Dear Musicians,

This is issue #59 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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So that you can learn and discover Pizzicato much easier, you can now watch one hour and thirty minutes of tutorial videos about the main features of Pizzicato. Discover them at:


What does the expression "intuitive composition" really mean?

Every composer (whether a professional or an amateur) has his own music composition method. Some composer will start playing guitar, up to the moment when some idea comes out of an improvisation. He will then try to develop this idea, add a rhythmic pattern or a melody. Another one will sing a melody freely and go to the keyboard to find chords that can go with it. Another one will hear his music right from inspiration and write it down or reproduce it with his instrument.

The final result is what is important. If you have the desire to compose music and succeed to express it in a communicable form, then it does not matter which method you use. Of course, some methods are faster than others. But for any valid method (meaning a method that produces results when you use it), there is also the experience factor involved in it.

By describing a method, one has only the "mechanical aspects" of things. Taste, inspiration, the message you want to communicate, the atmosphere you want to create and the emotions you want to express are not part of an "all-in-one" method. There are of course some standard structures that you can use to create an atmosphere. For instance, to express tension, you can use diminished chords. Tremolo strings can be used to convey to the auditor that something is going to happen. More generally, a given instrument combined with a harmonic or melodic scheme may express a specific mood. But it stays quite general and the composer often wants to tailor-make his message, his atmosphere or mood so that these effects fit into his music composition. And here comes experience above any other method.

Using a music composition method may require a lot of theoretical knowledge or be more practical than theoretical. The study of counterpoint, harmony and orchestration really requires a lot of theory and experience to be applied to music composition. It is the conventional route in our society if you want to become a composer. It does not mean that it is the only route or that the best compositions are created with that method.

I personally do not remember having composed anything just based on harmony or counterpoint. Sometimes they help to unlock a melodic or harmonic situation. The idea does not come from theory, but theory can help to guide the idea. By doing systematic harmony or counterpoint exercises, as you can find them in music courses, I sometimes thought "oh, it sounds good when we respect these rules, that's nice". But I did never think "This really expresses what I want to express in my music". Do you see the subtle difference here?

A problem that can happen with a method is that it is not used or it is used in an incomplete way. The music course available in the Pizzicato manual suggests some methods to compose music. The Pizzicato newsletters have already presented several methods and techniques to compose and learn to compose. Did you try to use them? If yes, did you use them up to the moment when you got a full piece of music expressing what you wanted to express? There are chances that when starting to use a method, you encountered some difficulty (it does not matter which one) and you were discouraged or modified the method before getting the final result. But if you did succeed to use it, congratulation!

A practical or theoretical method to compose music then contains an element that we should take into account. Is it easily useable? Will it not discourage a beginner too fast? Does it fit the goal and means we have?

Let us take a practical example, quite common according to our knowledge of the Pizzicato public. Imagine that music is your hobby and that you can spend three hours a week on it. You want to compose your own music. Would the systematic study of harmony, counterpoint and orchestration be the right approach for you? Knowing that you would need several years of full time study to master these subjects completely, by working three hours a week you would become easily discouraged, simply because you would not see your goal being achieved quickly. If you are very patient, hard working, determined and that you can spend the time on it (lack of time is often a problem), then of course you could succeed in this approach. Otherwise, another intermediate method would be welcome.

Intuitive composition is an intermediate method between the systematic research of all possible musical combinations and the ultimate method of writing music from pure inspiration. Here is where the computer can provide several tools to help you to compose music. This does not mean that the computer will compose for you. It is only a tool, exactly as the guitar is a tool for the guitarist who composes music with his guitar or the piano for the pianist. You would not say that it was the guitar or the piano who composed the music, would you? Why then saying so for the computer? Let us say that the use of composition software will help to circumvent the lack of time if you don't have 10 years to learn composition before starting to compose.

Here is an example. An experienced pianist plays complex and fast arpeggios to test and try which one will sound the best for the atmosphere he wants to create in his composition. His know-how, acquired by years of practice with his instrument, gives him the possibility to select which arpeggios he wants (which is a basic form of composition). If you do not master the keyboard, how could you select these arpeggios? Either you spend some years to acquire the piano skills or you use a music composition software that will propose you various kinds of arpeggios and from which you can then select the one you prefer.

It depends on the goal you have. Pizzicato Professional has more and more such tools, to help you to compose music more intuitively, without the need to invest several years of theoretical studies to reach the goal of composing your own music. As already mentioned, only the result is important. If intuitive composition helps you to express what you feel with music, then you have reached your goal and you are a composer. And if this is your goal, Pizzicato will help you.

You will find in the following page a more detailed description of intuitive composition, as well as links to the Pizzicato user manual giving you examples of what can be done with this method:

I suggest you read it and start using it right now!

Dominique Vandenneucker
Designer of Pizzicato.

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

Pianistic notation: cross staff beaming

In piano scores, it is frequent to use the 2 clefs (G and F) to write the playing of a single musical passage. Technically, this means that the same rhythmic voice (which is normally written on one staff) will be written over 2 staves. Here are some examples:

In these measures, using two staves is done to make it easier to read the notes with the 2 clefs. The lower notes would have been difficult to read in the G clef. But these measures only include one rhythmic voice (as Pizzicato defines the rhythmic voice).

To write this type of measures with Pizzicato, you need to understand that the notes always belong to one of the two staves. Here we have chosen the upper staff to place the notes, but it could have been the lower staff also. It is better to use the staff which contains most of the notes.

Once a note is written in a staff, you can drag it to the other staff, but this is only a graphic effect: the note always belongs to its original staff. It means that the justification of the rhythmic voices is still made on the basis of the content of the original measure.

For more details, please see the page

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

Encoding notes without stems in a measure - free measures

To create a free measure with notes without stems, you can disable automatic justification (Pizzicato Professional and Beginner) and freely place whole notes in the measure. With the Professional version, you can then change all the note heads in a quarter note head or another symbol (by selecting the measure and going in the "Change the notes head" item of the "Edit" menu). With the Beginner version, you can use quarter notes and reduce the stem height to zero. Pizzicato Professional also lets you create free measures. Select the measures and in measures parameters item ("Edit menu"), check the "Measure duration" box and select "Free on the basis of a" with the value of a quarter note, for example. While keeping the automatic justification, Pizzicato will align the notes correctly and you will be able to listen to the result according to the number of beats present in the measure.

Extracting parts with Pizzicato Beginner

With Pizzicato Beginner you can work scores up to 16 staves playing together. Here is how to extract parts for each instrument:

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

Music notation

What is music?

Music is the art of organizing sounds to make them express a message, an impression, a state of heart, an atmosphere, an emotion, feelings… It is a communication which emanates from the composer or performer and goes to the auditor.

Music is primarily transmitted by sound. All sound characteristics can thus be exploited to enrich musical communication.

Sound is an air vibration perceived by the ear. When the pianist hits a piano key, the movement creates a shock between a small hammer and a metallic string. This string vibrates and resounds in the piano. While doing so, it carries the air with it and this vibration of the air propagates all around. When this vibration reaches your ear, you get the sound feeling that you know.

The propagation of the sound is similar to the undulations that you see on the surface of a calm water when you throw a stone in it.

Characteristics of a sound

A sound vibration has various characteristics we can perceive. The first characteristic is the sound pitch. On a physical viewpoint, it is the number of vibrations executed by the air in one second. The more vibrations there is, the more the sound appears high-pitched to you. Schematically, you can compare a low-pitched sound and a high-pitched sound in the following way [...]

The second characteristic is the amplitude (loudness) or the force of the sound. The larger the vibration, the more a sound appears loud to you. Here is an illustration [...]

A third characteristic of the sound is its duration. For how long does the air vibrate? This duration is measured in seconds.

The last characteristic is the timbre of the sound. It lets you distinguish the type of instrument playing. You can easily distinguish a melody played by a piano from a melody played by a flute. Even if the melody is the same in both cases, you can at once recognize the piano or the flute. Physically, this difference comes from the shape of the vibration. For example, here are two sounds having the same pitch and the same force but they are characterized by the timbre, i.e. the shape of the vibration [...]

When you will have learned how to open a document with Pizzicato, we will listen to examples of these four sound characteristics: pitch, duration, amplitude and timbre.

Music notation

Music being a sound, the most obvious way to transmit it is to listen to it. It is indeed the most satisfactory manner to communicate music.

The most direct communication would imply the simultaneous presence of the performer and the auditor, like in a concert. The atmosphere in a concert cannot indeed be compared with listening to a disc or radio transmission. There is in this case something more than simply the sound.

Techniques currently available make it possible to collect sounds and to store them in various forms like discs, cassettes and CDs. The advantage is to be able to reproduce the music at will, to distribute it and communicate it on a large scale. These techniques transmit the final sound result of the execution of a piece of music.

When you want to transmit a musical work to somebody so that he can perceive the musical message and appreciate its beauty, a cassette or a disc will be adequate. If you want to communicate to him the contents of a musical work so that he can play it himself, the sound support only is not very practical and becomes insufficient in most cases. If it is possible for a well trained person to listen to a melody and play it back by memory, this ability is not general and remains limited to relatively simple cases. It becomes very difficult to realize as soon as the work becomes a little complicated and when you think of a one hour piano concerto with orchestra, it becomes almost impossible.

Music notation offers a more practical solution to transmit music to somebody so that he can himself play it. Its purpose is to be able to represent the contents of a musical work in a written form. In this manner, you can communicate in a precise way anything that occurs during the execution of a piece of music.

...To read the full lesson and see the illustrations, see the lesson on Music notation on our site...

The commercial page...

With the publication of Pizzicato 3.2, 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!