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!
TonysChords.zip




The Super Basic Batch File Renamer


I had a buddy with a problem. He had hundreds and hundreds of audio samples ripped from assorted Akai and Emu disks from years gone by. The files weren't usable in modern computer software until he changed the file extension so I wrote a quick app for him that would auto-increment and rename files in batches (he had the samples organized already by sample type... snare, hi-hat, kick, etc). I figured someone else may get some use out of this so here you go.

Warning: This can do serious damage to your system if you point it to the wrong folder and just start renaming things like a mad man, so be sure you know what you're doing!

Download, Unzip and Enjoy!
BatchRenamer.zip

AMS File Utility for Ableton Live



I've finally gotten around to posting about my AMS file Utility for Ableton Live. It lets you create endless harmonic oscillators in Simpler and Sampler. It also lets you export microtonal and/or traditionally tuned zones using your own custom waveform shape. It's a little easier in Sampler because it gets the key mapping from the files themselves (just drag a bunch onto the zone editor) while Simpler makes you work for it with racks, but it's not too bad to get going since the key mapping is appended to the file name.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Motherboard Alert Sequencer


My audio/midi sequencer of choice is Ableton Live. It has several features to keep me busy but one of its most useful and unique features is the session view. In it, you can create little "clips" that contain audio or midi and launch them programmatically using follow-actions. I'm not going to explain the inner workings of Ableton's session view but just know that it allows you to compose non-linearly, by allowing you to play discrete chunks of audio/midi for pre-determined amounts of time, followed by another pre-determined (or randomly selected) clip.  This behavior was the inspiration for the mobo sequencer.

The mobo sequencer exploits the well known DotNet method System.Beep(frequency, duration). This is more commonly known as the obnoxious sound that comes off of your x86 motherboard whenever you make a huge mistake (I hear it often). The sound doesn't have to be entirely obnoxious though. By recording the sequenced output and applying eq, compression and/or various other effects, the sound is more than useable in many forms of electronic music.