ScalePlay has a huge amount of settings. In the end however all of these have a purpose and are needed. We have organized them into two sets. There are song settings which are particular to the current piece and saved for each. And then there are app settings, things that will stay the same for all songs and are set globally. To switch between these two there is a tabbed switch at the top of the settings window with a Song and a General button. The Song tab is the first one which may seem counter-intuitive. But in the end most app settings will remain pretty static once we have decided on them and song settings will change pretty often.
So let's dive right in and begin with the general (app) settings.
Here we have 4 groups, sound, instrument, general and midi.
This setting adjusts the general output volume of the app.
This setting determines whether or not ScalePlay produces audio. In some circumstances it may be desirable to silence the app like when driving external synths for example.
When playing along with ScalePlay you may want a second to get your hands back on the instrument after hitting the play button. If so the count-in option will provide a quarter note base 4 count.
The Synchronize setting determines whether the instrument follows the sound. Using synchronized instruments is a fairly personal preference and somewhat dependent on the instrument. For piano the overall instrument movement is fairly minimal, but for instruments with a smaller range there may be quite a lot. But it also dependes on the range of the composition and the instrument position.
Since synchronize is fairly intelligent it will adept to positioning. So if a song uses a lot of higher notes on a guitar for example, moving the instrument to a higher position will avoid a lot of interument movement.
Note: Disabling this setting may improve performance on some devices.
Here you can adjust the handedness for string instruments like the guitar to left or right hand. The instrument display and all note values will update automatically.
ScalePlay supports writing notes in letters, i.e. C, D, E, as well as using tone syllables, i.e. Do, Re, Mi.
Some European countries like Germany do not use a note named B and call it H instead. This is due to the notion that hundreds of years ago the flat symbol (b) may have look to similar to B. Especially in early printing. H was substituted as a consequence.
ScalePlay supports 2 forms of writing chord symbols. The American way, i.e. C Maj and the so-called European way, i.e. C∆7.
This stepper button allows to change the MIDI channel on which ScalePlay broadcasts. The default is 0 (it may appear as channel 1 in some apps).
Finally we come to the song settings. This is the first thing to take a look at when creating a new song. Here we have 5 groupings, general, instrument, playback, phrase and step. The phrase and step categories of course relate to our phrase and step matrices and are quite important
At the very top is lock switch. It represents a second way to lock the current song. Please note that if a song is locked none of the stepper switches in this window operate. Which is what we want, but this is sometimes overlooked which is why we put the lock button at the very top of the window. If some control doesn't seem to work or things are grayed out, make sure to check that the song is unlocked.
Again locking songs may seem a bit of an inconvenience at first, but it beats the alternative of having a perfect song altered by mistake.
The instrument is chosen with the standard iOS rotating picker. There is not much more to it, just select what you need and that's that. Just note that the instrument is as of version 1.2.0 a song specific setting so it is possible to have one song with a guitar instrument and the next one with piano.
ScalePlay comes with a full GM Standard library of instruments sounds. That is 128 sounds that are available across the entire MIDI range of pitches. Tapping the sound name (i.e. Pan Flute as shown above opens the sound selection window with its list of available sounds. We have gathered all sound names for you and listed them in Appendix A.
And yes - this is finally where the number of chords used in a song are determined. Chords are always added at the end and removed from the end.
Another very important setting. The base octave (1) goes down to C1 and represents a very low setting that will be out of range for most instruments. Bass instruments and piano will be fine. If you want to create a bass pattern like the Jaco sample composition 1 or 2 may be a good value.
Choosing a very high octave like 5 o6 again will be out of range for many instruments and depending on your phrase and step settings may even move past the max number of MIDI pitches (128). Something to be aware of. Make sure to thoroughly review the ranges chapter in this documentation.
The base or default value for octaves is 4 which centers us around middle c. For guitar as it is transposed down an octave a setting of 3 is a great default.
Phrase Rows and Columns
Here finally we get to set the numbers of rows and columns for our phrase matrix. The default is a symmetrical 8x8 which fits your basic major scale for an octave. The maximum is 32x32 which is extremely high may depending on your octave setting clip your instruments and even MIDI range.
Line (Phrase Matrix only)
This is where we can adjust the line in our phrase matrix. Remember we have a line mode which allows us to switch between playing all notes in the phrase matrix or only those above or below the designated line.
Step Rows and Columns
The step matrix allows values up to 12x32 and the default is 4x4. This is by how much a phrase is transposed in a sense although we do stay in the same key.
There are a ton of settings in ScalePlay, but then those affecting the app itself are rarely visited. The settings of our compositions on the other hand are the first thing we look at when constructing a new piece of music or play-along exercise. In general it is maybe good practice to rather make a bunch of songs with different settings rather than changing stuff around all that much while staying in the same song.
We have heard a lot about how ScalePlay is both, a great practice tool for musicians and a generative music app for iPad musicians and DJs. The next part covers one aspect of ScalePlay that our testers loved and this one is for music making, not practicing. It is called TouchPlay.