Dear Musicians,

This is issue #69 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

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Vectorial music composition... isn't that a strange word in a musical context? However, to my opinion, it is one of the most promising concepts for software musical analysis, but also for learning and experimenting music composition with the help of a computer. So what is it exactly?

Let us first try a direct definition of the concept: it is a music approach that studies what influences and produces note sequences, as an alternative to studying the notes themselves. Well, the concept is not bright new. Everybody knows that a chord is a concept that generates notes. But it takes a new dimension with the use of computers. However, it is only found in elementary form in most of today's music software, like arpeggiators or harmonic progressions. Let us give some examples of what we mean by this word "vectorial".

If you say to somebody to build a small brick wall dividing your garden into two parts, in fact you are speaking in terms of a "vector". You communicate to him the concept of a small brick wall and you tell him to start at the back of the garden and to finish it in front of the house. With these instructions and his knowledge of what a wall is, he can build it. If he did not have any idea of what a wall is, you could explain it by telling him to take one brick and put it there, then take a second brick and place it next to it, then the third one,... You would have given him the exact position of each brick of the all construction.

Those of you who have already used graphic software probably know that there are two types of graphics. One of them is the "bitmap" graphic, where you have a large grid of dots that you can color to create forms and objects. If you want to draw a line, you must color each point to form a line. The other type of graphic is the vectorial graphic, where you place predefined graphic shapes like rectangles, lines, ellipses,... To move or resize an ellipse, you can drag its borders. Their detailed forms (all the dots that must be colored to produce its visual impression) are then computed by the software automatically. In a bitmap graphic, when you have an ellipse and you want to increase its size, you must estimate the dots you must delete and the ones you must color and it is not quite easy to do. It is quite difficult to manipulate.

In this point of view, most music software like notation software, MIDI and audio sequencers work mainly on the "bitmap" principles rather then the "vectorial" principles. As an example, if you write an orchestral symphony, note by note, listen to it and decide that measure 251 should have an A minor chord instead of a D Major, you will have to change all the notes of that measure to do the modification. It would also be the case if you had recorded the orchestra in a studio: the audio file would not permit you to perform the change. You would need at least that the orchestra play that passage again with the changed notes and you could try to "copy/paste" the audio file to insert the correction in the recording.

A vectorial approach of the musical score would however permit to change the "chord" object of measure 251 from D Major to A minor and the notes of all instruments would be automatically adjusted to satisfy the harmonic change. This would not prevent the composer from modifying or adjusting the exact way the notes are adapted, but it would not force him to do it all by himself.

The vectorial method is the description of the global concept that will permit to derive all details. Often in an art form, it is not an individual detail that creates the general impression, but more an assembling of many details that will produce the global organized impression. The principle of the "musical vector" is to try to describe that global structure so as to automatically derive each details that will produce the global final impression.

With a vectorial composition method, you could decide that a section of your music "will contain 8 measures, it will progress through such and such chords, on the basis of syncopation between instruments, by moving globally one octave higher but by several progressive back and forth movements. Strings will first play and be followed by woodwinds, while brasses will smoothly help to increase the volume. The passage must have a global progressive volume increase and move from a legato play to a staccato play. On the level of notes, an increasing tension should be used so as to reach a high level tension and suddenly release the tension so as to end on a peace impression...".

By giving such a description to 10 composers, you would probably get 10 very different musical sections, but all would obey the description. But imagine now that a software tool could help you to refine that description in every detail, in such a way that several composers would reach quite the same final result. You would then have a real vectorial music composition tool. You should no more need to work the note details, but well the details of the form that the notes must take once assembled and played.

Such a description works on concepts. By software tools, these concepts may then generate individual notes that, when played together, will produce the desired global impression. This is vectorial music composition. Very few software presently take advantage of this music and composition vectorial approach. However, Pizzicato Professional started in that direction many years ago, paralleling the more conventional, standard, "bitmap" approach of music notation and MIDI sequencing.

The common denominator of the music composition tools proposed by Pizzicato is that it represents the musical discourse by various influences that the user can manipulate to see (and also hear) sequences of notes form themselves on the score, rather than giving the user the direct responsibility of placing himself each individual note.

What is in fact the basic advantage of such a method for the beginner and the professional?

If you gave the above description of a music section to a beginner, it would require from him an enormous work to assemble the notes that could produce the required effect. He does not have methods, knowledge and experience to help him build the notes structure efficiently. However, with some imagination, a creative beginner could create such description quite easily. He could then express this description in a precise language and almost instantly hear the sound results with the help of a software tool. He can modify it easily and hear the impact of the difference. The door of music creativity is then wide open for him. He may engage himself in music composition, for a full symphonic orchestra, even if he knows nothing about music composition theory, orchestration, harmony,...

This does not mean that he will at first compose a wonderful piece of music. He will need to work his creativity, test, modify, arrange, start again,... so as to acquire experience as well as his own style. But at least the door is open and he will not need to spend 10 years studying theory and getting lost - as many do - and forget the original intention that was to create a musical effect and to express himself with music. To have any major success, in any area, you always need a high determination and a considerable work. In our "push-button" society, we tend to believe that it is not the case, but people who have some success will tell you this: they work hard!

Regarding the professional, he will find in that kind of approach a new creative urge. Being acquainted with composition techniques, he will even better combine these tools and will imagine applications that the beginner would never have thought about. He will so be more productive and creative than ever.

Do you want to know more about that kind of approach? Do you want to start composing music, even without being a Master in harmony, fugue and counterpoint?

Pizzicato does not offer yet the ideal tools as described in this article, but to several aspects, it gets closer and closer with each new version since several years. It all starts at page:

But do not forget our warning: you will have to work for it if you want to succeed. It is not a push button system whereby you get a nice piece of music that could accompany an Hollywood production. By the way, who - except a simple-minded - would be really satisfied to compose a piece of music just by pushing a button? The neighbor's cat could have done the same by biting your computer's mouse and there would be nothing personal to it.

Music composition tools obey you, and you are the composer or ... the future composer. At least this is what I wish you if you really desire to be a composer deep inside yourself.

Dominique Vandenneucker
Designer of Pizzicato.

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

Creating a split measure

It is sometimes useful to split a long measure in two parts at the end of a staff and the beginning of the next staff. You can do this easily with Pizzicato Professional by doing the following (example of a 4/4 measure to split into 3 beats+1beat):

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

Pizzicato 3 and Windows Vista

So that Pizzicato 3 works fine with Windows Vista, do the following after installing the program (but before starting Pizzicato):

No sound in Pizzicato 3?

If you do not hear sound when a music score is played, check the following points:

Problem with notes and musical symbols display?

If the notes, clefs and other musical symbols are replaced by large bold characters in the score, it simply means that the music font is not installed (or badly installed) in the computer.

On Macintosh, double-click the file "Pizzicato Font" inside the main Pizzicato folder and choose to install the font. Or drag it inside the font folder of the Macintosh.

On Windows, use the fonts manager and select to add the "Pizzicato" font, which is in the file named by default "C:\Program Files\Pizzicato 3".

If the font was installed and does not appear correctly, you can try to uninstall it, restart the computer, and install it again. This can solve the problem.

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

Key signatures

The major scale of C

The notes series from C to C is called the major scale of C. Each note of the scale is called a degree of the scale. The degrees are numbered from 1 to 7 in Roman numerals (i.e. I to VII). The last note being the same as the first (C), it is also called "degree I". Here is the major scale of C with its degrees:

As we have seen, each one of these notes corresponds to a white key of the keyboard. When a black key separates two notes, there is one tone between these two notes and if there is no black key between them, there is one half tone. The following table shows the degrees of the scale with the tones and half tones which separate them:

This succession of values (1,1,1/2,1,1,1,1/2) characterizes the major scale. In this example, the first note is C and it is thus the major scale of C.


This scale defines a context of notes called the tonality of C major. A musical excerpt written in C major uses only the notes of the C major scale, i.e. the 7 notes here above, avoiding the black keys located between them.

The principle of tonality is thus to limit the usable notes at a given moment in the musical discourse and in the same time intensifying the influence of other notes. The most significant degree in a scale is the first degree. In our case, it is the C note. The musical discourse will use this note as a point of reference.

The most significant degrees in a tonality are degrees I, IV and V. The musical sentences will be built by taking these degrees as a foundation. They will often be found on the strong beats of the measures. The musical sentences will have a tendency to move towards the first degree of the scale.

We will see that 12 different tonalities can be defined and used. Tonal music is based on using a context of notes on which melodies and chords are built. During a piece of music, the context may change to another tonality. This transition from one tonality to another is called a modulation.

In theory, in a tonal music work, it is possible to determine which tonality is present at any place of the score. Practically, this tonality system is a theoretical system used to explain how composers use the notes which are at their disposal to compose. This system is very helpful to orient a composer through his first steps, but it should not be regarded as a strict rule which one cannot transgress.

All the rules you will find in music are most of the time deduced from the observation of what sounds well in the musical works. The new composer will find in it a lot of interesting advices that can be used by him as a guide to develop his taste and musical inspiration. The error would then be to regard these rules as absolute laws and not as simple advices. When inspiration or taste indicates you another path to follow, skip the composition rules !

Let us go back to tonalities. The essence of classical music is based on the use of tonality. Most modern variety music (rock, jazz, disco, blues, funky…) are also based on tonality. Most music consumed by our modern society is thus tonal music.

There are of course music styles that completely escape from tonality and develop different composition systems. Contemporary music creates new approaches of music, of sound and of its notation. It is interesting to note that most contemporary music composers are people who have a good knowledge of the tonal system, its possibilities and limits. It could then be considered as an evolution of music towards other sound horizons. The point is to communicate this music in such a manner that it will be perceived and understood by most people. It will be the only success test of a music: does it communicate something which can be understood?

Let us see now how other scales and tonalities are defined.

...To read the full lesson, see the lesson about key signatures 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.

For users of Pizzicato 3, there is a free upgrade available: Pizzicato 3.2.3 for free on our site, in the "Customer services" section, under the Free Upgrade page.

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!