How-to Guide: Captain Play

Captain Play gives you the power to play complex chords with one finger, play melodies in scale and key and turbo-charge your MIDI keyboard.

Connecting Captain Play with your DAW

  • Select Captain Play from your VST or AU plugins menu. Add it to a MIDI channel as an Instrument. Logic users can also add it as a MIDI FX unit. Captain Play integrates with your DAW exactly the same as the other Captain Plugins.
  • Play insert
  • Alternatively, you can access Captain Play natively in Chords, Melody or Deep, by selecting the Play tab.
  • CP5 Play in Chords
  • To route external MIDI signals, such as MIDI synthesizers, through Captain Play, use Captain Play as a VST insert, not AU. Logic users, insert Captain Play as a MIDI FX plugin.
  • Select the key and scale. CP5 Select Key

Using your computer keyboard

  • Choose the Computer Keyboard option from the top menu bar.
  • Choose Play Melodies or Play Chords.
  • Press Space to start and stop recording MIDI notes to the clip box
CP5 Play MIDI or Com

Play Chords.

With Play Chords selected, Captain Play will trigger triad chords with the press of a single computer key. This is a great way to jam out new ideas quickly.

  • Keys A – J. The most common chords within the key & scale are triggered by pressing the computer keys A – J, with additional and more exotic chords located on the rows above and below.

    By using a combination of the common chords with some of the others, you can create interesting and sonically-pleasing progressions.

    Both Major and Minor chords indicated in blue or red can be combined to make progressions even more diverse.

  • Keys Z – M. Pressing keys Z – M to trigger First Inversion chords.
  • Keys Q – U. ressing keys Q – U will trigger Second Inversions.
  • Keys 1- 7. These will trigger ‘borrowed’ chords found outside of the chosen key & scale. Borrowed chords have been intelligently curated and are likely to work nicely as passing chords.
CP5 Play QWERTY Chords

Press and hold Shift to enable a new rack of possible chord voicings:

  • Pressing SHIFT + keys Z – M. This triggers 7th chords.
  • Pressing SHIFT + keys Q – U will trigger ‘Pretty’ Chords.

    We called them ‘Pretty’ chords because they have been intelligently selected as chords likely to sound beautiful within your progression.

    CP5 Play Shift chords

To change the octave up or down toggle the bracket [ ] keys on your keyboard.

Play Melodies.

Captain play automatically removes out-of-scale notes from the computer keyboard, so any key you press will be in-scale. Each row of your keyboard represents a different octave. These keys run left-right from root note up the scale.

  • Use keys A – J to trigger scale notes in Octave 2 – 3.
  • Keys Q – U trigger scale notes in Octave 3 – 4.
  • Keys 1 – 7 trigger scale notes in Octave 4 – 5.
  • Keys Z – M trigger scale notes in Octave 1 – 2.
CP5 Play Melodies Computer keyboard

Using your MIDI keyboard

Choose the MIDI Keyboard option from the top menu bar, or opening screen.

In Captain Play’s Settings menu, ensure ‘Use MIDI input to play’ is checked.

CP5 Play Settings

Play Chords

Select Play Chords from the top menu bar. This is the default setting.

You will see 3 boxes in a grid, comprising an octave each.

CP5 MIDI keyboard chords boxes
  • You can set each octave box to play in any octave from 1-8
  • You can set each octave box to play chords within a range of chord voicings.
  • Add additional boxes by clicking the ‘+’ icon on either side of the grid.

Here is an example of a complex set of chord mappings, laid out over 8 octaves (you’d need a large MIDI keyboard for this!) Add Box

Available voicings for MIDI keyboard mapping:

  • Root position.
  • 1st Inversion.
  • 2nd Inversion.
  • 7th chords.
  • Borrowed chords.
  • ‘Pretty’ chords.
  • All-scale notes (this means your MIDI keyboard’s performance is unchanged in this part of the keyboard).
  • In-Scale Notes (for melodies or basslines).
  • Play Melodies

    Select Play Melodies from the top menu bar.

    CP5 MIDI keyboard play melodies
    • In Settings, ensure ‘keep MIDI keyboard notes in key and scale in Single Note play’ is checked. This will eliminate any notes that are not in the selected key and scale. In their place, the nearest in-key note will play.
    • Uncheck this box to return your MIDI keyboard to its standard arrangement.
    CP5 Play Settings

    Global Controls.

    There are several global controls that will affect playback and recording of your MIDI notes in Captain Play.

    CP5 MIDI keyboard play melodies
    • Quantise.

      Turn the Quantise knob to add greater quantisation levels. You can affect only the start of notes, or the end of notes, or both.

      Available time divisions are 1/8, 1/8T (triplets), 1/16, 1/16T, 1/32.

    CP5 Play Quantise
    • Strum.

      Strum is a feature which adds human-like distance between the strike of the top note in a chord, and the bottom. Turn the knob to add greater amounts.

      Available settings are:

    • All Up – the top note of every chord strikes earliest.
    • All Down – the bottom note of every chord strikes earliest.
    • Alt – the top note strikes first in chord 1, then the bottom note in chord 2, and so on..
    CP5 Play Strum

    Using Captain Play with 3rd party instruments

    In Captain Plugins 5, we introduced native 3rd-party plugin hosting. Since Plugin Hosting is a brand new feature, we have deliberately only allowed certain plugin instruments to work in this feature as they have been tested and shown to cause no issues. 

    We will be adding more features within plugin hosting and also whitelisting more 3rd party instruments as we develop the feature.

    To enable 3rd party hosting, simply open Captain Play, and select Plugins > VST Instrument, and press Scan. Captain Play will scan your directories and add all whitelisted plugins to the VST Plugins menu inside Play.

    Select Plugin

    Once the scan is complete, you will find all whitelisted plugins available in the VST Plugins menu. Simply press ‘Select Plugin’ to open the menu window.

    Plugins Menu

    3rd-party Plugin Hosting requires plugins to be located in the following locations on Windows machines: (On Mac OS, file location is not important.)

    • C:\Program Files\Steinberg\VSTPlugins
    • C:\Program Files\VSTPlugins
    • C:\Program Files\Common Files\VST2 
    • C:\Program Files\Common Files\Steinberg\VST2

    If your VST instruments are not in any of these locations then they will not be found, regardless of whether they are supported.

    3rd-party Plugin Hosting: General operation.

    Select your plugin, and the full functionality of Captain Play will immediately play through your own VST plugins!

    CP5 Play 3rd party VST hosting

    To change plugin, simply click in the name of your currently selected plugin to open the plugins menu.

    ‘Hide Plugin’ will close the 3rd-party plugin window without disabling the instrument itself.

    Hide Plugin

    ‘Show plugin’ reopens the plugin interface.

    Show Plugin

    Captain Play’s Reverb, Delay, Filter and Volume controls can be engaged at any time while using 3rd-part plugins, and will be applied on top of any effects inside the 3rd-party interface.

    lightbulb_outline Tip: We have added compatibility with most well-known VST Plugin Instruments, from manufacturers such as Arturia, Native Instruments, U-He and more. This list will continually reviewed, so if a plugin of yours isn’t displaying, please email us at [email protected] and we’ll look into it.

    Using Captain Play with 3rd party instruments.

    If you don’t want to use the new VST Plugins feature, you can still use the traditional method, as detailed in the below video:

    Using the on-board sounds.

    Captain Plugins 5 includes a large selection of sound presets, suitable for many genres. You won’t have to look far to find the right the right timbre for your song, with the presets organised in categories including plucks, bass, keys, leads, pads, strings, voices and guitars.

    To access the presets simply click on Audio > ‘Sound Preset’ and make your selection.

    CP5 Play sound presets

    Exporting the MIDI.

    When you press Spacebar in Captan Play, the plugin records your MIDI notes as you play. Once you’re happy with a take, you can export the MIDI in a number of ways.

    • Drag to DAW. This is the simplest method. Simply drag the MIDI from the bottom right-hand MIDI box to a MIDI Instrument channel in your DAW. This can be the same channel as Captain Play (thus triggering the sounds from within Play), or it can be a different MIDI channel entirely. Whatever sound source is on that channel will then trigger the MIDI clip you recorded in Captain Play.
    • CP5 Play sound presets
    • Export as a .mid file to your computer. You can do this either dy dragging the MIDI box direct to your desktop,

      or by clicking the download icon at the top-right of the plugin..CP5 Play top right

      CP5 Play save MIDI

      You can also do this by clicking the 3 dots next to that and selecting ‘Export MIDI to File’.

    • CP5 Play Export MIDI


      When working inside Play, the Reverb, Delay, Filter and Volume can be adjusted.

      CP5 Play Audio UI

      Using the MIDI Input tab

      You can use Captain Plugins’ on-board sound pallette as a soft-synth by using the MIDI Input tab. Incoming MIDI signals, whether from a MIDI clip or keyboard, will trigger Captain Plugins’ sounds. You can choose the sound, adjust FX, volume and filter. However you cannot use Captain Plugins’ core functionality.

      MIDI IN


      CP5 Play Settings
      • ‘Use MIDI input to play’ enables MIDI devices such as MIDI keyboards to control Captain Play.
      • ‘Include MIDI In from the DAW while in the Play tab’ enables you to jam over the top of any other MIDI source as it enters Captain Play.
      • ‘Keep all MIDI keyboard notes in key in Single Notes Play’ removes out of key notes from your keyboard. The nearest note which is in key will play in its place.