Instrument - Chord Shift


  • As well as the Velocity and Keyswitch Instruments, FingerpickPro contains another instrument laid out and playable like a piano. This is the Chord Shift Instrument. This has all the characteristics of the Velocity Instrument as regards the velocity layers and the default keyboard range of the different articulations. (For that information go to Instrument - Velocity and Keyswitch.)
  • However, it is different in one crucial respect. It is in effect 24 versions of the Velocity instrument which you can switch between using keyswitches. There are 24 keyswitches on the keys from C-2 to B-1. That is, the bottom two octaves of the virtual keyboard are keyswitches.
  • The default keyswitch is C-1, and this is the state the instrument will be in when you load it into sforzando. So if you do not select any keyswitch the effect will be exactly the same as if you were playing the Velocity Instrument.

However, if you select another keyswitch the pitch of the whole keyboard is shifted up or down.

  • If you select a keyswitch going up from C-1 the pitch will go up. If you select a keyswitch going down from C-1 the pitch will go down. What is the purpose of this?

The Purpose of the Chord Shift Instrument

  • At first glance it might seem that this would just be a quick way of transposing a whole guitar track. Yet this can be done easily enough by simply using the midi transpose function in your DAW.

Here is the key. The purpose is not to transpose the whole piece you are playing but to transpose chords as you go along.

  • This makes it possible for someone who is not a keyboard player, and who doesn't have instant recall of the keyboard fingering of every chord, to much more quickly put together a guitar track using midi. How does this work?

Using the Chord Shift Instrument


You Only Need to Use the C Chords

  • You only need to use the C chords. For example, say you are creating a guitar track in the key of C, using the major chords C, F and G, and the minor chords D, E and A. For the major chords you only need to create the pattern for the C chord.
  • First create the pattern using the notes C, E and G. Then put a keyswitch note in at C-1 to select the C chord. (You can't rely on the fact that it is the default keyswitch, because once you trigger another keyswitch it won't come back to the default.)
  • Then duplicate that midi 'block' twice and select the F and G keyswitches respectively and that same pattern will be played as F and G chords. It will still look in the midi as if they are all C major chords. But the sound played will be C, F or G major.
  • (The same approach applies when making a track in another key. You still set up every chord as if it is a C chord but if you are playing a song in the key of D you would use the keyswitches for, say, D, G and A, and E, F# and B.)

Higher or Lower Voicings

  • If you select F-1 and G-1 the F and G chords will play a higher voicing than the original C chord, and if you select the F-2 and G-2 keyswitches the F and G chords will play in a lower voicing. This ability to select a higher or lower pitch option is why there are 24 keyswitches instead of 12.
  • Note that you also need to pay attention to the bass notes. If you are playing an alternating bass pattern and you select the lower voicing, you would often need to change the alternating bass so that it went from the root note up, instead of from the root note down.
  • Now for the minor chords. All you need to do is move any E (3rd) notes that occur in the major chord pattern to Eb (flattened thirds), and select the keyswitches for D, E and A.

A Chord Chart for C Chords

  • A one-page chord chart is provided here which tells you what notes to use for 21 different chord types. Now, without needing to memorise hundreds of chords you can just use your trusty 'cheat sheet' and learn a comparative handful of chords. (It can be helpful to print out a copy and have it beside you as you work.)
  • If you've never done much music theory, using this approach repeatedly will soon imprint on your mind how different types of chords are constructed. People who play a bit of guitar often don't learn that stuff, but just memorise the chord fingerings they need for the songs they want to play. Using the Chord Shift Instrument is an easy way to fairly painlessly learn a lot about chords.

Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs

  • It is a simple matter to add hammer-ons and pull-offs on the notes you want. For more information on this see Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs.

Muted Notes and Harmonics

  • To use muted notes or harmonics you simply adjust the midi velocity on those notes. For more information on this see Muted Notes and Harmonics.

Use in Conjunction with the Key Instruments


As a Key Shift Instrument

  • There is a further helpful use for the Chord Shift instrument, and in this case it would be more accurate to call it a Key Shift instrument.
  • When using a Key Instrument (one of the chord-based instruments) there are times when you will want to use the Chromatic Keys section in its upper octaves. However, it you are not all that familiar with a keyboard layout you might find it hard to quickly know what notes to play to fit in with what you are doing in the chord-based section.
  • In this case you can load the Chord Shift Instrument into a second track in your DAW and set it to the key you are using in the Key Instrument. For example, if you are using the Key of D key instrument you can select the keyswitch in the Chord Shift instrument that will set the instrument into the key of D. The keyswitch can be either D-1 or D-2. (It's usually best to use D-1.) Then you simply leave it at that setting.
  • This means you can do everything as if it was in the key of C. So when you combine what you are doing in the chord-based section of the Key Instrument with the chromatic layout in the Chord Shift instrument, the notes of the relevant scale will always be on the white keys.
  • This has a further usefulness if you want to change your arrangement to a different Key Instrument. For example, let's say you have a distinctive bassline that you want to run throughout your fingerpicking arrangement, while using the chord-based section for the rest of the arrangement. When you change to a different Key Instrument you can keep exactly the same midi for the bassline arrangement in the Chord Shift instrument and simply change the keyswitch to the new key.


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