Not too long ago, the creative minds behind Mixed In Key, the DJ software used for organizing your music based on key and scale, launched a new endeavor into the world of production, in what they've called Captain Plugins. The goal was to help producers of all levels create new and exciting music with ease, and in this review, we'll be taking a look all the suite has to offer.
What are they?
Captain Plugins, is a suite of various creative enhancement and creation tools, that help supercharge your music writing process, by helping you create interesting basslines, chords progressions, or melodies, from the creators of Mixed In Key. You can use all the plugins right from the get-go, or in spurts to help build off of ideas you've already started. A more in-depth description of each of the plugins is below:
Captain Chords: Think of this as the anchor for the suite. From this plugin, you are able to create varying lengths of chord progressions, as well as alter those chords via the different options in the header of the GUI. Once you've nailed the progression, you can actually link the other plugins to Chords, and have them build and play off each other.
Captain Deep: Deep is the bassline generator of the group. It acts in similar fashion to Chords, but with a focus on bass. When connected to Chords, one has the option to have a more traditional bassline or one that plays different notes in the scale to add interesting directions in your track.
Captain Melody: As the name suggests, Melody adds the cherry on top to your chord progressions, and is also best used in tandem with Chords
Captain Play: This is used to play your progressions, basslines, and melodies.
How do they work?
All of the plugins in the suite have a similar if not identical workflow, which removes any roadblocks for your creativity and lets you create better and more exciting music. As I said before, Chords is essentially the foundation for which you'll use the other plugins. When opening Chords, you are able to choose your key and scale. Once you've chosen your direction, you are then able to begin playing a variety of chords using the Play plugin. You can either use traditional triads, inversions, 4+ note chords, or a combination of all of them. Then, when you've got a decent base, you can use the tools provided to adjust the octaves, complexities, and more, of each chord in your progression. You can also create totally different progressions using the verse, chorus, and drop tabs. Really not sure where to start with your progression? Chords has a massive list of progression "presets", that are as easy to use as dragging and dropping.
When using Deep and Melody, both plugins talk directly to Chords, and build off of what you've created, removing any headaches of trying to get those perfect parts down. Granted, you can also use them as sparks to help you come up with your own ideas as well. As the Captain team says, "Experimentation is key." They also really made it a point to make using any of the plugins in your DAW of choice as seamless as possible, something that quite a few other developers of all types fall short of.
What do I think?
When I first heard about the suite, I was definitely excited. I'll admit that writing great chord progressions and melodies aren't my strongest points. Sometimes I nail it, other times I just can't things flowing no matter how hard I try. When I first gave them a go, I was lost. It's extremely important to ALWAYS read the manual of any new piece of software or hardware. The clean and simple interface was a bit misleading in that I thought I could figure it out without doing my homework. Fortunately, the step-by-step instructions are extremely easy to follow, and will have you up and running in no time. Using all of the plugins together was quite cool to see, as they really do play off of each other with ease. I didn't really give Deep as much use as Melody or Chords, as I seemed to always get ideas for basslines when a good chord progression is playing. But, I did give it a go, and it definitely helped me start thinking about different ways to approach my writing.
The Captain Plugins team have created something truly unique in the world of software plugins. Sure there are others you could use to do similar things, but having a full suite that works perfectly together is something you definitely don't see very often. The team is also working on two new plugs that they are calling Hook and Beat, which seem straightforward enough in what they will do, which I can't wait to try. Overall, I think they nailed what they were going for, and I would definitely recommend at the very least giving these plugins a try. Sure you may be the next Liberace, but one can never learn too much.