If you've ever had blank-canvas syndrome, spending hours dabbling with a barely-formed idea only to throw it out, then you understand the need for a music workflow tool that generates ideas quickly.
AudioCipher is a melody inspiration plugin that turns words into MIDI notes. When you type in a thought or phrase, Audiocipher converts it into a sequence that you can play back with any virtual instrument in your DAW.
In this article, we'll show you how to write a song with a melody generator so that it reflects your mood and core sources of inspiration.
#1. Your musical signature
If you're looking for ideas on what kind of words to type into a melody generator like AudioCipher, try beginning with your own name. If you have a band or musician / artist name, that works too.
Classical composers had a name for this technique. They called it a musical signature, because they would hide their initials or an abbreviation of their name within their scores. The audience wouldn't know the meaning of these melodic motifs, but the composer knew. The melody was inspired by something very personal to them - their own name.
Full names will generate more MIDI material. See if you can find a pattern that you like within the MIDI output. You can use that as a starting point and continue to build.
#2. Movie characters that you enjoyed
I personally enjoy writing melodies based on movie characters. You can let their style inform the arrangement of your song, including the types of instruments you choose and the way that you structure your melodies and harmony.
Quick tip: Try changing the AudioCipher scale to match your character's vibe.
The major mode goes well with heroes and cheerful characters, while villains and shadowy characters are better represented by minor or chromatic modes.
#3. Your favorite musicians and engineers
You can harness latent inspiration from listening closely to the arrangements of your personal, musical heroes. For example, beat makers could type in an engineer's name like Timbaland and create an instrumental beat in his style.
Active listening: Getting in the zone
I first learned this technique from a lecture by Dave Longstreth of Dirty Projectors.
During one lecture, he explained that you can map an existing song that you like, using abstract notation of your own choosing, in order to build a deeper relationship with it. Then, through your own creative faculties, that music can influence and inspire you to create something of your own.
Here is a summary of the technique:
Choose a song that you enjoy and want to study
Listen to a single instrument and keep your attention on it through the whole song. Then listen to the song again but focus on a separate instrument. Continue this pattern of tracing musical paths until you have heard everything in the mix.
Create a rough visual map (I used dots on a piece of paper) to represent the shape and movement of each instrument's melody. For chords, you can use vertical space to represent close / open harmony. The idea is to not get hung up on the difficulty of transcribing exact notes.
Once you have your visual map, listen to the song as a whole and look at your rough, abstract notation.
In my experience, this kind of deep listening and abstract notation makes it easier to start my creative sessions with a clear starting point. The purpose of this is not to emulate or mimic another artist, but instead to listen deeply to the melodic shapes of a song that you like. It's a way to get charged up with ideas for arrangement, mood, and other musical ambience that is otherwise missing from a blank DAW canvas.
#4. Feeling words (adjectives)
As you venture further into your inner landscape, try using AudioCipher to explore your feelings. If that feels uncomfortable, embrace your resistance and use a word like dangerous.
Quick tip: Does your word start with one of the letters A through G? If so, try tuning the AudioCipher to that letter and dial into their frequency. For the word dangerous, I chose the root note "D" and the Chromatic scale because of its chaotic nature.
Some people have hangups about using emotional words in AudioCipher. But the truth is, your resistance to a word might be the very energy that inspires a unique thought or melody. So rather than shying away from it, I would encourage people to stay with the process and weave that feeling into your music.
#5. Action words (verbs)
We just looked at how adjectives can describe a musical feeling you want to convey. The same can be achieved with action words, or verbs. Remember that an action can be anything - even something passive like chilling out.
Use words that describe a goal, an action you want to take, or a place you want to go. When you create music from an action word, it's ideal if you can capture that feeling in your arrangement.
Quick Tip: Switch on the randomize rhythm option as shown in the image below.
Need more variety to your MIDI output? With rhythm randomization activated, AudioCipher will now assign a random duration to each note.
You can drag as many melodic variations into the DAW as you'd like, until you hear a rhythm that sparks your imagination. Then you can go in and edit the notes until you arrive at the shape and feel that you want to convey.
#6. Random word generator
If you have trouble picking a word to type into AudioCipher, try this free random word generator. As soon as I find a word that resonates with me, I switch over to my DAW, type it into the plugin, and start experimenting. This is a good, quick alternative to overthinking a word and getting stuck on trying to pick the best one.
#7. Random Keystrokes
When all else fails, you can always smash a bunch of random characters on your keyboard. Switch on the rhythm randomizer in AudioCipher and drag your input to midi. Then listen back and go fishing for ideas you like.
As you find good melodic phrases, select them and cut/paste them onto a parallel midi track. This way you can review them at the end. You can delete the original MIDI output once you've extracted the best melodic ideas.
At the end of the day, the point here is that you can use any kind of words with AudioCipher. You have to put in time to create something deeply satisfying. You're the only one who can do the work.
Use words that match how you feel. If that means smashing letters on the keyboard in a state of raw frustration, that's okay. There's an art to harnessing each and every word, making subtle adjustments in the MIDI roll, and developing it into a melody.
Melody generators are a relatively new workflow tool. As each of us learns how to write a song using a melody generator, we'll find that each word has its own inherent meaning, with a musical correlate. The possibilities are endless.