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So How Does All This emuso™ Stuff Work?

Ok, so the real question in front of us is: what do you need to know to be a good musician? Right? Isn’t that what we are all after? (I take it that you are looking for that from emuso, which is exactly what we made it for). Practising music is essential and not just on mechanical technique.  Emuso is great for practising.  A good musician has much more than technique alone.  You need to understand what note-choices are available to you while you’re improvising or writing. You need to understand the building blocks used to make music and how they are assembled, such as how to meaningfully put chords and melodies together for a vocal or a solo.  You need a strong chord vocabulary.  You need a strong sense of rhythm and know how to exploit it.  Emuso can show you all this, very simply.  If you want to understand music purely out of curiosity, as an educated listener, or perhaps as a music producer or DJ, emuso is for you too.

Without emuso, here are your choices for starting or improving on your instrument.

You can learn tunes parrot-fashion, copying note-for-note, but you won’t understand why the note choices were made.  Relied on too heavily, this method can lead to frustration when you want to make your own music and realise you don’t understand how.  Then there is the traditional way music is taught and shared worldwide, with music notation and note names. A dizzying world of symbols and complexity to ponder before learning anything on how music works.   Even here, the performer has no say in note-choice.   Their art is producing these notes as beautifully as possible.  Those who successfully learn music theory as traditionally taught gradually understand the note choices over many months.  However, many don’t succeed or have the time and patience required, especially if music is not their profession.  Online, for guitar and bass, you can find lessons principally involving note names or finger patterns.  Fine if you already understand the building blocks, but not if that’s what you’re trying to learn.

Over a lifetime of study and practical playing experience, we found there IS a simpler way to present and understand what is going on in music. Our approach is to concentrate on what ACTUALLY MATTERS when you are playing and presenting it to you in the most obviously simple way that we can design. We call this toolset that we have designed emuso™ and we are sure it is the simplest way to understand what is going on inside the music. What’s all this simplicity about?

Well everything hinges around this question: How do we present the information about the sources of note choice in a way that requires minimum memorisation, can be directly and obviously visualised, and can be found on your choice of instrument? Our answer to this is using “intervals”.

 

An interval is a sound, produced by combining two individual pitches produced on one or two instruments.  A pitch has a frequency (for example 440Hz, used for tuning).  Play this through a loudspeaker, and its cone would move backwards and forwards 440 times a second, moving the air in a similar fashion, which hits our eardrums and our brain converts this vibration into the sound we “hear”. If one pitch is double the frequency of another (say 880 Hz), we say the higher pitch is an “octave above” the lower pitch. When these are both played together, the interval formed is called an octave.  We perceive this octave as a very strongly related sound.  Suppose we number the leftmost white piano key as number 20. Its neighbour, the black key, would be number 21.  The next key is white, numbered 22, and so on.   If you hold down key 20 and key 32, which is 12 keys higher, these two pitches form an octave.  So do key 21 and 33, and so on.

The piano thus produces 12 pitches from any key up to the next octave.  For example, starting at key 20, key 32 produces an octave higher, and keys 20 to 31 (12 keys in all) produce pitches lower than the next octave.  Each adjacent pitch is said to be a semitone above or below its neighbour.  Two adjacent keys make the smallest interval that can be created on a piano. This interval is called a semitone.

On the guitar, it’s a similar story (ignoring string bends).  Two adjacent frets on the same string are a semitone apart.

Music consists of combinations of intervals occurring over time, interspersed with silence.  In Western music, one pitch is singled out and intervals formed with it (semitones above and below it).  Because these are all semitones relative to that singled out pitch, this means we can change that singled out pitch, keep the same semitone distances as before (relative now to this new pitch), and everything will sound the same, just all shifted higher or lower.

The fact that the sound of music is based on relative distances to some pitch of importance is the critical observation that lets emuso simplify matters hugely.  This pitch may be the root of a chord, tonic of a scale, or key of [section of] a song.  It doesn’t matter.  Because this pitch can be changed, so long as we keep the same intervals with that pitch, we get the same musical effect.

This means that note names are completely irrelevant for understanding interval relationships in chords and tunes.  Note names are relevant for finding your “starting point” (the important pitch) but after that knowing how to create intervals relative to this is the most important skill when playing.  The most often used intervals have a very small number of shapes when made on-instrument.  Easy to remember.  Easy to visualise.  Therefore, learning speeds up massively, and you can start making meaningful sounds on-instrument without knowing any note names from day one of your musical journey.

If you want to know how Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, or BB King think (thought) about things most of the time, intervals are the thing to get familiar with right from the get-go.

Emuso continuously reinforces the concept of intervals throughout its display and in lessons we provide.  You quickly absorb this information to the point where it becomes subconscious knowledge.

Intervals are always present in emuso. They’re always shown in the virtual instrument display. Intervals also allow us to visually explain concepts such as scales, chords, chords found in scales, and edginess set up by intervals in melody against the intervals in chords.  Emuso contains an “interval explorer” tool that shows the intervals present in chords, scales, and melodies. It can be used to demonstrate the relationships between chords and scales. For example, as a simple visualisation of a scale, say, that has an obvious and intuitive correspondence with shapes on the virtual piano or virtual guitar (bass, …)

There are many ways in which this will help you in your lead bass playing, improv session jams, compositions, etc – regardless of your chosen instrument. To help you see the patterns that emerge, we have colour coded the intervals for you. Of course, if you want to refer to your whereabouts in note-name terms, that is all here too. We don’t want to distract you with note names for now but you can always see where your “important pitch” is: where the chord root, scale tonic, or key centre is. We use the term Anchor for this root, tonic, or key centre.  If you move the Anchor it moves the whole boat. In emuso, as you move the anchor, the intervals move with it.  The physical pattern may change depending on the instrument and whether you move the anchor to a different string. The relationships don’t change with an anchor shifting position.

This form of presentation is intended to immediately reveal the inherent patterns by which we navigate the instrument and make what we play fit and serve the music we want to play.

The good news doesn’t stop there! Let’s think about how scales are created and presented in emuso. Of the twelve semitones in an octave, scales are mostly made from 5 or 7 of these before we hit the next octave.

We can define a scale as a set of intervals, in sequential order, picked from these available twelve semitones. This means that ALL scales and chords are made from a selection drawn from this set of twelve possible candidate intervals.

All we need is a starting pitch of our choice and then we simply select pitches by locating them at the various semitone distances indicated by the scale formula.

Let’s look at the Major scale and see how it is made from these twelve intervals; which ones are used and in what order.

If we look here we can see all twelve of them. If we select major from the list of scales, we can see on the interval explorer (clock) that the times 0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 11 are occupied by coloured circles. Adjacent times (occupied or not) represent pitches a semitone apart.   We see this exact same pattern of coloured circles on the piano and the guitar.

There are a few ways we show intervals.  Once you are used to the idea that intervals are always two pitches some number of semitones apart, the most important thing is to learn their musical names.  You can see this by pressing “i” on the keyboard a few times.

The thing we need to memorise first (good news is it’s easy to remember) goes like this:- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,7, and back to 1 again.

This is important to remember but as you can appreciate, it’s pretty trivial to remember 1 through 7. This scale makes a simple pattern on the frets of the guitar and is easy to memorise too. The other thing to remember is that any scale will be made from little variations to the first major scale you learned. However, regardless of which of the intervening steps are followed by a scale type, it will start on a 1 and finish on 1.

Why does this matter? Well, think about the last time you saw a band jamming and watched the lead guitar player, bassist, or keyboard player take a solo in this context. You will realize that no one has time to look stuff up in a book or do anything other than respond instinctively to what they are hearing at that moment. Emuso is designed to imprint in your mind the information you need in a form that you can use instinctively, just like players jamming over an unfamiliar tune do when there isn’t much time available during the jam itself.

This relies on you being able to understand, musically, what is going on. This means you have to train your ears to be able to recognise what the other players are doing. This requires practice and training, so we included a comprehensive ear trainer for you to use. Practice being the operative word, there is no substitute for it. Practice makes perfect and using that part of using emuso is up to you.

For the best results, you need to incorporate emuso into every practice session and it is super important to use the ear trainer regularly. We have included a self-test regime so you can check your accuracy. In a short time, you will find yourself recognising the intervals you are hearing, regardless of where the 1 interval is placed. It does not take long to get near 100% accuracy and achieving that 100% is simply, again, a matter of practice and repetition.

Understanding what you are hearing is one key element, but knowing how to respond is also equally important. Let’s imagine you hear a chord and, using the guitar for illustration here, let’s say the chord was an E major chord. I can use the chord menu in emuso to call in the chord like so. I am going to drag the root (the 1 interval) of the chord around until I see it named E here. Notice as I do that, regardless of where I place the anchor or root of the chord, it’s formula in terms of the intervals it is made from doesn’t vary – EVER. The recipe is always a 1, 3, and 5 interval grouping. We see that ALL major chords are made this way.

 

Seeing (and hearing) this fact, intervals of a chord are always the same set for any given chord type, is a major clue. The primary intervals to use for soloing over a major chord will be the intervals the chord contains with respect to its root.

With emuso, you will be able to see and hear that the major scale contains a number of different chord types; lurking there in the set of intervals it is comprised of. Not just major, 1, 3, 5 chords. Indeed, there are three minor chords rooted from various positions in the scale. We have a clock face-based analogy that will quickly and easily find these different chord types within any given scale type. The intervals that are within a given scale will be filled with colour-coded markers showing which of the 11 intervals are being employed. It also has a great feature designed to help you find chords within the scale type you are looking at.

We call this the measuring tool. It allows you to search through each interval of a particular scale, treating it as a root note and checking to see if the intervals of a particular chord type are present at that position within the scale you are examining. In this fashion, you can check out which scales to use in what circumstances and where to play.

More help in this department comes from the Reroot button on the instrument display. This button allows you to move the root to a new position within the scale on display and shows the relative intervals to that new root when the chord changes within a ‘key’. A key can be thought of as having the same name as the scale that contains all the chords of a particular tune, just as long as there is no key change in the tune itself.  In that case, everything moves relative to the change of anchor or root position and the scale type changes too.

We have designed a simple way for you to test your understanding of what goes with what, which we call Rhythm/X. As well as introducing you to musical time keeping principles, Rhythm/X allows you to play a chord on one track and either play along using the approach I have outlined above or use the emuso virtual instrument to construct melodic lead parts to go over your chord sequences. Alternatively, you can also set up demanding practice regimes to play along with. All of these tools are designed to impart practical musical knowledge, without distraction, and we hope you will enjoy using them to follow whatever musical course you choose to pursue.


Emuso is not only for self-enquiry. It runs lessons based on a number of different media formats. These are Text, Audio, Video, or any combination of all three. Emuso can be used by the lesson author (teacher) to set tasks and tests to assess comprehension. Because emuso allows you save your work to your hard drive locally, it can also be used to set assignments and responses by email.

It can also be used to originate your own musical ideas in a form which can easily be shared with friends or band mates, just as easily as with your students if you are a music teacher.

I hope you see emuso has the answers if you have the questions. Over time, a suite of lessons will become available for you to follow a particular musical path. In the meantime, there is nothing wrong with discovering on your own by using the features of emuso as I have outlined.

Finally, what emuso teaches can be referred to as music theory. Don’t be misled. Music theory is not scary. It is not a set of rails or rules you can’t depart from. Music theory is simply a set of information about what has been used in the past to good effect. It is not a set of guidelines you can’t, or shouldn’t, break. Emuso has been designed to de-mystify what is going on in your favourite music so that you can use the principles easily in your creations.  Emuso can help you get good at sounding great on your instrument – quicker.