The idea is quite simple. Signup at Midichords and go to the competition page (follow this link). Download the competition's midi pattern (a trance lead) and compose a track around it. It's quite an unusual competition (many competitions are about remixing a track), but a lot of fun. You are allowed to add groove, chords, melodies, automation, effects, you name it. As long as the melodic essence of the original pattern can still be heard, you can do anything you like.
You really do not have to be a pro to participate, so give it a try. After the upload period, visitors will be able to rate individual entries. The entry with the highest rating wins (naturally).
This is what you get:
- A nicely designed MS Word document (non protected) with 20 FL Studio tutorials and 1 interview
- 179 pages of material
- NOISE REDUCTION
- LAYER YOUR SOUNDS
- CONVERT YOUR EDISON SAMPLES TO PIANO ROLL SCORES
- THE FRUITY GRANULIZER
- SCALES, MODES, CHORD PROGRESSIONS AND LEAD MELODIES – PART I
- INTERVIEW WITH JON KRASHENNINIKOFF SKARIN
- SIDECHAINING IN FL STUDIO
- FATTENING YOUR BEATS/MAKING YOUR OWN SAMPLES
- THE FL STUDIO ARPEGGIATOR
- THE FL STUDIO VOCODEX PLUGIN
- HOW TO RECORD EXTERNAL AUDIO SOURCES IN FL STUDIO
- MAKING A CHORD PROGRESSION AND LEAD SYNTH
- HOW TO LINK AN EXTERNAL MIDI CONTROLLER
- RECORDING AUTOMATION EVENTS
- FL STUDIO MIXER
- GATING TECHNIQUES IN FL STUDIO – CREATING A GATED SYNTH
- COMPRESSION EXPLAINED – PART I
- THE FL STUDIO PIANO ROLL
- WHAT IS AUTOMATION?
- INSTALLING VSTI PLUGINS
- STEP SEQUENCER, PLAYLIST AND PIANO ROLL
To read the tutorial, follow this link: http://www.midichords.com/posts/hocketing-or-the-art-of-creating-awesome-trance-arpeggios
The very best YouTube tutorials on Midichords.com
Free MIDI files, tutorials and composition competitions at Midichords.comI launched a completely revamped version of the old Midichords.com site. The site has been developed from scratch and offers not only free, quality midi files but also mp3 previews, tutorials (on a separate blog) as well as Midi2MP3 composition compositions.
Guys (and girls), do me a favor and join the first special launch celebration competition. You can find all the info here.
Why would you join? For a couple of reasons. First of all, you can win a USD 99,- ImageLine gift certificate! Secondly, joining a competition definitely helps improving your skills. Especially on Midichords.com as I plan to ask those who win a competition to contribute to the site with short explanations on how the winning compositions were composed.
It is a fun and easy to join so I hope to see some of you on the site!
Welcome to Forbidden Fruity, the leading FL Studio Tutorials blog that aims at teaching you how to compose cool electronic music (dance, trance) with nothing more than your computer, FL Studio and a little creativity.
If you have a computer, enjoy listening to music and always thought that composing yourself was utopia, you arrived at the right place!
I suggest you check out the menu on the right. There are many fl studio tutorials ranging from simple to advanced. At the bottom of the list of fl studio tutorials you find some tutorials you could call the ‘getting started’ articles. They are specifically aimed at the beginner and will quickly set you up for some serious composing.
Another suggestion is to signup by following Subscribe in the menu. If you enter your email address you will receive my fl studio tutorials in your inbox automatically!
Happy composing and feel free to leave comments!
FL Studio Tutorial explaining the Fruity Slicer.
The Fruity Slicer is a neat little plugin for slicing (beat) samples/loops into segments that are independently playable from the Piano roll or a controller. With a little creativity you can achieve really cool results.
For example, in addition to slicing beat samples you can also use it to create stutter and other effects for vocals or to slice and re-arrange entire songs.
I will not be able to explain everything in a single tutorial, but I do hope that reading this article will inspire you to do something different next time and spice up your composition with the Fruity Slicer.
You can add the Fruity Slicer plugin via the Channels menu in the Main Menu Bar.
In this article I’d like to list some of the best music sources on the Web. The number of sites that offer streaming music has really exploded in recent years – as the online music revolution is unfolding with lightening speed. It is easier than ever to start your own radio station. Quantity does not equal quality so to say, but I found some really cool sites and tools.
But rather than being an exhaustive list (creating such a list would be a daunting and sheer impossible task), the list illustrates the various ways streaming music is made available. You may know some of the sites and tools already. Others may be new to you. Anyway, if you know a cool site or tool for free streaming music, feel free to contribute by leaving a comment.
Streaming music comes in various flavors. You have the online radio stations where you just tune in and out like a convential radio station. Then there are the on demand music sites where you simply search for songs and play them when and in the order you like. Also, you can distinguish between visiting the station’s actual website or accessing online music through a dedicated music player (that you have to install on your computer) or online directory of stations. Some sites show advertisements, others don’t. Some require payment whereas others (most) don’t.
Grooveshark is an internationally available free music search and recommendation website. Users can search, stream, upload and share music. Songs can be played immediately or be added to a playlist. As such, Grooveshark is an on demand music service, but they have a really cool ‘radio’ feature. This is actually not an online radio station, but a recommendation system that streams music according to your music taste. For example, if I start a playlist with trance songs, then pressing the radio button will make Grooveshark stream one (trance) song after another to me. While listening I can cast a vote (whether i like the song or not). Also, I can add the song to one of my playlists.
I found Grooveshark to be one of the coolest and easiest sites for on demand music. The interface is very user friendly. Your favourite songs are very easy to find and you have created your first playlist in a matter of minutes. And then you just press the radio button and sit back and relax. And if you want to download (buy) the music there is an easy link to either Amazon or iTunes.
Also, you can search (and connec to) other people, play their playlists, etc.
Shoutcast is not a radio station or a website that offers on demand music. It is a directory of shoutcast servers. Shoutcast is the cross-platform software for streaming music over the internet and enables the creation of internet radio stations.
Shoutcast is so interesting because it gives you access to a huge number of stations (more that 40,000) via a single web interface. Actually, some of the stations I mention further down this list can be accessed and streamed directly from Shoutcast (somafm and pulsradio).
What I also like about Shoutcast is the fact that they list the number of listeners (you can sort on that). Also, the search function is simple and fast.
Somafm is a classic internet radio station. It is quite unique in that it is a listener supported broadcaster. Based in San Fransisco they offer 19 channels of commercial free, underground/alternative radio.
I really recommend that you visit this website. Alternatively, find them on Shoutcast via this link: http://www.shoutcast.com/Internet-Radio/somafm
RadioSure is neither an on demand music site nor a radio station. Instead it is a free dedicated music application that allows you to search for and stream radio stations (they say there are more than 12,000). What makes this application special is that you can record the streams directly to MP3 files, neatly split up by station and song. It really works remarkably well. You simply tune in to your favourite station and press the record button. Come back 4 hours later and you have your harddisk full of MP3’s.
From their website you can download and install skins to give your RadioSure player a fresh new interface.
You all know the ‘hot or not’ rating system right? Those where you can rate pictures of people on – let’s say – a scale from 1 to 10. Meemix is similar in a way, but here you cast your ‘hot or not’ vote for the streaming music.
It is an interesting concept. What Meemix allows you to do is create one or more channels – e.g. based on music style. They then start streaming music. Your ‘hot or not’ votes are constantly used to adjust the music that is streamed. You can also affect the music by adjusting a few parameters, such as ‘pulse’ (relaxing music or party time beats), ‘atmosphere’ (from dark to light) and ‘surprise me’ (the higher you set this the more suprises Meemix throws into the mix).
In this way you really create your own personal radio station that only streams music according to your personal taste. Sites like Grooveshark have similar features of course, but Meemix has given it a nice twist. The site’s whole community network feature is centered around these user created channels. In other words, people can subscribe to eachother’s channels. This means that Meemix has a large selection of channels to choose from – for every taste.
As far as my personal taste is concerned, the interface is a little too much Nintendo Wii-like for me. But I am sure Meemix will appeal to some people.
Pulsradio is a non stop Dance and Trance site. It’s french, but I really enjoy listening to it. Rather than visiting the site, I usually access it through Shoutcast here: http://www.shoutcast.com/Internet-Radio/pulsradio
Alternatively you can download (and install) a dedicated music player: http://www.pulsradio.com/pulsplayer.exe
Other populare sites
Rather than describing all stations one by one, here’s a list with some other popular music sites:
www.last.fm – popular site centered around bands/artists and fans. You can create a libraries, playlists, connect with friends, join groups, check out people with similar music tastes, etc.
www.spotify.com – only available in select countries
www.pandora.com – only available in the US.
As I said in the introduction, the online music revolution is unfolding with lightening speed. There is so much music available in so many different ways. And the landscape changes constantly. Who knows where we are in just five years from now?
Again, rather than providing an exhaustive list of stations, I hope this article is interesting for some of you. At least I hope it shows what is available on the Web as we speak.
I am absolutely sure I have missed some things here. So, if you think ‘hey dude..how could you have missed this and that station, site or tool’ then please leave me a comment.
Thanks for reading! It was not the usual FL Studio tutorial this time, but more of those later.
FL Studio tutorial explaining how to hide noise.
Hiding background noise from sounds and samples is an important step towards a clean, crisp sounding mix. Even if you do not or hardly notice the little bit of noise in your sounds, it is simply good practice to remove it as the problem is quickly magnified when dealing with multiple tracks. The accumulated noise can go well beyond the audible and turn your mix into a muddy, blurred blend.
By utilizing so called noise gates, we can manage the noise on a track. The purpose is not to remove the noise from the sound (once noise is part of a sound it is hard to remove it), but rather to hide it during quiet sections where the track would otherwise only contribute with unnecessary noise.
Simply put, a noise gate allows a sound to pass when it is above a certain threshold (the noise gate is open). If the sound is below the threshold, the sound is not let through (the noise gate is closed). See the illustration below:
The red line represents the input signal. As long as it is below the threshold value (the gray line), the noise gate is closed (see the green line for the output signal). When the input signal exceeds the threshold, the noise gate opens. How fast it opens depends on the attack setting. Similarly, when the input signal falls below the threshold value, the gate closes. How fast it closes, depends on the release setting.
Check out www.midichords.com, a cool new site where you can browse, play and download free MIDI chord progressions. Once you got them on your computer you are pretty much free to do whatever you want with them (even use them commercially). In addition to downloading progressions, you can share your own progressions with other members, comment on chord progressions, add them to your favourites, email them to your friends, etc.
In other words, a great resource for chord progressions. Check it out!
By the way, in FL Studio you can import such MIDI files easily using the File | Import | MIDI file… option.
Ever heard of the Sensitive Female Chord Progression? The Sensitive Female Chord Progression (SFCP) is a chord progression that starts with the minor six (vi) and then moves to the major four (IV), the major one (I) and the major five (V). For example, the progression in C-major would be:
FL Studio keeps amazing me. It’s an intuitive, easy to use DAW. But even after years of using it, I keep discovering neat and cool features that make things even easier! In this article I’ve collected some of the most useful features pertaining to the general interface (so not those related to specific plugins). You may know some of them already, but I hope that there’s something in the list for everyone. I could easily have written ‘100 Cool FL Studio Tricks You Aren’t Using’, but that is not really practical (apart from the fact that the sun is shining today and that I want to go for a walk). If you have some tips/tricks to share then do not hesitate to drop me a comment. I will definitely keep posting about these often overseen features that make life easier once you master them.
If you check the Ghost channels option in the Piano roll options menu, you will see the (greyed out) patterns from other channels that are in the same track. I find this especially useful when programming chord progressions using a specific scale as well as programming leads over a chord progression.
For example, if I load/program a scale in one channel (reFX Nexus)…
…open the Piano Roll for my second channel (reFX Nexus #2)…
…and then select Helpers | Ghost channels in the Piano roll options menu, the Piano Roll view will be like this:
In other words, I can now ‘draw’ my pattern on top of the greyed out note events. In this way I know I stick to the notes that are ‘allowed’.
Adjusting note events
You can quickly adjust the horizontal position of your note event by moving the mouse pointer close to a note event and then using SHIFT + scroll wheel (or mouse wheel).
Likewise, by using ALT + scroll wheel you can adjust the currently selected note property (like velocity, panning, etc.).
Note that you can apply the same to a selection of note events.
You can rescale a score by selecting the pattern in the Piano Roll and resizing while holding down the SHIFT key.
This is an excellent trick for making a recorded score fit .
Using color groups
You can assign a color group/MIDI channel to note events. Once you have done this you can easily select all notes with a certain color group/MIDI channel.
First, select the note events you want to assign a color group:
Then, pick a color group:
Press ALT-C and the selected note events are assigned the color group you picked.
Now, to quickly select the note events with a given color group, select the color group (as shown above) and press SHIFT-C.
Just in case you wondered guys, CTRL-ALT-Z can be used for sequentially undoing multiple changes (CTRL-Z is only for undoing/redoing the last change).
Open your favourite folder(s) in the Browser:
In the Current snapshot menu, select Frozen:
If you want you can rename the snapshot by right-clicking the snapshot name (Snap 1 in the screenshot) and entering a new name:
Now, regardless of the state of your Browser, if you press 1..5, the Browser shows the state assigned to that snapshot.
Selecting/deselecting note events
I am sure you know how to select note events. Using the Select tool you can simply draw a box around the notes you want to select or you can simply click a single note event to select it.
By holding down the SHIFT key while selecting you can add note events to your already selected note events.
To deselect (subtract) note events from a selection, simply click on a selected note event (the one that you want to remove from the selection) and start drawing your box – still holding down the SHIFT key.
Transposing a score
There are several methods that you can use to quickly transpose a score. The most obvious one is simply selecting the score (or the note events you want to transpose) and move them vertically.
To move an entire score up or down one semitone, use SHIFT + UpArrow/DownArrow. Using CTRL+UpArrow/DownArrow will transpose the score up or down by 1 octave.
To create a marker select a number of bars…
…press ALT-T (adds a marker to the beginning of the selected area) and enter the marker name:
To jump between markers, simply press ‘.’ (dot) on the numpad.
To jump between markers and select the bars between the selected marker and the next, use CTRL+’.’ (again on the numpad).
This one is still open. If you have a good tip/trick to share, drop me a comment.
The Best FL Studio TutorialsOk guys and girls, I need a bit of help. Forbidden Fruity is all about FL Studio tutorials…and tutorials…and tutorials… The more the better I would argue. But it is not only about quantity. Quality counts and relevance as well. Talking about relevance, I’d like to ask you to participate in a little poll. It is simply a tool for me to find out what type of tutorials and articles you would like to see more of on the blog. Looking at the blog’s stats, I notice that there is quite an interest in music theory related articles – i.e. articles about notes, scales, chords and chord progressions, melodies and motives, etc. But also in tutorials that explain on board plugins such as the granulizer, arpeggiator, fpc (fruity pad controller), etc., are read quite frequently.
Rather than making conclusions based on those stats, I’d like to ask you directly. If you enjoy Forbidden Fruity and have a few minutes to spare, you’d do me a favour by participating in the poll you see below. Note that you can select up to 3 lines and that you are allowed to add your own suggestion as well (and feel free to add comments if you need more space). With your input Forbidden Fruity will continue to grow with only the best FL Studio Tutorials!
OK, aspiring composers, if there is one book I recommend reading it is ‘Music Theory for Computer Musicians’. This excellent book gives you essential insights in music theory.
Personally, I started composing using my favourite DAW (which happens to be FL Studio, but that is beside the point) without much knowledge of music theory. Sure, I had heard of notes and chords and I also knew by experience that some notes, when combined, sound pleasant while other combinations seem to have descended from h*ll. Everytime I started to compose a new song I pseudo randomly places notes and started to move them around until I got something I liked. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing woring with composing music this way. I know some people who compose amazing music without any grasp of music theory.
Frustrated and curious as I was, I started to read bits and pieces of music theory and it really opened up my eyes (and ears for that matter!). With knowledge of music theory in my back pocket, I now understand why certain notes sound well together and why others don’t. Also, I now know how to create effective chord progressions and melodies that adhere to a specific mood that I want my songs to express. I know about scales, and keys and sharps and flats and triads and inversions and all those things that once kept me scratching my head. But believe me, it is worthwhile to learn some of the basics and it really isn’t all that difficult. If I can learn it, then you can too! By the way, I only know the basics (music theory is very broad and covers many different aspects of music) – but it has revolutionized the way I compose.
Also, when I now listen to the likes of Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk, Deadmau5, Ferry Corsten, Sander van Doorn – any trance song – I understand some of the simple rules they used to create that unique trance groove and atmosphere that I have come to love so much. Again, it isn’t all that difficult. Naturally, to become a top trance producer you need more skills. You need skills, talent, the right gear and tools and you need to work hard to constantly push your own bounderies. But somehow, understanding some aspects of music theory, gives me the confidence to continue and keep working on improving my music.
Back to the book, it really is a great source and reference. It starts with explaining the characteristics/properties of sound (what is sound?). It then introduces notes, scales (major, minor, etc,), rythm, tempo and note lengths, chords, melodies and motives and much much more. What is useful is that every chapter ends with a few exercises that can really help you remembering the things you’ve read.
If you are convinced and want to buy the book, you can do that on Amazon.com. Just click on the book cover shown below.
Visit the Forbidden Fruity Store for more cool products!
FL Studio tutorial explaining the FPC
One of the most ignored on board plugins is the FPC (which stands for Fruity Pad Controller). Ignored by me that is. I’ve looked at the plugin several times, but usually - after fiddling with it for some time - I deleted it from my project and moved on to ‘easier ways’ to program my beat. ‘Easier ways’ does not necessarily mean ‘better ways’, so once again I decided to leave the path of least resistance and have a close look at the FPC. Maybe it had some hidden features that – once revealed – would benefit me when composing songs.
This tutorial is an introduction to the FPC. While it does not discuss every single control or feature, it should give you a good grasp of what the FPC is and how you can use it in your projects.
How to compose Trance music? Ever since I am proud owner of FL Studio, this question got me googling for books, articles and videos that would disclose the magic rules to me. There had to be loads of resources on the theme I figured.
I have to acknowledge, there really are a lot of bits and pieces out there, bits and pieces that have been (and still are and always will be) absolutely vital in becoming ever more skilled in composing music with my favourite DAW. If it were not for the online communities, the numerous blogs and online videos, I would never have mastered some of the methods and techniques I may now consider obvious and simple, but that once kept me scratching my head.
Having said that, I had a hard time finding resources that walked me through the entire production process of a trance track, from initial idea to the final mixing and mastering stage. I did have the bits and pieces, but nothing that glued everything together and showed me how to get from A to B.
Not long ago, however, I stumbled upon and purchased the ‘Trance Producer Pack’ from dancemusicproduction.com, which consists of two DVD’s with video sessions during which Rick Snoman and Jon Froggatt from Phiadra walk you through the entire production of their trance track ‘Sunset’, from initial idea to full blown production.
The first DVD (Trance) shows the production process of Sunset from blank sequencer to full blown production, after first discussing the ‘tools of the trade’, i.e. Phiadra’s preferred toolset as far as effects and processors are concerned.
Phiadra then shows you how they – fairly quickly – program their initial ideas. The reasoning behind this is that creativity comes in short waves or bursts, so during such creative moments you want to record as many ideas as possible without worrying too much about how things sound or the overall arrangement.
Now, with the initial (and quite simple) ideas in the sequencer, Phiadra then shows you that they spend a considerable amount of time on programming the drums and bass to create that absolutely vital groove for the composition. Subsequently, they work on getting the right sounds for the lead and the chords.
The DVD is never showing you exactly how to get this or that particular timbre using this or that generator or effect. But that is not its intention. What Phiadra does – and they should be applauded for that - is demystify the whole process of producing a trance track (there is no magic formula or secret guys!). They allow us to look them over the shoulder as they program their song.
After the hard work of getting the sounds for the bass, lead and chords right, they move on and add some more creative elements, such as the main lead and a catchy motif. Subsequently, with all the elements in place, Phiadra focusses on the arrangement and pre mix stages.
The second DVD (Mixing and Mastering) picks up where the first DVD ended. It starts with a look at the arrangement of Sunset before moving on to the mixing and mastering stages.
The DVD’s have many hours of material (filmed during the seven days it took for producing, mixing and mastering the track), and I consider it a ‘must have’ for everyone interested in the production process of trance tracks.
It would be incorrect to say that following the DVD’s will make you a professional trance track producer, but it can give you new insights and ideas. That’s what it did for me. Again, the purpose of the DVD’s are to show you the process rather than to explain you everything from A-Z (as Phiadra says ‘it is not paint by numbers’). Therefore it is highly recommended to have Rick Snoman’s The Dance Music Manual within reach as well (which can be obtained from dancemusicproduction.com as well), which discusses many aspects of dance music that are not further explained in the DVD’s.
While Phiadra uses Logic, the material is universal. As FL Studio user I had absolutely no problem in following along and grasping what they were doing. In fact, most of the time you are looking at Logic’s Piano Roll view. I am not familiar with Logic’s on board generators and some of the plugins Phiadra uses, but again, the DVD’s are not about giving precise instructions on how to get a particular sound. What you can easily follow however is how Phiadra layers their sounds and throws in certain effects and processors (delays, reverbs, filters, etc.) to get that professional timbre. I started doing some of the same things, carefully crafting each timbre with whatever I have available. And I have to give Rick and Jon the credit. The quality of my music already went up several notches.
You can find DMP’s web shop here: http://www.dancemusicproduction.com/shop/
Ever since the dawning of Forbidden Fruity (sounds like the blog is really old, but it is still to celebrate its first year), popularity has been rising slowly but steadily. Being a private initiative, it is great to see that so many people enjoy the tutorials and use them to their advantage.
FL Studio Tutorial explaining chord progressions
An essential part of virtually every song is a so called chord progression (also called a harmonic progression). A chord is composed of harmonically related notes that (are perceived to) sound at the same time. Just play some random notes on your keyboard simultaneously and you have a chord. I am not claiming it sounds good though, but that is what we will work on in this tutorial: To find some good sounding chords and play them in a sequence (and repeatedly). These chords and the chord changes over time (the chord progression) are very important elements that contribute to the songs overall mood, rythm, etc.
In this tutorial I want to give you an introduction to making cool chord progressions.It does require some basic knowledge of music theory, but I hope that won’t scare you ;) We’ll keep it simple.
Before we continue, I would like to give you an example of a chord progression – in one of Basshunter’s songs.
The famous producer and singer-songwriter Basshunter (Jonas Erik Altbeg) from Sweden has been using FL Studio for many years. And with great success! His singles and albums stormed international charts, most notably the album ‘Now You’re Gone – The Album’, which topped the UK Album Charts for two weeks. The single ‘Now You’re Gone’ from the album even stayed at #1 in the UK Singles Chart for 5 weeks. His latest album is called ‘Bass Generation’.
Basshunter refers to his music as Eurodance. A style that is characterized by its strong beats and bass rythm, powerful melodic synths and vocals. And indeed, these are the elements that make Basshunters’ compositions so recognizable. His beat and bass rythms as well as the melodic synth leads tend to be simple, but are extremely effective with a strong sense of key, repetition and balance. And of course, Basshunter picks his chord progressions wisely.
Watch and listen to ‘All I Ever Wanted’ below (don’t get too distracted by the bikini clad babes though ;) Focus especially on the first 20 seconds where you clearly hear 4 piano chords (played twice).
(If you cannot see the video, then click this link All I Ever Wanted )
This skillfully crafted song is based on quite a simple chord progression. Now, it does not mean you constantly hear the progression, but lead vocals and synths are played over this progression and largely adhere to the notes of the individual chords. For the entire duration of the song.
Before we jump to the subject of chords and chord progressions, let’s talk a bit about scales. There are many different scales, but the most popular ones in modern western music are the Major and Minor scales. You can read more about it in the tutorial Scales, modes, chord progressions and lead synths - part I. I strongly recommend that you read that tutorial first if you are not familiar with the term ‘scale’.
Now, let’s focus on the major scale - C-major to be keep it simple(simple because it only involves the white keys – the naturals).
The notes in this scale are: C, D, E, F, G, A, B. See below:
After the 7th note B, the 8th note C marks the beginning of the next octave.
A more generic way to describe major scales is in terms of the whole-steps and half-steps between the notes (also explained in the tutorial mentioned above): W(hole) W(hole) H(alf) W(hole) W(hole) W(hole) H(alf). See also below:
Two half steps (or semitones) makes one whole step (or tone). The cool thing is that the W W H W W W H pattern/formula applies to every single major scale. So whether you start with C, D or A#, etc., it does not matter. As long as you follow the formula, you have your major scale.
We have seen that a scale can be described in terms of:
- The notes in the scale – e.g. consider C major, which has the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B.
And more generically:
- The number of whole-steps and half-steps between the notes – e.g. the formula W W H W W W H for major scales.
Now, another concept that is used to describe scales (and chords and chord progressions) is the concept of Intervals. Intervals are defined by the major scale. For example, in the C major scale, the intervals are C=1, D=2, E=3, F=4, G=5, A=6, B=7 and the octave C=8 (octo means 8, this is where the name octave comes from). What applies to C major applies to other major scales as well. In other words, they consist of the intervals 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 - 7 and 8.
This numbering of notes is what is called the formula and the major scale is simply the reference point (it is the only scale that has 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 - 7 and 8 as its intervals). Other scales are described in terms of intervals that vary in structure compared to this reference.
I’m sure you wonder how and when such interval formulas are used.
As explained before, chords are notes that sound simultaneously. While any note may be combined with any other note, the most common chords are the so called triads, which are three note chords. Such triads consist of:
- The Root
- The Third (a third interval above the root)
- The Fifth (a fifth interval above the root)
Hey, that’s interesting. Chords seem to be described in terms of intervals. If we apply that principle to the first note of the C-major scale - note C - we get: C (root), E (a third above the root) and G (a fifth above the root).
You can take any note in the C major scale as your root note for such a triad. For example, if I were to start on note F, my triad would be: F (root), A (a third above the root) and C (a fifth above the root).
Given the 7 notes in scale, you can build exactly 7 of those triads:
- C E G (called the tonic triad)
- D F A
- E G B
- F A C
- G B D
- A C E
- B D F
The above principle (root, third and fifth) applies to any major scale you happen to pick. What applies to C major also applies to D major, E major, etc. The only difference is that – depending on your scale – you have a different first (tonic) triad and your other triads may look different as well (different notes).
Major and minor triads
Triads can be major and minor. Major triads are triads where the third is 4 half-steps (semitones) from the root. Minor triads have a third that is only 3 half-steps (semitones) from the root.
Consider the tonic triad in C major: C E G. E is exactly 4 semitones above C. Count the number of red arrows (from C to E) in the illustration below.
Because there are 4 half-steps between C and E, the triad C E G is a major triad. Compare this with the number of half-steps between D and F. As there are only 3 of them, the triad D F A is a minor triad.
Now, the triads in the major scale are given the following roman numerals:
- C E G = I
- D F A = ii
- E G B = iii
- F A C = IV
- G B D = V
- A C E = vi
- B D F = vii
Uppercase roman numeral if it is a major triad, lowercase if it is a minor triad. It follows that triads I, IV, V are major. Triads ii, iii, vi and vii are minor.
Minor triads tend to sound more solemn and sad than major triads and I suggest you simply try it out by playing all the triads listed above.
Now, if I tell you the following…
For the song ‘All I Ever Wanted’, Basshunter picked the E major scale. He then created the following chord progression: vi –> IV –> I –> V
…then this should ring a bell.
Let’s see what notes we have in the E major scale and list the available triads, shall we?
The notes are: E, F♯, G♯, A, B, C♯, and D♯
- E, G♯, B = I
- F♯, A, C♯ = ii
- G♯, B, D♯ = iii
- A, C♯, E = IV
- B, D♯, F♯ = V
- C♯, E, G♯ = vi
- D♯, F♯, A = vii
Interesting, Basshunter picked the chord progression: C♯, E, G♯ -> A, C♯, E –> E, G♯, B –> B, D♯, F♯. In other words, he starts with vi (minor triad), moves on to IV (major triad), continues with I (major triad) and finishes with V (major triad). And this progression is repeated throughout the song! See below for a screenshot of the Piano Roll in which I have drawn the progression on top of the (greyed out) E major scale:
I invite you to program the above and compare with the song on YouTube. Pretty close right? Then, add some kicks, bass and pads and voila! You have your own Basshunter song in FL Studio. You can experiment a bit with a lead as well.
Common chord progressions
Good chord progressions are not random. The main principle is that the tonic chord is the most important chord – built on the first degree (note/interval) of the scale. This tonic chord is the ‘home’ chord so to say and good chord progressions tend to arise from it and return to it in the end.
Another chord is the so called dominant chord and is always built on the 5th degree of the scale. Therefore, in the C major scale, the dominant chord is the G major triad. Yet another important chord is called the subdominant chord, which is built on the 4th degree of the scale. In the C major scale this is the F major triad.
Some common major scale chord progressions are:
The natural minor scale
The principles that apply to the major scale can also be used for the minor scale. One thing to realize though is that the generic formula (half-steps and whole-steps between the notes of the scale differs from the major scale).
Consider A minor for exampe (the so called relative minor of C major). It shares exactly the same notes as C major, but starts with A: A, B, C, D, E, F, G.
As you can see the generic formula is: W H W W H W W (as opposed to the W W H W W W H from the major scale).
The triads in A minor are:
- A C E = i
- B D F = ii
- C E G = III
- D F A = iv
- E G B = v
- F A C = VI
- G B A = VII
As you can see, the same triads as in the C major scale, but with a fundamental difference. Look for example at the 4th and the 5th triads. In the natural minor scale they are minor triads as opposed to major triads in the major scale.
Hmmm, but this means that a popular progression like i –> iv – v – i only covers minor triads. Remember, in the major scale the progression is: I –> IV – V – I.
And that’s exactly why songs based on the minor scale tend to sound more somber and sad! Because the Tonic, Dominant and Subdominant chords are all minor chords.
Ok, I think I’ll call it a day. Much more can be said about scales, chords and chord progressions, but I hope that this tutorial helps you on your way. Pick your scale and carefully program some chord progressions using the principles explained above. And remember, listen, listen and listen – every chord and progression conveys its own unique atmosphere. Once you start understanding that, you can build some really beautiful and cool progressions. Happy composing!