Microtonal features for composers - Special Features
In Tune Smithy you can:
- Retune your sequencer, music notation software or midi controller keyboard to any tuning
- Play Monophonic legato in any tuning - if your synth lets you play in this style in twelve equal, you can also do the same in any tuning with - FTS will automatically apply all the necessary pitch bends so that when you release the second note of a trill it snaps back to the original note perfectly in tune. More...
- Update tuning tables of a soft synth or synth using the Midi Tuning Standard - as supported in the FM7 and Pro-53 by Native Instruments - or any other soft synth or synth which supports this standard (if not, I recommend that you use SCALA to retune it). More...
- Tonic shifts. You can use a controller to change the tonic of the scale while playing, and FTS will automatically retune all the other notes to accord with your choice of tonic. You can also use a special area of the keyboard - an octave of it for twelve tone scales - playing any note in that area sets the tonic to that note. More...
- Play on multiple midi out devices and choose which channels to relay to for each one - you can set the midi out channels and midi out devices to play on individually for each midi in channel. More...
- Midi merge from multiple midi in devices. More...
- Use it as an MFX plug in with Sonar etc. More...
- Make all the midi clips for a web page of chords. More...
- Play a short musical phrase in just intonation in many different variations with different tunings using Gene Ward Smith's transformations. More..
- Play from any number of In devices and set which Out device to play for each one.
- Change the scale as you play - use a controller or play a note in one of the keyboard octaves to change the scale as you play
- Play separate tunings from regions of your midi keyboard, with effects, instruments to play etc. etc. set separately for each one. More....
and many other features are available - that's just a selection of some of the main options.
This works with any device that responds to the pitch bend wheel. It's done by remapping the channels and applying "instant" pitch bends to the channels accordingly.
Note, a few sound cards can't apply pitch bends at all, so I advise you to test to make sure it can first - you can do that using the Test Pitch Bend option in the out menu of Tune Smithy after you install it. See also Test your Midi File Player. Then if necessary install a soft synth or sampler, or alternatively, a suitable soundcard.
Modern sound cards may be able to apply pitch bends in this way without any artefacts, but some synths or soft synths can produce pitch bend "swoops" or other artefacts before an instant pitch bend .
To deal with this, FTS minimises the number of pitch bends needed - for instance for most tunings to scales of fifteen notes or less and with a single voice, one can set all the pitch bends when Midi out is opened, or when the user changes the scale to retune to. This will often eliminate the artefacts altogether.
There's also an option to set a minute delay of a few milliseconds when a new pitch bend is needed.
Some composers who use the pitch bend mehtod do it by adding all the necessary pitch bends in the sequencer or in music notation software - one can do this, and also use channel changes whenever you want pitch polyphony - see How the pitch bend method works. However FTS can do this all for you automatically. What's more, it can do it all in real time while you are playing too - easier for most :-). No more head scratching and calculating to find out what pitch bends to apply and which channels to use for your microtonal pieces :-).
See also How the pitch bend method works.
If your synth or soundcard lets you play in this style in twelve equal, you can also play legato style in any tuning. The way this usually works in twelve equal is that a note gets played legato if you hold down the previous note to overlap with the next one. This means that you can trill wind instrument style by holding down one note and then repeatedly playing the second note while keeping the first note held down.
If you can do this on your synth or soundcard, FTS will automatically apply all the necessary pitch bends so that when you release the second note of a trill it snaps back to the original note perfectly in tune.
If you wish to test to see if your synth or sound card can do this, note that you may also need to switch portamento on with a slide time of 0 as well as legato, to get true legato playing with no attacks on the trill notes (this is necessary with the Yamaha soft synth).
If your synth supports this method, pitch bends are not needed and you can have up to 128 simultaneous pitches just as you can have when using twelve equal, but set to any pitches you like..
You can also use "single note retuning", - that lets one change the tuning one note at a time - useful for scales with more than 128 notes in them - as can happen if the scale has many notes to an octave. Again you can have up to 128 note "pitch polyphony", by retuning the notes as you play.
The Midi Tuning Standard is supported by some synthesizers in the Proteus family. Single note retuning is supported in the most recent release of the FM7 by Native Instruments (a truly beautiful sounding FM soft synth), and in their forthcoming Pro-53 .
This feature was added to Tune Smithy originally for use with the FM7 soft synth , which now supports single note retuning (since update 1.10). Let's hope more synths will follow the FM7 lead!
Here is an example of what you can do with the FTS and the FM7.
It is played on the science friction voice of the FM7 with single note retuning. I actually recorded a whole CD's worth of this one, and will be putting up some longer clips - but if you get FTS 2.4 and the FM7 you can play that one as long as you like yourself, and make new ones of your own.
I've got a slightly longer clip for it on the mp3.com.au Fractal Tune Smithy site:
Also on the Science Friction voice:
All those notes are played on the same instrument (a really wild patch :-)). The FM7 is polyphonic, but monotimbral. So, if you want to have several instruments playing simultaneously, you need to start several copies of it. Then set each one to use one of the Midi channels for input, or use one of the Midi Yoke devices, and relay the notes to them from FTS accordingly.
You can also find an improvisation on the FM7 here:
It's in a harmonic seventh scale inspired by the observation that seven to the power of eight is very close to pi up to octave equivalence, so eight harmonic sevenths will get you close to pi (difference a little over a hundredth of a cent, or a ten thousandth of a semitone) - 4/pi is a rather pleasant sounding sharp major third close to 14/11.
Unfortunately, the Midi Tuning Standard isn't widely supported at all, and many synths use their own proprietry methods.
For these synths I advise you to use Manuel Op de Coul's SCALA program to retune them instead. However you can use .TUN tables to tell Tune Smithy how your synth is tuned.
You can use either a pedal or a region of the keyboard to change the tonic of the scale while playing, and FTS will automatically retune all the other notes to accord with your choice of tonic.
Here is why this is regarded as a desirable feature: In just intonation, it is impossible to have all four of the F major, C major, G major, and D major chords in tune. So normally one chooses a tuning with F, C and G in tune, or with C, G and D in tune, either one or the other, and that's it. Once you have chosen your tuning then you are limited to the pure triads that are available in it (for keyboard work anyway - just intonation trained singers and so forth automatically adjust the tunings of the triads as they sung).
If you can change the tonic you can play in all these scales and indeed in any scale, all in just intonation, simply by hitting a pedal or pressing a key when you want to change the tonic. FTS lets one do this.
When using tonic shifts, if you repeatedly change the tonic, then it gradually drifts in pitch - the infamous comma pump.
FTS has a choice of tonic shifts or drift. If you let the tonic drift, you can then move it back to the original pitch for that note of the scale at any time by pressing the tonic key twice in succession. If you use shifts then each choice of tonic uses the note of the original scale as its starting point, so they are all fixed in absolute pitch. Both methods are used by composers.
Play on multiple midi out devices and choose which channels to relay to for each one
Many musicians already have multiple midi out devices and soundcards, and it is easy to add more, especially if you buy a few soft synths for your system. So it is useful to be able to play on several of those at once, and choose whichever ones are particularly appropriate for each part.
With FTS, you can choose the playing devices individually for each midi in channel. Not only that, you can also choose which channels in each device to pl;ay in for each midi in channel
This can be especialy useful in microtonal work if one needs much "pitch polyphony". For instance, if you have one midi in channel which requires a lot of pitch polyphony, you could relay all its notes to a separate device, giving 16 separate midi out channels for that part. This means you can have sixteen separate pitches - a huge number bearing in mind that most keys will only need maybe seven or so distinct scale degrees at a time (simlutaneous notes an octave apart or at a twelve equal pitch interval from each other can be played in the same channel)
By playing the most demanding part on a separate device in this way, this still leaves all sixteen channels still free for relaying notes from the other midi in channels to other devices.
Midi merge from multiple midi in devices
Play from the midi keyboard at the same time as you retune the output from your sequencer and play a fractal tune in FTS if you want - all in the same tuning or in separate tunings as preferred.
.This is for users of Cakewalk and Sonar. What it does is to insert FTS as a midi effect. The aim is to use FTS to retune your DXI synth. Note that most of these DXI or VST synths are monotimbral which means that in effect they can only play on one channel at a time. When you apply a pitch bend to one of these synths, it retunes all the notes in play, so this is usually most useful for monophonic microtonal lines. However, if you synth is multi-timbral then you can use this method to play polyphonic music in any tuning too.
The way it works is that you need to start FTS up separately. Then the data gets sent from the mfx plug in in Sonar (say) to FTS directly via shared memory. You select the tuning you want to use in FTS, it gets retuned as desired and returned to Sonar. This happens instantly since it goes directly from Sonar to FTS via shared memory so there is no timing overhead involved - less even than occurs in Midi Relaying (Midi In).
You can play from your music keyboard in this way, or you can use FTS as a midi effect to retune a track in your Sonar project. The plug in comes with help explaining how to use it, which goes into all the details you need. FTS has an option to run always on top, so you can place it in front of Sonar when working on your project, for more convenience, then place it behind again when finished with it
Cubase users of the MFX plug in should see Tips and tricks: using Cakewalk Midi plug ins with Cubase
For an example of this technique, see the Musical Geometry page. All those chords can be made and re-made with a single click.
You specify the chord in the usual cents or ratios notation, for instance suppose you want a sweet justly tuned major chord:
1/1 5/4 3/2 2/1
Just use that as the url in your web page, adding a ".mid" at the end:
"1/1 5/4 3/2 2/1.mid"
Now follow the instructions in the help about how to use this feature and you will find that FTS will go through the help and convert all these clips into proper file names sutilabe for use in urls - for instance it will convert that one to:
and it will make all the midi clips for you too. You can specify how long you want each clip to last for in seconds, whether you want to play them as chords or broken chords, choose what instrument to use for them all and so forth. It's great if you want to make a web page with maybe hundreds of microtonal chords in it.
Gene Ward Smith's transformations
As a special feature, Tune smithy includes an implementation of Gene Ward Smith's transformations, which let you take a single short tune in a just intonation tuning, and transform the tuning to get another tune with different harmonies and tuning, but with simlar overall shape (or its inversion). Here is the result (thirty minutes with all the transformations of the original tune): hexany phrase transformations - based on a short piece for two violins in the hexany - a scale particularly rich in its just intonation harmonies.
To make a clip like that, you save the piece as an unretuned midi clip, and then retune it in the retuning midi player, with the GWS transformations switched on.
You can set up any number of regions in the midi note range. E.g left and right halves of keyboard each playing a separate instrument or tuning or both, or a new region every two octaves, each one shifted up in pitch by say, a pure fifth, and so forth.
The notes played can overlap too - you could do it so that C' plays middle c in the left hand and c'' plays middle c in the right hand, for instance. Or set the 1/1 for each hand to whatever key you like to use for the 1/1.
Another option here is to play the two halves of the keyboard with say the righ half playing the same notes as the left half, but transposed up by a diesis (small interval of pitch) so that you can use it in order to play fine shades of accidentals. Alternativly use a separate manual transposed up in pitch by a diesis. Many other options - FTS comes with a drop list of midi keyboard presets to give one a quick start at exploring some of its capabilities.
What to do next
Freeware / Shareware status: This feature is shareware. You need the Midi Relaying (Midi In) unlock key - or if you want to use the Rhythms and Polyrhythms metronome, or work with the fractal tunes you need the Complete level.
To continue reading about use of Tune Smithy as a composition tool, go on to How it works.
To find this feature after you download Tune Smithy:
Look in the Tune Smithy Tasks window for :
The program comes with a Free Test drive with all the features completely unlocked (start the test drive at any time):
Download Tune Smithy