How To Create Chord Progressions & Basslines Using Free Software – Bandlab Tutorial #4

In this video you’ll learn how to
sequence chord progressions and bass lines using a free digital audio
workstation that works on Windows Mac and Chromebook. Hey everybody this is
Eric Jao welcome the Mix Major Teacher TV and if you’re a music educator and
you’re excited about learning music technology so that you can empower
children with musical creativity, make sure you subscribe and ring the
notification bell because I put out new videos on this channel every two weeks.
And of course if you get value out of this video make sure to give it a thumbs
up and share it with your colleagues. To complete this tutorial all you’ll need
is a computer with some headphones or speakers an internet connection and an
email address to create your Bandlab account. You’ll also need a MIDI keyboard
to get the most out of this tutorial. If you haven’t already create your Bandlab
account at, plug in your MIDI keyboard and you’ll be ready
to start. I’ll start this off with a lesson on concepts then I’ll move to a
step by step tutorial so if you’re ready to go let’s start. This is the fourth
tutorial in this series using Bandlab which is a free web-based digital audio
workstation software similar to apps like GarageBand FL Studio and Ableton
Live if you haven’t already I suggest watching the three previous tutorials to
get the most out of this one the links are in the description of this video the
first set of videos showed you what a finished song is made up of I like to
call these the components and how they can be arranged to create a composition
that controls energy mood and flow after learning these components it was time to
start creating each component starting with the drums or beats which you
learned how to create in the last video today we’ll move on to the second and
third components chords and bass if you remember drums are the foundation for a
songs energy when you add drums it instantly increases the energy and when
you remove them it instantly decreases the energy the chord progression is the
foundation for a songs emotion and mood it’s based on the songs key which will
be either major or minor songs written in major tend to sound more happy and
bright while songs written in minor a little more edge to them songs and
minor-key don’t necessarily sound sad or dark in fact depending on the chord
progression choice of instruments and arrangement songs in a minor key can
still sound uplifting the important thing to remember is songs in major keys
will in general sound happier and brighter than songs written in minor the
idea of tying emotion to chords can be a fun way to engage students while helping
them develop skills in active listening you can play chords for them and have
them guess whether they’re major or minor usually once they hear a few major
and minor chords back-to-back they can more easily tell which is which
because emotion is such a huge part of the song this is a perfect component to
focus on next after writing chords it’s also a good idea to create the bass
component of your song this is because bass notes are directly related to the
chords usually being the root note of each chord base is also similar to drums
in that it carries a lot of the songs energy while the drums carry the most in
general the bass carries the next highest amount of energy in a song to
create chord progressions and bass lines you can either record live performances
using physical instruments for example on a guitar piano or bass guitar or you
can sequence MIDI notes that trigger virtual instruments like a synthesizer
which generates sound or a sampler which plays back small pieces of sound in
future tutorials will cover recording but for this tutorial will focus on
virtual instruments and sequencing MIDI there are two ways to create chord
progressions in a digital audio workstation using MIDI you can record
MIDI notes in real time using a physical controller like this MIDI keyboard or
even your computer keyboard and you can draw the MIDI notes into the sequencer
using step sequencing for this tutorial will focus on recording in real time
first let’s go to click on your account icon and click on
personal projects and then click on the mix editor to get into band lab click on
instruments and you’ll notice the grand piano instrument is the default
instrument and it’s in the piano category and you’ll also see the MIDI
devices listed here make sure if you have more than one device connected that
this is the one that’s selected now you can test out
your sound if you don’t have a MIDI keyboard you
can use your computer keyboard to play the notes as well if you first click on
the instrument here and you play the letters that correspond to the notes
here and you notice that the letters on the keyboard correspond to the
positioning of the white and black keys in the piano you can change the category
of instruments in the top menu here and you can change the preset for the
corresponding category down here you can even preview each one of these by
clicking on the play button I’m gonna click on this one and you notice how
that’s really loud I haven’t figured out yet how to turn this preview volume down
but I’ll contact band lab and see if they have any answers for me but for now
just be aware that it’s gonna come in a little bit hot there’s a range of
instruments here and I’m actually very impressed by the way band labs
instruments sound these all appear to be samplers including the synth section
here meaning what you’re hearing is not sound generated by this instrument but
rather a sound recorded note for note on an actual synthesizer and laid out in
this sampler to emulate the sound of that synthesizer even the acoustic
instruments sound good so let’s go over here to guitars and I’ll select acoustic
guitar and you can see how it sounds so before we start to record our chord
progression let’s go ahead and save this project so we don’t lose our work so we
can click up here double click and I’m gonna call this chords and vase now
let’s create a chord progression using the grand piano first I’ll turn the
metronome on by clicking up here and I can also toggle that on and off with
keyboard shortcut M I’ll place the playhead at the beginning of my project
and you’ll notice that it is snapping to the grid if it’s not then make sure that
this over here is highlighted and you can also use the G key to turn this one
here on and off make sure that’s on I’m gonna click the record button and I’ll
hear one bar lead-in then I’ll record a four bar chord progression and I’ll do
this in a minor after recording I’m gonna go ahead and
go to the MIDI editor so I can correct the timing of the notes I’m gonna select
all of these and I’m gonna quantize them one way to select all of them is to draw
a rectangle and select all of them or you can click somewhere off the grid
type command a now they’re all highlighted I’m gonna click on quantize
now what I’m gonna do is I’m going to resize these notes so that the chords
last one bar each so that’s gonna extend from here all the way to the end there’s
a couple ways to do this one way is to select each of these and then drag the
end and all the way to the end of the bar that’s one way to do it some of
these are uneven on if you can see that right there so another way you can do it
is you can select one and I’m gonna turn this monitor button off by the way
because this gets a little annoying when that keeps playing every time I click it
I’m going to do this I’m gonna hit the legato button after I’ve selected a note
and it’s gonna go to the end of the bar why am i doing these one note at a time
as opposed to more than one because this is what happens when I do more than one
not sure if that is a glitch but I’ll ask the Bandlab folks but for now I’m
gonna do this one note at a time now I’m gonna make sure that this loop is
exactly four bars long by clicking on the clip clicking on the handle bar
dragging to the right a little bit and then letting it snap back to bar number
five now it’s exactly a four bar chord progression and this is going to be the
main chord progression used in this song that I’m creating for this tutorial you
might be wondering how do I teach a student with little or no knowledge of
music theory how to create their own chord progression in my experience the
easiest way to do this is first ask your students how do they want their song to
feel happy and bright or not happy and bright if they say happy and bright then
tell them they’ll write in C major if they say not happy and bright tell them
they’ll write in a minor you may already know that C major and a minor have a
relative relationship C major is the relative major of a minor and a minor is
the relative minor of C major both of their scales contain the exact same
notes and in this case it’s all the white ones on the keyboard by focusing
only on the white notes writing chords or melodies will be much easier for
students especially those with little or no knowledge of music theory have the
students start by positioning their hands to play a triad and in this
case in a minor they’ll find the root note at a and then I simply tell them to
skip every other white key hold that hand position and experiment by playing
different chords going up and down to the scale I also tell them whether in a
minor or in C major just stay away from B diminished students tend to have a lot
of fun with this part because they’re not only creating their own chords but
they are doing it without any assistance from the technology it’s a fun way for
them to be creative while also learning valuable music theory concepts if you
have any techniques that you’d like to share feel free to comment below I’d
love to hear if you have any useful tips now let’s get back to this chord
progression and let’s try this out with different instruments first let’s turn
the cycle button on and replace the instrument while the pattern plays now I’ve noticed a limitation here there
are times where when you replace the instrument you may have to wait till the
beginning of the cycle or wait for the beginning of the next bar in this case
it waited till the beginning of the cycle to listen more quickly just start
and stop the sequencer with a space key like this a useful technique in music production
is to layer different instruments using the same chord progression pattern I’ll
show you how to do this now first let’s change the original instrument back to
grand piano and let’s rename this track piano so we can keep track of everything
I’m going to double click on instrument up here and type piano and enter now
let’s duplicate this MIDI track I’m going to right click it and duplicate it
now we have two pianos playing the exact same chords now watch what happens when
we start changing the instrument on the second track I’m going to search for a
sound that’s different than the piano so that when both play at the same time
it’s easy to hear both instruments I’ll select this choir synth inside the
voices category now let’s take a listen here how that completely transforms the
feel of the cords let’s keep this going I’m going to go ahead and duplicate this
track and I’m going to search for another sound I want to complement the
sound of the choir with some strings so I’ll select these strings orchestra
inside the strings category now let’s take a listen again now we have a much fuller sound now to
keep track of everything I’m gonna go ahead and rename these once again this
is gonna be choir and this one is going to be strings this sounds great but it’s
definitely missing something the low end so let’s add some bass to this I’m gonna
duplicate this strings track and I’m gonna double click this clip right here
and it’s gonna take me to the MIDI editor and what I’m going to do is I’m
going to select all these notes here except for the bottom notes just like
this and I’m gonna delete them then I’m gonna change the instrument I’m gonna
click on instrument here and I’m going to select a bass sound I’ll go to the
bass category and I’ll select the double bass section if I take a listen to this
this is probably going to be too high I’m gonna probably have to transpose
these down so let’s take a listen I’m gonna solo it by clicking on this
headphone thing here definitely too high so I’m gonna go ahead and transpose this
down I’m gonna select all these and then hit negative 12 to go one octave down
which is 12 semitones that sounds better now all together it
sounds like this now it’s sounding really good let’s go
ahead and rename this bass and if we want to make this chord progression and
bass line sound really full let’s add one more bass and this is going to be
the sub base this is the base that takes up the lower end of the audio frequency
spectrum I’m gonna duplicate the bass track and I’m gonna select a different
instrument and I’m gonna select in the synth bass the sine bass I’ll go ahead
and rename this sub bass in electronic music production it’s pretty common to
use two bass instruments and in this case the first instrument would be the
bass that the listener can hear and the sub bass represents the low end
frequencies that the listener can really feel now if we take a listen we’ll have
a very full sounding chord progression and bass line and what I’ll do first is
I’ll play the chord progression without the sub bass and then I’ll bring the sub
bass in so you can hear the difference and with it now I’ll go ahead and create a simple
beat this is sounding pretty cinematic so I’m gonna go ahead and create a new
track select an instrument and I’m going to go to the drum kits and I’m gonna
select cinematic I’ll go ahead and make sure that the metronome is on and then
I’m going to create two drum loops the first drum loop is going to be one with
lower energy and the second one is going to be the main drum loop with higher
energy that’s the lower-energy drumloop so i’m
going to double-click the clip and quantize the notes by selecting all of
them and clicking on quantize now I can take a listen now go ahead and move this loop over
here out of the way and I’ll go ahead and create another one with higher
energy and once again I’ll go ahead and
quantize these notes by selecting all of them and clicking on quantize now let’s
listen and I’ll go ahead and rename this drums
so now we have the three components we need chords bass and drums we can now
arrange the elements to control energy mood and flow watch me work now and
fast-forward as I create a composition where the energy starts low increases
decreases in the middle then comes back strongest at the end with all the tracks
playing at the same time for this tutorial I’m limiting my composition to
32 bars I suggest you do this with your students as well until they become more
comfortable using the dog now that I’m done you could see I went a little bit
beyond the 32 bar mark this is just because I want to hear the song resolve
to the one chord of the progression let’s go ahead and take a listen to this
from beginning to end and you can see how the energy begins low builds up
breaks down builds up once again and comes in strong at the end now I’m gonna make sure I saved my work
one more time and the final step is to export this track the way I do that as I
click on the bottom here and we go to download mix down as it’s gonna download
the entire mix and then I’ll go ahead and just select 320k mp3 now I have an
audio file of my song which I can listen to and share that’s it for this tutorial
thank you for watching and if you got some value out of it please make sure to
give the video a thumbs up and share it with your colleagues and please let me
know in the comments what you thought of this video what you thought of these
techniques and is this an approach you can see yourself using with your
students and of course if you want to continue the conversation make sure to
join me and the rest of the music technology community over at the mixed
major teacher connect a Facebook group this is a great community for music
teachers and music technology educators to collaborate and learn from one
another and if you want to reach me you can also connect with me on socials my
name is Eric Jao this is Mix Major Teacher TV and I’ll see you next time

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