Writing music with generative tools

When thinking about generative devices in music, first things that come to mind are experimental composition, modular synthesizers, long ambient tracks and other elements which may commonly define tracks potentially difficult to digest for listeners accustomed to more traditional forms of production and songwriting. On the other hand, however, the powerful nature of generative tools can be easily turned to contemporary music making, by using them to inject variations to static patterns, to sparkle inspiration and assist the artist during the writing process.

This kind of philosophy is what drove the devlopment process of TATAT, a device that might be overlooked as an experimental wonder, while in reality having a strong flexibility which makes it possible to integrate into every kind of workflow. In this article, we’re going to take a look at different shades of generative-assisted composition by using TATAT between different styles of electronic music, demystifying the topic of such experimental tools in standard productions enviroments.

At the core of each technique, there’s the mood. When talking about such mood, we are referring to TATAT’s overall settings: each parameter, wether being it related to notes, tempo or processing, plays a part in defining a mood.

 

1 – Exporting and editing MIDI patterns / Recording the output

The mood is not only used to set up an infinite stream of MIDI notes, but is also what defines the character of exported MIDI files. By dragging from the Export triangle into the DAW (or anywhere else, ie. a folder or the desktop) a new, different file will be generated each time, according to TATAT’s current settings. These files can then be treated like any other MIDI clip or recording: they can be edited, rearranged, moved and used to extrapolate precise ideas to insert into any project. On the other hand, if you wish to capture specific moments, recording TATAT’s output is another way to trace back and use snippets of the stream to build patterns. These methods are not only useful to create melodic progressions, but also beats and drumlines when used in conjuction with percussive elements.

 

2 – Adding notes to incoming MIDI

The most simple and effective idea might probably be about using TATAT to add notes on the top of pre-existing MIDI sequences, in order to enrich their content. It’s possible to have TATAT let incoming MIDI pass through (by activating the Thru button in the footer) and having its output mixed with the original signal. This way, anchor elements such as a catchy chord progression, can be kept in place while having TATAT streaming infinite melodies to the same instrument. This technique works with live MIDI input as well, making it possible to jam along with TATAT in real time.

 

3 – Looping patterns

Generative streams might start making more sense when repetitive patterns start occurring. Creating musical phrases with TATAT is as easy as moving the Liv/Mem slider all the way to the right. TATAT has an internal buffer which is constantly recording the output in blocks that can be set with the Buffer parameter. As soon as the Liv/Mem slider moves away from the 0% value (all the way to the left) the buffer stops recording and start playing back the latest recorded buffer block. When such slider is all the way to the right (at 100%) TATAT is going to output only such phrase, creating a repetitive loop, perfect for dance music and basslines. If wishing for some variations, it’s possible to play around with the slider and balance the loop with portions of the generative stream. As long as the slider doesn’t reach 0% value again, the buffer won’t be overwritten and it would be possible to go back to the looped pattern simply by dragging it to 100% again.

 

4 – Infinite generative ambient

Last but not least, exploring the generative stream itself with different settings and timbres is an huge way to enrich compositional process. Slower tempos, high Ratio values along with Delay and Velocity randomization are perfect companions for cinematic works and ambient, easy listening tracks. These settings guarantee slow, dynamic and unquantized streams, which can be used to add textures or even become the main element of ethereal soundscapes. Explore these settings with different instruments and effects.

 

TATAT’s should not be misread as a tool aimed at experimental music, rather an experimental tool aimed at every kind of musician and producer. Generative devices are generally useful for writing process and live performances alike, they can easily make electronic music unpredictable and help the artist to overcome stagnating habits which might take the fun away. What do you think about assisted electronic composition? Are you into infinite streams of music or do you like to use such tools to kickstart ideas?

2 thoughts on “Writing music with generative tools

  1. Brian says:

    It would be nice if tatat could follow incoming notes to generate it’s output ie if I send a Dm sequence , the generated notes followed in key , or just globally set the key for tata

    • stefanostev says:

      Hello Brian, TATAT can dynamically set its four notes by incoming MIDI messages by activating the Keys input button on the left of the notes slot. We’re not planning on implementing a global key feature as we feel it’s going to change its behaviour quite drastically and reduce its flexibility. However, it’s always possible to use external quantization tools to process the note messages before they get into TATAT.

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