Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Quick Transposition Tip

So you have a song and now you want to add a vocalist. As usual, the singer cannot sing in that key.

Now you have to transpose every chord. Of course, if your environment is completely electronic, it's simple, just press a few buttons or knobs to adjust it.

Here is an easy tip, you can quickly create a transposition map on a piece of paper.

For example, let's say the original song was written in the key of F, and you want to move to Ab.

On the first line write every note on the key of F (major). Even if the song is mostly in minor chords, just use the major sale for this purpose.

F G A Bb C D E

and now on the second line write down all the major notes in the new key. It is also a good time to check against the number of flats or sharps on the musical staff if you have one, for example, in this case we are talking about Ab key which is has 4 flats.

F  G  A Bb C  D  E
Ab Bb C Db Eb F  G

Now, it is easy to transpose, if your first chord is Fm7 then the new chord would be Abm7. 

If you a B7 chord in the original, that's half step above Bb so you can simply add half step above Db which comes out to D7. Note that for Jazz chords like F#m7b5, it is just a matter of transposing the letters. In this case F maps to Ab so F# is a step above F so half above Ab is A, thus it would be Am7b5 when transposed. 

You can also use the above map to transpose the melody line easily. 

A side note: These b5, #5, b9 stuff is called dominant chord (the one with 7 in it) alterations. If you don't know how to play them just play the 7th chord indicated and omit the alterations and hope either other band members would play these notes, or it's often in the melody of a song in which case you would want to avoid playing as it will crash with the vocalist.

Have fun!


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Modal and Altered Scale Tips

This is an on-going notes I am taking each time I come back to this topic. Originally published on October 12, 2012.

The 10 Modal Scales

Most textbooks write them in all sorts of different ways on the notation staff. For example, starting C with Ionian then move up one to D and Dorian. Some start with C with bunch of flats and sharps.

But instead of thinking about every note in respective scale, it may be easier to remember which notes are altered from the "standard major" or Ionian scale to me. Since I found out about that I usually relate to the chords, like b7 or minor 7 flat 5.

I personally dislike I, II, III notation of scales, I tend to think CDEFGABC, so when I am thinking in terms of Ab in key of Eb then I would think in my head "The Ab is the F to the C scale." Kind of convoluted, but it works for me.

By the way, if you are new to Greek Numerals. You need to know the following simple rules.
  • I, II, III, V: 1, 2 and 3 and 5 from there you create other numbers.
  • IV: to mean take 1 from V (5) which makes 4
  • VI: now I is on the right so that means add 1 to V making 6
  • VII: and that's 7.
X is 10. So now you know how to make IX (9) and X (11) and so forth but that usually do not come up in music.

At any rate, have no fear with 9th, 11th and 13th notes.  Just subtract 7 from these numbers but think of playing one octave higher. In the C scale that's just D, F, and A. So b9, #11, b13 as you will see in the altered scale means simply Db, F# (or Gb), Ab in the chord scale with the key of C.

Also note that the use of b5 is often not correct in theory on scales where you'd skip 4th but hit #4 and also include the 5th. That is the case for Symmetrical Diminished. Speaking of which, it is totally legit to play the 5th on the altered scale though they are often not included in the text books.

Apparently that's to avoid confusion with introducing chromatic scales (the scale in which the note goes up half step from the start to end.)

Below scales are introduced in the order of "Brightest Sounding to Darkest" in general.

There Are Only Two Major Scales - Lydian and Ionian

Lydian = #4
Ionian = "the standard diatonic major scale" in the case of C that's all the white keys.

Then Two Dominant Scales

Two are in Dominant (though there will be altered ones). This means that when a dominant chord is indicated there is a chance to substitute scales (if that sounds good).

Mixolydian = b7 (the regular major 7th chord). When a plain 6th is indicated in the chord like C6, then it is actually this scale.

Lydian b7 = #4 [or b5], b7 (not usually included in the textbook modal scales).

Note that in Jazz and popular music the b5 is notated more commonly than #4, but theoretically it is more correct to say #4 here because V (5th) is in the scale but the 4th is altered.

The Rest are Minor Scales

Dorian = b3, b7 (the regular minor 7th chord). Also when m6 is indicated in the chord use this scale. Blues players take note on this scale. If the chord symbol indicates m7 and m6 this is the common scale.

Aeolian = b3, b6 or (#5), b7 is also called a Natural Minor Scale

Phrygian = b3, b7, b9, b13 (though actually b2, b3, b6 and b7) Noted Sus4(b9)

Locrian = b3, b5, b7, b9, b13 (though actually b2, b3, b5, b6, b7)  If the chord symbol indicates (m7b5) this is the scale.

Also, not a part of modal stuff, but worth a note:

Melodic Minor = 7th is not flat. (i.e. often notated as minor major 7). Note also that this is usually used on ascending melody or solo direction only in Jazz. Compare this with Natural Minor which is Aeolian.

Then Comes Altered Scales

Altered = b7, b9, #9, #11, b13. The 5th is actually OK to play though not in the text book. Another interesting fact on this is that if you raise the half step and play a melodic minor on that scale then you get the ALT scale. So if you see C(Alt) then play the C#m. Or another way to look at it is on and after #4, it is the whole tone scale (thought the 5th is actually permitted.)

Symmetrical Diminished = #4, b7, b9 #9, natural 13, b7 (b2, b3, #4, 6, b7).  5th and 6th are included in the scale!

Both in Sym-Dim and ALT scales b9 and #9 are always in both but on ALT scale b5, b6 are present.

Since in both cases if you see a b9 then it is almost always correct to assume a #9 in the scale.

Important Distinction! If the 6th (or the 13th) is not flat then it is the Symmetrical Diminished. ALT has a flat 13.

So the trick is this. If I see a b9, then I will have to check if 13th is a b13. If it is b13 then it's altered and if natural 13 then it is potentially a Symmetrical Diminished. For example, in the key of C, I would look for Db then if Ab is present then that's likely an ALT otherwise it can be a symmetrical diminished.

When the scale starts "half-full-half-full-half-full-half" scale then that's the Symmetrical Diminished scale. And noted like C7b9 whereas DIM scale which is often written with a ø like Fø is the same as Sim-Dim with one difference, it starts with Full-Half-Full-Half steps.

Dominant Substitution

There are many chords that can be substituted when a dominant 7 (like G7) is indicated in the chart.
Use of the altered scale is a very likely candidate.

Another one that I like is the Tritone Substitution which is to use the dominant chord above 5 step and back down half step (easier than saying 6 half step up). So in the Dm to G7 to C progression, plus 5 of a G is D and half step is Db, which turns out to be a half step above the last chord of C.

In reality you see a lot of situations on Jazz where usually the last dominant chord is approached from a chord half step above, then that's what they are doing.

Scale Selection Hints

So which scale to play? This has been the major mystery to me for the longest time but I was explained basically the following and that makes complete sense to me.
  • Look at the Chord Symbol. This gives the basic framework of the scale. For example Cmaj7 would one of two major scales. If it's minor chord then look for one of the modal scales.
  • Then use the following ideas to seek notes that will be included in the scale.
  • Look for the hint notes in the current measure's melody line.
  • Look for the hint notes in the preceding measure. If this is the first measure then the preceding measure is the last measure in the song (makes sense.)
  • Usually the last Dominant 7th chord of a song section (like at the 8th measure) is ALTerable.
Hearing the Sound on Keyboards.
  • On your left hand play only the root, 3 and 7 or root 7 and 3.
  • On your right hand play the whole scale or extensions like b9 etc or melodies including these notes.

Monday, July 1, 2013

KORG Legacy Collection Notes

As many of you know I have recently switched from LOGIC Pro 9 to Ableton Live 9 Standard as the first tool I go for to start writng a new song. To this effect, I use Live as the tool to write a stem of a new song then use LOGIC as the final production system. That draws the strengths of both.

I also decided to stop at the Standard level, at least for a while. Being a keyboardist and also like to do some sound designs in every production. So, if you are like me, you need to have tweakable software instruments. You know that the on LOGIC "out of the box" inclusion of software instruments is really nice, and I'm sure you'd love to use ES1 or even EFM1 for bass, ES2 for leads, and of course the Sculpture.

Ableton 9 Standard has a lot of great sounds but in terms of having "actual synthesizer in front of you" experience, you might be a bit disappointed.

Since I use KORG fairly exclusively I decided on using KORG Legacy Collection. Like Live 9, it is supported both on the PC and Mac which is really nice, and so long as you observe their licensing requirement of "you use on one computer at a time" you can install one purchase on both machines.

I will let you read the specs from the KORG web site, but you may want to know a bit about my experience.

Here is a quick track I wrote, and except for the percussion, all synthesizers in there are from the KORG Legacy Series.

I really like simple Moog like feel of MS-20. If you know analog synthesizers this is very intuitive. What's surprising is that you get a polyphonic version of it. Which is like having multiple MS-20s. This is beat of a cheat but I like it. Because there is MS-20, I do not know if there is any point in using the Polysix in the set. In my mix it is doing the deeper part of the bass.

I really love Mono/Poly in the collection. It has some rich nice set of preset preset banks are larger. All of the ARPing sounds above tracks are from from M/P. Mono/Poly and "newer" synthesizer sets in the legacy collection also has auto-demo mode to audition all persents. I think that's a nice touch.

WaveStation is definitely great for effects and pads. The wave table type systems are fairly rare, and various software instruments try to replicate that method even on ES2, but I really like a tons of patches on the legacy series. Listen for that "icy" sound after 1:27 mark.

One Mac Installation/License Authorization Issue, But Resolved

On my Mac, I kept having license authorization issue with KORG M1.

It turned out I had M1-Le installed from one of the demos I downloaded the past, and I have forgotten about it. Actually it was not even installed initially but I picked this installer and accidentally installed. The correction version in the collection is just "M1" and not "M1-Le" and M1-Le will not authorize the license key and that's not what you want. So please be aware.

If you accidentally installed the Le version of it, you will be asked to license it each time you start your DAW. And a removal can be difficult, but I will tell you how you would do it manually. It all comes down to you knowing where this is stored on your Mac.
  1. Shut down all music an video production applications, media players. Ideally just running the Finder.
  2. Go to your hard disk top level using the Finder
  3. Find the path /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/VST  You will find the l1me.vst file there. You can remove it.
  4. Also find Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/Components and you will also find  M1 Le component file, and you can remove it.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ugh! Ableton Live 9 Rewire Bug with Logic - A Loud Buzz Issue, No Solution in Sight!

So, I was a bit stoked that I am going to start slaving Ableton Live 9 to my Logic 9 via Rewire technology.

It all worked correctly until the moment I hit the record button on Logic, it gave a loud buzz for the duration of recording count-in.

Turns out it is a well known issue and Ableton Web Site states that there currently is not a solution.

It sounds like there is an audio-loop during this period. I tried to turn off the metronome altogether on the Logic side and it does not help (so don't even try that.)

So be aware of this issue before you get all stoked and try this out on your logic.

I am sure to post another message if and when I find out this slaving issue is fixed. It is annoying enough hassle for my situation... how can I even record a track without a count-in. I guess I could create one or measures of hi-hat or something, then remove the pre-roll when bouncing the final. Really too bad.

Hope they get to fix this soon!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Chord Alteration Excercise II-V-I Progression Song

Tamir gave me above chord progression suggestions in my last lesson, and so I need to analyze what is going on as a homework. If you are curious or into this sort of things, you might also want to learn along with me.

Please note that I have notated substitutions using a vertical bar (|) which is OR in most software programming language notation. When you see that you play one of the chords, and not all of them.

Measure 2 (M2): Going from the Am7 to the Ebo7 to the Dm7  (o is Diminished) with Tri-tone Substitution

This is a standard tri-tone substitution  (TT-Sub) smoothly going into the Dm on M3. Same goes for the Bb9 to the Am.
Looks like when the last chord is a dominant 7 chord, major or minor, we can always try choosing this technique, and it is easy, as it is always a half step above the first chord on the next measure. Other TT subs occur at measure 10 to 11, 15-16, 16-17 etc.

Something I've learned about the TT-Sub is the following, and this is perhaps the best explanation of why this works - it is the 3rd and the 7th swapped.

So, for example, taking a look at a move from the C7 to the FM7 (II-V of Bb) with the C7 substituted with the Gb7. The 3rd of the C7 is E and 7th of the C7 is Bb. Now if we say what's the chord that has E as the 7th and Bb as the 3rd. Taking Bb and 3 whole step down will be the Gb, and the 7th of the Gb is E, so it is just a swap of 3rd and the 7th. Get it?

What this also means is that the bass player can play the substituted bass while the piano player stay on the same dominant chord in a rootless voicing.

Another trick to this is to approach the next chord from half step below using a Diminished chord, I will get into that a bit later in this post.

M5: Am to the E7+5 back to the Am7 with the AmM7 Substitution.

This is IIm-V-IIm7 progression on the A scale as originally written. The E7+5 contains E, G#, B, D. The AmM7 is A, C, E, G, G# and so the harmony is still supported. Personally, I think it is the AmM9 with an addition of B will make it closer to the E7+5 harmony since E and B are now covered.  This essentially means that by holding the A note on the bass and playing an E7+5 harmony it will essentially generate an AmM9 harmony.

M15: Use of a V Suspended Chord instead of TT-Sub to Approach The Next Chord

Taking a look at M15 where it goes from the Dm7 into the G7 sus (b9) instead of the Db7, which is the TT-Sub going into the Cm7. 

The G7 sus b9 contains G, C, F, G# and the Db7 is Db, F, Ab (or G#) and B. It appears both are kind of close with F and G# notes in common.

M16: Double Alteration from the Bb9 to the Eb9?

This is a bit puzzling so I will get back on this after a bit more research.

Am7 contains A, C, E, G
Bb9 contains Bb, C, D, F, Ab
Eb9 contains Eb, F, G, Bb

M20: Approaching Am7 from Em7 via G#dim7

This part of harmony is moving from E to A to D. I need a bit more work here on this, but the shared B, D, then onto D, F in the next harmony some has clue as to why this would work.

Em7 contains E, G, B, D and 
G#dim7 contains G#, B, D, F
Dm7 contains D, F, A, C

For now, this apprach of going from Dim7 from 1/2 step below is a viable option for alteration.

One of Gary Burton's suggestions is to the chord scale analysis too. That may elucidate a bit further as to the chord choices and also solo choices. I may do that next time.

See you again soon and any enlightenment is also welcome.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ableton vs. LOGIC My Experience Part II

Have been using Ableton a bit longer and learned a lot more about how this works. Also upgraded to the Standard.

Some big pluses on the Ableton:
  • I have both KORG NanoKontrol2 and Axiom 25 Classic and they work fairly smoothly.
  • Windows version. I have both Mac and Windows so this is super nice.
  • MIDI effects are fairly unique to Ableton. Logic does not quite have it. However, as far as it goes,  KARMA on my KORG M3 offers a lot more features along this line.
  • Session mode. This is, for me, the key for quick song writing and I now cannot let that go. I will likely to write new songs with Ableton first then mix with Logic.
  • Variable tempo on samples (Warping) is really powerful and intuitive, however, you do need to get to the Standard edition to have better warping algorithms. Along this line the Groove Pool is also a great tool.
  • Drum Racks are really intuitive to use for me than the Ultrabeat.
  • Ability to chain almost unlimited effects per track. No practical slot limitations like Logic.
 Some big pluses on the LOGIC Pro 9
  • Vocal Pitch correction out of the box. Ableton does not have this in any of its versions. If you are a vocalist, this is the way to go.
  • Scoring and notation (note, it will become handy even if you currently do not write.)
  • Audio effects
  • Great "live" sampled instrument set from orchestras to live pop/rock/jazz band instruments.  Even the standard Live is basically full of loops and more electronic or electronically processed sounds.
  • Software instruments, like the B3 organ emulation, EP emulation, full sampler to a fully fledged analog synths. You do not get these types of instruments even a comprehensive sampler instrument until you get to  Live Suite version.
  • Categorized browsing of loops from the mood to tempo. Ableton does not quite have this.

Ableton Live 9: Cannot Keep "Session Record Button" to Stay On or Toggle From A Control Surface


You wanted to press, for example, a transport RECORD button on your control surface to engage the new Session Record Button (as opposed to the Arrangement Record Button, which seems to work OK.)

You have mapped the Record button on your control surface, for example Axiom, via the MIDI mapping feature.

When you press the Record button it goes into the recording mode but as soon as you release the button, it does not stay engaged in record (i.e., not toggling.)

Root Cause:

This is because on Ableton Live, only way (as far as I know) to get a control to toggle is to use a MIDI Note number and not the CC number. Most transport controls are usually programmed not to toggle but send a CC signal each time it is pressed. Any CC code will not cause the Ableton to act as momentary function.


Using your control's editor, you can assign an actual MIDI note like very very low C0 key etc that you'd not normally play to your control surface's button. If that's not possible, you could sacrifice a note on a keyboard controller or a drum pad position to accomplish this.


If Ableton's MIDI mapping feature permits more tweaking like they have on Apple LOGIC, that would have been great, for example, also the rotary encoder sometimes act "too sensitively."