Review: Mixed In Key Captain Chords

Need help making chords or getting compositional ideas? Sara Simms checks out Mixed In Key's Captain Chords plugin, which aims to let you do just that.  

Captain Chords is the first in the series of the new Captain Plugins from Mixed In Key. The Captain Chord plugin allows producers to easily write chord progressions in a DAW. This plugin is a real time saver for producers, as a variety of chord progressions, rhythms and sounds can be quickly created. I was eager to find out if Captain Chords would be able to help me write better chords and gave it a test run in a session to explore this plugin's promising potential.

Overview 

Captain Chords is a VST and Audio Unit plugin that works with all major DAWs. The plugins are currently available for MacOS; a Windows version will be released in the near future. Upon launching the plugin, Captain Chords prompts you to select the key to write in. Once selected, the main panel of the plugin opens and features a large area where chord progressions can be created and customized. The left hand side of the plugin features panels where the key, scale, chord progressions, rhythms, note length and sound presets can be selected. Captain Chords allows users to build chord progressions, and the resulting clip can be dragged into a DAW. It's a simple tool that makes chord progression creation easier, even for those who don't have a vast knowledge of music theory.  

Chords

To create a new progression in Captain Chords, simply select the key of the song and either a major or minor scale. You can create chord progressions on your own by clicking in the main grid area and adding in chords, or selecting one of the many chord progressions available in the chords panel. Simply select the chord progression that sounds good, and build the song from there.

Chords in the main grid can be easily swapped, or selected and modified to an suspended or extended chord. For example, the i chord (A min) can be changed to a iSUS2, iSUS4, i6, i7 or an I chord. This feature makes advanced harmonic variations on chords accessible for novice producers, and simplifies the process of trying out chord variations. Captain Chords uses correct voice leading for chords, and minimizes the leaps in notes between chords. For those who want to go one step further, the plugin allows chords to be inverted, played in different octaves, or for the addition of a 6th, 7th, 9th, 11th or 13th to the chord.  

There's multiple tabs inside the plugin that allow for chord creation of the verse, pre-chorus, chorus and drop. I like these sections, as they allow different parts of the song to be written and kept organized.  

Rhythms

Captain Chords offers a wealth of rhythms for chord progressions. Options include playing the chords on the offbeat, on the chord change, on every beat and on every measure. The length of the notes can be changed to add further rhythmic changes. The built-in rhythms are great starting places for writing, especially for those who don't specialize in playing keys. 

Sounds

Captain Chords includes a wide range of presets, from plucks and keys to leads, pads, strings and voice. The sounds are well designed, and there's more than enough presets to get producers inspired to write. For further customization, different types of Reverb and Delay can be added to each sound and there's also a Filter available.  

Clip Jam Mode 

One of my favourite features on Captain Chords is the “Clip Jam” mode, which turns the computer's keyboard into a jam space. This is a cool feature for those who prefer to use their hands to write music, rather than select chord progressions with a mouse. The row A-J on the keyboard plays the triad chords and 'borrowed' chords, 7th chords, 9th chords, SUS2 Chords, and SUS4 chords are available to jam with.

Routing

For further flexibility, Captain Chords' MIDI output can be routed to a VST instrument like Nexus, Sylenth, Serum, or Kontakt. The notes themselves will be playing inside Captain Chords, but the sound will be generated from the VST. Captain Chords' output can also be routed into analog gear. Both of these features are amazing, as they allow producers to focus on sound design in their software or hardware instrument of choice while still having the flexibility and ease of use Captain Chords offers. 

Wrap Up 

I was amazed with how easily Captain Chords allowed me to write new chord progressions and the degree of control it gave me over the chords themselves, the progression as a whole, the rhythms and sounds. Its simple enough for producers with no music theory knowledge to write advanced progressions yet intelligent enough for experienced musicians to write elegant progressions. I would recommend Captain Chords to those who want to to simplify the chord creation process and generate new song ideas quickly.   

Pros: Easily customize and create chord changes. Apply rhythms to chord progressions. Over a hundred preset sounds. Can be routed to a VST or hardware synth. Comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.

Cons: Although it's easy to use, new users may be intimidated by the names and types of chords available. It looks like you need to know a lot of music theory to successfully use the plugin, even though you don't necessarily need to.

Price: $79. Includes Captain Chords, Captain Melody, and Captain Deep / $99. Captain Plugins (including Captain Chords, Captain Melody and Captain Deep) + Odesi Software. 

Web: https://mixedinkey.com/captain-plugins/captain-chords

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Sara Simms captivates the world as an innovative musician, DJ, turntablist and electronic music producer. She's a multi-instrumentalist who's known for her love of music technology. Sara makes her mark in the music community by crafting diverse sets with styles ranging from pulsating techno to house. She balances technical skills wi... Read More

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