May 2015

The Content Creators

Exploring the content building blocks of Ableton’s content library, from creators to curation and components.

National Standards: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Prepare: Have the class read The Content Creators (page 42 of the student edition). The article talks about the elements of content creation for Ableton’s content library and examines its various components.

Key points in the article:

  • Ableton’s content library is made up of a variety of audio recordings, software instruments, and effects. Most of this content is generated by third-party content creators.
  • Content can be divided into instruments and loops: one being sets of sounds controlled through MIDI and controlling device, the other being a short musical phrase from either digital or acoustic instruments.
  • When curating content, Ableton looks for certain qualities, and works with content from all genres and styles.
  • Famous artists design content for the library, and contribute to Ableton’s free Artist Packs of downloadable content.
  • With the current ease of access, content use and creation is more democratized than it ever was.

Begin: Discuss the role of content creation in modern songwriting and composition. Topics may include:

  • The inherent collaboration involved in using content created by third-parties
  • The advantages and limitations of writing a song before DAWs and content libraries
  • The advantages of MIDI and software instruments v. audio loops and recorded instruments

Develop: Play the following tutorial from Ableton on creating beats and melodies using software instruments and MIDI.

What are some uses of MIDI that help in the making of beats?

  • Quick form of notation by writing in and editing lengths and position
  • Adjusting individual note velocity offers acute control (though take more time to create what would be inflected naturally on a performed instrument)
  • Swapping out instrument sounds while preserving the same MIDI notation and velocity

Apply: Have students apply what they learned from the article with this short quiz.

Answer Key
Note: Correct answers are bolded below. Answers appear randomized for students.

Question 1: What is meant by the term ‘content’ in the context of digital music-making?

A variety of elements, from short audio recordings to software instruments to effects.
-The tracks that make up a song, including acoustic and digital sounds and stems.
-The melody, harmony, and structure of a song, as well as notation.
-How you feel when completing a project.

Message with correct answer:
Content is a broad term that applies to a variety of elements. It’s often bundled with music creation and production software known as Digital Audio Workstations, or DAWs such as Ableton Live, Steinberg Cubase, PreSonus StudioOne, Apple Logic and GarageBand, Propellerhead Reason, Avid Pro Tools, and others.

Question 2: What are some advantages of MIDI when using software instruments?

All are correct.
-When using MIDI, you can change the software instrument and note information will stay the same.
-Using MIDI, you can write in notes for a software instrument.
-MIDI allows you to set note duration, pitch, and dynamics, or velocity.

Message with correct answer:
MIDI is a form of digital communication used in DAWs and notation software, and offers a lot of control and flexibility for the user to write and edit melodies and/or rhythms for their software instruments.

Question 3: What are audio loops in the context of digital audio?

-Pre-programmed settings to be used with a software instrument to generate different tones
-Sets of sounds you play using a keyboard, drum pad, or controller
Short musical phrases recorded with acoustic or electronic instruments
-A great new breakfast cereal that generates music as you chew

Message with correct answer:
An audio loop can be a drum beat, bass line, chord progression, or short melody. The other kind of loops is MIDI loops, which are designed to be used with software instruments, using — you guessed it — MIDI notation.

Question 4: Where does the content that fills Ableton’s content library usually come from?

-It’s created by Ableton’s sound team
-It’s collected and edited by Ableton from a variety of existing recorded music
It’s created by sound designers who make their living out of content creation
-It’s entirely donated by users

Message with correct answer:
The content is often commissioned by Ableton, or designed to fill a specific need Ableton feels their users have. Content is also pitched to the company by creators. Working with about 100 to 150 freelance content creators, content is collected and designed in all styles of music.

Question 5: Content often comes not as individual elements, but as themed collections. In what way are collections themed?

The various elements of a collection are designed to go together, and match a style or purpose
-Elements in a collection will all tie into the musical theme of a television show
-Audio loops in a collection will all be performed by the same person
-Collections are styled to have an in-program color scheme

Message with correct answer:
The various elements of a content collection are usually designed to complement each other, and may be grouped by style, genre, tempo, or sound quality. They’re designed in this way to help users form a composition without having to use multiple collections, and elements from different collections may not mix so well together.

Question 6: How are users of Ableton Live Packs able to “collaborate” with professional artists?

-By using Live to sample an artist’s existing work
Through use of free “Artist Packs,” inspired and sometimes created by professional artists
-Through Live Chat, the online messaging and collaborating service built into Live
-Through interaction on Ableton’s website forums

Message with correct answer:
Ryan Gruss, CEO and founder of the Loop Loft, a company that creates “signature artist” collections, comments in the article on how their collections (as well as Artist Packs in general) offer individual users a previously unparalleled ease of access to the work of professional musicians. In light of this, Gruss remarks, “The music production process has been democratized to a great degree.”

Question 7: What is meant by “warping” in regard to audio loops?

-“Warping” is an audio effect that enables pitch distortion of an audio loop or clip.
“Warping” is a technology that allows users to adjust the tempo of an audio loop or clip to match the tempo of their session.
-“Warping” is an audio technique made available only to users experienced in time travel.
-“Warping” comes from the acronym WARP, which stands for Waveform Audio Real-Time Production.

Message with correct answer:
Audio loops are embedded with “warp markers,” codes that automatically analyze the music and identify the start of each note. This way, the program can read the markers to have the audio play at any tempo the user wants. The loop will sync to match the tempo of your session.

Question 8: How do presets relate to software instruments?

Presets are pre-mapped settings for software instruments that use the precise controls available to program different sounds using the same instrument.
-Presets are samples of MIDI notes that can be looped using a software instrument.
-Presets are custom preferences within Live that users can set to organize libraries of instruments.
-Presets is another term for audio effects.

Message with correct answer:
Software instruments typically come with a variety of controls to affect precise aspects of tone production. This creates a lot of potential multi-use in instruments, and presents content creators with another creative outlet through programming presets.