A rhythm randomizer is used by musicians to generate notes at random, especially when creating and practicing new music.
Practicing with random patterns is guaranteed to spice up your routine. If you're the type who plays the same scales or songs over and over, a randomizer would be good for you. Music producers, these apps will also help you overcome creative block and discover new ideas within your DAW.
In this article we'll cover the basics of what a rhythm randomizer is, who uses them, and how you can personally get started with your own experimentation.
What is a Rhythm Randomizer?
A rhythm randomizer generates a sequence of music notes, spaced apart by random intervals of time, resulting in a rhythm. Those rhythms are constrained to a tempo on your metronome that measures musical time in beats per minute (BPM).
A metronome is used by musicians to establish a steady rhythm. In contrast, a rhythm randomizer generates its own random patterns at the speed of the metronome's tempo.
So if the BPM of a metronome goes down, the randomly generated rhythms will play back slower as well. When the metronome speeds up, so do your rhythms.
Without a BPM from the metronome, the generation of random notes falls into a different class; noise. It is no longer a rhythm because it's totally free from any musical constraint.
Here are the three primary types of rhythm randomizers that you'll find in the world: note generators, sequencers and arpeggiators.
Note generators, like AudioCipher, produce a sequence of individual notes. They can be used to create melodies, harmonies or bass lines. When the randomize rhythm feature is turned off, the notes come out in a steady stream.
Once you flip the rhythm randomizer on, each MIDI note comes out with a random duration. It may switch from quarter to sixteenth note, to several eighth notes in a row. You never know what will happen, which is exactly why people use it to experiment with melodic phrasing.
Don't miss our writeup on the best random note generators available in 2022.
Sequencers, like the MPC or Ableton Push, provide an interface to program and playback repeating patterns of notes. Turn on the randomize function and the audio samples will be triggered in unpredictable ways. A lot of digital audio workstations come with their own built in sequencers.
Arpeggiators are commonly found on electronic keyboards and MIDI plugins. The user holds down a chord and generates ascending and descending waves of notes. Some arpeggiators follow irregular rhythmic patterns that make it sound random to the average listener. An even fewer number of arpeggiators give the user an option to fully randomize the rhythm of the arp.
Who Uses a Rhythm Randomizer?
Most Music producers have at least one random note generator in their arsenal. They use them to add variety, unpredictability and inspiration to their music.
Rhythm randomizers are also popular with drummers and percussionists. They can help create new beats and grooves, or to practice difficult rhythm patterns.
If you place one random rhythm on top of another, they can produce unusual time signatures or polyrhythms that pleasantly surprise you.
In ordinary music lessons, a single piece of music is practiced and memorized through repetition. So performing based on random note selection is a great way to wake students up and set them on their toes.
As a disclaimer, we recognize that not all school districts have computers and technology to supplement their music education programs. The good news is that jazz and blues musicians figured out this technique decades ago, long before computers were a thing. They used flash card games instead, to practice improvisation through the random flow of ideas.
To play a music game with random rhythms, one person writes down random rhythms with music notation, onto a set of 20 cards. Next, they shuffles the cards and presents them to the musician in a random order. The other person plays those rhythms and tries to improvise melodies. The unpredictable notes force them to react quickly and come up with new ideas on the fly.
For a slower version, you can also try using the roll of a dice, to choose what note length or sequence you play next. Mozart played musical dice games in precisely this way. There were plenty of mid-to-late 20th century classical composers who wrote computer algorithms that generated music.
For music teachers browser looking to keep their students engaged without sheet music, try this free Melody Maker by Chrome Experiments. It's a music sequencer that can prepare them to try their hand at digital music production later on.
The Rhythm Randomizer Web App
Anyone can try rhythm randomization for free using the Rhythm Randomizer web app. It's a fun and easy way to come up with rhythmic patterns fast. Fair warning, the app does use traditional sheet music notation. It's not available as a VST so you can't use this app in your DAW. That being said, it's never too late to learn how to sightread some basic rhythms.
So the most important thing you know with this app is how to change the tempo, so your metronome is ticking at the right speed. To make that adjustment, just click on the settings gear in the top left corner of the app:
When the left-navigation menu appears, open the top section labeled Playback Settings. This is where you'll find the Tempo Settings that control your metronome. Remember, lower the number, the slower the tempo. As you make the number bigger, the rhythms will speed up.
Rhythm Randomizer Plugins for Music Producers
If you're looking for a good rhythm randomizer, here are a few options to choose from. Music producers operating with a desktop DAW should focus on whether they want to work primarily with MIDI or audio samples. This will help narrow down your search.
AudioCipher Random - Melody Generator ($22 USD)
For music producers looking to inspire new melodies during their workflow, AudioCipher is a solid pick. It generates melodies based on the words that you type into it. All you have to do is turn on randomize rhythm. AudioCipher will keep generating a different rhythmic phrase for the melody, until you hear something you like. Even if you end up changing some notes around, this app is gateway to discovering new ideas.
Vermona Random Rhythm by Softube ($39 USD)
If you want to take the reins of your randomly generated rhythms, check out the Vermona plugin by Softube. The app interface lets you control the ratio of quarter notes to eighth notes, to sixteenth notes, to triplets.
Program constraints for the rhythm and lets Vermona do the heavy lifting. If the MIDI sequence is moving too quickly, increase the quarter note and eighth note sliders. Bring down the sixteenth notes and consider turning off the triplets for a moment. Eventually you arrive at a rhythm that matches the rest of your arrangement.
Serato Sample - Randomize Audio Chops ($99 USD)
DAW producers looking to chop up some audio samples, look no further than Serato Sample. This plugin is our top pick because of its versatility. With 32 sample chops to fill, you can leverage the "set random" feature highlighted in the image above to explore different patterns. It also lets you import your samples and sync them to the project's BPM, without any audio warping. The app's time stretching algorithm makes sure your samples are protected from unwanted digital artifacts.
Final thoughts on rhythm randomizers
Whether you're a music producer, educator or just someone who likes to make beats on the side, rhythm randomizers can be a fun way to add variety and inspiration into your workflow.
Looking for more concrete ideas? Landr wrote a great blog article on how to make your tracks better with randomization. By giving you control over the tempo and playback of rhythms, these tools help you explore new ideas without completely abandoning structure. So next time you find yourself in a creative rut, try using a rhythm randomizer to get the ball rolling.