Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Circle of Fifths Chord Resource in Ableton Live
If you've turned on the radio in the last 30 years or so, you've probably noticed that almost all pop music sounds the same: rigidly formulaic, predictable and yet, oddly pleasing and familiar. This is no accident. Our Western ears have been trained to like music built around the circle of fifths.
I'm not an authority on music theory, but I've hacked together (from various resources) an Ableton Live session that can be used as a reference and compositional aid in this style. Yes, now you too can sound like a pop music hack! (Well... to be fair, a lot of really great music fits into this description as well).
The session file is just a container for several midi clips organized around the circle of fifths. Every note's major and minor key are described by the I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII and VIII chords that are grouped under it's heading. The chords grouped under each heading all sound good in that track's key.
More exotic chord extensions are grouped under the track/note heading and can be used to substitute for any chord they're based on, in any chord progression or grouping.
The beauty of Ableton Live's "object-oriented" session file format is that this container can be used to "inherit" from in your own session, by navigating to the session on disk, expanding individual tracks and dragging and dropping chord clips. The colors and names of the chord clips carry over into your composition. Excellent.
While Ableton Live comes with midi effect plug-ins, I find that having the chords and scales already printed and grouped into musically relevant banks suits a different work-flow.
If you use the session file and enjoy it, please consider making a donation to encourage me to make more of these types of things. Even $1 helps.
Download, unzip and enjoy!