Creating electronic dance music in Ableton
My Tech Project
The aim of this project was more personal accomplishment than actual product at the end. I have never been amazing with technology and could not even operate Ableton during the Mashups & Mixing week. The main goal for this project was to become competent in Ableton. With most other DAWs having a similar layout, I hope this learning inside Ableton will become universal, or at the least, familiarise myself with the common layout of a DAW. This page includes basic tutorials on how to achieve some of the sounds I used in my composition, as well as a day-by-day log of my composition progress.
For basic Ableton tips see Mashups & Mixing
Typical Dance beat and the Drum Rack
- Drag the empty drum rack onto the Mixer Drop area
2. “Create” your own drum kit with different effects by dragging individual sounds onto the drum pad. Start by selecting 3-4 different high pitch clap sounds
3. Make each of the claps shorter by first clicking on the individual clap sound, then by dragging the small grey triangle to the left to shorten the sound clip
4. Select a low sounding kick or snare to contrast with the claps, again shorten the sound clip to make it more crisp
5. Double click the clip slot to create a clip manually
6. Double click any blank tile in the drum roll grid to place a note corresponding to the sound on that line. This is an example of a basic House style rhythm using 1 kick, 3 claps and 1 high-hat.
7. EDM music usually has simple drum pattern with a heavier beat. This is the main beat used throughout my composition
Creating a “Bounce” Bass
- Drag a blank analog instrument onto the MIDI instrument
2. Select the SAW wave
3. Lower the pitch by two octaves
4. Reduce frequency filter to 190
5. Set resonance to 20%
6. Set the decay to 300ms
7. Click Amp1 and set decay to 300ms
8. Select the second oscillator and change it to a sine wave
9. Lower the octave by 2
10. Click, hold and drag down until F2 appears in this small box
11. Turn the filter 2 frequency to 1.1k
12. Reduce the sustain on Amp 2 to 0.00
13. Create a clip with the bass playing on every beat.
Creating a melody
- Select a synth from the ‘Synth Lead’ tab under ‘Analog’ in the Instruments category. Drag a saw synth onto the coloured top of the midi track.
2. To play the synth using the virtual keyboard make sure the instrument is armed and the computer keyboard is on. EDM music often uses minor melodies or modes, to play the most simple minor scale use the keyboard keys “S, D, F, G, H, U, K, L”, this is D natural minor. The register can be changed by octaves using Z (Down) and X (Up).
3. To record in real time, press the small circle inside any clip slot
4. To create a short idea in the piano-roll view, double click the grey area inside the clip slot
5. Make the melody short, simple and catchy. It needs to be repetitive so must sound complete by itself but with the potential for continuation. In my composition I ended the melody on the tonic and sometimes on the 5th with some neighbour notes every few repeats
Day-by-day composition walk through