Ableton Music Theory Terms & Concepts Essentials

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Ableton Music Theory Terms & Concepts Essentials

Terms and Concepts for Learning
Get familiar with terminology and essential concepts in music theory for Ableton.
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Who's this course designed for? Ableton and Push

Appropriate for Level 1

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What You'll Learn

Yes!  Ableton is very music-theory-friendly!  Ableton even contains MIDI and Audio devices that are specifically designed for a theoretical approach to music production.  For example, the scale and chord MIDI devices are a great example of tools that make a lot more sense once you understand the music theory that makes them work.

Music Theory for Ableton is a set of concepts that musicians and composers have used for centuries to craft music to achieve specific purposes.  In Ableton, you can use music theory to create more compelling beats, identify the most musical chord progressions or write a catchier hook.

Ableton is a great music production tool for anyone.  But, you really need music theory to produce professional music. All great electronic music has theoretical foundations – this is why some music is super-catchy, while other tracks aren’t.  Learning how to make better beats and craft chords and melodies that fit well is easier if you know music theory.  If you don’t know any music theory, then it can be a slow and frustrating process of trial and error.

Music theory can be used to rapidly generate a chord progression with Ableton and its Scale or Chord MIDI Devices.  Producers also use music theory to create polyrhythmic beats (which don’t get stale) or experiment with harmonics and interval modulation in synth patches.  

Music theory in Ableton can open up a world of options and help you feel confident as you start, refine and finish your tracks.  The more music theory you know, the more creative you can be.


Learning music theory is a lot easier when we understand the concept of pitch.  All sounds that we hear in music have specific frequencies – like 440 Hz… But, who wants to talk about music in terms of Hertz!?  

Pitch is the essential practice of naming specific frequencies with simpler names – like “A”, “B”, “C”, etc.  So, that way we can quickly talk about, analyze and compose better music.  Learning about pitch and the names of notes will help you understand music and work with it more efficiently.

Enharmonic Equivalents

Sometimes music theory needs to give 2 names to the same pitch.  When you understand how and why this happens, then you’ll see how simple it is.  Then, you can spend more time making great music and less time feeling confused or frustrated.

Whole Steps & Half Steps

Once you understand what pitch is, your music theory knowledge should expand to understanding musical intervals.  The simplest intervals are whole steps and half steps.

Ableton’s piano roll displays all pitches in a vertical piano keyboard layout.  Each “key” on the keyboard represents a pitch.  On the one hand, we can measure the distance between 2 pitches with musical intervals.   On the other hand, we can build scales and write better melodies with musical intervals, too.  Whole steps and half steps are basic, but essential and you’ll learn about them in this course.

Chromatic Scale

Every style of music will use notes from the chromatic scale.  In fact, all other scales are derived from the chromatic scale.  From EDM to Rock, Latin Jazz to Hip-Hop, scales are used to great stylistic effect.  Learning the notes in the chromatic scale, their names (and in some cases, their enharmonic equivalents) makes music theory less confusing and will help you reverse engineer your favorite music and learn lessons from your favorite producers.

Major and Minor Scales

Even music theory noobs know about the major and minor scale.  But, do you know how they’re related?  Can you move between them in a musical way?  Do you know how to figure out which notes on the piano roll are in a specific key (ANY key?)?  

If you lack confidence in answering these kinds of questions, they you understand why learning music theory for Ableton is so valuable.  This course will show you how to build any major or minor scale, using a simple formula that is easy to grasp.

Piano Roll Arpeggios

Every Ableton producer should learn about arpeggios on the ableton piano roll.  Arpeggios make great bass lines, but they also make effective melodies and since they follow simple patterns, they’re a big help when you’re needing to break through writers block and MAKE SOME MUSIC!

This course explains what arpeggios are and how to work with them and visualize them on Ableton’s piano roll – a powerful technique!  After you learn about pitch, scales, intervals and arpeggios, your music theory skill will already be a LOT more powerful.

Beat-Making and Subdivisions

This course explains the fundamental building blocks of all beat-making.  Learning how to count and divide beats is essential to making your own beats.  Even if you use loops or pre-programmed beats, you’ll have a much easier time being creative when you understand how your beats are made and why they work.


Every Ableton producer should fill out their beat-making skills with the expressive power of triplets. This rhythmic subdivision techniques opens a whole new world of evolving patterns and polyrhythms that makes a great beat and never gets stale.  In lessons #11, you’ll get a clear explanation of what triplet looks like, so that you can program them into your own beats in Ableton, easily.

Ableton Music Theory

Ultimately, music comes from a creative process.  But, we can take a more accelerated route to making our creative ideas real by understanding deeply how music works from the inside out.  In this course, you’ll learn how to talk about music and build your musical ideas based on an accurate, universal framework of terms and concepts about music theory.

Where You’ll Start…

We’ll start this course by identifying the building blocks for notes, pitches and scales.

Accelerate Your Productions

Learning about music theory and principles of the framework of music is a stepping stone for many artists.

When You’re Finished…

By the end of this course, you’ll understand how to think about and talk about music and its underlying patterns.

What's Included?

Will Edwards

  • 25mins of video
  • Optimized for mobile
  • Instructor support available

Students with membership can access integrated lesson plans with daily practice routines. Take the interview and join today.

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Rated 5 out of 5
March 18, 2022

This was exactly what I expected and I didn’t have to waste time watching yt. Thanks – I’ll be coming back to this I’m sure…

Gene Cook

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