Quick Tip: Use Ableton's Arpeggiator to Create a Progressive Trance Lead Sequence


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Hey guys. Today I will show you how to use the arpeggio MIDI effect to create a typical progressive trance lead. In addition we will automate numerous parameters to create some tension before the banging or a breakdown!

Step 1: Create the Synth and the Melody

First we will need a chord melody and an instrument. In our case it will be the Sylent.

The chord melody is really simple two bar four chord pattern.

I used the Pluck – Reverb Square preset from Adam Van Baker Sylent Pack Volume 3. It has a really progressive sound and great sounding cut off envelope. It is just a square wave sound, so spice it up with a little delay and reverb.

The filter cut off is really unique. We will automate the modwheel later. I made some adjustment during the sequence. I eliminated the LFO in the modwheel and I added a velocity curve to make the sound much richer feeling and some modulation. I applied some sidechain compression and a little bit EQ on the synth channel.

Here how sound so far:

Step 2: Apply the Arpeggio

Arpeggiators are a classic element in Eighties synth music. The name originates with the musical concept of the "arpeggio", in which the notes comprising a chord are played as a series rather than in unison. "Arpeggio" is derived from the Italian word "arpeggiare", which refers to playing notes on a harp. We will use this theory to make our chord into a lead pattern.

Let’s grab an arpeggio MIDI effect and make some adjustments. I used the Up Style from the style selector so the sequence will always in rise. I apply a swing 16 from swing selector because without the swing the sequence will be boring. I apply a 1/16th rate on rate control, later we will automate this feature. The gate is 40% so it won’t be too big notes. The distance is 12 semitone which is an octave and the steps is one so the notes will finish the rising an octave higher.

It’s now time to tweak the velocity curve. Remember that I made some changes in the velocity curve on the Sylenth patch? Now it is time to use this feature.

Turn the target to 110 and the decay is 7 Sec. This means the velocity will rise from 0 to 110 in seven seconds. This will create some modulation. Listen the sequence now.

Step 3: Automation

Now that our sequence is completed it is time to add an envelope. I automated the Slylenth's modwheel, which will filter sweep in. Loads of producer use this technique in their productions.

Another change is the Arp sync rate. It is a really tricky use of the Arp technique. But be aware that it does matter how you automate this feature. If it is too slow or fast it will sound weird the listeners ears. You can change the parameters any time.

Let's listen the final example:

I hope you enjoyed this short tutorial. Happy music making!