Tired of trying to write chord progressions from scratch? Captain Chords and Scaler 2 are two of the most powerful chord progression software plugins. But which one is right for you? In this article, we'll compare their features to help you make an informed decision.
Whether you're a beginner or an experienced producer, chord progression software can help you push through creative obstacles in the DAW. Instead of resorting to patterns you've memorized with your hands or in the piano roll, these apps will give you a broader pallet of sound to create music with.
Overview of Scaler 2 and Captain Chords
Captain Chords is an accessible plugin for musicians with a basic grasp of music theory. Scaler 2 is a more complex tool, with a library of countless chords, so it might be better for intermediate and advanced musicians.
Here are two main differences between the Scaler 2 and Captain Chords plugins:
Captain Chords is a song-sketching and composing plugin. It includes an embedded piano roll and tabs to manage your different song-sections.
Scaler 2 offers a full collection of scales and chord progressions to build upon your existing MIDI track. Captain Chords offers chord suggestions too, but they are not as comprehensive.
The choice between these two plugins is ultimately a matter of personal preference. Do you want a plugin that helps you to sketch out song ideas or construct complex chord progressions?
What are Captain Chords and Captain Plugins?
Captain Chords is a popular chord progression generator used by songwriters with a digital audio workstation. It comes as a part of a greater collection called Captain Plugins Epic.
Here are six of our favorite features of the Captain Chords VST:
Custom chord progressions - Captain Chords allows you to create your own custom chord progressions, handing over control for the harmonic structure of your music.
Rhythm generator - Explore interesting and complex rhythms for your chords without programming them into the piano roll manually or playing them by hand on a MIDI keyboard.
Multiple chord voicings - Captain Chords lets you to choose from multiple voicings on each chord along with the ability to target a specific octave.
Note length manipulation - Adjust the length of each note in your chord progression. Create passing tones to give the arrangement more character and feeling.
Key and scale detection - Captain Chords can detect the key and scale of your project and suggest related chords that fit perfectly.
Instrument presets - Listen back to your music through a variety of instruments, so you don't have to drag MIDI into your DAW for playback.
Captain Chords includes a variety of presets and customizations to help you explore new ideas and sidestep any songwriting blocks.
What is Scaler 2 and is it any good?
Plugin Boutique's app Scaler 2 is packed with impressive features. It might not have a piano roll and song section builders, but there's still a lot to love.
These are a few highlights about Scaler 2 that we appreciate the most:
Chord detection and suggestion capabilities - Scaler 2 can analyze the MIDI melodies, chords and progressions that you feed it. Based on those notes, it will suggest related chords that fit perfectly with your music.
Extensive library of chord progressions - Pick from a collection of chord progressions tailored to different genres, including pop, rock, jazz, and EDM. The library is organized in a clear and easy-to-use way, making it simple to find the right chord progression for your project.
Arpeggiator and expression tools - The arpeggiator adds movement and depth to your chord progressions. Since you don't have a piano roll to work with, this is a way to add some rhythmic variation and dynamics.
MIDI drag-and-drop functionality - Transport individual chords or entire chord progressions from the app to your DAW using the MIDI drag-and-drop functionality.
Horizontal Chord Builder - Construct your own chord progressions from a set of options within a key or scale. For variation, click on a closely related scale and use one of its altered chords to spice up your song a bit.
Wide range of MIDI effects - MIDI effects like humanization, velocity and swing can help you generate new ideas and make your music more interesting. These effects can help you add emotion and depth to your music and take it to the next level.
Scaler 2 includes a range of tools for music theory analysis, chord detection, and arpeggiation, making it a valuable tool for both intermediate and experienced producers.
Captain Chords & Scaler 2: A steep learning curve?
Captain Chords and Scaler 2 are powerful chord progression plugins that can greatly enhance your music production workflow. For this reason, they do have a bit of a learning curve as you're first getting started.
Both plugins are complex and could be overwhelming for beginners. Their interfaces have multiple screens and lots of moving parts. It can take time to learn how to use them even if you have a grip on music theory and software. Of the two, Captain Chords is generally regarded as the easier one for beginners to get started with.
Captain Chords can be a lot to take in. It might be more suitable for some composing styles than others. It emphasizes the idea of song sections, catering to traditional songwriting forms over other approaches.
The piano roll and composing tools are packed into a space that, by definition, is smaller and less robust than the DAW. Your song sketches do eventually need to migrate from Captain Chords to a MIDI track in your workstation, where you can apply finishing touches in the native piano roll there.
Scaler 2 presents users with an almost unlimited number of choices. I personally feel a sense of excitement and freedom when I use it. I've spoken with AudioCipher customers personally who said that Scaler 2 was too complicated for them. After hours of watching tutorials, they were still struggling to gain any kind of mastery over the interface and its workflows.
How much do Captain Chords & Scaler 2 cost?
Compared to other chord progression software on the market, Scaler 2 offers a competitive price point that makes it accessible to a wide range of music producers. As of March 2023, the cost of Scaler 2 is $59.99.
The Captain Plugins bundle costs $99 and it includes Captain Chords with other plugins like Captain Melodies, to round out the whole music creation process.
If those two are out of your price range, AudioCipher's chord generator is $29.99. The text-to-MIDI plugin has a simple interface with 9 scales, 7 chord types, and a range of rhythm options. Like Scaler 2, the editing happens in your DAW's piano roll rather than inside the plugin.
Unlike Captain Chords and Scaler 2, AudioCipher uses a homebrewed algorithm to turn words into chord progressions. You can learn more here.
As someone with a background in music theory and composition, my personal choice would be Scaler 2. I like to use the piano roll in my DAW instead of a VST. That being said, both of the apps have their strengths and weaknesses.
To read opinions about Captain Chords vs Scaler 2 from other writers, check out these pages here, here, and here. Check out our complete list of MIDI chord generators for some more options. We've also rounded up our favorite melody generators of 2023 to go along with your new chord progression software!