On the subject of learning chord patterns and by extension harmonic patterns in chromatic mode:
When I first got my Push, I descended into a frenzy of knocking up chord diagrams in Excel, followed later by generating flashcards with Anki (http://ankisrs.net/
- check it out, it's brilliant open source software, supports images and audio and has a version for smartphones). It was a bit of work, but it gave me something to do on my lunch break.
Gradually I've started to refine my approach to constructing chords and navigating harmony. However, one thing still bugged me a bit.
I wanted to play in chromatic mode because I like the idea of playing out of scale chords, modulating keys and just going a bit 'jazz-mad' with things. Part of the excitement of an isomorphic keyboard layout for me was the opportunity to develop a more relative and universal understanding of navigating harmony, something which a piano keyboard has only given me a partial and inflexible version of and the limitations of which have driven me into a rut with keyboard improvisations.
But over time, I realized I was becoming susceptible to similar problems with Push. The problem seems to be about allowing yourself to be 'led' visually by the instrument.
When I was first learning Push and didn't know where notes were, I found it strangely enjoyable to 'reach' for a note or a chord in my mind and then find it. The anticipation, if you like, or perhaps the fact that I was essentially composing first in my mind and then finding the sound on the keyboard.
The problem with becoming visually led (out of habit) is that you are no longer led by your ear, you're led by your eye! This seems to result in music that doesn't flow as well to the ear as it might have done to the eye whilst playing.
On a piano, it's not hard to see which notes are which. This is a double-edged sword, because it can become easy to become visually led. That and the fact that you can tend to be led to the easiest chords to see, which tends to limit me to playing in familiar keys as well.
Push solved some of this problem by making all chords the same shape (or one of generally three shapes - a left-hand, right-hand and central version it seems), but after a bit of time and experience playing it, I found I started to fall into visually-led habits because of the LIGHTS!
And there was no way to turn them off. So I started to feel like I wasn't really experimenting any more and was getting a little bored of what I was playing. I even tried playing with my eyes shut, but although this was interesting, it seems zero visual information isn't exactly what I needed. I needed a bit, but not too much.
I like knowing the shapes of the chords and learning new shapes. I like getting a feel for harmonic movements as being distances and steps... like the way a chord progression sounds if you're playing major and you switch to minor and move down one row, that kind of thing.
Finally, today I managed to find a way to switch the lights off! If you're learning Push and especially if you're playing chromatically, I highly recommend giving this a go. What at first seems to be an imposing grid of unlit buttons becomes (for me at least) an open space to move harmonic shapes around in.
I did it by using the SkinDefault.py script from Julien Bayle's website, found here: (https://github.com/gluon/AbletonLive9_R ... Default.py
This file can be edited and dropped into the Push MIDI scripts folder in the Ableton program directory. I edited mine to change the instrument light settings so that root notes and scale degrees were unlit.
Things to note:
When dropping a .py script file into a directory, Ableton appears to compile this file into a .pyc on startup. This can overwrite the original .pyc file that contains the Ableton defaults. Before I learnt about this, there had been occasions when I had to reinstall Ableton to restore the default files. As a precaution, I now recommend backing up the entire Push script folder so that default files can be restored when required.
On a PC, the folder is found here (or somewhere like it):
C:\Program Files (x86)\Ableton\Live 9 Suite\Resources\MIDI Remote Scripts\Push
Open Notepad and paste the contents of the Github link (using the 'Raw' version, copy and paste from the browser window to Notepad - other methods seem to pull in a load of HTML formatting, including 'Save As' from the Raw, annoyingly). Edit the relevant colour values as desired, save as 'SkinDefault.py' and drop it in the above folder (after having backed up the folder).
Sorry this message is a little long-winded, but I just wanted to share the pleasure I've had of seeing and understanding these green note shapes appear and move on the now unlit pad background. I find it a lot easier to learn shapes when I'm not distracted by lights and I navigate through harmony using my ear rather than a visual guide, which is making the satisfaction of improvising a lot greater for me. There is still much to learn, but at least now I can do it without visual distraction and disturbance.
Props to Ableton if they ever get around to making this a feature. For now, the hack is quite easy to apply and well worth it from my point of view.
Thanks for reading. Push is awesome, but more so when tweaked.