Updated: May 10
If you're a music producer who tends to get stuck trying to come up with unique ideas, you might want to try a random note generator. By generating MIDI notes at random, you can avoid "blank canvas" syndrome and start shaping some content to sound the way you want. It's easier to come up with new songs when you have a musical pattern to start with.
Music producers put a lot of effort into getting their mix to sound right. But writing melodies is challenging, especially if you don't know music theory. There are several plugins out there designed to solve beat block for you by producing some starting material. In this article we'll take a look at the best plugins on the market for generating random notes and include important details like the user interface, feature set, and price points.
What is a random note generator?
Let's begin but defining what a random note generator is. As the phrase suggests, these are devices that produce a series of music notes. They are also commonly known as algorithmic music generators because there is an underlying code that produces the series of tones. You might use a random note generator if you need material to start with and are having trouble coming up with something on your own.
Imagine that you were alive a hundred years ago and wanted to write some music. You would sing or playing a musical instrument, using your intuition and skills to come up with a new idea. A piano player, for example, would practice existing music and then use their technical skills to start coming up with their own original music.
Long before machines were invented to produce music notes at random, composers used this method to help them come up with song ideas. A classic example of this is Mozart's musical dice games. He would assign numbers to small segments of music and then roll dice to decide how they should be woven together.
In this article we're going to be looking at MIDI plugins that a producer would use inside their Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Instead of weaving existing music together, these apps create entirely new musical material from scratch. Your job as the producer is to take those random notes and mess around with the MIDI properties until you arrive at something you like.
Web-based random note generators (are less useful)
There are lots of web-based random note generators out there. While they might have some entertainment value, they aren't very useful to producers. That's because most of them don't export MIDI files and the web-based experience is totally separate from your digital workstation.
If you're a producer, it's difficult and time consuming to bounce back and forth between your browser and the DAW, manually transcribing the notes into your MIDI roll. To give you an example of why that's not very practical, here is the top ranking search result for "random note generators" on Google. As you can see, the randomize button generates a few note names at a time.
It's hard to imagine a producers would use this web app for their projects. You can click the green button to randomize some note names. But it takes time to punch these into your DAW. The web app has no playback functionality. So for someone who's actually trying to create music, it doesn't serve the primary need to generate usable content.
Random note generator MIDI plugins (and what to look for)
Let's move on and take a look at the random note generators that will serve you best as a producer. MIDI plugins on the market range anywhere from simple, single-note algorithms to complex apps driven by artificial intelligence. Any of these can be good options potentially. It just depends on what you're looking to do. Our suggestion is to start by figuring out how much help you really need. Do you want the app to write a melody for you or do you just need a starting point?
Features to look for in a random note generator
Here are the things you should be looking for when choosing an app:
Can you control the number of notes created
Can you control the key signature (so it matches your song)
Can you control the rhythm of the notes
Does it produce a MIDI file that you can use in your DAW
If the app interface is complex, does that complexity pay off with good MIDI output
Does it consume a lot of RAM
Is it compatible with your Operating system and DAW
How much does it cost
And of course, the most important question of all: Does this app make it easier for me to come up with new ideas?
In the next section we'll give you some insights into the best random note generator plugins of 2021, what they cost, and why we like them.
The best random note generator plugins of 2021
Now that we've outlined the most important features and considerations for choosing a random note generator, let's take a look at the best options.
AudioCipher VST ($15 - MIDI Note Generator)
Easy to use: When it comes to generating an idea quickly, AudioCipher is hands down one of the easiest tools to use. Its simple design makes it easy to pick a key signature and take a listen to your ideas before you commit. Plus it comes with an interesting twist - AudioCipher lets you type in words and turn them into MIDI notes. So you can use words that inspire you to come up with new melodic ideas.
Affordable: As one of the simpler random note generators on the market, AudioCipher is the most affordable. Coming in at only $15, it costs almost 1/3rd the price of its competitors. If you need something to write an entire melody for you with rhythm and articulation, this might not be the app for you. But if you just want an idea-started, you can't go wrong for the price.
Have fun turning words into music notes: If you enjoy the concept of hiding messages in your music, this app will give you endless fun. Type in anything, from the name of your friend or favorite food, to entire lyrics of a song. There's no limit to how long your text input can be. Each letter is converted into a music note. When you're ready, you just use the "Drag to MIDI" feature to place those notes directly into your virtual instrument.
Community-based: The other nice thing about AudioCipher is that there's an existing community around the plugin. You can submit videos of yourself creating songs with the app and have your content feature on their social media platforms. You can find lots of examples of people making music with the app over at the AudioCipher youtube channel.
Melody Sauce by Evabeat ($49 - Melody Maker App)
Another popular option for random note generators is Melody Sauce. This VST / AU MIDI FX plugin uses advanced generative algorithms to create instrumental melodies and hooks. It produces MIDI that you can use directly in your music production software.
Create Ideas Quickly: Melody Sauce lets you press a variety of buttons to generate a random melody. You can choose rhythm parameters like speed, octave, swing, triplet, and syncopation. These features mean that you won't have to spend as much time interpreting the notes or adding your own creative input. Plus you can choose the key signature to make sure the note output matches your project. Pretty cool!
Mid-tier cost: You can expect to pay a bit more for Melody Sauce, coming in at $49. The interface is more complex and the company has invested a lot in making it look and feel nice. So while you the cost is a bit higher for this app, you do get what you pay for.
Store your melodies: Melody Sauce includes a sound bank, so if you find something you like you can hold on and refer back to it later. This may be helpful for producers who want to spend time experimenting in the app rather than taking the MIDI content straight to their DAW.
Riffer by AudioModern ($59 - Random Riff Generator)
Advanced Interface: When it comes to random note generators, one of the most complex options on the market is Riffer by AudioModern. This app gives you a broad set of controls to use and explore. This is a great option for people who like to spend time in their plugins, playing with the tool itself. The sleek modern layout and interesting variety of MIDI output make it an attractive options.
Riffer includes 53 different musical scales that you can pull from, including modes from Eastern and Western modes. For musicians with an advanced knowledge of music theory (or just an experimental bent), this can be a great way to try something different and achieve some unusual sounds. You get a lot of control over rhythm and volume as well.
MIDI Roll: Rather than dragging your randomly generated MIDI notes to the DAW and using your piano roll to make edits, Riffer provides a native MIDI roll within the app. The same controls are provided by your DAW, but by keeping it in the
Mid-tier cost: As one would expect from an app like this, where a ton of design and development work has gone into the product, the cost is a bit higher than average. At $59 this app won't necessarily break the bank. But you'll need to decide whether all the bells and whistles are worth it for you.
Melodya & RapidComposer by Music Developments ($49 to $199 - Melody Generator Plugin)
Advanced music theory tool: For musicians who have more music theory knowledge and aren't scared by roman numeral chord symbols, Melodya and RapidComposer is also an option. You can use it to create melodic motif variations. With a single-click melody generating feature, you'll get random notes displayed in a midi roll that you can edit as needed.
Standard feature set: The company's entry-level app Melodya comes with a fairly standard feature set including key signature control, note randomization, and rhythm control. It also provides a MIDI piano roll editor like Riffer. The interface looks a bit dated and the variation toolset are a bit intimidating, resembling Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Here are just a few of the advanced tools that RapidComposer provides to its users:
High Tier (Expensive): At a $199 price point, Rapid Composer app sits at the highest end of the random note generator spectrum. Given that the majority of producers today are not music theory savvy, this tool may be best suited for classical music composers.
Start with a simple random note generator
As with any software industry, you're going to find some random note generator apps that are loaded up with complex features. Generally speaking, the more features an app has, the higher the cost. The simpler apps tend to be affordable and can get you started down the right path.
The truth is that even the most advanced random note generators rarely create a perfect melody. At the end of the day, a producer still needs to go in and make edits to the MIDI output. So while the extra features can be fun to play with, they might not always be the most efficient use of your time.
This is why we recommend starting with a simple and inexpensive option like AudioCipher. You'll overcome the initial hurdle of staring at a blank DAW project, but still have a MIDI sequence based on something you feel connected to. Random notes on their own feel a bit lifeless. But when you know that your melody is connected to a word you personally chose, it's easier to hold on to a bit of creative agency.
Once you've typed in a word to AudioCipher, like "inspiration", you can just drag it into your virtual instrument and you can make edits in the MIDI roll. Here's an example of what that looks like:
Advanced melody generator apps like Riffer and Melodya give you a MIDI roll inside of the app. It's up to you to decide whether you want to pay extra for the complexity or keep things simple and use the rhythm and MIDI control features already provided by your DAW. Our suggestion is to start with a simpler app and see where that takes you. Then if you like the workflow but need something more advanced, you can always go upmarket and pick up one of the other options.