Collecting Phrases

Phrases are the lifeblood of music, much more so than chords and sounds. Since it is impossible for Cognitone to meet everyone's demand with pre-manufactured libraries, given the vast variety of styles and individual preferences out there, collecting your own phrases is imperative if you want your music to stand out.

So, now that you became a hunter and gatherer in the realm of Music Prototyping, here are different ways to get hold of precious phrase material.


Drawing a Figure in the Phrase Editor is the most flexible way to create a phrase, although it takes some patience and practice before you get productive with this.


A simple way to get new phrase material is to edit or combine already existing ones. Altering melodies comes to mind first. You can also isolate individual lines out of a phrase to use them standing alone. Or append multiple phrases to get one with more variation.


If you are good at playing the keyboard, there is no reason not to leverage that virtue for prototyping. Nothing could be more targeted and individual than a performance you recorded yourself.

You can record a Phrase directly into an arrangement when you need it, or use the Library App to record and collect phrases in preparation for future projects. The actual recording task works the same in both cases, as explained here.

Generating With Factories
Synfire 2.0 introduced Factories that you can use to generate a huge variety of phrases for all sorts of purposes.

Agony Of Choice

Factories are probably the most inspiring and surprising way to collect phrases, even though it is often a challenge to assess whether a particular phrase will eventually be useful or not. Still, you can't possibly keep them all. You have to delete a majority of them as soon as possible, or risk getting swamped in huge phrase pools that are impossible to sift through when you need them.

Polyphonic phrases with multiple parts are easier to assess than melodies or bass lines, because the latter often make sense only in context with other instruments. Over time you will learn to recognize a good melodic phrase, even if it sounds bland or generic in isolation.

Harvesting MIDI Files
Whether you recycle your own earlier projects, or search for files on the Internet, importing and disassembling Standard MIDI Files is a very targeted way to create phrases.

Keep Phrases Short

Remember that phrases are supposed to be flexible building blocks. You want to be able to combine them in new ways in order to achieve something new. Importing entire tracks is not only tediously slow, you also end up with long phrases full of repetitive content that is too clunky to be useful in a prototyping workflow. What you need is brief and unique fragments of musical expression that are no longer than 4 to 8 bars.

When you examine a MIDI file, look for the essence of each track. Keep only the spans with unique expressions and drop all repetitions and insignificant variations.