This is the easiest thing to set up and it is my favorite way to brainstorm when I’m making a new song. Before I tell you that, I want to as usual approach the subject by zooming out.

What are you doing when you sit down to make a song? Do you have a melody or phrase in your head already? If so, start there. Melodies and ideas pop into your head out of nowhere sometimes, and the more you urge that voice on, the more it will tell you what to do next. The more you ignore that voice or neglect it, the less you will hear ideas and melodies for songs coming into your head.

All that aside, I am a firm believer in mixing up your process and trying new things in order to keep yourself from falling into a rut or repeating yourself or getting stuck in just one limited genre.

Which is why it is good to have a mix of things in your toolbelt for approaching songwriting. Look at other people’s methods and try them out. The other day I watched an interview with a producer I used to love, Fred Falke, who showed how he went about producing songs. He started out with beats like a lot of us do, and his approach was very cut and paste, dragging clips of different house kicks and beats on top of each other. Then he would play some keys and mess around with a bass line, recording the parts quickly before moving on to another part of the song. This was fun to watch.

What I felt in common with him watching him work and watching so many others when they work on music, is that your hands and your equipment / software can barely move as fast as your ideas. We all know how you will get an idea in the midst of writing a song and if you don’t play it and keep it somewhere to go back to later, you will forget it. It’s an impulsive act.  You’ll forget the idea even after recording it, but at least Ableton remembers.

So in order to keep up with the speed your brain moves at, you need certain systems already in place. Which is exactly why I emphasize starting with a custom template of your favorite bass and synth and organic instruments already loaded, with your effects sends also set up.

The method I want to show you today is simply in helping you establish a key so you can start playing around with chords, which if you aren’t a skilled keyboardist, means you’ll need a way to play chords easily within a scale. Hence two of Ableton’s best MIDI effects: the Chord and Scale effects.

Here I’ll show you how to make two chord racks and group them into a rack, assign macros to them, and then add in a scale rack with a macro to help you easily choose the scale.  Then we’ll route this master MIDI track to all of your instruments.

If what I just said doesn’t make any sense / mean anything to you, don’t worry.  You’re probably a visual learner.  Just watch this video and follow along and you’ll get it.

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