Even the most creative forces can sometimes feel like the muse has taken an extended vacation, abandoning musicians to try and break out of melodic comfort zones or formulaic progressions on their own. A task made even more difficult if grasping music theory is still on the to-do list. The KordBot, which is in the closing stages of a successful funding campaign on Kickstarter, has been developed as both a digital music creation assistant and a music teacher, combining a MIDI chord generator, arpeggiator and step sequencer in a single unit.
"KordBot doesn't just play the chord for me, it also teaches me how to play the chord for myself," revealed UK music producer, and the brains behind the device, Brad Holland (who now lives in Florida). "So, it's a great educational tool, as well as compositional aid."
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To the left of the user interface are 32 "chord modifiers" which are used to select the most common chord shapes and inversions, though users can create and store their own chords in the device's memory. Right of this button bank is a two octave keyboard, which is used to select the chord's root note. Four rotary controllers have been included to allow for the number of notes in a chord to be expanded, potentially making for otherwise impossible chords to be generated, and players who want to strum chords can do so via the unit's force- and location-sensing ribbon controller.
Chords can also be played in a range of patterns thanks to the integrated arpeggiator, with users able to add their own arpeggio patterns and also vary note length, and the package will also include a step sequencer with up to four sequencer channels available, though this is still under development. A Song Builder function can be used to auto pre-select harmonically-related chords over 49 different scales and modes, with the KordBot suggesting workable next chords in a progression, helping users understand how music is put together.
The unit is battery-powered for portability (the developers are planning to power the KordBot with a Li-Pol battery, but if that doesn't prove possible then standard alkaline batteries will be used), but unlike the smaller Arpeggio from last year, the KordBot doesn't include its own speaker but can be used to generate thousands of chords and arpeggios on MIDI-compatible hardware or software over standard MIDI, USB or Bluetooth connections.
The KordBot can also function as a MIDI controller, where the chord modifier buttons can be used as on/off keys (to launch clips in a music production suite, for example), the chord memory pads can become drum pads and controls such as the ribbon controller can be assigned to MIDI CC.
To get the music creation tool into the hands of MIDI scientists, Holland and team have turned to Kickstarter, where all of the early bird pledge levels have been snapped up and a number of stretch goals, including the addition of an SD card slot for extra storage, have been met. Pledges as of writing start at US$249 and, if all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in September.
Have a look at the pitch video below for an idea of what's on offer.