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June 13, 2012
Hello all. In this week’s episode of Live & Direct we’ll be continuing our exploration of the LP Synth. We’ve already covered dummy clips, pitch control and chord structures, now we’re going to go over arpeggios.
So far, you’ve seen the LP Synth evolve from single-note dummy MIDI clips to a three octave synth to a playable major/minor harmonic progression table. I have built on the triad and seventh chord capabilities of the LP Synth and included a playable arpeggiator. Let’s get into it …
One of Live’s great built-in MIDI effects is the Arpeggiator. An arpeggio is a musical technique where notes in a chord are played or sung in sequence, one after the other, rather than ringing out simultaneously. In last week’s article I briefly touched on the subjects of triads and seventh chords. The Arpeggiator takes any incoming MIDI chords and splits them into their corresponding arpeggios according to the preset parameters in the effect.
I have mapped the on/off activation switch of the Arpeggiator to a button on the Launchpad in User 2 mode. When the triad/seventh chord feature is engaged, the Arpeggiator can also be engaged. There are several parameters that are adjustable within the Arpeggiator effect, including the rate, gate and pattern style.
When the arpeggiator is engaged, the chord type, the chord structure and the note played will all be factors in determining what pattern will be played. By default, I have set the ‘Style’ selector in the Arpeggiator to ‘Random Once’, which will take the input notes and arrange them in a random order. Once the arpeggio is retriggered, these notes will play in a different arrangement.
The ‘Beat Retrigger Interval’ in the arpeggiator is set to ‘Beat’ at an interval of four. The Retrigger resets the pattern so that it starts again from the beginning and the ‘Beat’ mode determines when the pattern retriggers, according to the number of bars set by the user (four in this case). The ‘Repeats’ setting in the Arpeggiator is set to 16, which means that the pattern will repeat 16 times according to the rules set in the ‘Retrigger’ parameter.
As with most other things I build in Live, I have MIDI mapped several other parameters of the Arpeggiator to a Launchpad to make it a playable instrument. One of the most important of these is the ‘Hold’ feature. If the Arpeggiator is engaged it will play note patterns for as long as I am holding down a note in the LP Synth. With the ‘Hold’ switch active, the pattern will continue to play after the keys have been released. The pattern will be repeated until any other LP Synth key is pressed. I have MIDI mapped the ‘Hold’ switch to a button on the Launchpad so that it can be turned on and off with ease.
The ‘Rate’ parameter of the Arpeggiator determines the speed at which the pattern will play. This can be calibrated to either milliseconds or beat-time by selecting one of ‘Free’ or ‘Sync’. I have set the rate to a synced eighth note speed, but have also MIDI mapped the Rate to a button on the Launchpad to play sixteenth notes. I can switch between these two rates in the middle of playing patterns to add flavour and dynamics to the arpeggio.
The ‘Gate’ control sets the length of notes in the pattern as a percentage of the current Rate setting. By default, I have the Gate set to 96 per cent, which will cut the incoming notes just short of a full eighth note. This gives a small amount of breathing room between each note that play, giving a slightly less robotic feel to the arpeggios. I have MIDI mapped this parameter to a button on the Launchpad to momentarily toggle from 96 per cent to 5 per cent when pressed. This creates instant staccatos of any pattern in any instrument voicing. If the instrument voicing used is already very short (i.e. a pizzicato string sound) the effect of this might not be very pronounced, but for most other sounds the LP Synth uses it creates a create tension-release effect.
Individually, each of these features are fairly standard tools of the trade, but when combined together and MIDI mapped to a controller they open up a whole world of expression. Through a little bit of experimentation it is easy to create melody and harmony lines with great counterpoint, polyrhythms and even a little chaos. Of all the Live MIDI effects the Arpeggiator has the most useful application as a live performance aid, and my goal was to use it as best possible within the parameters of the LP Synth. I think that goal was achieved …
Next week I’ll be wrapping up the LP Synth, covering all of the instrument voices that are used. Come check it out!
- Brayton Key