Hi there, this one goes for the more musically-oriented among us.

i have a sharp deadline to wrap up a project for a client which involves sound design and theme composition for a 40sec animated trailer/commercial. i was quick with the sound/sfx design part, but the theme composition got me stuck bigtime... the kind of musical style client wants is very kitsch and far out from what i know and am familiar with. i've built a rhythm that works well, but now a catchy, smart bassline/melody must kick in. whatever i try doesn't work and sounds like crap. i was thinking to try and automate this part (or at least get some inspiring ideas) using algorithmic processes, perhaps using a tool that can generate many random melodic patterns based on some given restrictions... i could then pick an interesting pattern and try to work it from there. anyone familiar with that? ... or can somebody recommend a workflow that might be useful in my situation?


  • My apologies for this not being a direct answer to your question, but can't you bring in a friend/someone you know to do this? I personally find that whenever I'm confronted with a situation like that (there's in my case, many genres I'm certainly not the right person to write music for), bringing in external (human) help is by far the most effective and rewarding solution. Commented Oct 8, 2010 at 11:51

7 Answers 7


My experiences with algorithmic composition is that they create THE OPPOSITE of kitsch, catchy and smart. (Sorry.) Your computer ain't got no soul. And it takes a lot of work for a computer to convincingly pretend it has soul.

I agree with Colin, look for MIDI files. (Logic is great for this, it comes with lots of MIDI loops that you can then alter: change notes, change voices, etc.)

Hammer out a chord progression using mainly I and V. (This was Bach's big secret.) Toss some IV in there, if you're feeling it. And then just connect the dots.

I hope that helps. Or at least garners a mild smile. Cheers.


If you are referring to generative music then this would be a great tool to get started with.


It maybe not be pure algorithmic but you can get started with generating new melody pretty quickly.

The other tip that you can try is to use an arpeggiator. Hold down a few keys and change the arpeggiator modes to create new melodies.


Hi, maybe you could be interested in this: http://recherche.ircam.fr/equipes/repmus/OpenMusic/, but I guess you need something simpler, anyway this is could be useful


There are thousands of copyright free MIDI files out there which can be used commercially. You can experiment with these and perhaps you'll find a loop in part of a song that could become the base of your melody. Using MIDI files allows you to change all of the assigned instruments to whatever you like and you can also edit and loop any parts that my work for you.


I'm a puredata fanatic so... do you know puredata? you can do everything with it and it's free but you'll need some time and practice to understand how it works. Data loves Cage can be an example of what you're looking for and it is incredibly easy to do. This is a minimum example. You can find a lot of interesting patches in the pd forum. Have fun with pd.


Have an iPod or iPhone? If you wanna go guerilla or at least want some inspiration, drop some coin on the many software versions of the Tenori-On device for iOS devices, if you have such devices, otherwise there are online grid-based music sequencers in Flash that do the same thing. They're basically like arpeggiators but are visual and super fun to play with. I have a few because sometimes they just help get me un-stuck for melody and harmony ideas. Beatwave is probably one of the better ones out there.

Or buy a Tenori-On. Or the way-cheap semi-clone you can get on ThinkGeek.

If you're feeling adventurous, you can also generate sound using cellular automata.

It's not Max/MSP, or MetaSynth, or something otherwise purely algorithmic, but they can make sweet melodies with minimal effort that can be easily recreated or sampled. FWIW!


you can find some algorithmic composition tutorials here.

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