Adding notes to existing chords

• Jul 8, 2015 - 04:59

Okay, this might be a long post. First I'm going to describe the composition or orchestration problem which makes up the bulk of my writing work, and then I'm going to describe my workflow for approaching this problem, and then I'm going to ask a question.

I write for a jazz ensemble, and in the style of arranging that I'm using, I often have to write a melody harmonized in three or four parts, to be played by the wind instruments in the band. By "harmonized", I mean that the three or four instruments are playing the same rhythms and articulations but different pitches. The topmost pitch of each chord is the melody of the tune, and the lower voices are the harmony parts. So far, this sounds pretty obvious, right?

So, the way that I do this, in the absence of a midi keyboard, is that I first write the melody voice in the top staff, and put in the articulation marks and slurs. Then I go through and add the harmony notes in the same staff, below the melody. Then once I think the harmonization sounds good, I use Edit...Tools...Explode to separate the voices into their separate staves. Voila.

Now, here's my question. Adding notes underneath the existing melody is a hassle, and I'd like to find out if there's a better way. I've tried using capital letters (shift+A through shift+G), but these invariably add the new voices above the existing chord rather than below it, necessitating a ctrl+down octave drop every time. (I can't think of a situation in which that behavior would be useful to me.)

My current solution is that I've mapped @#$%^&*( (in other words, shift-2 through shift-9) to have the opposite meaning from the pre-defined alt-1 through alt-9, that is, shift-2 adds the note a diatonic step lower; shift-3 adds a note a diatonic third lower; shift-4 adds a note a diatonic fourth lower, etc.

This works fine, except that my brain doesn't naturally think of chords in terms of the intervals between adjacent tones. I'm having to train my brain, which is nice. But it would also be nice to be able to add notes below the chord by letter-name.

Thoughts? Marc, is my workflow similar to the way you'd write for a homophonic ensemble or do you have a different method?



Also, adding notes with the letter keys has the nice feature that the pitches respect the accidentals that are earlier in the measure; adding notes with the "3rd below" method only respects the key signature and ignores previous accidentals, which is unfortunate.

I agree shortcuts to add notes below would be useful for the workflow you describe. FWIW, the current system where notes are added *above* is very natural when writing accompaniment chords - or piano music in general. It's pretty common to spell things bottom up (who would describe a C major triad as "G E C"?). But obviously, if you are thinking melody first, with harmony parts below, adding notes top down makes more sense.

I know the idea of new shortcuts to add notes below comes up from time to time, but I don't see an official feature request in the issue tracker. Wanna file one? One limitation is that there are only so many key combinations available, but we could always at least provide the commands with no shortcut and then let you reassign them yourself. BTW, Shift+2 - Shift+9 *used* to be defined by default, but this causes a conflict on keyboards where the numbers themselves require Shift (a common layout in France and probably elsewhere).

As for me, I don't have a single method, but I actually don't use Explode all that often. Sometimes, particularly when simply re-copying an existing arrangement as opposed to arranging on the fly. But to be honest, I most often write the melody line, then manually copy it to other staves, then use the down arrow keys to alter the pitches. Occasionally I use repitch mdoe but mostly I can't be bothered. For the bottom parts, I often Ctrl+Down the whole thing first, and then perhaps arrow individual notes *up*.

I won't claim it's efficient or elegant, but you asked :-) I'm normally thinking hard enough about the actual notes that losing a couple of seconds actually entering them hardly bothers me.

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