Instruction manual - Pizzicato 3.6.2 EN860 - Revision of 2013/05/29


Composition Light

Composition Pro

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Composition tools - Harmony and counterpoint

Subjects covered:

About this program [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

Harmony and Counterpoint is a music software built on the Pizzicato music notation range of products.

It is natively included in the following versions of Pizzicato:

It can be purchased separately, in which case it includes Pizzicato Light (in fact a little more flexible version than Pizzicato Light).

The Harmony and Counterpoint software can also be used in combination with the following versions of Pizzicato, extending the score limitations and other features available within the program:

This lesson is part of the general user's guide of Pizzicato but it is written as a standalone manual so that if you do not know how to use Pizzicato, you can however easily find your way to use the harmony and counterpoint features. For some topics, a reference to the full manual is given so that you know where to learn more about a specific tool used inside the program.

Purpose of this composition module [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

This software module has one main purpose, which is to help you to compose and/or arrange your music. It is not intended to compose for you. It will help you to master the main rules of composition, so as to avoid most of the errors that make a music passage sound wrong.

A composition module contains a set of musical rules that can be associated with a full score or only with a few measures or even a few beats in a score. It may include two or more instruments.

When adding a composition module into a score, an area is created where you can interact to arrange and/or create music in that score.

Each composition module can be considered as a context for music composition. The following composition modules are presently available:

When we say "part" or "voice" in this manual, it is not limited to the human voice and it may be any instrument, whether a classical acoustic instrument or an electronic synthesizer. It merely means "one melodic line, a time sequence of single notes".

Harmony is traditionally the art of sequencing various chords to reach the best possible musical effects. Counterpoint is traditionally the art of putting two or more melodies together to reach the best possible musical effects.

Harmony is mainly concerned with vertical analysis of the notes in the chords and counterpoint is more concerned about the horizontal structures of each melody. However, this limit is mainly theoretical as in both cases you will find that both horizontal and vertical rules will apply. It is mainly a question of which viewpoint you favour when you compose.

When you combine several melodies together, they inevitably result in a sequence of chords. Reversely, if you sequence a series of chords, the notes forming the chords inevitably result in creating various melodies. So both aspects are intimately related and not strictly separable in practice.

How to choose a set of rules ? [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

If you follow a hamony or counterpoint course, simply select the set of rules that corresponds to the type of exercise you are working on.

For free music composition, here are some guidelines:

In any case, the interactive composition module area is never forcing you on how to compose music. You are controlling the process and you can ask the module to suggest combinations of notes that respect the generally agreed upon rules of music composition. In all possible combinations, you select the ones you prefer and you orient the composition process.

Creating a new composition module [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

The first step is to create a composition module. This section explains how to do it and the following sections will explain how to use it once it has been added to a score.

There are two ways to start working with a composition module. The first one is to start with the Harmony and counterpoint wizard which will help you to create a score with the required specification. The second method is to open any existing score (whether empty or with existing music material) and simply add a composition module in a specific area of that score. Let's take an example of each.

The harmony rules are listed by progressively including more types of chords into the music. The labels on the list specify the new chord type introduced by that line. For instance, the label "4 parts harmony - Dominant seventh (on 4 staves)" means it will use the dominant seventh chord, but also all the other chords of the previous lines.

This dialog can also be used later in any score, if you need to change the key signature. More information on this tool can be found in the Help menu, Writing scores, Using key signature...

This dialog can also be used later in any score, if you need to change the time signature. More information on this tool can be found in the Help menu, Writing scores, Changing the time signature...

Important note : If you are using the basic version of the Harmony and Counterpoint software, the product of staves by measures is limited to 60, like in Pizzicato Light. This means that a score of 4 staves is limited to 15 measures. A score of 2 staves is limited to 30 measures. In most cases, this is well enough to make exercises or to search for a melody and bass line with chords. Combined with more advanced versions of Pizzicato, this limitation disappears.

In the lower left part of the dialog box you can filter the instruments according to the style of music. As we have decided to work on 2 staves, the dialog only proposes two lists of instruments. The left one will be used by the bass and the part just above the bass. The right one will be used for the two other parts.

This dialog can be called again later to change instruments. There is also a Random select the sounds button. Using it selects one instrument sound for each staff randomly within the selected styles. Use it to test various instrument configurations, once you start building your composition further.

In addition to that, the composition module window will be opened as a floating window. It will be described in details in the following sections.

The other method to create a composition module is to right-click on a measure and select the contextual menu item Composition rules, Add...

You can also drag it vertically to adjust its position, for instance in the case it would collide with the above system or with chord symbols or for any other graphic reason. To extend the area to the next system, simply drag it vertically down and set it above the target system. The composition module area is extended and the green band is displayed above all the covered measures.

You can have more than one composition module in the same score. However, be careful to avoid that two composition modules overlap each other, as this may cause unexpected behaviour and influences.

By right-clicking inside the measures of a composition module, the Composition rules... menu also offers the Modify... item which will simply open the composition module window in the same way as clicking the ( ) icon, and the Delete... item that will simply remove the composition module from the score (but not the notes of the score in that area).

How to use the composition module ? [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

There are mainly three ways you can use a composition module, only one of them being really creative.

The first way to use it is to enter a full melody (or import it from a MIDI file) and ask the program to do it all alone. Even if the proposed solution may not sound too bad, it will lack aesthetic direction and coherence.

Composition rules are like the syntax of a phrase in English. The computer can check for the syntax but not for the meaning of the phrase. You can have a phrase like "It ate the song from the house inside the ice shirt" with a correct syntax but without sensible meaning. Using the composition module in this way will give you in most cases the impression of a lack of meaning or direction in the music.

In a similar way, you can ask the program to compose one or more measures totally freely, without giving it a first melody. The result will of course be even more lacking in direction. However, by applying some constraints and for short rhythmic patterns, this may give interesting results, as the program can easily generate hundreds of them and you can select one that you like by simply listening to it. One or more solutions may contain some original combinations that you can then refine and develop. In other words, the process itself of using the composition module may stimulate your inspiration.

The second and most creative way to use the composition module is the step by step research of solutions. You can start from an existing melody and/or freely design the melody at the same time as the other parts. You work the music note by note or with small groups of notes.

In this way, the number of solutions for each step is mathematically limited and you can easily listen to each one of them until you feel the music goes in the direction you want. You can then go to the next step and do the same. You can backtrack at any moment and restart or adjust some notes. You do not need to obey the rules. Sometimes the module will propose a solution and by listening to it you will have another idea for a variation. You can simply fix your solution, even if it violates rules. The rules are only there to help you but never to force you against your musical feelings.

A third way to use the composition module is as a support when you follow a harmony or counterpoint course. You can do the assigned exercises given by your teacher directly inside the software, by using the simple note entry tools. You can hear the results as you progress through the exercises, but there are two other major advantages included.

One advantage is that you can ask the program at any time to detect and show you the most common errors like parallel and direct fifths and octaves, exceeding the range of voices, using dissonant intervals or incomplete chords,... The second advantage is that at any moment in your exercise, if you can't find a solution, the program may suggest you the various possible combinations of notes in the step mode, so that you can analyse them and hear how they sound. Sometimes beginners will feel blocked by one situation and using this feature may help them to extend their thinking process by exploring solutions they did not thought about.

In using the composition module with the purpose of learning harmony and counterpoint, you should first follow the directions given by your teacher and of course not ask the program to do your assignements by itself ! For the reasons explained above, the final solution would most probably not be acceptable to your teacher, as it would lack musical direction and meaning. The program is there to help you better feel and forecast all the valid possibilities and sort the ones that will sound the best.

We will now examine the main window that helps you to interact with the composition area.

The composition module window [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

There is one composition window associated to each composition area in the score. The window can be visible or hidden (in which case the composition module is not active).

There are 4 main sections of the window that can be reached by clicking one of the 4 blue buttons on top of the window:

We will now create a few short application examples and in the next section we will explain these 4 window parts in more details. The first example is to automatically arrange a short phrase.

To do that, open the Notes and rests palette in the Tools menu:

To enter a note, select its rhythmic duration on the palette and then click on the staff. You can move the notes up or down. You can easily delete a note by dragging it left or right through the bar line. The same is valid for rests. You can learn more about entering the notes by going in the Help menu and choosing Writing scores... Introduction of notes and rests (1) to (5).

Each time when you press that button, you may get a different solution. You will notice that the added notes are displayed in green, which means that they are suggested notes. The original melody is never modified by the program.

At any moment, you can play the music by clicking on the icon displayed on the upper left part of the composition window. Using it a second time stops the playback. This playback control will start playing at the beginning of the composition area.

If you click on a green note (or if you move it), the note becomes black, which means that the note will no more be changed by further suggestions. If you want to free a note again, right-click on it and select Free the note. It will then become green again and the next suggestion may change that note.

Let's see now how you can work step by step, which is in fact the most interesting way to use the composition module to compose your own music, because you give direction to the music at any moment according to your inspiration and feeling of musical aesthetics.

They correspond to the various time slots where the program will analyse the music and suggest the missing notes according to the set of rules present. They can be used to specify a local selection of one or more time slots where the suggested notes will be added, so that the analysis is only applied to that local area inside the whole composition area. This is the step by step mode. Here is how to do it.

Each icon is in fact a shortcut to an important button inside the Solutions section of the main window. As they will be used intensively in the step by step mode, they are assembled above the chord so that you can easily access them without the need to move the mouse back and forth between the main window and the selection of the time slots you want to work on.

Note that the solution you will see on your screen may not be the same as shown above. The program uses a random number to suggest one of the possible solutions, so that each time you can have another one. However, if there are for instance only 5 possible solutions, the five solutions will always be the same, but they may present themselves in a different order.

As you can see, only the first chord has been suggested. No other notes outside the limited area has been changed. The green square limits the area of the suggested notes. Here is an explanation of the icons found near the green square:

So after deciding which solution we prefer (by listening to them), we can now click on the second square (above the second note of the melody and then click its ( ) icon to propose solutions to harmonize the second note. The proposed solution will also take into account the transition from the chords of the previous notes.

According to the context, there may be one or more solutions, but sometimes there can be no possible solution. In such a case, you can go back and use another solution for the previous note. Further in this manual, you will find a section that explains what you can do when the program does not find any solution to a given musical situation.

In any case you can always click on the ( ) while holding down the CTRL key, to force the program to ignore the chords that are before or after the selected passage. For instance, if you have only one selected time slot and click on the ( ) while holding down the CTRL key, the program will suggest all the possible chord positions for that time slot, regardless of any rules interacting with the previous chord or melody. In such a case, there may be of course errors in the listing, but you can decide what to use according to your feelings. Rules are there to help you and not to force you in any way.

In this way you can proceed further and continue through the arrangement of the melody.

When you get into a situation where there is no possible solution and where you must go backwards to change the previous solution, there is an easier way to explore the possible combinations around a small group of notes. Here is how to do it.

If you now click on the ( ) icon, the program will compute possible combinations of notes that respect the rules in this extended area. You may get something like this:

In this case the program found 9 different solutions. You can simply browse through them and play them as explained above, so that you can select the one that gives the best result according to your own musical direction and feelings.

When you click on the error line, the score will also show the notes that are related to the error, in this case parallel octaves, with red circles:

The set of rules used here was the simplest one : only fifth chords in their fundamental position, but it nevertheless gave you an overview of the most important actions involved in the process of interactively compose and arrange your music using this module. We will now explain the various options of the main window.

Using the module [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

This section explains each option of the composition window. Let us start with the Solutions panel of the composition window.

You can specify fixed notes anywhere in the parts. For instance, you could write the melody of the first measure and the bass of the second measure and let the program fill the missing notes.

By increasing the Global evaluation value, you increase the global quality of the solutions that will be presented. By increasing the Local evaluation value, you prevent the various elements of the solutions to have a lower local quality. You can play with these values for instance when there are too many solutions proposed and you want to filter them. By decreasing the values, the program can find solutions where it could not find any with the default values of these evaluation values.

With a few chords only, it is quite easy and fast to examine all possible combinations and evaluate the resulting solutions to find the best ones. When the number of notes of a melody increases, the number of possible combinations increases very fast to millions of millions of possible solutions.

In this case, even a fast computer will take more and more time to complete the research and another method, the progressive research method may be used. This method is more similar to the way a human being would process when trying to solve the same problem:

  1. It starts with the first time slot, list all the possibilities for that time slot and find which is best (highest evaluation)
  2. It goes to the next time slot and list all the possibilities for that time slot. It then removes the solutions that violates the rules because of the notes present in the previous time slots (for instance if it finds a combination that presents parallel fifths). It keeps the solution that has the best evaluation value.
  3. If at some point the program finds no possible solution, it goes back to the previous time slot, marks that solution as impossible and take the next best one. It then continues the process until the end of the area.

You will often see this process in action when you ask the program to harmonize more than a few measures at a time. The dialog showing the progress bar will increase and sometimes go back, until it finally reaches 100 %. If there is really a problem in the original melody that is impossible to resolve without disabling a rule, the program may take hours to try all the possible paths. In this case you can click the Cancel button of the progress dialog and the longest valid solution that was found until then will be displayed.

The default value is Automatic research, which means that the program will first evaluate the number of possibilities that must be examined. If there are more than one billion, it will automatically use the progressive method. Otherwise it will use the integral method. Note that in progressive mode, it will only find one solution, even if the "Number of solutions to find" slider is set to more than one. If you want to examine other solutions, you can simply click the Compute button again, as the program uses random generators to order the solutions.

You can also decide yourself which scale must be used at which point of the score. To do this, simply right-click inside an empty green square marking a time slot. A contextual menu lets you change or remove the scale specification at the point in time. However, if you click again the Estimate scales button, all scales will come back to their default values according to the key signature and the notes of the melody.

If the program suggests dissonances, they will be displayed in orange.

The second column of controls have the following options.

You can learn how to add chord symbols above the measures in the Help menu, at Writing scores, The chord tool...

Graphic musical vectors are further explained in the Help menu, in Intuitive music composition... Composition tools - The graphic vector...

Beginning and end rules only apply to the start and end of the composition area. When you select a few green squares to suggest notes in a limited area, these rules do not apply to the beginning and end of the limited area (except if the limited area starts at the beginning of the area or stops at the end of it).

Let us now examine the Staves section of the main window.

Inside each folder, there is by default one assigned staff in the score. If you click for instance on the first square (in the first folder), you will see the following additional options:

Here are the details:

By using 4 parts harmony on 4 staves, only the first rhythmic voice is used in each staff. By using 4 parts harmony on 2 staves, here is how the parts are assigned to the staves and rhythmic voices :

When you need to enter notes in the score with the note tools, you can specify which voice you edit by the small popup menu found in the upper left part of the main tool bar above the score. By default it displays "1-8" which means that the voices will be automatically assigned. You can learn more about rhythmic voices in the Help menu, in Writing scores... Introduction of notes and rests (4).

You can specify the limits by using the left and right mouse click on the displayed keyboard.

You can also specify the range of notes by moving up or down the handles above and below the thick green bars that appear in front of each part in the score :

These bars roughly show the range of the notes that can be used in the current clef of the part.

To assign a new staff to one of the parts, simply right-click on the folder of that part (in the above left tree of parts) and select the Add a staff item. You can then specify which staff you want to use in the existing score (the staff must already exist in the score). Right-clicking a staff in the tree will remove it from that part (but not from the score).

By default, the Original choice is selected, meaning that the suggested notes will be applied directly to the related staff. The Rhythmic choice will in fact keep any rhythmic value present in the destination staff but will replace the note pitches by the one from the composition part. In that case, it can also use a transposition value that is added to the original note (so that you can assign one part to multiple instruments in the orchestra).

There are two other modes that will in fact arrange the melody already present in the score, based on the scale or the chords proposed by the suggested notes.

The Version number is by default 1. Pizzicato handles several versions of the music in one measure. You can find more information about this in the Help menu, in Advanced features... Measure versions...

The right part of that window shows the following options:

Each time slot is shown by a green square above it. The program only takes into consideration the notes that begin on a time slot for the analysis. For instance, if you have a melody with the following time slots arrangements, only the notes marked in red will be taken into account and the others will be considered as transition notes:

Here are the various possible ways to structure time in the composition area:

This is mainly used for the exercises in couterpoint. You can determine the species of the counterpoint (whole notes against whole notes, half notes against whole notes,...). For each voice, you can select one or more of the above rhythmic patterns, simply by clicking on them. If there are fixed notes in the score, they will not be modified by the rhythmic patterns.

You can select the basic duration (the whole note by default).

  • To remove one of the time slots, right-click in its green square above the staff and select Remove this time marker.
  • To add a new time slot, right-click in the green band, at the time position you want and select Add a time marker.

Warning : whenever you select another choice in the rhythmic structure frame, all custom editing of the time structure will be lost and the time structure will be set back to the new one you have selected.

The Rules section of the main window contains the list of rules that are present in the composition module:

Some of the rules are expressed as limitations (like direct and parallel fifths and octaves) and some contain items that can be used, like chords. You can disable one specific rule by simply clicking on it. The square becomes red, showing that the rule will be ignored for analysis.

The set of rules used is determined when you create the composition template or add it to an existing score, but you can at any time select another set by clicking in the Change the rules... button.

Notice : In the more advanced versions of Pizzicato (Pizzicato Professional and Pizzicato Composition Pro), you can examine the details of the rules and even modify or add new sets of rules. Doing so is however a more complex process and requires a good knowledge of music and computer logic. The document that contains all the rules is located in the third configuration of the document manager, under Libraries / Music libraries / Basic libraries / Composition. This manual does not detail the structure of the rules but any person with good knowledge of music and computer logic can examine the existing rules and their definitions so as to modify them or create new sets of rules.

The Errors section of the window lets you click on the Check error. The program analyses the composition area against the active rules and make a list of the errors found. By clicking on one error in the list, the corresponding notes are shown in red in the score itself:

When you have finished a composition, you can export it to an audio WAV file, to a MusicXML file (so that you can read it and arrange it in your favorite music software), to a MIDI file or to a PDF file. These options are available in the File, Export... menu.

Now that we have explained every option of the composition module, we will demonstrate their use with a few practical examples.

Example 1 - 4 parts harmony with bass line [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

Here is how to find a harmony based on it.

As it is the first chord of the score and as we are in the key of C Major, the chord is always built on the first degree and the program only changes the way the 3 parts can be arranged on that chord. Check some of the suggested possibilities and select one that sounds good to you for a first entry. Here is one example, but you can choose the one you prefer:

From here on, you can either continue step by step or with a small group of notes.

You can of course also directly decide and test notes of the melody. Let's say that by hearing the above solution, you suddenly feel that the next note should be the G note above the staff. Let's try it.

There may be cases when you select a note that will prevent any solution to be found. In that case, you can also change the bass line if needed (for free composition) and/or reduce the number of rules. See the section entitled What to do if the program finds no solution.

Example 2 - 4 parts harmony with a given melody [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

This musical phrase is written in the key of D (with two sharps) and an A# appears in measure 3, which can be seen as the augmented 7th degree of the relative minor scale of B. As you can see it in the green band, the program has detected the scale change (the key signature was forced into D Major and not B minor) :

If you do not shift it, the program would suggest nothing for the first rest, but the point is that the beginning rules would then no more be applied to the first chord of the composition and could then start on any degree. You can do it, but you have to know this.

As you can feel when you listen to this phrase, it is just the beginning of a phrase. The last note does not finalize the musical idea. For this reason, we will disable the end rules by checking the corresponding box Disable end rules. You can do that whenever you analyse only a part of a phrase. If the phrase is not the beginning of an idea, you can also disable the beginning rules.

The program proposes several time slots to do an analysis. In this phrase, we only want a new chord on the main notes and not on transition notes. We will use the custom time structure.

Let's change the sound used for this piece to string ensembles. Click the Sound selection... button in the Solution section of the window, select the Strings (ensemble) for both staves and click OK.

If you go further, you will notice that the program will find no solution that satisfies the next measure. There are several ways to handle this situation and they are explained in the section entitled What to do if the program finds no solution.

You can then easily continue the arrangement and find a solution you like. One example would be:

As this example shows, you can use the composition module to find a harmony for a part of any phrase. This may be useful if you have composed a melody with some chords, but you want to explore other possibilities. The above melody would obviously require a second part as it leaves the listener in suspension.

When this tool is selected on the palette, you can click anywhere on the score and the program will play all the instruments at this location. By holding the mouse button down and moving horizontally, you can hear carefully the chord transitions, go backward and forward and even sequence chords that are not consecutive, simply to test them. By holding the CTRL key, you can click on a chord and it will be hold until you click elsewhere on another chord. It is like a magnifying glass but for music.

There is also a shortcut to use this tool without selecting it : click in the score while holding down both SHIFT and CTRL keys of the computer keyboard.

Example 3 - Starting from an existing melody and chord progression [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

In this example, we will examine a different situation. Here you have an existing melody as well as the chords progression. This is for instance the case when you want to custom arrange an existing song.

In such chord progressions, you will often find more modulations and chord variations than in scolar harmony. If you keep the standard parameters, the program may find no solution that satisfies the rules. We will see how to handle this situation.

As the melody and the chords are fixed, we do not want the program to modify them. We will use the two empty staves to create a string arrangement that will play the chords.

You need to use a set of rules that contains all the chords present, otherwise the program will not find solutions for all chords. The above set of rules contains all major and minor chords, as well as the 5 types of seventh chords. If your melody uses other chords like 9th, you should simplify them for this type of harmonization, as this program presently only handles the sevenths chords.

This time, the green band appears below the first staff. You can adjust its vertical position by dragging one of the squares present at both sides of the band, so that it does not hide a part of the melody.

The scales are proposed so that all the notes of the original chords will correspond. There may be other possible configurations and you can modify them by right-clicking on the time slots and modify or delete a scale.

This would also be the case if we were using a modulating melody inside the composition area. The program would try to find the best scales that contain the notes of the melody.

This is an important step to remember, as if you do not adjust the scales, the program may never find solutions for the time slots where the scale is not adjusted to the notes or chords.

This is because this type of chords progression goes outside the standard range of classical harmony and for this type of music, some rules are too restrictive. In this case, there are many abrupt and non prepared (in the classical harmony meaning) modulations that will generate several kind of errors and chromatic passages that are not allowed in classical harmony. We need to disable some of the classical rules that are likely to cause problem.

There can be hundreds of variations and one of them is for instance:

You can also influence the range of the arrangement, simply by adjusting the vertical thick green bars found to the left of the composition area. There is one bar for each voice of the arrangement.

Example 4 - 2 parts counterpoint with a given melody [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

In this example, we will first add a bass line playing with eighth notes.

You can also work it step by step, which would be more creative, as you can influence the way the bass is playing all over the melody.

By default, the rhythmic structure is exactly the same as the original melody, but the music would be more interesting if the second voice has a different time structure. Let's say we would like only eighth notes at the bass, so that the bass line would give the feeling of a regular flow against a changing melody.

If you ask the program to suggest new solutions, you will get a continuous bass line using eighth notes except for the second part of the last measure.

If you listen to it, you may notice that the bass line for that instrument may be too low in pitch. You can adjust the range of the bass so that it occupies a higher range and you can get a solution like this:

Once the composition is finished, remember that you can click on the Set button to fix all green notes. You can also remove the composition module and only the result of your work is left in the score.

Please note that this type of exercise can be done while interactively composing the melody, so that both melody and bass line progress according to what you feel.

Example 5 - 3 parts counterpoint with dissonances and rhythmic transfer [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

We will first add two voices with different time structures. This is one example on how to use the various species of counterpoint.

Notice that the use of dissonances is shown by drawing the notes in orange.

You can influence the general solution by adjusting or moving the ranges of the two voices.

As the program displays the figured bass and degree by using the lyrics tool of Pizzicato, it will always add them on the time slots where a note starts (here on the first beat of each measure). If you want to have them on all time slots, select another staff for the placement of the figured bass. In this case the first staff would show it for each time slot.

If you compose for a group or for a whole orchestra, each part coming from the composition module may in fact be automatically assigned to one or more other instruments. We will use a simple example with the first empty staff of this example and we will use the rhythmic transfer mode with a transposition of one octave up.

The idea is that the main parts can then be assigned to various groups of instruments. You can even do this before starting to compose or arrange, so that you can directly hear the combination resulting from the rhythymic transfer to the other instruments.

To introduce new rhythmic values and rhythmic variations, you can also use the rhythmic variations dialog box, as explained in the Help menu, in Intuitive music composition, Composition tools - Rhythmic variations.

Example 6 - Checking for errors in an existing score [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

You can use the program to correct existing exercises, from a MIDI file or by simply entering the notes with the note tools, as you yourself work on a harmony or counterpoint exercise. Let's open an existing score and check for any error according to the rules.

First of all, this program only implements a simplified set of the main rules of harmony. There are several special cases and exceptions to these rules and even then, they vary amongst different treaties on harmony.

But most importantly, harmony comes from the observation of the masters of the past. General rules and more specific cases have been deduced from the music already composed. That does not mean that each master piece of the past could have been written from that set of rules. They can serve as guiding rules and should never prevent nice music to be written. If you prepare an examination in harmony, you better learn the rules and be able to apply them. This program will help you in this way. But if you simply want to compose freely, then use the rules as a guide and never as a master.

Example 7 - Starting from a MIDI file [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

As a last example, we will show how to import a melody from a MIDI file and to add counterpoint on it.

It is a melody extracted from Chopin. We will copy the content and use it in a 2 parts counterpoint score.

As you may expect, the harmony is not the one that Chopin used. Using the Compute button for a one shot suggestion is of course leaving the direction of the music to chance. Using the step by step method or measure by measure would let you give more direction to the resulting music.

What to do if the program finds no solution [Professional] [Composition Light] [Composition Pro]

As we have shown in the above examples, there will be many cases when the program will not find any solution to your request. This always means that there are too many constraints used and here is a list of things to check and correct so that the program can find solutions.

  1. First of all, check if the notes present in the score (the original melody, the bass line or any note that you entered yourself) are not in conflict with one of the active rules. Go in the Errors panel and check. If notes are outside the range, simply extend the range of that voice to include all notes. If a specific rule shows an error and you want to keep your melody, then simply disable that rule.
  1. If the composition area does not cover a whole musical phrase, it often happens that the part of the phrase covered will not start or end on the first degree of the scale, which will result in an error. This may even be true for a whole musical phrase. In that case, disable one or both of the two check boxes entitled Disable beginning rules and Disable end rules.
  1. Be sure that the scales displayed in the green band correspond to the existing notes and chords. Click the Estimate scales and/or change the scales. In most cases, the program should find valid scales, but you may sometimes find more logical scales that will provide more possible solutions. If the music is written in minor, be sure to enable the augmented VII and/or VI if such notes are present in the existing music.
  1. To extend possible solutions, you can disable the rule entitled Distance between the voices. By default, the interval between two consecutive voices is no greater than the octave (except for the bass in four parts harmony). This may sometimes prevent any solution from being found, specifically in free composition.
  1. In the same order of idea, you can increase the range of the voices. It will help the program to find more possible combinations that may satisfy the rules.
  1. When using the program outside the frame of an harmony or counterpoint exercise, you may disable some of the rules regarding the melodic intervals.
  1. In the Solutions panel, you can decrease the global and local minimal evaluations required.
  1. When using chord progressions with much scale modulations and seventh chords (the set of rules with all sevenths), you can disable one or more of the following rule numbers : 6 // 27-28 // 30-31 // 7-8-9
  1. By using the step by step mode for a given note, you can click the Compute button while holding down the CTRL key of the computer. This will force the program to suggest all possible solutions for that time slot, not taking into account what is before or after that chord. This may help you to explore the area where the program cannot find any solution, so that you can locate the reason why no solutions were found. By checking for errors you can then see what is possibly the cause and find which rule to disable.
  1. As a last resort, you can also disable most of the rules. But never disable rule number one. The use of chords is also present in the rules, like for instance Fifth chords. If you disable that rule, then the program can no more use fifth chords. By disabling everything except rule 1, then no solutions are possible anyway, as there are no more chords to use. If everything else fails, then there may be indeed no solution to your request...!

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