Exceeding ranges is very easy to do. In the image above we have a 32x32 phrase matrix and set the octave to 5, 6 being the highest possible setting. There are 3 discernible horizontal stripes. The bottom one indicates an OK range, the middle one indicates instrument clipping and the top one indicates MIDI clipping. These are much more noticeable on an actual device and also get updated live so there is some movement when setting rows.
One things that has to be said about ScalePlay is that it is not instrument-centric. That may seem like an odd observation, but let’s look at some numbers. In MIDI we have a total of 128 values. Going from the very lowest not to the very highest there are 128 values. That’s it. 10.66 octaves to put it another way. A piano has 88 keys - 7.33 octaves. A guitar has 4 octaves if it has 24 frets and this is also a pretty common number for other string instruments.
So there is the reason ScalePlay cannot be instrument-centric. If it were focused on the guitar, it would have to stick to 8x8 grids. But then how to play patterns with higher notes? So it is left to the practicing musician to set the correct octaves as practice range and observe ranges herself.
An example: If we took 4 octaves and translated them into pentatonic pitches we would get 20 pitches. You probably see where this is going. If I made a 16x16 phrase matrix and an 8x8 step matrix the resulting pattern could already exceed the range of a guitar, because the phrase alone could contain nearly 4 octaves worth of notes. Never mind the steps. Or the root movement of our chords, because after all the first chord could be a C Maj and the second one a Bb7. ScalePlay has one workaround for that called pattern lock, but for we still have to consider it.
Another thing to do with ranges is the difference in number of scale degrees between scale types. A 12-row phrase pattern might stay inside an octave if the current scale is the chromatic scale but then jump up to over 2 octaves when it changes to a pentatonic. This could be a nice effect, but is something to keep in mind in music production as well as when practicing. For some songs it may be a good idea to stick to scales of the same approximate length. Like having a piece mostly consisting of pentatonics and the next may be only heptatonics.
ScalePlay does indicate cases where a phrase might exceed the limit of available MIDI pitches as seen in the image at the top of this page. Similar shading also occurs where the range of the current instrument is clipped as shown above (low clipping left and high clipping on the right side). Instrument clipping is very subtle but on an iPad especially noticeable when adjusting matrix rows. We kept it subtle because you might not care in some instances. Clipping indication always takes the worst case scenario. That means it adds the number of rows in the step matrix to those of the phrase matrix and then calculates from current octave and scale. You patterns might not reach the clipping area.
MIDI clipping on the other hand is very noticeable. The above image show MIDI clipping at the very top. This is a concern and should be adjusted. No notes are going to be played for the affected squares. If you are thinking that this may be a convenient way to insert pauses to your phrase, don't. The preferred way to do that would be to use ScalePlay's line mode and then simply draw above or below it to silence notes in a specific area.
Ranges are something to always be aware of in ScalePlay, be it to check instrument boundaries or even to make sure not to exceed the number of playable MIDI values. Luckily ScalePlay keeps things in check and will highlight those instances where things might get out of bounds.
Having worked with ScalePlay for some time now I find that I get the best results by keeping all matrices at their minimum resolution. When done with editing phrases and steps of a song I usually size them to the smallest possible grid size and leave it there.
Believe it or not, but there are still some topics to touch upon. What follows is a grab bag of sorts where we are going to talk about things like pattern lock, line mode, Audiobus and more.