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Quick Tip: Using MIDI Effects in Ableton Live - Part 2

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This post is part of a series called Manipulating MIDI: Setup, Sequencing and Secrets.
Quick Tip: Using MIDI Effects in Ableton Live - Part 1
Quick Tip: Control Your MIDI with a Wii Remote Using OSCulator
This post is part of a series called Using MIDI Effects in Ableton Live.
Quick Tip: Using MIDI Effects in Ableton Live - Part 1

Last time we discussed Ableton Live's powerful MIDI devices. Now it's time to show how to combine these devices in various ways in order to write complex melodies. If we would like to know the real power of these tools we have to combine them together. Here are some effective combining tips you can keep in mind.

Tip 1

Let's say you would like to use your keyboard to pick up some chord from a particular key. The best way to do that drop a chord effect and program it as I mentioned previously. The beauty of that now you can play any chord on the chromatic scale. You can see in the picture if you are hit the C key it will became a C major chord, but on the piano roll the C note the only one which will appearing.

As far as we know there are some chords that are not part of a specific key what we had chosen earlier. In this case we have to apply and use a scale effect. This will transpose or force the wrong notes to the nearest corresponding ones which are on the key. For example if we push the C key it will sound like a C major chord as the result of the chord effect. But if we apply right next to the chord a scale, with a preset of C minor it will transpose the chords E note to D# and it will sounds like a C minor chord. With these tricks you can always be on the right key.

Tip 2

Another example of this effect that you can complete the melody with another note lines. This device can copy and transpose the MIDI notes at the same times. And you can determine the range of that effect. It's really handy.

You can see on the picture how the notes being changed by the scale effect.

But I suggest, use only those notes that are on the key, in harmony, if you can.

Tip 3

But don't stop now. We have more effects to use! For example if we use an arpeggiator after a chord effect and before a Scale it will arpeggiate the chord itself. Furthermore, it will remain on the scale.

Therefore with this trick you can easily transfer your chords into an arpeggiated lead line.

In this picture you can see how a simple C note evolving into an arpeggiated lead line. Right after you hit the C note it becomes a C major chord because of the Chord effect.

Next is the arpeggiator, which arpeggiates the chord into a sixteenth based pattern lead line. And finally the Scale device transposes the wrong notes - in our case the E notes to D#, which is part of the minor key. Don't be afraid of adding different scale patterns to your song.

Tip 4

And what if you are working with a singer, and her voice can't cope with the key of the song? Simply drag and drop a pitch effect to the beginning of the chain and start to transpose the song until her voice fits into your progression.

In this case don't forget to change the base key of the scale effect too, otherwise it won't work properly. And if you are thinking of harmony, write a simple lead line, create an another MIDI channel with a different instrument copy and paste the melody what have you written before. Use the pitch effect on the new MIDI channel and transpose the melody up to seven semitones or negative five semitones (which means that you transpose the melody by fifth up or down). It will sounds bigger and fuller, and still remain in harmony with rest of the production.

Last but not least, apply a note length device before the arpeggiator. For example if you have a whole note chord which is arpeggiated and you set the note length to 1, the arpeggiator will stop after one note because it will ignore the original length of the notes.

Tip 5

As a final tip, if you want to see which effects you are using, create another MIDI track and use the I-O section. Set the MIDI From to the piano channel (or any kind of channels which are receiving your current MIDI data), and launch the recording. The MIDI notes will appear on the piano roll as exactly as the effects turn them into a predetermined MIDI pattern.

Conclusion and Disadvantages

It is really good to know that there are many effects out there that can help us to create music. But we have to consider the fact that these effects can be disadvantageous in some case. For example if you want to be a great a pianist, you have to ignore these little tricks because your hand skills won't develop well.

Also, these devices limit your chord selection or note selection because you have to program again and again if you want to use different chord inversions or want to use a note that is not in the scale. But as I mentioned before, I use these tools for inspiration to pick up some chords that I like, and quickly outline my progression. It can save lots of time.

Thanks for reading this tutorial. Don't forget to leave comments. I'm planning to continue this tutorial with some advanced usage, like creating a multipatch instrument rack with different MIDI effects in different range of the piano roll.

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