Thursday, August 30, 2012

Note to self about improv


Was wondering about Eb being used for solo-ing over a C7 chord, and here the answer is, you can use a pentatonic scale with flat 3rd and 7th.

Scales are often played against chord progressions, and the chords can help decide which scales to play. Beginner students often become confused determining which scale to play with a particular chord because there are so many possibilities when deciding which scale to play with which chord. The following are a few possible scale and chord combinations to try (refer to the chord’s chapter for unfamiliar chords).

The major (ionian) scale works great with the major chord family like Cmaj6, Cmaj7, Cmaj9, and Cmaj13. The fourth step note in a major scale will often sound dissonant when played against a major chord because it will clash with the major chord’s third step note.

The dorian mode is used with the minor chord family and also try dorian modes with dominant seventh, sharp nine chords (C7#9).

The phrygian mode works great in minor keys with a v7-VImaj7 chord progression in it (Em7-Fmaj7). In major keys, that would be a iii7-IVmaj7 chord progression. Try playing this scale against minor chords (Cm), minor sevenths (Cm7), minor seven-flat ninths (Cm7b9), minor eleventh-flat ninths (Cm11b9), and minor eleventh-flat ninth-flat thirteenth (Cm11b9b13) chords.

The lydian mode is used with major family chords such as major chords (Cmaj), major sevenths (Cmaj7), major seventh-sharp eleventh (Cmaj7#11), major ninths (Cmaj9), and major thirteenth-sharp elevenths (Cmaj13#11). With the major seven chords, the first step note will tend to resolve down to the seventh step note.

The mixolydian mode is used with the dominant family chords like dominant seventh (C7), dominant ninth (C9), dominant eleventh (C11), and dominant thirteenth (C13) chords. Try using the suspended second and suspended fourth alterations with this scale as well (C7Sus4, C7Sus2, C9Sus4, and C13Sus4).

The minor (aeolian) scale is used with the minor family chords. This scale works with minors (Cm), minor sevenths (Cm7), minor ninths (Cm9), minor elevenths (Cm11), and minor eleventh-flat thirteenths (Cm11b13). It is also used in minor keys with a minor seven-flat five chord (Cm7b5) in the chord progression.

The locrian mode can also be played with the minor seven-flat five chord. In addition to the diminished chord (Cdim), the locrian mode is used with minor seven-flat five-flat ninth (Cm7b5b9), minor eleventh-flat five-flat ninth (Cm11b5b9), and minor eleventh-flat five-flat ninth-flat thirteenth (Cm11b5b9b13) chords.

Pentatonic scales are very popular and work in many situations. The major pentatonic scale can be played over major chords, and the minor pentatonic scale can be played over minor chords. The minor pentatonic scale is also commonly used with the relative major chords, like the A minor pentatonic scale over the C major chord. Try playing major pentatonic scales built on the major scale’s first, second, and fifth steps over major seventh chords. One example, using the C major scale (C, D, E, F, G, A, B), is playing the C, D, and G major pentatonic scales over a C major seventh chord. For dominant seventh chords, play pentatonic scales based on the major scales first, flat third, and flat seventh steps. Another example is playing C, Eb, and Bb pentatonic scales over a C7 chord. Over altered dominant chords, play a minor pentatonic scale with the root note based on the chord’s flat third, fourth, and flat seventh step note. A third example is playing Eb, F, and Bb minor pentatonic scales over the altered dominant C7#5#9 chord.

The blues scale is often played with the dominant (C7, C7b9, C7#9, C9, C13) and minor (Cm, Cm7, Cm7b5) family chords, and is commonly played throughout the entire blues progression matching the scale’s root note with the song’s key signature. For example, play a C blues scale over a C7-F7-G7 chord progression. Also, practice using relative minor blues scales, such as playing the C# minor blues scale in the key of E. By comparing blues scales with pentatonic scales, their many similarities allow them to be great substitutes. Try substituting the minor blues scale with the minor pentatonic scale.

The harmonic minor scale is played with minor chords that add a sharped seventh step like minor-major seventh (Cm/maj7) chords, minor ninth-major seventh (Cm9/maj7) chords, minor eleventh-major seventh (Cm11/maj7) chords, and minor-major seventh-flat thirteenth (Cm/maj7b13) chords. Also, try the harmonic minor scale with the fourth step dominant seventh-sharp ninth (F7#9) chord, or the fifth step dominant seventh (G7), dominant seventh-flat ninth (G7b9), and dominant seventh-flat thirteenth (G7b13) chords.

The jazz/melodic minor scale, just like the harmonic minor, can also use minor-major seventh (Cm/maj7), minor ninth-major seventh (Cm9/maj7), and minor eleventh-major seventh (Cm11/maj7) chords. The minor thirteenth-major seventh (Cm13/maj7) chord can also be used. For dominant chords, try playing the jazz/melodic minor’s second step as a dominant seventh-suspended fourth (D7Sus4) or a dominant seventh-suspended fourth-flat ninth (D7Sus4b9) chord. On the fourth step note, play a dominant seventh chord (F7) or a dominant seventh-sharp eleventh (F7#11) chord. On the fifth step, play a dominant seventh (G7), dominant seventh-suspended fourth (G7Sus4), or dominant seventh-flat thirteenth (G7b13) chord.

The lydian-augmented scale is used with major chords that have a raised fifth step, like the major seven-sharp five (Cmaj7#5), the major seven-sharp eleven-sharp five (Cmaj7#11#5), and the major thirteen-sharp five (Cmaj13#5) chord.

The Lydian b7 scale is used with major and dominant chords that have flat fifth, flat ninth, and flat thirteenth chord alterations. A few examples are major-flat five (Cmajb5), dominant seventh-flat five (C7b5), dominant seventh-flat five-flat ninth (C7b5b9), and dominant seventh-flat five-flat thirteenth (C7b5b13) chords.

The locrian #2 scale is played with minor seventh-flat five (half-diminished) chords like Cm7b5. It can also be used with minor ninth-flat five (Cmin9b5) and minor eleventh-flat five (Cmin11b5). This scale works better than the locrian scale when the ninth step is unaltered.

The super locrian scale is used with altered fifth and ninth dominant chords. A few examples are dominant seventh-sharp five-sharp nine (C7#5#9) and dominant seventh-sharp five-flat nine (C7#5b9) chords. Because this scale flats every step but the root (1, b2, b3, b4, b5, b6, b7), flatting the root note creates a major scale.

The whole tone scale works with dominant chords that have a raised and lowered fifth step such as C7#5, C7b5, C9, C9#5, C9b5, and C7#5#11.

The whole step-half step and half step-whole step scales are used with the dominant seventh chord and can add flat ninth (b9), sharp ninth (#9), sharp eleventh (#11), or thirteenth (13) chord extensions such as C7, C7b9, C7#9, C7#11, or C13. Diminished seventh chords like Cdim7 can be used as well. Remember, these two scales are the same, just starting on a different note.

The augmented scale can be used with augmented chords (major chords that have a sharped fifth step). This scale can also be used when the augmented chord is extended with a major seventh interval to create the major seventh-sharp five chord like Cmaj7#5.

Continue to practice and experiment with the many vast possible combinations of scales with chords. If a teacher or a friend is not available to practice with, try to record a few chord progressions and then practice solo ideas on top of them. Listen to each scale against the chord progression to find which scale fits best for that song. Also, look at some favorite songs and begin to analyze the scales used in those songs, and how those scales sound against the chord progressions. This process will become easier with time, and also help define a unique composing style that helps separate one musician from another.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Library thoughts: Kontakt Factory vs VSL SE

Let's face it. VSL's instruments aren't cheap. And for us hobbyists, it begs the question, will I actually make full use of the full blown VI?

At the moment, the answer for me is easy: No.

But yet I lust for more VIs (lol gimme more harps).

And looking back over the short piece I finished today - I realized something about the articulations.

A quick browse shows that the Brass and Wind instruments in the Kontakt 5 Factory Library come with:
- 3 types of sustain
- Fp
- Sfz
- Staccato

Comparatively, VSL SE instruments come with
- legato
- sustained
- sfz
- staccato

So, the base SE instruments basically miss out 2 types of sustains and fp.
The SE also has the Plus package which gives us these articulations:

- Portato
- Fp
- Half and whole note trills
- Repetition performance for legato and staccato
- Fast repetiions at 3 speeds (?)


Elfen Lied | Lilium | Music Box | Orchestral Piano Cover

Another little thing I worked on, sort of a compo to get everyone to compose a piano rendition of this particular anime song and see how everyone does it.

This is the first time I actually ran out of cpu power, and forced me to bounce tracks to disk. Mmm... I still had relatively lots of ram available though, 3+gb out of 8gb. Bouncing to disk ain't no big a deal.

Piano: SampleTekk PMI Old Lady
Strings: VSL Chamber Strings
Horns & Percussion: Kontakt 5 Factory Library

I'd like to add that I spent *alot* of time humanizing the strings, like easily 3, maybe 4 hours, only to have them knocked into the background lol.

A fair amount of time was combining the music box version with the harmony of the original lilium piece (thankfully both were in f# minor), most of it appeared to work when hearing it in Finale, but did not work once sequenced, and had to find alternative chords to make it work. I hope it does!

EDIT: There is actually a fair bit of white noise in the intro as I boosted it up with a gain plug - I actually didn't hear any noise on my speakers or akg 240MK2 headphones. A forum member mentioned the noise and I checked again, not hearing anything.... pulling out my new shure iems.... damn, it's there! Guess I'm putting my iems into my mixing chain as well.

EDIT2: AIEEE! I can hear white noise in my recorded CP33 tracks! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Orchestral Template Musings

One more time! Lol.

My latest sample acquisition is VSL's Chamber Strings I, the full thing, standard and extended. I put out an ad on Vi-Control and as luck would have it, a composer was selling his copy off, so I managed to snag it way below retail. Woo! That's one thing to love about vsl - you can legally purchase used libraries, unlike say East West, where that's not allowed. And I really wish I could get rid of my EWQL Symphonic Orchestra as I just don't use it at all - much prefer the workflow with vsl and kontakt.

Alright, so let's do the rundown again. I need to keep reminding myself that *I have kontakt and the built-in library* - I keep going off about "I have no winds, I have no brass", yadayada, but as one of my friends pointed out, I have kontakt and there's a friggin' orchestra in there, as well as choirs, band instruments, ethnic instruments, sampled synths and more.

VSL Chamber Strings + Solo Strings - DONE. For now.

Winds, Brass, Percussion: Konkakt 5's native library.

Truthfully, down the road I want to go down the vsl route for winds brass and percussion as well, though there are oher considerations e.g. Wallander Instruments for Brass.

Preciously, that was a no brainer as I loved the sound, and being a modelled instrument it is light on the disk, ram and cpu. However, now that I've been using a bit more vsl, I really enjoy the workflow, and apart from loading times, vsl's stuff seems very memory and cpu efficient.

But when it comes to VSL, the issue is PRICE, as well as what to buy. For brass there's 3 options, Dimension Brass, as well as Brass I and II. I don't know my brass needs at the moment, so it is difficult to say I'll need which lib. Now that I think about it, I actually should not be buying libraries because I want to "Fill the gap with VSL" - I do have the Kontakt library and it does have alot of the stuff I can use to experiment with, and if doesn't work I can get vsl.

Well no, actually I know I will get vsl, BUT, using the kontakt libraries first will give me more insight on what my needs are. E.g. I really like the legato performances in the string libs from vsl so far; I'm sure the brass and winds will have that kind of performance as well. AFAIK the kontakt libs don't have legato, at least not on the articulation page, so I hope I'm wrong and it is there just something I need to tweak.

Ok, so that's it for me then, I'll give the kontakt built-in libraries a go, but if I ever come across a good offer for vsl... heheheheh

Subnote: After much fuddling about with the Kontakt library, I can safely say I am not all all a fan of the woodwinds in there (I think they are the horizon series vsl instruments, not the current day instruments? I could be wrong) - no legato is a big killer for winds as I dabble in several types of flutes (I forsee a tenor recorder in the near future) and having an attack at every note for solo flute just blows it. Faking the legato seems to work though. Brass, I don't know, no legato but sounds ok, percussion sounds great! Strings seem to be pretty good even without legato, but this was with just a very simple midi phrase for testing.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bow techniques for the Violin

Having no idea what "spiccato" is - bouncing the bow off the string sure, but I found this lovely set of vides off youtube that gives examples of what the various bowings are.

Another video covering some other bowings.

Rise up and Roar!

Eheheheh my string library finally arrived and I quickly composed this upbeat piece just to test it out :3

I'm not sure of the mixing, I may have pushed the instruments a bit too far back into the soundstage. Wish I had speakers to really figure stuff like that out but oh well.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Grabbing Rocks

A short piece, putting in what I learnt from analysing the Bach Chorales. The melody line uses small phrases, inspired by my saxophone lesson this fine day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A new chapter begins

Bought "Orchestration" by Cecil Forsyth on a whim. Well, kind of on a whim - I caught sight of a review that this was not your regular orchestration textbook, but has a bit of English humour in it. And it does! So, I'll learn and have a laugh too, win!

Also, as it was used (my 2nd edition is from 1966?!), cost only a few quid off amazon.

Also finished off my first two studies of Bach chorales. They are a work of art in their own right, seriously.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Another book complete!

Only took me 8 months :P Probably going to run through parts of the book again as I can't actually play all the pieces at full speed.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dearly Beloved

So last night another compo lesson, I think I'm finally getting the idea of how to write good strong chords and not weaken the harmony by having indistinct vertical harmony. One aspect we looked at was Bach Chorales. I've only checked out two of Bach's chorales and they are simply works of art. There are so many techniques to be found there that I really must look deeper.

This exercise above is my attempt to do 4 part harmony with strong vertical harmony. I think I will change my focus from doing the orchestral transcriptions to analyzing these bach chorales.