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How to create Detroit techno-style fixed interval chords

Every dance music style and subgenre has its own 'thing' – a signature element that helps to instantly define it.

In the case of Detroit techno, one of those 'things' is the fixed interval chord, which came about through a specific feature of many synths of the era. Here's how you can recreate the effect today…

For more 'genre theory', pick up the September edition of Computer Music.

Step 1: Detroit techno, a more electronic-sounding offshoot of house, often made use of the chord memory feature of certain synths, which enabled you to play a particular chord shape with a single key. This kind of fixed-interval chord progression can be emulated in Dune CM. We start by loading up an instance of the synth in our techno example project.

Step 2: What makes Dune CM particularly appropriate for this is that it includes oscillator waveforms pre-programmed at specific intervals to replicate certain chord shapes. For example, preset 057: Mellow House RL uses waveform number 60, which is programmed in the shape of a minor chord - so when you hit a C note, you get a C minor chord!

Step 3: This means that when we copy the bass track in our project and paste it onto our Dune CM track, the bass notes play an auto-generated progression of minor chords that gives us that signature techno sound, namely Cm-Gm-Fm-Gm-Abm-Bbm. This kind of progression probably isn’t one you’d be likely to come up with using a conventional sound!