5 Ways to Create Melody and Harmony with Sensory Percussion
Part of the appeal of using a drum pad or trigger is that they allow drummers to expand beyond the realm of rhythm. No longer relegated to being simply a timekeeper, drummers can now be involved in the melody and harmony of a song. You might have seen drummers assign chords to a pad, play a groove and then hit the chord on the downbeat. Or maybe they have multiple pads with a single note assigned to each pad and play a melody by hitting them in a certain order.
These setups can be fun, but with Sensory Percussion, this is just the tip of the melodic iceberg. Sensory Percussion provides plenty of more sophisticated methods of generating melody and harmony, many of them built right in to our preset kits! In this post, we're spotlighting 5 different methods, with some of our favorite examples of each.
We'll start out this list with the most straightforward technique: cycling through a chord progression. Say you want to cycle through 4 chords. To set this up, simply drop your 4 samples with one chord each into a Sensory Percussion sampler and set it to "cycle". You will then be able to play through them each time you hit the zone containing this sampler.
Lots of Sunhouse kits have chord progressions of various lengths; here's an example of Tõnu Tubli playing the kit "Magorical" from our Planetoid soundpack with the chords assigned to the floor tom and melodic plucks assigned to the rack tom rim:
As we mentioned earlier, this technique is fairly basic and can be achieved with many other conventional triggers/pads. But one method of spicing up a simple chord progression, which is unique to Sensory Percussion, is to add a velocity threshold to these chords. With a velocity threshold, the chords will only trigger if you hit the zone hard, and you can assign a different sound for when you it softly.
Here's a clip of Sunhouse artist Ela Minus playing the kit "16 Bars" from our Lunar Cities soundpack, which uses velocity-thresholded chords on the floor tom:
4 Voice Harmony
4 voice harmony is a common technique for writing music for four voices (traditionally soprano, alto, tenor, and bass). This technique allows each voice to sing a melody that moves up and down in pitch while staying in harmony with the other 3 voices.
With Sensory Percussion, this effect can be recreated using a single drum! Here's an example of Sunhouse artist Orestes Gomez playing the kit "Acedia" from our Gordian Plexus soundpack.
This kit has 4 voice harmony mapped to drum 3 (playing from center-to-edge will change the notes, full velocity hits will play the full chord, while semi-velocity hits will only play one or two voices of the chord). Drum 2 features a different melodic technique, which we will explain the next section...
Controllers Quantized to Scales
Scale quantization is an awesome feature of Sensory Percussion. When you assign a controller to the pitch parameter of a sampler, you can then use the "quantize pitch" feature to choose which intervals of the original sample you want to hear. You can choose from a long list of preset scales, or create your own custom scale.
In the video above, the rack tom has a timbre controller assigned to the scale and a velocity controller assigned to the length of the melodic sample.
Here's a visual demonstration of this concept:
The term "generative" in this context refers to a melody which is changing without input from the user. Whereas a controller is listening to how/where you play the drum, a generative melody can be completely random, or it can move according to a predetermined, independent pattern.
In Sensory Percussion, this effect can be achieved using LFO's. These can be set to move a parameter up and down at various rates, or you can select "random" to have it move completely unpredictably.
Here's a clip of Steve Lyman playing the kit "PeasantDrift" from our Major Arcana soundpack:
This kit features a cycled arpeggio on the floor tom. Two separate LFOs set to different rates control the pitches on the center and edge zones respectively, which are then blended together and quantized to the same scale, resulting in infinite melodic combinations every time you hit the drum!
The final method we'll discuss, a single-note sequenced melody, is not typical of preset Sunhouse kits, so we'll use some examples that Sensory Percussion users have created. This technique is useful if you want to cover a song that has a very specific melody that repeats multiple times. To achieve this, you simply put each note of the melody into a sampler in the correct order and set the mode to "cycle".
Here are a few of our favorite examples: