time
  • Adding quantization and swing
  • Controlling the mixer
  • Controlling Live devices
  • Adding custom LED feedback
  • Step sequencing melodies
  • Browsing and loading third-party plugins
Subject:
Audio + Music
Software:
Ableton Live
Author:
Yeuda Ben-Atar

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. (SOUND) C, D, E, F, G, A, B.

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.

(SOUND) 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. (SOUND) 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. (SOUND). I can play the scale like this. (SOUND). Or like this. (SOUND). Or even like this. (SOUND).

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. (SOUND) You can use the octave up, an octave down button to switch octaves until you reach the upper and lower limits of the instrument.

(SOUND) 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. (SOUND). 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. (SOUND) 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.

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