No matter what tool you use, the piano roll can be quite a confusing place.

What’s up guys, it’s Aiden with EDM prod and today we’re going to go over nineteen tips for Wilson’s piano roll.

These tips are designed to help you speed up your workflow and creativity.

Now, these tips are mostly applied to Ableton before we get into it, I just want to say that these tips all work best when you use them with each other.

So make sure you stay around for the whole video.

Don’t click away.

Yeah, that being said, if you do want to get these tips in Split, there is a link in the description for now.

Let’s get into tip number one.

So, tip number one is to use the draw mode to add notes quickly to the piano roll.

Now you can activate this by going up to the top right, and activating the draw mode switch. I like to do it just by pressing B though, it makes it a lot faster.

And you’ll notice you’ll be able to draw notes a lot easier than having to double click instead.

It’s a very minor thing, but it adds a lot of time that you save overall. You can also use the Draw tool to delete notes a lot faster as well.

And also draw the velocities over a large variety of notes, for example.

So let’s add in a few here.

If you were to select all these notes by pressing Command A, you could actually quickly draw a nice velocity curve, which is easier than going in individually. You know, you can select them all and move them all at the same time.

But it’s easier than individually going and tweaking each of the velocities.

But this tip works really well in conjunction with tip number two, which is this little button here, which is the MIDI editor preview.

Activating this button means that when you click on a note on the p & l here, or when you draw one in, you know, let’s use the Draw tool, for example, you can actually hear what note you’re playing and what note you’re drawing in.

This is great for writing melodies, because it means you don’t have to get on a keyboard and play them. You can do it by drawing them in. Especially if you don’t use a MIDI keyboard. This helps immensely.

It’s not on by default, and there’s no keyboard shortcut that I’m aware of unfortunately, but it’s a really, really good tip.

And I love to use that one.


So tip number three is to be able to select all the notes or any group of notes or just one note, and using shift, you can apply it with the normal moving up and down arrows like that. Just on your keyboard, you can actually use shift to move it up an octave or down an octave.

And that just helps you know, if your notes aren’t sitting in the right range, you can easily just move up or down an octave to see if that is better suited to the instrument you’re playing. It saves a bunch of time and keeps you from dragging each note down manually with the mouse.


So tip number four is to duplicate notes.

So if you select all the notes in a certain length, or whatever you like a clip or like audio, you can simply press Command D to duplicate them.

This is really good if you’re doing those Colin response melodies or chord progressions where you want to tweak the first variation a little bit differently.

And then, you know, make the notes a bit different.

It really speeds it up rather than having to, you know, copy over a note by note. Number five is the MIDI stretch marker. This is really good for just being able to, you know, get a slight bit of time and get into perfect timing.

If you’re into that, I really like to use this.

You can also do it too hard, have the frequency of notes or double the frequency of notes.

But there is a much easier way to do that which we are going to get into.

And tip number six, which is, you know, this little thing over here, play at a double tempo or play at half tempo. All that does is half or double the note positions and links, so that it’s basically double time or half time for that particular set of notes.

This is really, really good.

Especially with little motifs, stuff like baselines or melodies, it can really help just to speed things up a little bit for a little section, or try, you know, speeding up or slowing down a chord progression could really help just make it sit better in the track.

You never know what’s going to sound better.

So it’s a really, really fast and easy way to do it. Once again, no shortcuts for these ones.

But they’re they’re just on the left of the piano roll.

Alright, number seven is to actually be able to duplicate the loop.

So if you’ve got like a four-bar clip, like we’ve got here, and you’re like, I want to double the length of this whole thing without having to, you know, duplicate the clip up here and then join them, but I can join them together by consolidating them. You can just go over here and press duplicate loop, which literally doubles the length of the whole clip, and the end of all the notes in it.

So, once again, it’s great if you want to experiment with a different version of the phrase as like a call and response kind of technique.

It works really, really nicely and just saves a lot of time.

Alright, number eight, we have got the amazing force legato. The force legato is great because what it does is if you’ve got gaps between the notes, and you kind of want a bit more of a smoother melody or a smoother phrase, rather than a static staccato, kind of stabby.

One, you just press the legato button here, and it saves so much time and reduces all the gaps between the notes.

So there’s none left anymore.

And it’s just a really, really nice way of being able to experiment with how different note lengths sometimes sound nice when they’re all joined together.

Sometimes it sounds nice with gaps.

Either way, this is a quick way to achieve this particular state.

And then you can go back and edit out certain ones and play around like that.

Alright, I think we’re up to number nine.

And number nine is this amazing feature called crop clip.

So if you don’t like the length of your clip you’ve got and you just want to select a certain bunch of notes and make them select the notes like I’ve just done there.

And you can right click and press crop clip. It’ll get rid of whatever else is out there and delete those notes.

And this is really great.

If you are experimenting with multiple ideas with no one clip and want to commit to a specific thing, it is a really good way to quickly remove all the other stuff you don’t want to use any more.

Amazing tip. I love this one.

It just helps me commit to ideas without getting lost in experimentation, which is good.

Sometimes you just do need to commit to that thing that you think sounds good. Number 10 is one of my personal favorite creative little tricks to get cool ideas.

It’s these two buttons up here, reverse and invert.

This is great for both chord progressions, melodies, baselines, anything really, just to see what it sounds like backwards, or, for example, the notes becoming inverted.

What that means in reverse is pretty straightforward.

It just reverses the order of the notes.

So you can see this is at the beginning, where it ends. Invert it in the opposite direction and invert the kind of voicing.

So, like top notes will become at the bottom, etc.

It’s really, really cool.

It is just a creative way to see if it sounds better in a different light, and helps you come up with more unique compositions and ways that you might not have done on your own.

And it does it in such a fast way that you don’t even have to do much.

I really love those ones.

I love using them together and on multiple different instruments.

super cool.

All right, number 11 is quantized.

So this is a pretty straightforward one.

But what most people don’t know is that you can actually change the quantize settings.

So there is just the normal quantize button.

And if you’ve got notes that are off the grid, then what you want to do is quantize them sometimes, but sometimes you don’t want to quantize them on the grid fully.

And sometimes you want a bit more specificity with the quantize settings.

So by right clicking once you’ve got the note selected, and then clicking on quantize settings, or you can do shift Command G, whichever you prefer, you actually have the settings here where you can customize the percentage amount of quantization applied to the notes.

So you can actually retain a little bit of that beautiful human feel that is sometimes brought in by dragging notes off the grid, or if you’re playing an environment keyboard, you can also choose to adjust the notes to either the start or the end, or both.

And here you can choose the quantize grid to which it’ll apply.

So it’s by default 1/16.

I don’t know if it’s the default in Ableton, but that’s what I’ve set it to.

And once you’ve set these amounts, then quantize just simply command function will actually use those last two settings.

So you don’t have to come up with that little pop-up box every single time.

You can just use what you like. Alrighty, number 12.

We’re getting to the end now.

It’s a technique you can use with clips, audio, whatever. It’s to deactivate certain notes.

Sometimes you aren’t sure if a certain note is in a melody or a chord.

And you might want to hear what it sounds like without it without fully committing to deleting it because you might forget what note it was.

Or you just want to quickly check it without having to actually delete it. All you do is click on the note or select a group of notes and press zero.

That way, the note is still there, but it’s not being played.

So if you ever want to add it back, you just simply press zero again.

Now it’s back.

This is great for experimenting with different variations and melodies.

Because sometimes we’re tempted to add more notes or more chords, whatever you’re tempted to do, sometimes it’s better just to actually reduce what’s there and see if it sounds better. Less is more.

Alright, number 13.

We have got to select all the notes in a specific key.

So, for example, if you’re just not liking the sound of a certain note, maybe you want to go for more of a pentatonic scale.

If you don’t know that, don’t worry about what that means for now.

You can actually choose all the notes on a specific key and move them up or down or do whatever you want with them specifically. That way, you don’t have to drag and click, you can just simply press on a key and it automatically selects all of them.

And you can also use shift while pressing on multiple keys if you want to choose a variety of different notes, notes and keys that you want to edit without selecting everything, or the number 14 is a looping and start point.

So most of you may know about looping.

But if you don’t, if you can loop the entire clip, that way, when you’re dragging it in the arrangement, it just continues when you drag it, as opposed to adding just a bunch of gaps at the end, which is really nice.

However, what you can do is use these markers up here to customize the loop, the top markers or the loop start and end.

And the bottom one is the start marker of the whole clip.

Sometimes it’s nice to play around with it and starting at a different part of the clip can really be helpful if you’re trying to mess around with the rhythm trying to get a cool idea.

And once you commit to something, you can right click and press set 1.

1 point here.

To make that the permanent start of that clip, you just have to make sure that the position of the loop is set back to the original point. You can either do that by adding a new one here, or by dragging that start marker back to, sorry, the loop start marker back to where the start marker is.

And once again, you can also change the end point and start point here instead of up here. It depends on how you like to work.

But both are really great ways.

All right, up to 15.

And 15 is all about bank sub programs.

So this is the program change section.

This works really, really well if you’ve got an instrument. For example, a lot of contact with libraries, or if you go to external hardware that you’re using.

Sometimes they have different presets all loaded in at the same time.

So you can choose a different bank here and a sub-sub program or a completely different program change altogether.

These settings will vary depending on what synth or instrument you’re using.

But basically, this allows you to customize the sound really fast, without having to, you know, load up a new instrument and stuff like that, just from within the MIDI clip. You don’t even have to leave and go and edit the interface, you can actually just quickly do it.

This is great if you’re not really certain about the tambour of the sound for these particular notes.

And you think it may sound better, another preset that you’ve used. We won’t go too deep into this because it gets quite complicated, but just know it’s there.

And you can use it.

Alrighty, 16 is the fold function.

So if you’ve got a certain group of notes, and you know, you’re not really going to go outside of that group of notes, you can fold them to see exactly what notes are on the piano or you’re using. This is great for drums.

And it’s also really great.

If you’ve got a melody that you want to limit to a specific number of notes,

So you can focus more on the rhythm, or something like that.

Really, really cool.

I know some people like to highlight certain notes in the key if they’re not certain about music theory. What you can do here is add the notes before the clip, like this one is here.

And it knows that it’s being dragged in, but it won’t play as part of the clip because it’s for this before the start marker.

So, for example, if we’re in C major, we could draw a note on all of the things in C major.

And even though these notes won’t actually play, when you fold, you’ll still be able to see them.

And then you can know that these are the notes in C major.

Let me use that.

So that’s really, really handy just to focus down once again. Great for drum racks, it helps you just look at the slots because I know most of the keys on a drum rack aren’t going to be used because most people aren’t using that many drum slots.

All right, getting to the end of 17, modulation and envelopes.

So most people don’t know that there’s actually this envelope section down here that you can activate.

And you can control different MIDI control parameters, such as pitch, band channel, pressure modulation, breath.

These are all kinds of default ones depending on the controller you’re using.

But one really cool thing is, if you want to modulate something, instead of adding an automation clip, which is what most people do, you can actually share the modulation for a certain active clip that you’re currently editing.

So what this will show here now is a different set of envelopes that you can edit, which is just specifically for this clip without having to worry about overall changes and copying them for each clip. They remain within the clip.

So it’s always going to be part of that clip, composition per se. This is great if you want to add expression to the melody or to the chords, that kind of part of it.

And it’s part of the sound you’re wanting to go for as a permanent thing rather than over the course of the track, if that makes sense.

So I really love that one.


So number 18.

If you’re using MIDI effects, for example, like an arpeggiator or a chord.

Now you can actually Once you’ve added in these effects, create a new MIDI track and you can actually record it from this MIDI track to this one.

So that you can actually see what the resulting MIDI will sound like in note form.

So let’s record this here.

Now you can see the resulting MIDI with arpeggiation and chords here. You can then drag that on top here, if you want to. That’s just a really cool way to see the resulting MIDI.

And then you can go and edit it as you want to, just by activating the notes view, etc.

Alright, and lastly, the 19th tip is using groups.

So if you don’t know what grooves are, they come as part of Ableton. You can actually add grooves to specific channels, I’m sorry, you can add groups to specific clips, or you can actually extract the groove from a clip.

A groove, essentially, is a timing element that measures how far off grid a note should be at a specific position in the clip.

So if we add a groove and we add one here, by default, it doesn’t commit.

So it will sound like it’s got a groove applied, but you won’t be able to see how it affects the notes.

Once you’ve added a group, you’ll be able to see the little variations in timing that it adds.

And what you can also do is, if you’ve added your own group manually by setting notes off, without using a command, you can right click and extract the groups and it will add them to this group pull up here so that you can go and drag them and apply them to other clips, keeping the timing tight across all of your piano roll, all of your clips, all your MIDI.

So, as I said earlier in the video, if you want all these tips in a nice, neat format that you can just stick on your wall or download on your computer, you can download all of these tips plus extra ones in the description below or in the corner there.

And if there are any tips that we missed in this video, there’s a lot of stuff we probably didn’t cover.

Feel free to drop a comment in the comments below and let us know what that is.

If you liked this video, it actually helped you.

Please like the video and subscribe for more videos and content like this every week.

And if you did really get something out of it, why not share it with a producer buddy who might be struggling with the piano roll or something similar?

Thanks for sticking around guys.

Hope you enjoyed it. I’ll see you in the next one.

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