When a taut string vibrates, the frequency of
the sound produced is inversely proportional to the length of the string.
Some instruments are based on this principle, for example the harp or piano. In these cases, the large number of strings necessary to give an adequate number of notes leads to a bulky instrument.
To avoid this, it is necessary to be able to produce several notes with a single string.This is made possible by shortening the string before making it sound. It is the principle used in the violin : the performer puts his fingers where necesaary to generate the correct note. It needs however great accuracy in fingering.
Another kind of instrument, called a fretted
string instrument, uses an ingenious system to shorten the strings
in a simpler way for the performer.
A series of strings is held taut over a neck. Each string produces a specific pitch (frequency) when plucked . On the neck, there is a series of metallic bars called frets.
When the finger presses a string behind a fret,
the string is held against the fret and so shortened : the note generated
is more high-pitched.
Frets are placed so that each corresponds to a semitone. That is all.
The music is presented in a tablature.
There are as many horizontal line in a tablature as there are strings,
with the highest pitched (treble) at the top.
Each note is written as the number of the fret at which it is played. An open string is notated 0, the first fret 1 and so on.
The performer reads the tablature from left to right, each note being written on the corresponding string and fret. When two notes are displayed in the same column, they are played at the same time.
There are often several positions on the neck at which the same note could be played. Hand and finger positions must then be optimized to avoid unneccessary movement up and down the neck. The software computes the simplest path to play the given notes.
To insert notes into a tablature, several methods are available :
You can select the fret with the keyboard (numerical pad), then click on the required string. A list of keyboard keys for tablature editing is provided in the keyboard configuration (they can be redefined). You can click on a string with the Shift key held down (or with the right mouse button). You can then select the fret in the pop-up menu.
A list of about fifty predefined instruments is
available in Harmony-Melody.
You can also define your own : click "Other" and choose for each string :
the note pitch for the open string the number of frets for this string the first useable fret for this string : on some instruments, such as the banjo, one string is shorter than the others.
Tablature computation, i.e. the association between a note and the corresponding string-fret pair, is largely configurable.
For each note, the context is analyzed and all
possible fingerings for this note are evaluated. A difficulty value is
calculated for each of them. The higher the value, the worse the fingering.
You can define the penalties (positive values) or advantages (negative values) that will be applied
If a note cannot be played, it is displayed as
a question mark.
Baroque tablature uses letters instead of
numbers. An open string is marked with an 'a', the first fret with a 'b'
then the characters r,d,e,f,g,h,i,k,l,m,n,o,p,q,s,t,u,v,w,x,y,z.
To avoid confusion some letters like c and j have been omitted or replaced. In particular, note that the letter "r" is used for the second fret instead of "c": this is because during the baroque period the printed letter "c" looked like a modern "r".
Baroque notation only displays the first (highest) six strings on the tablature grid, although an instrument like the Baroque Lute can have up to 14 strings.
Bass strings lower than the sixth are written below the bottom line of the tablature, and are differentiated by a / symbol drawn before the fret letter. The seventh string just uses the fret letter, then there is one '/' for the 8th string, two '/' for the 9th, three '/' for the 10th, then the number '4' for the 11th, '5' for the 12th...
When you click with the Shift key depressed (or right-click) below the sixth string, Harmony-Melody lists all available choices in the pop-up menu.
Mountain or Appalachian Dulcimer tablature
The mountain dulcimer is a fretted instrument
that generally has 3 strings and about 20 frets. The fret spacing follows
a diatonic scale and is therefore irregular (it can be either one semitone
or one tone).
To define your own Dulcimer tuning, select "Other" in the tablature selection window and switch to "Dulcimer" mode (pop-up menu at the bottom of the window).