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.

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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.
Quneo

 

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. Copy.com and dropbox.com 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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Drum Programing with Ableton Live

Drum Programming With Ableton Live

This tutorial is a introduction to midi drum programing using Ableton Live and Drum Racks. To start off we will be making a basic 1 bar drum loop, and then quickly expand the basic drum loop to dynamic 32 bar drum pattern.

The first thing we need to do is open Ableton Live and load a drumrack into a midi track.

To load a drum rack Open the live browser, select the live devices, open the instrument folder, open the drum racks folder, open the kit folder, and select a drum kit.

basic_drum_programing_tutorial_1

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