Droppin some sick nasties

Phrase of the moment for Music Tech level 2. Allow me to explain.

We start level 2 with a pretty straightforward message of “LEARN ABLETON LIVE NOW OR ELSE”. Honestly, there are usually a few students who are put off by the program; nothing is labeled, the colors are plain and drab, and it honestly looks like some kind of alien interface you’d see in Star Trek.

This all changes, however, as we learn that Ableton Live can unlock some of those “how did they do that?” questions about pop music.

First off, the drum kits in Ableton are nice. Especially the electronic ones – way out, trippy crazy sounding kits that someone like Andre 3000 or Will.I.Am would be proud to call his own.

Then we get to learning the clip slots. And record quantization. And MIDI effects like arpeggiator and chord. And beat repeat (my favorite).

Then it all starts to come together and the last vestiges of the “but I liked GarageBand better!” crowd begin to disappear and Ableton reigns supreme (at least until we get computers that can run Logic 9).

To sum it up, students are amazed at how much better their drum programming can be in Live versus how it was back in Level 1 with GarageBand. It’s like that scene in the Matrix where he learns how to fly a helicopter just by plugging something into his head. This type of “holy cow that was easy” moment is what I try to exploit in both classes this early in the year.

To commemorate this year, I’ve decided to play off of the fact that Level 2 is a more pro-focused class, with projects decidedly in the “real world” column most of the time. Every project is going to have a real producer that we study to go along with it. We’ll listen to their music, try to use their style as inspiration, and try to deconstruct the tricks of their trade.

This week the producer we’re looking at is Timbaland. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Author: Will Kuhn

I teach music technology to high schoolers. I do some other stuff too. @willkuhn on Twitter.