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SongTrellis - A Simple Way To Compose

This site actually shares its name with a Macintosh music application, SongTrellis, that makes music composition an easy task. Dave Luebbert composed 100 of the 132 compositions that are presented in his part of the site, transcribed all of the compositions in The Rhythms and The Changes, and wrote all of the musical examples in The Lessons using this application. It took less than two hours of work a piece to create most of these MIDI format files. Most of the entries in The Rhythms, The Changes, and The Lessons were 5 or 10 minute efforts using the editor.

A special build of the editor, which runs on Macintoshes connected to the SongTrellis server, produces the MIDI files and score images requested by the SongTrellis Excerpt Service, the Chord Grid, and SongTrellis Workscores. It also produces the OPML format score indexes that can be requested via the Excerpt Service.

Compose with a laptop and no external synthesizer
Open a score. Press the Play button located in the center of SongTrellis's toolbar at the top of each window. SongTrellis will instantly synthesize the music for the score playing it using the General Midi synthesizer provided by QuickTime Musical Instruments and will animate the notes in the score. Every note that is playing, even in a twenty or thirty voice orchestral core, will display in red as it plays. It will turn the page when it's time to show notes on the next page. This movie shows a SongTrellis animation of a score being played: As Viewed By Eagles (QuickTime Animation). You may need to download QuickTime from Apple's site.

Songtrellis automatically voices chord sequences
SongTrellis, the music application, allows users to enter a chord in a progression by choosing the chord's root and type. It revoices the chords in a progression every time the composer plays his new score until he or she freezes the voicings once he finds an arrangement of the chords that he likes.

Any duration is easy to specify quickly
SongTrellis, the app, has a duration menu on its control bar that lets the composer choose the duration that will be assigned to any new notes of chords that he enters. He can change the next note duration by navigating thru the list of durations by pressing command keys that multiply and divide the duration by 2 or 3. Using a dialog box, the composer can scale a chosen duration so that he can enter notes that are one-fifth, one-seventh or one-nth of any available duration.

Type notes into the score like you type letters into a word processing document
Because the next duration is selected on the control bar, the composer can type notes into the score just as a word processor user types letters into a document. The damnably slow entry methods imposed by most music programs that require you to drag notes off of a pallette and onto the staff are not used. Notes of the currently selected duration can be entered by typing A,B,C, D, E, F and G. Typing an 's' after typing a note name raises the previous note by a half step and notates it with a sharp if that's necessary. Typing an 'l' (lowecase L) after typing a note name lowers the previous note by a half step and notates it with a flat if that's necessary. Pressing shift-up arrow transposes the previously entered note up an octave. Pressing shift-down arrow transposes the previously entered note down an octave,

Chord and scale wizardry
SongTrellis has a scale and chord wizard that tracks the composer's selection in the score. By pressing keys 1 thru 7, the composer can enter a note whose pitch is on the requested scale step. For instance, pressing a 3 would enter a note that is from the third scale degree of the scale that matches the accompanying chord. On its toolbar, there are control groups entitled "Next Chord Tone" and "Next Scale Tone" which allow users to pick notes that fit the accompanying chord in the score by pressing the up or down arrows that are in these groups. Pressing the up button in Next Chord Tone enters a note whose pitch is the next chord tone up from the pitch of the previous note. Pressing the down arrow in Next Scale Tone enters a note of the currently selected duration whose pitch is the next scale tone down from the pitch of the previous note.

If insertion point, enter a note that creates an interval. If notes selected, transpose by interval
SongTrellis has control groups on its control bar labelled "Octave", "Half Step" and "Interval" that each include an up and down arrow. The interval control group has a dropdown menu which lists interval types from the unison to the 15th. If the current selection is an insertion point, pressing the down arrow in a group enters a note whose pitch is the specified interval below the previous note. Pressing the up arrow in this situation, enters a note whose pitch is the specified interval above the previous note.

If notes are selected, pressing an up or down arrow in these groups causes the selected notes to be transposed up or down by the specified intervals.

Notebooks (like glossaries)
Just like glossaries in Microsoft Word, the composer can select a set of notes from 1 or more voices in a score and assign a name to them. The Notebook entries are indexed alphabetically for the composers convenience. Even better than Word glossaries, the composer can select a sequence of notes that use an interesting rhythm pattern and create a Notebook entry and mark it as a rhythm pattern.

Rhythm Patterns
Songtrellis has 92 built-in rhythm patterns and a potentially infinite number of user defined patterns available in the Notebook to make entry of notes using a rhythm pattern phenomenally easy. If a pattern is four beats long consisting of three eighth note triplets, a quarter note and a half note, Songtrellis will align the pattern with the bar the composer is writing notes into. If the user begins typing at the beginning of a bar, the first three notes he enters will be eighth note triplets, the fourth note will be a quarter note, and the fifth will be a half note. If he types more notes the pattern restarts. If the user switches patterns in mid-stream, SongTrellis will pick the proper duration and may add a rest to keep the new pattern in proper alignment with the bar.

Composers can record sequences of pitch selection operations (Interval up or down, half step up or down, octave up or down, particular scale step numbers, some number of chord tones up or down, some number of scale steps up or down, reverse the last n notes) and store them as a named entity called a Toneroad. These constructs would allow any of the patterns in Slonimsky's Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns to be stored as a Toneroad. By selecting a particular named Toneroad and pressing the arrows in the Toneroad control group, the composer can enter notes following the toneroad in the forward or reverse direction. Toneroads are very powerful methods for generating similar melodic materials in different harmonic settings.

Songtrellis is a deep application for music
So far we've not mentioned SongTrellis's formatting, interpretation, printing, or viewing capabilities. Also haven't mentioned its capabilities for creating animated scores in QuickTime format or its capabilities for reading and creating MIDI format files.

Look at SongTrellis Music Application Feature List to download a detailed feature list. (This link will take you to a document in Word .doc format. If your browser has Word or WordPad setup as the helper that handles .doc files, Word should launch on the desktop to show this or else launch within the browser)

Looking for beta testers
I am now beta testing the application. If you would like to beta, please email If you have questions about the app email me, or better yet, login (use the link in the upper right corner of this page) and create a new discussion topic in Song Discussions

Last update: Saturday, December 31, 2005 at 11:39 PM.