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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Side Chain Compression in Ableton Live

What is Side Chain Compression

 

Side Chain Compression enables you to have the compressor react from a separate signal then the one that is being compressed. In essence one signal will be ducking under the other. There are a few different uses of side chain compression. One of the classic uses is when A radio DJ and some Club DJ’s talks over a song that is playing. Wen the DJ talks there is a ducking effect on the music. This effect is automatic so the DJ does not have touch the volume fader when talking. Another classic use is the pumping effect that is common in a lot of EDM music. Every time the kick drum hits the side chain compressor reacts and creates A pumping effect on the other elements of the song. Most commonly the Bass but EDM producers usually pump the synths and pads to. There is also a way to use the side chain compressor so that sculpts the destination audio just a little but so that the source audio can stand out in a subtle way. A great example if this to keep the kick drum and bass form competing for the same space. you can side chain the bass to the kick drum, set a fast attack, fast release, and a lower ratio then you would for the pump effect. In the mix you wont notice the bass ducking but you will notice the kick having a little more punch. I tend to side chain each individual element of my mix to my kick drum, including my sends. I do this with fineness so that you do not hear any pumping in the mix you just hear a phat punchy kick drum. This technique can be used with any thing that you want to slightly stand above your mix. Some other examples are vocals as the source to compress a guitar or synth, in Jazz music you can set the side chain compressor on the lead instruments so it will stand above the others, when you want a lead guitar or synth to have more presence during the solo without having to turn it up, and much much more.

 

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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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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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Don’t Forget To Pack!

black_abl_logo_72dpiAbleton Live Packs

I have noticed a good number of my Ableton Students do not realize that they are missing some amazing content that is included with their Ableton Live Purchase. This content is called Ableton Packs. To get you packs go the https://www.ableton.com/ .

Be sure to Log in to your Account, and the click “Your Packs” which you can get to from the “your account” drop down menu,
or by clicking the Packs link and selecting “Your Packs” from the first drop down menu. What Live Packs you can download will depend on what version of Ableton Live you purchased.

I hope this help some new users get what they paid for :)

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