In this post, I’ll show you how to make a MIDI Effect Rack that will generate random rhythms on command. Oh, happy day!
“But Anthony,” you say, “why in the sam hell would I want to generate random MIDI rhythms on command?”
Because, although Ableton seems to have the creation of randomized pitches pretty much covered, these pitches are played with whatever rhythm you feed it. And while, 9 times out of 10, that’s what you want, sometimes it isn’t. And that’s where the random rhythm generator comes in handy.
I use this rhythm generator in a whole bunch of contexts: I use it with the Random effect to create cool generative music (see the vid), I use it with percussion tracks to make randomized drum beats, and I use it with Slice to MIDI and the Random effect to mix up a Slice to MIDI rack into something totally novel.
So, now that I’ve got you in a lather about how to do this, let’s get started! You’ll want to start with a new MIDI track with a simple MIDI instrument on it.
First of all, you’re going to want to make a MIDI “seed clip.” This is just a one-bar clip with one whole note in it. It doesn’t matter what note. Really.
Second: Put an arpeggiator on your MIDI track. The only parameter that concerns us right now is the “Sync Rate,” so don’t worry about the rest. This should generate a steady stream of notes at the pitch of the MIDI seed clip.
Third: Put a Velocity effect after the arpeggiator. Turn the “Random” knob up all the way. This should randomize the velocity of each of the notes that is coming in. Things should be getting really annoying at this point.
Fourth: Put ANOTHER velocity effect on the track. Change the “Mode” of this baby to “Gate.” Now, raise the “Lowest” parameter to something around 40. This will basically block any MIDI note under the allotted velocity (40 in this case). Now, you should here breaks in the steady stream of MIDI notes. This is where a poor little note didn’t make the cut.
Finally: Put a Note Length effect on the track. This will allow you to lengthen and shorten the length of the notes, making your new rhythms that much more interesting.
Now, select all of the effects and press Cmd+G to group them together. Save this baby and put it in front of a Random effect to create all kinds of cool rhythms!
This video is excerpted from the MIDI FX Module of the Ableton Live Course. In the Module I go further in depth about how to maximize this instrument rack. If you’re interested in learning more, why not sign up now?