The Artistic Approach to MIDI Sequencing in Ableton Live

With a fresh take on MIDI sequencing, the AL9 Melodic Paintbox 1.0 by alchemical9 invites Ableton Live users to explore new creative avenues. The Melodic Paintbox, a graphical sequencer and arpeggiator, allows for the creation of melodies and musical phrases in an organic and flexible manner, moving away from the traditional grid-based approach.

Possessing the unique ability to draw melodic contours and rhythmic patterns directly onto a visual canvas, Melodic Paintbox offers a refreshing approach to MIDI sequencing. With four independent tracks for pitch, velocity, control, and rhythm, you can design your music in an unprecedented manner. The pitch track can be limited to specific keys and scales, or left to be explored chromatically. As for the rhythm tracks, there are two modes available—'Parallel' and 'Serial'—allowing for significant complexity in rhythmic patterns.

The Melodic Paintbox offers a non-linear approach to MIDI sequencing, transforming the way music is conceptualized, created, and perceived. The instrument facilitates the creation of sequences that are complex, intricate, and constantly evolving—far from the traditional linear MIDI programming.

The pitch sequence feature enables the use of complex scales or simple chromatic steps. Coupled with the arpeggiator mode, the pitch track can be influenced by MIDI input for creating sequences, allowing for the synchronized creation of complex musical patterns. More so, the customizability of the rhythm track opens a new realm of creativity, offering a visually intuitive method of setting rhythmic patterns.

This device also boasts a control track that can be mapped to any parameter or MIDI CC number, enhancing the potential for detailed sound design and live performance manipulation. Fully automatable, externally controllable, and embedded with 12 presets for saving your compositions, the Melodic Paintbox presents a substantial tool for generative music.

On the functional side, Melodic Paintbox can be easily inserted before an instrument in a MIDI track. Drawing your tracks and triggering the rhythm, you can witness the live translation of your visualized sequence into an audible pattern. The pitch track presents additional controls such as 'shift' control, 'variance' control, and an 'arp' setting that works with MIDI input.

The rhythm track adds another layer of uniqueness through two timing modes. While 'Parallel' mode allows concurrent running of rhythmic divisions with the drawn line acting as the selector, 'Serial' mode only allows one division to run at a time, with the drawn line determining the division to start. This requires a hands-on experimental approach, as the effect of each timing mode may differ according to the specific rhythmic shape or division.

As a whole, the AL9 Melodic Paintbox 1.0 offers the potential for innovative sequencing, providing Ableton Live users the tools to break away from traditional MIDI programming methods. A device that truly embodies the concept of making music visually, the Melodic Paintbox bridges the gap between music production and visual artistry. Experience the innovation for yourself and access the device here: [AL9 Melodic Paintbox 1.0 on MaxforLive Library](

Example Usage

Imagine you're a painter with a blank canvas in front of you, and your musical ideas are colors and shapes that you want to translate into sound. With the AL9 Melodic Paintbox 1.0, you can do just that – 'paint' your melodies and rhythms into existence.

Let’s say you have a chord progression in A minor and you wish to create an original melodic sequence that could go on top of it. Instead of meticulously placing each note on a piano roll, you open Melodic Paintbox and choose the pitch track. You start drawing curves and lines onto the graphic interface, imagining how the shape translates into the ebb and flow of a melody.

Next, to ensure your painting fits the A minor scale, you select the scale mode on the pitch track and choose ‘A’ for key and ‘Minor’ for the scale. To give your melody some rhythm, you switch to the rhythm track and paint a syncopated pattern, thinking about when you want the notes to hit and how frequently.

With both pitch and rhythm tracks drawn, you hit play on Ableton Live's transport and listen as your sequence comes to life. The melody adapts to the rhythm, and both follow the contour of the lines you've drawn. The music feels alive, almost as if it’s improvising around the shapes.

As you listen, you decide that the pitch sequence is moving through the drawing too quickly. You adjust the phrase length, lengthening the phrase so the scan line traverses your drawing more slowly, changing which points are rhythmically intersected and thus altering the melody's interaction with the rhythm unpredictably.

For an extra touch of creativity, you experiment with the "Variance" control, adding a touch of randomness to the rhythm track's scan speed. Suddenly, each loop through the sequence becomes a unique journey, much like variations on a theme when played live by a musician.

For a dynamic performance, you decide to use the preset interface. As the sequence plays, you switch between presets, each one a different melodic and rhythmic painting, creating a live composition that flows and evolves with your creative input, all without manually adjusting a single MIDI note.

This is just one example of how you could use AL9 Melodic Paintbox 1.0. It showcases how breaking away from the grid and employing more intuitive and visual sequencing methods can yield beautifully unexpected and inspiring results. Whether you’re new to music production or an established artist, this Max4Live device invites you to think outside the conventional sequencing toolbox and inject a dose of organic, artistic flair into your music.

Let's explore an intermediate-level application of the AL9 Melodic Paintbox to reinvent a familiar chord progression and evolve it into something uniquely rhythmic and expressive. Consider a classic progression like the I-IV-V-I in C Major. Normally, we'd input the chords using a MIDI clip in a grid, but with Melodic Paintbox, we're going to draw our way to an organic interpretation of these harmonies.

Firstly, set up your Ableton Live session with a simple piano or synth patch to respond to the Melodic Paintbox. Insert the Melodic Paintbox before your chosen instrument on a MIDI track.

  1. Pitch Track: - Select the Pitch track in the Melodic Paintbox. - Using the mouse, begin to draw a shape that loosely adheres to the C Major scale, with peaks representing our chord tones (C, F, and G). - Set the scale to C Major in the device to ensure our drawing is quantized to the correct notes. - Adjust the phrase length to cover 2 bars, giving melodic movement across our chord progression. - Set a moderate variance to introduce subtle pitch variations for each pass, giving it a more human touch.
  2. Rhythm Track: - Select the Rhythm track and draw a graphic that emphasizes a rhythmic pattern you would like to overlay on your melodic line. - Use a phrase length that causes the rhythmic pattern to evolve over time by not aligning perfectly with our 2-bar Pitch phrase - perhaps a 3-bar phrase for a polymetric effect. - Select the "Parallel" timing mode so different rhythmic divisions can interact, creating complex rhythms over our evolving melodic line.
  3. Velocity Track: - Craft the dynamics of your sequence by drawing a line in the Velocity track space. - Use crescendos and decrescendos to give life to the passing chords, and sharp peaks to accentuate particular notes.
  4. Control Track: - Map the Control track to a parameter of your instrument, like filter cutoff or reverb mix, to automate changes in timbre. - Draw a gradual slope to slowly open the filter or increase the reverb as the sequence progresses.
  5. Performance and Iteration: - Start the Ableton Live transport and listen to the interplay between the drawn melodic contour and the rhythmic pattern. Adjust your drawings in real-time for instant feedback. - Record the output of the sequence into another MIDI track to capture the variations and use them as a basis for further composition. - Experiment with the Arp modes, either by playing in MIDI notes live to influence the pitches generated or by using the Arp Hold mode to create a looping pattern that responds to your input.
  6. Preset Saving: - Once you find a sequence that inspires you, save it as a preset so you can easily revisit this exact ‘painting’ of melody and rhythm.

By manipulating Melodic Paintbox in these ways, you invite chance and artistry into your MIDI sequencing. The traditional I-IV-V-I progression transforms into an expressive, ever-changing tapestry that defies the rigidity of the grid and celebrates the fluidity of musical ideas.

Further Thoughts

The AL9 Melodic Paintbox 1.0 lends a unique touch to MIDI sequencing by allowing producers to draw their melodic concepts directly into the device interface to guide sequence generation. In this expert-level usage example, let's explore how we can evolve a basic melodic idea into a complex, dynamic sequence within an Ableton Live session.

Let's assume our starting point is a harmonic progression in A minor for an ambient electronica track, filled with evolving textures and intricate rhythmic interplays. The objective is to create a leading melodic line that not only follows the chord changes but also introduces rhythmic variations and psychedelic flourishes to the soundscape. Here's a step-by-step example of this creative process:

  1. Initialize the AL9 Melodic Paintbox 1.0 on a new MIDI track and load up a lush, pad-like synthesizer as our sound source.
  2. Begin by drawing a simple ascending line on the pitch track while the device is set to the key of ‘A’ and the ‘Minor’ scale. Engage the ‘Scale’ mode to ensure the melody stays within the selected key. Now, as the line crosses paths with the scan line, step back and listen to the raw idea quickly begin to take shape.
  3. To add rhythmic variations, switch over to the rhythm track. Start with a 'Serial' mode and draw a steep curve that quickly flattens out—this will result in a burst of notes at the beginning of the bar followed by a sparser rhythm. The rhythm track's phrase length can be set to 5/4 to add an odd-meter feel that cycles differently from the standard 4/4 time signature of the track.
  4. Next, explore the ‘Parallel’ mode to layer a contrasting pattern against the initial rhythm. In this mode, enable dotted divisions and draw a series of peaks and troughs. This creates complex syncopations as the scan line now selects differing rhythmic divisions to trigger notes, adding depth to the sequence.
  5. Open up the velocity track to sculpt dynamic contour; wide, fluid motions increase the intensity of the sequence's onset and decay, contributing to the track's emotive quality.
  6. With the control track, target parameters on the synthesizer, like the filter cutoff or the reverb mix. By drawing a pulsating wave-like form, we establish an automation pattern that brings motion to the timbral qualities of our synth, enhancing the sequence's evolving texture.
  7. Finally, leverage the 'shift' parameter in the pitch track to offset the sequence relative to the rhythm, providing a laid-back or rushed feeling depending on the shift direction. Introduce slight 'Variance' to modulate the scan speed and achieve organic humanization.
  8. As the arrangement progresses and the chords change, switch the device to ‘Arp Hold’ mode and send chord notes via MIDI to the device. This will hold the last played chords and generate an arpeggio based on the drawn shapes, ensuring the melodic sequence adapts to the underlying harmonic changes while retaining the complex rhythmic qualities you've designed.
  9. Throughout the track, live-record the toggling between presets, the adjustments of phrase lengths, and the manipulation of the pitch shift and variance controls. This live sequencing approach unfolds new melodic variations that are responsive to the ever-changing dynamics of the piece while embodying a vivid, organic quality that's nearly impossible to replicate with traditional sequencers.

By using the AL9 Melodic Paintbox, you have transcended the confines of a grid-based sequencer and entered a realm where melodies can be as nuanced and expressive as brush strokes on a canvas. With these tools and techniques, an ambient electronica track can offer a constantly shifting aural experience, where the subconscious translates into sound, and melodic sequences become a living, breathing element of the music.