I wanted to create this thread for those of us less versed in music theory trying to navigate the ensemble machines. To start off my question is around the “exact octave intervals” that is mentioned in the back of the manual when they describe the digipro ensemble machine. I get the fist example they use: a basic C Major chord would be created with the root C, +4 on PCH2, and +7 on PCH3. However I have no clue what the “exact octave intervals” are that are mentioned next. This would be the ratios like 6/5 or 5/4 or 4/3. How are these used to make chords and when should they be used? Thanks!

These intervals are Just Intonation intervals, made from simple ratios of one note’s frequency to the other note’s frequency rather than the approximations of these simple ratios that are used in the 12-tone equal temperament tuning system that much modern western music uses.

So, for example, 3/2 is a “pure” fifth rather than the usual approximate fifth.

These Just Intonation intervals may well sound more pleasant to the attentive ear because chords will be more harmonious. Their disadvantage comes when trying to change key: the chords may well become dissonant. (Which is the problem that 12-tet solved.)

It’s well worth reading more about JI, and kudos to Elektron for including such a capability that many other manufacturers ignore.

Great explanation.

I’ve found those ratios are also nice when used alongside the standard intervals, in order to fatten up chords.

thanks peter. Do you have a practical example of how these might be used? Would you throw one at the end of a cMajor chord on PCH4 for example? Or do the all have to be used together? You are right I should do some research on these to get a better grasp of it. Any examples you could provide would be helpful though.

For sure you can try throwing in a JI interval at random in your music to see what happens, but the world of non-equal-temperament tunings is not a trick that can be flourished in a particular instance.

The difference between JI and equal temperament is a window on to the very nature of melody, harmony, and even sensation. Read up on Just Intonation to begin with. You might not be interested, but you might just be excited by what it begins to show you about the musics of the world, about physiology, and about human experience.

It’s not just a setting on a synth.

One powerful advocate of such musical enrichment is WA Mathieu. For anyone who’s jaded about musical experience or who wants to find a new path, try his “The listening book: discovering your own music”.

Very late edit to add: In fact, the WA Mathieu book that you might most immediately appreciate is “Bridge of waves”, the first half of which addresses the overtone series, the basic frequency ratios of the common intervals, and provides some insight into the nature of melody and harmony.

This can be a very deep topic as Peter mentions above but for starters I would say just try it out. The ratios are right next to the equal-temperament equivalents. So for example 3/2 should be right next to +7. Flip back and forth and see what you like better. The JI sounds a little more beautiful to me but the cost of trying both is almost zero.

I agree with Peter about kudos to Elektron. They have made it so easy to explore this interesting topic that has fascinated musicians all the way back to the ancient Greeks.

Another question regarding chords. What if I am trying to make a chord where one of the notes falls more than a full octave above the base (root) notes? For instance maybe its +14 or +17? Do I need to dedicate another track playing this note in the chord? Sorry if this is a dumb question I appreciate the help!

not necessarily. you have a two-octave range, so you can just use a lower note in the stack as the root and adjust your chord spelling from there. if -5 is the root, for example, +12 would be the equivalent of +17.

Another thing to try is leaving out your fifths (+7) and subsitute them for those higher octave notes using @dubathonic counting above - that gets you into jazzy add9, add11, 13th territory etc - great for deep and classic house styles.

Substitute +7 for 2,6,8 gives min 9, 11, 13 in the same octave, +10 gives you the required min 7th:

+3, +2, +10 min 9

+3, +6, +10. min 11

+3, +8, +10 min 13

Chord names may not be exact but they sound great. It’s worth playing with setting the scale mode to minor or major too, as sometimes you might get the odd dissonant note if left on chromatic.

I’d completely overlooked the scale feature; I usually just use chromatic mode for everything but since getting the Circuit I’ve found that it can be an interesting source of inspiration.