Music Theory

Learning Violin First Week


So I got my hands on a violin. I’ve been thinking about this for a while because I haven’t been satisfied with any orchestral samplers. In some instances they can sound really good, but what gets me the most is the articulations are just not quite right to my ear. So I’m just going to take the dive and learn how to play them myself. I got on Amazon and ordered beginner violin. This is my first week and these are my findings!

So step one was to map out the fingerboard. this isn’t too fancy, just using google docs, mapped out all 7 modes with 4 notes per string. The first thing I noticed is that there are way less combinations to memorize than learning guitar because all the intervals are always fifths from string to string. So if I choose Ionian, and bump it over 1 string higher, I only have to relearn the lowest string starting on note number 4 to learn lydian.

So I’ve almost got them all memorized, but still having a little bit of a hard time judging the distances between the notes. Even small distances off, translate to notes being out of tune. The other tricky part is getting good tone. It’s actually not terribly hard while staying on the same string and bowing, but moving string to string can be tricky. One second it sounds really good, and the next second it sounds like screaming cats.

All and all, for simple whole notes I think it already sounds way, way better than any of my Kontakt libraries. I think so far what I like the best is the articulations sound much much better. I still have a long way to go on improving the tone but I think within a few weeks I should be able to do some of my own basic violin lines. I’ll post some samples next week!

Music Theory

More Pentatonic Scales

When talking about “the” pentatonic scale, most people are referring to the minor pentatonic scale. That doesn’t mean that there only has to be 1 single pentatonic scale. A pentatonic scale is just a scale that has 5 notes. If we take a look at how the pentatonic scale fits into the major scale, we can derive more 5 note scales, and hopefully be inspired by new sounds, that are created by subtracting notes, instead of adding!

Let’s start by reviewing the major scale’s basic pattern:


Now if we rotate it so that the minor scale is centered on the natural minor mode (Aeolian) we get:


And if we placed this in Cmajor/Aminor we get the notes:


Now if we were to select the minor pentatonic notes, starting on A, we get:


Let’s see what happens if we overlay them:


So.. it turns out that you can create the minor pentatonic scale by taking the natural minor scale, and dropping scale degrees 2, and 6. This just means we can play A minor pentatonic scale, in the key of A minor. Let’s do some more exploration though. The major scale is a 7 note scale, and 1 mode per scale tone. What would happen if we apply the pattern of dropping scale tones 4, and 7 from other major scale modes?

Exploring new 5 note Scales

Let’s try on the next mode up, which would be Locrian, or mode 7:


MusicSheetViewerPlugin 3.1

Now let’s drop the 4th and 7th scale degree starting from here:


Click the play button to hear the result. You will find that it sounds very different from the regular modes, or minor pentatonic. It has its own new flavor, just by omitting a different combination of notes.

MusicSheetViewerPlugin 3.1

We can apply this same logic to all the modes of the major scale and see what results we get. It’s interesting keep track of which kinds of intervals each derived scale has, to see how many unique kinds of 5 note scales we create.

Mode # Pentatonic Third Forth Fifth Seventh
Ionian 1 Major Major Perfect Perfect Major
Dorian 2 Minor Minor Perfect Perfect Minor
Phrygian 3 Hirachōshi Minor Perfect Perfect Minor
Lydian 4 Minor Major Augmented Perfect Major
Mixolydian 5 Sypro? Major Perfect Perfect Minor
Aeolian 6 Minor Minor Perfect Perfect Minor
Locrian 7 Kumoi Minor Perfect diminished minor

Here are all the notes in the scale if we are in the key of C major/Aminor:

Mode # 1 3 4 5 6
Ionian 1 C E F G B
Dorian 2 D F G A C
Phrygian 3 E G A B D
Lydian 4 F A B C E
Mixolydian 5 G B C D F
Aeolian 6 A C D E G
Locrian 7 B D E F A

Analyzing the results

So looking at the chart and going through every mode and dropping the relative 2nd and 6th scale degrees, it turns out we have 5 unique pentatonic patterns. It also turns out that “the” minor pentatonic pattern works on 3 different modes, Aeolian, Dorian and Phrygian. That means if you are in A minor, you can play that scale starting on A, D or E. The more interesting ones I think are the ones based around 4, 5 and 7. I like 4 because it has the augmented 4th and sounds a bit more mystical.

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MusicSheetViewerPlugin 3.1
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Now how is this useful for production? In a given key, choose one of the pentatonic scales to create a melody around. Check out the track Alkaline With One Trak featuring the hirajoshi scale! The melodies on this track were created only using the pentatonic based on lydian.

Music Theory Songs Vaporwave


Aesthetic is a track That has got some down tempo vibes, and features an electric guitar solo with a jazz fusion sound.

Let’s break down the track. The main chord progression is:

F#m7 | Dmaj7 | Fmaj7 | Em7 | Gmaj7

The key in this track is mostly D major, but one of the chords doesn’t belong. This progression uses mode mixture to borrow a chord from the parallel minor key. Using roman numerals the progression is:

iii – I – ♭III – ii – IV

What I like about this progression is that it doesn’t appear to gravitate directly towards D major, or the relative minor B minor. Instead it starts on chord 3, which would make that mode be phrygian, which is also a type of minor mode. The interesting chord here is the F major7, the 3rd chord in the progression. How did we end up with F major7 in the key of D major? Its a borrowed chord from the parallel minor key. The parallel minor of D major is D minor. In D minor, the third chord is F major 7.

So what happens when you try to play a melody? If you keep playing D major over the Fmaj7 chord, there will be some notes that will not line up. So the melody has to agree to also drop the sharps on the F# and C#. So right as the F major 7 Plays, all instruments in the arrangement must also put naturals on their F’s and C’s.

The bridge also has another mixture chord on chord IV. Right as the last main melody section comes in, it gives it just a little bit of time to breathe and kind of goes to a different place.

IV | iv


One of my favorite things about Aesthetic is the multiple layers of pads and moving percussion. There are multiple types of pads that come in and out, multiple shaker groups, and bongo groups that layer to add subtle variation and fullness.

Lofi Music Production Vaporwave

Why I don’t use Samples

By samples I mean full samples from other tracks. A sample is basically a piece of audio recorded from an existing song. Lots of types of music are sample based. Essentially, a loop from an existing song is taken, modified, and new track is built around that. Lots of vaporwave, lofi, and future funk uses samples from old songs. There is a lot of room for creativity in manipulating the samples.

Remix vs Cover?

I do lots of video game covers, but they are technically not remixes. Sometimes the terms are confusing because they get interchanged, but technically, a remix is a type of song that also uses original audio. A cover rebuilds the sounds without using the original audio. If you were to take the midi from a song, run it through your own synths and create audio, then its a cover. If you record the actual song and put it in your song, then its a remix.

Remixes and other sample based songs come with a lot of legal difficulties because it’s hard to get the right permissions to use audio samples. Cover licensing is fairly easy to come get. A lot of distributors offer low cost licensing options for doing covers. They usually take care of sending the original songwriter a cut of the royalties. The reason that I don’t make sample based vaporwave isn’t rooted in the legal issues, but for me, its simply workflow.

But Why Tho?

I don’t have a DJ background so I don’t have experience stitching songs together. I do have lots of experience playing in bands and writing parts for multiple instruments. For my workflow in Ableton, It’s easier for me to write the parts out in midi, and create an arrangement around that. I like to move notes around in different midi lanes, and it’s not possible to modify individual instruments on rendered samples. In a sample, you can’t easily change things like the chords. I also don’t have a collection of songs that I would use for sampling, and wouldn’t even know where to start looking.

Samples or no Samples?

In conclusion, sample based music is definitely very cool, and some of the “sound” comes from modifying rendered audio. For my workflow, midi works best because I like having control of all the midi, and can write quickly like that. I do however occasionally sample myself. I’ll take rendered portions of my other songs and slice them up or slow them down for effects.


Onto New Adventures

Launching an all new blog site for 2021! I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, and have been tinkering with a few site ideas, but finally came to the conclusion that I just need a simple blog site. I’ve been writing a lot of new music lately and I wanted to have a place to share more background about the music. There’s a lot more music theory, composition, and production I’ve been meaning to share, that might be difficult to hear, but can make the music that much more interesting if you know what to listen for!