Dear Musicians,

This is issue #55 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 -
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Copyright 2006, Arpege Sprl, all rights reserved. 

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Last month, we have seen that a music note is made of various sounds, multiples of a basic frequency. This basic frequency is the pitch of the note, for instance a C note or an E note,... Maybe all this lack some practical example? Here are some prepared sound examples, so that you can better grasp what it means in terms of music perception.

First, how sounds a "pure" sound, meaning by this a single sound vibration? Here is a file you can download and listen to: son-1.mp3. It contains first a continued pure note, at 440 vibrations per second (it is an A note). Then you will hear a scale. You may notice that the sound is very simple and pure. A piece of music played with such a sound will look quite synthetic and poor in terms of sound effects. Here are a few measures from a Mozart Sonata, played with that sound: son-2.mp3.

Natural instruments sounds have several "harmonics", i.e. sounds which are multiples of the basic note. These are fully integrated inside the note, so that the ear will only perceive a single resulting note that will look richer. Practically, here is another sound example: son-3.mp3. It contains a pure C note during 3 seconds. The next section contains the progressive adding of the second harmonic, then, in the last 3 sections, other harmonics are added. If you are very careful, you will hear the sound that is added in each section. The last section plays again the pure original sound, to hear the contrast.

Nature does not like simple and pure sounds. The main instruments have not only several harmonics, but these are also varying in amplitude along the playing of a note. If we want to build a good violin sound by adding harmonics one after the other, we should add dozens of them and we should make them vary in amplitude with time, mainly at the beginning of the note (called the note attack). To get a natural sound, we should also add "noise" components to the sound, which is produced by the friction of the strings of the violin. This could become quite complex to build. The basic principle is however simple: each harmonic may vary with time, with a precise amplitude (loudness) and there are random components to render the friction effect. But by going slightly away from the exact formula, you get a strange or synthetic violin.

To analyze music, chords structures and scales, we may only take into account the main harmonics and neglect the noise components and other transitory physical effects as well as the variation of the harmonic amplitudes. This simplifies the process, hopefully.

Let me remind you the purpose of all this: if we fully understand (I say it again: "fully" !) the way in which a sound is built and the way the ear reacts to it, then it should be possible to forecast which sounds will play together harmoniously and which sounds will not or less do so. In other words, we should be able to rebuild chords, harmonies, scales and understand how and why they are so. We may even deduce the rules to balance orchestral instruments well, as each instrument contains its precise harmonic content. There are rules for instance that explain which instrument is well accompanied by others and which ones are not. We should be able, by analysis, to find which compatibilities are satisfied for which instrument and why.

So, one note played by an instrument is made out of N frequencies, related by a multiplication factor (N stands here for any number).

Does N have a limit? In other words, do we need to take into account harmonic number 2250342 ? The physical limit of the ear plays its role, because above 20000 vibrations per second, the ear does not perceive sound anymore (it is the ultra sonic band; harmony for bats should take more harmonics into account than for human music, as bats perceive ultra sounds...). So if a violin plays a 440 Hertz note (Hertz = vibration per second), harmonic 2 will be vibrate at 880 Hertz, harmonic 3 at 1320 Hertz,.... harmonic 16 at 7040 Hertz,... harmonic 45 at 19800 Hertz, and above that most ear will no more perceive what happens. But if we take a louder note, for instance an A note in F clef (first interval between lines of the staff), its frequency is 110 Hertz. The ear will hear 20000/110 = +/- 181 different harmonics! This does not mean that each instrument will contain as many harmonics as that, but it is possible. Often, the amplitudes of harmonics decrease with their pitch going higher. But the exact distribution of frequencies and amplitudes basically determines the sound of the instrument.

This is all right for a single note played. All frequencies are multiples of the fundamental frequency and the ear perceives the note as a global unit. Everything is fine, nothing interacts with the note.

But what happens for the ear (which means, for you, the ear being only an intermediate) when two different notes are played together, with a different instrument or with the same instrument as the piano?

The question asked here is fundamental, even if it may appear simplistic or not interesting at first. It is like somebody living alone on an island: a single note from one instrument. If another person comes on the island, interactions may happen between the two persons, good or bad, agreeable or painful. In other words, we step from "one" to "two" or "several" and interesting phenomena of a new nature occur.

How could we analyze the behavior of two notes so as to extract the rules? As each note may contain dozens of various harmonics, it becomes quite complex, as each harmonic of one note may interact with each harmonic of the other note and we get thousands of combinations, for only two notes! How could we sort and analyze all this?

Complexity is created by one or more processes that are often basically simple, but that combines into such a big number of combinations and results that it then looks like being complex, difficult to grasp. At least if we did not notice the basic processes from which all else comes from.

What would be here the simple processes we should observe in detail so as to understand the rest? Maybe there are more than one, but the first that comes to my mind is how the ear perceives two different pure frequencies? In other words, let us take an instrument that produce a pure sound (there is practically only the synthesizer or the computer that may do that), without harmonic.

How could we deduce rules that would help us to sort out good and bad combinations of notes? As it is the ear that hears, we should ask her...

With this purpose in mind, I suggest to make an experience together, of which we will publish the statistical results next month (at least if we receive enough answers from you!). The principle is to hear a set of 20 sounds, each made out of two notes (pure, with no harmonics) played together and estimate the positive or negative sounding impression by a number from -10 to +10.

Here is a sound file: son-4.mp3. It contains 20 sounds, each one of one second, separated by 4 seconds of silence. Each sound contains two notes played together. Notice that the notes are not from a scale and are arbitrary frequencies. Listen to the file several times to know what is in it. You will notice that some sounds are harmonious, others aggressive and others quite neutral. The purpose of the experience is to associate with each sound a number from -10 to +10, on a purely subjective scale, based on your feeling regarding each sound. Here are some qualities, explaining what we mean by positive or negative:

Just listen to the sound file and decide which number you assign to each of the 20 sounds. This is a total of twenty numbers from -10 to +10. Please send us this list by email. We will analyze them and if we get enough answers, we will plot them on a curve. The sounds have been mixed so as to not influence your estimation. By sorting them in the correct order, we will get a curve showing the positive/negative quality of two notes contained in an octave interval.

I suggest to you to do that experience and send us the results. They will determine the content of the next letter... You now become an active participant in this research toward a more fundamental understanding of music!

Dominique Vandenneucker
Designer of Pizzicato.

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

Volume control: limits imposed by MIDI channels

The MIDI communication system between the computer and an external synthesizer or a sound card may transmit messages called "Controllers". There are 128 controllers and the most known one is controller 7 which determines the volume. On a MIDI cable, there can be 16 independent channels, so that 16 sound generators may have different volumes. For a given channel, Pizzicato can send a volume value that you select (between 0 and 127). If 2 staves use the same MIDI channel, the volume message sent on one will affect the other one in the same way because the staves notes are played with the same MIDI channel. With the automatic management of the MIDI channels by Pizzicato, this situation can happen only in 2 cases, because Pizzicato always tries to use a different channel for each staff.

The first case is for the percussion instruments. The percussions are associated to channel 10 in a lot of synthesizers. If you create 4 percussion staves, they will all be assigned to channel 10 and even if the instrument view shows 4 volume sliders, only the last one will have the desired effect, because its message is sent the last and its volume is thus considered (the first messages are also sent, but immediately modified by the following ones). If you want to assign different amplitudes to the different percussions, you can use another parameter named "Velocity". You can also find it in the instrument view ("Miscellaneous effects" item). The nuances (P, FF, MF,...) placed in the score affect the velocity and are thus independent. You must know that the velocity value is sent for every note played and not globally for all the notes. So, several notes sent on the same MIDI channel may have various velocities.

The second case is when there is more staves in the scores than MIDI channels on your sound card or synthesizer. In this case, Pizzicato is forced to reassign the same MIDI channels to different staves. To avoid that, you can disable the automatic management of the channels and assign them yourself (for example, you can assign staves with an equal volume/instrument to the same MIDI channel and thus keep other channels for the staves needing a specific volume). The ultimate solution is of course to add a new synthesizer or sound card, which adds 16 MIDI channels. Pizzicato Professional 3 may work up to 16 MIDI ports (thus 16 x 16 MIDI channels).

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.

Copying lyrics from one line to another

With the Professional and Beginner versions, you can use the lyrics fast encoding window to copy identical lyrics lines. First, encode the first line. Then select the whole text ("*" symbols stands for notes without lyrics) and copy it. After you click "Apply", go for example on line 2 (menu in the upper part of the window) and paste the lyrics in the text area. The same copy/paste can be made from your text editor, if you already have the lyrics in text format. You will just have to separate the syllables with "-" and everything will be all right.

Copy/Paste/Drag and Drop

The selection tool ("s" shortcut) lets you to select one or more measures. By clicking on a measure, it appears white on black. To select several measures, select the first one. Then hold down the SHIFT key and click the last measure to select. All the measures between the first and the last are selected.

You can then copy these measures ("Edit" menu, "Copy" item) to paste them to another place of the score ("Edit" menu, "Paste" item). You can also drag them, by clicking and dragging the first selected measure to another measure. The destination measure must be seen on the screen. When you release the mouse, the whole block is copied starting from the destination measure. It is the equivalent of a copy/paste.

You can also drag a measures block to the main view. The result is a new score which contains the selected measures and staves.

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

Composing music (1)

This lesson and the following will help you to take the first steps in computer-assisted composition. You must have read and understood the lessons about the composition libraries and to have done the practical steps of these lessons. We will not explain here the practical details on how to handle the libraries. If you need it, read these lessons again.

Using the composition libraries

The lessons about composition libraries explained the practical operations of the Pizzicato composition tools. It is, in short, a division of music into basic blocks constructed with rhythms, melodies, themes and chords. These elements can be used and combined in thousand and one ways.

Now we're going to examine the use of these tools to really start composing. The suggested examples and exercises form an approach to composition more than a very well structured composition course. They give you raw material to work and show a systematic method to help you structure this raw material as you like it.

Pizzicato is delivered with several documents containing construction blocks with which you will be able to work out your first exercises. These elements are there to help you to approach the use of libraries. We will start by analyzing the contents of these documents.

Contents of the Pizzicato libraries

Start Pizzicato and open the Chords library - 1.piz document located in the Libraries folder. The main view appears as follows...

...To read the full lesson, see the lesson Music composition (1) 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!