The 10 Best Chord Generator Plugins (2022)

Chord generator plugins allow you to generate, complete, or enhance chord progressions on the go. If you feel like your music is lacking the lush chords you strive for, chord generator plugins are the solution you’re looking for. These useful effects will help you to come up with interesting chord progressions that complement your melodies, even if you don’t know much about music theory.

Below, you can find a selection of the 10 best chord generator plugins available today. Alternatively, check out our list of the best melody generator plugins.

1. Scaler 2

Scaler 2 is one of the most exciting chord generator plugins on the market because it can detect the key you're using and suggest alternative chord sets on the go.

Scaler 2 features expressions and rhythms from well-known artists (including Carl Cox and MJ Cole) and is designed to be used in real-time. It's like having a professional pianist on your side, suggesting in-key enhancements to the chords and melodies you're playing on your MIDI keyboard.

Scaler 2 is perfect for music producers who know how to play a few basic chords but are looking for a more professional approach to harmony. You can quickly turn simple triads into complex dominant 7th and extended chords and discover chord substitutions to spice up your chord progressions.

Additionally, Scaler 2 is loaded with rhythmic and arpeggio presets and can be assigned to any virtual instrument in your library for quick monitoring.

2. InstaChord 2

Chord-related MIDI effects are all about playing one key on the keyboard and generating full chords on the fly. InstaChord 2's approach to MIDI is based on this simple idea but takes it much further by allowing music producers to assign up to 24 keys to different chords.

This means that you can play up to 24 chords by pressing one single note. InstaChord 2 goes even further, allowing music producers to switch between different styles of chord-playing. I'm particularly impressed by how well InstaChord 2 deals with strumming, featuring several strum-up and strum-down presets.

InstaChord 2 is also useful for transposing entire chord progressions with a click of the mouse. For this reason, InstaChord 2 can be very useful for composers. Its main strength, however, is live performance. If you need to play complex chord progressions on stage but lack the technical ability to do so, this is the chord generator plugin you need.

3. Cthulhu

Named after the fictional cosmic entity created by H.P. Lovecraft, Cthulhu is a chord generator plugin developed by Xfer Records. Cthulhu is designed to be a chord-making swiss knife, allowing producers to do everything from memorizing chord progressions to browsing hundreds of factory presets.

One of the best things about Cthulhu is that it can be used by music producers who know nothing about music theory. Like many other chord generator plugins, Cthulhu assigns chords to individual notes. The best part is that it does so automatically. This means all you have to do is open Cthulhu in your DAW and play around with your MIDI keyboard.

Because it was made for finding new chord progressions and not exactly for enhancing existing ones, Cthulhu can be linked to any virtual instrument in your library.

A perfect tool for music producers who like to keep things simple, Cthulhu also offers a comprehensive set of advanced features, including a sequencer-style Pitch, Octave, and Velocity editor.

4. Chordz

Chordz is not the most complete chord generator plugin out there, but it's arguably the best you can get for free. Available for the price of nothing via the CodeFN42 website, Chordz is a handy VST that goes straight to the point.

Do you need to play full chords by pressing one single note on the keyboard? Chordz is here to help you. You can assign full chords to any note of your MIDI keyboard and monitor the results using your favorite virtual instruments.

Chordz is somewhat basic if compared with some of the other chord-generating beasts on the list. However, its simplicity and price make it one of the best chord generator plugins for beginners looking for an easy-to-use tool to spice their chord progressions.

5. Captain Chords

Do you know enough about harmony but struggle to draw complex chord progressions inside your DAW? Captain Chords is a chord generator plugin that's perfect for mid to high-level producers looking for an easier way to program and sequence their chord progressions.

Inside Captain Chords, you can find a familiar piano roll view and a set of buttons that allow you to draw entire chords with the click of a button. Pretty much all other features are equally easy to use. You can quickly toggle between different chord inversions, for instance, by pressing an up-or-down button that's associated with each chord on the piano roll view.

But Captain Chords shouldn't be mistaken for a utility VST. While it's mainly designed to improve the workflow of music producers, it also contains one of the most comprehensive preset libraries you'll find on the list, with more than 96.000 ready-to-use chord progressions.

6. Chordjam

Audiomodern's Chordjam is a chord generator plugin with one of the sleekest designs I have ever seen. But Chordjam is more than just a stylish VST, it combines beauty and brains to generate chords and rhythms on the go. It was described by Computer Music magazine as a "creative real-time compositional assistant."

Combining the best of two worlds, Chordjam can be used as your typical chord-related MIDI effect (triggering full chords with the press of just one key) but also as a more advanced harmonic tool with lots of extended-chords presets, numerous editable features (including Voicing and Velocity), and an impressive Sequencer.

Chordjam is also a powerful creative technology because it generates random chord sequences automatically based on what you're playing. This means that Chordjam allows you to get results that are new and unexpected without going off-key or sounding artificial.

7. Midi Madness 3

Midi Madness 3 is a MIDI generator that relies on probability to suggest interesting chord progressions to music producers in need of a creative push. Perhaps not the best chord generator plugin for musicians who like to have full control over their harmony, Midi Madness 3 is best suited for people in need of inspiration.

This powerful MIDI effect creates chord progressions, sequences, and even melodies on the fly and can be linked to your favorite virtual instruments. You can also load MIDI files into Midi Madness 3, meaning it can be used as a high-level MIDI editor.

One of the coolest things about Midi Madness 3 is that it features two playback modes for live performance - freestyle and trigger. Freestyle is great for creative tasks such as jamming with friends or writing a new track. Trigger uses incoming input from your keyboard to play in-key chord sequences.

8. Forager

Developed by Harvest Plugins, Forager is a chord generator plugin that's best suited for experienced musicians who are trying to fool their brains into creating new harmonic progressions. In simpler words, if you're addicted to that same-old chord progression, Forager is the nicotine patch you need to get rid of your bad habits.

Forager is mainly designed to allow musicians to see all the possible chord combinations that exist in a set of notes (i.e., a scale). Just insert the scale you're using and experiment with an exhaustive chord list that fits your needs. Additionally, you can play around with the Loose Matches function to explore chords that use up to 4 notes outside the scale (which is great for finding those spicy, jazzy chord progressions).

Forager also comes with a unique Grid Matrix view with a set of quick-inspiration functions, including a Randomizer and Octave/Inversion controls.

9. Chord Prism

With so many good chord generator plugins available, Chord Prism tends to be ignored. But while it's far from being one of the top heavyweights in the game, it's an underrated music-making tool that deserves to get more attention from music producers.

Chord Prism is a MIDI generator that allows you to play entire chords by pressing one single note on the keyboard. You can experiment with different chord extensions, voicings, and velocity effects. For melodies, Chord Prism features a Smart Scale function that's particularly effective if you already have a chord progression to work with.

As for Chord Prism's unique features, the highlight goes to its Multi-instrument Performance mode, which is great for live musicians who need to play arrangements of up to four instruments using just one MIDI keyboard.

10. AutoTheory

Don't get fooled by AutoTheory's old-school interface. This chord generator plugin (marketed as a harmonic generator) is one of the most interesting VSTs of its type, mainly due to its ability to process random sequences of notes.

AutoTheory works like magic for getting inspiring results out of utter chaos. All you need to do is play some notes in your DAW (and by that, I mean any notes), drag the MIDI clip into AutoTheory, and listen to the result. The VST will use the notes it was fed to create entire chord progressions and melodies that make sense.

AutoTheory's chaos approach works like wonders if you're feeling creatively blocked, but this harmonic tool is also great for automatically generating chord progressions for existing melodies. Just play the melody accompanied by a root note on the bass and AutoTheory will complement it with a nice set of suitable chords.

Verdict

There’s no shortage of high-quality chord generator plugins out there, and they all have unique features that can help music producers to get better, faster, and more creative results.

My top pick is Scaler 2, which fits everything you need in one single package and is remarkable at spicing up chord progressions in real-time. The best free option (and the only free option to make the list) is Chordz, which is somewhat limited but still way too good to cost nothing.

Relying on a great chord generator plugin, however, should be no excuse for being complacent. Chord generator plugins should help you to make better music, not decide how your music will sound for you.

If you don’t know how chords work yet, you definitely should! You can find an exhaustive selection of articles on the topic of music theory, exploring everything from modulation and overtones to modal music.

Brian Clark is a multi-instrumentalist and music producer. He is passionate about practically all areas of music and he particularly enjoys writing about the music industry.

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