19. May 2022

Big Band Voicings — 100 New Presets for the SWAM Big Band Template

Today we are happy to share with you a new performance of 100 new presets based on the SWAM Big Band template for Divisimate: The SWAM Big Band Voicings. Watch our overview video to learn what’s included in this inspiring new performance:


New Content in the SWAM Big Band Voicing Performance

While the Core Performance offered automatic drop 2 and drop 2-4 voicings and unisons, the new SWAM Big Band Voicings Performance goes further. The presets included in this performance use the Transposer plugin and the Transposer Scale Lock to generate chords from just a single melody line.

As you load the presets, you’ll find that all of them have the melody range enabled and extended across the whole playing range of the instruments. They are not designed to play chords, but just single monophonic melody lines. Divisimate will then create full chords below or above the line you play. It’s a really fun way to play since you don’t have to practice those voicings and chords on the piano. You can just play a melody line and get your full big band. And of course, it also allows you to make your ensemble play stuff you could never play live with all the different voices on the piano.

The pages of the performance are structured in the same way as the Big Band Core Performance. First, you have the full band and mixed presets. Then, you’ll find one page focused on trumpets and trombones together. Then saxophones, then trumpets alone, and finally, trombones alone. For the brass instruments, you’ll once again find different mute options mapped on the page.

The melody range is enabled in all the presets. In the yellow melody range, you can play your melody and it will automatically be harmonized. There are different kinds of voicings, instrument combinations, and mutes throughout the whole band.

In some presets, you’ll see that the low range is also enabled. This allows you to switch the root note of the scale on the fly using the root following function of the Transposer. By default, all presets are saved in the C Major scale.  By playing notes in this low range, these presets allow you to change that quickly while playing, even in the middle of a chord.

To understand what all of these presets are doing and how they relate to each other, we need to go over some essential arranging techniques. Most presets in this performance emulate an arranging technique called mechanical voicings. This technique is the bread and butter of big band writing. 

Understanding Different Types of Voicings and How to Use Them

In our previous video on the Big Band Core Performance, we discussed the practice of harmonizing a note by placing the notes of the chord immediately below the top note. In the next step, we talked about the technique of dropping down parts of that close voicing down an octave to create drop2, drop 2&4, or drop 3 voicings. 

Mechanical voicings are simply the extension of this practice in a melodic context. Let’s say we have a very simple melody. It’s all over a C6 chord and we’re in C-Major.

Now let’s arrange the remaining notes of the C6 cord underneath this first chord. And now with all voices moving in the same direction and keeping the general structure of the first chord intact, we arrange notes that fit our current scale below each and every melody note. 


That’s a very simple four-way close mechanical voicing right there.

Things then change once you do this with a different chord, have out-of-scale melody notes, or decide to make this into a drop 2 voicing. There’s a lot more you can do and a lot of interesting choices you can make as an arranger to spice this up and make it more interesting but this is the basic idea of mechanical voicings:

  1. All instruments involved in the line play the same rhythm.
  2. Every melody note gets its own chord.
  3. Most of the time, all voices are moving in the same direction.

When you listen to big band music, you’ll hear a lot of lines harmonized this way. 

These are the most essential concepts you need to know to get an idea of what Divisimate is doing in most of these presets. The majority of presets in this performance will harmonize the melodies you play like this: arranging notes of specific chords underneath your melody line and then moving them around in parallel according to the scale.

Also, they’re also not limited to simple Maj7 or 6th chords—there are also quartal voicings and chords with more complex tensions in there.

Some presets are not using the scale lock at all, but are simply always shifting the exact same chord structure with your melody. These also have a very interesting touch. This technique is called constant structure because the structure of the chord is not adapting to the scale degree at all. These presets can be recognized by the word “Constant” in their title. 

There’s another category of presets that work slightly differently from the mechanical presets: the spread voicings. Instead of arranging notes below a melody line, these presets create a chord on top of the played notes. This means that if you play the bass note, a chord will be generated on top of it. Therefore you should play them rather at the lower end of the melody range. This can be quite nice for accompanying a solo line in an arrangement.

What’s great here is that you can record all the voicings generated by Divisimate as a starting point, and then go in and move notes around to spice things up or improve the voice leading. This way you can get your ideas down quickly while still retaining control over the exact voicings and chord colors when fine-tuning the details. 

Creating good-sounding big band arrangements and jotting down ideas quickly gets a lot quicker this way. And of course, the potential for performing live with this is huge.

We hope you’ll enjoy this new set of orchestrations for the SWAM Big Band template. Make sure to watch this video for a complete overview that includes examples of all the voicings we discussed here.


New to the SWAM Big Band Template?

If you are new to the SWAM Big Band template, you can download the full template for your DAW – there is a second performance with another 100 presets included in that download.

Already know the template?

If you already use the SWAM Big Band Template, you can download just the new Performance with the presets to import in Divisimate.

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