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Ableton Live 8 Essential Training with Rick Schmunk offers a comprehensive overview of Ableton's live audio and MIDI sequencing software and the techniques required to compose, record, and edit music, in real time, on stage, or in the studio. The course includes tutorials on compiling live sets from audio and MIDI clips, loops, or samples, applying MIDI effects, warping audio, and recording and producing songs in any number of contemporary styles. Exercise files are included with the course.
Not all of us that are interested in creating music using an application like Ableton Live own a MIDI keyboard or are proficient keyboard players. Often it's necessary to enter MIDI data using alternative methods. In this video, we'll take a look at how to use your computer keyboard as a MIDI keyboard and how to enter MIDI using step time and pencil entry methods. So if you don't have a MIDI keyboard, you can use your computer keyboard, by simply switching on the keyboard MIDI switch up here in the control bar. That's on by default. Let's load a clip. I'm going to over here to the Live Device browser and into Instruments and Impulse, and let's go into Acoustic, and I'm going to grab Big Rocker.
I'll drop that on the MIDI track there, so we've got the sound loaded. And now the letters A through K on your computer keyboard will trigger notes. Let's give that a try. (Music playing.) Okay, so I hear that. There's K. Now this works great because I've got Impulse, and I've got the notes on my keyboard set to trigger those notes that are available in this Big Rocker sound. But note that if you're playing some other kind of a keyboard part, you might need to use other octaves. So I can change octaves on my computer keyboard by simply pressing the Z key to go down an octave, and when I do that you'll see the readout down here tell me which octave I moved to.
Okay, so computer keyboard and my current octave is C2. And X will take me back up on octave, so I'm at C3 and C4, C5, and then Z to get me back down to C3. Also, you may need to adjust the velocity that you're entering notes that. So the letter C will adjust the velocity down 20 and the V will adjust velocity up 20. Now usually this is set to a default of 80. So now, I just press the V key. I'm up to 100, and I'll take that back down by pressing the C key to 80.
And now I can record just as normal. All I've got to do-- the track is record enabled, I've got the Count off enabled, and all I need to do is click the Record button on a clip that I want to record on, and start pressing A through K on my keyboard. (Music playing.) So on and so forth. If I want to go in Overdub mode, just click that, and I can layer parts on top of that, just like if I was recording with a normal keyboard. Okay, let me undo that.
And next, let's talk a little bit about using step record. This is little bit different. Now I've got a track, and I have already loaded the device. So the next thing that I'm going to need to do to use step record is actually insert a MIDI clip onto one of the clip slots. So I can do that by right-clicking on the clip that I want to use and choosing Insert MIDI Clip from the Contextual menu. Or I can use the key command Shift+Command+M on a Mac, or Shift+Ctrl+M on a PC. And before I continue, again I'll need to set the length that I want to record into.
Now it defaults with that insert MIDI clip function to one bar in length. So let's drag that out so I've got two bars. So I'll go up to bar three, beat one. I'll size that so we can see the whole thing. Now next, I need to determine the default MIDI note length as I enter. I can do that by setting the grid. So I'll right-click here in the MIDI Editor, and from the Contextual menu in the Fixed Grid area, I can choose a value. So if I'm going to enter notes no longer than an eighth note, I might choose an eighth note.
If there is a possibility that I might record something that's a 16th note or smaller, I'll choose a different one. Let me just change that one, so you can see the grid change. Okay, so there is an eighth note grid, choose it again and choose 16th notes, and we can see that the grid just doubled there. So to be able to hear the notes that I'm going to play and to also enter Step Entry mode, I need to enabled the MIDI Editor preview switch, and that's this button right here. So now I'll click in the background here on the MIDI Editor--and I can use my right and left arrows to move around. So I will move over to the beginning.
Now I simply need to hold down a key on my MIDI keyboard--or in this case I'll use the letter A on my computer keyboard--and press the right arrow to enter that note, okay. Now if I need to enter a rest of that length, I'll just use my right arrow to go over again. Enter another kick hit here. And now I might want to put a snare in on two. Right arrow to go over there and hold down the S key and press right arrow again. Now, for example, in some cases you may want to enter a note that's longer than the default note length.
So if you would want to do that, you hold down the note that intended. Again, I'll push the letter S for the snare, and I'll put my right arrow. And as I continue to hold down the S, I can arrow over again to extend the length of that note. I can delete that by simply clicking the note and hitting my Backspace key. But if I had just entered the note--and I'm still holding it down--before I release if I just hit the left arrow, I can delete that same note. Now I can also enter notes in step entry by using the Pencil tool.
Now to activate that, I'll go up to the control bar, and I'll click on what they call the Draw Mode switch. I can also activate that by using Command+B. And now when I click on the MIDI Editor I'll enter a note of the value of whatever the grid is set at. So if I want to go back and enter a kick note, I can simply click near 1.3 there, and add a note, and add my snare. You can see how this can get very fast. So on and so forth. If I need to enter hi-hat notes on the eights, I can simply click, and then you notice that those are snapping to grid.
If I want to enter a note that doesn't snap to grid, you can hold down your Command key and override that. Now as I'm entering notes, it's also affected by the default velocity that I've got set, and the C and V keys also work here. So remember, C adjusts the velocity down 20 and the V up 20. And our total range of velocity is 128, so from 0 to 127. So 20 is actually quite a bit. Let me take that down a little bit, and I'll give you an example.
So now when I entered that snare hit, we can see that the velocity down here that's indicated by this line is quite a bit less than the velocity of the other snare hits. Now if you want to enter a custom note length using your Pencil tool, you can simply hold down your Command key and click and drag. And notice now that it's letting me put in a note of any length that I want. So alternate MIDI entry methods often save time, and are a great help to those of us whose keyboard skills need help.
These methods can be a bit tricky, so spend some time getting familiar and practicing with at least one of them. You'll be glad you did.
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