How to Add Fun Sound and Effects Tweaks on the Keyboard

Sometimes just finding the right arp pattern, sound, and chord(s) on your keyboard is enough for a song. Mix it well, and you’ll be happy. But often arpeggiated parts get to sound a bit static and predictable when you just leave them running on their own.

But wait, there’s more! Here are a few cool tips to further enhance your arp-ing adventures:

  • Sweep the filter as the pattern plays. This move is a classic. Many musicians and producers use a sound that has a low frequency oscillator (LFO) slowly modulating the filter cutoff, so this effect happens automatically.

  • Pan the sound back and forth as the pattern plays. Arpeggiated parts sound great when they move back and forth between the speakers. Try making the panning cycle different from the pattern length so it doesn’t seem to repeat so regularly. A slow pan for a fast arp pattern sounds great, as does a faster pan on a slower part.

    Using an LFO to modulate amplifier pan position makes this task easy.

  • Put a delay effect on your sound. Timed delays work wonderfully combined with an arp pattern. Slower arp patterns with shorter note durations leave space so you can hear the delays. Don’t let the delay regenerate too many repeats because that can get in the way of your new notes. And be sure the delay is mixed back a little so it’s supporting echoes.

    Listen to The Edge, the guitarist from U2; he’s a master of this effect, even though he (not an arpeggiator) is playing the parts.

  • Let go of your notes once in a while, especially when using delays. Many arpeggiators have a latch or hold function, which keeps the notes playing even when you lift your hands off the keys. Turn that off so you can be in control of introducing rests and space into the pattern as you want.

    Going manual also lets you use delays with more repeats or longer repetition times. Feed the keyboard a chord, let a few notes arpeggiate, and then let go and just listen to the stream of echoes that follows. Repeat and enjoy.

Check out these links to hear filter sweeps, panning, and delays in action.

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