Dear Musicians,

This is issue #37 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,

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Our last two letters detailed point 1 of the universal method to learn how to compose music. For recall, this "universal method" can break up into ten points:

  1. A regular listening to various musical styles
  2. A good understanding of what sound is and how its fundamental properties influence the musical auditing impression
  3. A good understanding of the written musical language in its most common form : the music score
  4. The learning and practicing of a musical instrument, progressively in relation to the score (reading and writing of scores for the instrument)
  5. The practical study of one or more music software and also the music keyboard (if it is not your main instrument)
  6. The progressive practice of music composition, on the grounds you learned in the above steps, first based on simple and structured methods
  7. A practical study of the various music composition theories (harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, serial music,...)
  8. The listening and practical analysis of application examples of those musical theories or any other creative method
  9. A progressive development of one's own musical universe, of one's own composition method build on the basic understanding one has acquired from music
  10. The musical creation work itself : your career as a composer, including learning how to disseminate your music and make your compositions known.

These points form a progressive and practical way to enable beginners to compose his/her own musical creations.

We have seen how regular listening to various music styles can feed your musical data base and why such a data base could be of great utility for the new composer. But how to realize this?

The ideal is to integrate it in a software tool. You could even imagine a worldwide data base, which the composers and musicians could not only use but could also add new musical effects to. A sort of data exchange forum for musical composition.

This data base should associate an emotional, conceptual or esthetic effect with a musical construction. The effect could be simply described in a few words or expressions. For example, you could querry the data base by asking for the words "Surprised, good" and the system would return various musical effects ready to suggest a pleasant surprise to the listener. The words "Spaces, greatness" would return various structures or musical constructions likely to express these concepts or to add them in a musical work. These musical constructions would be represented in the form of a small score including one or more measures with notes, rhythms, melodies, chords and instruments, as well as nuances of play, or simply one of these elements. It would be a generalization of what is usually called a "pattern" in light music. Such a structure could for example contain a choice of orchestral instruments associated with a rhythmic diagram : a slow woodwinds and cords section and a harp rhythmic in arpeggios. This structure could then "be applied" to any melody and its chords progression. We will soon come back to this method of musical construction, which already partly exists in the current professional version of Pizzicato, in the form of composition libraries.

Concerning point 2, the ultimate form by which a musical effect reaches you is through sound. To know its fundamental properties and its link to music can be very useful and allows a full understanding of musical constructions. For example, the scale and the chords can be explained and deduced simply by observing certain acoustic rules and sound properties. It is not necessary to be able to calculate all the equations of sound propagation through a room or an instrument, but a comprehension of the basic phenomena is essential if you want to really understand what happens, since many rules of harmony and melody find their origins in the properties of sound. A basic description is available in the Pizzicato music course, on page and in several editorials from this information letter (#18,19,20,21,22,24,25 and 27 in particular). These concepts will also help you to understand audio, sound synthesis techniques and the experimentation of new sonorities if you want to go further than selecting conventional tones and instruments.

For point 3, the idea is to understand and assimilate the most current way by which music is written : the score. It is not that the score is unavoidable or that it is a perfect way to transmit music, but it is universally recognized as a communication method between musicians and most of the existing repertory is in this form. Compared to the simple sound support (cassette, CD, magnetic tape) it has the advantage of also communicating the structure of music to understand it and play it. From this viewpoint, it is a much better communication channel than just listening to the sound result. You can analyze it, break it up, modify it and interpret it. To do that, you need to understand the elements on which a score is built. Music can be regarded as a series of various flows which combine themselves. By flow, I mean a succession of events of comparable nature which occur in time. The main flows are rhythm, melody, chords, sonorities and sound effects (nuances, reverberation, vibrato...). To communicate music, it is thus necessary to symbolize and represent each flow in the score so that a musician can read them and perform them from this score.

The melody is written on a staff. The staff is a series of 5 parallel lines used to write music. The basic convention is to write each note in the form of a small oval drawn as high on the staff as the note is high pitched (and as low as the note is low pitched).

The rhythm is the way in which notes will follow each other in time. To represent it, the graphic aspect of the notes is modified, in white or black, with or without a stem (the stem is a small vertical bar attached to the note) of various forms to mean different rhythmic values. A measure is also a rhythm unit, it cuts the score in small sections of a few notes. The tempo specifies the general speed with which the score is being played. The form of a piece (for example chorus-verse-chorus) is another aspect of the rhythm, because the form defines the way in which music happens through time.

Chords form a little less obvious concept because they are generated by the combination of several notes. When several melodies combine, the result is a sound impression which you could regard as another dimension : the chord. Each note keeps its value, but if you try to forget the individual notes, you feels an overall perception of it that is called a chord. The most current and harmonious chords are indexed and named, but by definition (a chord is several notes heard simultaneously) lots of chords can exist. Let us say that most indexed chords are so because they sound well and have a stability and can be heard agreeably independently of the context. The science of chords is called harmony. It studies the way in which you may sequence chords. It is a "vertical" vision of music, because it analyzes the notes which are played at a given time, in other words, in an orchestral score, all the notes which are laid out on a vertical line of the score (at one precise moment). Counterpoint, on the contrary, studies how to create interesting melodies and those melodies then generate chords by combination. These two studies (harmony and counterpoint) are thus complementary and form two viewpoints to analyze the same situation.

They are useful only because they let the musician compose better and better understand music. On the level of the score, the chords are simply formed by several notes, either on the same staff or on various staves (instruments playing each one a note to form a chord together). By facility and for clearness, the chords are sometimes written as symbols (C Maj7, D min...). Such a symbol expresses the general structure of the chord formed at this time on the score, which is easier to understand than to visually analyze 20 staves of an orchestral score to gather the notes and to guess the current chord. Let us remember from this that the chord is basically a combination of notes and that it transformed itself into a concept used to define and communicate a sound atmosphere including several notes. The knowledge and the theory of chords are very useful for better structuring and understanding music, but they should not become a goal in themselves and thus limit what combined melodies may produce.

The choice of sonorities and the sound effects is done by written annotations on the score, with letters or various conventional symbols.

This small summary of a score structure contains the basic principles. You can study the practical details of all this by following the Pizzicato music course and manual. It starts on page

Have a nice reading!

Dominique Vandenneucker

Designer of Pizzicato.

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

How to convert a Pizzicato file into a ".WAV" audio file ?

After having created a score, it is sometimes necessary to create an audio file to use it in another program, in order to animate a multi-media presentation sequence, to transmit the file to somebody or simply to burn it on an audio CD. Here is how to proceed.

The first step is to export your Pizzicato file into a MIDI file. For that, use the "Export in MIDI..." item in the "File" menu, click OK in the next dialog box and give a name to your MIDI file. Exit Pizzicato.

The following step requires a virtual synthesizer software. There are numerous softwares for this. We will take the example of the "Wingroove" shareware that you can download at the address ("Fullset version" item). This software is a shareware, so if you use it regularly, we invite you to remunerate his author, the price being very moderate (see the heading "Shareware Registration" on the site for details). Once downloaded, install it and restart Windows. Launch this software ("Start", "Programs", "Wingroove", "WG Player") and open the MIDI file previously created with Pizzicato ("File" menu, "Open" item). The "File", "Create WaveFile" menu lets you generate the corresponding audio file.

Once the audio file is created, you can use a CD burning software to create an audio CD, which you may then play on any audio CD reader.

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

Creating an effective crescendo with Pizzicato Light and Beginner...

When you use the crescendo symbol with Pizzicato Professional, the effect is automatically heared when the score plays through the sound card or the external MIDI synthetizer. Pizzicato performs the musical sentence covered by the symbol, playing the notes increasingly stronger.

With the Beginner and Light versions, the symbol is only graphic and the performance is not affected by the symbol. Nevertheless, it is possible to create the equivalent of this effect, but another function should be used.

For the Beginner version :

For the Beginner and Light versions :

The disadvantage of the first method is that the crescendo (or the descrescendo, the principle stays the same) must coincide with full measures. The second method is more precise, because you can modify each note separately, but it is also longer to use, because if you want to perform a progressive crescendo on 4 measures of 16th notes, it will be necessary to calculate your curve of evolution and to modify 4x16 notes...

Nothing is better of course than the facility with which the Pro version lets you execute this: you place your symbol, you stretch it, you adjust the intensity of crescendo if you want... and you listen !

The scrolling score view

Pizzicato Beginner and Professional have a window called "Scrolling score" available in the "Windows" menu. The scrolling score view is a window which displays a part of the score. The notes cannot be modified with it. When you play the score, the contents of the scrolling score view will automatically follow the measure which is played. According to the size of your screen, you will be able to observe more or less measures and staves at the same time. A small red triangle indicates the current measure. This measure is the first which will be heard if you activate the playing of the score.

With the space bar, when you start the score play, you can observe the triangle which goes from one measure to the other. Observe what occurs when the first staff is played : the triangle goes to the next line, the first horizontal area is erased and Pizzicato displays another staff. During this time, you may continue to follow the staff which is playing. When Pizzicato comes to the last horizontal area, the reading continues at the top of the page, because the top was updated as the staves were played.

This method lets you read a score without being disturbed by the removal of already played measures and the drawing of measures that follow. There are no more problems to turn the page (while turning the page of a score, there is always a time where the musician does not see any more the played measure and not yet the following measure of the score, which requires to be able to memorize a measure in advance). It is as if somebody was cutting out a piece of the page as you play, so that the following page appears gradually. You then have always the control of the place you are looking at. For more information on this window, see the lesson

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

Composing music (3)

The chord is the common element so that the various instruments play together in a harmonious way. We will learn in more details how they are created and how you can sequence them. This lesson does not claim to teach harmony but constitutes a set of principles you can use to understand and create chords progressions.

What is a chord?

We can define a chord in a general way as a context of notes (2, 3, 4 or even more) heard simultaneously. The relations existing between these notes is what characterizes the sound colour of a chord (see the lesson on Composing music (1)).

By using this definition, any group of notes can be a chord. Nevertheless, if a chord must be harmonious, the notes in it must have related elements, otherwise the chord will sound like an aggregate of dispersed notes rather than a harmonious set of notes.

The common element must be found in how notes are transmitted from the instrument to your ears. We have seen that the sound is made of an air vibration. By playing two notes simultaneously, we thus have two different vibrations propagated to the auditor and interfering one with the other. By playing for example two C notes separated by an octave, the vibrations have a ratio of 2. By playing for example a C note and a G note, the vibrations are in a 3/2 ratio. C and E have approximately a 5/4 ratio, etc.

In addition, by listening to various chords and groups of notes, one can notice that some give a very harmonious impression while others are more unpleasant or more dissonant. Is there a rule to measure this degree of harmony? Yes, it is the degree of the mathematical relationship complexity between the sounds of a chord which determines the dissonance degree of this chord. In other words, the notes in a ratio of 2 will appear more "in agreement" that notes in a 15/13 ratio. This rule is empirical and is just a basic guide. The preferences of the composer, in connection with what he wants to express, will determine if he wants to use such or such chord in his composition, the concepts of harmony or discordance being themselves rather subjective.

Tonality and chords

You can conceive the musical keyboard as a series of 12 keys (7 white and 5 blacks) repeated several times. Music composition then consists in simply determining which notes will be played and how they will be linked in time. By taking the problem in this manner, the number of possibilities is so enormous that the beginner will be completely lost and will compose nothing at all. Thus let us use the principle of "divide to reign better" and divide the notes in contexts called Tonalities...

...To read the full lesson, see the lesson Music composition (3) 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!