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### music notation and note generators

Oct 08 2009 | 6:57 am

So, I’ve been flipping through a book on ‘contemporary music theory’. In the first few pages I learned what a tetrachord is and how two of them can be combined to build a major scale. Given the rules, I built a patch (rather than working through the books pencil and paper exercise).

tetrachord abstraction:

— Pasted Max Patch, click to expand. —

patch using 2 tetrachords to generate a scale:

— Pasted Max Patch, click to expand. —

Great, I thought. If I can get past this music notation stuff, I can codify these rules into Max, perhaps building a nice little toolkit of note generators along the way.

The only problem is…*drum roll* the music notation! Sharps, flats, key signatures, circle-of-fifths, diatonic, chromatic, minor, diminished, augmented, etc, etc, etc. Ugh. And this is only the beginning!

Perhaps I’m approaching this at a wrong angle – learning to read sheet music is too formal, too academic, especially for a non-musician. What I’d like is a straight forward reference document of rules. There are a finite number of keys on a piano, I just want to know which key combos sound good together so I can piece together strings of them and see if something interesting comes out.

Sigh, I suppose I could just hardcode a piano chord chart for starters…

Oct 08 2009 | 12:21 pm
 /3r7ex wrote on Thu, 08 October 2009 08:57 There are a finite number of keys on a piano, I just want to know which key combos sound good together

There are approximately 2^88 (about 309485009820000000000000000) combinations of keys on the piano that sound good together… it all depends on the context.

Generating music algorithmically is arguably harder then "just making music". Both require a considerable investment of time and energy to develop musical skills.

On top, the musical notation capabilities provided by nslider are pretty–what shall we say?–primitive.

But I wouldn’t worry much about that at this stage. Take a simple book on music theory, find yourself some lessons if you can, and go from there.

Just never forget that there’s always more to learn. That’s the joy of it.

— Peter (who’s now into his sixth decade learning ever more about music)

Edit: more accurate approximation of number of piano key combinations

Oct 08 2009 | 12:55 pm
 Peter Castine wrote on Thu, 08 October 2009 14:21 There are approximately 2^88 (about 309485009820000000000000000) combinations of keys on the piano that sound good together

and you can easily increase that number when you use floating point values,
and not only a 12 tone temperament.

the interesting thing about his approach is that everyone who starts searching
for "chords that sound good" will sooner or later find out that there are
not so many different chords as one could think.

you can already do a lot with major and minor, and if you know what dim.,
augm. and a 7th is, you know already 95% of everything ever used in western
classics and pop.
maybe for jazz you might need a few more combinations, but thats it then.

the interesting part begins when you compose, i.e. when you leave discreet time.
suddenly there are dozens of different ways how you can walk from C minor to G#
major and the most mathematically logical might not even sound the best.

basic chords/progressions/song schemes can be a great starting point for
composing, but i wouldnt overrate the importance of a hughe set of different
harmonics for a piece of music.
there is also rythm, melody, context, intonation, voicing, the instruments used
and with todays technology even psychoacoustic effects, which will
make the music sound like it does.

try to compose a piano piece which only uses C major and you will see what i
mean

for algorithmic composition i have never needed more than 3 or 4 of the
chords my little list of basic chords at once. (see attachment)

-110

p.s.: OSX makes "min6 command-9" out of "min6/9".
maybe someone can explain us that, so that i can fix it.

.

Oct 10 2009 | 11:52 am
 Roman Thilenius wrote on Thu, 08 October 2009 14:55 p.s.: OSX makes "min6 command-9" out of "min6/9". maybe someone can explain us that, so that i can fix it.

The slash has been a meta-character for menu strings on Mac OS since about 1982. Other meta-characters include initial dash (disabled dotted line), left-parenthesis (disabled), left angle-bracket, carat, and exclamation point.

There is no "escape" character for these. The Mac OS API provides other calls that allow you to add text using these special characters without the special parsing, but the umenu object doesn’t expose this functionality.

What’s a little more surprising is that 6/9 and 7/6 don’t give you command shortcuts. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that sometime in the OS X era Apple added some special-case handling to the meta-character parsing to allow people to add fractions to menus. But that’s just a guess.

Oct 10 2009 | 10:34 pm

yeah exactly, it works between numbers, really weird.
(it works on OS9 too, btw)

i will change it to | next time.

-110

Oct 11 2009 | 1:22 am

Thank you kindly for the replies and the chord patch.

I also noticed that http://www.cycling74.com/story/2008/8/19/152636/856 is sampling waveforms to index a note array. I thought that was very interesting.

I’ve heard about weather data being used as a source. I guess any large data set could be used as a sample set.

Oct 11 2009 | 5:16 pm

I’ve made both a weather data retriever and a slightly more usable notation display. They are part of the CNMAT MMJ Depot here:

mz

Oct 12 2009 | 12:16 pm
 Roman Thilenius wrote on Thu, 08 October 2009 14:55 you can already do a lot with major and minor, and if you know what dim., augm. and a 7th is, you know already 95% of everything ever used in western classics and pop. maybe for jazz you might need a few more combinations, but thats it then.

But if you think there is enough of western classics, pop and jazz (and for sure there is more likely too much of it…) then you have only a small amount of chords you don’t want to play…
And the big rest remains to explore and has still the same magnitude as Peters post suggests…;-)

I think it isn’t a bad idea to get into constructing chords, scales and so on, without too much knowledge about music theory. You might come up with good sounding music that doesn’t fit to the western paradigms.
Later it wouldn’t hurt to learn the existing traditions, but just jumping in and experimenting has its own high value…

Stefan

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