LSDJ and You: Episode Eight – ArpArpArpArpArp
This time we’re going to take a look at a few ways to spice up arpeggios. Arps are kind of chip music’s bread-and-butter: one of those essential tools that lend the medium one of its signature sounds. Arps let you quickly convey a chord without resorting to using multiple channels, and though a basic tool, they should not be overlooked. They can be especially useful if your song has quick chord changes or uses chords more complex than simple major and minor chords (7th chords, diminished chords, etc.)
Because arps are so ubiquitous in chip, I think it’s important that we strive to make our arps more interesting and less static. By applying a few simple techniques, we can add little touches to arps to make them stand out a bit more.
One of my favorite, very simple ways to add a more interesting element to an arpeggio is to vary the pulse width with a trend toward the narrow. This gives a fast arp more of a C64-style sound and makes it stand out a bit more.
The instrument below is what I used for the arps on my song “All Outta Bubblegum”
Now, let’s set the following table for the arp:
It should sound like this:
Not bad I guess, but it could be better. Let’s vary the pulse width. Add W commands after each arp, like below:
I think that’s got a bit more character, but perhaps we can go a bit farther. Let’s add a stereo component to make it sound bigger in the mix.
Alter your arp tables to include the following O commands:
Now it should sound like this:
That by itself isn’t what I’d call an amazing improvement. Just a few blippy notes on the right at the start of each arp, really. But when you throw it in a mix with a lead that starts with a blip on the left and some left-channel echoes, you get a nice, fuller stereo sound.
I wrote a simple lead and a bassline using a basic horn lead with some left channel echoes to give you an idea.
So now we have arps with more character and a bit of stereo candy for listeners using headphones (which I kinda assume is most of them.) Play around with altering the pulse width and trying different O commands with your own arps and see what you come up with!
This isn’t the last word on arps either. I’ll talk about other ways to make them more interesting in future columns.