Ableton Push Tutorial: Live Production and Performance Techniques Part 2 w/ Dan Freeman

In the second installment of this two-part Ableton Push video tutorial, Dubspot instructor and Ableton Live Certified Trainer Dan Freeman discusses his live performance production method, and offers tips and tricks for composing in real-time with Push! Check out part one of this video tutorial here.

The purpose of Push (recently released alongside Ableton Live 9) is to take digital production back to the physical realm, so producers can spend more time with their hands on an instrument instead of a keyboard and mouse. When I got Push, I thought it might be the right instrument for something I’ve wanted to do for a while–live production. Live production means starting out with no prerecorded tracks and creating a tune so quickly that it sounds like a performance.

In the Ableton Live set that I use for live production, all I have are some Drum Racks full of samples, and some synth pads and leads that I built with Ableton’s instruments. In addition to Push, I’m also using a Korg nanoKONTROL 2, which controls a set of DJ effects in my Master track. (These are effects that, as a Level 6 Dubspot instructor, I have my students build.) I also have some headphones which play a click track–this is handy for moments in the set where the music drops out and I have to play something in time. The only track that’s prepared in advance is a sidechain kick. The sidechain kick can’t be heard–it’s used to make the music “pump” in time. (This is covered more extensively in our six-level Ableton course here in New York and online.)

There are two ways to program drums using Push: press Record and play the drums in real time using the pads, or use the step sequencer. For live production, I favor the step sequencer method. Once the beat is programmed, it’s easy to create variations. The Double button will make the drum pattern twice as long. Once the pattern is doubled, the Loop Length buttons allow me to move the loop brace, and modify one or more bars of the beat. Once some variations are created, I can use the Loop Length buttons to jump between them.

Another important feature for live production is Push’s scale mode. Press the Scales button to bring up a screen displaying a series of scales and keys. For this performance, I used F minor. There are two global scale options: Fixed and Chromatic. In Fixed mode, Push only lets you play notes in the selected scale. In Chromatic mode, all notes are available, but only the notes in the scale are lit up. I prefer Chromatic mode, because I like to use notes outside of the scale when I create lines.

The buttons that run along the top of Push are used to select the track you want to work with. These make it easy to jump back and forth between different parts. The buttons below are Track Activator switches, which are handy for quickly muting and un-muting parts. Another trick I discovered was using the arrow buttons to move between scenes. You can get some great rhythmic contrast with these.

Thanks for checking out these videos!

Dubspot instructor Dan Freeman (CØm1x) is a Brooklyn-based Bassist/Producer and Ableton Certified Trainer. He has traveled and performed extensively worldwide as a session bassist and with his group Comandante Zero (CØ), a digital music and art collective. He currently directs Dubspot’s international programs, and does clinics on production using Ableton Live around the globe. For more info, check out

Ableton Live Producer Certificate Program

The flagship of our music training, with every Ableton Live course offered at the school. After completing this program, you will leave with a portfolio of original tracks, a remix entered in an active contest, a scored commercial to widen your scope, and the Dubspot Producer’s Certificate in Ableton Live.

What’s Included:

  • Ableton Live Level 1: Beats, Sketches, and Ideas
  • Ableton Live Level 2: Analyze, Deconstruct, Recompose, and Assemble
  • Ableton Live Level 3: Synthesis and Original Sound Creation
  • Ableton Live Level 4: Advanced Sound Creation
  • Ableton Live Level 5: Advanced Effect Processing
  • Ableton Live Level 6: Going Global with your Music

This program is about learning Ableton Live by going through the entire process of being an artist, by developing your own sound through a series of sketches and experimentation. You will also learn the ins and outs of this powerful software through a series of exercises designed to help you master the steps involved in producing your own music. After a level of getting familiar with the tools that Ableton has to offer, you will then develop your sonic ideas into full-length tracks. You will be exposed to a variety of approaches to arrangement and composition, storytelling techniques, ways of creating tension and drama in your music. At the end of the day, it is the sum total of your choices as an artist that define your sound, and levels 2 – 6 will give you the experience of actually completing tracks to add to your portfolio.

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