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Friday, May 13, 2011

Tablature For My Instruments

I don't make these instruments just to put yet another iPad instrument into the store. I am taking the high risk approach and trying to build up a community. Communities need a common language. So here's some tablature.

The new instru
ment is at least as playable as guitar. It is special in that it uses automatic octave switching. But that makes fingerings different. If you have Pythagoras octave rounding turned on, these are the basic rudiments. The fingering is indicated by {L,R} for which hand, with fingers {1,2,3,4} being first finger to pinky. finger 0 would be thumb, but I am not using it here.

There are no frets, so the notation is relative to whatever center you like. That's why negative numbers show up in a few places. This notation doesn't handle microtonality yet, but I I think that will work out well when I get it figured out. There are also a variable number of strings, so this notation just shows the number that are in use. With octave rounding, there isn't a lot of reason to go beyo
nd 4, with 3 being enough for describing common things.

Play these with smooth rhythm. And where the double bars are, repeat as often as you are in audible range, then go on to the next bar.

I haven't figured out how to notate legato techniques made possible by the polyphony slider. When you stack up multiple notes in mono mode, pulling your finger up will play a note as if you hit it. It's better than a string because you can do these legato techniques up or down, and not just up the string as a real string instrument.

Here is another example that starts to make the point of why I need to think about a custom notation. When you notate by 12ET frets, it becomes ambiguous if you really meant to specify nearby locations that don't really land exactly on the fret. In 53ET, the fourths that the strings are tuned to are Just fourths. The seconds that you play are Just seconds. (Well, both are approximations, but very much closer than 12ET is). So, if we define 9 of these steps to be a Just whole tone, then 6 whole tones is 9*6 = 54. We overshoot the octave by 1 fret. When playing Pythagoras, you can see the whole tones very clearly in the layout. So we index first digit by whole tone, and second digit by the small fret in the whole tone. The beauty of this is that it looks kind of like the base 10 number. It's close to it. If you mentally "double the numbers" and think of 05 as "1/2" and 1 as "2", and 15 as "
3, then this 53ET notation is exact, yet it is easily rounded to the 24ET and 12ET locations. So, you can use one notation that's unambiguous (rounding is unambiguous, guessing with hints on what you really meant by starting at 12ET and saying stuff like "a little more than slightly sharp", etc.... that's ambiguous). Anyways, this is my 53ET notation, and I find it more useful than writing out guitar tablature with marks to qualify exactly how sharp/flat, etc. I need to write some code to generate prettier tablature.

But at the moment, I am crazy wrapped up in MIDI. Part of the MIDI task was to get the internals right so that I can record a transcript of the original gestures, to emit some of this 53ET tablature. But I really get it from the response that having a good MIDI implementation is required to get anybody to pay attention long enough to what Pythagoras can do that MIDI instruments don't do well. More on the MIDI stuff later... It's getting there!

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