Basic Chord And Scale Theory Through Ableton Live

by Ryan

  • File Under: Screencasts
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Learn to sequence any Major or Minor chords/scales with Ableton’s piano roll in minutes. In this video tutorial, I show how to program and manipulate notes allowing you to instantly write better melodies and chord progressions.

Here are the formulas mentioned in the video:

Major Chord Formula: 1, 4, 7 (these numbers represent half-step increments)

Minor Chord Formula: 1, 3, 7 (these numbers represent half-step increments)

Major Scale Formula: W-W-H-W-W-W-H (W = Whole Step, H = Half Step)

Minor Scale Formula: W-H-W-W-W-W-H (W = Whole Step, H = Half Step)

17 Responses to “Basic Chord And Scale Theory Through Ableton Live”

  1. Wael-x Says:

    May 12th, 2010 at 6:12 am

    Thank you so much man, this video was immensely helpful, keep em’ coming, your tutorials are easy to follow and clearly set out. Thanks again

  2. octavio Says:

    May 12th, 2010 at 9:09 am

    thankx… really thanx….

    this thing is changing my melodies in a completetly new way…

  3. mymahenri Says:

    May 14th, 2010 at 1:55 am

    your summary below the vid says Major and Major (1st 2 lines). I’m assuming the 2nd line should have read ‘minor’ right? Thx for the vid as well.

  4. Ryan Says:

    May 14th, 2010 at 2:48 am


    Good catch! Thanks!

    – Ryan

  5. Boobs Says:

    July 1st, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    I’m confused about the Minor scale. I’ve seen other dance tutorials where they give a different Semitone/Wholetone pattern. I know there are 3 types of Minors and the first 4 steps are the same, so Im confused about which one to use! Which one is most common? and common for dance music?

    Can someone tell me the difference?

  6. pedram Says:

    August 5th, 2010 at 11:57 am

    you are amazing. this site is exactly what i was looking for. many many many thanks.

  7. Fernando Lunelli Says:

    October 12th, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Great blog! Great tips! Thank you very much!

  8. ken Says:

    March 3rd, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    thankyou for this – really cleared up so much for me !!!

  9. Rob Says:

    March 28th, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    These are great video (and written) tutorials on chords and scales. Can you create one just like it for chord progressions? That would be AWESOME!

  10. Seta Says:

    May 18th, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Thanks a bunch friend. Your patience and and teaching methods are very insightful. You are doing the the community of novice producers a huge service. Thank you again and keep up the good work and great sounds. !! 🙂

  11. blob Says:

    August 16th, 2011 at 3:47 am

    Thanks a lot for the tips!! Really easy to follow and helpful!! Great site too!!

  12. Cameronself I go serchi Says:

    August 16th, 2011 at 10:12 am

    AWESOME! thank you! your tips/tutorials are just so helpful and easy to follow, but at the same time giving us that”perfect” sound. I know myself I go searching for these things….happy to have found it. keep them coming!

  13. CryderSteez Says:

    September 26th, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    You managed to teach me more in 15 minutes with ableton than I learned in 3 years of high school choir(don’t laugh, choir girls get DOWN!) That, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of technology.

  14. Diego Pacheco Says:

    October 20th, 2011 at 10:02 am

    For what I learned the natural minor scale is T S T T S T T or W H W W H W W, I think it also sound better. The minor scale on this video might be a variation of the minor scale.

  15. Leandro Says:

    May 5th, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Maybe later but, hope this would help future visitors:

    The major scale is:
    W – W – H – W – W – W – H
    C – D – E – F – G – A – B

    If you think about it that means that E and B are half steps away from their next note. That means that there is not such thing like E or B sharp #. E# would be an F.
    If you remember that then you can do the formula everytime you need it by spelling the C Major Scale (CDEFGAB) and knowing that E and B are the half steps.

    When dealing with Minor Scale the “rule” is:

    Let’s see the C Major Scale again:

    C D E F G A B Notes
    I II III IV V VI VII Grades

    Now, every Major Scale have a relative Minor Scale and viceversa.
    The Minor Scale is always the Major Scale of another note begining with the 6º grade (grade = note).
    Note that working with grades it’s always far more easy because you don’t get confused with all that letters.

    In conclusion, the relative Minor Scale of the C Major Scale is the A Minor Scale. (Because A is the 6 grade or note in the C Major Scale)

    But what does that means?
    It’s simply means that if you really think about it, the Minor Scale “progression” it’s the same that the Major “progression” beginning in the 6º grade!

    So if the major was:

    W W H W W W H
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7

    The minor is:

    W H W W H W W
    6 7 1 2 3 4 5

    That’s the NATURAL minor scale.

    Melodic, Bach, and Harmonic are the another 3º types of minor scales. They have variations in the last 2 notes. For example:
    The Melodic have his 6º grade augmented by half step, and the 7º decreased by half step. That makes his progression like this:

    W H W W H WH H

    Hope this help somebody!
    Sorry the bad english.

  16. Mike Jordan Says:

    May 25th, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Awesome. I love this blog. Everything on here is fantastic!! Thanks again man

  17. Vios Says:

    October 17th, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    Love the music theory! For those wanting to learn more about music composition for electronic artists and Ableton Live, please look at:

    Free tutorials about composting music in Ableton Live!

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