Ableton Chord Generator: Faster Chord Progressions

What You'll Need For This Exercise...

Producing music can be easier if you can get started more quickly.  In this exercise, we’re going to discover that we can use device chains and the Scale and Chord MIDI devices to create chord generators pretty easily.  Once done, you can simply drag and drop notes on the piano roll to create a chord progression super-quick!  You can download the Ableton Set.

How to Complete This Exercise...

The steps are pretty simple:

  1. Create a new Ableton project
  2. Drop your favorite virtual instrument onto a new MIDI track.  Then, add a Scale and Chord MIDI device to get started.
  3. Group the Scale and Chord MIDI devices together into a device rack (Cmd+G on Mac).
  4. Now, click “show/hide device chain list” and “show/hide devices” in your new device rack.  To keep things tidy, you can hide the zone editor.
  5. In this example we’re going to create ‘assign’ specific chord qualities and extensions to specific notes in our scale (or scale degrees).  This way, we can control what kind of chord each note makes.  For each new quality/extension, we’ll simply create a new device chain.  Here’s how:
    1. First we’ll allow our I and IV chords to be Major 9 (maj9) chords.  These consist of a root, major 3rd, perfect 5th, major 7th and major 9.
    2. Next we’ll allow our V chord to be a simple triad.  This quality/extension consists of a root, major 3rd and perfect 5th.
    3. Finally, we’ll allow our ii, iii and vi chords to be minor 11 (m11) chords.  This quality/extension consists of root, minor 3rd, perfect 5th, minor 7th and 11.

So, how does the Scale MIDI device work?  Incoming notes are represented in the vertical columns, while outgoing notes are represented by the horizontal rows.  So…

  • When an incoming note should be silenced, just remove it.
  • When an incoming note should be heard, but shifted to a nearby note,