Able to roll through chords, make organic arpeggiations, and spin out hypnotic melodies, Strum looks like the most addictive Max for Live device in recent memory.
The Device is so elegantly designed, it’s actually hard to believe it didn’t come from Ableton. But the basic idea is you arpeggiate organically through a pattern rather than robotically like arpeggiators normally do. “Strum” is not a bad way to put it – but it’s technically even closer to the way pianists interpret a glissando.
If you a touch strip-equipped Maschine or Maschine+, this feature is built in – trigger NOTES plus the horizontal touch strip, which NI dubs the Smart Strip. You can strum on the touch strip directly, or hold down notes or use chords and then strum on the touch strip. You get less landing area than on the twice-as-long, slightly wider Push strip, though – and the controls lack the granularity and extra features here. You can also use Maschine / Maschine+ in MIDI mode if you have that instead of Push – set the Smart Strip to PITCH or MOD as desired.
I’m sure there are other examples using this or a mod wheel… see comment at bottom, probably even other Max for Live devices to check out, too.
This is especially ingenious on Ableton Push, hardware that seems like it was born for this very technique. You’ve got a grid which is kinda sorta expressive on Push, and very precise for finding melodies and harmonies. And you’ve got a big vertical touch strip just waiting to do something.
Evidently, it was waiting to do this, because you have easy two-handed technique using the touch strip to gliss/strum through the chords in the other hand. (That favors righties, arguably, but it works with little effort either way.)
But if you don’t have Push, this still looks terrifically useful – because a mod wheel or other controller (even an expression pedal, I imagine) would work beautifully, too.
That’s already clever, but they kept going with extra features.
For more quantization: If you want to rhythmically synchronize the output with your song, there’s a synced LFO.
For more organicism, Orbit wanders around the pitches for a fluttering sound.
They have nice videos demonstrating those two:
US$10. Wish I’d thought of this design myself.
Now, the Max for Live community is so mature at this point that it’s almost impossible to mention anything without someone saying “but have you seen…” – which is terrific! So if this spurs that reaction, give a shout in comments.
After playing this for a little bit, some thoughts:
- Turn on ‘through‘ first so you still hear notes before you strum with mod wheel / etc.
- Remember with Push (for example), you need to match the Device to what your push strip is set to – pitch bend, mod, whatever.
- For organic fluttering/bouncing with Orbit like you hear in the demo video, set a high value for Speed (the second number, a rate in Hz) and a low-ish value for amount (%).
- Don’t forget the octave values at bottom
- Adjust V. Variation for more organic qualities by adjusting the velocity
And most importantly, you’re not limited to two-handed operation! One-handed works just as well – record or play back an existing Clip, and use Strum as an effect.