Ableton’s Soniculture Partner Instrument – the Novachord

I found something interesting. I thought I’d share.

The debut of the Novachord in 1940

First, some quick background. Ableton and various partners offer add on instruments for Ableton Live. These can be auditioned on the Ableton site. Recently they ran a special and I picked up a few instruments.

One instrument that I had dismissed when I was auditioning the various sounds was the “Novachord”; an instrument created by the Hammond Organ company in 1938.
Fortunately there had been a partner instrument sampler issued by Ableton that included a few sounds from the Novachord. The sounds were so compelling I created a new age composition on the spot to hear these great sounds in a musical context.

This morning I was reading the Wikipedia article about the Novachord ( and read that composer/arranger, Ferde Grofe wrote music for the Novachord. If you aren’t familiar with Grofe, he is considered the “Father of Arrangers”. This article has interesting information on Mr. Grofe.

Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite is a collection of pieces that describe sonically the Grand Canyon. He was instrumental in working with George Gershwin to create “Symphonic Jazz”, specifically Rhapsody in Blue.

So why is this Ableton related? Grofe wrote and conducted a piece featured at the 1939 Worlds Fair that was performed on 4 Novachord Synthesizers. And this morning, I found out there was a video of this!!

The opening bass sound ( a combination of the drone of a old propeller airline/horror movie bass pedal) is even today, a deeply moving and dramatic sound. Then the video plays some pieces from the 1930/40 era but if you go to 2:30 in the video there is a gorgeous, warm, analog string sound. To my ear the sounds that were used for these interludes are sounds that could still be relevant to current music productions.

Anyway, I think the Novachord Sound Set by Ableton/Soniculture shows just how much depth there is to electronic music and I as I am discovering, it’s association with some of the best musical minds of the 20th century.

The great contribution of Ableton is to not only break new ground with its techniques and innovative workflow but to also move the long and great tradition of electronic music forward while preserving the historic roots of the electronic music art form.

I hope you enjoyed that video as much as I did.

The War of the Clocks!

I stumbled into some interesting thoughts after my gig last night. I was hired to play bass at a Memorial Day event in Appalachicola. The gig went as well as one could expect. We had a relatively new line up on stage with Steve Cosper on guitar and Luke Pinagar on keyboard and Flugalhorn. Dr. Hulon Creighton (sax), Joey Kirkland (drums) and Jeff McBride (vocals) rounded out the group.

For the 2nd time (ever!) I had taken Ableton Live on my MacBook Pro along with a small mixer and an Akai Mini keyboard on stage to add some synth bass lines to the group. I also had my IPad 2 I-rigged up to use as a tuner. I actually got a fringe benefit from the IPad setup since the I-rig allowed for me to use various IPad musical instruments on stage.

That is where my problems (and the solutions I am pondering) began.

We did the very simple but great tune – Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye. The bass line can be quite simple, yet very effective. So, on the fly I tapped the tempo into Ableton Live and recorded the bass line for the verse. I know that Live allows for tempo nudging but no matter how many times I recorded a midi bass line and tried to be in sync with the band I was always out of sync with the band.

That was a real education in live Live use.

I am sure I have a lot to learn about using Live live but here is what I have come up with so far. It all comes down to what is being used to synchronize the group or in other words, where is the Clock information originating?

Continue reading The War of the Clocks!

Pickels and Bass

Tonight I had a guest at the studio house. Thomas Pickels and Jamie, both of whom work at Lietz Music in Panama City came by for a while. Thomas contact me by Facebook and wanted to know if I would play on some tracks he is putting together for a CD. He emailed some tracks over and I gave ’em a listen. Good playing – in tune, in time and well recorded. But something was missing. So I asked him to drop by and pick a bit. I met them at my office and steered us all over to the studio. You know, you never know what is going to happen when you invite a player over. He carried in his amp and guitar and got situated. We listened to the tunes he sent in LIVE and talked for a bit. I shared a few of the current compositions I’ve been working on and I think LIVE blew Jamie’s mind (he said he was going to learn to use it so he could demo it better at Lietz). Then I said hey, enough of the computer – let’s play!

Continue reading Pickels and Bass