Whether you have great technique or are just getting started, arpeggiator effects are a great way to add dynamics, texture, and excitement to your keyboard sounds. In this post, we will cover what arpeggiators do and how to use them effectively in your worship keyboard approach.
What an arpeggiator does
An arpeggiator repeats the notes you play in a rhythmic sequence. For example, it could take a simple chord and turn it into a repeated pattern.
Set up an arpeggiator effect
Here are some steps to achieving an this sound in Mainstage 3.
- Set up a new patch with a synth sound. Arpeggiators tend to work best on synthesizer sounds with at least some attack (so pad sounds are not a typical choice).
- Assign a tempo in the patch’s attributes. Arpeggiators are highly rhythmic effects that much match the song’s tempo.
- Add the Arpeggiator in the MIDI FX slot of the synth’s channel strip.
- Adjust settings like rate and pattern to your taste.
- For depth, add delay and reverb effects to the same channel.
I always set up a variation of the arpeggiated sound for a softer section of the song. There are two options I use, neither of which primarily involve a direct volume adjustment.
For a lower dynamic, I lower the synth sound’s filter cutoff frequency (see the video). This cuts out the highest frequencies for a more mellow tone quality.
Along with the cutoff adjustment or instead of it, I adjust the synth’s envelope – attack, decay, and sustain. I will often lower the sustain almost completely and adjust the decay to taste.
Learning to play an arpeggiator
The real trick in using an arpeggiated sound is learning to play it in time. Any rhythmic error you make will be multiplied by the arpeggiator. Two things to keep in mind here:
- Play more economically with high focus on rhythmic accuracy. Simplifying your part will enable you to better play in time.
- When you do find you’ve played out of time, know how to reset the arpeggiator correctly. To do this, you must completely release all notes and lift the sustain pedal. If you hold a note, the arpeggiator will maintain the same time grid. Lifting all notes will allow you to restart the arpeggiator with the beat.
Arpeggiators in Lion and the Lamb
Along with the arpeggiator demonstration video, this post also accompanies a cover of “Lion and the Lamb” by Leeland. The sounds I used in that performance are from the Synth Layers for Piano collection, which you can learn more about here.
Finally, be sure to check out the Mainstage Keyboard Course to put you in full command of Mainstage!