*Before the actual post, a disclaimer: Below is GEEK TALK. I aimed this post at people with in-depth knowledge on MIDI controllers, Ableton Live sets and controllerism in general. If you’re not an electronic music geek, chances are you won’t understand much. If you do, however, kudos to you.

I have finally finished a set-up that allows me to do similar things to what I’ve been seeing around in videos featuring my favorite Electronica artists: improvise full songs. How can Nosaj Thing do ALL that stuff with just one controller. Or Moldover, for that matter?

In my newbie days, I often wondered how you can improvise in the Electronica genre. There’s no instruments, no actual notes, just samples and tracks and buttons and knobs and sliders. I’ve since discovered looping, sampling and sequencing on the fly, among other things, so the next step for me has been discovering a set-up that allows me to improvise a track without having to wait at least half-an-hour between songs to create (or load) a different Live set.

I’ve finally done that, a few days ago, thanks to discovering that limiting yourself is the actual secret. I don’t want to use ALL the effects, samples, channels and functions on my controllers. As an example, instead of using my Korg nanoKONTROL to control its full capacity of 36 mixer channel volumes and just as many effect parameters ( not counting the buttons) I’m using it to control 8 mixer channels with two sends each. Limiting myself to 8 channels with a MIDI effect and two sends each made me think about how I could fill that small space with something truly versatile and expressive. So I’ve figured it out. Some reverb, some filtered delay and some beat repeaters with modifiable parameters and I couldn’t believe the magic.

It always seems complicated when you look at it, but it’s actually simple. The fact that you don’t know what’s mapped to what from the start is what makes it look complicated and confusing.

I’ll elaborate on my set on a later date, but, until then, here’s my first fully improvised song on youtube:


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