This is issue #32 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.
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When composing, as well as playing music, the sound quality is of course very important. Let us remind that in the MIDI world (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), the sound quality is something which is not dealt with at all.
Indeed, when a note is sent through MIDI by a music software, it is only an instruction of the type "Play a C # note, with an average force, during X seconds, with a sound of trumpet". The sound quality of the trumpet entirely depends upon the synthesizer receiving the MIDI instruction, but not at all upon the software which sent it. This synthesizer may be the one integrated in your sound card or an external synthesizer connected to your computer.
On this subject, it is useful to remind that on most sound cards, there are two distinct parts, often confused in their functions. The first part - used by most multimedia and didactic software - is the audio part. It makes it possible to read sound files of the type "wav", "mp3",... As such a file contains all information about the sound to play, the card can thus read this file and make it into sounds. It is also this part of the card that generates the sound warnings of Windows. This function of the card is usually automatically configured with the installation of Windows.
The other function of a sound card is the synthesizer. There are sometimes several different synthesizers according to the sound card. This module receives MIDI information and transforms them into sounds. This module is used by a MIDI software and also makes it possible to read MIDI files (.mid). The quality of the generated sounds is then directly dependent upon the quality of this synthesizer module. In other words, a $25 sound card will be much worse than an external $2,500 synthesizer! There lies the difference and one can find a large range of various sound qualities. Moreover, the taste also intervenes, the banks of sounds also having aesthetic characteristics appreciated by some and not by others, for the same price.
Thus we have two parts in the sound card : the reading of existing sounds and the sound synthesis. A sound card may contain several modules of each kind. Those two modules are electronic systems integrated in your sound card.
In addition to these electronic modules, we often find a software synthesizer. The principle is the same as the electronic synthesizer, but the sound creation is done by software, using the processor computing speed and no more by the electronic devices of the card. For a music software, this type of synthesizer is seen as a MIDI output to which MIDI instructions may be sent to play a musical score. This synthesizer computes the sound in real time and sends it to the first part of the card, as seen here above: the one that simply plays an existing sound. Therefore, a low quality sound card with a very bad synthesizer may play very nice sounds when combined to a software synthesizer playing the sounds on the audio part of the card.
Some information on how sounds are created. The first synthesizers used mathematical computing methods of the sound harmonics and could influence the sonority and the way it evolved with time. Those methods use the properties of electronic devices. It was the era of "analog" synthesizers, which contributed very much to the richness of electronic instruments. Those electronic systems are now simulated by software, with a much greater flexibility because you just need to change the software, no more the electronic devices of the card.
The other method is to use a sample table. The idea is to have real sounds in memory, recorded for each instrument : a real trumpet note is recorded and saved in a file, and this for each instrument. When the synthesizer receives a MIDI instruction to play an organ note, it finds the sample of the organ note, modifies it to adapt its pitch and velocity and then combines it with the other playing notes (mixing), because at the same time there may be notes playing with other instruments, as in an orchestration. Depending on the samples quality, we get much better sound quality, at least for natural instruments. The requested quality may go as far as sampling each note of a real piano, each with various velocity levels (speed of hitting the note) and in a CD sound quality or even more. Therefore, the sampling information quantity to treat may become very high and it is common for professional samplers to deal with hundreds of megabytes of samples. One can then reach an almost perfect quality in the reproduction of natural instruments, but one needs to pay the price for it. However, even basic samplers produce quite satisfactory sound results.
This sampling method may be implemented in two ways : by an electronic system present on the sound card or by a sampling software, often called "virtual sampler". You can load sound samples banks into it and this sampler then behaves as a MIDI synthesizer to which a music software may send MIDI instructions to play a music score.
What is the optimum solution for composing music ? If you work at home, for you, I would say that any above method is correct, as soon as the sound quality achieves your requirements. However, if you want to easily communicate your music, personalize it, manage and distribute it, I would presently recommend software solutions. To play your compositions, I suggest to use a sampler and for sound creation (synthesis sounds to personalize your compositions), use a synthesis software that can export the sound results as samples to play on the sampler software.
In the field of sound cards and samples, there is a very interesting standard named "SoundFont". It is like a word processing with which you can write in various text fonts (Arial, Times, Courier,...). Here the "fonts" are sounds, used to perform your music score. These sound banks may be downloaded from numerous Internet sites (some free and some to buy) and it is a method to exchange sounds. By using the same SoundFont banks on various computers and sound cards, you can get the same sound effects, which guaranties the reproduction of your music composition.
Ideally, your sound card should be SoundFont compatible, which is the case in recent SoundBlaster cards, among others. The SoundFont standard evolved from the work of Creative Labs (SoundBlaster cards manufacturer) and Emu (professional synthesizers and samplers manufacturer). Otherwise, you may use a virtual sampler software, but you need a more powerful computer (the exact power needed depends upon the size of the sample files and also the number of simultaneous notes played, be careful for big orchestrations!).
After this theoretical introduction, we will next month examine practical software solutions so that you can enhance the sound quality of the scores you write with Pizzicato or the playing of your MIDI files.
Let us know of any reactions on this subject, to email address firstname.lastname@example.org to ask questions and orient the next month article. I am listening to you and ready to answer your questions and to help you in this subject!
Designer of Pizzicato.
and applications of Pizzicato...
Discover the various aspects and applications of Pizzicato
Specifying the colors of notes
The "Graphic options..." item of the "Options" menu lets you select between three color modes for notes. Under the title "Use of colors", you may choose between:
- Black color: it is the default choice and all notes are drawn in black
- Voice color: Pizzicato handles up to 8 rhythmic voices and each voice has a specific color. In this mode, notes are colored to represent their rhythmic voice.
- Track color: in the instrument view, you can select a color for each staff with the last column of the "Various effects" configuration. Notes are displayed with the color of their staff.
If you want to freely assign colors (by deciding the color of each note, for instance to emphasize a theme or the function of some notes for a didactic purpose), the only way to do it is the following:
- Disable the automatic justification. You will need to assign the note position manually. This will prevent Pizzicato from modifying the voices or to assign voices to the notes and will let you assign them yourself.
- To encode your notes, you will need to use rhythmic voices according to the colors you want. For this, the little popup menu "1-8" in the upper left corner of the score view lets you select the voice. By letting it on "1-8", the note will be black. The value "1" will assign the note to voice 1, which color is red. Similarly, the other colors for voices are 2=blue, 3=green, 4=yellow, 5=purple, 6=light blue, 7=brown and 8=gray. Before adding a note, decide the voice according to the color.
advices for Pizzicato...
Frequently asked questions about Pizzicato
Moving tools in palettes
With Pizzicato Professional, you may customize the tool palettes. You may create a new palette (Tools menu, New palette...) and drag in it the most useful tools to get an optimized palette. Just click a tool and drag it from one palette to another and a dialog appears to ask if you want to move it, duplicate it or delete it.
On the other way, if you select a tool while slightly moving the mouse during the operation, Pizzicato opens the same dialog. To avoid this, click the tool without moving the mouse and the dialog will never appear. You may also select the tools with their keyboard shortcuts, very practical to speed up work. When you know them, you don't need to open the main palettes and you have more free space on your screen, but you are also more effective and fast to write your scores.
Crash with Windows XP ?
If you have any problem of unexpected crashes under Windows XP, you may try to set the compatibility mode of Pizzicato to Windows 98. One user told us having solved a problem this way. It is something good to know. To do it, click on the Pizzicato icon with the right mouse button and select "Properties..." then go in the "Compatibility" sheet and set it to Windows 98.
Musical basics and access to the Pizzicato music course
Why add symbols?
The note pitches and the rhythmic values placed in the measures indicate to the performer the note sequence he must play. A piece of music played exactly as written will seem mechanical, without life or expression.
When a composer creates a musical work, he writes of course notes and rhythms, but he will try to transcribe on the score the way notes must be played, with what expression, with what feeling the piece must be performed.
He will add various symbols on the score to describe and transmit as precisely as possible the sound effect he wants to achieve on the auditor.
When a musician will play this score, he will take all symbols into account to understand what the composer wanted to express so as to play the score in the correct state of mind.
There is a whole series of symbols influencing the way the performer will play a score. We will learn the most common symbols..
Nuances specify the sound volume the performer must respect to play the notes. Here is the complete series, forming a progression of increasingly strong sound volumes:
The P comes from Italian Piano meaning softly. The F comes from Forte and means strongly and the M comes from Mezzo and means half or medium.
Start Pizzicato and open the Ex031.piz example. It contains the following measures. Listen to them to understand the resulting sound effect :
...To read the full lesson, see the lesson about transposition on our site...
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: www.arpegemusic.com/partition1.htm
You will also find a table with the differences between the various versions of Pizzicato, on page www.arpegemusic.com/differences.htm
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:
- Printing may be done in all sizes (page layout zoom)
- Symbols (nuances, tempo, trills, effects,...) are performed through the sound card or synthesizer
- You may easily extract the parts of an orchestral conductor score. The page layout of parts, including multimeasure rests, is much easier.
- Tools to write and hear percussion instruments
- The possibility to modify and create new graphic and MIDI symbols
- Chord analysis and chord finding on a melody
- Tools to help you compose music
- C and percussion clefs
Consult the 5 pages which describe the possibilities added by this version: www.arpegemusic.com/partition1.htm
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!