Thoughts on Instacomposer 2?

WAProd has released a new version of Instacomposer (as a paid upgrade):

If you don’t know what it is, it’s one of those plugins which will generate (simple) chord progressions and MIDI tracks based on those chords. (Similar products include Captain Plugins and Orb Plugins.) While it’s a different from Scaler, there are some parallels.

Unsurprisingly, WAProd uses “AI" as part of its marketing. Not sure how much the algorithms have changed. Don’t think it uses anything very sophisticated. Which, to me, isn’t an issue. I’ve had better results with simple algorithms for semi-generative sequences than sophisticated ones (which can legitimately enter into the AI domain).

I happen to enjoy the original product, in part because it’s possible to tweak things so that it can get “spicier” or tamer (including the chord progression). The results tend to be better than average among these tools. It’s reasonably easy to get lines which sound musical, after a few attempts.

Among the new features, they’ve partially addressed one of the limitations I had with the plugin: scales. They only supported major/minor/harmonic minor. There are now 25 scales.

Still somewhat limited. Wish such plugins allowed us to build arbitrary scales. (Better yet, they could support Pitch Class Sets.)

Otherwise, generated tracks don’t sound much better than the original version.

There’s a number of things I wish it added. And there might be features which could inspire the Scaler Team?


I have Insta v1, and wasn’t aware of an upgrade until saw your post.

When I started looking for a simple composition aid, I splashed out for a number of these things (Insta / Captain and things like Chord Potion and Phrasebox) but I hardly ever use them and fire up Scaler 95% of the time.

A quick look at the WA web site would indicate the headline changes seems to be the one you mention viz more scales plus basic sound generation.

All it says about new composition tools is that “two more 'generation modes” have been added, which doesn’t seem to promise much.

So where does the ‘AI’ come in ? There is no indication of any significant internal engine change from V1. I would guess this is just a marketing thing. Everything now has to be ‘AI’, and a great many products are simply adding badge with no real change. I’m waiting to see the wrapper on my next loaf declaring that it has been ‘baked by AI’.

AI has been through several cycles over the last 90 years. In 1943, scientists Turing, Von Neuman and Wiener were all talking about the artificial intelligence capabilities of a very early computer, EDVAC - a couple of million times less powerful than my smart phone.

To date, it’s all been largely marketing hype IMHO, triggered off by Large Language Models like ChatGPT. But if you ask ChatGPT if it has any intelligence, it replies that it does not.

So I’m going to pass at this stage, because Scaler suits me fine, but I’d be interested in any report back from you if you get it as to whether after further use it shows any capabilities other than those shown by 40 years of generative music, from KOAN, Jammer, and Band in a Box, through to Captain and todays gizmos.


I did get it. Though I need to be thrifty, 10USD remains reasonable enough. (For some years, I’ve been doing informal field research which relates to such tools. In other words, I have an excuse.)

Long story short: it’s an improved product which isn’t that different from everything else which came before.
Still, there are things I like about it. In a sense, it can work fairly well as an “inspiration machine”, especially if you cherrypick the patterns you like.
Not that it learns from that, of course. That’d be an interesting use of Machine Learning and probably wouldn’t require heavy processing. However, that’s not something current tools do (even those created by AI-focused outfits).

(Since you talk about history of AI… As an anthropologist, I keep going back to the Macy Conferences. Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson were involved. They shared useful insight in an interview with Stewart Brand, back in 1976 (PDF).)

At any rate, going back to Instacomposer 2…
They’ve added other features apart from new scales and those generation modes. (To be clear, there’s no sound generation.)
Several of these improvements are “quality of life”.
An important addition is that we now get scenes. Sure, we typically use scenes in the DAW itself. In this case, though, it’s a way to create variations over the patterns created.
There are also new ways to generate variations of the same melody and to randomize velocities. Generating variations is part of how these tools lead to inspiration.
The tracks for chords and pads (including the new “Pad 2”) now support inversions and wide voicings (which I tend to enjoy).
There’s now a setting for sustain, which I find useful.

Among the many features I wish these tools had: continuous variation. “Morphing”, if you will. Bram Bos had that in his Troublemaker plugin for iOS/iPadOS and added similar features in other plugins. I find it very useful to have some lines constantly changing while I’m working on another track (say, improvising using a windcontroller).
A different feature which is also useful is how Riffer works, re-generating after a number of repeats.

Something which I wish we had in Scaler is deep support for rule-based voicings (contrary motion, avoiding parallel fifths, etc.). Basically, an automatic version of the harmonization exercises I had to do in music school.
Better yet would be a full engine for species counterpoint. Have yet to find one, though, close to 30 years ago, I was given a DOS program which allegedly did it.

Speaking of the history of generative music software… I’m still puzzled by Wotja. I realize it could be a powerful tool yet it sounds quite idiosyncratic and I’m confused by the changes in the different versions, with most features being paid.

So I keep thinking about using different tools together. On iPadOS, I like to play with different AU MIDI plugins that I can easily route to one another. Some of them don’t have direct desktop equivalents (say, Pagefall’s Autony and Cality). Some of my favourites do work on macOS (for instance, Progressions, which is a really neat way to constantly generating chord progressions). What I’d like, though, is to send chord information from a plugin/module to generate melodic lines in another plugin/module (which would act like a glorified arpeggiator).

At any rate… My thoughts on the whole scene of MIDI plugins is that we’re not where we could be.


“I keep going back to the Macy Conferences”
I downloaded that, had a quick look, and will read through. By coincidence, I have been reading a biography of John von Neuman, and both Bigelow and Norbert Wiener mentioned therein worked with Neuman on the various developments surrounding ENIAC, EDVAC and IAS.

“no sound generation”
I misread that in the web site blurb.

" I’m still puzzled by Wotja."
I think this is Mac only ? Year ago I was an early user of Koan , which was perhaps similar. Koan (program) - Wikipedia

On topic though, I think you are right that there are many ways in which Scaler could add function (and maybe be split into standard and advanced versions ??)

I think scaler is well structured internally … it thinks in terms of modes and relative notes, so it may be the addition of counterpoint type sequences my be possible at some time. I stared looking this briefly (trying to modify the MIDI out from Scaler), but gave up after a wasted couple of weeks.

I did come across the following under the AI head. …

“What I’d like, though, is to send chord information from a plugin/module to generate melodic lines in another plugin/module (which would act like a glorified arpeggiator).”

I serially link up scaler → Blue arp → Scaler and Scaler → Phrasebox or Choord Potion … sometimes they throw up a nice phrase here and there.

I do quite a similar chains. OK. I don’t have Blue Arp, but the other plugins (Scaler,Phrasebox, ChordPotion) are there. I certainly adore Phrasebox because I can fully control it and ChordPotions generates very interesting phrases without my control, so…

1 Like

I just updated InstaComposer to v.2 and I like it. Combined with Scaler, this is very powerful tool.
When I say, “combined”, it doesn’t mean I can export Scaler’s scales or take the chords directly from Scaler to InstaComposer 2, but I do as Joshua Casper did in his YT video : generate a chordset in Scaler and set the chords in IC2 to the same chords, then play with it. Very powerful combination. Absolutely worth 10$ :slight_smile:

Pretty powerful after some playing. 32 bars times 8 scenes (256 bars). More than enough to compose (or generate) a complete song. I started by creating the first scene from Scaler, then automatically generated a few more scenes. Quite interesting.


Right back at you! :wink:

Well, entering the chords manually is a workaround. Wish we could route things together (sounds like Instacomposer doesn’t accept MIDI input, unlike arpeggiators like Phrasebox). Or, better yet, if we had standard support for chord tracks across DAWs. Could you imagine if there were a way to synchronize all sorts of MIDI plugins with a chord track, the way we can synchronize beats with Ableton Link (or tunings using MTS-ESP)?

Still, it can be fun to create chord progressions elsewhere and reproduce them in Instacomposer to get some interesting patterns.

As for ChordPotion, hadn’t considered it seriously, yet. Maybe I should put it in my wishlist.

1 Like

I’ve tried both InstaComposer and Chorpotion and of the two I prefer Chorpotion because I can route the output from Scaler to a track with Chorpotion on it and then generate melodies, and baselines (I need two instances of Chordpotion to do this, but not a problem).

With InstaComposer I have to enter the chord sequence manually to generate the melody, bass, etc. Both products have scenes (called pages in Chorpotion) but there are 12 in Chordpotion. But, as I say above I need a separate instance of Chordpotion for each part of the arrangement.

Generating the variations for each page is a little more of a hassle in Chordpotion as I have to copy the pages across before generating the variation, but…

Also in Chorpotion I can define the basic melody and then generate variation, whilst in InstaComposer I am reliant on the inbuilt algorithms to generate output.

Finally I think that InstaComposer is aimed more at EDM.

So for a “quick and dirty” approach (or possibly to suggest an idea) I would still consider InstaComposer 2 but for more control I would consider Chordpotion.

In conclusion IMHO the tools are slightly different and it is “horses for courses”.


Thanks for sharing.
Sounds to me like there’s room for even more horses. :horse:

Especially when we think across genres. (As a warning/disclaimer: I was trained in ethnomusicology and folklore. Genres are really important in both fields.)

What you say about IC2’s EDM focus is probably accurate. Though there’s no genre mentioned in the plugin, W.A. Production is heavily invested in EDM through their branding and products. Videos and demos done with their tools gravitate towards EDM (including Casper’s “Lo-Fi” stuff: not saying it’s pure EDM, just that the approach is EDMish).
Not that genres are so easy to define, more that there’s a set of expectations among people who use these products.

By comparison, Scaler 2 does contain multiple mentions of genres. The “songs” used to categorize chord progressions are themselves categorized by genres. Bass patterns also use genre names. Other performance patterns use stylistic labels, many of which are associated with Western Art Music (“Classical”). So, the notion might be that you can use Scaler 2 to create just about any kind of music.
It’s pretty much the same idea in Captain Plugins while MiK’s Pilot Plugins are heavily branded in EDM. AFAICT, the Orb Producer Suite doesn’t really use genre names while Orb Composer refers to orchestral music, including movie scoring.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not completely sure that musicians coming from that wide a range of genres are finding what they want in such tools. In part because the market isn’t there. For instance, most composers prefer to use their own techniques instead of apps. And there aren’t many Jazz musicians who get that deeply into “Computer-Assisted Music”. As an addressable market for this kind of music tech, “genre musicians” are probably too fragmented.

What does happen, though, is that people will use such tools to widen their “genre palette”. That includes EDM producers who want to make a track jazzier or Hip Hop artists who want to integrate some West African influences in their work. Not to mention movie scorers who need to create some “exotic” soundtracks.

And there’s something fascinating, there, in terms of how genres develop from one another. Or how people label certain artists. It’s common for musicians to say that genres don’t matter to them. It can have an impact on how they reach specific audiences, in part by how they’re booked, marketed, promoted, playlisted, compared, etc.
In the end, we’re creating all sorts of musics, of course. If we create it on a computer, it’s extremely likely to be in 12-Tone Equal Temperament using A440Hz as a reference. It’s very probable that it’ll be in 4/4. Patterns of 2, 4, or 8 bars are common. Tempo changes are uncommon. There’s a rather strong chance that there’ll be a functional definition of the sound sources (lead, bass, drums, chords, pads, vocals…). And unless we use something like Scaler 2, harmonic structures are likely to consist of just a few chord shapes, mostly diatonic, mostly coming from modes of the Major scale (with some allowance for key/tonality changes).

Part of what Scaler 2 could allow is a kind of ear-opening. Listening and creating outside of our “home genres”. Overcoming some of the constraints we put on our musicking.

And we can use multiple tools for this. For instance, by misusing Instacomposer 2. :wink:

I went through the update process and paid, and got all the relevant e-mails, but the relevant executable was not on the web site. I’ve sent them a mail.

It may be because I bought the first version from Plugin Boutique, and there is no way to communicate that information to WA. There appeared to be no way to do the upgrade in PiB however.

So not able to comment unless they make the executable available.

Interesting thing. There are no mention of genres in InstaComposer 2, but there are presets (free and paid) that makes it easier to composers to find out something that they would need. I have them both:

Scaler is easier to understand with songs and genres, even with artists (we probable need more “in the style of…”) but both are difficult to understand the essence. Jazz 3 vs. WA_Progressive_Trance… I cannot imagine either without trying and there Scaler is 100% better.

You should have received an email with a link and the registration key should be in your profile on W.A. site. If ever you registered version 1 with them. If not, try to register now - the key should be on PIB site - and then register for update. Anyways, they will communicate with you.

I do think that generic genres can be useful (but there are lots of cross over styles), but I think it can go too far. Wiki analyses D+B styles into multiple sub-genres (10), but I am hugely dubious that any one could either distinguish between Neurofunk and jump-up, or even objectively define either. As proof of a point, wiki’s definition for both is identical.
Apologies to @davide if I in anyway cast doubt on aficionados ability to audibly separate one from the other.

I have Wotja on my iPad

I downloaded the demo and activated my license.

Ha! They are extremely different, Neuro is based on mode modern synthesis techniques such as wavetable and FM synthesis most commonly found in synths like Serum for example. The beats are also much less dependent on teenths and breaks and usually is less vocal laden. Think Noisia or Pendulum Neurofunk Drum&Bass Mix ft Noisia, Black Sun Empire and Pendulum - May 2019 - YouTube Jump Up on the other hand is much more old skool based and has percussion is full of breaks and teenths. Also lots of MC style ‘Brrrrrrrrrrrrr!’ It’s a lot more kiddy and throw away for mine - also it is not dependent on modern synthesis and usually always has vocals. Generally jump up is for the outer suburban, rough around the edges kids and neuro is for the more sophisticated inner city Kids!

1 Like

Same. Confused by it, though. Have you found it useful?

Guess you prefer one of them? :wink:

Well stunned and humbled at the same time. Stunned at your mastery of the topic and humbled by my geriatric ignorance of all music post Spector …

However, I’m less ignorant as time goes on about music structure, because scaler allows you to explore, discover and learn constantly, (importantly) by listening. e.g I’m trying to find out how to string something together in Mixolydian flat 6, which I would never have attempted without Scaler.

Done all that, got two keys, paid my money, but no download. The download from WA is still 1.03.

The purchase doesn’t show on the WA website, in spite of having the order receipt and them sending me the v2 key. I registered the V1 with them (which allowed me to upgrade), but the purchase doesn’t show and hence no download.

I think it’s a bug in their system because the V1 order went through PiB. I’m waiting for them tor respond.