Ableton: Programming a Tech House beat

In the following article we’re going to explain how to programme a Tech House drum track in Ableton, using the Roland 808 Classic drum machine. First up, go to the instruments section of Ableton, select drum rack, then Kit, scroll down until you find 808 classic, then drag this in to a MIDI channel. Your screen should look like the below screen shot.

All the Roland drum machines such as 707, 808 and the mighty 909 are great to use as the basis of your house track, as not only do they give that rich familiar sound but the 808 Classic rack in Ableton, comes with a multitude of additional sounds such as Congas, Claves and Maracas for adding something extra to your tracks. Double click on one of the clips in your MIDI track and the following MIDI editor will appear at the bottom of your screen.

The track is set up for 16 beats or a four bar loop.  The various elements of the kit can be found on the left side of the editor.  You can either use a MIDI instrument such as a keyboard or you can double click in the editor to programme your drum beats.

I have placed a kick drum on the first beat in each bar.  You’ll need to add a closed hat, cymbal, clap, snare and clave.  Use the screen shot below as insipration but play around with the sounds in the kit and the placing of beats to come up with a really unique sound, enjoy!

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NI: The App Controller

If anyone was going to develop a credible DJing app, then it was going to be Native Instruments.

TRAKTOR DJ is their DJ software app which allows you to create mixes, using the familiar Traktor sofware, on your ipad.

The days of laptop DJing could finally be over.  All they need to do is make it wireless so you can DJ, whilst raving with the crowd and everyone would be happy!

Check out more here.

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Serato ITCH: What’s it all about?

FunkNaughty.com have been asked a lot about Serato recently, so to help everyone out, we thought we’d prepare the following post.

The three topics we’re going to cover are:

Serato ITCH, what’s it all about? which controllers are best? and where’s the best place to get some hands on experience?

First up, what’s it all about?

Well Serato ITCH is the laptop digital DJing software from Serato. It’s controlled via dedicated ITCH controllers, more about that later.

The software includes standard EQ tweaking, FX’s, as well as iTunes playlist intergration, which is a must for any digital DJing software.  In addition, the software offers auto tempo matching & beat syncing, cue point saving and the cherry on the cake, free upgrades.

ITCH MIDI Controllers

The Serato ITCH software has been developed in conjunction with a number of hardware manufacturers, most notably, Allen & Heath, Numark, Novation and Vestax. The software is free to download, which you can do here but you can only access the full range of features but connecting a dedicated controllers.

FunkNaughty.com’s personal favourite ITCH controllers are:

Allen & Heath XONE DX

Numark NS6

Novation TWITCH

Vestax VCI-300

Hands-On Experience

FunkNaughty rate all the courses offered by PointBlank college in London.  They have expert tuition and if you’re looking to get ahead in the world of digital DJing, then you could do a lot worse than a PointBlank Serato course.

You can attend their courses in person at their college or you can complete a course on the web, the choice is yours.

Mention FunkNaughty when booking a Serato course and you’ll receive an exclusive discount.

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Win A Set At We Love – Space Ibiza 2012

So then, you’re bang in to DJing and think it’s time the world heard your skills, well this could be the opportunity for you.

James Zabiela and Tid:Pro are looking for the next big DJ, who can scratch and bring something extra to the mix.

The competition is run in association with The Warehouse Project, Air Amsterdam and We Love and they’re offering you the chance to win a set at Space in Ibiza for We love in 2012! This is a hugh prize and everyone at FunkNaughty.com wishes you the best of luck.

Click here for further details.

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Serato Scratch Live DJ Skills Tutorial – How to Crab Scratch

How to crab scratch

We line up a new DJ skills tutorial video courtesy of Point Blank.

You don’t have to be using Serato to learn this skill, this can be learnt by any DJ, and If you can add this to your arsenal of DJ skills you’ll be wowing crowds all over the place.

The crab scratch incorporates 2 or 3 fingers whilst using your thumb to open and close the cross fader.

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Serato Scratch Live DJ Skills – How To Flare Scratch

serato scratch live flare scratch

Learn how to ‘Flare’ scratch with our latest tutorial from the Serato Scratch Live series from Point Blank studios.

Being able to scratch can add a real dimension to your DJ mixes and really set you apart from your peers. This video will show you how to Flare scratch and this technique can be used by any DJ, not just Serato users.

Remember practice makes perfect, so check out the video and start practicing!

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Roger Sachez – DJsounds Show 2011


Check out Roger Sanchez smashing it on the DJsounds Show. Sanchez plays off 4 CDJ 2000s making on the fly edits. Before the set starts Sanchez discusses how he sets up his tunes and how he crafts his sets for each gig. Using multiple folders with 10 tracks in each and looped samples of his favourite old tunes. Crafting them all together to create unique sets every time he plays out. Very creative and informative and a nice mix to listen to. Enjoy!

(We’re starting the video at 7mins in as this is when Sanchez discusses his tech/dj tips. The set starts at 10.55)

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How Do You Keep Your Loops Interesting? – Secrets To Holding A Listeners Attention

music production tips

A great article from music software training for music producers. The article discusses ways to solve the problem many producers have when creating a short loop. How do you keep the loop interesting and exciting over the full length of a track?

Read on and find out lots of ways to enhance your loop and keep your track sounding fresh.

Secrets to holding a listeners attention

I wanted to talk today about music that is based on repeating loops. The challenge many of us have when making songs based on either premade or self made loops of 1, 2, 4 or 8 bars is that it can be difficult to keeps things sounding interesting and exciting. I run into this scenario quite a bit and I’d like to share some tip sand ideas to help you improve the flow and interest of your tracks.


Filters and resonance is probably the most obvious way to keep interest in a part that loops. Closing a hi pass filter can can create a feeling of tension or repressed energy and opening the filter creates a nice release. Depending on the part, this can be very intentional and noticeable or subtle. Either way it can keep the listeners attention as the ears are impeccable at distinguishing minor changes and fluctuations. 2 or 3 builds in your song can go a long way to keep your track interesting.



An LFO (or Low frequency oscillator) is a fantastic way to create subtle movement in your loop or midi part. If you are working with a synth, adding an lfo to panning, filter or pitch is usually possible directly on your hardware or soft synth. It doesn’t take much give a sound more life. Sometimes you can’t really notice exactly what is happening with your sound but you instinctually just know that it sounds more interesting. If you are working with a sampled loop, you may need to add an effect that offers lfo movement. Ableton’s built in effects offer alot of options in this arena. Adding something as simple as a chorus or flanger at a low “wet” percentage can really help. For more randomness I wouldn’t sync the lfo to tempo. A slow lfo that repeats out of sync with the tempo will keep the lfo’s themselves from being too loopy.

Duplicate and Layer

I use this technique alot. There are one of a few things I might do to keep things interesting. I will duplicate my loop and make the duplicate an octave higher or lower to introduce different frequency information. Often times I’ll go an octave higher and filter out most of the low frequency content so it doesn’t clash with the original part or other parts in the song. Then I’ll add some dirt with a type of distortion or saturator. Next I’ll automate the volume subtly so hints of it comes in and out of the mix. I may make it more noticeable during breakdowns and buildups. You can also add a layer that is a harmonic of the original. I like trying to repitch a dupicated layer 7 semitones above the original. See what works for you.

Also something to look into is duplicating your part and reversing it. Then find the parts that sound interesting and cut them up and strategically place them in interesting places. It will often assist and enhance the feel and movement of the loop if not overdone.


This can be similar to the last tip. You would simply create interesting fx chains on several return tracks. One might use bit reduction and erosion. Another might introduce an interesting delay or Reverb, while another has a chorus or phaser. Ableton has some really creative effects, so definitely mix and match. It’s best to put the wet/dry on 100% as you don’t want to send the original track back into itself in most cases. Once you have those chains, each of your tracks, including your loop track will have send knobs in your session view. Your track sends are just as automatable as volume or panning, so automate subtle hints of each effect in different points of your song. This is certain to keep things interesting. Just make sure not to get lost here. You were probably attracted to the original loop for a reason, so make sure you aren’t diluting what makes the part great.

Attack, decay, release times

This is another technique that can make a huge impact on your synth part. unfortunately, you won’t have this option with a sampled loop, but I’ll give you a tip that might still help. If you are using a synth, you are sure to have Attack, Decay, sustain and release. In most cases, I like to back off my sustain and release to the lowest setting and then tweak the decay between long and short times. It’s great to open the decay up during builds and breaks and then back it off when things kick back in. This can bring your sound from choppy to washy. Experimenting with the attack can create interesting results at times too. Just like I said before, make sure you don’t lose perspective of the loop that inspired you in the first place. If you are working with a sample, you can drag in a Gate effect and experiment with the threshold. Sometimes this can create a similar effect.


This is a dance producers secret weapon and can easily be overused but the movement and groove it can give a part can’t be denied.  Subtly (or more noticeably) syncing a loop to the kick can certainly help keep things interesting. Naturally when the kicks drop out, so does the sidechain effect which is pretty popular in dance music. Whether you choose a standard noticeable approach or or something more subtle, the listeners ears will thank you. Also experiment with sidechaining to other parts in your song for interesting results.

Outside the loop

Although there are many many things you can do to make a repeating loop sound interesting, there is also something to be said about building interest outside the loop. In general, the listener is not going to want to hear a static loop for more than 8 bars. There are things outside the loop that obviously need to stay interesting as well. Filter rises, swells, evolving ambient sounds and high frequency sounds are some of my favorite ways to keep interest. Many songs, for example, will put a crash at every 8 to 16 bars. Surprisingly, that one sound can reset your interest in listening to a loop for another 8 to 16 bars (depending on how interesting the loop itself is). On top of that though, reverse sounds and weird noises run through reverb and delay can really create space and depth in your track. Another favorite trick of mine is stretching audio. Whether it be a vocal sample or, well, pretty much anything, you can really get some amazing drones with tons of subtle movement. Heck, even try stretching your loop itself. You can do some pretty massive stretching in Ableton but I prefer a fantastic free program called Paul Stretch which you may recognize from an earlier post of mine. It does some fantastic things and can bring endless fun!

I know there are ways to keep a track free from too many effects and dry sounding without losing interest as well, and that would have alot to do with drum programming, groove quantizing and knowing when to add another layer of hihats or when to drop the kick for dramatic effect. Hip Hop is really good at this, but remember, most hip hop is only a few minutes long and has vocals throughout. Getting the same results on a 7 minute track without vocals is much more challenging. I’m certainly not an authority on this approach, but I admire those who are able to take a minimal approach and keep things interesting and engaging.

Other things to note for keeping interest are counter melodies. Being able to change the attention from one melody to another can keep listener interest for a far longer time. Just make sure both parts have movement and have areas in the song where each is more noticable than the other as well as a part where both parts are layered pretty evenly. That alone gives you 3 movements for your track.

Last but not least, changing just 1 note in your bassline can make a dramatic effect if done in the right place. Don’t underestimate the power the bass plays on a melodic loop. Changing the key of your bass, or just a note here and there can do wonders to keep interest.

Use you best judgement

All of these techniques are simply suggestions and it’s really going to come down to your personal style and what you would like to accomplish. Some technique might not benefit your track at all, or perhaps you’ve found the perfect loop that needs very little to keep interesting. You are the master of your own craft and ultimately, you make the rules. All I am hoping to do is empower you to be the best YOU possible.

Below is a video I posted not long ago, but I thought I would add it to this post as it lead me to writing this blog and might give you some other ideas.

Creating Evolving Loops/Soundscapes

This is a simple way to take 1 boring midi loop and make it much more interesting through layering the same part through different effects chains. I also show you a trick of creating automation for each layer that loops at odd times. If you think of running several tape loops all at different lengths, when played together, the sounds never combine the same way twice. This makes things more pleasing and interesting to the ears.

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The Importance Of Setting Up Templates Within Your DAW

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