Review of Scaler 2 – chord detection and creative chord progression creator utility (VST/AU/AAX) by PluginBoutique

Review of Scaler 2 – chord detection and creative chord progression creator utility (VST/AU/AAX) by PluginBoutique

Introduction
PluginBoutique have released Scaler 2, a new and updated version of the hugely popular compositional software.

Scaler is an inspirational and powerful music theory workstation that gives you access to a world of new ideas, expressions and melodies. With powerful detection of MIDI and audio, Scaler can determine what key and scale you’re in and suggest chords that match your music. The plugin helps you discover the perfect melody with performance expressions, and can even suggest ways to change from one key to another.

Scaler makes finding chords and progressions intuitive and fun! It’s a comprehensive but easy to use toolbox that will help anyone make better music.

It is available in AAX, VST and AU formats as 64 bit versions from PluginBoutique’s website. It is typically priced at £49.96 with an introductory price of £39.95 until the 30th June 2020.  Upgrade and bundle deals are available.

Using Scaler
Scaler 2 allows you to discover your music’s key and explore alternative scales and chord sets or you can create your own progressions from scratch or explore over 200 chord sets by artists or genre / mood.

The GUI is clean and well laid out. The header has the Scaler logo giving access to help, registration and version number. There’s a status bar giving live access to midi and audio input and a live settings panel giving access to playback parameters of enable / disable chord performances, key locking, voice grouping and humanization (timing, velocity or both).

The instrument panel below allows you to visualize notes, chords and scales on a keyboard or a fretboard. The icons to the left allow you to switch between keyboard and guitar layout, the sound selector is located underneath these icons. The buttons below allow you to change between detection, scale and chordset.

When you select a scale or chordset the display changes to display the notes in that particular scale. For example this is an EDM chordset with the chords displayed below.

And this is the same chordset with the fretboard display:

You can hear the chords with a variety of instruments, Scaler 2 has an extended range of instruments including pianos, synths, guitars and orchestras.

The middle part of the display changes whether you are in detect mode, scale mode or chordset mode.

Scale mode lets you explore a huge range of scales. You can explore these using all notes and scales and/or specific notes and scales. There are a huge range of scales including common major, minor, harmonic major, harmonic minor, pentatonic as well as more unusual Neapolitan and Persian.

When you select a scale, the corresponding chords in that scale are displayed below.

You have access to a huge range of chord variations from standard triads to extended chords, different voicings, chord variations and a very cool modulation option that allows you to modulate to a second scale, borrow chords from a relative mode or use mediants which modulates in minor or major thirds. The chords that fit with the chosen scale are highlighted blue. This allows you to fine tune your progression by auditioning a range of chords to add colour to your sound, add variation or unexpected changes for example.

As well as chord length, chord voicing and humanise options there are also a huge range of performance options including arpeggios, strumming and expressions that are further split into a number of performances, phrases and rhythms that can be used for creating melodies and basslines for example. You can also lock keys to your chords so that you always play in key and set voice groupings to particular octaves.

You can play live and record or create your own progressions in the progression builder at the bottom of the display, this allows you to create a pattern of up to 8 chords with up to 7 patterns in total.

You simply drag and drop chords into the progression builder. There are further options available with a right click, you can edit the chord, substitute, generate parallel harmony or extract voicing. Once you’ve finished you drag and drop the progression to your DAW and a handy feature is that you can drag and drop individual chords as well.

Using chordsets is very similar, in some ways it’s a short cut to producing a progression. You can of course still change the progression to suit using all of the features outlined above and drag the progression or individual chords to your DAW.

Conclusions
I was very impressed with the original version of Scaler, it is a tool that I’ve used on a large number of my songs and Scaler 2 is a big improvement with lots of new features and functionality. It is very useful whether or not you understand music theory and can provide inspiration and help you find new ways to be creative. There is a focus on modern music styles with a number of artists and progressions that are difficult to find generally so it’s an excellent tool to help you create new styles of music that you may struggle to do on your own.

Version 2 brings a number of welcomed improvements. The increased number of instruments really helps you hear how your song will sound and there are over 200 new chord sets and hundreds of new scales. The performance mode offers over 200 styles to easily allow you to create melodies and rhythms.

The chordsets are a great starting point, they can be used as is but it’s very easy to tweak these to suit the sound you want by editing chords, using extended chords or substituting chords.

By experimenting with scales, it’s very easy to create your own progressions and songs very quickly. It’s a very inspiring plugin, you will never be stuck in a creative rut again with Scaler 2.

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