Dear Musicians,

This is issue #30 of the Pizzicato musical newsletter. It is intended to help you to better know and use Pizzicato. You will find in it various articles about Pizzicato, its use and aspects, but also references to the music course and links to other music related sites.

You may send us any information to publish about music (performances, festivals, exhibitions, CD publications, music training sessions, Internet links,...). You may also tell us any difficulty you have with Pizzicato so that we can explain the solutions in the next issue. This letter is for you.

We hope you will enjoy reading it.


Dominique Vandenneucker,
29, rue de l'Enseignement
B-4800 Verviers
Phone/Fax ++32 -
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Approaching music composition is a goal that lots of musicians or non musicians would like to realize. Is there a systematic method which, if followed to the letter, would make it possible for a person to compose?

Musical inspiration is not really explained by theory. It is simply the creation or combination of sounds in an original way, with a specific goal or simply for fun. If the result is appreciated by others, those can always try to explain why it sounds well, why it is well built, etc. But this "afterwards" explanation can be misleading, because one could conclude from it that the musical work could have been deduced from the theoretical explanation, whereas it is the reverse that occurred.

If it was only related to logic (whereas it is related to esthetics above all), it would be all right to assemble all musical theory rules and integrate them in a software. The computer would then be able to have inspiration. Unfortunately, its "inspiration" will be limited to copy, modify or combine the inspiration of those who, by their esthetic sense, succeeded to really create and whose works allowed to deduce rules of musical theory.

Therefore, do not fall into the trap: inspiration is above theoretical rules. In other words, if you like some measures of your musical composition, keep them even if these measures do not satisfy any theoretical rule at all. The process of music evolution is thus the following: inspiration makes it possible to create musical works. When these works are appreciated, people deduce from it some theoretical rules or musical construction systems. Then these systems and rules are studied by others. Where the latter fail, it is when they think that they will have the inspiration only by studying these systems of logic. They forget to place their share of esthetics in it, the essential source of musical inspiration and sound effects.

Do not fall either into the opposite trap of rejecting all rules. Rules can guide you, especially when you lack experimentation in composition.

One could look at music as a succession of distinct, small or great sound effects, assembled to form a more global sound effect: a musical work. For example, the passage from a G7 chord to a C chord: it is a sound effect in the field of combination of several sounds. It produces a sound effect that the ear generally appreciates and it produces a specific atmosphere. Similarly, each sequence of two chords is a sound effect. The use of such or such rhythm is a sound effect. Combining two instruments creates a sound effect. Each one of these small effects can combine to create a larger sound effect, which is then characterized by a specific personality.

A melody is only a set of notes in a specific rhythm sequence, each one being a specific sound effect. The combination forms a melody, recognized among all others.

Thus music is a construction of sound effects sufficiently personalized so that a piece is unique and distinct from the others, while communicating what its composer wished to communicate.

The spirit of composition is thus to create sound effects to express something. Any method which produces that is a valid method. If a musician plays by ear and if, by research and work, he methodically manages to isolate the various sound effects of his instrument and if he can then selectively produce them in a sensible way according to what he wants to express, then one can say he composes music.

Let us break this into three phases:

  1. The methodical location of sound effects
  2. The possibility of selectively reproducing them according to what you want to express
  3. The coherent construction of musical work

The sound effects can be located in various ways. Listening to lots of music with an attentive ear will help you. But to do only that is likely to make phase 2 very difficult, even impossible, because you still cannot connect the sound effect to what you need to do to produce it. The practice of an instrument will be complementary, because it lets you associate the desired sound effect to the technique to produce it. Listening and playing will give you basis for inspiration, but you also need some ability to synthesize and listen so as to mentally classify and integrate the various effects your instrument can produce.

Phase 2 is more active. It implies that you have something to express, to write into music. You can start from almost anything (an emotion, a landscape, an idea, an atmosphere…). Then the trick is to find, in the sound effects you assimilated, the right combination that expresses your message and which is specific to you. It is your capacity of choice and creativity.

Phase 3 requires more experiment and comes gradually. It concerns the ability to develop a coherent work, where every element goes well together. It is the link that will bind the ingredients. One needs a link between the various passages of your work. This link can be rhythmic, melodic or be based on combinations of sound effects. Start with relatively short pieces before writing a whole symphony.

These three phases are interdependent. Only the practice of composition will help you to refine these three phases.

The purpose of any musical rule should be to help the composer to combine sound effects while helping him to free his musical imagination and stimulate his inspiration. Three types of rules could be met, corresponding to the above described phases. And the software tool can be very helpful in this direction. The current version of Pizzicato already offers various tools. The next versions will continue in this direction, the goal being to help you to compose.

Dominique Vandenneucker

Designer of Pizzicato.

Aspects and applications of Pizzicato...
Discover the various aspects and applications of Pizzicato

Methodology to create a score

To create a score, here is an effective method to get a correct page-setting and avoid making certain symbol adjustment operations twice. You can adapt it according to your needs. If you often use the same kind of score, you can create a template where several of these operations are already done and start from there.

  1. Start from the score template called "One linear measure", located in "Templates ==> Templates". Work in linear mode (popup menu in the tool bar of the score view).
  2. Add the number of measures and staves as needed.
  3. Fill in the instrument view, specifically the instrument names and select the sonorities to be played.
  4. Fill in the characteristics of the instruments (double click in front of the staves), specifically the measure numbers, the braces…
  5. Always in linear mode, introduce the contents of the measures: notes, rests, accents, symbols but not the symbols which extend over several measures (slurs over several measures, crescendo…). Use the automatic justification for the notes encoding ("J" check box in the tool bar of the score). If the measures have several voices, use the voice menu if those are too complex (popup menu on the left of the score tool bar). Add comments in text blocks, but only those related to the measures.
  6. Place the chord symbols if there are any as well as the lyrics.
  7. Select all measures of the score (Edit menu, Select all) then justify all (Edit menu, Justify). The measure widths are adapted to the content of the measures. You can specify a scale factor to modify the density of the score. It is accessible via the Option menu, Justification.
  8. Set the spaces between staves in an optimal way. This spacing will be used for all pages, therefore check if it is appropriate to all measures of the score.
  9. Switch to the page mode. If the page setup dialog does not appear, call it with the Page setup item in the File menu. Select the print scale (Pro version only), adjust the margins and disable the measures per system and systems per page check boxes. Pizzicato will optimize by taking the measure width into account. Check the "Calculate" box and validate.
  10. Review the pages and adjust the number of measures per system and systems per page as necessary by using the layout tool. Arrange so that the score is well distributed on all pages and that no a half empty page stays at the end.
  11. Once this is done, you can review measures and adjust symbols and add the symbols relating to several measures (large slurs, crescendo…). Add the title, the page numbers and any useful comment which must be fixed on a page. You can then print your score.

This method contains the main steps. Adapt it to your needs.

Tips and advices for Pizzicato...
Frequently asked questions about Pizzicato

The width of a measure

With Pizzicato Beginner and Pro, you can modify the width of a measure by using the measures and staves tool or the arrow tool, by clicking just to the left of the right measure bar and by moving the mouse. When you release, the measure is redrawn. Its contents are automatically adapted (widened or tightened).

If you do not wish its contents adapted, you can do the same operation while holding down the CTRL (Control) key on the keyboard. The measure width is modified but its contents do not move.

If the measure is the last of a system on a page, the measure bar is automatically aligned on the right margin and thus it does not work. You can bypass this limit by disabling the option "Adjust systems horizontally on the page" in the page setup dialog (File menu).


Two notes are enharmonics to each other if they bear a different name and correspond to the same sound and to the same key on a musical keyboard. F# is enharmonic to Gb.

The enharmonic tool is located in the Notes and Rest palette: . It enables you to change a note to its enharmonic, with a simple click. Its shortcut is the "9" key. By placing the mouse cursor on a note and by using the "9" key, the note goes through its various enharmonics. Thus, the C note will become D bb, then B # and then C again.

This tool is practical in particular when you have transcribed a MIDI file in music notation and if some accidentals do not correspond to the logic of the music passage tonality.

The beginner's corner...
Musical basics and access to the Pizzicato music course


The goal of MIDI

MIDI means Musical Instrument Digital Interface. Its purpose is to transmit the actions executed with a musical keyboard in a digital form.

It is a universally adopted language to exchange musical information between synthesizers and computers.

When you hit a note on a musical keyboard, the keyboard immediately sends a message to its MIDI output. This message communicates for example that the C-3 note has just been pressed. When you release the note, another message is instantaneously sent to express that the C-3 note is released.

If a pedal is connected to your synthesizer, the fact of pressing or releasing this pedal also sends a MIDI message expressing this action. Similarly, when you move a lever located on your keyboard, it also generates MIDI messages.

In other words, each action executed by the performer on his keyboard is translated and instantaneously sent as a MIDI message to the devices connected to it by a cable.

These standard MIDI messages only contain numbers which characterize the type and the content of the message. Those numbers are instructions which command a synthesizer what to play and how to play it. It is not a sound which goes through a MIDI cable, but only a set of instructions used to control a musical synthesizer.

When the computer wants to play a score on a synthesizer, it simply sends the necessary MIDI instructions to it, and the synthesizer produces the sounds, not the computer. The computer simply replaces the performer.

Therefore, the sound quality depends only of the synthesizer which executes the MIDI commands. MIDI does not have a "sound quality". A MIDI message simply gives the order "Play this note!" and the synthesizer executes it with its capabilities.

...To read the full lesson, see the lesson about MIDI on our site...

Music on the Web...
Links related to music

The commercial page...

You have Pizzicato Light...

To discover music in an interactive way, Pizzicato Light is quite enough. With it, you can write exercises and little scores. The main limit of the program is the way you can structure the score and also the number of measures and staves you can use.

If you want to create and print custom scores, you may update to the Beginner and/or Professional versions. Consult the 5 pages which describe the possibilities added by those versions:

You will also find a table with the differences between the various versions of Pizzicato, on page

Have a look at our new order page, with updates at low prices. Click here to find out...

 You have Pizzicato Beginner...

The professional version could bring you the following advantages:

Consult the 5 pages which describe the possibilities added by this version:

There is also an electronic upgrade for a very interesting price. Click here to find out...

You have Pizzicato Professional...

You just need to wait for the next version...    In the meantime, a lot of things are still to be discovered in this version and this letter will help you to do so. Ask us any question so we can answer in the next issue of this letter. You may also suggest us new functions to add in the next release of Pizzicato. We listen to the users as best as we can.

We are at your disposal.

Our purpose is to place music in everybody's hands

and to bring people to more musical creativity

Use Pizzicato and make music!