Ableton Live tutorials

Easily Generate Melody Lines and Bass Lines with Ableton Live

Not everyone can afford one of the new breed of controllers which allow you to play in a key of your choosing without hitting a bum note. This video tutorial looks at how to come up with melody lines and bass lines with Ableton Live, even if you’re not musically minded..

For those who haven’t already had a look at Ableton’s Push Controller, it is a control surface which allows for comprehensive control of pretty much every aspect of music production – from the loading of instruments and effects, to creation and ultimately sequencing of ideas in Live’s Arrangement view. One killer function is the ease of which one can play the unconventional keyboard layout to create very usable musical ideas using the devices ‘in key’ mode. In this mode, the user can select a key/scale from a huge long list of both common and esoteric scales, safe in the knowledge that they’ll never hit a wrong note, because each of the 64 pads will play a note from that scale. This means that you don’t need to be a keyboard wizard to create interesting melodic content – but what can you do if you don’t have one of these excellent controllers?

Ableton's Push controller


Load yourself a Scale Device preset 

Scale device is a hidden weapon which allows any incoming MIDI note to be snapped to a key of your choosing. It comprises of 2 main parameters: a note matrix which allows incoming notes to be snapped to a different pitch, and a base control which essentially sets the tonic or root of your tweaked incoming notes. You can customise your own scale by editing the note matrix, but you also have a range of preset scales available to you in the browser.

Most (but by no means all) Western music is generally written in a major or minor key, so if you’re new to music theory, I’d recommend sticking to one of those initially to give you a familiar feel to your music. Next up, you just need to adjust the base parameter to select the key of your choosing – i.e. “G minor”.

Voilà! Any MIDI controller keyboard will now play in ‘in key’ mode!

Watch this video tutorial which explains how to set this up, and also further methodologies for creating melodic loops:


If you’d like to know more about practical music theory, and how to apply it to your production, why don’t you check out our 12 week Electronic Music Composition course? If you’re a complete beginner and would like to know more about Ableton Live, why don’t you take a look at our 4-day Ableton Live weekend course?