So Tell Me About The Big Map.

How Does It Work?

Okay, this may seem like a lot of details, but you are allowed to skim read it and come back later if you like.  Just remember, when all is said and done, this tool is easy to play.

Selecting the Key

At the bottom of the screen is a row of buttons labeled...

This is where you select the key.  You can select only one at a time, but you may change the key at any time by making another choice.

The Simple Map

You can see how the light blue boxes in the middle of the screen are part of the Simple Map we saw earlier, but now variations like 2, 6, M7 and so on, have been added around the edges.  This divides each blue box into “zones,” areas assigned to the main chord and each of its variations.  Playing higher in any one of the zones causes the chord and its bass note to be played louder, while playing lower in any one of the zones causes the chord and its bass note to be played softer.  Also, playing across each zone from left to right produces different arrangements of the chord notes (called inversions,) just as would happen if you moved your hand from left to right across a piano, and played the same chord in other positions.

The Bass Note Zone

Notice also that a brown and tan band of vertical stripes is at the left edge of some of the boxes.  This is a bass note zone.  When playing in the brown and tan area, only the bass note for that chord will sound.

The Bass Zone has some options associated with it.  These options are displayed on the Big Map at the lower right corner.  The options are 1, 4, W, and Low.

The “1” option is the default option.  When “1” is selected, the chord root is assigned to the entire brown and tan area.

When “4” is selected, the numbered sections in the brown area correspond to different notes from the chord (i.e. - the root, the third, the fifth, and the octave.)  This allows the bass note to jump around a little.

The “W” option (which stands for “walking bass”) allows the middle brown area to play the four notes just mentioned, while the side lanes, the lighter tan areas, play notes one half-step and two half-steps away on the right and on the left.  This allows a bass line to be played which includes non-chord tones.

The “Low” option - Some bass notes can climb up the scale until they are not as low as you might like.  The “Low” option keeps the bass notes playing in a low register.

The Power Chord Mini-Map

In the middle of the screen is a tan-colored Mini-Map.  This map is for playing power chords.  A power chord is made up of a root and its fifth, leaving out the third.  (For example, in the key of C, the I chord would be just C’s and G’s.)

In songwriting, power chords can be a quick way to experiment with basic progressions.

The Solo Keyboard

At the f
ar left edge is the Solo Keyboard.  It’s like the very front edge of a piano keyboard, tilted vertically.  The blue spaces represent white notes on a piano, and the green spaces represent black notes.  Here you may use the mouse to play individual notes.  Playing lower in the space causes the note to play more softly.  Playing higher in the space causes the note to play louder.

When you choose a key, the notes that make up that major scale are indicated with a slightly different color on the edge, and note “one” in the scale is highlighted with a red edge.  This allows you to see the scale notes, and also which note is note “one” for that particular scale.

When the Solo Layer button is “on,”
a second Solo sound will be layered with the first Solo sound.  This allows the Solo Keyboard to play two sounds at once... for example, piano and strings.

Drums and Arpeggios

At the lower left corner of the screen are the Drum and Arpeggio options.

When the Drum button is “on,” the QWERTY keyboard can be used to play MIDI drum sounds.  For example, “A” plays a kick drum and “D” plays a snare.  Some of the sounds are duplicated above and below with slightly different volumes.  “Q” and “Z” play the same sound as “A”, but “Q” is a little louder and “Z” a little softer. The numbered keys play various Tom sounds.  Cymbals and hi-hats are on the right side of the QWERTY keyboard.  Other percussion instruments (like bongos and congas) are played when the “Shift” button is held down while playing the QWERTY keys.

When the Arp option is “on,” the Drum option is automatically turned off.  In this mode, specific regions of the QWERTY keyboard are used to play individual notes in the chord.  The keys A, S, D, F and G will trigger the bass note and each of the individual notes in the chord.  This same functionality is duplicated on the keys T, Y, U, I and O.

(The arrow keys - up, down, left and right - have a similar function.  Up plays the bass note, and left, down and right play notes from the chord.)

The LB button stands for “Left Bass”, or “the left mouse button plays only bass notes.”  This has an interesting function.  For example, you could use the left mouse button to play a chord with Arp and LB both “on.”  Because LB is “on,” you would hear only the bass note.  But if you then played the keys S, D, and F, you would hear each of the individual notes in the chord, played one at a time.

Chord Sound Options

Just like the Solo Keyboard sounds, Chord sounds can also be layered.  When the Layer button is selected, a second sound is added to the chords being played.

When the “No Bass” option is “on,” the chords play without the bass note.  This would be useful if you were playing bass notes in the brown and tan section, and answering each bass note with a chord played from the blue or green portion of the same box.

Choosing the MIDI sounds for Each Part

When you download and run the Free Trial version, or the Full Version, you will see at the top of the screen several drop-down boxes which allow you to select which MIDI sound you would like to hear for each of the parts.  There are 128 choices for each.  This means you can assign which instrument sound you would like to hear for the Chord, the Bass, the (Chord) Layer, the Solo notes, and the Solo Layer.  This picture shows three of the drop-down boxes.

Chord Names are Displayed

When you run the Free Trial or Full Version, you will see a small window, at the top right corner of the screen, where the name of the chord is displayed.

The Notes Are Also Displayed on a Virtual Keyboard

When the Watch button is “on,” a virtual keyboard appears at the top of the Map, and the notes that make up the chord are indicated.

Two Things to Think About

There are a couple things to remember.  One is “Double-Click Speed.”  Your computer is set up to distinguish between a single click with the mouse and a double-click.  So if you play a chord twice, the computer might think you were intending a double-click, and the second click may not sound.  To help with this, it’s best to set the double-click speed so that most clicks are interpreted as single clicks and only very fast double-clicks actually register as double-clicks.  In the control panel for the keyboard there is a place where you can adjust the speed needed to create a double-click.  You can set this parameter so that most clicks will register as single clicks.

The second thing to remember is this: the QWERTY keys, which we are using to trigger notes or drum sounds, will do a series of rapid repetitions if held down for more than about half a second.  When playing the QWERTY keys, it’s best, in most cases, to let go of the keys after playing them. 

A Word About Latency and Windows XP and Vista

When computers generate sound, there is a slight time delay while calculations are being made and instructions are being processed.  This time delay is called “latency.”  Latency varies depending on how fast your computer runs, and which operating system is installed. On our home computer, running Windows XP, the latency is quite small, and it’s possible to play the program almost like a live instrument.  When I tried the same experiment on computers running Windows Vista, the latency was higher.  In this case, the map is a useful tool, but it may not respond as quickly as a live instrument would.  We encourage all who are interested in the Full Version to first download and experiment with the Free Trial version to see how fast it responds on your computer.

Advanced MIDI options, VST instruments, etc...

If you are interested in other MIDI options, please see below.

Would you like to try it?

To download the Free Trial...

Click here to visit the FREE TRIAL page.

To purchase the Full Version...

Click here to purchase the Full Version.

Advanced MIDI options...

While experimenting with “Yours To Play It!” I was also able to trigger sounds from VST instruments.  To do this, I had to first download and install a VST host.  I also downloaded VST instruments like Crystal or Purple, and put them where the VST host could find them.  Last, I had to download and install a MIDI jack utility (like LoopBe1, for example.)  Using the computer’s Control Panel to assign the MIDI routing from the “Yours To Play It!” output to the VST host input, I was able to trigger sounds in the VST device.

Another possibility would be to play sounds in another MIDI keyboard or module.  The MIDI assignments are...

Chords are played on MIDI channel 1.

Bass notes are played on MIDI channel 2.

Chord Layer notes are played on MIDI channel 3.

Arpeggio notes for Chords are played on MIDI channel 4.

Arpeggio notes for Bass are played on MIDI channel 5.

Arpeggio notes for Chord Layer sounds are played on MIDI channel 6.

Solo notes are played on MIDI channel 7.

Solo Layer notes are played on MIDI channel 8.

Drum sounds are triggered on MIDI channel 10.

Copyright 2009 Steve Mugglin


Okay, let’s review for a minute...

We were demonstrating how “The Simple Map” can help find basic chord progressions in any of the major keys.

We followed some simple rules like “Start at Home, the I chord, and jump anywhere.  Then let gravity pull you back toward Home.”  Using the map and the chord table, we were able to generate progressions like I - vi - IV - V - I and I - IV - ii - V - I which, in the key of D, translated to D - Bm - G - A - D and D - G - Em - A - D.

With this Tool, You Can Play a Lot of Chords!

Music Tools for People

Like You and Me

“Yours To Play It!” - The Big Map

We thought, “It would be real helpful if you could point anywhere on the map and hear that chord played.”

That’s what “Yours To Play It!” does.

But it’s a bigger map now.  It has been expanded to include chord variations like 2, 6, M7, m7, 9, 11 13, sus4... as well as secondary dominants and diminished chords, which are placed outside the Simple Map, with arrows leading back in.  The Big Map may surprise you when you first see it, because it looks complex.  So as you scroll down, remember that your part is easy.  All you have to do is play...

One click at a time.