Grooves as Compositional Seeds

Music Technology Assignment

For this assignment, we will look to classic 20th-century funk grooves and use them as compositional seeds. Ethnomusicologist Steven Feld articulates groove as containing “an unspecifiable but ordered sense of something that is sustained in a distinctive, regular and attractive way, working to draw the listener in.” (Feld, 76) It is a valuable skill to understand and create a groove using the basic aspects of a drum kit: bass drum, snare, hi-hat. By building off of and exploding these rhythmic gestures using MIDI transcription and the piano roll, we can expand our compositional practice in energizing ways.

  • Brief student introductions (instrument, musical interests)
  • Instructor demonstration, ex: Cissy Strut by The Meters
  • Explore Funklet , YouTube the original, commit to a groove. (5 min)
  • Input the Kick, Snare, Hi-Hat elements of the your chosen Funklet groove into the Beats section of Ableton’s Learning Music site (5 min)
  • Edit to taste, keeping some the core elements in tact (10 min)
  • Export to Live and open the .zip file
  • MIDI information will appear in “Drums” track
  • Option+drag you drum beat to bass, piano, and synth tracks. Create! (15 min)
  • Discussion (if time allows): Examine the boundaries between theft and composition…mimicry and originality

Useful key commands in Ableton Live:

  • Tab: toggle between session and arrangement view
  • cmd D: Duplicate
  • +/- : zoom horizontally
  • Z : zoom to arrangement
  • cmd + shift + S : Save
  • B : MIDI draw



Feld, S. (1988). Aesthetics as iconicity of style, or’Lift-up-over Sounding’: Getting into the
Kaluli groove. Yearbook for Traditional Music, 20, 74-113.

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