Dear Musicians,

This is issue #91 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, 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 2010, Arpege Sprl, all rights reserved. 


Read all previous editorials on page

Visit us at the Music and You fair in Paris, Grande Halle de la Villette, from November 19 to 22, at Stand C-82 and discover the numerous features of Pizzicato !


Practical music composition example

In the last newsletter, we have created a canvas for a small composition example. We arrived at the following proposition for the atmosphere of the music:

We then made a Pizzicato score template, that you can download here. You can even use it with the demo version of Pizzicato. Right-click the following link and select Save target as... :

We have arbitrarily selected a piano, a string ensemble, a Hi-Hat cymbal and congas to try to communicate the expected atmosphere. Please note that there is no fixed rule for that, except common sense. Calm would be difficult to express with a distortion guitar or with any sound that has agressive characteristics in itself.

In this article and the following, we will describe in detail a possible path to reach a result. Keep in mind however that it is not a "logical" or "systematic" path. Composing a piece of music does not use the same kind of logic as used for the resolution of a mathematic problem. If a mathematic problem may only have one single possible solution, it is not the case for a music composition.

At any moment of this path, do not try to deduce "logically" the next step in a very precise way, as if there would only be one possible way of doing it, as it is not necessarily the case. If you try to deduce it simply by logic, and if you are a beginner in music composition, you may be puzzled as to ask yourself how you could ever do that alone. This is the trap. And the solution is often something like "well, it is so just because I have decided so and that I found it nice and it was well expressing what I wanted...", which is indeed the best reason for any artwork, of course!

A musical solution is often a question of personal taste, oriented toward an objective you want to reach. But then, why try to describe such a composition path if it is not "systematic"?

The purpose of this article is to help you compose your own music, not to compose music for you. Composing music is somehow like freely walking in the nature and exploring all possible areas you want. It is exploring a huge unknown forest. You make your own path through it.

How do you walk through a huge forest, full of wonderful places to discover, bypasses, shortcuts and also traps? With no map, a beginner may go there and loose himself quite fast and abandon it all. Following a path with a very precise map is also no fun, as everything is prepared in advance and no choice is left possible. How do we learn then to compose music?

Harmony, counterpoint and composition and arrangement techniques are maps you can use to avoid being lost. But you are the one who decides the path. Composing is always creating something from nothing. Even if you combine existing elements (rhythms, notes, sounds,...), you will eventually create a new and unique form, that could not have been deduced simply by logic. No existing advanced formula could be used by a computer to "logically deduce" Beethoven's fifth symphony nor any of the master pieces from the past. Why? Simply because a computer can not create something from nothing. But the human mind can do that (by the way, who created the computer? The human mind of course!).

So, by observing one or more possible paths to compose, one can start intuitively "feeling" a way of working through music composition. Like a guide would show you how to reach the more interesting places of the forest while avoiding the traps that are waiting for you. He could show you how to cross a ravine or rapids or any other difficult situation. Then you can go alone in the forest and really start composition your OWN music. So here is the approximative path I followed to compose this small example...

Step 1 - You must start somewhere...

Let us switch on the MIDI keyboard connected to the computer... While composing, I often use the keyboard to try and test patterns that I can use, with various sounds. You can also use the keyboard or fret board window (in the Windows menu).

The Pizzicato global view helps you to select the sound played by the keyboard. Simply click ON the name of the staff, in the header of the staff:

Any note played on the keyboard is then played with that selected sound, so you can experiment with it.

We learned that the Major Seventh chord can easily produce a calm atmosphere. I made some tests creating a pattern based on F Maj7 and C Maj7 (one measure of each). F Maj7 contains F, A, C and E; I keep the F note for a bass instrument and use A,C,E for a piano sequence, like this:

Listen to the example...

For the next measure, C Maj7 contains C, E, G and B. I use the same above sequence, keeping the C and E notes but changing A to G, as follows:

Listen to the example...

Doing so, we keep a similarity between the two measures, as there is only one note that changes with the same rhythm. It produces a slight melodic change.

As for the strings, once again the keyboard may help us to do some experiencing. You can ask Pizzicato to play the first two measures in loop (check the "Loop on:" 2 measures) and try to play some notes. Click on the instrument name so that the keyboard will play them with the strings.

With your first test, you will easily notice that the strings are played much louder than the piano. Click on the following button to display the main controllers:

This will display an area just below, with volume, velocity,... You can simply click and move inside one of these areas to set the value. For instance, set velocity to 48 and volume to 34 (or similar), for the strings:

For the notes, we will take the root note of the chord, F, to which we will add A and E. For the next chord, in addition to the root C, we will take the notes closest to the previous chord, E and B. As B is not present in the piano pattern, it is one good additional reason to use it, so that the chord contains each one of its notes. You get the following:

Listen the the example...

Step 2 - Improve the sound rendering

So as to soften the music (we need something quite calm), here is a method that you can use very often. It also makes the playing more natural, especially for a string ensemble. But also for the brass.

The idea is to vary the volume progressively, to add a flow and a living movement to the strings. The global view is particularly well fitted to do that. Display the volume area for the strings, by clicking the following button:

The following area appears, under the string staff:

The light blue area shows the volume level, in proportion to the maximal possible volume (which would be clear to the top of the yellow area).

Three operations are possible in that area:

Use it to create a progressive fade in, followed by a fade out, going through zero between the two measures. You should get something like this:

You will notice that Pizzicato displays a temporary window while you draw in that area, showing the level of volume and the exact position in the measure.

Now, change the piano velocity to 35 and volume to 92 (or similar), using the control area (green and yellow area). You can adjust it the way you like and it becomes:

Listen to the example...

Whether to arrange or to compose, these techniques can help you to make the sound more natural and get a better result.

Now that you have a start to the exercise, I suggest you to go on and compose the rest of it as an exercise. Here is the Pizzicato file with the above two measures (right-click it and save the target):

We will continue this example in the next newsletter.

Here is an example made by Mr Jacques Dhenaut, based on the exercise proposed in the last newsletter:

Thanks to him for participation! I wait for your example files too...

And do not forget to come and visit me in Paris, at the Music and You Fair, Grande Halle de la Villette, from November 19 to 22, stand C-82, I will be happy to meet you there!

Dominique Vandenneucker
Designer of Pizzicato.

Pizzicato in US and Canada

An article by Blair Ashby, the official representative of Pizzicato for the United States and English speaking Canada.

This past week Dominique reminded me that a newsletter was due to start mailing and if I wanted to contribute I needed to get a move on.  It was then that I realized I had not written an article for ...eeerrrrr... three months and maybe I need to get back to writing.  The studio has been very busy and I am in the process of adding web services to the options I already offer so, I have been slack about Pizzicato articles.  Fortunately, I had a customer in recently who is orchestrating a classical, five instrument chamber piece on my midi system, and realism is very important to him.  Hhhmmmmm... An idea for an article starts to grow.

I have an extensive sample library, including the Vienna Symphony and the EastWest Orchestra, so I can create extremely realistic symphonic music using these libraries and Pizzicato.  This client is writing pieces which are difficult for professional musicians to play and, if one does not have access to the finest musicians, getting good recordings of these pieces would be challenging at best.  Thus, he is working on the pieces in my studio, and using the power of huge sample libraries and midi, he is getting excellent results.  The problem of realism comes in when one depends on the computer for musical playback and forgets that real music breathes and flows.  In his case, as he got close to finishing the writing of the music, it sounded dry or mechanical.  He asked my advice.

After listening to it, my first suggestion was to select the whole score and then, using the data modiication tool which is found under the edit menu (this tool is not available in Pizzicato Notation), to add 3% variablilty to the start times of each note and to the velocity of each note.  What this does is randomly move each note by up to 3% earlier or later, or make the attack louder or softer.  The window looks like this:

This function adds in the variability of real musicians.  Thankfully, no musician is perfect, it is the human element which conveys emotion.  Adding some variability in the start times or attack of each note gives the music a more human feel.

That part was quick and easy and was instantly noticeable in the humanity of the music.  My next suggestion was more difficult.  I suggested he go through the whole piece and add in tempo changes at appropriate places to make the music flow more.  So using a tempo lane in Global View or the Musical effects window, he went through the whole piece and added tempo changes, speed up here, slow down here, give the music some ebb and flow.  The results were spectacular!   The music took on a life and realism which didn't exist before.

The last part was much more time consuming.  Again, using the effects lanes or the musical effects window, I suggested he make volume changes and emphasize velocity changes.  Here is an example:

Notice each note has a velocity bar and that no two velocities are the same.  Once again, a musician rarely plays two notes in a row exactly the same way.  Also notice the volume is growing and then swelling a bit.  Real musicians would do this to give the notes emphasis.

Using the powerful interface of Pizzicato to adjust the playback of the notation makes all the difference in the world when it comes to realism.  It takes more work but, it creates more beauty.  My client learned this and now understands, with Pizzicato, midi can reproduce music amazingly lifelike and real.  If you have music which needs more humanity and life, I suggest the effects lanes for starters.  They are a powerful way to add realism to mechanical music.  Feel free to email me any questions you have about Pizzicato's controller lanes.  They'll make a huge difference when it comes to you creating beautiful music.

You can visit the site and buy Pizzicato directly at

Contact Blair at: Phone 303-252-1270

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

Rhythmic voices

Pizzicato can manage 8 rhythmic voices. By default, a small menu shows "1-8" in the upper left corner of the window, which lets Pizzicato manage the voices distribution of the notes you encode. Let us analyze different cases.

When the measure only contains one voice, Pizzicato automatically assigns all the notes to the first voice. If you try to add more beats than the measure can accept, a second rhythmic voice is created (the additional notes are written from the beginning of the measure). When you have a single voice measure which presents a complex rhythm, it can be useful to force Pizzicato to keep all the notes in the first voice. To do that, select the small "1-8" menu into "1".

If the measure contains several voices, you can keep the "1-8" option and encode voice by voice. This is important: fill in first a whole rhythmic voice (and thus the measure) before encoding the next one. If you try to encode a second voice before you achieve the first one, Pizzicato could consider that you continue the first voice because it is not complete.

You can also force Pizzicato to work by voice. In this case, modify the "1-8" menu into "1" to work on the first voice, into "2" to work on the second voice,... While placing this menu for example to "2", the notes which do not belong to the second voice appear in gray and the new notes are added to the second voice.

This principle is the same for the incomplete voices. Let us take for example a measure that contains 4 quarter notes as the first voice. If you want to add a second voice including a quarter note on the first and the fourth beats, you will have to place 2 rests between these notes to complete your rhythmic voice. Or you can check the "Incomplete voices analysis" box of the"Options" menu ("Justification..." item). This option lets Pizzicato analyze a second voice in relation to a first voice. For example, if your measure includes 4 quarter notes and if you place an additional quarter note above the third one, Pizzicato will understand that this additional note must be played as a second voice on the third beat, even if this second voice is not complete.

You can verify or analyze the way in which Pizzicato assigns the voices in the "Option" menu, "Graphism..." item. To assign a colour to each voice, select the "Voice color" item in the note color popup menu. Pizzicato will display each voice in a different color.

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

Upbeats and uncomplete measures

Often, the first measure of a score contains less beats than the others. The music starts for instance on the last beat of the first measure and this is called an Upbeat. This measure is usually written as such, without filling the measure with rests. A 4/4 measure that would only contain one quarter note should be played and displayed as a one beat measure. There are other cases, for instance when repeat signs are crossing a measure boundary, where a measure should be displayed and played with a different number of beats than the natural content of that measure.

Pizzicato Professional gives a full control over the measure parameters, but with Pizzicato Beginner and Professional, an easy function can be used to handle that situation. Here is how to create an incomplete measure:

Fill in the notes or rests in the measure

With the right mouse button (ALT+click on Mac), select the Measures and staves menu item, then choose Incomplete measure or upbeat.

This measure will then be played correctly.

If you go again in the above menu for that measure, you will see that the Incomplete measure or upbeat menu item is now checked, which means that this measure has an incomplete duration. To reset the measure to its real duration, just use that menu again.

Modifying a tempo symbol

The tool palette with tempo symbols contains different quarter note or half note tempo values. These values can be easily personalized. Place a tempo symbol in the score and then click the score while holding down the CTRL key. A dialog box lets you define the tempo value. When you click "OK", the symbol is adapted in the score.

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



The idea is to modify a melody or a whole passage of a musical work in order to play it higher or lower in the sound scale. In the lesson on key signatures, we had listened to a melody starting with C and then to the same melody starting with E. It is an example of transposition. The melody was transposed two notes higher.

It is frequent to use transposition when composing a musical work. You can transpose a whole melody or some notes. It is a current composition tool because you can express several times the same thing while adding a change to it.

The simplest transposition is an octave change. For example, all notes are played one octave higher. They keep the same name. Open Ex027.piz. The first two measures contain a small melody which is transposed one octave higher in the next two measures:

Listen to the sound difference. The second melody is easily recognized as being the same one as the first, but it is played higher.


To specify a transposition, intervals are defined. The example above is a transposition of one octave, because there are 8 notes on the patch from the original melody to the transposed melody (C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C). Here are the names of intervals with the number of notes contained in each:

Unison 1 note
Second 2 notes
Third 3 notes
Fourth 4 notes
Fifth 5 notes
Sixth 6 notes
Seventh 7 notes
Octave 8 notes
Ninth 9 notes
Tenth 10 notes
Eleventh 11 notes

Speaking about a third for example, one counts the note names contained in the interval, without taking into account the number of half tones. C and E form a third, because there are three notes in the interval: C, D and E. By counting the black and white keys, there are 4 half tones...

...To read the full lesson, see the lesson about transposition on our site...

The commercial page...

EarMaster 5 - Interactive Ear Training Software

Have you ever thought about what might be the difference between a good musician and a REALLY good musician?

The answer is very likely to be Ear Training!

Ear training is the process of connecting theory (notes, intervals, chords, etc) with music (the sounds we hear). The more you will exercise to recognize this connection, the more you will appreciate playing music, because you will learn to understand what you play.

For more information, go to

You can buy EarMaster at

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Pizzicato upgrades

A corrective update of Pizzicato 3.5.2 is now available for download on page:

If you already have Pizzicato 3.5, you can download the fast upgrade 3.5.2 in the second part of the above page.

If you have an older version of Pizzicato, a series of upgrades are available for Mac OS X and Windows, according to the version you presently have.

If you bought Pizzicato 3.3 or 3.4, you may download Pizzicato 3.5 for free. The reference is the license number. All users whose license number is greater or equal to 15589 can update for free by going to the free update section on our website and download version 3.5. See page Install it and validate it with your original license/serial numbers.

Otherwise, to know the prices and possibilities, see the update order form 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!