Dear Musicians,

This is issue #54 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
Phone/Fax ++32 -
Visit our site:

Copyright 2006, Arpege Sprl, all rights reserved. 

Warning : This letter is sent personally to email address ##3 given willingly by you while filling a form on our site, by writing to us or as a member of the press. You may unsubscribe at any time. Click here to unsubscribe.


To better understand the idea of dissonance or consonance in music, it is interesting to analyze the way in which sound is generated for the main instruments.

When we pinch, strike or rub a tight string, it begins to vibrate according to several modes and the air around it transmits these vibrations to your ear. The fact that the string is held still at its two ends implies that only certain vibration modes are possible. A tight string at rest could be represented as follows:

As points A and B are held still (on the drawing, they keep the same vertical position), the string could for instance vibrate in the following way:

A full vibration fits the length of the string. But it could also vibrate this way:

which is two full vibrations for the length of the string, which still obeys the mechanical constraint at the two ends. Or also:

and so on for the integer multiples of the fundamental vibration.

All these vibration modes happen at the same time, with various forces depending on the construction parameters of the instrument (tension in the string, thickness, material used,...).

A similar reasoning may be hold for wind instruments, where an air column is put into vibration inside a metal or wood tube.

The resulting sound is then the combination of the frequencies of vibration of all modes. The simplest mode (one vibration on the full length) corresponds to the fundamental frequency. This frequency determines the note that is played. For instance, a vibration of 440 Hz (Hertz = vibration per second) corresponds to the A note as displayed in the second space of the staff in the G clef.

The other modes are multiples of the fundamental frequency and are called the harmonics of the note. A guitar or violin note contains several sound vibrations. How comes then that the ear only perceives one main note as a final result?

It is because all these frequencies are related to each other by a constant and fixed ratio. Each frequency kind of looses its independence and the ear perceives the global result as a unique sound and not as several independent sounds.

The exact structure of the harmonic ratios with the fundamental is perceived by the ear as the timber of the instrument. The timber is indeed defined by the force ratios that each harmonic has with regard to the fundamental. Thus the harmonic structure will be different from one instrument to the other and that is what makes the difference between a flute, a clarinet or a pipe organ.

This is of course an ideal model. In practice, points A and B above are not perfectly still (as they transmit the string vibration to the resonance chamber for instance) and the strings or air columns are not perfect. Moreover there are transitory physical phenomenons at the moment the string is rubbed, pinched or stroke.

This accounts for the presence of other frequencies, with no integer ratio in relation to the fundamental. As their force is much less important than the fundamental, we may ignore them in computing scales and chords, but their absence would make the instrument less natural because the ear is accustomed to them. These transitory frequencies and the "continuous frequency spectrum" add indeed a specific color, a sort of "sound sauce" that makes the taste and personality of each instrument. In digital sound synthesis, those components are the most delicate to add, with the purpose of making synthesized sounds more natural.

Those explanations apply to most instruments found in symphonic ensembles and modern groups, except for percussion instruments.

Indeed the physical vibration model for percussion is different. If we take for instance a vibes or xylophone, we have a piece of metal or wood that is completely free to vibrate in other modes than explained above, because points A and B are not fixed. This is why the sound spectrum of these instruments may contain non integer multiples of the fundamental frequency. For an ideal metal bar, complex computations may be done that predict for instance that the first three harmonics will be multiples of [2.76], [5.4] and [8.93] of the fundamental frequency. The structure of the sound generated by percussion instruments is then quite different of the other instruments, because the harmonics are not integer multiples of the fundamental.

Some percussion instruments like the cymbals have such a distribution of frequencies that the ear cannot isolate one fundamental frequency, because of the many independent vibration modes with similar amplitudes. These instruments become unable to express melodies because melodies and chords only exist as far as the ear can recognize fundamental frequencies, i.e. notes. These instruments are then used to create rhythmic and color effects.

What happens when several notes are played together? Each note contains its harmonic series and they all combine with a good or bad effect, according to the fundamental frequencies but also according to the amplitude and distribution of their respective harmonics.

The mastering of the basic factors that determines the good and bad combinations of frequencies could help us to deduce practically every rule related to the construction of scales, melodies, chords and also orchestration. This would be a kind of "unitary theory" of music, that could explain all musical complexities from only a small set of natural laws. Would this be possible?

We will at least continue in that direction next month...

Dominique Vandenneucker
Designer of Pizzicato.

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

How to make jazz play more natural ? (Beginner and Professional versions)

In jazz, it is common to play a series of 8th notes by delaying slightly each off-beat note. It gives the effect of a triplet made of a quarter note and an 8th note. To create this effect, you can of course encode the notes in triplets, but you can also use the "Swing" function. Here is how to do it:

Listen to the result and you will hear that the notes are shifted. You can moderate the effect by choosing for example a value of 50. A negative value will produce the reverse effect. A -100 value on two 8th notes will correspond to a triplet made of an 8th note and a quarter note.

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

Update for Pizzicato 3.1 - Audio functions

A free update of Pizzicato 3 is available. It is version 3.1 from June, 2nd 2006, for Mac OS X and Windows. It corrects various bugs found that could produce an error in the Pizzicato application, but also includes several new audio functions. If you find any problem, please let us know, because we will publish corrective updates on a regular basis so as to satisfy the users of Pizzicato.
You may download it on page Warning: this update is provided for people who already have Pizzicato version 3.0 (demo or bought version). If you still have Pizzicato 1 or 2, this upgrade will be useless.

How can you stop the Octava (8va) effect?

With Pizzicato Professional, when you place the octava symbol (upper or lower), its influence is to transpose one octave starting at the symbol position. If you want to limit its effect to a fixed duration (and not for the rest of the score), modify the options of this symbol. In the score, click this symbol while holding down the CTRL key. Click the "Full editor" button. Check the "Local change" box to the right of the dialog. On the left of the dialog, you will find 3 text boxes which let to determine the duration of the effect, in number of measures, beats and units (480 units for a quarter note). Click OK. The transposition effect will last as long as you specified it.

How can you change the Pizzicato working mode?

Pizzicato can run in 6 different modes. It depends on how you got it and which license you have. Here are the 6 modes:

The free downloaded version gives access to the shareware and demonstration versions. The licenses give access to version you bought and to lower ones (for example the Pizzicato Beginner license gives access to Pizzicato Beginner and Pizzicato Light, but not to Pizzicato Professional).

Demonstration versions let you discover the software, but printing, saving and outputs (graphic copy, MIDi and audio export) are disabled.

The shareware version may be used one month freely. It presents the same functions than Pizzicato Light, but adds a "Pizzicato" background mosa´c when you print a score.

To change the working mode, call the "Program versions/updates..." item of the "Options" menu. The dialog box that appears gives you the choice of the available versions.

A frequent case of this dialog is when someone downloads the Pizzicato demonstration version, uses it a bit and then decides to buy one of the licenses. The person then installs it and launches the program. Then he/she is troubled because it seems that the program stays in shareware version. The solution is to call the "Program version/ update" item of the "Options" menu and click on "License registration", then fill in your license and serial numbers and everything will be all right.

If you have Pizzicato Light, you can change the working mode to the Professional demonstration version and explore the functions of this version. Do not forget to come back to Pizzicato Light when you want to record and print your work!

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

How to learn the keyboard with Pizzicato?

To learn how to play a musical score with the keyboard, we will use the following aspects of Pizzicato:

You must well understand the handling of the first four aspects. For the musical libraries, we advise you to read the composition libraries (1) lesson to have at least an outline of what they are. If later you wish to personalize the exercises and really understand what happens in this lesson, we highly advise you to read all lessons about musical composition libraries.

You must also understand the content of the main music lessons, in particular the lessons speaking about notes, rhythms and the musical keyboard layout.

  1. The keyboard learning exercises will be done each time with the following steps:
  2. You lay out the Pizzicato screen so as to see the score, the keyboard and the recorder. You select the sound to play.
  3. Using the musical libraries, you select notes and rhythms for a given difficulty level. Pizzicato generates the corresponding exercises.
  4. You ask Pizzicato to play the exercise in order to see and hear the correct way to play it.

You play it at the same time than Pizzicato, by observing the score and the keyboard window and by listening and observe if your version is the same as the Pizzicato version. You correct your performance by comparing and adjusting. Once this exercise is under control, you come back to point (2) with another exercise.

The regular practice of these steps will increase your ability to play a musical score. The rest of this lesson will explain you each step in detail...

...To read the full lesson, see the lesson about learning the musical keyboard on our site...

The commercial page...

With the publication of Pizzicato 3, a series of updates are available for Mac OS X and Windows, according to the version you presently have. To know the prices and possibilities, see the order page on our site:

In the menu "You have", select the version you presently have. The page will be redrawn and will show the possible upgrades and their prices. To buy an upgrade, fill in the form and validate it.

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!