Synth Secrets is a series of programming tutorials in which we show how to make a range of classic and new synth sounds using plugins such as Massive, Sylenth and Diva.
In this instalment of Synth Secrets we’ll take a look at reharmonising the melodic sequence below using Re-Compose’s Liquid Notes software.
We’ll begin by putting together our sequence, which consists of three parts, each played with U-he’s Diva synth.
For the first part, select the ‘XS Analog Bass’ preset. We’ve programmed the MIDI notes below, in the key of G minor, playing over eight bars:
For the second part, we’ll also load another instance of Diva on a new instrument channel, and load the ‘HS Ursa Minor’ preset from the Poly Synth presets section. For this sound we program a simple single-note pattern with some velocity variation:
The third sound is yet another instance of Diva, this time opting for the ‘MK Plucky Saws’ preset from the Poly Synth presets. We program four-note G minor chord, and also load Logic’s Arpeggiator MIDI effect. The only thing we change on the arp is moving the Oct Range setting to 4 so that the arp riff plays over four octaves:
The hook is sounding OK, but the same pattern plays in a loop. It would benefit from some variations in the melody to create something musically stronger – this is where Liquid Notes comes in. First we name our MIDI regions ‘bass’, ‘lead’ and ‘arp’ (this will make things clearer when it comes to the Track Analysis Type page in Liquid Notes), then we need to export our MIDI files. We can do this by highlighting all MIDI regions and then right-clicking (or ctrl-clicking) and selecting ‘Export as MIDI File’. We name our MIDI ‘For Liquid Notes’ and save it on the desktop.
Now we need to load Liquid Notes, and we can drag and drop our exported MIDI files onto the ‘Drop MIDI File Here’ bubble that appears on the right. As we’re using Logic as our DAW for this example, we select Logic as our sound output source.
Oon the Track Type Analysis page, we can now see our named MIDI regions on the left and how Liquid Notes has analysed the MIDI data to the right. It’s correctly analysed the arp part as chords, but in this case it’s analysed the bass as a melody and the lead as a percussion part. No problem – you can simply change this if it doesn’t get it right automatically. We change it to the bass setting for our bass part and melody setting for our lead.
Now we need to set up the routing in order to establish a connection between Logic and Liquid Notes. The next page in Liquid Notes explains how to make sure ‘Auto Demix by channel if multitrack recording’ is checked, and the following page explains how to select different MIDI channels for each instrument, and also to make sure Record is enabled for all tracks. Our screenshots are from Logic 9, however you can change the MIDI channel in Logic Pro X in the same place.
Hitting Next, Liquid Notes loads up with eight chord sections for each bar of the MIDI region. Press play in Liquid Notes to make sure all 3 sounds are triggering correctly.
Now for the fun part! We can use Liquid Notes to reharmonise each bar of the sequence, Place sliders marked FUNCTION on one of their three positions: for Tonic (I), Subdominant (IV), or Dominant (V). These are the prime steps of a basic cadence. Changing the function of a chord causes a major difference in its harmonic quality and musical effect.
We can also change the CHORD and TENSION controls. To increase the tension of chords (their degree of dissonance or colour) turn the TENSION knobs clockwise from green to red. The farther you turn these knobs to the right, the more notes are added to the respective chords.
To manage chord progressions, turn the CHORD knobs. The farther these knobs are turned anti-clockwise towards green, the more conventional the sequence of chords will sound, we can turn them clockwise for less conventional new chords. Leaving the first two bars as they are, we turn the chord control for bar three a quarter of the way and then take the Function slider for bar four to Dominant (V). This creates a nice transition at the end of the first four bars.
Now for some tweaks to bar seven and bar eight for an added lift at the end of the sequence. We take the Chord control for bar seven up to a quarter of the way, and also increase the Tension to just past half way so the control turns yellow.
On bar eight, again we take the Function slider to Dominant (V). This creates a similar but more uplifting transition at the end of the eight bars.
Once you’re happy with the new sequence you have created, you can then export the MIDI from Liquid Notes for further editing or arranging in your DAW – simply use the File menu and choose the ‘Export MIDI File’ option.
If you enjoyed this tutorial you might find our book ‘The Secrets of Dance Music Production’ a helpful resource for similar tutorials.