Abusing an Arranger Keyboard to generate phrases

It’s Aunties Birthday…

You may dismiss a standard preset style arranger keyboard as only belonging at your auntie’s birthday, but in fact they can be creatively abused to generate musically interesting patterns and sounds. The various styles each generate a different MIDI output.

Any old arranger keyboard can be used for this purpose. Only requirement is that they can sync to MIDI and output their styles and phrases as MIDI notes in real time. Most style keyboards output MIDI when they are played. This includes everything you play on the keyboard, as well as auto-accompaniement data from the style section. Often some nice chord voicings appear in different roles of the styles. This can be used for many creative purposes.

Here’s an application for it:

  • Sync the keyboard to your workstation by MIDI Clock, and select a style.
  • When synced, capture the MIDI output of the style keyboard to a MIDI region in your DAW.
  • Experiment with various styles to get varied input.
  • Reassign the MIDI output of the track to a soft- or hardware synth of your choice.
  • Make sure the MIDI channels match between the sequencer and the instrument,
  • Select a sound on your synth, and listen to the wonderful mess of notes stumbling over each other in cacophonic excellence.
  • If you want to isolate individual parts of a style, you should demix the pattern by MIDI channels to create new individual patterns, only containing a single MIDI channel.
  • Drum parts can be useful for note generation, too. Just use a MIDI transformer in your DAW to select a musical base note and scale for the notes, so they will be forced to appear in the right key with your song.
  • Switch sound on your synth to get a different sound image.
  • Switch style on the arranger keyboard to get new riffs & rhythms
  • Re-sequence the above and re-apply to taste.

Experiment with various patches – including drums and percussion – for each part. A lot of happy accidents waiting to happen with different sounds.