Many would dismiss our weekly celebration of music as simply an “EDM” night, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Much of the music now is “electronic” (the first synthesizer was created in 1876), “dance” is what we do to music (see: moshing, breakdancing, the waltz) and music, is, well, music.
But after fourteen years of promoting new music every week, it was exciting to see the announcements of the 2016 GRAMMY nominees go to some familiar faces.
His Sufi Plug Ins project, previews a performance on Wall Street that incorporates a cappella singing and stock market data sonification as well as demonstrating how Aztec-inspired ideas of nonlinear time are animating a new era in Mexican rave music.
As we have been saying for some time now, producers are the new stars. Typically using programs like Ableton in addition to a gamut of instruments, musicians can now make their own music–sometimes even on an airplane–so imagine our surprise when this Tweet came across from the New York Times:
No longer relegated to the liner notes, digital composers in the genres of electronic dance music and hip-hop — both now firmly ensconced at pop music’s center — often take top billing on their tracks, even if the featured guest is Justin Bieber.
So even in this moment of dominant solo idols — Beyoncé, Drake, Rihanna — there exists a less instantly recognizable realm of rising studio superstars that have leapt from the depths of SoundCloud or the E.D.M. heap into the upper echelon of influence, dominating radio play and landing high-profile festival appearances.
Technology has had a radical impact on the way we make music today, taking the focus away from big recording studios with hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment in favor of a 13-in Macbook Pro loaded with the right software. Rising hip-hop producer Mr. Carmack sums it up perfectly with this tweet:
Living in an age where most SSL boards are just big laptop stands
Most recording studios today run a software called Pro Tools, a powerful program that is great for classic recording, mixing, and mastering jobs, but falls a little short when it comes to the demands of today’s musicians. Enter Ableton Live, one of the younger DAWs in the game, which has already garnered a huge following among musicians for its quick workflow, powerful features, and live performance mode. To help shed some more light on the Ableton-craze, we’ve picked out 5 amazing producers doing groundbreaking work
Diplo‘s work in the dance music world is all over the place, from his solo work, to collaborations with Skrillex as power-duo Jack Ü, and Switch as the group Major Lazer, not to mention heading up indie label Mad Decent. His productions first started gaining notoriety in 2007 after he produced “Paper Planes” for MIA, but since then he’s had numerous hits, most notably 2015’s “Where Are U Now“, a collaboration between Jack Ü and Justin Bieber, and “Lean On“, the lead single off of Major Lazer’s Peace is the Mission.
It’s a real writer’s program. One good thing about not reading any manuals or anything is that you’ve gotta play all day with it. I just like to DJ and scratch shit up. I love making straight-up 8-bit, nasty Nintendo sounds.
Also a DJ, producer, and remixer, among a slew of other things, Henrik Schwarz has been making beats and rocking dance floors since 2002. He has also branched outside of the techno world to collaborate with famous pianist Bugge Wesseltoft for an album, Duo, and live performance that saw them grace the stage of Jazz Festivals and Concert Halls around the world.
Henrik uses Ableton for both production and performance, though sometimes there is little difference between the two for him, and he relies heavily on software for all of his work. He’s even built a Max For Live plugin, the Schwarzonator, to help him stay in key. Be sure to catch him at this year’s Together Boston Festival!
A legend of the LA Beats scene, FlyLo might once have been seen as the second coming of Dilla, but his wild and exploratory concept albums have proven that he has his own unique character to bring to the jazz, hip-hop, and electronic music worlds. His genre-traversing music has earned him the praise of musicians like Herbie Hancock, and has helped to push the Low End Theory to international recognition. On the topic of Ableton he has this to say:
I’ve also just really fallen in love with making music again. It feels so new to me, especially because I switched to using Ableton. I feel like I’m finally in a position where I can make things almost as fast as I want to; I can move really quickly, and it’s really inspiring.
Not too far from Flying Lotus, Giraffage grew up in the San Francisco Bay area making bootleg remixes in his bedroom, but his personal project blew up after two self-released albums. He now lives the bedroom producers dream, releasing music on Fool’s Gold and Dim Mak, and playing festivals worldwide (including this year’s Together!). He uses Ableton for both production and performance, as you can see in this video of him performing his track “Moments” while in the car:
I’d say probably 90% of the melodies that I do write have started out as just me jamming around, and then after the fact I go in and mess with the MIDI notes inside of Live. I sometimes spend way too much time just jamming out though.
Yes, the Almighty US Dubstep Titan uses Ableton exclusively. Skrillex grew up in Northeast LA and rose to fame as the lead singer for post-hardcore band From First To Last, before leaving to eventually drop his Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites EP that would kickstart his astronomical DJ career. He is known to use Operator, Ableton’s FM synth, for some of his characteristic monster bass sounds, as well as Native Instruments’ Massive and FM8.
His setup consists of a Macbook Pro running Ableton Live and a few VSTs, two KRK monitors, a Focusrite Saffire interface, and an Alesis Midi controller. In addition to praising Live for its synths, he’s also said that its workflow is incredibly intuitive:
“I think, for laptop producers especially, it’s just so intuitive in the box. Everything is laid out and you don’t have to go searching for things like automation or plug-in parameters – in fact, all the things that are really hard to do in other DAWs. Ableton’s just very fluid and quick.”
And for anyone wondering how he does those incredible vocal chops…
I use Melodyne for formant stuff and basic pitch, but then I’ll print a whole line of audio. To be honest, for all my detailed cuts, chops and actual lines I’ll just basically take my vocal or someone else’s and process it through Melodyne in a certain way. All the stylistic treatments I do then all come from audio slicing and transposing in Live.
The reasons all these incredible musicians use Ableton, are the same reasons why we teach it in our music production program! Watch some of our tutorials made by our talented instructors on our Youtube channel, then come by the studio for a tour! Contact us to schedule an appointment.