Scale Degrees: How to Find the Steps of the Scale

What are scale degrees?

In typical seven note scales like the major scale and minor scale, the scale degrees are numbered from 1 to 7, beginning on the tonic and ending on the leading tone. The scale degrees repeat at the octave so that each pitch class has the same number value in any register. 
The degrees of the scale also correspond with musical intervals, so the two terms are often used in place of each other. But intervals provide more information than scale degrees alone since their quality can be expressed as well. Interval qualities can be major, minor, perfect, diminished or augmented.

Why do scale degrees matter?

Scale degrees help you situate notes within a chord or melody. If you’re playing along to the music by following the key of a song, the key signature provides the frame of reference for which notes to use. That means you won’t always have to use full interval names to identify notes or communicate with the other musicians. The numbered scale degrees give enough information to work within a key. 
The same goes for chords within a progression. By looking at each chord individually and treating it as though its tonic were the key, you can use scale degrees to identify it or change it to fit your needs. For example, chord extensions are color tones you can add to a chord without changing its overall quality.

How to learn scale degrees

The degrees of the scale will help you most if you can call them to mind quickly. There are a few shortcuts, but the best way to really learn them is to know them cold. Luckily you don’t need to use boring memorization as your only tool. In fact, if you pay attention while playing, you’ll probably start to recognize them automatically. Here are a few ways you can learn scale degrees fast. Practice in all twelve keys

Practice in all twelve keys

You’ll never feel comfortable in a key unless you spend some time practicing in it. The more uncommon keys aren’t frequently used in popular genres, but you should still work on scales and chords for every single one.

Get used to the circle of fifths

The circle of fifths is one of the most recognizable patterns in music. Musicians and composers use it to remember key signatures and navigate between related keys. If you can move from left to right along the circle, you’ll at least know scale degree 5 in each key!

Learn the chord tones

If you play a harmonic instrument like guitar or piano you probably spend plenty of time working with chords. From basic triads to seventh chords and extensions, building your chords into voicings means you’ll have to rely on scale degrees.

360 degrees

Scale degrees may seem like a minor detail, but spending some time to recognize them will help your theory chops. If you’ve made it through this article you’ll have a great start for understanding scale degrees.

The 8 Best DI’s for Recording

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What is DI Box?

A DI box is a utility tool that corrects signal level and impedance to make audio gear compatible. The term DI stands for Direct Injection. The first DIs were built to allow engineers to plug electric basses and guitars directly into the studio mixing console instead of mic'ing an amplifier. 
 DIs are commonly used for those instruments as well as synthesizers, drum machines and other gear with ¼” outputs. Using a DI you can plug these sources into an XLR microphone preamp input like those you might find on a mixer or audio interface.
DI boxes contain a transformer that electrically isolates the source from its destination. That’s why DI boxes are frequently used to address signal issues like ground loops.

Why do I need it?

Not all the audio sources in your home studio carry the same type of signal. There are different connector types, different signal levels and different impedances. Your signal fidelity can get worse if some of these qualities are mismatched. One of the most common examples is when you connect ¼” instruments such as electric guitar and bass to a mic preamp or audio interface. 
The guitar signal coming from the pickups is a high impedance, instrument level signal. The mic preamp is expecting to see a low impedance, mic level signal. Even if you converted the ¼” and XLR connectors with an adapter, the signal and impedance mismatch would cause poor sound through the preamp. To fix it you’ll need a DI box to manage the signal level and impedance conversion so that the mic preamp works properly. 
The same goes for most types of gear with ¼” outputs like synths, drum machines and samplers. Hot tip: Some hardware has ¼” outputs that are strong enough to be plugged directly into a mixer at line level. Gear like this doesn’t strictly need a DI as long as the destination has line level inputs. However, you may find using a DI box to pass the signal through the mic preamp sounds more pleasing.

The 8 best DIs for recording

BAE PDI
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There’s one brand that you’ll see in almost every discussion of DI boxes—Radial. The Canadian manufacturer of stage and studio equipment builds some of the most popular choices for pro quality DIs. Their flagship active DI model is the J48. It’s an excellent choice for almost any application, especially recording.
Radial JDI
Blog1-1
There’s one brand that you’ll see in almost every discussion of DI boxes—Radial. The Canadian manufacturer of stage and studio equipment builds some of the most popular choices for pro quality DIs. Their flagship active DI model is the J48. It’s an excellent choice for almost any application, especially recording.
Radial J48
Blog1-1
There’s one brand that you’ll see in almost every discussion of DI boxes—Radial. The Canadian manufacturer of stage and studio equipment builds some of the most popular choices for pro quality DIs. Their flagship active DI model is the J48. It’s an excellent choice for almost any application, especially recording.
A-Designs REDDI
Blog1-1
There’s one brand that you’ll see in almost every discussion of DI boxes—Radial. The Canadian manufacturer of stage and studio equipment builds some of the most popular choices for pro quality DIs. Their flagship active DI model is the J48. It’s an excellent choice for almost any application, especially recording.
Radial ProDI, Pro48
Blog1-1
There’s one brand that you’ll see in almost every discussion of DI boxes—Radial. The Canadian manufacturer of stage and studio equipment builds some of the most popular choices for pro quality DIs. Their flagship active DI model is the J48. It’s an excellent choice for almost any application, especially recording.
Countryman Type 85
Blog1-1
There’s one brand that you’ll see in almost every discussion of DI boxes—Radial. The Canadian manufacturer of stage and studio equipment builds some of the most popular choices for pro quality DIs. Their flagship active DI model is the J48. It’s an excellent choice for almost any application, especially recording.
Rupert Neve Designs RNDI
Blog1-1
There’s one brand that you’ll see in almost every discussion of DI boxes—Radial. The Canadian manufacturer of stage and studio equipment builds some of the most popular choices for pro quality DIs. Their flagship active DI model is the J48. It’s an excellent choice for almost any application, especially recording.
Warm Audio WA DI-A and WA DI-P
Blog1-1
There’s one brand that you’ll see in almost every discussion of DI boxes—Radial. The Canadian manufacturer of stage and studio equipment builds some of the most popular choices for pro quality DIs. Their flagship active DI model is the J48. It’s an excellent choice for almost any application, especially recording.

Active vs. Passive DI boxes

There are two main types of DI boxes—active and passive. Passive DI boxes don’t require a power supply to run. The transformer inside performs the electrical operations that convert the signal. 
 DIs work well for most applications and are sometimes more affordable than their active counterparts. They can also be used with extremely strong signals since there’s no electrical circuitry to overload. Active DIs use phantom power to run an electrical buffer circuit that makes the signal stronger and helps it maintain fidelity. These are a good choice for low level instruments and long cable runs.

Experts recommendation

8 Unconventional Piano Sounds to Use in Your DAW

Today’s piano sounds are fresh, creative and versatile enough to work in many different genres. In this article I’m rounding up my top 8 picks for unique piano sounds to use in your production.

Spitfire LABS Soft Piano

Spitfire LABS is one of the best free VST plugins ever made. It’s a powerful virtual instrument platform with regular new releases of fantastic free content. But the sound that put LABS on the map is Soft Piano. It’s a perfect take on the intimate tone of a piano muted with felts that’s commonly heard on modern film soundtracks.
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SonicCouture Xtended Piano

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This unique sample set of extended piano techniques includes unconventional playing methods such as bowing the strings, striking them with mallets and muting them to create harmonics. If you’re looking to see just how far out you can get with your piano sounds, Xtended Piano should be your first stop.

Native Instruments THE GIANT

Sometimes the best way to push the boundaries is to go bigger. That’s the idea behind maverick piano builder David Klavins’ 370i vertical piano. With its strings extended to their full length in a single vertical span, the 370i boasts a soundboard roughly twice the size of standard concert grand. The result is an enormous and commanding piano sound unlike anything else out there. NI brings the sound of the 370i to your DAW with THE GIANT.
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SonicCouture Hammersmith Pro

Using a unique Steinway Model D fitted with MIDI integration, SonicCouture was able to capture incredibly precise dynamics by sending exact velocities per note—not something a human player could easily accomplish.

Native Instruments Una Corda

In another sweep of design innovation, David Klavins envisioned this unique single-string piano design in collaboration with composer Nils Frahm. The Una Corda has a much softer sound than a traditional piano due to its use of just one string per key. It’s made softer still by a customizable felt layer for some of the lightest, most delicate piano sounds ever heard.
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Spitfire Mrs Mills Piano

One of the most frequently recorded upright pianos is located in legendary Abbey Road Studios. Known as Mrs Mills Piano for its use in the 60s and 70s by British pianist Gladys Mills, this Steinway Vertegrand features a bright metallic attack thanks to its lacquered hammers. It’s a classic piano sound you might recognize from 60s pop records by The Beatles and The Zombies.

Wavefactory Old Tape Piano

Wavefactory’s Old Tape piano is a sampled piano instrument with a lo-fi twist. Using a convincing simulation of tape noise, warble and filtering, Old Tape piano sounds like a dusty old cassette hidden away in the attack. If you want instant lo-fi goodness in a playable piano sound, check out
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Arturia Piano V

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Sometimes the best way to push the boundaries is to go bigger. That’s the idea behind maverick piano builder David Klavins’ 370i vertical piano. With its strings extended to their full length in a single vertical span, the 370i boasts a soundboard roughly twice the size of standard concert grand. The result is an enormous and commanding piano sound unlike anything else out there. NI brings the sound of the 370i to your DAW with THE GIANT.

Audio File Formats: How to Choose the Right File Type

DI boxes contain a transformer that electrically isolates the source from its destination. That’s why DI boxes are frequently used to address signal issues like ground loops.

What are audio file formats?

Audio file formats are digital standards for storing audio information. The raw data in a stream of audio from the analog-to-digital converter in your audio interface is encoded using a technique called PCM or pulse code modulation. 
PCM audio needs to be organized into a file so you can work with it, or play it back in a system. Different audio file formats use different containers and varying methods of data compression to organize the PCM stream. 
Depending on which you choose, each format represents the same information in different storage sizes or quality levels. In addition to that, some audio file formats carry metadata that supplies information about the file or its content.

Lossless vs. lossy audio files

The difference between the two has to do with data compression. Data compression means making the files take up less space on a hard drive. It’s not the same as the dynamic range compression used in music production. 
Some methods of data compression make the file smaller but still preserve 100% of the information in the raw audio stream. These are known as lossless compressed formats. Other compression types work by eliminating data in the audio that doesn’t make a big impact on the sound. Some information is thrown away using this method, so these are known as lossy compressed formats.

Uncompressed audio formats

There are other audio file formats where no data compression is used. These are called uncompressed audio formats. These file types act as a container for raw audio data without reducing its size or quality in any way. 
These are the largest files to work with, but they provide the highest level of detail in the audio information. Uncompressed audio files are the type most often used for recording and mixing music in a DAW. Even so, uncompressed audio files also come in different quality levels.
These are based on the accuracy and precision with which the analog audio signal was converted to digital. The higher the sample rate and bit depth used, the more information is captured in the conversion process. Bit depth represents the precision of the AD/DA converter for measuring amplitude, or the volume level of the signal.
You can think of it like the number of tick marks on a ruler—the more closely spaced they are, the less often the measurement will fall in between the two marks. Sample rate means the number of times the measurement is taken in a second. Higher sample rate means more individual measurements made.
These are the largest files to work with, but they provide the highest level of detail in the audio information. Uncompressed audio files are the type most often used for recording and mixing music in a DAW. Even so, uncompressed audio files also come in different quality levels.

Earworm: How to Write Hooks That Get Stuck in Your Head

I’m talking about the dreaded earworm. These are the irresistible melodies and musical figures that you can’t help but hum under your breath. But what is an earworm hook exactly? How do they work and how can you write one? In this article I’ll explain what an earworm is and six strategies to create your own. Let’s get started.

What is a hook?

A hook is a snippet of musical material that catches a listener’s attention and sticks in their memory after the song is over. In popular music, the hook comes most often from the vocal melody. But hooks can appear in any musical shape or form. A rhythm, a bassline, a chord progression or even a sample can be a hook in modern music.

Earworm hooks

An earworm is a slang term for the type of hook that seems to work its way deep into your brain and put down roots. Strictly speaking, an earworm is a psychological phenomenon where a musical figure persists in the mind long after the listening experience is over. 
An earworm is a psychological phenomenon where a musical figure persists in the mind long after the listening experience is over. It’s a common occurrence that’s mostly harmless, but it can still cause frustration in severe cases. 
Some listeners complain that earworm hooks are distracting and unwelcome, but most songwriters would be happy to write something with such a powerful effect. In fact, writing hooks is a central part of a songwriter’s craft—especially for topliners and professional songwriters.

What makes a hook catchy?

Catchiness might be impossible to define. If creating catchy hooks were a repeatable formula, it wouldn’t be hard to crack the top of the charts! One reason why is because so many hooks arise from a process of trial and error. With a little luck and experimentation, a great hook might just land in your lap.

Repetitions

Using a unique Steinway Model D fitted with MIDI integration, SonicCouture was able to capture incredibly precise dynamics by sending exact velocities per note—not something a human player could easily accomplish.

Melodic structure

Using a unique Steinway Model D fitted with MIDI integration, SonicCouture was able to capture incredibly precise dynamics by sending exact velocities per note—not something a human player could easily accomplish.

Rhythmic patterns

Using a unique Steinway Model D fitted with MIDI integration, SonicCouture was able to capture incredibly precise dynamics by sending exact velocities per note—not something a human player could easily accomplish.

Lyrics

Using a unique Steinway Model D fitted with MIDI integration, SonicCouture was able to capture incredibly precise dynamics by sending exact velocities per note—not something a human player could easily accomplish.

Basslines

Using a unique Steinway Model D fitted with MIDI integration, SonicCouture was able to capture incredibly precise dynamics by sending exact velocities per note—not something a human player could easily accomplish.

Production elements

Using a unique Steinway Model D fitted with MIDI integration, SonicCouture was able to capture incredibly precise dynamics by sending exact velocities per note—not something a human player could easily accomplish.

Stuck in the Head

Using a unique Steinway Model D fitted with MIDI integration, SonicCouture was able to capture incredibly precise dynamics by sending exact velocities per note—not something a human player could easily accomplish.