Pitch Grid and scales

You can shift the pitch of notes in Melodyne either continuously or in discrete steps using the grid. When the grid is active, notes can only be moved to such pitches as the grid allows. The grid in such cases can correspond to either the chromatic or some other scale.

The functions of the Pitch Ruler and access to the Pitch Grid

Melodyne offers you a wide choice of scales and a comprehensive set of functions for the editing and creation of scales that even extends to the ability using the Scale Detective to detect the scale used in one recording and apply it to another.

All these functions and options are reached via the Pitch Ruler to the left of the Note Editor. They are organized in such a way that you only ever see the parameters you actually need for the task in hand. Think of a drawer that can either be pulled slightly open or else opened to its maximum extent. In this tour, we are concerned with the selection and use of scales, so we will pull the drawer only a third of the way out.

You can change the options relating to the Pitch Grid either from the sub-menu of the same name under Options in the main menu or by clicking the clef icon directly above the Pitch Ruler.

Activating the Pitch Grid and selecting display options

Single-clicking the clef icon activates or deactivates the Pitch Grid, thereby switching on and off the snap function. When the grid is inactive, you can move notes freely in pitch – even to frequencies falling between notes of the chromatic scale. The Pitch Ruler in this case displays, for reference only, faint lines between the notes.

If you click the clef icon or the small arrow symbol alongside it, hold down the mouse button and drag downwards, a drop-down menu opens displaying the snap, background and ruler options:


  • No Snap: The grid is inactive. Notes can be moved to any pitch, whether or not it coincides with a degree of the chromatic scale.
  • Chromatic Snap: Notes snap to the nearest degree of the chromatic scale and the lines on the Pitch Ruler are more boldly displayed.
  • Scale Snap: In this case, based on its own analysis of the audio material, Melodyne selects what it considers the most appropriate major or minor scale. The tonic (or ‘keynote’) thus ascertained is highlighted in the Pitch Ruler. Naturally you can alter the scale and tonic but we will come to that in a moment. Let’s look first at the other options in this menu.

Here you can choose the appearance of the background in the Note Editor.

  • Piano Keyboard: the darker beams in the Note Editor represent the black notes of a piano keyboard and the paler beams the white ones – a layout with which users of most MIDI editors will be familiar.
  • Scale Notes: The lighter beams are assigned to the notes of the scale, whilst the darker beams indicate notes foreign to it. When Scale Snap is selected, therefore, notes will invariably come to rest on the lighter beams.
  • Pitch Lines: The degrees of the scale are indicated by bold lines instead of beams – with thinner lines reserved for notes foreign to the scale. This is useful in the case of poor intonation, as the precise pitch of each degree of the scale is clearly indicated.

Here you can choose whether the Pitch Ruler displays the names of the notes or the degrees of the scale.

The Scale Ruler and the Reference Pitch Ruler

To select a tonic (keynote) and a scale yourself or change other settings, open the drawer we mentioned earlier a little wider by clicking the rightmost arrow beneath the Pitch Ruler. Two new columns will appear to the left of it.

Adjusting the master tuning

The narrow column on the very left is the Reference Pitch Ruler. Drag in either direction the mark alongside any note – A4, for example – and the Frequency Ruler appears, which you can consult as you fine-tune the note in question and, with it, of course, all the other notes of the scale. What you are doing here is adjusting the master tuning for the entire Pitch Grid. A tip: increase the vertical zoom factor, as this will make it easier for you to locate the value you want.

By right-clicking any of the marks on the ruler, you can open a small context menu. This offers a number of pointers to help you bring the Pitch Grid swiftly into line with a particular tuning:

  • At the top, you will see the current frequency of the note selected.
  • Concert: bases the tuning on modern standard concert pitch (where A4 = 440 Hz).
  • Default: bases the tuning on the frequency currently assigned to A4 in the Preferences dialog.
  • Detected: bases the tuning on Melodyne’s analysis of the music being edited – the original tuning.
  • Set as Default: tells Melodyne to use the current value as the default tuning for new documents and adjusts the value in the Preferences dialog accordingly.

The various settings for A4, incidentally, can be found quickly by clicking the tuning fork icon at the top of the Reference Pitch Ruler. By typing into the box immediately below this icon, you can assign to A4 any frequency you like.

Selecting the tonic and scale variety

The wider ruler next to the Reference Pitch Ruler is the Scale Ruler. Here you can select the ‘tonic’ (i.e. the first degree or keynote) of the scale as well as its mode or type. First click on the note you wish to use as the tonic. The following menu opens:

Related scales: in the top part of the menu, you will find a varying number of scales preceded by a “=” sign. These are scales that correspond to the current scale but are differently named.

Please note that when you select a related scale from this menu, only the main structure of the mode in question is adopted: the scale is simply given a new name and, if applicable, a new tonic. It can be, however, that the exact definition of the related scale in question contains additional secondary degrees or fine-tuning. If you wish to use these, please choose Open Scale... from the scale drop-down menu.

  • The current note: in the middle of the submenu, grayed out, you will see the name of the note you have clicked on and which you can now make the tonic.
  • Major / Minor: Allows you to select a major or minor scale with the note selected as tonic. To select C Major, for example, click C in the ruler, followed by C Major from the submenu.
  • Open Scale... : opens Melodyne’s Scale Window, which offers access to a wide variety of additional scales. This window will be described in the next section.
  • Analyzed: this offers you rapid access to two options derived from Melodyne’s analysis of the material: the closest major or minor scales and an exact microtonal scale.
  • Notes Reflect Scale Changes: normally when you change the scale, Melodyne adjusts the Pitch Grid but does not change the notes themselves unless you double-click on them first, in which case they will snap to the grid. If, however, you wish the notes to adjust automatically to any change of scale, select either Tuning or Tuning and Mode. Then any changes will take effect immediately and you will hear them at once during playback.
  • Play Scale: plays the current scale. When this function is active, the loudspeaker icon appears above the Scale Ruler. By clicking on this icon, you can deactivate the function without needing to access a menu.
  • Apply Dynamic Just Tuning: fine-tunes the selected notes applying the principles of just intonation to ensure that pure intervals result.

Dynamic just intonation: Dynamic just intonation eliminates the slight dissonances and resulting interference (or ‘beating’) between notes that come with equal temperament. By this means a smoother sound can be obtained, as is demonstrated, for instance, by real orchestras. We speak of “dynamic” just intonation because not only are the intervals pure but the pitches are also shifted minutely to ensure that the chord member most affected by the just intonation is as near in pitch as possible to its counterpart in equal temperament. Example: Melodyne shifts a justly tuned chord of C major (C ± 0 ct, E – 13 ct, G +2 ct) six cents up, so that the E is not too far removed from its even temperament counterpart. Furthermore, this fine-tuning of notes is not static but governed by the current harmonic context. So in the time dimension, too, it is dynamic, to ensure that at each instant optimal tuning is obtained.

Dynamic just intonation is particularly effective and pleasing to the ear in a multi-track context, as it’s when you select notes from multiple (or all) tracks and apply just intonation to them that its benefits are most apparent.

Tip: Initialize the key prior to the transfer/load: In the case of monophonic or polyphonic audio material, Melodyne also recognizes the key of the music. With short melodic phrases, however, the key chosen is often not the one intended, simply because too few notes are available for a correct appraisal. To prevent this happening, you can set the key using the Scale Ruler of an empty instance of the plug-in or an empty document (if using the stand-alone implementation of the program) before the transfer or loading of an audio file. To do this, simply click on the desired keynote in the Scale Ruler and select the desired scale from the context menu. Melodyne will then retain this initialized value, regardless of its own subsequent analysis.

The Scale Window

Melodyne’s Scale Window offers a multitude of scales you can select, listen to, and make use of. To access this window, choose “Open Scale” from the context menu of the Scale Ruler.

The selected scale applies to all instances of the Melodyne plug-in. In the stand-alone implementation of Melodyne studio, it also applies to all the tracks of the current document.

To open the Scale Window, select Open Scale from the context menu of the Scale Ruler.

Now choose a category from the left-hand pane followed by the desired scale from the pane on the right. Click the loudspeaker icon to the right of each entry to hear the scale selected.

If you have activated the option Notes Follow Scale Changes, during playback you will hear immediately the effect of applying the scale selected to your audio material. The window allows you to try out (or ‘audition’) different scales quickly and easily. If you wish to adopt the changes, exit the window with OK; otherwise click Cancel.

From the lower pane of the window, you can select between the parameters of your existing scale and those of the scale selected in the Scale Window.

  • Mode and Tuning: you can adopt either the parameters of your existing scale (on the left) or of the scale currently selected in the Scale Window (on the right).
  • Tonic: you can choose between the selected tonic or the tonic from the preset.
  • Pitch: here you can choose between current tuning, the pitch from the preset or various standard tunings.
  • Stretching: here you can select whether or not stretched tuning should be applied to the scale.
  • External Scales Folder...: this button allows you to open a folder containing scale definitions in Scala format (filename extension “.scl”) which will then appear as an additional category in the Scale Window.

On the Internet, you will find at http://www.huygens-fokker.org/docs/scales.zip a collection of over 4,000 Scala files that you can copy to any part of your hard disk and audition and try out in this way using Melodyne editor.

You can also load scale definitions created in Melodyne studio (filename extension ‘.mts’) with this button.

Saving a scale

The Scale Window allows you to experiment swiftly and easily with a large number of scales as well as combine elements of your existing scale with those of the presets in the Scale Window. In the process, you are bound to hit upon interesting combinations that you will want to save and use again later. The command “Save Scale As...” allows you to do just that: store your own scale presets so that you can access them later in the Scale Window. For this purpose, it opens a window that looks very like that of the Scale Window and offers you the following options.

  • Name: here you can enter a name for your scale.
  • Category: select the category under which you wish the scale to be filed. Click New Folder to create a new category.
  • In the text field below, you can enter a comment to be stored along with the scale.
  • In the lower part of the window, you can assign names to the mode and tuning. All aspects of a scale are invariably stored along with it. By placing ticks (checkmarks) here, however, you can specify which aspects of the scale are considered relevant when it is opened subsequently.