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2/05/2013

Chordpulse - the swiss knife for your jamming sessions

Jamming - the guitar's delight

One of the great joys of playing the guitar is improvising. I've said this a lot on other posts here, but the way the guitar fretboard "works" is especially intuitive for improvising, for example, over a chord progression. Scales and chords keep their shapes no matter which key we are talking about.

Guitar players, especially on electric guitars, tend to be more "rogue" musicians. Many enjoy playing and creating to their heart's contempt, instead of composing and playing "by the book". Sure, a guitar player can play covers and reproduce whole songs just like their original versions; but where they excel is on adding their own phrases, licks, harmonics, arpeggios, bends, slides, hammer-ons and pull-offs... And many times it's also where they feel at home. Think about the blues guitar. It's almost always about playing and creating on the spot, expressing very strong "bluesy" feelings...

Sometimes, all a guitar player wants is to feel under the spotlights, playing over an orchestration / accompaniement and letting the notes flow on the guitar. It doesn't even have to be a song, sometimes; vocals and lyrics aren't necessary. All that is needed is a beat, background chords and... guitar mojo.

Having fellow musicians around to gig with isn't always easy or even possible. So, one can use, say, a loop pedal and play the backing track first, then keep improvising over it. It is one way of doing it; but keyboards, drums and bass won't be on the backing track that way. Also, there is indeed an easier way of quickly setting up backing tracks for a lil' jamming. Software.

There are computer programs that allow to mount several tracks to your liking and play them back while you improvise over it. There are even programs specifically designed for this - these are the most convenient ones, as they cut the unnecessary bells & whistles to a bare minimum.

Chordpulse - your best jamming friend

I came across this software called Chordpulse. It's a programmable backing-track player with so much flexibility and yet so easy and simple to get used to. Here's a screenshot.


Where you see the "C" and "D" boxes is the chord sequence: you can choose the chords on these boxes, the chord type (major, minor, etc) and add new chord boxes. When you double click on one of the boxes, a pop-up menu appears:


On the lower line you define the chord "root note"; on the higher line you define the chord type. The up and down arrows are to edit the chord voicings, but you basically never have to worry about that: the program does all the work to ensure soft transitions between every two consecutive chords, automatically deciding the best voicings without even letting you know it. You can always override this with those arrows, though.
The little bass clef after the B button is to personalize the bass note, in case you want to customize the bass played during that chord.


Over the chord boxes, you have a style selector (this lets you select a pre-programmed kind of accompaniment, according to musical genre), a tempo selector and a key modifier (this basically shifts all the chords up or down a number of semitones you choose).


There are 110 styles to choose from. It's quite difficult to become bored with the sound of the accompaniment.

On the lower panel, you have a mixer (independent volume regulation of drums, bass, chords and master), a play button, a tempo bar and a key shift selector (which do the same as their upper counterparts we've talked about already).

It's insanely easy to set up. And insanely easy to get a very pleasant and "jammable" sound out of it. It's very lightweight in CPU, RAM and disk space (the installation foldier only has 9 Mb). The sound quality is quite good; it's not real instrument samples, and still sounds MIDI'ish, but it certainly doesn't ruin your inspiration as you jam along it, especially considering how light it is.

Some additional treats are the possibility to set breakpoints on the chords for drums (or each of its components) starting or stopping play-back, the bass kind of rhythm and the chords' notes being played. You can also save and load sessions and even export the session to MIDI format. Finally, the program has a database of chord progressions that you can add to your session, to help you get started.

Overall, Chordpulse is a program I strongly recommend if you're the kind of guitar player that often feels like improvising just for the sake of it, but get intimidated by the trouble and the complexity of setting up or searching for backing tracks. That is where Chordpulse excels.
The program isn't dead (the last update was July 9, 2012), even though the update frequency is slowing down. It's undertandable, though; it's already on a very stable version.

So, give it a try. :) The trial version is usable for 14 days. The full version goes for 25 bucks (20 euros). If you want my opinion, I consider Chordpulse a fair, useful and safe purchase. And if you really don't want to pay for it, you can choose Chordpulse Lite, which is a free version with 24 music styles and 4 chord types. That REALLY is worth your money! :D

Happy string pulling! ;)

2 comments:

  1. Selamat mlam saudara saya mau tanya tentang chordpulse bagamana cara menggunakannya

    ReplyDelete
  2. Man It's Hyper Takes me round the strings alright.

    ReplyDelete