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Piano Computer Piano Computer Computer Piano Piano Piano

June 14, 2010

So so so

I’m trying to come up with new ways of making music.

Since January I’ve discovered the Abletons….thanks to Will. Thanks Will!

It’s really my first foray into the too-big world of computers+music.

I’ve been trying to handle it in a manageable way. The main attraction to ableton is the looping view.

I don’t really want to write about what ableton is, but to be really concise, it’s essentially the rapid-prototyping dream machine for people looking to create and record music.

So you can record “loops” really easily. You can sit and record piano for a long time, listen and clip a loop right there. Then duplicate it, clip another one. Wham bam make another track and play different parts of the same piano thing at the same time.

To me, the main negative thing about this view is you easily get tricked into wanting to add add add.

The entire “set” has a single tempo that’s set by the metronome in the upper-left corner. To make life easier, you should record with the metronome on for at least a couple tracks. I can’t tell if this is actually a flaw or if I don’t understand the higher meaning, but this bpm number will set everything in a set. Controlling the tempo independently for separate tracks is not as straightforward as just changing that tempo.

So my upgrade from the Zoom H4 alone, has been to load my zoom tracks into Ableton.

Then I cut loops, and listen.

When I find something I really like and can’t necessarily instantly re-create on piano I notate it.

So Piano, computer, piano computer. I’m trying to get into this flow you see?

Also ableton let’s you change pitch on the fly (although strangely enough they haven’t decoupled frequency and time like even such basic programs as Audacity have!?) So if you change the pitch too drastically, you will also be affecting the tempo as if you were physically doing this with actual tape.

But this is an advantage because it’s so much easier to pop some piano playing into ableton, mess with the pitch, the tempo, listen to it differently. Get some distance. Then figure out what you like.

So I’ve been trying to use it as a listening tool.

The most important thing I’ve learned from it so far is that where you cut the loop when you’re listening is so important, and can be completely different than you may have first intended while playing it. So while often I feel like I’ve exhausted my piano possibilities, I can listen to everything I’ve created in a different way to get a different perspective on it. I think it’s really useful to do this before committing anything to paper. I’m also not that quick at transcribing (not super slow but not Don Byron fast), so it’s more interesting and makes the most sense to really only transcribe things I’m sure I couldn’t just re-record. New licks I may have been trying out or what have you.

While writing this post and finishing various other little tasks tonight I’ve listened to this 20 second clip I made from a 20 minute recording over and over for maybe 2 hours? Over time I’m hearing sounds and melodies I didn’t even know existed. It’s so exciting. I think this is so useful, compared to only playing something on piano and having to deal with remembering what you’re playing while also trying to add something on top!

Over time, those really important melodies, they just jump out. And stuff that seemed the most important–stuff you focused on while actually making the thing–falls back. Is really only covering the real stuff, the stuff that was leftover from where you clipped the track. Half sustained chords that may have not even be intentioned, that stayed there just because you had forgotten to lift your little finger.

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