Ableton Live Tutorial: Techno Fundamentals Pt 2 – One Note To Rule Them All – Synth + Macros w/ John Selway

In the second installment of Techno Fundamentals, electronic music producer and Dubspot instructor John Selway looks at the “one note lead” idea using Ableton Live‘s Analog instrument. Commonly used in techno and other styles of electronic dance music where melody takes a backseat to rhythm, the “one note lead” is a simple yet very effective composition technique. Just in case you missed the previous tutorial, More Than A Bassline, check it out here, and do stay tuned for part three.

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.

This time I’m using Analog to create the sound, using basic subtractive synthesis techniques to create a sound that, while not super complex, has a dynamic character which could potentially carry an entire track. I also incorporate Instrument Rack macros controlling multiple Analog parameters to make performing and automating changes to the sound more straightforward. It’s not just creating an Analog preset, it’s creating a playable instrument that can modulate easily. Changing tone of the sound over time is what helps to create musical tension and release, following or even shaping the overall structure of an arrangement. I like to capture spontaneous changes while using Global Record, keeping the larger structure in mind, and using this as the basis for building a complete arrangement.

We went long recording the tutorial so it’s been split into parts 1 and 2. This first part covers building the basic sound, going over some synthesis techniques with Analog and setting up macros in an Instrument Rack. In the next part I polish the sound, add effects, and do some real time control while recording to get started on arrangement ideas. – John Selway


John Selway is a DJ, producer, and music educator based in New York City. He’s released acclaimed and successful singles and remixes, both on his own and as a collaborator in with various artists including his frequent partner-in-crime Christian Smith. Most recently, two of Selway’s tracks were included in the OFF Sonar Compilation. More info at selwaymusic.net.


For further exploration of Ableton Live, check out Dubspot’s six-level Music Production w/ Ableton Live Program:

Dubspot is proud to present a new and improved Ableton Live program updated for Live 9, covering all of its latest features in a six-level, 48-class course on electronic music production.

Introducing Our New Ableton Live Program w/ Live 9

Music technology moves pretty fast, and here at Dubspot we’re committed to bringing you the best possible electronic music education and incorporating the latest cutting-edge technologies. As part of this commitment, it is with great pleasure that we are now announcing our all-new Ableton Live program at Dubspot, completely updated for Live 9! Read more about the new Live 9 curriculum here.

From the studio to the stage, learn to use Ableton Live to create, record, produce, and perform your music. Learn about linear and improvisational styles of producing electronic music as we help you master the software’s innovative interface.

After completing this program, you will leave with four completed tracks (an EP), 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: Shake Hands with Live
    • Ableton Live Level 2: Completing Your First Track
    • Ableton Live Level 3: Production Essentials
    • Ableton Live Level 4: Sound Design & Instrumentation
    • Ableton Live Level 5: Advanced Composition & Production
    • Ableton Live Level 6: Taking Your EP Global

Start dates and information about payment plans can be found here.

Or if you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.

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