Ableton Push is a fantastic instrument to compose melodies and chords with. Both beginning and advanced music makers will find a constant source of inspiration and exploration using Push’s unique keyboard. While Push is not a replacement for learning a traditional piano keyboard, it can be a very successful alternative for students without a piano background. I’ve found that Push reduces the barrier to entry to composing and gets students inspired and making more meaningful music faster.

Load a Sound


First load a sound from the Browser in Ableton Live by pressing the Browse button. Then use the encoder knobs to select the sound you like. If you have installed the free Ableton Live 9.5 update, you will also be able to hear a preview of each sound. Once you find a sound you like, press the green load button.

Navigate the Keyboard


The blue pads represent root notes spread over several octaves. You can access higher and lower octaves by pressing the Octave Down and Octave Up Button
Root Notes on Push

Select a Key and Scale 


Next press the Scale button and use the knobs to select a key and scale. The keyboard can be used in two modes, In Key and Chromatic. In Key is a fantastic feature that can fix the keyboard to stay in a certain key and scale.

Play Scales


Scales can be performed by starting on a root note (blue pad) and playing across three pads to the right then move up a row. It’s quick to see when playing scales where the root, 3rd and 5th degree of the scales are. By pressing scale degrees 1, 3 and 5 we can also quickly see that these scale degrees create a recognizable triangle pattern.

 

Play Triads


A root position triad can always be played by using this triangle shape starting on any pad.
It can be transferred to other octaves and even other scale degrees.
Ableton Push Root Position Triad

Play Chord Progressions


The concept of playing pads in a certain shape can be very powerful when creating diatonic chord progressions. Since notes are fixed to a specific key, the triangle pattern can be used starting on the 4th scale degree to play a IV chord and on the 5th scale degree to play a V chord.
(1 chord, 4 chord, 5 chord).

 

1st and 2nd Inversion Triad
Alter the shape slightly to create a 1st inversion triad
Ableton Push 1st Inversion Triad
 …and a 2nd inversion triad
Ableton Push 2nd Inversion Triad

4ths
Stack pads vertically for harmony in 4th or stack pads diagonally for 5ths

 Try These Too!
  • Practice these same shapes but change the scale to Minor, Harmonic Minor, Minor Pentatonic.
  • Try some of your favorite chord progressions using Push. Such as I  –  IV –  V  –  IV and  I  –  vi  –  IV  –  V

Your Next Step


Start a conversation in the comments on how you and your students are creating music with Push or if you’ve come up with another way to create chords. Hopefully you can see the fun and value in this method of building harmony with Push. If you want to learn more about Ableton Live and implement it in your classroom, then check out our course on Ableton Live Breakthrough.