Instruction manual - Pizzicato 3.6.2 EN827 - Revision of 2013/05/29


Composition Pro

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Composition tools - General scales and chords

Subjects covered:

Scales and chords [Professional] [Composition Pro]

In music composition, we can use any note of the piano keyboard to compose a piece of music. They include the white keys (C,D,E,F,G,A,B) but also the black keys (C#, D#, F#, G#, A# or their equivalent notation Db, Eb, Gb, Ab, Bb). Most of the western music culture is based on these twelve notes.

Each note has its own frequency vibration (pitch). These twelve notes are repeated several times on the piano keyboard, using each time the same names for these notes. All notes having the same name have something that makes them "similar". Indeed, a given C note has a vibration rate that is exactly the double of the first C note that is found to the left of it on the keyboard. Similarly, a given C note has also a vibration rate that is exactly half of the first C note that is found to the right of it on the keyboard.

The fact that several notes are linked by a factor of two in their vibration speed makes them very similar to the ear. Their vibrations are in physical harmony and the ear perceives it. This is why we use the same name for all these notes. To be more precise we often add the octave number to differentiate between notes, for instance C1, E2, F4, etc. C3 is the middle C of the piano keyboard (lower C in G key).

Experience shows that all these notes are not likely to sound in good harmony when they are used randomly. Only specific combinations of notes sound nice when played together. So various music theories have been developed to help the composer to select notes and decide which notes may be played together to achieve such or such an effect. Out of these numerous theories, we can find at least two ideas in common: the scale and the chord.

A scale is a subset of notes taken from the twelve notes of the piano keyboard. The most known scale is the scale formed by the white keys of the piano and it corresponds to the standard C scale (C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C). A scale is characterized by the sequence of intervals found between its consecutive notes. We count these intervals in semitones (half steps). A semitone is the sound interval that exists between any two consecutive notes on the piano keyboard (black and white keys mixed). So the C scale can be defined by the sequence of intervals [2,2,1,2,2,2,1]. This scale definition is the Major scale. You can find more details about this in The scale and the accidentals lesson.

Once we have a set of intervals defined, we can apply it so that the same scale may be constructed on other notes. For instance, the D Major scale would be D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D.

Using the notes of a scale to create a melody is more likely to sound good than using random notes on the piano keyboard. So this tool named Scale can be used to select a set of notes to construct a melody. It is a sort of preselection of notes. Most western music is based exclusively on the major and minor scales built on the twelve notes of the piano keyboard, but there are numerous other scales, each one built on a given set of intervals.

A chord is a set of notes that can be played together (at the same time) and that produces a musical effect that can be used in a music composition. It is also a way of preselecting notes for the composer. The most common chords are often constructed by using one note out of two from a scale. We can have chords with 3, 4, 5 notes or more. As an example, by taking the first three notes of the C Major scale (skipping one note out of two), we get the C Major chord [C, E, G]. So a chord is often associated to a scale and can be seen as a subset of the notes of a given scale, while the scale itself can be seen as a subset of all possible notes.

We may consider scales and chords as tools to help the composer to create music. Scales would be more oriented toward creating melodies while chords are more helpful to select the notes when several instruments play together. At any given point in a music composition, knowingly or not, the composer is using scales and chords.

This lesson will explain you how you can use and/or create chords and scales and apply them to the score so as to influence the Pizzicato score arranger and the various other composition tools as the smart link and the musical vectors.

Chords and scales library [Professional] [Composition Pro]

The Pizzicato composition library contains several scales and chords that you can use to compose music.

Scales appear as an icon with four red notes on it. The first folder contains the most common scales as the Major and minor scales. The modal scales are in the next folder. More specific scales are sorted by the number of notes from 5 to 8 notes. The last two folders contain several miscellaneaous scales.

A scale is defined by its name and a series of notes. The existing scales of the library are based on the C note as the first note. You should always use the C note as the first note when you create a new scale, as we are defining here the structure of a scale, not a specific scale. Later in this lesson, we will see that you can apply that scale definition to any note.

You can add or remove a note to/from the scale, by checking/unchecking the last note number checkbox. Each note has the following attributes:

Chords appear as an icon with A7 in red. The Main chords contain the most common chords and the Chords by intervals contain chords sorted by intervals and number of notes.

A chord is defined by its name and a series of notes. The chords are always based on the C note as the first note (which is called the Root note), as we are defining here the structure of a chord, not a specific chord. Later in this lesson, we will see that you can apply that chord definition to any root note.

You can add or remove a note to/from the chord, by checking/unchecking the last note number checkbox. The note name menu contains all note definitions, including sharps and flats. The first note is always C.

You can create scales and chords yourself. We recommend you to do that in the My library folder. Here is an example.

You can organize folders, scales and chords in a similar way to create your own library that you can use to compose.

You can specify which intervals(s) may be found in the scales and how many notes the scale must contain. You can give a name to the folder that will contain all possible scales that satisfy your choices. By default, the minor and major second intervals are selected, but you can use this dialog to create arbitrary scales using one or more given intervals.

You may do the same with chords. The dialog is very similar and the program creates a folder of chords with all possible combinations of the specified intervals.

These automatic chords and scales building functions may be used by composers to explore specific interval combinations and easily deduce all the chords and scales using these intervals. This gives you raw materials that you can then use with the other Pizzicato composition tools.

Assigning chords and scales [Professional] [Composition Pro]

We have seen that Pizzicato has a chord symbol tool with which you can specify chords symbols in the score. You have also the chords progression window that helps you to easily organize a sequence of chords in a score. These tools are still valid to enter chords and indeed should be used for standard chords as they are very easy to use.

You can also directly drag and drop a chord from the library into the score. Let us try this.

Whenever you define a chord progression for a series of measures, Pizzicato automatically selects the scales that should go with the chords by some calculations using the 12 major and minor scales. These assigned scales may be displayed by using the reference marks tool (its shortcut is the ":" key on the computer keyboard).

You can see above each chord the scale that Pizzicato assigned to that chord. Of course there are many possibilities and according to the context, you may want to review or completely change the scales associated to the chords.

The scale you drag and drop will just replace the existing scale. By default, Pizzicato assigns the root note of the chord to the scale, but with the CTRL key you can select another tonic for that scale. By double-clicking the chord symbol while holding down the CTRL key, you can modify the tonic note of the scale.

With these simple features, you can design a chord progression and assign the scales that Pizzicato should use with other composition tools, mainly with the arranger and the music vectors. Indeed, while using these tools, Pizzicato must often decide how to transform a melody to fit a given chord progression. In that case, melodies can be much better translated if Pizzicato knows what scale should be used within each chord of the progression. This lesson has explained to you how you can specify the chords and scales.

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Composition Pro