Every new document created in ScaleMaster can be viewed in reference or exercise mode. We mentioned that before as we did the mechanism for doing so, namely clicking the view button in the center toolbar. The default exercise created however is not very exciting. It is just the same one-octave scale also available in reference mode. The only difference is that when we now click the play button, we can adjust the playback speed (16 - 320 bpm) with the bpm control to the very right in the center toolbar. All notes in exercise mode are displayed as quarter notes and will highlight when played. Their corresponding locations in the instrument view will be highlighted as well. To make things a little more interesting we can click the [gen] button to the very right in the window toolbar or just type cmd-g.
A main problem with scales and practicing them is that they don't really occur in real music be it improvised or even classical. In classical literature we have for that reason books and books of scale exercises that are simply patterns repeated over an octave or two and then put through different keys and scales.
[gen] is ScaleMaster's first incarnation of a scale pattern generator. It has settings for an octave range, the initial exercise direction and a pattern setting. These few settings can create a whole lot of patterns that should keep things interesting for quite a while. In particular when considering instrument positions, different scales, roots and so forth.
One might wonder why there is a setting for ascending/descending patterns and it is an excellent question. The reason for that is ScaleMaster's reverse setting. Reverse is a toggle button in the center toolbar and also available as command from the Scale menu. The thinking is that most people when practicing a scale or pattern will need some time to get the one direction under their fingers. Reversing a two-octave scale is not something that comes automatically. So in our scale document we can create an exercise, be it just a straight scale in one direction or a patterned one. Then at a later point without changing the exercise itself we can then hit that reverse button and try the exercise on in both directions.
As seen above patterning is an option in [gen]. If none is selected the generated exercise will be a plain scale, up or down with the range indicated. That is of course the first step many of us take to familiarize ourselves with any kind of scale.
Once we start pattering, however, exercises become much longer. Every pattern (i.e. 1234) will be executed on every scale degree. So we would get c, d, e, f - d, e, f, g - e, f, g, a, etc. for the very first pattern in the list and a C major scale.
Our violinist's notation view is here displaying the exercise we just made and there are a couple of remarks necessary at this point. First of all it is all quarter notes and that is pretty much in line with traditional scale practice where we typically seek consistent movement through the fingerings. Another point worthy of explanation are the missing key signatures. We thought about it long and hard and even referred back to some classical literature. The problem is that we are not doing minor or major keys but over 200 standard and exotic scales without any harmonic context. In the end it seemed more important to convey the regular accidental of a note where indicated rather than obfuscate things with key signatures that may not even be relevant. In that context we observe one simple rule - if a note has no accidental it is natural and natural signs are not applied.
One other thing of note is of course that the notation view in exercise mode scrolls. But you probably figured that out already.
You may have noticed in the picture at the very top of this chapter that the [gen] box also has a recording button. If you click that instead of opting for one of our fabulous exercise generation mechanisms you get to record your own exercise. Recorded exercises are marked with an orange dot in the notation view as well as the document list.
The way this works is commonly known as step sequencing. You can input notes either by clicking inside the instrument view or use a MIDI controller. Please note that ScaleMaster only supports class-compliant MIDI controllers. That means they don't use any installed drivers. All notes that are input will be as per standard exercise converted to quarter notes and can be played back like any regular exercise. You may notice that the playback button in the center toolbar is showing a red circle during recordings. To stop a recording just click it once and your new exercise is ready.
On the positive side this methods obviously lets you be much more creative. Yet there are a couple of caveats to this method. For one it is of course possible to enter non scale tones and while ScaleMaster will do its best to accurately determine a notational representation of non-scale tones it may not always succeed. Also, some options that are available for generated exercises, like reverse, changing the scale type or root are not available. Lastly, as of this writing (version 1.0.3) there will be a performance hit with very lengthy exercises. So it is best to limit recordings to the approximate length that a generated exercise might have.
Positions are of extreme importance for string instruments. The reason for that is that the same scale in a different position requires a different fingering. That's a lot of fingerings considering that there are 12 positions before the fret board repeats. Exercises created with the [gen] module are position specific for that reason. So a straight 2 octave major scale for example will highlight the notes in the position it was created in (i.e. fifth position). If you find that the note highlighting seems off for some reason, just re-renerate the exercise in the desired position.
Exercises are a great, new way of dealing with scales and making them applicable in an actual practice context. We are very excited about the [gen] module and it seems like a lot of future development of the ScaleMaster app will head that way. Stay tuned and see what comes :]
Well, it has been a long couple of chapters, but we're not quite done yet. Next let's take a look at our application preferences.