Adventures in Ableton Live

Learning how to compose while learning the software to do it is like learning to be a bricklayer while building the road out in front of you. It’s fun, but it takes a lot longer. However, that technically is what building your own path is.

To really overstretch this metaphor, I think I’ve bulldozed a space ahead enough to track back and start building a path. Hopefully without causing harm.

That’s one reason I like having a day job in software. In a weird way, it keeps me disciplined. When you only have a very narrow window in which to work, you work. You learn a lot about best practices, most of which translate to any business model. And make no mistake, being known as a musician, much less getting paid, is a business. It’s one of the few ones where you clearly, blatantly, obviously, bleed for your work, but it’s all too easy to be anonymous, or relatively so.

There’s an benefit to keeping your head somewhere between the clouds and the ground. Bestride the narrow world, and extra so as an immigrant. I am learning Toronto while keeping Ireland with me, but they feed into each other.

So what am I learning? Ableton will do anything as long as you ask and know how to ask. There have been many, many swearing incidents where I play a new improv off the top of my head, thought I had everything set up, and – ah! balls. I had no channel selected, or I’d armed the wrong track, or I’d selected the wrong track, or I was still in session mode, or a host of other obstacles.

Any system reminds me of a jungle gym. Overwhelmingly complicated at the beginning, daunting, and you will likely fall on your ass. A lot. BUT. It’s important to fall, and fall early. If not, you’ll be more afraid of failure than anything else. I’m trying, slowly, to ease that death-grip fear. Fear is the reason behind an overwhelming majority of my mistakes, which is funny when you think about it.



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