Prologue and Ableton Live

The Prologue is an amazing Flagship polyphonic synthesizer that Korg released in early 2018.

The synth comes in an 8- or 16-Voice model, each containing analog oscillators, with the extra addition of a digital oscillator. In this article, I am going to explain how to incorporate the Korg Prologue into an Ableton Live production or performance set.

We live in an amazing time for music production.

One of the major benefits of using a modern analog synth in conjunction with a DAW is that you have the benefits of phat analog oscillators as well as the ability to easily record midi and automation. If you set up your project in a certain way, you can preserve your initial patches and ideas as well as retain the option to make edits after recording. The examples I provide use Ableton Live with the Korg Prologue, but you can apply these techniques to other DAW and hardware combinations that have similar tools.

To get started, you will want to set up your Midi channels in Ableton Live’s midi preferences.

Open preferences in Ableton Live. 
Select the Link/Midi tab on the right side of the preference window.
You will see a list of all your Midi Ports.








Make sure that Input Prologue (KBD/KNOB)
is set to “on” for Track and “Off” for the rest



Scroll down and Set the Output Prologue (Sound) to On for Track,
On for Sync, and Remote off.

This will allow you to send and receive midi information from the Korg as well as send clock sync to the Korg to sync arpeggiators and LFO’s. You will also notice (midi out/in) ports for the Prologue.
These ports will send information over the 5 pin din ports on the back of the Prologue.
The physical midi ports may come in handy if you have older midi gear that does not have a USB.
If you need them, you can set them on as needed. Otherwise set the midi in and out ports to off.


Make sure that the Korg Prologue’s audio out is connected to the inputs of your Audio interface and that your needed inputs are enabled in Ableton Live’s Audio Preferences.

It is best to only enable the audio inputs and outputs that you need to preserve CPU power.

You do have a few options when you set up your track layout for the Korg Prologue in your Ableton Live set. You could of course just set up an audio track and record just like you would any other instrument.

Doing it so is quick and easy but your editing will be somewhat limited.










For more options use a midi track with an External Instrument device loaded.

Ableton’s External Instrument device can be located under the Instrument tab in Live’s browser.






Click the drop-down menu for the “Midi To” and select “Prologue (SOUND)”. Then set the “Audio From” to the Audio channels associated with how the Prologue is connected to your audio interface. I recommend connecting the Prologue using inputs stereo if you can.





Now the Prologue will work a lot like any other Ableton midi Device or VST. You can record midi and CC automation into the clips live or program it by hand.


But it is a good idea to make some adjustments on the Prologue.

If you are using the Prologue’s Keyboard as the midi input, you will cause a double midi event. When a note is played it will play the synth directly. Then within a few milliseconds, the note will run through Ableton and sent back and play the Prologue again. We can deal with this in one of two ways.


One way is In Ableton, you can simply set the Monitor to “Off”.

This method will not allow the live midi notes played on the keyboard to pass through to the Prologue. You will still be able to record the midi into a clip. Any clip that is recorded or programmed will play through to the Prologue.



Another way is to turn “local off” on the Prologue.

Korg Prologue Local Off

Enter Edit Mode on the Prologue. Then use the “Program / Value” Knob to select “Global Edit. Next, locate the “Program Sort / Edit Page” buttons to the right of the “Edit Mode” button.  Push the 3rd button from the right to select “Global 3”. Then Turn the “Program / Value” Knob to select “Off”. Lastly, make sure to exit edit mode by pushing the “Exit” button.

When you set “Local Off” the keyboard will no longer directly play the Prologue. Instead, you will need to route the midi via the DAW. You will then need to set the track monitor state to “Auto” in Ableton Live. The Advantage to this is you will be able to use the “driver error compensation” if needed and you will be able to seamlessly move from keys, to Push, to whatever input device you want to use. The disadvantage is you need to remember that “Local is off” if you play the Prologue without Ableton Live.


Syncing the Prologue’s LFO’s and ARPS to Ableton Live.

Enter Edit Mode on the Prologue. Then use the “Program / Value” Knob to select “Global Edit. Next, locate the “Program Sort / Edit Page” buttons to the right of the “Edit Mode” button.  Push the 5th button from the right to select “Global 5”. Then Press the same button three times to select “Clock Source” Turn the “Program / Value” Knob to select “Auto (USB)”. Lastly, make sure to exit edit mode by pushing the “Exit” button.

Now the Prologue will auto sync to Live if you set up Ableton Live’s midi preferences to send “Sync” out to the Prologue like I mentioned above. The cool thing is when you are not connected to the DAW the Clock will Automatically be internal. So you do not need to mess with this parameter ever again.


Now back in Ableton Live, to record midi notes just arm the track and trigger a clip in session view.






You can also record the midi CC automation of most controls on the Prologue. All you need to do is manipulate the parameters on the Prologue either while doing the initial recording or by enabling the “Session Record Button” on the top middle of Ableton Live.
This really allows for a level of creative flexibility on par with using a VST but instead with an analog hardware synthesizer. Welcome to the future! who really needs flying cars when you can automate an analog synth.
Another awesome feature is the ability to manually set the patch number with the clip under “Pgm Change” this way when you trigger the clip it will trigger the patch on the Prologue.
Everything will function pretty much the same way in Ableton Live’s Arrangement view except you will be on a linear timeline like in other DAW’s.

I would like to add another very important tip.

Set up an Audio track next to the track that the Prologue is on.

open your input/output preferences by clicking I-O on the bottom right side of Ableton Live.
Select the midi track that the Prologue external instrument is on and then select post mixer.
Set the monitor state to “off”

Now you can quickly bounce your clips to audio and save the midi. With the midi saved you can go back to edit the clips later if you need to. Always bounce your clips to audio. Someday you may sell or not have accesses to your synth. This tip applies to softsynths as well, where at some point in the future you may not have the same version, or you may experience other incompatibilities. Printing to audio future-proofs your sessions. By recording the audio you will also be able to quickly create more audio tracks to add more layers of sound using the same synth. Make sure to store the Program Change info with the midi clip. This will allow you to quickly load the patch and edit any part. Don’t forget to save any pre-editing you did on the Prologue too.

Personally, my general workflow is to record the idea. Then do any patch editing and save the patch. Then record any automation into the midi clip. Finally bouncing the idea to an audio clip in Ableton Live. Doing so frees up the synth for other parts as well as gives me the flexibility to go back and tweak apart if I need to.


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Korg Prologue 49 key 8 Voice

Korg Prologue 61 key 16 Voice



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Ableton Template DJing with Ableton

How to Build an Ableton Template for DJing

In my last blog post, I talked about the general concept of building an Ableton template for live performance. There are many different ways you could use Ableton Live on stage. Everyone will have a different approach and a different Ableton template. The problem is with so many options many people have a hard time figuring out the best place to start. In this blog post, I am going to focus on DJing with Ableton Live and building an Ableton template for DJing.

DJing with Ableton Live – A DJ basically plays fully produced tracks to create a mood or vibe. You could be playing other people tracks, your own tracks, or a combination. DJ’s can somewhat ignore my first rule of performing live. Which is, “Never touch your laptop.” Mainly because you will probably have to be dragging songs from Live’s browser into your live set.

Ableton Template Scarlett 2i4Generally, you will be in a DJ booth and have limited space for gear. So you will want to think compact and simple. Get a small audio interface with at least 4 outs. Something like the Scarlett 2i4 is pretty awesome. If you get something with at least 4 outs you have two main options. Option 1, using a DJ Mixer and routing a left deck and right deck into two channels on the mixer. This method allows you to bring minimal gear and just use the house mixer to mix. The basic setup is two audio tracks in Ableton drop your songs onto those tracks and play. You could also easily expand this into a “stem mixing” set up which I will talk about in next week’s blog post. Option 2, get a midi controller so you can do your mixing mix in Ableton. Run one stereo pair to the house system and use the other for headphone cue so you can pre-listen to your tracks. Finding just the right controller is tricky. Standard DJ layout is 3 band EQ, Filter, Effects, Volume Fader, and maybe a Crossfader. Even on a regular DJ rig, I only use my Crossfader to scratch or cut. For mixing, I use the EQ’s and Ableton Template Traktor Zvolume faders. So a Crossfader may not be that important. Check out the Traktor Z1Allen & Heath Xone: K1, Novation Launch Control XL, Livid DS1, APC 40 MK II, Akai AMX and potentially a fully midi mappable DJ mixer. I’m not officially endorsing any of these products so make sure to do your research to find what is best for you. Your midi controller will have the most impact on how you build your Ableton Template for DJing. You will need to warp all your music. Warping songs

You will need to warp all your music in order to DJ in Ableton. Warping keeps everything in time while maintaining the pitch. Warping songs in Ableton Live relatively easy. I made a video about warping tracks in Ableton Live. Warping most electronic music takes just a few seconds. A difficult track can take about 5 minutes. Just spend some time mastering the art of warping.

Organization is also very important. You will want to organize all your songs. Ableton is not DJ Ableton Template DJ_Cratessoftware so you will need to do it on your own. Some people use iTunes and drag from iTunes into Ableton. I recommend just building a DJ Crate style file structure and drag from Live’s browser. If you use Ableton Live’s browser you will not have to jump between two programs while DJing. Learn about “Harmonic Mixing” and check out Mixed in Key. Harmonic Mixing is method of making sure that the songs your mix together are in the same key or relative key. Most people will notice the blend as sounding bad or good. Mixed in Key will help you to organize music based on harmonic quality. Yes, it takes a bit of time to organize your files, but that is part of being a DJ. DJ’s have to organize whatever medium they use, be it vinyl, CD’s, or digital. Staying organized enables you to create fluid on the fly DJ sets. You will be able to react to the crowd much faster to shape the vibe.

One major area that Ableton lacks is cue points. You can use a method of breaking a song into multiple clips. Then saving each song as an Ableton Live sets. So you can drag the clips as “cue points” into your Ableton template while your DJing. I feel this method is very time-consuming and not very elegant but it can work. If you are going to go down the road of DJing in Ableton Live I highly recommend the Isotonik DJ Collection. You will need Ableton Live Suit to use these Max for Live patches. They cost a little money but Ableton Template isotonik_DJ_Cuesconsidering the hours you save it is pennies on the hour. The Isotonik DJ collection comes with DJ Hotcues so you can have cue points in Ableton Live. The Cue points save with the clip. plus DJ Slicer and DJ Looper. The main benefit of DJing in Ableton is you can just use the same software you use to produce, and you can expand your set to other styles of live performance and still have a core DJ template.Ableton Template

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Ableton Live Performance Template Introduction

Introduction to Creating your Ableton Live Performance Template.

This is the first article in A series of articles on Performing music using Ableton Live. The reason this topic needs to be a series is because it is not a simple answer. Everyone is different and, everyone has different needs. Yes, you could get someone’s template, learn it, get good with it, and be good to go. Using a pre-made template may work for some people and by all means explore. If nothing else you will get ideas on what you like and do not like. You also may find a template that almost suits your needs that you can modify for Performing using Ableton Live. This particular article is not about templates. I will not even really be talking to much about setting up Ableton Live either. I will be talking about the processes of preparing yourself for performing live with Ableton Live.

The first step in the processes of setting up an Ableton Live set for live performance is conceptualization. Visualize yourself on stage. What do you see? ArLive Looping with Abletone you solo? Are you in a band? Do you have a light and video show? What are doing? What instruments are you playing? How are you interacting with the music you are presenting to the world? Imagine yourself from the audience perspective. What does the audience see? How are you going to make a lasting impression on the audience? Take your time with this part. Visualizing your live performance is the most important step. Write it all down. Go see shows and pay close attention to what the artists are doing. take note of not only what impresses you but also what impresses the audience. Even though it mat seem like everyone is a producer, musician, or DJ, you are actually a minority. The majority of music fans have little to no idea what is actually happening on stage. They are there to be entertained. Also, consider the kind of music you are playing and the environment of your normal gig. Are hidden away in a DJ booth playing dance music? Are you the center stage focal point of the music? Are you A supporting performing? All of this has relevance to how you perform live and how you set up your rig.

After you spent some time on the visualizing the next step is conceptualizing. We still are not even going to open Ableton Live in this step but gather up all yoAbleton Push 2 and Native Instruments Maschine Lessonsur gear. If you do not have any gear you will need something, anything. The number one rule of performing live is Do Not Touch Your Laptop on Stage!! I have one exception to this rule for the producer/DJ type that generally performs in a DJ booth. I will talk about that soon. Touching your laptop on stage is boring for you and the audience. I have mixed feelings about iPads those can be ok, but no touching the laptop. Use midi controllers to interact with your music. With the exception of some DJ’s do not put the laptop between you and the audience. It blocks the energetic transfer between you and the audience which can cause a lack of connection. If you come from a performance musician or DJ background you probably know what I am talking about. The magic is why we get on stage and why people become your fans. So imagine your live performance rig. Check out all the awesome gear that exists today. Watch videos about the gear. Watch videos of people performing with the gear. Think about what you want to do on stage. What instruments do you want to play? Do you want to finger drum? Do you want to play everything live? Live looping? Do you want to have a mix of playing live instruments and prerecorded loops or backing tracks? Do you want to just play over backing tracks? Play full tracks? DJ? Enhance the sound of your band? So many ways to perform live! Don’t forget about lighting and video, yes Ableton Live can tell other software and hardware what to do.

After you go crazy conceptualizing all the amazing possibilities of performing live. Look over that massive gear wish list that you just created and simplify. You are not an octopus my friend. Yes, the audience may perceive you as being an entity of many limbs but you actually only have 4. The second rule of live performance. Keep It as Simple As Possible! (but don’t talk about it). The biggest problem with Ableton Live when using it on stage is the limitless Touchable Ipad Ableton Trainingpossibilities. You need a box. So your gear will become your box. You will need to shape your live set to your gear. That is why thinking about what you want to do is so important. You have feet too. Live loopers, controllerists, and instrumentalists can potentially all benefit from a foot controller. Another thing to think about is changing presets on the controller. I personally can not stand changing presets on my controllers while I am performing. I prefer to have dedicated functions that are always in the same place. This will help you to develop muscle memory. In the end, your live rig is an instrument. You will be able to play your live rig like an instrument. When you get good and your live rig you can focus on the music and the energy so you can take the audience on a journey. I like lots go knobs, faders, and buttons. APC 40, Launch Control, Launch Pad, Push, Quneo, and more. So many controllers out there. They all have strengths and weaknesses. Finding that combination is the trick. Personally, when I started doing this in 2007 there just was not that many choices. The trigger finger, Some cool Novation stuff, and my first controller, The Akai MPD 24 had just come out. I was inspired by the MPC so snagged that quick. My rig has evolved a lot over the years so do not be afraid of change. At the same time do not get every new shiny thing that comes along.

I want to side track real quick. Keeping to the “Keep it Simple” ethos I am directing this specifically to the DJ/Producers types. The ones that are always hidden behind a DJ booth where no one can see what you are doing. Your goal is to make music so awesome that the audience does not bother to look at you because they are dancing their asses off. They should not be watching you, filming you, they should be dancing. Personally, it drives me nuts when people are standing in the way filming the DJ’s head from the area that should be reserved for dancing. Here is a little secret, I do not know anything more simple than some headphones and thumb drives. The club probably has a really awesome Pioneer CDJ rig. Softstep Ableton TutorBring some CD’s for backup but thumb drive and headphones are magic. Get awesome with a DJ rig and control that dance floor. You want to add some live elements check out some iPad apps. Imaschine 2 is awesome, yes it is limited but it is simple and fun. I know plenty of DJ’s that use Ableton. Yes, Ableton can be an amazing DJ tool, but just because you produce in Ableton Live it does not mean you need to DJ with it. Personally, I love using Vinyl, CDJ’s, and Traktor to DJ. If you are a DJ you need to be able to use it all. At one of my recent shows, I was set up to do a live set in a DJ club. I had 1 deck to scratch Vinyl, Ableton Live, A Traktor Z2, Apc 40, and a Quneo. That is actually one of my scaled back rigs. I dropped my first sample on Vinyl then when I fired my scene no sound. I could see green audio on my master bus. My Audio interface was set up correctly. Volume was up on the mains. I had no idea what the issue was. So I dropped a Portishead record on my turntable. I went back to troubleshooting but I was quickly running out ofAPC 40 Austin Ableton Tutor time. I decided to get the CDJ’s going. I put my thumb drive into the CDJ. Nothing, CDJ did not read. I quickly grabbed my CD case out of my bag and started playing some music. The audience has no idea that I am having issues. I while playing on the CDJ’s I rebooted my laptop then switched back to my live set after a few tracks on the CDJ’s. If all I could do was use my laptop I would have been screwed. Moral of the story always have backups, and Portishead can save your butt!

Ok, so you know what you want to do. You know what gear you want to use. You have a good idea of how you want to perform. Next step, skills. You need skills. Templates and gear do not give you skills. It is time to figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Are you an awesome guitarist that wants to become a live looper? Have you ever done any live Jungle with Abletonlooping? you are going to need to be awesome at live looping. It is time to develop that skill. Are you a hardware looper transitioning to Live looping in Ableton Live? I hate to break it to you but the workflow looping with  Ableton Live is a little different then looping with hardware. You have a lot more options and can do more epic things live looping in Ableton but it will not be exactly the same. You want finger drum like Jeremy Ellis, Divinci, Mad Zach, or any of the other awesome finger drummers out there. Yes, they have how-to videos and templates that you should watch but nothing will replace skills. Mad Zach has one of the best finger drumming tutorials I have seen. Check it out. You need to practice. No matter how awesome anyone is at something at one point they sucked and had no clue what they were doing. The only cure for suck is practice. Practice will always cure suck. So figure out what skill you need and the live those skills, breath those skills, figure out ways to alway be practicing. Even thinking about practicing increases your skills. You can actually finger drum and beatbox everywhere! I used to always practice my two and three finger bass plucking technique. I did it so much I would do it without even knowing. In the processes of developing any need skills, your live set will start to take shape.

Finally, here we are. You know what you want. You have the skills to do it. Now it is time to get that live set dialed in. I want to reinforce Keep It Simple. Most importantly keep your interaction on stage simple. Sometimes that will involve some complex tricks under the hood. that is fine, but keep that as simple as possible. You will also need to keep an eye on that CPU. In future articles, I will talk about the nuts and bolts. I will talk about how to actually set up your live set and I will go into a number of different styles of live performing. So for know get back to practicing. Another thing about practicing, you want to be awesome you must keep practicing as do I.

Check out How To Build a DJ Template with Ableton Live.

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Ableton Push 2 and Live 9.5

Ableton Push 2 and Live 9.5 is here!!

Exciting times are here!  Not only has Ableton released the Ableton Push 2, but also a new software update, Ableton Live 9.5.  This is an overview of some of the newer features of this awesome device.  The Ableton Push 2 has a number of cosmetic and ergonomic upgrades as compared to the original Push.  Most notable is a larger Full Color Display, which provides more in-depth feedback and control over Ableton Live.

Ableton Push 2 Display

Physically a number of controls have been moved for better ergonomics and feel on the Ableton Push 2. The Master Volume knob has been moved away from the main macros, which will help to avoid accidentally adjusting the Master Volume.

Ableton Push 2 Master Volume

The octave controls are now where the navigation button used to be, which is really handy when playing instruments.  Also the navigation Ableton Push 2 Octave button has been moved closer to the add track, add device and browse buttons; which is nice because you can now also use the nav button to navigate the browser when in browse mode.

The Master button will now toggle between the master bus and last selected track.  Both the mute and solo select buttons have been moved to the left next to an additional button, Stop Clip.  When you hold down the Stop Clip button, you can then use the row of buttons just below the display to stop the clip in its corresponding track. Holding down shift and then pressing stop clip will stop all clips.

Just below the Mute, Solo, and Stop Clip Buttons, a Convert button has been added. The convert button will change the current clip or instrument into a different format.  This means that when you record an audio clip and then press Convert on the Ableton Push 2, it will convert the audio clip into Simpler.  After doing some editing in Simpler, you can press the Convert button again to convert the Simpler clip into a drum rack.Ableton Push 2 Convert

The User Mode button is now on the top right, this will be nice for people using user scripts or custom mapping, because you can quickly locate the button and switch in and out of user modes.   Next to the User button, a Setup button has been added.  In Setup mode, you can quickly switch between scene and clip workflow, adjust the brightness, and adjust the feel of the pads, using 3 levels of control sensitivity, gain, and dynamics.  This will help you really dial in your personal feel on the pads.  Everyone has their own preferences, and now it is easier than ever to make the pads respond exactly how you want.

The USB input has been recessed which will prove to be a more reliable connection.  Ableton Push 2 feels a little light but still very solid.  Besides the new layout and the new buttons, you will find the real power of the Ableton Push 2 when you dive in and start working with Ableton Live.

In Clip Mode, you can now see the wave form of audio clips, and have access to a number of clip controls including zoom and loop position. You can even change the Warp modes without touching the mouse.

The Ableton Push 2 workflow with Simpler also allows for editing without the mouse.  You can press Add Device,  use the navigation pad to select A sample, choose between 3 different modes, change the warping, and much more; all without leaving your device.  With the new full color menu screen, there are a lot of features you can work with straight from the Ableton Push 2.  This allows for a much more fluid workflow, as you’re not having to go from device to keyboard and back again.

Ableton Live 9.5 Simpler

With Ableton Push 2, you can now open and close racks and grouped tracks by pressing the button below the display that corresponds to the group or rack.  It’s as easy as that.  Pressing the Mix button will allow you to quickly adjust volumes, pans and sends;  and pressing the Device button will give you access to the devices.

When the device is selected and you press the same button again, you will be in Full Device Mode.  The buttons above and below the display will be dedicated to the selected device, so you can easily change banks and modify all the parameters in the device.  Press the button named for the device, which is located on the top left, to exit the Full Device Mode.  You will still have access to whichever bank was last selected, plus be able to navigate your set.


As you can see, the buttons are developed to be self explanatory and intuitive.  This really allows for a smooth workflow and a pleasurable production experience.  This is just a small example of what the new Ableton Push 2 can do.  With the improved layout and powerful features, this really does need to be the next addition to your production arsenal.  Once you see how well this has improved the music making experience, you will wonder how you ever managed without it.  Welcome to the new standard, brought to you by the Ableton Push 2.

For more information and to download live 9.5 or purchase Ableton Push 2 go to the Ableton website.

Check out some of my Videos on Youtube Channel, I get into some of the features of the Ableton Push 2 and Live 9.5.

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Interview With Kenzie Slottow: Ableton Live Looping

Today we’re excited to catch up with flutist and composer Kenzie Slottow, to discuss life and upcoming events and projects.  Not only does Kenzie compose amazing music, she does it in a unique way utilizing Ableton Live’s looping capabilities.  She is also a student of Ableton certified instructor, Jimmy Allison.  We’re glad to present to you this recent interview:

AAT: What are some of your biggest influences musically?

KS: Lindsey Stirling– she plays violin to original dubstep, house, electro-pop, and all sorts of EDM. I’d never heard anyone put a classical instrument in that context. And she dances while she plays, which is amazingly difficult.  Her videography is really inspiring to me too. Zoe Keating, she used to play with the band Raspertina, and then she started doing cello looping in a really intricate way, using Ableton and some other software.  She’s a tech person by trade.  Her music is really heartfelt, and it transports you, very evocative.

AAT: How has that inspired your playing?

KS: Zoe made me want to loop. I was discouraged by the limitations of looping at first, and when I heard her music I learned there could be complexity and beauty in it. Lindsey showed me you can move and play your instrument, and since dance is a big part of my background, I saw they could both be done at the same time, and I immediately wanted to incorporate that. Also Lindsey’s music is very energetic and upbeat, and it appeals to a wide demographic of people. I really like her melodies as well.

AAT: How long have you been playing music?

KS: There’s a picture of me sitting with my dad, and singing while he plays guitar, and I look I’m about five. But I started playing flute when I was in 5th grade, so about 17 years.

AAT: Have you been playing the entire time since then?


AAT: When you compose, do you write from the flute, or another instrument?

KS: I’ll sound out the melody in my head onto the flute; sometimes I’ll sing it into a voice memo and sound it out later. Usually I have a vision of the atmosphere I want to create before I even create the melody. I kind of go from big to small. Like “I want to write a love song” or “I want to write a song about being nervous”, which luckily for me translates into something original-sounding every time, because it’s flute and instrumental, without any lyrics.

AAT: How long does it typically take to compose a song?

KS: The songs on the dance EP were conceived in many different versions. So from the first to the final iteration, two of them were at least 6 months. You probably wouldn’t recognize the songs from the first to the last versions. It depends on a lot of things, I can’t really choose how long it takes. It comes from somewhere else, and I need to allow it to come through, without the mind trying to figure it out. It’s something I’m trying to work on, getting more spiritual about something I want to do rationally, and on a schedule.

AAT: How have you noticed that your music’s changed over years?

KS: I started out excited to learn the band and orchestra music in high school, and in college I continued to be passionate about classical music but discovered that there was a flutist in England composing jazzy contemporary stuff, that was notated, and I could read it and learn it. I didn’t have a jazz background, so I needed the notation. Ian Clarke is his name. And that was my introduction into playing non-classical. I asked an older classmate to teach me one of Ian’s pieces. It had almost beat-box type percussive stuff in it, you had to yell in the middle of it and make really dirty flute sounds. So, I loved it! And throughout college I learned Irish flute, and a little bit of North Indian Hindustani flute, and I really enjoyed combining all of the genres I was finding out about. So by senior year, I put together an arrangement using pretty much all three of those, Irish, Indian and Classical. This was unorthodox for a last piece for music school! In grad school at University of Texas, I was introduced to Electro-Acoustic composition; so that’s when I developed an interest in combining electronic sounds with flute. My style has expanded over the past seven years with all that I’ve learned about, and it keeps expanding.

AAT: So that got you into looping?

KS: Yeah, I didn’t know how to use the technology that those composers were using, so I started with a BOSS RC30, because it was much simpler.

AAT: What got you into learning Ableton?

KS: Once I had written several songs with the RC-30 I felt I had reached the limits of that hardware. So, I wanted to be able to take the pieces being recorded, and make them go away and allow them to come back at the end. On the RC-30 if you erase something there’s no bringing it back, unless you switch to another memory track which is tedious. So on Ableton you could do a lot more complex arranging, and it was designed for live performance. Not only would I be able to bring things back, but I could automate panning, volume levels, effects, and I could choose what each foot pedal did on my controller.

AAT: Have you found that using Ableton has changed the nature of your compositions?

KS: Yes. In the studio, making the Hold It Up To The Sun Loops EP, we were basically composing with individual segments instead of live in the studio, because I didn’t know how to use Ableton yet. But we were putting the pieces together in a way that could only be done on Ableton. I wanted to make sure the stuff on the CD could be done live, so the capabilities of the software were really important in creating the songs that way. I was able to give my songs a dramatic arch that was dependent on a lot of expressive techniques, like fading out the first rhythm while it’s overlaid with a different rhythm; like having certain sections play only from the right or left. Really specific details. I know there are a million hardware looping options out there, but I just couldn’t afford all of that, and with Ableton I knew if I got it once then the sky’s the limit, and the hardware would eventually reach a limit, where I would have to turn to the computer anyways.


AAT: How long did it take to learn all of that?

KS: I’ve been working on this for about a year, and I now know just enough to make the songs on my album work, and we’re still improving them. I’m looking forward to the moment when I feel like the software is my creative playground.

AAT: Jimmy Allison is your Ableton instructor, how has the experience been, learning with him?

KS: I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without Jimmy. When I first looked at the program it was like a foreign language. I go into Jimmy and I say I want to recreate this song live, it has 24 recorded segments and some of them fade out and come back later, some of them simplify and reappear in their original form, and some of them I want to sample for later in the song. And Jimmy says “Hmmm, I’ve never heard of that before, but let’s try this.” and then he figures it out in 10 or 20 minutes and creates a structure for doing this. And so slowly I’m assimilating this and understanding it, while in the meantime, it’s already happening. I can hear it, I can play it.

AAT: Has he been able to help you learn everything you wanted to learn?

KS: Yeah and more. As I get into my music, he keeps coming up with more ideas for how to make the live sound better. What equipment I might try, like in-ear monitors, and he even helps me with other aspects like an automated scheduling system that has simplified my life! He’s definitely a really holistic teacher and you get more than you expect.

AAT: So you have an album that is about it be released?

KS: Its called Hold It Up To The Sun, and there are two EPs under that name. The Loops EP is the all of the stuff I’ve been working with Jimmy on in Ableton. It’s layers of flute, beat-box, vocals, that I try to tell stories with. They range from really meditative to rock and roll to techno, and to almost comical lyrics. It’s mostly instrumental, with one song of lyrics. The Dance EP is shorter and the electronics were produced ahead of time. They’re lush backtracks with epic beats, and soaring melodies. I literally cannot stand still and play these songs at the same time. It’s being released on October 10th, 2015 at the North Door. Right now it’s available for pre-order on my Kickstarter.

AAT: Tell me about the Kickstarter.

KS: The Kickstarter is both a way to raise money to create the two EP’s, and sharing my first batch of original music with the world. I’m raising $8,000, it started on Labor Day and is continuing until October 7th. I’m offering not only the EP’s, but also T-shirts, remixes and preliminary versions of some of the tracks, for different levels of backing on Kickstarter. People can get the albums and a shirt for $25, and with $35 will also get two tickets to the album release party. At the door they’ll be $10 each.
Also on the Kickstarter page you can find the history behind the album’s title, and read about how this music can inspire children to be more creative.   [Kenzie’s Kickstarter can be found here: ]

AAT: Can you say anything more about the Release party?

KS: It’s going to be a very collaborative show. I have at least two dancers I’m going to be working with, three talented band members, and two great videographers,
to make this show a full sensory experience. It’s appropriate for all ages. In addition to playing the full two EP’s, I’m going to be doing covers of some of my biggest influences. There will be guest appearances as well. The vibe is going to be similar to a previous show I put at the Butterfly Bar in 2012 and 2014 called Disco Classical where we had a variety of musicians playing dance music in different styles. People were grooving, dancing or just enjoying themselves the entire night. I’m really looking to recreate that energy, but this time with my original music.

AAT: What time is the show on the 10th?

KS: Doors are at 7:30, Nicholas Azlon of MODAL will be performing at 8, and my set starts at 9. There will be an after party of beat boxing and jams by Maestro Giovani starting at 10:30, in the same location. Tickets are $8 on the North Door website, $10 at the door.

Here is a link to tickets for the show at the North Door: , ,

This concludes our interview.  Stay tuned for more Interviews, Updates, and Tips.

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Time Signature and Beat Basics

Today we’ll be covering one of the prime aspects of creating music.  Before one considers song structure, harmony, or melody, one must start with the fundamental element, the beat.  This is what lays the foundation, and the layers of the song come from there.  To properly understand what makes a beat, it is important to know the correct terminology and concepts.  Music is a language, and when one knows the terms, ideas can be communicated to other musicians.  We will cover time signature, measures, phrases, beat counts, and also what they look like on the music page.  Knowing this will help line up different drums to match the rhythm, for example.

A note is the time measure of a sound in how it relates to the music.  To make a rhythm, one puts notes together into beats.  A beat is made up of one or more notes.  Try counting 1-2-3-4, while tapping your toe along with it.  Each one of these numbers is considered a beat.  In a four count like this, when the note and the beat are the same length, the note is called a 1/4 (quarter) note.  It is also called this because this note/beat is 1/4 of a measure, typically.  A measure is made up of beats, in our current example there are 4 beats in a measure.

Now lets look at some other note lengths.  If we kept the beat the same, 1-2-3-4 (one measure), but doubled the amount of notes (making there be 8), having two notes per beat, these notes would be called 1/8th (eighth) notes.  One note is 1/8th of the measure long.

We could double the notes again, still keeping four beats per measure.  This would make us have four notes per beat, 16 in total.  These notes are called 16th (sixteenth) notes, also because there are 16 of them per measure.

This is the basically how the count works, however measures are not limited to 4 beats.  How does one know what a measure is worth in a song?  This is dictated by what is called the time signature.  The time signature controls the overall count of a song, saying how many beats are in a measure and what notes to use to make up the beats.

Let’s break down what it means when someone says a song is in 4/4 time.  The bottom 4 means each beat is worth a 1/4 note, and the top 4 means there are 4 of these 1/4 notes in a measure.  If we change it to 3/4 for example, there are 3 beats in a measure.  You get the idea.

It gets tricky when we change the bottom number to say an 8.  Let’s look at the 6/8 time signature.  The 8 on the bottom shows that the beat is using 1/8th notes, and the 6 says there are six in a measure.  We will delve further into other time signatures in future blogs.  4/4 is the typical time signature is most music.

The final term to know is what is called a phrase.  A phrase is a group of measures.  Usually a phrase will be four, eight or sixteen measures long.  Phrasing is what is used to make a verse, chorus, and other aspects to constructing a song.  When one has the time signature, puts the beats into measures, groups the measures into phrases, a song is born!  Hopefully this was helpful in understanding the fundamental concepts for creating music.  With this understanding, you can work with other musicians and also better construct your music.

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11 tips for an Ableton Live Performance

11 Tips for Ableton Live Performance

I have performed live music in as a musician in traditional bands, a controlerist/musician in electronic bands, a solo electronic music performer, a DJ, and even as a VJ. Over the years I have picked up a few things that have helped me to put on better and better live shows. so here is a short list of tips for electronic musicians and DJ’s to think about when performing live.


1 Keep it Simple

This is the tip that is applied to everything. Keep it simple! When you are prepping for an Ableton live performance you want to keep everything as simple as possible so that you can focus on your performance.


2 Build Your Box

We are always trying to get outside of the box, but the box has something that is very helpful. The box provides limitations that help you to keep it simple. Let your controllers be the box. Take a good look at the available midi controllers. Not all midi controllers are well suited for an Ableton Live performance rig. I live the Keith McMillen Instruments Quneo for the size and versatility. I love the Akai Apc 40 for its ease of use with in an Ableton Live performance set. The Ableton Push is great as an instrument and grid launcher. do many options. Pick your controllers and work with in the limitations of the controller. Design your Ableton Live performance set to fit the controller. View your controllers like an instrument.


3 Do not Touch your computer

Watching someone on stage standing behind a computer is boring. As a performing using the computer in front of you is uninspiring. Get the computer out of the way. Try not to put the computer between you and your audience. If your performing an original Ableton Live Performance you are not DJ. So perform, the crowed wants to see a performance. refer to tip number 2. Your box is your instrument. Your instrument is your performance. Build your performance set so you can do everything you need to do without touching your computer.

4 Never let them see you sweat

If your computer is on fire and melting act like it is part of the show. If the audio drops out and everything is silent.. yell at the crowed and hype them up. It doesn’t matter who’s fault the problem is, don’t bring attention to the problem.. act like it is part of the show and solve the problem. Some times that is harder the others. It helps to have a back plan. an Ipod, instruments, other band members.. anything to keep the crowed entertained and distracted while you or some one else solves the problem.

5 Be prepared

Have a back up plan. If your computer is broken be ready with a thumb drive so you can potentially borrow some one else’s. Have a small case of CD so you can play on CDJ’s, maybe an ipad, instruments, anything that you can do to make the show go on. Have extra cables. Be able to get from what ever your outputs are to XLR, 1/4 inch, and RCA. Bring extra usb/firewire/thunderbolt cables. have adaptors. I always have a stereo 1/8inch to left/right 1/4 and RCA just incase my audio interface breaks. This also helps you to be the hero. Promoters, bookers, and artists will remember better if you save the day.

Cable Bag

5 Use a master Ableton Live Performance Set

In most cases you do not want to load a new Ableton Live set for each song. Create one master set that has all your songs in it so you only have to load one Ableton Live set. It may seem impossible, but trust me not only is it possible but 99% of the time it is the Absolute best way to perform.

6 If you do not play it, tweak, or manipulate it, render it.

Render your midi tracks to audio clips. If your processing your music with lots of effects and not manipulating anything render to an audio clip. Not only with this drastically cut down on your CPU usage but you will be able to better organize your live set to fit your box. you can also think in stages. Say you have a synth patch and you want to manipulate the filter cut off and lfo. Render the synth to audio with the filter open and then use auto filter or another filter on the audio.

7 Keep it Simple, Seriously!

you do not need to trigger everything and do everything. Unless of course that is your performance then by all means. If you are a spending trying to trigger every section of the song perfectly the same every time then just make it all one scene and focus on effects, singing, playing an instrument, or what ever it is that your performance is. Keep it simple and focused on performance. Do not worry about what people think. Blow them away with an epic performance of your design. Most people have no idea what your doing anyway so blow their minds!

8 Always except complements well

After your performance when people come and tell you how awesome you are, thank them graciously and smile confidently. I don’t care if you think you sucked and everything went wrong, they don’t have a clue about any of that and they think you are good. Never ever ever say “o man i sucked and screwed it all up”. If you say that that is almost a direct insult to the person that just gave you a compliment.

9 Practice, Practice Practice

This the secret to talent. Practice! Talent is not a gift or some magical thing. Talent comes from hard work, dedication, and practice. You can be as amazing as anyone if you focus and practice. I don’t care if your old, if your young, all you need to do is practice. People get so amazed and young kids that are amazing at what they do. Guess what the get to do all day.. practice, no job, just practice. if you practice we will become great.

10 Have Fun

This is the most important tip to putting on a good performance. Have fun, have lots and lots of fun. Performing music is fun. Even if your expressive emotional music that is all dark and emo, have some fun and enjoy yourself. Dance, move and express your self with every part of your being. That is your job and your job is fun.

11 Back up everything

Cloud storage is cheap these days. and are awesome. They have free plans and paid plans. At the very least back up your live performance set. If you have your performance set backed up on the cloud and all your gear is stolen. You can download your live set onto another computer and perform. Your Ableton Live set will run even on a trial copy of Ableton Live. Remember the old show business saying “The Show Must Go On!” this is true even now.

These are just some of the many tips that can help you to put on an amazing Ableton Live Performance. Never forget your job is to entertain, how ever that may be down, what ever you are doing, your primary goal is to entertain people and take them into your world.

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Using and Recoding Automation in Ableton Live 9

Using and Recording Automation in Ableton Live 9

This Ableton Instruction video by Ableton Live Certified Trainer Jimmy Allison is about using and recording automation in Ableton Live 9. Automation is a very handy tool that can be utilized for both production and performance. New to Ableton Live 9 is the ability to record Automation directly into Live’s session view clips. You can also move clips between session view and arrangement view while maintaining the automation . This video also contains a tips for over dubbing Automation with the Ableton Push and a workflow tip involving using automation on the Ableton utility effect.


Over Dubbing Automation in Arrangement view with Ableton Push

This is video is just a quick video to show you how to overdub Automation in Ableton Live using Ableton Push. It can be a bit tricky but basically you need to set the input to non on the track so that the Ableton Push does not arm the track when you select. If the track is armed and you try to record Automation int0 Live’s arrangement view you will also overdub the midi clip. This is a just a quick video demonstrating how to set up Ableton Live’s Arrangement View for overdubbing automation with the Ableton Push.

Jimmy Allison is an Ableton Live Certified training offering private and group lesson online and in the Austin, TX area. Taking private lessons is one of the most cost effective ways of attaining your goals. The lessons will be focused on you and your needs which will greatly reduce your learning curve. Learn at your pace and on your own time. Highly specialized training from an instructor with over 7 years of experience teaching and countless years producing and performing music. Feel free to send a message and receive more info about Ableton Training

Ableton Live Automation

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Dropping Samples on Ableton Drum Rack


I was having a conversation the other day with my producer friend Levi Witt aka DRRTYWULVZ. He was talking about how annoying it was when dropping samples onto a drum rack and then having to adjust the release value of every simpler. Levi likes to have the release value short so he can control the length of the sample with the note length in Ableton Live’s midi clip view. I then mentioned A really awesome feature in Ableton Live 9 often over looked, User defined defaults. In previous version of Live you could right click/CMD click on the title bar of any Ableton Live device and save the current device as default. You can of course still do that in Live 9 and more.

First grab a default Simpler from the Ableton Live Instruments under Categories in you Live 9 browser. You can get a default simpler by dragging the folder called Simpler into a midi track. All built in Ableton Live Devices provide a default patch in this manor.

Loading Ableton Default Simpler


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