Programming a 5/4 Kick-Snare Beat the Brute Force Way

3-element subsets of a 5-element set
3-element subsets of a 5-element set (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You won’t find many templates for 5/4 beats and being a programmer in the real world it didn’t take long to come up with the idea to tackle beat programming with a “Brute Force” approach. Sometimes it’s easier to programm a generator than to solve the problem itself. Or you don’t mind spending your time on copy&paste.

It’s very similiar to something wikipedia calls a Brute-Force Search:

“In computer science, brute-force search or exhaustive search, also known as generate and test, is a very general problem-solving technique that consists of systematically enumerating all possible candidates for the solution and checking whether each candidate satisfies the problem’s statement.” (Source: wikipedia)

You may see finding a cool beat as “problem-solving” and this is what I did:

I generated a one bar MIDI loop and placed a kick drum on every possible position, starting with 4th notes.

It looks like this (“+” = note, “-” = no note:)
[+—-][-+—][++—][–+–][+-+–][-++–][+++–][—+-][+–+-][-+-+-][++-+-][–++-][+-++-][-+++-][++++-][—-+][+—+][-+–+][++–+][–+-+][+-+-+][-++-+][+++-+][—++][+–++][-+-++][++-++][–+++][+-+++][-++++][+++++]

These are all possible combinations from “only on the first beat” to “five on the floor”. This makes 31 or 2^5 – 1 (-1 because I skipped the empty bar). So, I placed these 31 clips in one track and mapped the output to my favorite drum rack.

The next step is simple: Copy the track, transpose it to a snare, group kick + snare and route the output to the same drum rack.

Voilá! All possible 4th notes combination ready for a try out. Yes, this makes 31*31 = 961 combinations of beats. A missing kick on the first beat may seem a bit odd, so maybe you don’t see all combinations as valid, but this is the point.

Next step: Use 8th notes: This takes a bit more copy&paste work, because you’ll get 2^10-1 = 1023 combinations per bar. Combining kick and snare gives you 1.046.529 combinations. Again, you may exlude the ones with a missing kick on the first beat, but this is up to you.

Now, I would very much like to use follow actions on these clips, but guess … no follow action for MIDI clips. Sorry for that. You may also think about extending this to a 2 bar clip, but beware of 2^20-1 combinations if you do this with a 8th note grid. I may be a copy&paste fanatic, but this is a bit too much for me. If you want 2 bars or more, you should combine cool sounding instances of the 1 bar clip and repeat them, programming fills without brute-force.

If you’re interessted in this Ableton Live song/clip setup, let my know in the comments or contact me directly.
I’m happy to share it via e-mail.

-mE

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