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Features for Musicians, Composers, and Musical Scale Designers

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Features for Musicians, Composers, and Musical Scale Designers

Midi Relaying features

[#retune_midi_keyboard Retune your midi keyboard or notation software / sequencer to any tuning] - including non octave scales, and with as many notes as you like to the scale repeat.

[#monophonic_legato Monophonic legato] - 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.

[#mts Midi relaying using the Midi Tuning Standard] - if your synth supports this standard (if not, I recommend that you use SCALA to retune it).

[#snr Single note retuning] as supported in the most recent release of the FM7 by Native Instruments, and in their forthcoming Pro-53 .

[#tonic_shifts 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.

[#midi_merge Midi merge] from multiple midi in devices.

[#multiple_out_devices 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.

Change the scale as you play

Use a controller or one of the keyboard octaves to change the scale as you play

Keyboard regions

Relay regions of your midi keyboard in separate tunings, with effects, instruments to play etc. etc. set separately for each one.

Polyrhythm metronomes

Make polyrhythm metronome just by entering the beats per bar to use. Make a web page of polyrhythm metronomes such as this one (on-line):

Polyrhtythm Metronomes

Details for the midi relaying features

Retune your midi keyboard or sequencer to any tuning

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 [reset_tuning_details.htm Test your Midi player] first and 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.

There's also an option to set a minute delay of a few milliseconds when a new pitch bend is needed.

Some composers add all the necessary pitch bends in the sequencer or notation software - one can do this, and use channel changes whenever you want pitch polyphony - see [#pitch_bend_method How the pitch bend method works]. However FTS can do this all for you automatically, and what's more, it can do it all in real time while you are playing too - easier for most :-).

See also [#pitch_bend_method How the pitch bend method works].

Monophonic legato

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).

Retune 128 notes at once using the Midi Tuning Standard

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 use 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 .

For a couple of example clips, see on line page Midi Tuning Standard support.

Other synths use their own proprietry methods - for these ones I advise you to use Manuel Op de Coul's SCALA program to retune them instead.

Tonic shifts.

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.

Midi merge from multiple midi in devices

Play from the midi keyboard at the same time as you retune the output from your sequencer or other devices, and in the same tuning.

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 devices to relay to individually for each midi in channel. Not only that, you can also choose which channels in each device to remap each midi in channel to when allocating the pitch bends.

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, perhaps tuned in some other tuning from the other channels, you could relay all its notes to a separate device, giving 16 separate midi channels for that part. This still leaves all sixteen channels still free for relaying notes from the other midi in channels to other devices.

Keyboard regions

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 whatever key you like to use for the 1/1 in each.

Another nice option here is to play the two halves of the keyboard with one of them transposed up by a diesis (small interval of pitch). 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.


You can enter or display the scale in many different notations, e.g. cents <-> ratios <-> hertz <-> decimal notation.

You can look for approxiating ratios to a scale to any desired tolerance and in any n-limit.

Works with Manuel Op de Coul's SCALA program - this is a wonderful program for investigating and constructing scales, which also has an archive of over 2000 scales and a list of over 1000 modes.

You can make a drop list of the SCALA scales and modes to use in FTS, and when you are working on a scale in FTS, you can show it in SCALA and vice versa.

FTS also has a few scale construction options of its own - basically, things I happen to have got involved in in one way or another: Search for superparticular scales, make MOS scales (and some "hyper-mos" ones), mean-tone scales, and of course, equal temperament scales with any number of notes to an octave or non octave.


Explore the CPS sets by using two or three octaves of keyboard as factor selection octaves.

The CPS sets are musical geometry scales based on the octahedron and its four, five, and higher dimensional generalisations, invented by Erv Wilson. These are scales with a very high degree of harmonic symmetry, and though they have a huge variety of just intonation harmonies, they have no harmonic "centre". This inspires music with an attractive weightless quality. The help for FTS explains more.

Try out Graham Breed's variable comma meantone - uses e.g. the modulation wheel to change the amount of the comma. Also try out his idea to morph from any scale to any other one in the same fashion.

Explore Margo Schulter's sesquisexta and similar scales, with left half of the keyboard playing one twelve tone scale and right half of keyboard playing the same scale transposed up by a diesis, comma, or whatever.

You can also play it as she does on two separate keyboards one above the other.

Margo Schulter is a theorist and composer who reseraches extensively into Gothic and modern Neo Gothic tunings, and her twenty four note tunings arise out of this research.

The same methods can be used to play in quarter note scales on a normal keyboard by transposing one half of it up by a quarter tone, or using the two keyboards method. Many other twenty four note tunings.

Fractal Tunes

Make fractal tunes in any of the tunings or randomise the tunes that come with the program a bit, and let FTS play away and see what it does. The tunes include fibonacci rhythms and tonescapes. The original algorithm used in many of the example tunes is a canon by augmentation. They are all based on musical seeds, and you can make these yourself either by playing them, or entering numbers for the notes, and see what FTS does with them. See [ft_features.htm Fractal Tune Features].

Other Things

Mouse theremin - now lets you play sliding chords as well as single notes, and the harmonic series sliding tetrands - slides up / down in pitch and as you do so will change between different harmonic series chords, going up the harmonic series as the note rises in pitch, for various otonal (major type) chords, and down in pitch for utonal (minor type) chords. This is one of Denny Genovese's ideas.

See on line page: Mouse / Joystick Theremin

Make polyrhythm metronomes with two, three or more parts all playing simultaneously. See on line page Polyrhythms. .

Play any of the tunings from the PC keyboard (useful for the microtonalist on the move :-)) with the space bar as a sustain pedal and the mouse scroll wheel as a modulation wheel.

Frequency spectrum and pitch detection

Analyse the spectrum of a sound clip - and search it for harmonic timbres - makes especially accurate pitch determinations for timbres with many partials.

Find pitch of a wave by wave counting - this gives very accurate pitch detection even of short notes for suitable waveforms.


Retuning Midi Player

Retuning midi player - will play any format 0 midi file in any tuning and you can vary the tuning while the clip is playing (also vary the speed, the voices for the channels, effects, etc.).

Apply the Gene Ward Smith transformations to any midi clip retuned into a just intonation scale. These change the harmonies to other major and minor type tonalities (in the seven limit) in a sequence of transformations, while preserving the overall shape of the melodies and counterpoint. You can get the idea by applying them to my hexany phrase piece - included with the installer - then try your own short pieces and transform them in the same way..

How the pitch bend method works:

This is easiest to explain first for monotimbral midi (one voice only) and twelve notes per octave temperings of equal temperament.

The idea is to have one channel for each scale degree. Then you apply an appropriate pitch bend for the channel at the start of the piece. Then send each note on the appropriate channel - note 60 on channel 1, note 61 on channel 2 and so on.

To work out the pitch bend numbers from the cents values, use the data that 100 cents = 4096 midi pitch bend units.

For multitimbral monophonic midi, another method is useful - you can keep all the notes in their original channels as only one pitch bend is requred at a time, and apply appropriate pitch bends to all the notes as you play them - you may need a new pitch bend before nearly every note..

This is easy to program and can also be done by hand easily too.

For other scales with other numbers of notes to an octave, or non octave scales, or ones that have close clusters of notes, e.g. less than a quarter tone apart, you may need to use a midi keyboard mapping that sends several midi in notes to the same midi out note, varying the pitch bends only - if so you need to change the note numbers too before sending them on.

Choose the nearest midi note number to the desired pitch - and figure the pitch bend needed from the note number and desired pitch.

For muli-timbral polyphonic music, it's more complex - but it can be done as that's what FTS does. So it could be done by hand too, by going through the midi file on a note by note basis. The basic idea here is to change the ptich bends as seldom as possible, so if possible play a note on a channel that already has the appropriate pitch bend. If that's not possible, choose a channel that has no notes in play, and with the most recent note off as long ago as possible (because notes often continue to sound for a short while in a resonance / reverb effect after you switch them off). Change the pitch bend for that one.

Modern GM capable sound cards happily will let one play on several different instruments in the same channel at once - so long as they play separate note numbers. This makes the multi-timbral polyphonic midi much easier to retune - just use the same method as one uses for mono-timbral midi, and send any program changes before the notes you send as needed (you could send them before every note, or better, keep track of the most recent one for each channel and only send them when the instrument needed changes). Midi clips made this way may not work as intended on synthesizers or soft synths, as they may be designed to work with a single instrument at a time in each channel.

You can also do multi-timbral polyphony with varied effects such as modulation, tremolo etc. for eah part - that gets more complex again, but of course it too could be done by hand. Same idea - but you have to make sure that each note gets played in a channel with all the appropriate effects as well as the desired pitch bend. If none is available, then change the effects for a channel with no notes in play any more (if available - otherwise you get to the point where you may have to switch notes off because of the amount of pitch polyphony + effects needed).

This site goes into the basics of the method of adding pitch bends by hand (with some clips done by hand). Wauchope's Allotonal* General MIDI Files

So as you see it can all be done by hand, and for some midi files it is reasonably easy to do; indeed this used to be the only way it could be done. However composers find that use of a retuning program helps for most midi clips.

There are other tuning programs you can use too - each has its own strengths, so you can try them all out and see which you get along with best for your way of working (or use them all...). See the link to Tuning programs on the FTS download page (on-line).

The first DOS retuning program may have been Denny Genovese's "MMT" - available from about 1987, with 1991 as the last release, no longer available.

Jeff Scott was also early in the field with his Nuscale for Atari using pitch bends (first internet release in 1994, and predates that).

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