It's easy to lock some piano chords to a drum beat or groove of your choice by using a few simple tricks. We'll make a simple beat, paint in some piano chords and then lock them together so they groove together by side-chaining.
Side-chaining has been talked about extensively, but this trick is a good choice if you want to get your creative juices flowing with laying down a foundation as fast as possible. Let's see how we can create a simple groove from long piano chords and a simple drum beat. By getting together a groove and chord progression quickly you can start laying your ideas on top without the basis of the song hindering your creativity.
Step 1: Create a Beat
Let's create a simple beat. I'm using Logic and I've painted in a nice and simple drum beat, a little RnB-ish maybe but that's cool. That's kind of what we're going for.
Listen to the beat here below.
Step 2: Paint in Some Chords
I'm not even going to try my hand at playing the keyboards for this part, but rather will I paint in the chords I want. Just a simple four chord progression.
Here is the chord progression. Long chords, nothing interested and fairly boring to listen to.
Step 3: Send Your Beat to a Bus
The next thing I need to do is send my beat to an aux bus so I can use the MIDI information from the drum beat. Because my noise gate doesn't recognize MIDI in it's side-chain I have to send the MIDI information to an aux bus where the noise gate can pick it up from. If you are working with an audio file you might not have to do this since you can select your audio file from the side-chain instead of the bus I'm creating here.
Step 4: Side-chain Your Noise Gate to the Beat
Slap a noise gate over your piano track and via side-chain let it listen to the drum beat we created before. Tweak the parameters until you're happy, or copy mine here below.
Now we have those long piano chords synced to the drum beat, making for an interesting rhythm and feel to the track. By having the piano play the chord stabs in time with the beat we've created a much more creative and lively basis to the song.
Listen to what we've accomplished here below
It's easy to use simple techniques like this side chain trick to quickly create a foundation for a song. Now we have something to work with and we can build from there. Now you might build on top of this track until you realize that the piano doesn't belong there anymore, but it definitely served a purpose in getting your creativity going. Create simple and groovy building blocks like this next time you're stuck in a rut and you don't know what to start with. It might help spark ideas and compositions you never thought of.