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Creating a Melody

There are many ways to put together a nice beat in AudioNodes. You can compose it by hand, generate it with MIDI processing, or conjure most of it through effect automation. You can also import existing MIDI files (even track-by-track if needed).

Either way, the basic steps will be:

  1. Creating a melody source (writing, importing, or generating it)
  2. Converting it to an audio signal (synthesis, sampled instruments, etc)
  3. Adding effects

The Piano Roll

An important key component of writing melodies in AudioNodes is the Piano Roll Node. This Node comes with a complete piano roll interface, where you can place and edit Notes.

To put together a melody, begin by creating a Piano Roll Node on the Patcher, then open its editor:

  • On a desktop PC: right click the Piano Roll Node, then choose Edit
  • On a touch device: tap the Piano Roll Node, tap the gear icon the header menu that just appeared, then tap on the box that says “no notes yet”

On a PC or notebook:

  1. While on the Patcher, right click on empty area — this opens the node browser
  2. Either start typing to search for a Node, or browse through the list of categories (tip: the Piano Roll Node is under the Melody Sources category)
  3. Click on the Node you want to create — this will create the Node on the Patcher

On touch screens:

  1. While on the Patcher, touch and hold on empty area until the circle indicator completes — this opens the node browser
  2. Browse through the list of categories to find the Node you want to create (tip: the Piano Roll Node is under the Melody Sources category)
  3. Tap on the Node you want to create — this will create the Node on the Patcher

Yep:

  • Drag-and-drop the MIDI file on the Patcher in AudioNodes, this will create a Piano Roll Node with the MIDI file loaded into it, or
  • Create a Piano Roll Node, and from its settings, hit the import from file button

On the piano roll editor:

  • Click twice into a cell to place a Note
  • Drag Notes to move them around
  • Drag the right edge of Notes to trim or extend them

Additionally, Notes have a menu where you can set their begin and end times by hand, change their pitch, change their velocity, or clone and delete them.

This menu opens by:

  • Right clicking the Note on PC, or
  • Tapping the Note on touch devices, revealing its menu in the header

Basic Synthesis

In AudioNodes, a piano roll has no “default instrument” assigned to it, so to speak. Instead, the Piano Roll Node outputs its melody. This needs to be connected to a Node that takes this melody as its input, and produces an audio signal from it. Melody ports and connections are green.

One of the most fundamental Nodes to do this is the Melody Controlled Oscillator Node. It plays each Note with a single oscillator, and comes with configurable ADSR envelopes, detuning, and multiple waveforms.

To wire up your piano roll to an oscillator:

  1. Create a Melody Controlled Oscillator Node
  2. Create a Gain Node, and turn the knob around it down, counter-clockwise — otherwise the oscillator will play at full volume, and that’s really loud
  3. Create an Audio Destination Node
  4. Connect your Piano Roll Node to your Melody Controlled Oscillator Node
  5. Connect your Melody Controlled Oscillator Node to your Gain Node
  6. Connect your Gain Node to your Audio Destination Node
  7. Play your project by hitting SPACE or hitting the play button in the header
    • Warning: the oscillator will play at full volume, and might be extremely loud if connected directly to the system audio output, unless attenuated with a Gain Node (see step 2)

To connect 2 Nodes, first click on an output of one Node (small dot on its right), then click on an input of another Node (small dot on its left).

You can also drag an output to an input on a desktop PC.

This is a rather complex subject (pun intended), but there are a few easy tricks to achieve very convincing results.

One common, easy, but powerful approach is called additive synthesis. Additive synthesis essentially means that notes are played with multiple oscillators, or otherwise multiple times (e.g. by being duplicated one octave down to give it a deeper timbre).

AudioNodes has a very powerful toolset to achieve this, some of which are:

  • Use multiple oscillator nodes with different settings, such as different ADSR timing, or a few cents of detuning — you can add the result of multiple audio outputs using an Add (Audio/Control) Node
    • Combining multiple sawtooth synthesizers, usually 3, with slight variations in detune, is a common technique called supersaw synthesis, and was first used in the Roland JP-8000 synthesizer
  • Use the Component Extension Node to quickly and easily duplicate notes in a melody with configurable pitch offsets, such as one octave up or down, without having to do it manually in the piano roll
  • Use audio effect Nodes on the output — see the linked page for available effects in AudioNodes, there are plenty

Rendering

Your final step is rendering your project, producing a final output audio file:

  1. Click on the main menu, it’s a triple dot button in the top-left corner
  2. Select Project
  3. Select Export — this will open the Export dialog
  4. Change your settings if the defaults are not what you need
  5. Hit Start on the bottom-right corner of the dialog

This will initiate the render process. Depending on what you’ve created, this process may take anywhere from a few seconds to several hours.

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