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Ableton Live: Chord Machines

Ableton Live Tips & Tricks
By Len Sasso

Screen 1: Chord Memorizer assigns chords (yellow) to single notes (green). Chord Transposer assigns a  single chord to all notes and works well with Live's Scale effect.Screen 1: Chord Memorizer assigns chords (yellow) to single notes (green). Chord Transposer assigns a single chord to all notes and works well with Live's Scale effect.

We explore the wealth of third-party chord generators available for Live.

This month we'll look at several ways to generate chords in Live. The in-house solution is to use Live's Chord MIDI effect, which lets you dial in as many as six intervals at which notes are added to an incoming MIDI note. For more than one chord voicing, you can combine several of these in a MIDI Effect Rack, separate them by note range, and augment them with other Live MIDI effects such as Scale and Arpeggiator. But for any more than a few chords this process is both limited and a bit tedious. Fortunately, there are a variety of third-party devices for memorising and generating chords. The 'Chord Machine Plug-ins' box lists nine powerful, modestly priced options.

Quick & Easy

The first job of any chord machine is to let you trigger chords by playing single MIDI notes. Unlike Live's Chord effect, the trigger notes typically have no relation to the chords they trigger — they simply let you set up sections of your MIDI keyboard to play chords. The simplest, no-frills plug-in for that is Max For Cats Chord Memorizer (Screen 1 above). You click the Record button and then play a chord or click its notes on the upper of two on-screen keyboards. You then click the Store button and play the desired trigger note or click it on the lower on-screen keyboard. To avoid a lot of mouse clicking, map the Record and Store buttons to MIDI controllers such as footswitches.

Chord Memorizer chords can have as many notes as you like and you can enter them singly or in clusters. When you want to play chords...

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Published November 2019