Writing better melodies and harmonies (on Elektron machines)

Just purchased this. My theory knowledge is minimal to say the least. I can tell this is going to help me a lot. I’ve been wondering about finding common notes to transition to new keys. So glad I looked in on this thread. Thank you. Elektronauts is such a great forum!

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I would recommend Piano motifs ios app. Set your key,scale,tempo… and keep generating melodies until something you really like. Then study the melody,jam…I have connected Iphone to A4 or Reface CP over bluetooth midi and it works very well and is joy to jam.

Good read:

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I think music theory is very useful to construct harmonies and melodies. But always linked to your ears: it’s good to know how to build a scale or a chord if you know how it will sound. Then, when composing, there are a lot of times when you don’t have to think: if you know what sound you want, you immediately know that it is a seventh chord, or whatever.

Also, it gives you a lot of common resources, and a way to think ahead when jamming (for example, let’s start this phrase at the ninth of the chord, and end it at the first beat of the following measure on the third of the following chord).

Music theory is very useful, but use it as a frame. There is nothing build in stone. If it sounds good, it’s good, no matter what the theory says. Don’t be afraid to play out of the scale, or to try non-standard progressions. Just know that it will sound tenser/stranger/harsher…

Regarding elektron, my only complain with DN+DT is that you can’t link several patterns together to make longer melodic phrases. I would gladly lose 4 patterns in order to have a 16 bar long big pattern (yes, I know there are chains, and trigs, and microtiming, and midi loopback, and a lot of useful tricks, but it is not as easy as it should be for this particular use case).

I usually find easier to build a chord progression, and then look for melodic lines inside this progression. For the harmony part, I try different chords using a keyboard until I find something that I like. Or I use a little known app called Chordbot (https://chordbot.com/) that let’s you try chord progressions with different compings in a fast way. For the melodic part I usually jam on the base I’m making until I found something I like.

As someone said before, it hasn’t to be complex. Rhythm is crucial, and some very simple ideas give a complete different feeling only by changing rhythm. Don’t try to fill all the time with notes, make pauses, use simple lines, and use repetition (same rhythm changing some notes, or same notes changing rhythm, etc.)

Sorry for the long post, I got carried away…


joanq above said “I think music theory is very useful to construct harmonies and melodies. But always linked to your ears: it’s good to know how to build a scale or a chord if you know how it will sound,” and it’s indeed like that. I’d also add to link your ears to your hands as well. That way, when you hear anything you can play it on your instrument as well. Once you can do that, theory will just be quite simple, like an explanation of what you can already do but don’t know how to call it.

Also I think Elektron devices perhaps may not be the best tool if you want to write a better melody and harmony. I love my MS, but I’d go for a piano or guitar when I want to write a song, then come back to MS for experiment with aranging. Having said that, I think those weird paralel progression of minor chords not associated with any key that you’ve heard in many dance music is the result of transposing a sample up and down, which is quite effective. So, you never know!

i bought it and its not very good for the ipad no landscape
and only shows similar scales there are a ton of better apps out there tbh


I’d recommend a bigger keyboard if you want to play interesting harmonies. It’s hard to accomplish when you only have access to a single octave at a time.


Agree re the missing landscape for sure

I’m in no position to argue theory as I don’t know much, but - only similar scales really? Make sure to check the filters to allow all the freaky scales.

I find it throws up interesting challenges to try transitioning between very different scales via shared notes.

I does have some weird scales that relate to each other but I’m really not sure what to do with that… and it is difficult to see the notes in the chords and in the scales with the small graphics… I was hoping it would be something in can put on my iPad in front of a keyboard to read scales & chords etc …

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lots of good input here!

I wish there were more accessable tutorials. It’s always a clash of two worlds for me. I was never good at transferring knowledge (well, maybe if the teachers back then told me that with vector / matrix calculations you could create complex visual patterns I would have been super excited about learning that indepth).

What I learned in the last four month is that even with very good help from apps, plugins it’s not so easy for me. And I think I know why – this was also mentioned in an ARTE documentary about the digital generation: there are studies that show that given information over a screen is 50% less valuable than obtaining the information by a real persion / by oneself / in reality. So having a few chords automatically chosen and have everything layed out is I think way less productive than using a cheat sheet with the notes/chords and then play / combine them yourself with your fingers – “playing” is key if you want to explore music. For me nothing else works. We all know how powerful muscle memory is.


I’d say that if your goal is to develop your skills for making beautiful melodies and interesting chord progressions, next step would be to examine what beatiful/interesting means more specifically.

For instance, listen to musicians that you feel have accomplished this, and see if you can analyze what they’re doing. Or read in on new areas of theory that can help you pinpointing what you’re looking for.

I know it’s not an easy question, but it can take you further in your process.

Also, if your mode of learning is to play things to get a reliable perception of the above, then there you go. That’s probably an important piece of the puzzle to find your way.

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Yes can see how it would disappoint on that front.

Also I should have linked to the video where he introduced it. I felt I could relate to the goals and thinking there, so was feeling on board with this app from the start. Worth a look if anyone wants to check before spending on an app. (I also forgot it wasn’t free!!)

It’s more rock orientated, but I love this Rick Beato series called ‘what makes this song great’:


I always like this guy Jakes videos from signal music studio. he mainly uses guitar but it applies to all instruments most the time… great at explaining everything music theory


David Fuentes has an interesting view on melody. He says most melodies can be broken down into 24 simple melodic figures. I have used his figures to create melodic arpeggios on the digitone.


wow – super informative! Thanks a ton for the link!

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i did a similar thing as the shutdown started - i went from noisey abstract to writing cohesive melodic stuff. My writing workflow is jamming out some ideas with the Squarp Pyramid, using the bevy of midi tools (FX in their language) included. My theory chops aren’t great so these things help and I find it much faster and more flexible than the elektron boxes i have - admittedly just MnM and OT atm.
I think anything that provides access to easily scales and if you’re into Barbieri solid polymetric editing is useful - I always found it cumbersome with the OT

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I actually just posted to the DT feature request page, and this is simply a UI issue: I don’t think the piano graphic on the DT lends itself to quick note/chord ID on midi trig pages which makes it hard to write melodically over your midi track chords, especially going back to old projects.

Staring at the little +5 and -3s (if they even fit on one page) just doesn’t work well.

I have zero experience with the digitakt, but the digitone has a nice note filtering function that disables non-scale notes from the chromatic notes (and vice versa: it enables those notes that belongs to the currently chosen scale). Pretty cool unless you want to go really nuts with polymodality… :stuck_out_tongue:

Yeah, filtering out certain notes is not what I’m after, just being able to quickly ID what notes I’ve used. DN at least has all note names listed iirc.

This would let me use odder chords (I know only 4 notes on DT but you can also combine midi tracks), I feel like now I’m more inclined to use “safe” progressions because I’ll remember them better later.

Why post in here again then? This thread is about melodies and music theory etc

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