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Old 02-05-2012, 10:42 PM   #1
Lokasenna
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Default Most efficient way to build a chord progression?

Just like the title says. I'm trying to bone up on my theory, and it'd be awesome if I had a quick way to take a chord progression I've worked out, slap it into Reaper, and see how good/bad/horrendous/metal it sounds.

As is, I have to either hand-program everything, which is tedious, or I can drag and drop the MIDI chords that nzdutchie posted in the MIDI Chord Repository thread, which is a bit better but still pretty rough.

Ideally, I'd like to open a window, select a key, click a couple of buttons to sort out the progression, and hit Play to hear it through whatever instrument I've got loaded up.

Can anyone suggest a way to do this? If not, what's the best workflow you can think of?

Cheers.
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Old 02-05-2012, 10:52 PM   #2
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erm... play it on an instrument ?
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Old 02-06-2012, 12:10 AM   #3
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maybe try something like this:
http://www.synleor.com/improvisator.html

it has demo version on the site
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Old 02-06-2012, 12:11 AM   #4
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tonespace VST is great for this.
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Old 02-06-2012, 12:02 PM   #5
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I'm afraid that won't help you bone up on your theory. Chord progressions can work or not based solely on the voice leading. It's not an efficient method, but I'm a big fan of the "one note at a time" system of composing. The sounds flow very naturally when you're only worried about one note's relationship to a)the previous note, b)the other notes that share its beat, and c)the next note that may come in line. But that's not what you're looking for.
A program won't figure out the best inversions for you. A program won't figure out that you can get a jazzier sound by substituting a dominant chord a tritone away, and it won't figure out that you can get more rock and roll by ommiting the 3rd on a particular chord.
If you want to bone up on your theory, don't look for easy ways out. Use the theory.
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Old 02-06-2012, 12:27 PM   #6
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Band in a Box or Chord Pulse (which is much cheaper, but more limited: www.chordpulse.com). BIAB is really great for sketching ideas, IMHO. You could also try iRealB if you have an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch. Again, it's not going to give you studio-ready sound, but will certainly give you an idea how a particular chord progression sounds, in less than 3 minutes.
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Old 02-06-2012, 12:47 PM   #7
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But I'd still argue that it won't give you an accurate idea. It'll only be one of limitless combinations of notes. I'm always writing stuff that sounds like crap in block chords, but using inversion, substitutions, voice leading, and adding tensions and suspensions where necessary or desired changes everything. BIAB won't figure that out for you.
The best thing to do is either play it on a keyboard and use your ears, or draw in the desired notes directly to a midi editor... that is, if what you're trying to do is work the theory.
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Old 02-06-2012, 12:58 PM   #8
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So here's efficient, for the old school way.

Use staff paper and start with a melody line.

Next fill in the bass notes. The first note of the melody (omitting pickup notes) will normally be a root, 3rd, or 5th of the I chord. Not definitely, but it's a good place to start. Place bass notes on strong beats (1 and 3, but especially 1, you can repeat notes if necessary, or tie/sustain them)

Now fill in alto and tenor voices using voice leading. If your melody starts on the 5th of the I chord and has the root as the bass note, you'll want to have a 3rd in one of the other two voices and probably double the root or the fifth in the other, but not necessarily. That's why BIAB and similar programs can't do this for you.

The bass can move stepwise, in fourth or fifth motion, or octaves. Generally bigger leaps are allowed in the bass. The bass note does not always have to be the root.

The middle voices should stick mostly to stepwise and (where posible) contrapuntal motion. That last part isn't really that aplicable in rock and roll, but I'm assuming that since you want to work the theory you're probably not looking to rewrite "Louie Louie" or anything like that.

It might not seem that efficient the first time you try it, but using the skills is what makes you efficient.
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Old 02-06-2012, 06:20 PM   #9
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Perhaps I should mention that I can't read "proper" sheet music. As a guitarist, it's not very useful unless you're in an orchestra or playing a lot of jazz. Guitar tab, chord charts, and just writing everything out (Ebsus2, etc), sure.

As an example of what I'm looking for, I've got the demo version of this on my Android phone: http://www.appbrain.com/app/chordbot...rdbot.demo.gui

If I could get that in a VST (or JS, if anyone were feeling industrious), I'd be happy as a clam.

I realize it might sound like I'm trying to take shortcuts, but I'm honestly not. I just want a simple way to try out a chord progression and play guitar over it if I like what I'm hearing. I'm still coming up with the chords myself and figuring out why a given change does or doesn't work.

If I have to record myself playing the chords I can, but I'd rather focus on listening to them and playing over them than having to record my own backing tracks each time I want to try something different. To me, it's the same as using a graphing calculator to see what an equation looks like rather than plotting it out by hand.

I'm well aware that this is a backwards approach to learning theory, and I do appreciate the "learn it the proper way" suggestions, but they're not really relevant to what I'm asking.

Sibben - Can you explain how to use Tonespace for this? I fiddled around with it last night before I started the thread and couldn't make sense of anything. Same with ChordSpace, which looks like it should be helpful but doesn't make much sense.

Harmony Improvisator would probably do what I need, but it's also doing a lot more, so the $100 would be largely wasted. ChordPulse seems alright, I'll have to give it a try.
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Old 02-06-2012, 06:28 PM   #10
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I know, and I'm sorry. I kind of have this weird compulsion to try to talk people away from these types of "auto-chord" programs.

But the thing is, what I say is true. You won't really be learning if you use them. Chord progressions work based on intervalic relationships and those relationships have an infinite number of variables which change depending on the decisions you make about voicings, tensions, etc. I bet you've sat down and tried to figure out a song from ear that sounded really complicated but when you really worked it out it was just a typical I-IV-V, and in other cases you heard something really pretty and smooth only to learn upon deconstruction that it was truly quite atonal.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right...right?
I want to keep imploring you to avoid the easy route. the mountain is high, but the climb makes you strong.
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Old 02-06-2012, 06:36 PM   #11
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I fixed the problem by shortening the time it took me to lay it down. Handheld digital recorder on my desk that I can engage and record a backing track in about the time it takes to play it. I just use it to capture ideas but its the same thing really, a chord progression I can play, hum over top of to see how it sounds. It's waaayy quicker to create different chords/inversions with my fingers than an app and since I actually make the chords with my hands it sticks better so to speak.
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Old 02-06-2012, 06:44 PM   #12
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Actually, that's been my songwriting MO for a while now, since I'm always on the move. I get an idea and it goes straight from guitar into the handheld. Then I drive around and listen to it, and listen to it at work, and listen to on the can...while working out the lyrics.

That would certainly be my vote for what you're trying to do. The handheld recorder is indispensable. Every musician should own one.
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Old 02-06-2012, 07:10 PM   #13
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I want to keep imploring you to avoid the easy route. the mountain is high, but the climb makes you strong.
Don't most music books/lessons/etc start with "this is a I IV V progression", work up from there, and eventually come back around to WHY those work so well once you understand more about intervals and harmony? That is, looking at chords first as a single block of notes, and then later as three or four individual lines of melody?
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Old 02-06-2012, 07:14 PM   #14
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Been a long time since I cracked open a theory book, but if memory serves, they usually start from intervalic relationships. Everything hinges on intervals.
But I'm talking about specifically theory books, NOT guitar primers.
Most people who want to learn guitar, or piano, or bass, whathave you, want to start off playing songs they know. Most people who teach these instruments want to make money, so that's where they start. Hence, many musicians never get a good grounding in theory unless they actively seek it out.

---and many teachers won't teach it unless the student shows genuine interest. Good way to loose a paycheck.
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Old 02-06-2012, 07:25 PM   #15
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And I missed the part about you not being able to read music.
I disagree that it's not valuable for rock and roll guitar. It's valuable for understanding music...again, if that is truly what you're seeking out. It is the best visual representation of the language of music in existence and it is virtually universally understood. To me, music writen on staff paper is fundamentally no different than music coming out of speaker EXCEPT that the temporal element is removed. One can essentially "time travel" throughout the song if they can read fluently.
If you just want to be a rock and roll guitar player, reading music probably won't make or brake you.
But if you're trying to learn theory, it's kinda part of the fundamentals you need to grasp before you can get to the really fun stuff!
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Old 02-06-2012, 07:28 PM   #16
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Lokasenna what you want is a book called Chord Chemistry by Ted Greene.

He was pretty much /THE/ master of all chord types as progressions and internal revoicing on the fly.

For instance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDuee6blvj8

Don't be put off by jazz in the video. Over the course of this improv it turns into baroque. This same technique as in his book Chord Chemistry applies to all genres and all instruments (with more than one voice).

I studied with a student of his for ~six years or so and I don't like jazz much but I'm extremely grateful for techniques I learned.

Good Luck!
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Old 02-06-2012, 07:34 PM   #17
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Lokasenna what you want is a book called Chord Chemistry by Ted Greene.

-robo
Great book; its sitting just a few feet away. Ted was the man.
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Old 02-06-2012, 07:43 PM   #18
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Great book; its sitting just a few feet away. Ted was the man.
I wish I could have seen him play at a seminar or something but all the youtube vids get me by
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Old 02-06-2012, 07:47 PM   #19
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tonespace VST is great for this.
Any tips on how to use this particular program? Any help appreciated.
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Old 02-07-2012, 06:10 AM   #20
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Any tips on how to use this particular program? Any help appreciated.
To only thing it will really do is to let you trigger chords within a key but I find that sufficient to try out progressions. You need to set up the key and set it to actually trigger the triad (or whatever you like). This is not the default setting which is very confusing. Don't have it in front of me but check the various drop down menus which let's you set how it builds a chord from a root note. Then you can then set up your progressions by simply sending the root note via MIDI (as in having a MIDI clip with the roots on each 1) or click the chords in the actual plugin window. As for Android Chordbot I think the mentioned ChordPulse app is the most similar that I know of.
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Old 02-07-2012, 06:36 AM   #21
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Kenny, your advices are excellent!

Lokasenna, dont be afraid of the theory! I`m not perfect at it but I learned the basics on the go.
And to be honest I feel it`s more then enough and I really don`t feel I`m missing anything because I don`t know it all.
Personally, I don`t feel there are rules in theory (unless you want to duplicate certain genre or period), I feel that it just gave me a tool to understand how things connect to each other. Just the knowledge on how rhythm (strange signatures, polyrhythms, zappa stuff) and intervals work helped me enormously. It`s all pretty logical once you dive in.
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Old 02-07-2012, 11:26 AM   #22
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Hi Lokesanna -

Understanding how it feels to move from chord to chord, and how to build up sequences of chords that go somewhere (progressions) is the study of Harmony. The way that individual chord tones move between chords is called "voice leading". As the movement of the voices becomes more rhythmically free the study of how the voices move against each other is called counterpoint.

Being able to read and write is fun and helps you figure out how to manage more notes than you can play. Its much faster than roughing things out in a computer.

But you can accomplish a lot just at an instrument, if you can play a polyphonic instrument like a guitar.

try playing just pairs of note, a bass note and a melody note, and move them so that the voices move melodically *and* so they remain withn a chord progression you've selected. Try different positions to find what pleases you. Try with 3 notes.

When you play chords try to be aware always of where the 3rd, where the 5th are on the guitar. See what different positions do for you.

Just being aware of whats happening in your mind rather than just making a pattern with your hand is half the battle.
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Old 02-07-2012, 03:41 PM   #23
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The way that individual chord tones move between chords is called "voice leading". As the movement of the voices becomes more rhythmically free the study of how the voices move against each other is called counterpoint.
Just a little niggle with your definitions here.
Voice Leading refers specifically to half-step or whole-step motion between notes within a single voice, with a little wiggle room for motion in 3rds if necessary.

Counterpoint is when two or more voices create independent melodic lines whose motions are opposite each other. EG, if the alto voice goes up to the next note, the tenor voice goes down to the next note. It's rarely strictly oposite motion through and entire musical phrase, but the aim of counterpoint is to preserve this as much as possible. When I said "Contrapuntal" this is what I was refering to.

They sort of ARE rules, and they sort of are only guidelines. They are rules more in the sense of the laws of physics. Our western system of music is based entirely around the way sound operates in the physical world. Different frequencies sound consonant or disonant together because of their mathmatical relationships and the relationships of their harmonic overtones...you can not alter nor change their relationships in any way. You can subjectively like the sound of a minor 2nd interval, but you can't make it a consonant interval no matter how hard you try. So yes, they are RULES, but as the creative mind you have the free choice of how to apply the rules of why certain frequencies are tonal and consonant and others are atonal and disonant.
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Old 02-08-2012, 02:22 AM   #24
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Counterpoint is when two or more voices create independent melodic lines whose motions are opposite each other. EG, if the alto voice goes up to the next note, the tenor voice goes down to the next note.
As far as I know classical counterpoint does not specify that voices need to be specifically opposite or have a specific opposite motion (although that of course is common). Only that they need to be musically independent from each other but function harmonically together--providing they abide by the other zillion rules of the common practice period. I assumed only the most basic forms of species counterpoint abide to that. Or did I get it wrong?
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Old 02-08-2012, 07:52 AM   #25
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Kenny I think you are confusing the "leading tone" with "voice leading"

"voice leading" is as I described: from wikipedia:

Quote:
"Voice leading is the smooth movement of the notes (or voices) from one chord to the next, and it applies to any type of voicing."[2] "Voice leading is a term used to describe the linear aspect of musical writing. The individual melodic lines (called voices) that make up a composition interact together to create harmony.
likewise counterpoint is simply the study of combining multiple melodies - they can move in contrary motion , or obliquely, or in parallel - by turns, just so long as they can be heard as separate.

different times and tradition have different ways of doing voice leading and counterpoint. Of course you can learn Renaissance counterpoint or Baroque counterpoint or study Bach's voice leading in his chorales as folks typically do in conservatories But you can also think about these things independent of ancient style and just be aware of them as considerations, using your ear.
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Old 02-08-2012, 08:52 AM   #26
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I'm really happy to see Ted Greene getting so much love is this thread.

That and that I agree that a lot of progressions can be voicing dependent. Band in a box will point out exactly how some jazz-lackey will interpret a lead sheet on the first read-through. But, if you're doing metal, that's not very similar. Things like that program, vst, etc. can help you, but I would think that, for any of us, the end result should be not needing help.
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Old 02-09-2012, 08:37 AM   #27
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As an example of what I'm looking for, I've got the demo version of this on my Android phone: http://www.appbrain.com/app/chordbot...rdbot.demo.gui

If I could get that in a VST (or JS, if anyone were feeling industrious), I'd be happy as a clam.

I realize it might sound like I'm trying to take shortcuts, but I'm honestly not. I just want a simple way to try out a chord progression and play guitar over it if I like what I'm hearing. I'm still coming up with the chords myself and figuring out why a given change does or doesn't work.

If I have to record myself playing the chords I can, but I'd rather focus on listening to them and playing over them than having to record my own backing tracks each time I want to try something different. To me, it's the same as using a graphing calculator to see what an equation looks like rather than plotting it out by hand.

I'm well aware that this is a backwards approach to learning theory, and I do appreciate the "learn it the proper way" suggestions, but they're not really relevant to what I'm asking.
Exactly. This is a very interesting academic discussion, but the short answer is that ChordPulse will do what ChordBot does, and Band-in-a-Box will do it better (but for more money). BIAB has many different styles to choose from, not just jazz, including many rock styles. Will it sound as good as humans actually playing and working through various chord inversions? No. But as a quick sketchpad to hear how certain chords will sound in the context of an actual song, it is without peer.

Lokasenna - if you want to write out a sample progression, I'm happy to post a sample track made with BIAB so you can get a sense of how it sounds.
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Old 02-11-2012, 02:01 AM   #28
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Kenny I think you are confusing the "leading tone" with "voice leading"

"voice leading" is as I described: from wikipedia:



likewise counterpoint is simply the study of combining multiple melodies - they can move in contrary motion , or obliquely, or in parallel - by turns, just so long as they can be heard as separate.

different times and tradition have different ways of doing voice leading and counterpoint. Of course you can learn Renaissance counterpoint or Baroque counterpoint or study Bach's voice leading in his chorales as folks typically do in conservatories But you can also think about these things independent of ancient style and just be aware of them as considerations, using your ear.
voice leading employs leading tones, hence the name. I get my definitions from Berklee, not Wikee.

counterpoint's aim is to preserve contrary motion...this is almost impossible in any practical context so we can amend this to say that counterpoint's aim is to avoid parallel motion.

I was using the terms in very loose and general senses, not to imply he should have to learn to write baroque fugues, but that those two concepts will help to advance harmonic composition, even when not employed in the strictest sense.

Last edited by Kenny; 02-11-2012 at 02:06 AM.
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Old 02-11-2012, 09:42 AM   #29
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No Kenny - different things. "Voice leading" refers to the way the chord tones in sets of neighboring chords connect together melodically. The leading tone is the scale degree a half-step below the tonic - the word "leading" there refers to its strong tendency to resolve upward. Same word different meanings.

Counterpoint does not "aim to avoid parallel motion" . Almost all counterpoint features all kinds of motion by turns - parallel, contrary, oblique. Its all a question of which intervals are happening, how dissonances are prepared and resolved etc etc. Look at any page of Bach or Palestrina and see what kinds of motion you see.

and not to be snippy about your definitions coming from "berklee not wikii" - I have degrees in composition and have taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Trust me here.
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Old 02-11-2012, 11:46 AM   #30
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No Kenny - different things. "Voice leading" refers to the way the chord tones in sets of neighboring chords connect together melodically. The leading tone is the scale degree a half-step below the tonic - the word "leading" there refers to its strong tendency to resolve upward. Same word different meanings.

Counterpoint does not "aim to avoid parallel motion" . Almost all counterpoint features all kinds of motion by turns - parallel, contrary, oblique. Its all a question of which intervals are happening, how dissonances are prepared and resolved etc etc. Look at any page of Bach or Palestrina and see what kinds of motion you see.

and not to be snippy about your definitions coming from "berklee not wikii" - I have degrees in composition and have taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Trust me here.
Okay, if you say so buddy. There really is nothing about leading tones that insist they tend upwards. And I've said several times that strict counterpoint is impossible, but if you are not embracing and aiming for contrary motion, you are not writing in counterpoint. I'm keeping it simple for the uninitiated. The point is the same. These concepts help create richer harmony, agreed?
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Old 02-11-2012, 01:24 PM   #31
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http://jguitar.com/harmonizer/ might be a good place to start
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Old 02-11-2012, 06:58 PM   #32
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For punk rock metal etc.. the best of the bestest way is to make a bundle of them - rhythm, voice leading.. its not science. just something that crawls up from the spine. make a ton of riffs and changes, if you feel a new one is worth something.. record it with a mobile phone, forget it at once and do another one. Later you'll have a few that are awesome, a few that are good and a lot that doesn't suck.. and some that suck. Then its just a fun puzzle.
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Old 02-13-2012, 10:05 PM   #33
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Default Chords

Build a good melody first, then fit the chords. The melody is the memorable part, not the chords IMHO.
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Old 02-16-2012, 04:45 AM   #34
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Build a good melody first, then fit the chords. The melody is the memorable part, not the chords IMHO.
Aren't you afraid making the ancient dead composers angry?
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Old 02-16-2012, 06:43 AM   #35
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There is a really great and simple composing app available for Android and IPhone called "Chordbot" that I wish was available as a VST. For someone wanting to learn to hear progressions and voice leading it would be very useful.
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Old 02-16-2012, 07:04 AM   #36
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There is a really great and simple composing app available for Android and IPhone called "Chordbot" that I wish was available as a VST. For someone wanting to learn to hear progressions and voice leading it would be very useful.
I dont know how this tool sounds but with these things a warning should be on the loading screen: "might be bad for your soul". Do some research how the players you like do their stuff. This might be much more worth than searching help from machines. If you find out those people USE those mechanical aids then go for it. I used band in a box and some other stuff until a friend with a sane musical mind got to know about my dirty habit - his disgusted face cured me at once. Imho any other way is better than bots - they kill the need for figuring something out and getting it working in bone-level. If your progression sucks.. just think for yourself to make it better.
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Old 02-18-2012, 09:09 AM   #37
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I dont know how this tool sounds
Ok, so...


Quote:
they kill the need for figuring something out and getting it working in bone-level.
.. you shouldn't be talking about what you don't know.
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Old 02-21-2012, 05:41 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by chip mcdonald View Post
Ok, so...




.. you shouldn't be talking about what you don't know.
It doesn't matter much how they sound. Sure you'll get ideas. Also you could get incredible ones when you just tune the guitar differently. My point was that passive selection doesn't work all the way - the idea generator should be in your brain. Bot's teach the best to be lazy.

Edit
I had 2 ways. One was learning a rich Bach piece, played it to death and got the voice leading skills up quite a bit. The more important one was composing. The first one was a study for chords, arpeggio. I sat for 2-3 hours to get 2 bars(4 chords) with good enough voicings to meet my taste. It took about 2 months to finish that little thing. The secret was to believe that there is an awesome choice of a chord next and just search relentlessly for that. I believe there are zounds of chords that sound "good enough" but only a few that are "awesome". I think most people go with the "good enough" ones. I hate to see that.

Last edited by emanresu; 02-21-2012 at 07:05 AM. Reason: just felt a need for blather
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Old 02-21-2012, 06:44 AM   #39
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Um, my view... The most efficient way to build a chord progression, is:

1) Learn someone elses progression
2) Change the key
3) Change the tempo a little
4) Change the instrument sound (but only if you have too)
5) And then re-sell it as your own

Simple.

Or, if that fails, just take a progression and play the chords in reverse.

Its been a music industry tradition for hundreds of years! Or, use a genetic algorithm.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_algorithm

1) Select 2 progressions
2) Produce 2 more progressions using a cross over (ie: select half of one and half of the other and join the two)
3) If the results sound better, then bingo.
4) If not, then repeat steps 2 and 3

Musical Cross-Pollination is also the go!

http://thenewconnoisseur.wordpress.c...ls-jose-james/

I also like progression mutation. Take a progression and:

- Move one or more chords up or down.
- Or, swap two chords.
- Or, change all the minors to majors.
- Or, change all the majors to 7th's or maj7's.
- Convert the progression to scale index's and then change the mode.
- Make all the chords one type.
- Take the rhythm from one song and apply it to the chords of another.

I've heard many top musicians state how they "borrowed" ideas of other songs. Poly-chords are also very cool.

Last edited by derek.john.evans; 02-21-2012 at 06:54 AM.
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Old 02-21-2012, 12:14 PM   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emanresu View Post
It doesn't matter much how they sound.
"Ok".

Quote:
Sure you'll get ideas.
The point of the app I'm talking about is that it allows you to quickly prototype *certain types of ideas before you use the app*.

Quote:
Also you could get incredible ones when you just tune the guitar differently.
Completely a different process.

Quote:
My point was that passive selection doesn't work all the way - the idea generator should be in your brain. Bot's teach the best to be lazy.
Sigh.
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