Using the Ableton Chord Plugin

Ableton is optimized for simplicity and functionality for beatmakers. You don’t have to have the most advanced skill or understanding to use it. Just like the guitar, drum, synth, vocal and auto tune plugins I had covered, with the Chord generator plug-in, you do not have to have the most in-depth knowledge of music theory to create lush and entrancing chords. With Ableton’s chord generator and a little music theory, you can easily create these lush and beautiful chords.

This is how you use Ableton’s chord generator plug-in:

Finding and Opening the Chord Generator

1. You will find the chord generator in the MIDI Effects:

ableton chord generator

2. Open the chord generator plug-in by either double-clicking the plug-in or dragging and dropping it into a MIDI track. Since it is a MIDI effect plug-in, it can only be opened into a MIDI track.

dragging plugin midi track chord generator ableton

By default, Ableton opens with 2 MIDI and 2 Audio tracks. You can also create a MIDI track by pressing Ctrl + Shift + T on Windows or Cmd + Shift + T on MacBook

3. Now open a new instrument on this track to begin making chords. For this tutorial, I shall be using Ableton’s E-Piano Old School plug-in. Now let’s get started making chords.

Ableton’s E-Piano Old School plug-in

Utility and Parameters

When you open the chord generator you will see the 2 main parameters you shall use to make chords, and control how each note in the chord behaves. Here they are:

chord generator ableton
  1. Shift Controls: you have 6 controls that you can use to generate your chords. If you slide the parameter up or down, the value shift by +/- 1 semitone.

Here is where basic knowledge of scales and notations comes in. But you may not even need this if you have a good ear for what notes sound good together.

  1. The 1.00 controls under the shift knobs control the velocity of the specific note being controlled by that knob, so that through your progression, whenever that specific note plays, it will play in that velocity. This affects chord voicings.

Recommended Read: VST2 vs VST3 in Ableton

Making Chords

For this next part, I shall create a triad in this scale which is 1-3-5 using the chord generator’s shift knobs where if the 1st or root note is C in C Major the 3rd is E and the 5th G. And would look like this on the chord plug-in.

shift knobs chord generator ableton

This configuration differs in Minor scales as the 3rd note is 3 semitones from the root note, and would look like this.

configuration chord generator ableton

Do not worry, if this is all too confusing, I have attached a few cheat sheets to help you with basic scale structures and chord notation by scale.

Chord Printing

You can not print these chords into a MIDI track and use them for other MIDI instruments. Here is how you go about it:

1. Create a new MIDI track and route the input for this track to the track with your chord plug-in and record

create new midi track ableton

If you have a second chord line that you have in mind for the chorus or bridge from the verse, you can repeat this step on a different clip or track altogether.

Presets

Ableton has also provided you with chord preset each very different but with their utility to spark your creativity with my personal favourite being Eternal Sunshine with the added 9th Major.

chord presets ableton

PML Chord Generator V2

Production Music Live has generated a free and fully compatible advanced version of Ableton’s chord plug-in available for free here.

PML chord generator v2

New features include a Major and Minor scale control depending on the note you want to create a chord from. Drop Bass which plays the lower octave of your root note and Rootless functions which plays the chord without the root note for more of that jazzy flavour. 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th extensions for longer chords, and more options for different chord types like diminished, suspended and the jazz pianist’s modal chords, controllable in effect by turning knobs.

Simply download this expansion and install it this way:

  1. Go to your User Library folder in Ableton’s browser – presets – MIDI effects, and then right-click on this folder to show in Finder
library folder ableton
  1. Drag and drop this extension there
PML chord generator extension

You will now find this expansion here:

chord expansion ableton

Chord Structure Cheatsheet

chord structure cheat sheat ableton

Final Thoughts

The Ableton Chord generator and its V2 expansion are very inspirational tools to spark your creativity. It will make your productions sound more lush and different the more you experiment. Your creativity is your only limit. Have fun.