Ableton Push: Composition & Sound Design – Continued



Automatic for the people

In today’s electronic music, sound design is a balancing act to strike alongside good, solid musical ideas. You may start by building sounds and then crafting them into a catchy melody, or vice versa, but they can both have a strong influence on each other throughout most genres. Even with a few basic ideas laid out as clips across a few scenes, the following techniques can help push things forward to some musically and texturally interesting results.


Many automation workflows are available through Push, and a handy feature to help capture potential automation sweet spots is to Double a clip’s length multiple times before recording automation passes. Now you’ll have freedom over multiple passes of the original clip, each time moving different parameters to find what might make or break a sound. Then you can hone in on the best bits, Duplicate them to a new clip, loop them and hit Double to extend these best bits to edit further.

Per-step Automation is a valuable resource for more immediate and short-lived changes to any step on the grid. Select a Device to automate, hold down a step in the step sequencer and alter the parameter value for it from Push’s display. This is where sound design gets very interesting and greatly integrated into the rhythmic aspect of any part.

Imagine what’s possible here: you can drag various Audio Effects into the track and just punch in effects processing at different stages within a clip, then you can Double this clip and look to further edit the automation, or keep it in place and then edit the notes of the instrument to see how they create new sounds through these effects.

Note that Repeat and Pad Pressure (aftertouch) can be used for a creative combination of modulation and automation at the same time. Using Note Repeat to trigger both notes and an envelope stage of an instrument like a slow attack filter sweep, results in Note Repeat suddenly becomes very expressive. This is just retriggered modulation, but you can then vary the shape of the envelope to get all sorts of groove- and timbre-shift changes.


The aftertouch aspect of Note Repeat outputs velocity changes, which works very well when mapped to something other than volume. Expression Control is a great Max for Live device for this, and can be easily mapped and saved into an Instrument Rack for this purpose.

Though this can be done by sequencing a pattern first then playing with envelope aspects, having one hand rhythmically trigger and manage Pad Pressure and your other hand control encoders makes this a very performance-led creative technique.

Of course automation isn’t the entirety of sound design but it will play an integral part in keeping movement and interest. Throughout the process it’s not uncommon to also redesign the source material as you go via synthesis or sample tweaking. It’s a feedback loop of creativity and a common method for creating longer sections for your music.


Pushing onwards…

There are countless ways to create music with Push – many more techniques than we can cover here. Due to Live’s extensive library integration and unique Max for Live devices, sound design and jamming with Push should result in you creating your very own unique instrument, and therefore your own signature sound. Exploration isn’t just recommended, it’s required.