Chords Along With Percussion

Some time ago, during a practice session, I was experimenting with percussion sounds. While doing so, I noticed the chords-pad (numeric keypad), and on a whim, gave it a try while playing drum sounds.

It was an interesting effect, and easy to do, where the chords are played using a different MIDI channel than the melody (in this case, the melody being percussion sounds).

It's not something you would think about doing with other instruments – even synthesizers, but why not?

My spouse (who is a film-maker) quickly came into the room, wondering about this different sound I was making.

The explanation for the particular interest, was that in the context of movie sound-tracks, it called to mind scenes where the main character finds the courage to do the difficult task.

In talking about it, we decided that this capability of the instrument was valuable enough that all players of the instrument should be made aware of it. And so this article was born.

It's not something complicated, requiring a lot of explanation (as was the topic of composite voices), but something you can easily try.

Simply click on the “Drums” performance-pane tab, and try playing the various percussion instruments (there's a different instrument for each keyboard key).

Play with it awhile, picking out the percussion sounds you like best, and the rhythm patterns you like.

Once you've done that, simply play chords (on the numeric keypad) along with the percussion instrument sounds.

You'll find that knowing chord progressions is very helpful in this exercise.

The picture below illustrates commonly-used chord progressions, but you can use any chord progressions you like. The picture shows them in the key of C, using modal chords, but the chords-pad key positions are the same in any key-signature. The key-signature selected for the Drums pane is due to the notes used by percussion instruments of the General-MIDI standard:


Common chord progressions, shown by the arrows

When you play the chords, think of the mood you want to call to mind, especially in choosing chord attributes. Examples (over-simplified) are as follows:

Just to give you an example of what I'm talking about, I've supplied a simple (one-take) example of doing this, both as a MIDI file (that can be played using the Player/Recorder), and an audio file (to play with your favorite audio player. I recorded it using the MIDI Player/Recorder.

In playing the MIDI file, be sure to select a synthesizer for it to play-on (since with no synthesizer selected (the default) it plays only the selected performance-pane notes).

If you display the “Drums” performance-pane while playing it with the MIDI player, you will see the 'notes' (in red) for the percussion instruments used.

You can download the files by right-clicking on the links below, and choosing “Save link as” (or something similar) from the pop-up menu. You can use the “Browse” button of the MIDI Player/Recorder to go to where you saved it, and load it for playing.

Here is the link to the MIDI file:

Chords With Percussion MIDI-File

In playing it, and producing the audio file, I used the FluidR3_GM sound-font, with the “Electronic” drum-kit. Here is the link to the audio file:

Chords With Percussion Audio-File

Please don't let the example limit your creativity – I'm not particularly a percussion person, coming from a new-age & classical background. Just let it serve as an idea, from which you can go farther.

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