Going down to groove town – Groove in Ableton Live 8

WE HAVE MOVED, PLEASE HEAD HERE, THANK YOU!: http://www.lostinmusik.net/?p=1274

You may or may not know that Ableton has a groove pool from which you can pick a template that will apply velocity and swing to your midi.  Groove is essential in music, but the amount of groove required depends on the genre.  The faster the BPM, the less room there is for groove, so you’ll find that anything 138BPM or above generally has very limited groove and more militant percussion.  Down below 128BPM there is much more room for swing and groove in the percussion.  The groove can be thought of as what supplies the tension that faster tracks have simply because of their pace.  Groove is definitely a factor in what kind of music people enjoy.  Often those preferring slower music are more drawn to rhythmic patterns than melody or high energy in music, and those liking faster music are less perceptive of groove and more drawn to melody or high energy.  I have a theory that people are either groove-based or melody-based depending on ear health as a child and what sounds they are subject to in the first few years of their life, but I’ll save that for another day…

Here is an example of a strictly timed track and one with plenty of groove (I’ve slowed them both to 120BPM so you can really hear the difference) – bonus points if you can guess what tracks they are.

My test of how groovy a track is is how much it makes my shoulders move back and forth.  Good tracks with limited groove make your head bob, but good tracks with a lot of groove make your shoulders swing back and forth.  I’m not sure why, but when I find myself jiggling around in my chair in the studio I know I’m onto something.

Enough of the jiggling, on to the technical part…

In Ableton, when a midi clip is selected there will be a little button with circular arrows on it in the clip section at the bottom left of the screen (see below).  If you click this you will be given a selection of grooves to choose from in the menu section.  If you double-click on one of these it will apply the groove to your selected midi clip.

If you choose a 16 Swing 25 this means that alternate 16th notes will be late by 25% (sometimes a swing of close to zero is classed as 50% for MPC and SP1200 drum machine grooves, for example).

The screenshot below shows a set of 16th notes on the top row.  A setting of  16 swing 25 has been applied and the result is shown on the second row (normally the notes arent changed, but you can see the effect of a groove by clicking the ‘commit’ button in the groove section at the bottom left).  See how the notes on alternate 16ths have been retarded? Also that the lengths of the notes have been changed to match this swing grid.

The next row down shows the result for 8 Swing 25.  Now the period of the swing is twice as long.  Alternate 8th notes are slowed by 25%, and you can also see how the other 16th notes in between are slowed by a fraction of this – think of the regular grid having been stretched out periodically, with the greatest amount of stretch at the timing selected (8th notes, 16th notes).  for reference, a swing of 75 (or 67 in terms of the old drum machines) will turn your 16th notes into triplets.

You dont really need to know all this, because it’s how it sounds that matters, right?  Well that’s where this next thing comes in handy.  If you like the groove of some track, find the most stripped back section, loop it, crop it and then right-click and choose extract groove (see the next screenshot).  The groove is then saved in your groove bank down on the bottom left and you are free to apply that to any of your midi patterns.  I did this with a DJ Remy track and the result can be seen on the fourth (highlighted) row of notes in the earlier screenshot.  A subtle groove but often they are ones that work best.

The last row of notes shows one of my favourite grooves and one that is very popular in house, I call it the “Toolroom” groove.  Recently I played a track I was working on with this groove to a friend and he asked if it was a Mark Knight track – see how distinctive groove can be?


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  1. #1 by Brocke on April 28, 2011 - 6:43 pm

    Don’t know about the second one, but the first sounds like:

    Simon Patterson – Always to me.

    Just saying… 🙂

  2. #2 by Stephen Andrichuk on April 29, 2011 - 12:41 am

    first is Funkagenda, Sultan & Ned Shepard – Past Dreaming (Original Club Mix)

    • #3 by Stephen Andrichuk on April 29, 2011 - 12:41 am

      Err 2nd I mean 🙂

  3. #4 by lostinmusik on April 29, 2011 - 4:22 pm

    Dayum that was quick! Full points to you two sirs!

  4. #5 by Bryan on May 5, 2011 - 11:28 pm

    What is the Toolroom groove and where can I get it? (other then to extract it from one of Mark Knights songs) Is it an MPC groove??

  5. #6 by Learn Ways to Free Electric on June 19, 2012 - 8:35 am

    A person essentially assist to make seriously posts I might state. That is the first time I frequented your web page and to this point? I surprised with the research you made to create this actual submit amazing. Magnificent process!

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