Step Sequencing vs. Live Drumming on Ableton Push for Middle School Students

This week students watched a video from Push Tutorials about step sequencing drums using an Ableton Drum Rack.  In the video St. Joe, the presenter, mentions that you can do both live drumming and step sequencing simultaneously on the Push.  In fact the Push has a great workflow for both styles of drumming.

Students explored both styles of drumming to create original patterns using Rack Life 64 by MSX Audio.  In this video students speak about their preferences, and student music is highlighted.

Flipping the Classroom & the Beat with

As we have been teaching Middle School students Ableton Push as part of the Push Initiative I am always on the look out for great digital resources for the students.   The website Push Tutorials has been a great tool for students to get step by step instructions that they can refer back to.  There is a video manual that goes over Push  and Push 2, and in my lesson planning I have been finding videos and information from the site to go over with the students.

Here is an example of students watching a video on step sequencing that is part of the Push Tutorials video manual, and then applying what they learned through experimentation.


Capturing Students Interest in Music Production on Day 1

The first day that students jumped on Ableton Push I wanted to give them an activity that immediately captured their attention and made them feel they can be successful.  In Project Based Learning we call this the entry level event.

I heard of a great lesson at an Ableton workshop that was designed by Beats by Girlz.  The idea of the lesson is to use the Push Sequencer and have each student pick a sound and a place for the beat to land using the step sequencer.  Collectively the students make a beat. We used the sounds of MSX Audio Ableton Rack Life Pack because the sounds are really well rounded, and have a punch that captures the students imagination.  The sounds include drums, as well as melodic sounds.  It is a pack of 64 sounds.

Here are the students of Beats 4 Edu in action.


Selecting the Right Midi Keyboard for your Educational Program

When it comes to selecting a MIDI Keyboard for a school music program the options can be kind of overwhelming.  There are many competitors that offer similar features, yet some of the detailed features are very important to look at.

Some of the key aspects to think about are:

  • number of keys
  • the overall goals of your program or class
  • the space you are working in
  • power supply
  • what device will it be used with (i.e. tablet, computer)
  • do you need knobs and pads and what do you want to use them for?

In our program we use Ableton Live so I wanted to get a keyboard that worked well with that program.  Although students have iPads we decided that being able to use it with a computer was more important.  I wanted to find a keyboard that was able to have transport control, launch clips, had knobs that were mapped to the program as well as have some pads that were good for drumming.  These features are all important to the students education in the program so a keyboard with these features was critical.

To narrow down my options I looked for video overviews that could be useful about the product.  One of the best YouTube channels I have found for this style of production is Sounds and Gear.  There are tons of reviews and resources available on this YouTube channel and the website

For our particular program we narrowed it to the LaunchKey Series and Akai APC Key 25.  In the end we went with the LaunchKey because the pads double as both drum pads and pads to launch clips.  We went with the 25 key version.

Feel free to let me know if you have any questions about what controller may be best for your program.