We continue today with our series, How To Remix With Ableton. Today we’re going to discuss how to figure out the key of a song by looking at the notes in the melody.
I’m assuming a worst-case scenario here: that you found an acapella on the ground (metaphorical ground) and that you have no idea of the key of the original. But even if you always get all of your clips nicely labeled and warped, this exercise will benefit you greatly!
Once you know the key of a song, you will be able to predict with much greater accuracy the notes that will fit. It will make much easier to make chord changes and write harmony lines, not to mention my favorite part: basslines. Basically, keys are the best.
Of course, this requires some music theory learnin’ that may take you some time to, erm, learn. For those of you who’ve already signed up for the Live Course, we’ll cover this stuff in depth. For everyone else, I’ve made up a handy dandy cheatsheet that includes all of the note, key and chord information that you’ll need for this and the next post. Thank me in your Grammy speech.
In the last twoposts on how to remix with Ableton, we talked about how to warp an acapella using two different techniques. But, sometimes, especially when you are using an acapella from a song recorded with a live band (not with a box full of wires, like we do har har), there will be minor inconsistencies in the acapella. THIS MUST BE FIXED.
OK, sorry. They don’t always have to be fixed, and you should probably pick your battles. Warping the bejeezus out of a soulful Nina Simone vocal phrase always struck me as…untoward.
But sometimes, little inconsistencies that would fit with the groove of the original backing track don’t exactly fit our purposes. In this case, we should be ready. So, I have this handy, two-step method for handling this. Remember, this only applies when the track has already been warped.
Remember that, when you move a warp marker, everything between them will be stretched. This is, in general, to our benefit. But, in this case, you are liable to try to fix something extremely small and end up pulling the whole acapella out of wack.
The solution to this is to quarantine your problem phrase. Find the phrase that you want to fix and make sure that there are warp markers isolating it from the rest of the track.
New Warp Markers
Regardless of which warp mode you’re using, Ableton should allow you to add a new warp marker at every significant waveform event. Go ahead and double click all of the pertinent bumps in the waveform. Don’t go too crazy, but be thorough.
Now (and this is super important), turn off the grid lock (Cmd+4)! This will allow you be a lot more exact with your modifications. If you don’t do this, you will get frustrated very quickly because you’ll keep on overshooting where you’re tryign to drag the warp marker.
You should now be able to move the warp markers to conform to how you feel the melodic phrase should sound.
From here on out, you are goign to have to play it by ear (har har), because each melody is different and the amount of warping you want to do is up to you. I would recommend, though, that if you are going for transparency, you might want to remove unecessary warp markers when you are done with your modifications.
That just about does it for warping acapellas. To be honest, I think that, if you can warp an acapella (or anything without a drumset), then you can warp anything. So, it’s good practice, even if you aren’t planning on remixing anything.
Next Post: We’ll talk about how to think of new chord changes for a melody that you are remixing. Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions.
P.S. Don’t forget that, if you sign up for the Ableton Live Course before 1/1/2012, you’ll be eligible for a free bonus module on Marketing Your Electronic Music! SIGN UP HERE
This is the first in a series of three posts about warping acapellas. See the rest HERE and HERE.
The hardest part of figuring out how to remix a track is trying to remember how to spell “Acapella.” Is it Acapella? Or Acappela? Shouldn’t there be two “c”?!
The second hardest part is getting started. And a lot of times, this means warping the acappella from the original track. Even if you are going to be only using a small snippet of the acappella, the vocal is often an important element, since it is usually what lets the average person know that the track is a remix and not a wholly new production.
But warping an acappella presents its own special challenges. While Ableton’s best guess about warping the average track is usually pretty good, the warping of an acappella is almost never correct right out of the box. The reason for this is that acappellas often lack the basic rhythmic elements that Ableton uses as reference points to warp a track, since acappellas are only an isolated vocal track.
So, I’ve isolated two techniques for warping acappellas that have served me very well. One, which you can use with acappellas whose backing tracks are still faintly audible and another for acappellas with no audible backing track. I decide which technique to use based on whether or not you can hear the backup track.