Ableton Live Video Tutorial Roundup! Techno Fundamentals w/ Dubspot Instructor John Selway

Learn the basics of creating techno with seasoned producer John Selway! In these four ‘Techno Fundamentals’ videos, Selway explores some basic techno composition techniques, some unorthodox production methods, and shares some crucial  tips and tricks for Ableton Live.

Techno Fundamentals Pt 1 – More Than A Bassline

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I first thought to call this series “Techno Basics”, as I am showing some simple ways to get started with making beats and doing sound design for techno. But even just a few basic elements quickly develop into complex textures and open the door to bigger production concepts. Also, I’m keeping an ear to the past, taking techniques and sounds I’ve worked with in the late 80′s and 90′s and bringing them up to date with the modern tools in Ableton Live. I think it’s a great way to learn about techno production, having some perspective on where it all comes from. So “Fundamentals” refers to the musical and production techniques as well as the past of techno and how it relates to current music.

In this first tutorial, I’m introducing the idea that a single element can sound like more than it is, and that small changes can get a big result. Now I’m not specifically referring to “minimal”, but the idea that less is more applies. Making the most out of a few elements is always a great way to go. Lately I’ve been diving into early to mid 90′s techno styles again, the era of techno where I got my start and that I know very well, and which is what gave me the idea to use FM synthesis with Operator as an example for the tutorial. Much early techno uses FM sounds, tracks by Detroit pioneers such as Derrick May (‪Rhythim is Rhythim’s “Sinister‬“) and Juan Aitkins (Model 500′s “The Chase“) feature FM synths prominently – excepting the drums which are almost invariably Roland TR-909, TR-808 or other similar machines of the time. Also in the early to mid-90′s, artists like Cajmere (aka Green Velvet) used the distinctive FM tones almost exclusively for bass and lead sounds in classic tracks such as “Conniption” which the sound in my tutorial is partially inspired by. [read more] – John Selway

Techno Fundamentals Pt 2 – One Note To Rule Them All – Synth + Macros

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Continuing where I left off in the first Techno Fundamentals tutorial, in this new installment I’m demonstrating another take on the idea of starting with a very simple musical element that, with a few precise sound design techniques and real time control, becomes a major element and source of energy for a track. It’s what I think of as a “one note lead” and it’s a very common element used in techno and other styles of electronic dance music where melody may take a back seat to rhythm and noise. Some classic examples of techno tracks incorporating this idea are Joey Beltram’s “Energy Flash” and “Alarms” by Jeff Mills. In both these examples, the main hook of the track is a single note played rhythmically on an analog synth, where modulation of the sound creates movement and keeps things interesting. [read more] - John Selway

Techno Fundamentals Pt 3 – One Note To Rule Them All: Effects + Automation

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In this video tutorial, we are going to make a rolling, syncopated bass patterns for techno in a fun, fast, semi-random, and spontaneous way. We will deliberately ignore traditional theory in a creative way for useful and fun results; being spontaneous to get started or get unstuck by creating order out of chaos.  [read more] – John Selway

Techno Fundamentals Pt 4 – Create Rolling Basslines w/ Operator

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In this video tutorial, we are going to make a rolling, syncopated bass patterns for techno in a fun, fast, semi-random, and spontaneous way. We will deliberately ignore traditional theory in a creative way for useful and fun results; being spontaneous to get started or get unstuck by creating order out of chaos

1. Set up a very simple bass sound in Operator. Use a single sine wave. Adjust envelope, saturation, EQ, compressor, etc.

2. Play and record about a minute of semi-random notes to MIDI clip, played around bass note range. Literally move your fingers on the keys in a sloppy, fast, non-rhythmic, nearly thoughtless manner. Move up and down occasionally so there is some contrast between notes.

3. Edit MIDI notes – duplicate clip, quantize one clip to 16th notes, and leave the other as recorded. For both clips, turn loop on, set to 1/2 bar duration at first. Play clip with kick/beat and move loop through, adjust start point, and listen for different groove variations that work with the beat. Duplicate and move on, find more. Edit/move notes to change and improve as necessary. Listen with Operator set to monophonic or polyphonic. Try with glide on. Use MIDI note length effect to change durations or vary the feel. Transpose some notes high to create semi-melodic patterns. Maybe do small tweak to Operator sound to suite groove… whatever fits in a couple of minutes. [read more] - John Selway


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