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Music Theory Question
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Production Techniques  
Author Music Theory Question
I'm working on a design for a little electronic instrument which I'm thinking of as a "chord box".
The idea is to make something which has 7 buttons for a full octave of notes in major scale with another four notes up and four down for making modified chords. This should also cover (relative) minor scales, right? I'll have a knob for switching between keys, but I was thinking if I added just a few sharps/ flats outside of the base scale, it should be possible to improvise into other keys without changing your base. Unfortunately, I'm not really comfortable enough with doing this type of thing to understand where those notes would be. I'm assuming there are certain degrees of each scale which will easily get you a related scale which is useful for improvisation...
The idea is to basically make an instrument where you can't go wrong with just holding down a few buttons. It's actually going to be a gift for my very young daughter.
Can anyone share some knowledge?
what gives?
If you only want to use diatonic major/minor scales, 7 +/- 4 buttons will cover chord notes as well as extended notes (if that's what you're asking).

If you want to change keys with the knob, you will inevitably have to change your base, since key changes requires a new root center. I'm not conviced you'd be able to do multimodal stuff (if that's what you're asking) with the knob and the scale degree buttons you're describing.

Also bear in mind, that even if you stick to a diatonic scale there is plenty of situations where you'd wind up with dissonant harmonies like minor seconds, multiple tritones (or flat nine intervals in case you want to go into extended intervals). In other words, there is a risk you would "go wrong" as you put it. A safer bet is possibly to go back to really basic stuff, like a major/minor pentatonic scale which has omitted dissonant scale degrees (provided you're sticking within an octave...).

I'm not sure i've answered your questions properly, as you seem to want to cover a lot of different things theory-wise. Your questions are interesting, but also a bit hard to understand. If you break your question down into more specific questions it probably would be easier to answer them.
Good point! I'm actually not even sure that my terminology is correct. And I had to do a bit more research and rethink things a bit in order to understand what exactly I'm asking.

First of all, an explanation of what I have in mind, with a high-tech windows paint mock-up to help elucidate. I'm planning on using microcontrollers for the whole interface, so changing all of the notes won't be a big deal. In the picture it's in C major, the middle buttons represent C, D, E, F, G, A, B, but if you turn the knob one click to D major, they'll represent D, E, F(#?), G, A, B, C(#?). If that makes sense. (I don't understand if they're still referred to as sharps or flats once you're "in" the key.)

So, referring to some charts of scales, I see that if I added a button which, in C major would represent F#, that would offer some chord possibilities in D major and G major, for example, while the interface is still set to Cmaj.
So I guess my questions are:
Are there "better" scales to switch between?
Is being able to improvise a little in Dmaj and Gmaj particularly useful when you're jamming in Cmaj?
Are these intervals the same in all keys? (Would the interval that represents F# in C major, for example, also have the same relationship with the next couple keys no matter what key you're in? I hope that makes sense.)

I'm a lot more into tinkering with electronics and my understanding of how to build music is pretty slim.
You make a great point about simplifying. And I'll probably turn my project toward pentatonic scales considering my daughter's age. I have a habit of coming up with a simple idea and then expanding everything to the point where it doesn't even make sense anymore. All of that being said, this whole business is kind of related to my slow progress with music theory so any answers are still appreciated.
Also, now that I've gotten to this point I can go woodle on the keyboard a little bit to experiment for myself.
man0111 wrote:

Are these intervals the same in all keys? (Would the interval that represents F# in C major, for example, also have the same relationship with the next couple keys no matter what key you're in? I hope that makes sense.)

If I understand this question correctly, each scale will have the same interval relationship no matter which key it's in. So the major scale is always:
R W W h W W W h [R = root; W = whole step (2 semitones); h = half step (1 semitone)]
Or semitones from root: 0 +2 +4 +5 +7 +9 +11 +12 [12 semitones being an octave]

So the major 3rd will always be 4 semitones regardless of the root or key. The C major 3rd is E, but the D major 3rd is F# (it is a 'half step'/one semitone between E and F).

All of the above is based on "western" scales that expect 12 steps between octave.

Does that help/answer your question in terms of the scale intervals?
Yeah, if your question is whether the interval in semitones between (say) the root note of a scale and the fifth, no matter what the root note is, the answer is "yes." Different scales, of course, may have some notes major or minor or augmented or diminished (formal names for "plus or minus one semitone,") but the intervals are the same for C major, D major, E major, etc. etc.
sounds like Kordbot
what gives?
On the top of my head i would advice you to look into the difference between the major and minor scales, and their modes. It can be helpful to distinguish a scale's key from it's mode.

Also, i realize i'm not sure whether you intend to create something that only play one note at a time (monophony), or if you like it to play several notes together (polyphony). To complicate things even more, consider whether you're looking for multitimbrality or not.

I'd argue that if you stick with monophony any of the diatonic scales modes will have a fairly decent consonant sound for the purposes you're describing.

If notes are played simultaneously then that requires a bit more things to take into consideration in terms of which harmonic intervals may work, and which doesn't.
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