instruments in tune with eachother

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instruments in tune with eachother

Postby houdinilogic » Tue Feb 07, 2012 6:17 am

I don't know much about music theory. What does it mean to have a song in a certain key (F#). Furthermore how do you find out what note a sample is in, say if I sample a windchime. I'm hoping somebody can me to direct me to some help with this, because I want my tunes to stop sounding like shit.
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Re: instruments in tune with eachother

Postby Rufus_FrequentFlyers » Tue Feb 07, 2012 10:17 am

Ok dokey, pretty big question but a quick rundown.

houdinilogic wrote:I don't know much about music theory. What does it mean to have a song in a certain key (F#).


Basically on a piano roll you have (as I'm sure you already know) twelve possible notes which effectively repeat infinitely in both directions (going from A through to G with various sharps/flats added in). The 12 notes are each separated by a semi-tone (ie moving one key up the piano roll is an increase of a semi-tone). Each repetition of all 12 is known as an octave (as again Im sure you are aware) and an increase of an octave represents a doubling in the frequency of a note (ie 220Hz is an octave above 110Hz and both but both are the note A). That can be a little confusing but for the most part you don't need to worry about the actual frequency of a note to learn music theory (music production is another matter however :? ).
A traditional major or minor scale only has 8 of the twelve notes in it (this is where the oct in octave comes from). You use one of these basic major/minor scales to write the different parts of your song.

To quickly explain when someone is talking about a scale they mean a sequence of notes in a set pattern. All scales of one type (ie major) follow the same pattern, only the note on which they begin changes. A major scale follows the pattern 2-2-1-2-2-2-1, where each digit represents the number of semi-tones (keys on the piano) difference between notes. If you look at your piano-roll now and try to draw in a C-Major scale your notes should land on the 8 white keys (if it doesn't one of us has done something wrong). the notes are C-D-E-F-G-A-B if you hadn't figured that out already.
If you select all the notes you have just drawn in and move them all up a single semi-tone then you have the notes of the C# Major scale, easy peasy! You can do this one more time and get the notes of the D-Major scale, a third time and get D#, etc. Once you've done this twelve times you'll get back to C and all you notes will fall on the white keys once more. So a scale is simply a pattern of notes which sound good together. In music theory the pattern is known as the "intervals" of the scale.

The Key of a song tells you what note the scale used to write it starts on (this is also referred to as the root note), ie if you know a song is in A then the scale starts on A (and the root note is A). What you don't know is which scale was used. This is why when people tell you the key of a song they won't just say "this song is in A" they will say "this song is in A-minor". You now know that the scale is a minor scale and it begins on A. With that information you can quickly google "minor scale intervals" and draw them in on your piano roll starting on A (I would hope that one day you would be able to skip the google part ;) ).
A handy thing to know is that an A-minor scale is also all the white notes but you start playing it at A not C, crazy stuff right! :o The reason for this is because every major scale has a "relative minor" scale which has all the same notes within it but a different root (which is 3 semi-tones down from the major root). This is where it starts to get a bit confusing. If you play all the white notes in order starting and ending on C it sounds good (try it). It's very simple and it feels like it should finish on C. Now try exactly the same thing but start on A. Now it sounds slightly sadder but still correct. However now it feels right to finish on A. Now try starting on G and play all the white notes up to G. Sounds kinda wack doesn't it. Doesn't feel right finishing on G, you kinda wanna go one more and finish up on A.
To overly simplify things if you're using all white notes when you're writing a tune and you can't decide whether it's in A-minor or C-major you're root will be the one which you feel the tune wants to finish on (or resolve in music theory speak). Most likely that all sounds like nonsense but google "resolutions in music theory" or something like that and I'm sure there'll be some youtube vids with peeps demonstrating it on a piano. its something you really need to hear to fully understand.

People who mainly write rock/pop/electronic music can get pretty sloppy about referring to keys properly. 90% of popular mainstream music is written in a minor key so if someone says some arbitrary electronic tune is in A they almost certainly mean A-minor. This also helps you with the whole major/minor root problem I mentioned above, most likely the tune you've written uses a minor scale even if you didn't realise it when you were writing.


houdinilogic wrote:Furthermore how do you find out what note a sample is in, say if I sample a windchime.


Simplest answer is to play all 12 notes with it until you hear which one is in tune with the sample (this is also good practice for your ear and isn't really any different to the skills used to tune an instrument by ear) . In practice that can be quite difficult with some samples. Least effort is to run it through a tuner plugin (http://www.meldaproduction.com/freevstplugins/mtuner.php for a freebie one which is ok) but that can be pretty rubbish depending on the sample (a snare for example has a definite tone to listen to but has so much noise in the higher frequency range that tuners normally struggle).
BONUS ABLETON TIP: Lots of people don't realise (or at least I didn't till recently) that spectrum can be used to identify what note is being played, simply hover your mouse over the highest peak displayed and low and behold the note and frequency of the point your mouse is at is displayed.
I mainly use this method for tuning my drums as its a lot quicker than doing it by ear (for me), however its ableton specific so might not be of use to everybody.

houdinilogic wrote: I'm hoping somebody can me to direct me to some help with this, because I want my tunes to stop sounding like shit.


Hopefully my above ramblings have helped a bit but here are some links to supplement:

Finding the key of something:
http://www.anthonyarroyodotcom.com/theabletoncookbook/theory/how-to-remix-with-ableton-what-key-is-this-song-in/

Follow up with cheat sheet for keys/chords:
http://www.anthonyarroyodotcom.com/theabletoncookbook/theory/most-of-the-music-theory-youll-ever-need-to-know/
(if you search "music theory" on this guys site you'll get a bunch of good basic music theory tutorials he's done recently, I mentioned these in another post and really think they are very concise and well explained)

More basic theory but written for quick reference:
http://www.howmusicworks.org/

And lastly an ongoing conversation (borderline argument ;) ) going on in the "Future Garage" section of this forum (which you may have already seen) about the pros and cons of learning music theory.
http://futuregarageforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=5667

I hope this wasn't too much info to digest all at once, when I started typing I didn't intend to write this much. :shock: Also I apologise if any of this seemed condescending, I assumed very little knowledge of music theory simply from the way your question was phrased, Im sure some of this didn't need said.

Phew
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Re: instruments in tune with eachother

Postby Rufus_FrequentFlyers » Tue Feb 07, 2012 1:08 pm

:oops: Aww shucks.

Tbh wrote all this as a way to wind down when I got back from work (hence it's length....was a long day).
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Re: instruments in tune with eachother

Postby houdinilogic » Wed Feb 08, 2012 12:34 am

Thank you so much for all the help, Rufus! This is going to help me tremendously!
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Re: instruments in tune with eachother

Postby Rufus_FrequentFlyers » Wed Feb 08, 2012 7:05 am

No worries dude, glad to help out! :D
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Re: instruments in tune with eachother

Postby blnd! » Wed Feb 08, 2012 3:11 pm

Congratulations! You earned it!
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Re: instruments in tune with eachother

Postby Rufus_FrequentFlyers » Wed Feb 08, 2012 8:56 pm

:mrgreen:
Going straight on the mantel piece!
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Re: instruments in tune with eachother

Postby Dellity » Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:41 am

beebmun wrote:Rufus, you're a badman.


A really good, informed read. Some of those links are really helpful too!
Thanks :D
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