A Short Introduction to Grooves in

MMA - Musical MIDI Accompaniment

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Introduction to MMA

MMA Grooves

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In this article we introduced a few of the concepts of MMA. Hopefully you have installed the program on your computer and have had a chance to read the manual which accompanies the package.

The MMA documentation includes a short tutorial which includes a section, written by a keen user and musician, which shows a different perspective on creating a library file.

MMA comes with an extensive library of common rhythms, but such things are never complete. Recently, on the Kara-Moon MMA forum there was a request for a 7/8 rhythm. I didn't help the poster much at the time, and he did respond that he'd figured out one for himself. Still, it makes a good subject for a little article.

Before we start to create a MMA library file, we should think a bit about what a 7/8 rhythm is. Yes, most of you understand that there are 7 beats or divisions in a bar and a single eight note gets a beat. But, simply banging a snare drum or a strumming a guitar seven times in each bar gets pretty boring.

7/8 time is actually a compound time. It can be sub-divided into 2 and 3 beat chunks. There are three possible combinations: 3+2+2, 2+3+2 and 2+2+3. The style of music will dictate the form. Oh, and yes, there are dances which use 7/8, mostly Middle Eastern, Indian and Balkan. I'll let you do your own research and invite you to upload a video of you doing one of the dances to “youtube.”

For this article we are going to use the 3+2+2 pattern. No particular reason, just my choice.

I started out by creating two files. The library or pattern file is called “78-322.mma”. A second file “hindi.mma” is used as a test file. Oh, and a disclaimer: I know next-to-nothing about mid-eastern music styles; please treat the following as a very bad example which needs work!

First let's have a look at the library file. We start off with some pretty standard header lines:

// 78-322  Mid-east dance beat
Doc  A 7/8 dance beat in the form 3-2-2
Author Bob van der Poel
Time 7
Timesig 7 8 

The important line is “Time 7” which sets 7 beats to a bar. For the most part the other lines duplicate the defaults and could be deleted. Don't do that!

If you examine the files supplied with the MMA distribution you'll see that most rely on some “standard” include files. I don't plan to do a lot of work in 7/8 so I'm not going to bother creating custom patterns. Instead I just define all the patterns in the MMA file.

We don't need to create defined patterns at all, but having them for drum tones makes creating sequences a bit simpler.

// We don't have any handy include files for this, so we create
// our patterns here.
// First, drums. We use somewhat symbolic names for the beats.
//    Eg. 12346  would give hits on 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6
//        146                       1, 4 and 6
Begin Drum Define
    D14     1 0 90;  4 0 90
    D23     2 0 90;  3 0 90
    D6      6 0 90
    D1234   D14; D23
    D12346  D1234; D6
    D236    D23; D6
    D57     5 0 90;  7 0 90

At this point we have a number of drum patterns. Take a look at the defines. For “D1234” we could have set each hit as a separate item, but, instead, we took 2 existing patterns and combined them.

Also, notice that we are using a volume (more correctly velocity) of 90 for all the beats. I've found it much easier to use a moderate, consistent volume for drums and, if necessary, modify it in the sequence definitions.

Now we're ready to create a groove.

We start by creating two drum tracks. The first one had a low tone on beats 1 and 4; the second a higher tone on 2, 3 and 6.

Begin Drum-Low
   Tone LowBongo
   Volume m
   Sequence D14
Begin Drum-Hi
   Tone HighTom1
   Volume mp
   Sequence D236

You might notice that we've used a different volume for the Drum-Low and Drum-Hi tracks.

Next we need a chording instrument. To get that Eastern feel I've used a Sitar.

Begin Chord
  Voice Sitar
  Sequence  { 1 4 90; 4 16 90; 6 16 90 }
  Volume mp
  Articulate 80
  Octave 4
  Voicing Mode=Optimal
  Strum 20

A few points. The Sequence is defined in-line; no existing defines are used. The {}s indicate the pattern. You might remember from reading that manual that you can have a different pattern for each bar in a sequence, but our sequence size is only 1 bar long, so life is simpler.

The “strum 20” attempts to add some variety to the strumming. It might be a tad too cheesy.

The Voicing option might be totally wrong for this kind of music.

Next we set an acoustic bass to play on beats 1, 4 and 6.

Begin Bass
  Voice AcousticBass
  Sequence { 1 8 1 90; 4 8 3 80; 6 8 3 90 }
  Octave 3
  Articulate 60

On beat 1 we play the root and the third on beats 4 and 6.

DefGroove Main  A simple 7/8 3+2+2 pattern

The “DefGroove” command takes everything we've done so far and puts it in a “container” with the label “Main”. Note, also, that we've added a documentation string to the end of the line.

I used the overly creative name “Main” for this pattern. I have no intention of including this file into the standard MMA library so I don't need to worry about groove names conflicting.

We could stop here, but that would be way too simple.

Having the same pattern drone on and on does get on ones nerves, so how about a nice fill groove? The first command here is to call up the groove we just defined. Since nothing has changed we could leave the command out, but it is recommended that you don't do that. This way you can move patterns around and not worry about undefined things.

Groove Main   // use the main groove
Begin Drum-Fill
  Tone JingleBell
  Volume p
  Sequence { 1 0 90 }
DefGroove Fill   Adds a bell to the first beat.

All we do is play a bell on beat 1 of each bar. Makes a big difference.

What's it sound like? Not that great, but it does work. Here's our “hindi.mma” file:

// A somewhat eastern sounding song in 7/8
use 78-322
Tempo 90
Groove Main
1  C
2 Dm
3  C
Groove Fill
4  G

Notice that we're importing the “78-322.mma” file. It will not be in the standard library so we need to do it this way.

If this were a real song you would also insert commands for the key signature and some comments at the top of the file. For the example we just need the tempo.

Really, all we need to do is to set the groove and play some chords. Three bars should be enough to get the feel. Then we switch to the alternate groove and finish off.

If you place the 2 files in the same directory the command “mma hindi” should work just fine and produce the file “hindi.mid”.

Your challenge is to create a better version of this groove and a danceable song. Share with others via the forum.

Not got your copy of MMA yet? Grab it from http://www.mellowood.ca/mma. It's free and fun ... what a deal.

The entire contents of this article as well as "MMA" and
"Musical MIDI Accompaniment" are (C) Copyright Bob van der Poel.
All rights reserved.

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This page "mma-groove.html" was last modified on Thu May 12 18:42:43 2016