Video: Crafting Songs with Novation Controllers and Ableton Live

In the world of modern production and touring, having a band to help craft your songs is becoming more and more of a luxury. To save on costs, songwriters can turn to software and gear in order to flesh out entire works, with impressive results.

To demonstrate how much you can do with a laptop, a MIDI controller or two, and vocal cords, we have Jess Godwin—a singer-songwriter and a music educator at The Major Lift, a Chicago-based music nonprofit. She came into the Reverb studio to discuss how she creates entire songs using Ableton Live along with a Novation Launchpad Mini and a Novation Launchkey Mini.

In the video, Jess walks us through one of her sessions and the preferences she keeps in place, like 16th note quantization to keep everything in time. From there, she walks through tracks from a grand piano for bass to rhythmic chest slaps with ping-pong delay to fill out the space.

The possibilities open up when the Novation Launchkey comes into play, specifically the Arp function. She starts off with a few chords, and then arpeggiates the song's key, showing how to ascend or descend in notes, alter speed, or implement the Deviate function to create new patterns.

From there, she demonstrates a nifty Chord function for playing a whole chord with a single key. Using the Launchkey in tandem with the Launchpad, Godwin completes a whole song—with drums, bass line, chord progression, and melody all with just those two pieces of gear.

Finally, plenty of vocals get layered to add atmosphere and depth that sounds like it came from an ensemble, but really came to life via one composer.

Watch the video to see the creative process in action. For more info on The Major Lift, find its website here.

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