Song Sketches: Ableton Note for Singer-Songwriter Producers

ableton note songwriting
Singer-songwriter producer sketching a song idea with Ableton Note

If you're a singer-songwriter looking to get into music production, one of the best ways to get started is by sketching out your ideas with an iOS music making app. There are a ton of great options out there, and they're a great way to get a feel for the music production process. 

When you're first starting out, it's important to find an app that's easy to use and has a lot of features. This way, you can experiment with different sounds and ideas without getting overwhelmed. Once you've found an app that you're comfortable with, start exploring all of its features. Try out different instruments and sounds, and see how they all work together.


Using Ableton Note to Sketch Out Song Ideas 

The new Ableton Note app is a great way to work your songwriting into the music production ecosystem. Not only can you share your song ideas with anyone else who has the Note app but the song files (called sets) are totally compatible with Ableton Live DAW software for when you’re ready to start using a full digital audio workstation for your productions.

The app is super user-friendly and even if you’re not familiar with music production software, you’ll be able to pick it up quickly after spending a little time exploring the app. Simply create a set, add in some notes and choose an instrument preset. Keep adding more looping clips of musical performances on up to 8 instrument tracks until your song idea starts to take shape. When you’re ready to take things to the next level, you can share your set with other Notes users or open it in Ableton Live.



Choosing the Instruments for your Song Sketch

As you begin writing your song, choose some basic instruments that can play the rhythm, melody, and chord progression. While you don't need to have complex instrumentation, it's important to make sure these basic elements are strong. Once you have a solid foundation, you can begin adding additional layers and textures to your song

Drums: Kick, snare, and hi-hat are fine for a demo. Wait until you’ve figured out the song structure to add cymbals and tom fills.

Bass: Have the bass start out by simply playing the root notes of the chord progression. You can use these notes as a tuning reference for your vocals too. 

Chords: Use a temporary piano or organ sound to hammer out the chord progression to begin with. Once it’s looping you can cycle through some other sounds and see what catches your attention.


Creating the Tracks and Clips for you Song Sketch

Just start tapping the pads until you hear something you like. The prompt “Create Clip” will appear after you start tapping. You will most likely make a bunch of bad sounding parts before you make anything worth saving. Just keep at it until something magical happens.

Clips and Tracks: Each of your performance parts loops endlessly as a clip on an instrument track which determines the sound of that performance.

Creating Song Structure: Make a new clip or duplicate the current clip to start building vertical clip stacks on each track. These blocks will later become your song parts so start building and duplicating the ones you like.

Effects: Give your song idea some depth and dimension by using 2 the effects on each track. Here you will find reverb, delay, distortion and a variety of other effects to enhance your sounds.

Balancing Levels: As you add more tracks make sure to adjust the level of each one for maximum clarity. Use the fader view to do this.



Moving your Song Sketch form Ableton Note to Ableton Live

If you're a singer-songwriter producer, recording song demos is a great way to get your songs heard by potential collaborators and booking agents. A DAW like Ableton live offers a wide range of features and plugins to help you get the most out of your songs. While it might be scary at first, taking the time to learn how to do the basics will pay off in the long run. So how do you go about recording a professional sounding demo after you’ve sketched out some song ideas? 

Transfer to a DAW : Share your Note sets from your iOS device to your computer by sending it via Ableton Cloud or iOS sharing like AirDrop. Open the set with Ableton Live or the 90-Day Free Trial and continue your production from where you left off. The next thing you’ll need is some vocals. Here are some tips for quality audio recordings:

Hardware: Use the highest quality microphones and audio interface you can afford. This will ensure that your recording chain sounds good.

Performance: Make sure you record some great vocal performances. A great vocal performance can help turn a really good song into a great song.

Sound Quality: Aim to make sure your demo is good sounding and has all the elements that a professional recording would have, such as a good mix balance and a loud output level.


Conclusion: Singer songwriters looking to get into music production can get started by sketching out ideas with an iOS music making app like Ableton Note. While it's not as powerful as a full-fledged DAW like Ableton Live, it's a great way to get a feel for music production and start putting your ideas down on virtual paper. Plus, it's a lot more fun than using a traditional music notation program!


Futch - Music Production Coach, Ableton Certified Trainer


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