How to Start Making Music with AudioCipher in 9 Simple Steps
Ever spent hours overthinking a small musical idea, only to throw it away because you can't get it to sound right? AudioCipher is a melody and chord generator that's designed to help get the ball rolling, by turning your words directly into MIDI. This article will help you understand how to start making music and give you resources for mastering and publishing it as well.
Like any music software, you can poke around AudioCipher and stumble onto some great ideas. But there's a better way to move through the process. Follow the nine steps that I provide here and you'll be able to cut through the guesswork, to make the most of your time and achieve your goals.
Before you get started with making music, be sure to spend some time gathering inspiration. We've published articles on how to write leitmotifs and prompts for coming up with song ideas that cover this topic in more detail.
Table of Contents: How to start making music
Using single words versus longer phrases
When you're first getting started with AudioCipher, it may be tempting to type out entire sentences (or as one youtube commenter joked, a full college essay). There is technically no limit to the length of text you can input, so it really comes down to personal preference. The longer your text input, the longer the musical output.
I personally like to use a single word when I have a clear idea to focus on. It doesn't have to be anything extraordinary. Just something that draws up a feeling that you're ready to spend time with.
The beauty of AudioCipher, and what sets it apart from all the other MIDI generators, is the use of words. So take advantage of that. If you're not sure where to start, try using a random word generator or open a book to a random page.
Shorter words (4-8 characters) are great for building chords, bass lines, and melodic hooks for a chorus. That's because chord progressions that change too often are less engaging. Great melodic hooks often have just a few notes in them.
Longer phrases and sentences are good for what I call fishing for ideas. If you're not attached to a particular concept, longer phrases might contain something great within them. Even if you throw out 80% of the music, you might find one chord progression or melody that speaks to you within there.
Cycling through scales and chord types
AudioCipher offers nine different musical scales to choose from. Your word will generate a new melody progression depending on which one you choose. If you feel attached to using a word but don't like the melody that it's generating, try another scale. Keep dragging them to MIDI until you find one that you like.
It might be best to keep a neutral 8th note rhythm to start. This lets you hear the relationship between the notes and playback at a reasonable speed. Once you've found a melodic line that you like, switch on the chord generator and cycle through different types of chords until you find a progression that works.
The relationship between notes in your melody and chord progression should capture the feeling you want to express. Once those intervals are right, you can start experimenting with different rhythms.
Moving notes up or down an octave in a melody
AudioCipher doesn't make any assumptions about how your melodies should be voiced. Sometimes a big leap sounds great, but in other cases it might be better to use smaller intervals. Changing the position of a note is easy to control in your MIDI piano roll.
If there's a big leap between one note and the next, it's a good idea to make the interval smaller. To do so, you can select the offending note and move it up or down an octave.
Sometimes there are so many leaps in a melody that it won't work to simply move one not up or down. If that's the case, try grouping multiple notes and moving them together. The goal is to reduce the zig zag shape to stepwise motion, so that the melodic shape is simpler. Listen back and use your ear to make decisions.
Improve the voicings of your chord progression
If you're using AudioCipher's chord generator, a slightly different set of rules apply. The example below was created using the word "transform" in C Major, using the "random" chord generator option.
The first step shows the MIDI chord progression in its raw state. By selecting the bottom notes, you can bump them up an octave as shown in step 2. This creates something called close harmony. By putting the notes in closer proximity, You can avoid some of the big leaps that make the progression sound too jumpy.
In Step 3, we highlight all the notes in the sequence that repeat. Some DAWs let you merge repeating notes, but otherwise you can simply deleting the repeating ones and stretch them out so that they fill the same amount of space as shown in step 4.
This four-step process is an essential tool for anyone using AudioCipher's chord generator. That being said, you should always use your ear. Occasionally a big leap in a chord progression sounds great and you'll want to keep it. Once you've made your changes, remove any notes that you don't like or reduce their length as needed.
Generating a melody with Randomize Rhythm
With your chords in place, it's time to start writing a melody to go with it. We'll use all of the techniques I've shared so far. Move from the chord generator setting back to the melody generator and switch on Randomize Rhythm.
Create a new instrument track and label it appropriately. In the example above I've called them "chord" and "melody" for simplicity. Drag your MIDI to the track several times in order to audition a few different randomized rhythms. I usually find a good start with 3-5 variations.
Depending on the instrument you're using, it may be necessary to move the melody up 1-2 octaves so that it stands out from the chords as a lead voice. Once you're in the right pitch range, use the octave transposition technique to create your good melodic shape.
Now that you have a chord and melody sketch outlined, it's time to get to work and fine tune it, until you arrive at something you like.
Writing a B section with closely related keys
It's tempting to start picking out your instruments and adding layers to the arrangement, but doing so might be premature. Instead, try repeating the process above using a different word or phrase. Choose a concept that fits the theme of your first word or contrasts it in an interesting way.
You'll probably start by generating some chords and cleaning them up as needed. Stay with the same root note and scale to get something that feel consistent musically. The random chord generator can help you come up with plenty of variation.
If you're new to thinking about verse and chorus structure, I highly recommend HookTheory. Their website has over 35,000 songs for you to study. They showcase song structures using a piano visualizer and MIDI piano roll. Chords are represented by color-coded blocks and labeled with the chord name + Roman numeral. Here's an example of what the chord and melody charts look like:
Try looking up a song that you like and studying its form. To break free from your previous musical scale in this B section, you can explore one of the closely related keys. This will ensure that your new MIDI output is not a total departure. See the image of the circle of fifths below for a diagram of how this technique works.
I recommend starting with the chord generator and then using your ear to come up with a melody. You already have a lot of material at this point, so it's good to humanize the process by creating a melody that comes from your own mind. Try using just a few notes to write a simple, catchy idea that contrasts the melody of your first section.
When you play the two sections side by side, they may need a bridge to connect them. Continue with the methods we've outlined or let your intuition guide you.
Selecting sounds based on your words
This is the phase of the project where you can start choosing the virtual instruments for your chord progressions and melodies. Let your words and the feeling of the music inform your decision.
For example, if you used a word like "fire" then a sharp and aggressive tone could be appropriate, whereas a word like "water" might call for something that glides. "Windy" could draw from a flute, airy pads or a hollow piano with lots of reverb. In the example below, I used Omnisphere to look up the word that I had chosen:
When using less descriptive words, like the name of someone you know, try picking out a sound that matches their personality. Creating a link between the meaning of the word and your instrument choice will add a little magic to your final song.
Build out your arrangement with more instruments
Now that you have the song outlined and your instruments selected, it's time to flesh out the idea a bit. There are several ways to build out your arrangement.
Reinforce the bottom note of each chord with a bass instrument
Create additional virtual instrument tracks and assign sounds to them that fit the mix. Use AudioCipher to create counter-melodies or small flourishes that accent the existing arrangement.
Experiment with arpeggios that ascend and descend through the same notes that are in your chord progression
Search for audio samples on a site like Splice to find effects that help create ambience. You can browse Splice for the same word you used in AudioCipher. For example, to match the windy flutes we might use the sound of blowing wind during a moment that the beat drops.
Mixing, Mastering, and Publishing
The final stage of creating a song is difficult to describe. It comes down to mixing and mastering, plus ongoing revisions to your MIDI material. Fortunately, you're no longer at the stage of trying to come up with inspiration. You have something close to a full song now and it's up to you to tie it all together.
When the song is finished and you want to give it a final layer of polish, Landr is a good option. We've previously covered free AI mastering tools that you can explore as well.
For publishing music on streaming platforms, two of the most popular options are Distrokid and CDBaby. You can use these to get your songs up on Spotify, Apple, youtube and many other platforms. For a more low-key release that won't cost you anything, try Bandcamp or Soundcloud.
You'll need cover art for your album. A simple and low-cost option is to use an AI image generator like Midjourney or Dalle2. For help coming up with image prompts, check out this free guide. Once you nail the image that you want, consider adding text yourself in an app like Photoshop or Canva.
That pretty much sums up the process. There's so much more to music making, but these techniques and resources should put you on the right path. I hope you found them helpful. Pick up a copy of AudioCipher here.