There is a lovely piece of music creation software called Ableton Live which is as much about performance as recording. I love it as it gives you the chance to do all the things I’ve ever wanted to do with sound, let alone music. It’s not for everyone, but it is for me.

Saying that, I haven’t used my computer to make any music in a long time. When I have been playing or recording it’s been with actual musicians, not just me and the laptop.

On my birthday Ableton released the latest upgrade to their software (thanks) and I have been finding my way with this newly enhanced sonic toy-box.

One thing which pleasantly surprised me was a digital re-creation of the Roland TR-606, an analogue drum machine that I once owned. It was my first drum machine and helped me learn a lot about the placement of beats. I can still remember the thrill of thinking up a beat and building it on the 606. Having one live in my laptop is great fun.

Also available is a library of well sampled orchestral sounds. When I was playing around with these on the computer I had to admit that, as well recorded as they were, no one would believe there was, say, a real cellist playing when I played the cello patch. Just out of interest I tried re-creating a section of a string quartet I had written, long ago.

Days later I was in the car and heard a real string quartet playing. Except it wasn’t. It was me from a few nights before, messing about on the laptop.

Watching my fingers press keys on a keyboard and generating a ‘cello’ sound automatically creates a sensation that ‘this isn’t real’. Separating myself from the creation of the sound, improves the illusion.

I may be having some more fun with this.


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