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midichords // about 5 years ago //
Chord progressions are always a great starting point for a composition. In this article I will take a cool chord progression from the site and compose something that could go for a ‘music box’ fragment.
It is not the music box sound as such that I am interested in – there are plenty of ways to achieve that - but the arrangement and how to be creative with notes based on an existing chord progression. 
This article is quite similar to the one on creating a lead melody by turning a chord progression into an arpeggio. We’ll start again with a chord progression. See below:
Before we continue, have a listen to this progression.
If you wish to download the midi for this progression you can do that here. Note that you can also download the midi of the final result at the end of this tutorial. 
Cool, we have a chord progression. Next, I will chop it (using a feature in my DAW) to achieve the following result:
Forgive me for the neon colors, but in the piano roll above you can see that every note in the original chord has been split into 4 notes. I did this for the entire progression. Now I can remove the notes that I don't need. 
I think you can see what I did in the piano roll shown above, but here it is in plain english: Of the pink notes I removed the upper two notes, of the yellow notes the low note, of the blue notes the upper two notes and of the green ones the low note. In case the original chord existed of 4 notes I removed all upper notes (all 4 colors). For example, in the 3rd bar I removed all top notes. Again, I did this for the entire progression and not just the 3 bars you see in the illustration.
It looks colorful, but what's the plan with this? Let's make a few more adjustments.
I move the bottom note of the notes that sound at the same time slightly forward in time. In the piano roll shown above you can see I have done that for the yellow and green notes. I did that for the entire progression. Doing this gives a nice little touch that suits the music box piece that I want to create. It does not have to be precise by the way. A little variation in how much you move the notes forward will only make it sound more realistic. Have a listen to the result below:
Granted, the music box sound is from a vst plugin which has nothing to do with me arranging notes, but the effect is nice and gives us enough confidence to move on. Right? Let's add another little variation.
The 4th and 8th bar I arpeggiated my way up rather than following the 'music box' pattern of the other bars. You can see the original chord progression in the background so you should be able to figure out where I placed the notes. Now, I made my decisions solely by ear. I played the pattern over and over and moved notes around until I was happy. Here is the result:
Sounds nice, but it is obviously only the beginning. Next, I will add a melody in a separate channel. See the piano roll below. I'd like it to contrast with the pattern we created thus far so I want many short and high notes going in all directions. When I created this melody I made sure to play the original chord progression, which helped me to find the right pitch for each note.
As you can see I go up and down, up and down. First slow (bar 1, 2, 3 and 4) and then faster (bar 5, 6 and 7) until the final bar (8) that goes up. You may ask yourself why I did this. The short answer is that there is no answer other than that I like it. I like the feel of it. It sounds good. You may disagree, but the message is that you should try to compose some sort of melody that you think fits and sounds good. Ok, let's listen to it:
Now that we have a melody, let us combine it with our previous pattern. 
Sounds better already doesn't it? I know I am leaving the path of the music box sound a bit with the melody (bells), but that is a detail. Let's go a step further and add the original chord progression to the mix as well. 
I really like the result. Starting with a good sounding chord progression we chopped, arpeggiated and arranged our way to a fine, little fragment that could be used to...well, create a music box piece or something entirely different. Maybe you could even start your next trance track with something like this. The sky is the limit. 
If you want to play around with it, you can download the midi construction kit (sounds ambitious) here, which has the original chord progression, melody, etc. Have fun with it!
I hope you liked this tutorial. Don't hesitate to drop us a comment :) Happy composing! Oh before I forget, if you sign up at you can download loads of midi files that you can play around with. Just a suggestion... :)


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