There are hardly any topics more central to musicianship than that of scales. There is the construction of scales, their relationship to chords and then there are the exercises. In classical as well as in modern music scales are practiced on a daily basis to improve reading skills, form that finger memory, train those ears of course and most of us have at least a basic understanding of their purpose. Some classical composer like Kreutzer or Czerny are better known today for their volumes of scale-based études than for the rest of their work and practically everyone has at least heard a rendition of Do, Re, Mi.
Modern musicians often practice playing scales according to organizing principles like thirds. What is meant by that is to play a scale tone, then its third, then the second scale tone, the third on top of that one and so forth. The exercise would result in the scale tones 1, 3, 2, 4, 3, 5, 4, 6, etc. This is very similar to what classical études look like, only that improvisers don’t read off the page, but construct these phrases on the go. And of course there are many variations. Not an easy feat at first, because before even getting started, one has to know the base scale. Playing patterns through different keys and scale types finally is a demanding task even for the advanced musician.
ScalePlay constructs patterns like these and much more complicated ones by using two simple grids. While grids have been around in music apps for years, those are mainly based on half-tone steps and usually include all available notes in the spectrum. That leaves one difficulty on the table, namely that of correctly identifying the notes of a scale. These grids also don’t easily allow for patterning as in our scale in thirds. So a different solution is called for and ScalePlay provides just that and so much more.
In the application songs are used as metaphor to organize different scale types into a harmonic context. They are constructed with chords which in turn determine what scale types are available at a given time. During playback the app then cycles through these virtual chords or as with TouchPlay allows to call them up at will. This architecture is very helpful for superimposing ScalePlay patterns over existing pieces and even practicing improvising over changes.
With its innovative approach ScalePlay serves two distinct purposes. The first one has to do with learning. To practice a patterned version of a scale rather than the regular up and down one has to know the scale first and then construct the pattern or phrase on their instruments. With ScalePlay the construction is easily done. The app can then show the pattern progression on several built-in instruments and even provides a music notation reference. One can slow things down to need and play along. Another feature of immense interest for the practicing musician is called pattern lock. When engaged it keeps all patterns in the same general vicinity. So instead of raising all scale tones when a base chord moves from C to G for example patterns stay in place. This allows guitarists to practice scale patterns over changes while remaining in the same position.
The second purpose of is course music production or more specifically music production on iOS. iPads have become a mainstay in music production and ScalePlay is a fabulous generative music app. That is because of the magic that happens when these self-repeating scale structures are put in motion. Fantastic music occurs. And since ScalePlay supports virtual MIDI as well as Audiobus it can be recorded into any iOS based DAW. ScalePlay also introduces TouchPlay, an innovative environment for advanced looping. With TouchPlay scale structures can be looped endlessly and out of order. The TouchPlay environment is superimposed over ScalePlay's main interface and allows live switching between different scale types with one finger tap in continuous or full pattern mode. Of course ScalePlay supports multi-app multitasking as well as split-view and split-screen to make this feature even more useful.
Scales are one of the principal building blocks in music and many hours of a musician's life are spent practicing them. ScalePlay offers a fresh take on working with scales and allows experimentation in a way that would be quite difficult on an instrument. As a pattern generator ScalePlay opens up a world of new possibilities that far exceed the typical step sequencer with its drill down approach and harmonic context.
ScalePlay has its own Facebook site. A little bit of a diary but also a growing collection of all things surrounding the app. Check out the timeline to see the development of ScalePlay, additional images and links to 3rd party reviews. Make sure to stop by and see what's new.