How Music Works – Melody – Recommended Video Series

While researching music I came across this awesome video series “How Music Works”. In this series Howard Goodall does a brilliant job introducing the  components that make up music. A real joy to watch!



In this part of the series Goodall covers Melody. He explains what makes a melody effective, Archetypal patterns (scales), the pentatonic system and how to achieve moods in music.



Melody–Part 1


Melody–Part 2


Melody–Part 3


Melody–Part 4


Melody–Part 5

CutterMusic Revitar 2 VSTi Tutorial – How To Use Hammer On/Pull Off

The free Revitar VSTi by CutterMusic (see VstPlanet) supports Hammer On/Pull Off when playing in mono mode. In this tutorial I will show you how to apply these playing techniques through MIDI notes. It is important to note that Revitar makes a distinction between playing single notes using all strings and “mono” mode which plays all notes using a single string.
In chapter 3.1 the manual describes these modes as follows:
When playing single notes two modes are available.  In the first mode, you allow Revitar to select which string each note is played on.  In the second mode “mono” is selected, and Revitar is forced to play all notes on a single string.  In Mono mode, transitions between notes can use slides or hammer on/pull off techniques.  To create a slide effect hold down one key while pressing another.  The type of transition effect is controlled by the slide knob.


What is Hammer On/Pull Off:

Guitar Noise has a great lesson on using these techniques and defines them as follows:
  • Hammer on – Note generated by lightly snapping your finger down behind a fret.
  • Pull off – Note generated by removing your finger from a string, slightly pulling the string as you do.

Hammer On

To play a hammer on note with the Revitar VSTi the start of the note has to be played while the previous note is still held. The example below demonstrates this. The first measure plays all notes non-overlapping; each note is strummed. The second measure overlaps most notes, resulting in hammer ons for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th, 7th and 8th notes. Play the audio example to listen to the difference.
HammerOn MP3

Hammer On/Pull Off

To play a pull off after a hammer on you need to keep holding the first note until the end of the hammer on note – holding the first note too long will create a hammer on of the first note in addition to the pull off. The example below shows this in action. The second note in each measure is played using hammer on/pull off. Listen to the audio example to hear this in action.
HammerOn PullOff MP3

Controlling Hammer On/Pull Off Amount

The amount of hammer on/pull off is controlled through the Slide control in the Strings section and note velocity.

Slide Control

The manual describes the slide control as follows:
Slide: Default MIDI CC:   2
Controls the type and rate of note transitions.  Note transitions
only occur in Mono and Chord modes.  If the knob is greater than
the 9 o’clock position notes are transitioned by sliding with de-
creasing rates.  A knob position less than the 9 o’clock position
turns on hammer on / pull off transitions.  The amount of hammer
on / pull off increases as the knob is turned counter clockwise. 
The amount of hammer on / pull off is also controlled by the note’s velocity.
This example sweeps from a note Slide rate of 0.01 in the first measure to a Hammer/Pull of 1.00 in the fifth measure. Notice the switch between Slide and Hammer/Pull mode in the second measure when listening to the audio.
Slide Sweep MP3


The other mechanism to control the hammer on/pull off amount is note velocity. This example sweeps the note velocity of the second note in each measure from minimum (0) through maximum (127). Listen to the audio example.
Velocity Increase MP3

I hope this tutorial helps you master this awesome VSTi. Please leave a comment if you have questions or feedback!

P.S. If you are looking for a copy of the manual, you can find it here.

Time To Face The Music

I have picked up creating music again, an old hobby which I used to pour my heart and soul into. 15 years have passed since I was last actively making music and it had been nagging at me to pick it back up. I needed a new passion besides love for coding and 18 months ago I started on my journey from 8-bit Trackers into the Digital  Audio Workstation world of today.


Synth 13 - 2011 by zybermark


8-bit Trackers

The first tracker I worked with was FAC SoundTracker which sported 9 monophonic FM channels and an ADPCM channel, the resulting output was a mono audio stream. With the release of Moonblaster the MSX scene was propelled into a pseudo stereo universe; the MSX home computer had 2 fairly similar sound expansion cards, by routing the output of these separately to the left and right channels a stereo sound was created. The audio hardware had not changed so this tracker still featured 9 monophonic FM channels and an ADPCM channel, however because 3 channels were used for drums this effectively brought it down to 6 FM channels + drums. This dual sound generator model allowed for some interesting sound design; by detuning one side slightly more or using totally different FM patches some interesting sounds could be created.

These trackers were different from most trackers in the day because they used FM channels instead of sample channels to create the compositions. This still heavily biases my preference towards composing using real notes, as opposed to prerecorded clips.


Sequencer 1.0

Cubase1I tinkered around with MIDI and my Yamaha PSS-780 back then (PC + MPU-401 + Cakewalk 1.0, Atari ST 1024 + Cubase), but never ended up doing any serious work with it. Even though I enjoyed my PSS-780, the challenge of composing using MIDI was a lot steeper than using the trackers I had at my disposal. Using a tracker also made my music more portable because within my circle of friends the hardware was much more prolific than my particular MIDI setup.


Facing the DAW

My initial focus was on getting (back) up to speed on all the technologies used in creating digital music nowadays. Tweakheadz Labs’ Guide to the Home and Project Studio proved to be an excellent resource for this; Scott McLean at TranceMusicMastery also has some great videos on working with the DAW technology of today. Armed with this newfound knowledge I set off on a project to recreate an old song: “Synth 13”; I considered this song to be “OK” and did not want to burn myself out on my favorite one.

I had purchased a copy of Cakewalk Music Creator 3 a couple of years ago,set it as my goal to use that to recreate the original sound as closely as possible and started recreating the song by ear. Over time I got my hands on the original scores again to help analyze a couple busy parts, but most of the song element were still very vivid in my mind. In retrospect, the size of this learning process was just staggering! Recreating the original score was the easiest part; mastering the sequencer and its quirks, using effects effectively and finding and creating similar sounds turned into a yearlong project! Having wrapped up the initial pass I was fairly content with the final result of this project, recreating the original sound, but I  was far away from the quality I wanted to produce. The tools at my disposal in MC3 felt limiting to me; limited number of virtual synths, limited number of effects, limited number of tracks, etc. etc. I also felt that the synths and host program were not working well together, lots of funny quirks, timing issues, clicks, pops. Maybe it was just my mind rebelling against the DAW but I was fairly comfortable with this new musical creation environment and decided it was time to upgrade. I wanted to be able to take my current projects and seamlessly continue; sticking with a Cakewalk product thus was the best choice, so I invested in a copy of Sonar X1 Producer. That took care of getting better tools: awesome new synths, plugins, unlimited tracks and a fancy new UI. I still needed to improve my mixing skills; The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook turned out to be a great help to sharpen these skills and get really close to the sound I was aiming for: Synth 13 – 2011, which you can find at the beginning of this post.

I will share more about this project in a future post.

My Latest Track