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Melodic Patterns

How to record the output of Ableton Live’s arpeggiator

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Ableton Live's MIDI arpeggiatorI enjoy Live’s MIDI arpeggiator effect that you can drop into a midi track. It’s a quick way to come up with a rhythmic melody. But sometimes I want to alter a few notes from the arpeggiated melodic line. This is where this tip comes in handy. It will allow you to capture the output of the arpeggiator into a midi clip so you can edit it to your liking.

Listen to this audio example made with Live’s Arpeggiator and NI Massive:

Step 1: From the Live Device Browser, open “MIDI Effects”. then open “Arpeggiator” and drag an arpeggiator preset into a new midi channel. Rename this channel to “Arpeggiator” (Ctrl + R for PCs or Cmd + R for macs)

Step 2: From the Plug-in Device Browser, drag a VST/AU plugin of your choosing into the midi channel alongside the MIDI arpeggiator. I prefer Native Instruments’ “Massive” plugin, which has great analog-style waveforms for rich, punchy sound.

Step 3: Arm the arpeggiator track and begin playing notes to feed the MIDI arpeggiator. When you’re ready to record, click one of the record buttons in the Captured Arp session channel to begin recording the output of the arpeggiator. You can use your computer’s keyboard as a midi keyboard (as long as the Computer Midi Keyboard button in the upper right corner  of the application is switched on). When you’re finished playing, click the red play button to stop recording.

Step 4: Create a new midi channel. I’ve named it “Captured Arp”. This channel will be used to record the output of the arpeggiator.  Change the  “Midi From” to “1 – Arpeggiator” (channel 1)

Step 5: Click the record button in a blank clip in the new midi channel as the arpeggiated clip you just recorded is playing. Click again to stop when finished recording.

Step 6: Congratulations, you’ve just recorded arpeggiated notes. Now you can double click on the new midi clip to edit the notes. Click the “Fold” button to only see the notes which were played by the arpeggiator. This makes it easier to use the arrow keys to move midi notes around, it will sound good no matter where you move the notes, because it will always move around in whichever scale you were playing

Writing melodies with ease in Ableton Live

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

F Major and F Minor in the clip view in Live 7

If you aren’t confident enough to record melodies from a MIDI keyboard or even your computer’s keyboard (a nice feature in Live for when you’re on the road with no MIDI controller), I find that the easiest way to write melodies with the pencil tool (Command + B for mac users, Ctrl + B for windows users) is to write in your melodies step by step. If you recall the formulas for major in tones (W = whole step, H = half step) (W W H W W W H) and minor (W H W W H W W), then you can use the Fold feature of Live’s clip view to hide the notes that are not included by one of these formulas. Notice in the first image, we have one octave of notes stacked up on top of each other in two different scales, F major and F minor.

All we need to do is create one of these stacks in a MIDI clip, and then duplicate it once or twice. Just select all the notes, then hold down option (mac) while dragging the notes up one octave. This should create a duplicate of your notes, but transposed up one octave. Do this again for the octave below. Now when you click the “Fold” button located at the top left of the clip view, all notes that are not in the clip are hidden. Note in this second image that at the very left, there is a stack of notes that form the scale of F minor. After that, I randomly double clicked to create new notes all over the grid. I set my synthesizer’s polyphony to 1 so that it can only play one note at a time. So no matter what notes I drew, they were all in key. As long as you have the fold view enabled, you can now draw notes anywhere and it will still sound pretty decent.