February 18, 2012  

Deep House Arpeggiated Chord Pattern Generator in Ableton Live

Point Blank Online School brings you weekly fresh nuggets of music production advice courtesy of our team of pro producer course developers and tutors… This week Ski Oakenfull takes the reigns

“Taking inspiration from Deep House don and Freerange Records label boss Jimpster, I wanted to have a go at recreating a musical pattern I heard recently on one of his tracks.

I loved the way the rhythm of the pattern lay on the off beat, so I set about trying to figure a way to achieve this in Ableton.’’

One of Live’s major assets are its fantastic Midi Effects, which when combined together in series, can perform some powerful Midi processing. So for this project I used the following Midi devices:

This allows you to hold down any number of keys, and have Ableton build up a Rhythmic pattern (Arpeggio) using these notes. The important thing in my example is that I had to set the rate to ‘free mode’ to get that offbeat rhythm.

This allows you to play a single note on the keyboard, and have Ableton add extra notes allowing you to build up chords. In this example I programmed a Minor Triad (+3 & +7)

This basically allows you to play any notes on the keyboard but force the output to play only notes from a specified scale. This was used to take the output of the Chord device and force it to play only notes in D Minor.

My aim for this project was to be able to hold down one note on the keyboard, and get Ableton to play the entire pattern. To achieve this I used the following combination of Midi Devices: Chord (playing 5 notes) -> Arpeggiator -> Chord (playing Minor Triad)  -> Scale (playing Notes from D Minor)”

This tutorial is an excerpt taken from our new online Electronic Music Composition course (EMC) developed and taught by Ski. You can also watch more free tutorials on our sample course page.

Download the Ableton Live Rack

The technique demonstrated in the video can be applied to any style of dance music, and could potentially trigger any sound or sample. Ski has offered up the Ableton rack that he has created as a free download so you can get stuck in, start experimenting, and having some fun with it. Head here to download the rack.

Free Samples

Here’s another batch of high quality, royalty free samples, this time put together by our friends at Original Music. This week’s pack includes over 400mb of loops and samples from their Offbeats Accents pack. Bass drums, hi hats and cymbals and loops at 67.5bpm and 135bpm…it’s all here. Click here to grab the samples and enjoy!

Keep up to date with all of the Point Blank news, tutorials and giveaways by subscribing to us on Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.


Hi, there. My name’s Ski Oakenfull; I’m a Course Developer and Tutor, here at Point Blank Online Music College. I also run my own label, Primaudial Records. Over the years, I’ve had releases on labels like BBE, Talkin Out, Ministry Of Sound, and Trolic Soul. I’m here today to give you little tutorial on Ableton Live, which is one of the subjects I teach, here at the college. You can get loads more free content from the school’s website, which is PointBlankOnline.net. Just go to the free courses section.

Taking inspiration from Deep House Don, Jimpster, I’m going to combine there of the great Ableton MIDI devices to create an arpeggiated chord pattern generator. I hope you enjoy it.

We’re going to see how we can create an arpeggiated chord pattern generator. You might be wondering what that is, so I’m going to play an example. The example I’ve got is a Jimpster track. It’s from one of his recent Free Range compilations. It’s the first track, it’s called Inside the Loop, and I’ve taken the section that’s got this apeggiated chord sound, I’ve looped it up, and I’m going to play that to you now. Here it is. It’s a great sound. It’s kind of obviously got some delay, some reverb on, it’s quite washy, and it kind of rides over the rhythm. It’s also going to cross the rhythm, so it’s not starting on the one. I’ll just give you another quick play of that now. What I’ve done is also taken the beat from that track start. I’ve just kind of looped that off and I’ve added another beat over the top, as well, just so we can see if we can get something, not exactly the same, but a similar kind of vibe to it.

The first thing is going to do is drag over a sound so we can establish what key were in. I’m going to that now. This is one I created earlier, it’s on an analog. Here we go. I’m going to drag that over and listen to the sound. I’m also going to drag over this little virtual keyboard so you can see the notes I’m playing. I’m just going to play the original loop again. Just kind of using my ears, I can hear that this is in D, D Minor, and we’re using the Pentatonic notes. If I play these notes over the top they all kind of fit. I don’t know what kind of combination [inaudible: 02:58] using, but I wonder if we can create a similar kind of vibe, but using some of the devices in Ableton.

I also got some brilliant MIDI effects which we can use, and I’m going to use three of them: One is the Arpeggiator, one is a Chord device, and one is the Scale device. The first thing we’re going to do is get the Chord device, and I’m going to drag that before my sound. I want to just create a minor chord, a minor triad, and a minor triad is D, F and A, these three notes. I’m going to create that with a Chord device. We’re going to go from the D, were going to go up three semitones, 1, 2, 3; I’m going to do that now, and then were going to go up 4, 5, 6, 7. You can see that if I just hit one note, we’re having a whole chord sounding. That’s really cool, but if we go up the scale, you can see that some kind of undesirable notes, notes that aren’t actually in the scale of D Minor. We can sort that out by dragging the Scale device afterward. If we set the scale to be D Minor, it will basically eliminate all the notes that aren’t in D Minor. I’m actually going to drag over one of the presets. I’m just going to delete this and drag over C Minor. I’m going to set the bass to D, there we go. It’s much better.

There’s one note, that’s not quite right, so I’m just going to swap that up. That’s sounding a bit better now. Let’s play it with the beat. Still pretty raw, but I think that’s working quite well. What would be really good is if we can actually get the arpeggiator to play this for us. Let’s drag the arpeggiator over. I’m going to put that before the Chord device. We’ve got it here. If we hold down one note, if we hold down three notes. Let’s just play the beat now. You can see that’s it’s good, but it’s not going to cross the beat like this Jimpster track was. We can sort that out, as well.

If we hit the Sync button, it will mean the actual arpeggio will start from the exact point you actually hit the keyboard. That’s too fast. That’s really cool, but it’s kind of going at the wrong time, and you can see now, that rather than dealing in 1/8ths and ¼-notes were actually dealing in milliseconds. We need to find what’s the correct rate to put in that. There’s some great little apps and websites that can do that for us. The main thing we have to know is the tempo, which is 122. I’m just going to go to this website, just going to get the keyboard out of the way, and we can just put in the tempo which I’ve already got, 122, and calculate. It will then give us the actual time milliseconds that we need to put in. I can see an 1/8th-note is 245.902, so let’s round it up to 246. Put the keyboard back. I’m just going to type that in, 246. There we go.

If we now play the beat, that’s getting a little bit better, closer to what we want to get. What now would be really cool is rather then having to hold down all these notes, maybe putting the Chord device before the arpeggiator, which would kind of hold those notes down for us. I’m going to grab the Chord device, and I’m going to drag that before the Arpeggiator. The notes that I was playing were basically the notes in the Pentatonic scale: D, E, F, G, A, and C, so let’s put those notes in. We’ve got our root note, which is D. We’re then going to go up 2 semitones, which is that E, then the F is 3 semitones, the G is 5 semitones, the A is 7 semitones, and then we’ve got the C, which is 10 semitones.

If I now just hold this root note down, the D . . . I actually got one note wrong, which is +4, it should be +5. We can actually make that go up another octave, as well, just by adjusting the Steps parameter. We can even do another one, as well. It lets you, just by holding down one note; we’re getting this really nice effect. Let’s maybe try recording something in. I’m going to put the record quantization on, just so that it’s going to lock really nicely with the grove. Here we go.

This is opening up now. We can see it’s automatically quantized. Let’s add some effects and spice it up a little bit. Let’s start with a ping-pong delay. Maybe let’s widen it with some chorus. It works really nice if we modulate the cut-off frequency on this analog. Maybe, let’s try adding some other parts to that; just going to put that down. Let’s try a little pad sound going over the top, then going back to this arpeggio sound.

I hope you enjoyed that. There’s loads more free content on the Point Blank website, so go and check that out. I’ll catch you again, very soon.

. . .

Editor’s Note: This is an old article and things have moved on considerably since the original publication date 🙂

For more information head over to the Point Blank Music School website to learn the very latest about our school.

This post is included in Ableton Tutorials, Music Courses, Tutorials