Close Up Die

Series: Robot Music I, Robot Music II: Modes, Robot Music III: The Circle of Fifths, Robot Music IV: Scales of the World

It’s been a long while, but response to the last music post was enough to get me revved up again. Now it’s time to continue with the Robot Music series on procedurally written music.

I wanted this tutorial to be simple, but educational enough that if you wanted to study more, you would know where to look. For that reason, there is a lot of music vocabulary in here. I’ve done my best to explain each term as it comes up, but if any remain confusing, don’t hesitate to look them up elsewhere or even skip them. You can probably forget all of the fancy words and still understand the important concepts being discussed.

In the last session we rolled a die to generate riffs in a Major Pentatonic Scale. Sticking to that one scale limits the sound of your music a lot, so now we’ll mix up our technique by exploring modes. We’ll be replacing the Major Pentatonic Scale with the full Major Scale. The pentatonic only has 5 notes, while the entire Major Scale has 7. Those last two notes can be seen as bothersome* which is why they were left out last time.

Most people’s first musical revelation is the amazing power of switching between a Major scale and a Minor scale. It’s often generalized that when a song is in the Major scale it sounds happy and when it’s in a Minor scale it sounds sad. That is the effect we will be looking into to change the emotional impact of robot songs.

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