Encourage new ideas with some controlled MIDI randomisation.
Your mileage may vary but, personally, when it comes to the generation of new musical ideas, I’m more than happy to take help wherever it might come from. For MIDI‑heads, Futurephonic’s Rhythmizer — just updated from v2.1 to the Ultra version with a redesign of the UI and some new features — might be a suitable source of musical inspiration. This ‘MIDI note manipulation’ plug‑in may already be familiar to Live users but it’s now also available in a VST/AU format and, for this review, I took the VST version for a spin within Cubase Pro 12.
Inserted as an instrument on a suitable MIDI track, it will take extended MIDI notes as input (these serve as the base pitch for any subsequent randomisation) and then allows you to generate note sequences from this source by randomising note lengths, rhythms, pitch, velocity and pitch‑bend, all with user control over the degree and style of the randomisation. This new MIDI data can then be routed to the MIDI input of a further MIDI/virtual instrument track for triggering playback or to be recorded. This latter option allows you to cherry‑pick the best bits of Rhythmizer’s output for further work.
Space precludes an all‑encompassing walkthrough of all the options provided by Rhythmizer, but a simple example or two can illustrate some of the core possibilities. For example, lets imagine you wanted to generate some possible bass line ideas. Via the Rhythm tab, you might start with a fixed 16th‑note rhythm and set the three Groove probability options to zero (these can be used later to dial in random rhythmic variations at eighth, quarter and half notes respectively). You can tweak the rhythm by ‘dropping’ notes using a (note) Density setting below 100 or by adding a positive Shuffle setting.
Once you have defined the limits of the rhythmic variations, you can then switch to the Melody tab and dial in some pitch variations by picking a scale (there are lots to choose from) and adjusting the Prob setting. As you increase this, you are gradually increasing the probability that any note generated has a pitch other than that of the input MIDI note. The Steps control then limits the maximum number of scale steps away from the input note allowed. For bass lines, starting with a low value here (perhaps up to five steps?) works well, while for a top‑line instrument, larger values allow more melodic movement. Then, once you have both rhythmic and pitch randomisation options set, you can start adding in Gate (so notes don’t fill a complete time step) and velocity control, both with randomisation.
And, if you want to experiment with some chord generation, the new Poly Stack feature provides for that possibility also with some interesting options for defining your own chord voicings. Finally, you can configure the Loop option, which allows you to essentially capture a short sequence of Rhythmizer’s note randomisation process and then loop it for as long as the Loop button is engaged.
The second obvious application of Rhythmizer’s ability to spit out user‑controlled ‘random’ MIDI notes is to trigger slices created from a drum loop and that are mapped across a drum sampler instrument. I tried this using Cubase’s Sampler Track (which has a neat slice mode) but it would also work with a sliced loop in Groove Agent or a similar drum sampler. It works well, although the settings required in order to generate something that is musically useful perhaps do require a little more thought.
Once you have got a basic understanding of how the key controls interact, there is a lot of fun to be had with Rhythmizer Ultra.
Once you have got a basic understanding of how the key controls interact, there is a lot of fun to be had with Rhythmizer Ultra. OK, so you might not want to generate a whole album’s worth of melodic, bass and drum part ideas based upon Rhythmizer’s generative assistance but, given the very modest asking price, it’s a cool and somewhat quirky tool to have available for an occasional musical nudge. If generative musical fun is your thing, then Futurephonic have a trial version of Rhythmizer Ultra available for download on their website.
Rhythmizer Ultra is a cool little plug‑in capable of generating all sorts of MIDI‑based musical inspiration.