How To Make 4-Voice Wide Range Auto-Chords

This tutorial now shows how to generate Auto-Chords for multiple instruments that spread over a much wider pitch range, which is common with orchestral arrangements.

The default Auto-Chords feature of the Interpretation parameter generates chords for a single instrument in a narrow pitch range, choosing inversions automatically based on the instrument's playing ranges. This is fine for dance music where sustained, blocked-out chords are sometimes used to emphasize a harmonic progression.

With orchestral music however, it is often more desirable to have multiple instruments playing harmony spread over a wider overall pitch range.


The purple Figure symbol (a = arpeggio) renders a specific note of the current chord and inversion automatically chosen by Synfire. For example, a symbol on the center line (0) would play the bottom note, a symbol on the first line (1) the next note above that, and so on.


In order to render a full triad, we place three symbols on lines 1, 2 and 3 and have that short phrase repeat over and over. Likewise, line 0 is used with a magenta Bass symbol (b = bass) to render the current bass note of the harmonic context.


By assigning each of the three symbols a different playing range (Upper, Middle, Lower), we can adjust the range and typical pitch for each symbol individually. The range assignment is indicated by the small triangles attached to the symbol. Double-click on the respective range icon in the toolbar to assign it.


The bass is played by a separate instrument, so we can adjust its lower playing range independently of the other three voices (there are only three playing ranges available per instrument). 


You can also use four different instruments, each of which renders a different note of the chord and the bass, by splitting the Figure shown above across multiple "tracks". Make sure you always adjust the playing range that corresponds to the one assigned to the Figure symbol.


The length of each symbol in this example is set to one bar and put in a loop. Synfire will split and transpose any notes where necessary, so you can use even longer symbols here as well. For the resulting MIDI to sound more natural and smooth, tick the Tie Notes box with the Interpretation parameter. This will merge adjacent notes of equal pitch.


Fine-Tuning Playing Ranges

By moving the pale green Typical Pitch indicators for each voice on the 'Ranges' tab, you can ask Synfire to redo its entire rendering with that preferred pitch in mind. This leads to different inversions and overall sound timbres, which you can preview and tweak until you are satisfied with the result.

Auto-Chords is Quick & Dirty

Sustained blocked-out chords are really only useful for fast prototyping and sketching. With a typical orchestral arrangement you will rather want to use multiple melodic lines, in order to get more expressive rhythm and melodic movements (counterpoint). You can however use the same technique shown here to assign playing ranges to melodies, so they will spread over a wide pitch range.


While it was originally designed for use with arpeggios, the purple Figure symbol is also very useful for splitting chords across multiple instruments and pitch ranges. 

The example arrangement is attached to this post so you can use it for your own experiments.

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