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Impressive things you can do with the SongTrellis Editor

Posted by David Luebbert, 10/13/00 at 11:08:49 AM.

Impressive things you can do with the SongTrellis Music Editor in two minutes or less

Open a score with many voices and press Play.

SongTrellis will animate the score so you can follow along. SongTrellis will play the score instantly using the built-in synthesizer software on your Macintosh. It will animate the score by coloring each note in red while it plays. It will count the beats in each measure as the score plays, and display the current beat count at the top of the score. On a modern Power Mac, it can animate a score with 30 or 40 voices without lag. When a score is too long to fit on one screen, SongTrellis will quickly turn the page to follow the animation when it moves past the notes displayed onscreen.

 Sit down in a seat in a train, a plane, a bus, a ferry, car, a lunchroom, a beauty parlor or barbershop, the Department of Motor Vehicles or on your favorite living room chair.

Sit at a park bench or picnic table outdoors. Sit at your piano bench. Or lay in bed. Open your portable Mac, start SongTrellis. Put on headphones if making sound will bother others. Open a score. Play it. Slow it down and study it. Write new music. Imitate what you hear by singing. If youíre in a practice room, use your instrument to imitate the music SongTrellis plays. Play a rhythm loop and dance.

Open a New score, enter a new chord sequence in seconds, not minutes. Press Play to hear how it sounds

Execute the New command from the File menu. Youíll see a blank score showing an empty staff that displays a treble clef and a blinking cursor after it. Youíre going to enter these four whole note chords: Fmi7, Gmi7, C7 and FMA7. In the center of the control bar at the top of the score, youíll see a box labeled "chord" that contains two buttons. When you click on the left button, youíll see a list of chord root names. Select ëF.

 Then click on the right button in the box. Youíll see a list of chord names. Select mi7. Now mouse click in this box above the label "chord". The box background will highlight in black. Press the Return key on your keyboard. The black highlighting of the chord control group disappears and a whole note duration F minor seventh chord appears in the score. The label "Fmi7" displays above the chord.

Press Return again. SongTrellis remembers that you last used the Chord control group and highlights its background again. Press the letter ëgí on your keyboard. The label on chord root button changes to show that you intend to enter a chord whose root is G. The right button in the control box, still shows ëmi7í. Press Return. A whole note G minor seventh chord labeled ëGmi7í appears right after the ëFmi7í in the score.

Press Return again. The control box background turns black again. Type ëcí on your keyboard. The chord root button changes to show ëCí. Press the chord type button, select the ë7í entry on the menu, and then press Return on your keyboard. A third whole note chord labeled ëC7í is added to the end of the score.

 Finally, press Return to cause the chord box to highlight in black again. Press your keyboardís ëfí key and select the MA7 entry on the chord type list. Press return to add a whole note chord labeled ëFMA7í to the score as the fourth chord. Press the Play button at the top of the scoreís toolbar. SongTrellis will instantly figure out a new way to voice the chords in the sequence, display the new chord voicings and play the chords. When you press the Play button again, SongTrellis will play the chords a different way.

 If you play piano, notice that SongTrellis arranges the chords so that they can be easily played by a pianist.

If you really love the way the program voiced the chord sequence and want it to play that way in the future, select the chords by dragging the mouse over them, and run the Freeze Chord Voicings command on the Edit menu.

 Open a MIDI file rendering of a chord progression then press Play.

Open a chord progression MIDI file that youíve downloaded from The Changes on the SongTrellis site. SongTrellis will notice the chords in the MIDI sequence, figure out likely names for the chords, and display the chord names in the score. Press the Play button on the scoreís Toolbar. SongTrellis will play the chords and animate the score so you can see each chord as it was played. Since it came from a MIDI file, they are copied into a SongTrellis score with the chordsí voicings frozen so that they sound as they did when the MIDI sequence was saved. If you select the chords and execute the Thaw Chord Voicings command on the Edit menu, the selected chords will be revoiced whenever you play the score.

 Open an existing score, select the entire score and then run Loop Selection

Open a score. Select the entire score by using Cmd-A or run Select Entire Score from the Select menu. Run the Loop Selection command on the Play menu. When playback reaches the end of the score, SongTrellis will scroll to the top of the score and the animation will follow.SongTrellis will repeatedly play the score until 5 minutes elapse.

 Learn to sing a tune by imitating it a phrase at a time. Select a part of the score that goes by too fast for you to sing accurately. Change the tempo so that the score will play half as fast. Run loop selection. Extend or shrink the selection while the loop plays.

 In an open score, touch the first note in a sequence of notes you want to learn to sing. Shift-click on the last note of the sequence. All of the notes selected show in red. Change the tempo displayed in the Tempo textbox on the scoreís control bar so that it plays half as fast. If the score shows a tempo of 160 beats per minute change it to 80 beats per minute. Now run Loop Selection from the Play menu. SongTrellis will loop on the selected idea for 5 minutes, giving you the chance to imitate the idea.

Click once anyplace onscreen to stop looping.

 If you shift-click with the mouse on a note outside of the selection, looping will interrupt and the selection will extend to include the note you clicked on .SongTrellis will continue looping on the new selection once you release the mouse button. If you shift-click and then drag the mouse to a note that is inside the selection, the looping will interrupt the selection will shrink and then SongTrellis will perform the smaller selection in a loop. If you run Restore Last SavedTempo from the Edit menu, the original tempo for the score will be restored so you can hear the piece as the composer intends you to hear it.

Easily type notes into the score with your keyboard as you would type letters into a word processor.

SongTrellis displays a Duration popup menu control on each scoreís Control Bar which displays the duration of the next note that you will type into the score. In a new score, it initially reads ëwholeí to indicate that if you type a new note it will be entered as a whole note. If you select ëeighthí from the popup menu, the next note entered will be an eighth note. You can change the Duration setting using keyboard commands. Cmd-1 divides the current duration by 2, Cmd-2 multiplies the duration by 2, Cmd-3 divides the duration by 3 and Cmd-4 multiplies the duration by 3. Cmd-ë<í selects the next menu entry below the current selection on the popup menu and Cmd-ë>í selects the next menu entry above the current selection.

 If you type the letters ëaí, ëbí, ëcí, ëdí, ëeí, ëfí or ëgí into the score a note of the currently selected duration will be entered into the score in the same register as the last note you entered. A register is a range of lines and spaces on the score that stretches from one of the Cís on the staff to the B above that C. If a note is recorded in the wrong octave, you can press shift-up arrow to move the last note entered an octave higher. You can press shift-down arrow to move it an octave lower. If you recognize before hand that you need the next note in a higher register, you can press up-arrow before the next note is entered. You can move note entry to a lower register by pressing down-arrow before entering a note. If you need to enter a flatted note, type the name of the note and then type ëlí to flat it. For example if you type ëbí and then ëlí a Bb note will be entered in the current register. If you need to enter a sharp note, type the name of the note and then type ësí to sharp it. For example if you type ëaí and then ësí, an A# note will be entered.

You can transpose the last note that youíve entered down by a half-step, pressing the ëlí key.

You can transpose the last note entered up a half step by pressing the ësí key.

You enter rests of the chosen duration by pressing the ërí key on your keyboard.

Compose a new melody. Do it by scribbling a shape using Next Chord Tone and Next Scale Tone. Or else compose by ear using the Create New Phrase command.

 Type in some chords or open a score that contains a chord progression. Make an insertion point and press right arrow to visit the chords in the Chord voice of the score. If you look on the control bar as you move from chord to chord you can see that the settings of the control groups labeled ënext chord toneí and ënext scale toneí change when you visit a new chord.

The Next Chord Tone control group allows you to select a particular chord by root name and chord type and an up and a down arrow. Pressing an arrow control enters a note whose duration matches the duration selected on the Control bar and selects a pitch for the note that is extracted from the selected chord. If you press the down arrow, a note is entered whose pitch is the next chord tone in the selected chord that is down from the last note entered.Pressing the up arrow enters a note whose pitch is the next chord tone in the selected chord that is above the last note entered.

The Next Scale Tone control group allows you to select a particular scale by root name and type and an up and a down arrow. Pressing an arrow control enters a note whose duration matches the duration selected on the Control bar and selects a pitch extracted from the specified scale. If you press the down arrow, a note is entered whose pitch is the next chord tone in the selected chord that is down from the last note entered. Pressing the up arrow enters a note whose pitch is the next chord tone in the selected chord that is above the last note entered.

There is a wizard enabled by default in SongTrellis that tracks the position of the cursor with respect to the accompanying chords. It changes the setting of Next Chord Tone controls to ensure that the chord root and type selected match the root and type of the accompanying chord. It also changes the setting of the Next Scale Tone group so that a scale root and type is selected that harmonizes well with the accompanying chord.

Compose by scribbling out melody shapes: Select "Melody Voice 1" in the Select: popup menu on the Control Bar. Choose quarter, eighth or eight trip on the duration control. Next press the up and down arrows in the Next Chord Tone and Next Scale Tone groups in a order that you choose yourself. Every time you press an arrow control a new note enters the score. Pressing the up arrow in ënext chord toneí makes the melody rise quickly. Pressing the up arrow in ënext scale toneí makes the melody rise more slowly. Pressing the down arrow in ënext chord toneí causes the melody to fall quickly. Pressing the down arrow in ënext scale toneí causes the melody to fall more slowly.

 Itís a good idea to change the direction of the melody every few notes; otherwise you will create a melody that will go too high or low for you to sing. After your melody stretches over two or three chords, press Play and listen to it. You should have a melody that sounds good with the accompanying chord sequence.

 Compose by ear using Create New Phrase: If you click the word ëdurationí in the Duration control box of a scoreís Control Bar, the label changes to read íRhythmí and the popup menu changes from displaying the different note durations to displaying the names of different rhythm patterns. SongTrellis has more than 90 patterns predefined and allows users to add new patterns to this list.

 Open a score that contains a pre-written chord progression or write your own chord sequence. Choose Melody voice 1 in the Voice Selection popup on the control bar. Run Create New Phrase from the Enter menu or press Cmd-D on your keyboard. A new phrase is added to the score immediately and is selected.

The durations of the notes in the phrase match the durations of the selected Rhythm pattern.

The pitches in the phrase are generated by doing next chord tone up and down and next scale tone up and down operations in some combination. This ensures that the pitches chosen are likely to sound good with the chord accompaniment.

The direction of the melody line is varied to create shapes that are likely to be interesting to your ear.

 You can test the idea by pressing the Play Selection button. If it sounds good by itself and complements what comes before in the melody, you can press right arrow to move to the end of the new idea and generate a new idea to continue the piece.

If it doesnít sound good you can press the Delete key twice and erase the experimental idea and do Create New Phrase again. Experience shows that you will find some part of whatís generated to be useful after three or four attempts. Youíll keep the early part of a phrase, erase the portion at the end that doesnít sound right and generate a continuation.

Sooner or later you hear a place in the melody that sounds like a resting point. Youíll press the ërí key on your keyboard repeatedly to rest for a certain length of time that sounds correct to you and then do Create New Phrase to create a new idea.

Publish your song.

 Save your new score as a MIDI file. Go to the SongDiscussion on the SongTrellis site ( Follow the ëSubmit new sound" link at the bottom of the page. Use the browse button to identify where your MIDI file resides on your disk. Title your tune. Type a copyright notice. Type descriptive text if you wish. Press the Submit button. The tune will appear in your indexes in the Composers and Contributors pages of the site. Folks from all around the world will be listening to your new song in a few minutes.

 The interval distance of a melody note from the root of the accompanying chord explains how a melody note feels when it sounds with its chord accompaniment. Use the "Color Harmonic Intervals" command (Cmd-R) to color notes to show the harmonic intervals formed by the melody notes

 The interval distance between a note in the melody and the previously sounded note determines the feeling of that note in the melody. Use the "Color Melodic Intervals" command (Cmd-M) to color notes to show the melodic intervals that are used in a melody.

 Delete notes in the middle of a score. The scoreís integrity will be maintained.

When you select notes in a score and delete them using the Delete key, SongTrellis first replaces them with rests whose total duration equal the duration of the deleted notes. If you press Delete again, the rests are removed from the score.

Normal word processing style deletion is an operation that trashes a musical score if the operation is performed in the middle of a score. Melodies notes after the point of deletion that sound good with their particular chord accompaniment slide forward in time and are wrenched free of their accompaniment. After the deletion they play with the chords that were the accompaniment for the deleted notes. The result is almost always disastrous.

To fix the score, the user must figure out the duration of the deletion and insert rests at the deletion point that last as long as the deletion duration.

Transpose score for a different instrument, by changing a View option

Make a selection in one voice of the score and then project that selection across all voices or some combination of voices. Play selection.

The control bar at the top of each SongTrellis score has a Select popup menu which allows you to project an existing selection across any of the voices of the score individually or across all of the voices in the score. The Cmd-E keyboard shortcut will expand a selection made in one voice to include all voices in the score.

Using the "Create New Voice Combination" command on the edit menu, the user can create custom voice combinations (eg. "All Strings",  "Bassoon and Flute", "Piano and bass", "No percussion"). When one of these custom combinations is selected on the Select menu, only the specified voices are selected. When Play Selection is run, only the selected voices sound.

There is also a Show Voice menu popup on a score's Control Bar. When a particular voice combination is selected on this menu, only the voices included in the combination are displayed.

Make an insertion point. SongTrellis can find the boundaries of the musical phrase that contains that insertion and select the entire phrase. Play the selection.

After making an insertion point in a score, run the "Extend  Selection To Phrase Bounds" from the Select menu in SongTrellis. The contiguous notes in one phrase of the score will be selected.

Besides being able to select sequences of entire notes as word processor select letters, SongTrellis users can select time within a score. Users can select only the sounds in the score that play within a single beat or within several bars of the score. When they copy and paste, only the parts of notes that sound in the selected time interval are copied.

Place an insertion point in front of a note or chord with a long duration. Select a smaller duration, say eighth triplet for example, from the Duration menu on the Control Bar. Press cmd-option-right arrow. The insertion point will move inside of the adjacent whole note. An eighth triplet will show to the left of the insertion point and a tied quarter note triplet plus dotted half note will show to the right of the insertion point.

 Repeating cmd-option-right arrow will move the insertion point to later times within the whole note.

 If the user holds down the shift key while doing cmd-option-right arrow of cmd-option-left arrow, a slice of time will be selected within the interior of a note.

The user can shift-click to extend the selection to encompass other notes in front of or in back of the initial insertion point. He can extend either end of a selection so that only a fraction of a note is included in the selection.

 Make a selection of only two or three voices in a score that has many voices. Paste only those voices into a different score.

Open SongTrellisís Chord Grid, and explore how to move from chord to chord.

SongTrellis provides a dialog invoked by the "Show Chord Grid" command on the View menu which displays a rectangular grid which allows the user to specify a chord by type and root. Each row of the grid is labeled with the name of one chord types known to SongTrellis. Each grid row consists of 12 squares each of which contains the name of one of the 12 possible chord roots. By touching the square labeled G in the mi7(b5) row, the user can insert a Gmi7(b5) chord in the score. If a chord is selected when the user does this, the selected chord is changed to be a Gmi7(b5) chord. There is a Play button in the dialog, which allows the user to audition the chord he's selected. The dialog by default is set to play only the Selected chord. The user can change this to play a Bar befor and after the altered chord or can play the entire score to hear the possible effect of the changed chord. If the user cancels the operation, the score is restored to its original state. If the user presses OK, the change is retained in the score.

Select one or two notes in a melody. Open the Transpose Grid, and quickly test all of the other pitches those notes could play.

When the Transpose Grid dialog is started while notes are selected in the score, a grid that has twelve rows is drawn which has as many grid squares in the row as the number of selected notes.

The bottom row of the grid represents the original pitch assignments of the selected notes. The 11 rows above represent the selected notes, transposed up by each of the 11 pitch transpositions which change the harmonic meaning of the selected notes.

 Each square in a grid row represents a transposed note of the selection. The squares display the name of the harmonic interval of that transposed note and are colored with the harmonic coloring scheme that SongTrellis uses when it colors notes to show their harmonic interval.

The user can select any of the rows of the grid and play the score with the specified change, to hear what effect the specified transposition operation will have on the selected melody. The user may elect to leave the score unchanged or to have a selected transposition applied to the original melody.

Open a score that contains only a chord progression. Follow a Toneroad.

Composers can record sequences of pitch selection operations (Interval up or down, half step up or down, octave up or down, particular scale step numbers, some number of chord tones up or down, some number of scale steps up or down, reverse the last n notes) and store them as a named entity called a Toneroad.

By selecting a particular named Toneroad and pressing the arrows in the Toneroad control group on a score's Control Bar, the composer can enter notes following the toneroad in the forward or reverse direction. Toneroads are very powerful methods for generating similar melodic materials in different harmonic settings.

 Select a note sequence in the score. Transpose it up or down by octave by clicking on the up or down arrow in the Octave control group on a scoreís Control Bar. Transpose it up or down by half step by clicking on the up or down arrows in the Half Step control group. Transpose by an interval that you choose by selecting the proper interval size in the Interval control group and click on the up or down arrow.

 Learn a new rhythm.

Open a new score. Click on the label of the Duration control box. It changes to read as "Rhythm". Select a rhythm pattern. Open the Enter Drum Note dialog on the Enter menu and pick a drum sound. Press Enter.. The Interval control reads root. Click repeatedly on the up or down arrow till you fill one bar of the score with the pattern. Select the entire pattern and the run Loop Selection.

Last update: Wednesday, November 17, 2004 at 10:32 PM.