They're all "safe" notes (scales)

During an eye exam, tell the doctor each letter but start with the word “Capital”, e.g., Capital E, Capital R, …" They’re all capitals!

I’ve struggled with the Pentatonic – and other – scales. But, with MIDI, any key can be any note! So make the non-pentatonic keys play a pentatonic note! Now, they will all be safe notes.

And while we’re at it, transposing will let the player use the same “safe” keys without even making the unsafe keys safe.

Yes, we are over 7 billion people on the planet, someone before me surely has done these before. Any opinions, comments?

Hi Ron,

I’ve never used custom scaling except with some percussion patterns. Playing a simple C major scale up and down a note at a time produced a cool syncopation with the perc sounds I mapped. Anyway that’s my only experience with it. I still struggle with scales and fingering doing it by the book all the time on difficult pieces! I marvel at some of the keyboard wizards in the world to be sure. Pentatonic scales are widely used in many music forms that’s for sure.


There are several small midi vsts that will enable you to play any note, and be within a chosen scale or mode. They’ve been available for years.
I see them as a crutch. Pentatonic scales are not hard. It’s only 5 notes. Guitar leads are taught with pentatonic scales. Add the blues scale to a pentatonic, and you can really pull off a nice lead on guitar or keyboard, or any instrument. David Gilmore is a pentatonic king. But it’s not all he does.
Five notes…really not difficult, or juvenile. Practice them in different keys with a backing track. You will feel more confident knowing how to use them, than relying on midi to do the work for you. And, if you really want to avoid strengthening your talent, use the midi notes in an arpeggiator. That way you won’t have to touch the keys at all. :wink:

My short brush with the 5 note scale ended with it sounding way too simple. There were 4 extra notes that could be added to make it better. Of course, that also added the risk of sounding “off”. Maybe I’ll go back and try this method again, with and without extra notes.

BTW, this idea hit me after hearing an internet station playing at work. I don’t know its name. The players just go on and on, noodling until ? they get tired or ? they hit a certain time limit. I don’t know. They are good but the music could drive people crazy. All in moderation, I say.

Just playing those 5 notes can sound simple. It is how you use them. Make them rhythmic, repeat the same note, use a grace note ( such as sliding Eb into E) occasionally, and bounce to different octaves. Listen to what others do. That is what made me a much better player. I was a great Trumpet player in school. I could hit super C, and play the scales, and had a great tone. BUT, I was lousy at improvisation. Once I learned the tricks, and how a 5 note scale could get me somewhere, I moved on to blues scaling, then to modes. It sounds overwhelming, but once you reach that “wow” moment, everything comes together. Your confidence will spur you on to even more “wow” moments.

Thanks, Corky. I watched the lesson. With a key of C – no sharps, no flats – C, D, E, A, and G are the safe notes. You’re correct; her speed and changes within these safe notes make it a bit interesting. It gets more interesting though when she adds Eb and Ab. Of course if she were to land and stay on either of those 2 notes, the risk of sounding “off” increases but, as grace notes, they are soon resolved.

I’ll have to spend some time on this. Maybe 'find a way to MIDI-wise eliminate the very high risk notes (by replacing them with a safe note neighbor?).

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Just train your fingers to press the correct notes! No need for safe neighbor replacing. Always start painfully slow, and eventually increase speed. You will also find those neighbor notes will also work, as most of them are in your normal scale. We all make errors in our playing, so don’t worry about sour notes. I could send you videos for weeks showing amazing, well known players hitting bad notes, but brushing it off as it was nothing.

I made several mistakes at last night’s gig. I was playing a Nord Stage with weighted keys, and my glissandos on the B3 setting were not very smooth or accurate as on my regular controllers. I shrugged it off and kept playing. Many compliments were given about my skills, as if my mistakes never happened. Go figure.


There’s no such thing as “wrong” notes, it’s all about the attitude you give them. There’s really only tension and resolution. Inexperienced players who hit a note that creates a lot of tension freak out and that MAKES it sound wrong. Resolve it to an adjacent note that fits the current chord and you suddenly turned the preceding “wrong” note into an interesting lead note. Even hitting the “wrong” note a few more times with the right attitude can make it sound good.

This requires sharp ears, quick thinking and lots of practice of course. But remapping notes to such a limited subset virtually ensures you will never get better at it, and you’ll play the same boring things over and over again, even by accident.


That’s Jazz, my friend… :wink:

Seriously, you are bang on in what you say. I cannot get through a gig without a few jazz notes in each song, but so long as you quickly correct yourself, few in the audience will notice.

Well one never knows until one tries. I’ve been working 10 and 12 hour days, but plan to try different scale modifications soon.

On a somewhat related note, I found that quote regarding a new technology called a train. "A panel of London scientists pronounced that the train should never go faster than 48 kilometres an hour, otherwise “passengers would suffocate.”.

The point is you’re not using technology to help you be more expressive, you’re using it to limit your expressive options. As the point of a musical instrument is to express yourself I find this counterproductive. While it may help you sound better by masking your inabilities in the short term, it will also prevent you from working on those inabilities. Worse, it will mess with your ears because the keys you play won’t correspond to the notes you hear.

Obviously, I’m not a fan, but everyone can do as they please of course. I did try this many many years ago on the Korg Karma by the way. It was a fun gimmick for a few minutes but for me, it’s more of a problem than a solution.


Good point, sanderxpander, I am looking for a shortcut. I never claim to have a monopoly on anything. Others have tried to find “safe” notes. Major scales include the Modal Scales (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian), Harmonic Minor scales, and Melodic Minor scales. And there are plenty more:

Sure I drive an automatic transmission, and don’t know my engine’s cylinder firing sequence, but those are losses I accept. Granted, I would probably get better performance with at least the manual version of the former.

TBH: that’s no substitute for actually practicing your scales. Yes, you’ll get something out that sounds “right”, but being a true musician means mastering your instrument instead of using crutches - especially if these crutches limit you. One simple example: when playing a 12 bar blues in A, you would typically use the major blues scale on the tonic (A) and the minor blues scale on the subdominant and the dominant (D, E). Being fixed to a single blues scale would lock you in to e.g. the minor blues scale. And say you feel a bit adventurous and want to play a little lick in an altered scale (full-tone-half-tone-scale) in the midst of your blues? No way - you’re locked in to your “safe” notes.

safe is nice, but boring…

And TBH, there’s no need to be fluent in all scales - you can have tons of fun with just the major and minor blues scales! Practice them until you feel comfortable in your favorite keys - you’ll be able to play tons of stuff already. Then expand with e.g. melodic / harmonic minor scales for minor blues work - again, start with your favorite keys and expand.

This way, you will be the master of your instrument and not dependent on crutches…

Just my 0.02 EUR



Okay, I needed opinions and I got them, thanks, so now I need to spend more time on whichever instrument I decide on. I favor guitar but I dabble in keys and sax, mastering none of the above.

BTW, I’ve got a seasonal job playing Santa’s Helper distributing musical equipment (order fullfillment). First it was sending out stuff before Christmas, then it was sending out stuff after Christmas (gift cards and exchanges), and now it is restocking depleted inventories.

Do you know now much stuff gets pushed through the system every year? Just in the USA, almost a million keyboards are sold every year; and, almost 3 million guitars. Stats on other musical instruments are just as staggering. Since not everybody goes on stage, there are a lot of hobbyists out there, myself included. Be patient with us, we keep volumes up, and prices down.

I’m new here and have found this community to be one of the humblest and kindest, yet skilled and knowledgeable people. However, Cantabile is more on the expert side, with advanced midi filtering and bindings that other hosts do not offer. Typical users here will probably not need or even see the point of this kind of features.

At least another live host has a “Key Lock Mode” feature which is similar to what you describe here (hint: the one I’m coming from). But I’ve never used this feature and cannot really comment on it.

Toto, I need more information. I looked up Key Lock Mode and understood it to mean that the changing of effects (such as fading from one channel to another?) could be automated (turned on/off, and moved around). Other research lead me to Ghost Notes (same note repeated but not as loud). So I’m not clear on how either would make a note that does not belong to a scale sound like a note that does. My goal was to change the keyboard to avoid sour notes.

As to Cantabile being more on the expert side, it is. However, I have always found the expert users very helpful. I designed a MIDI Guitar and many people taught me lots of things (like bindings, channels, and so on).

Toto, I think the system you are talking about mutes the individual keys that are not part of the scale for a particular key signature. Sure, that would work; I was opting to make those notes sound like a note on the scale. Cantabile can be set up to do either of those scenarios. Thanks for the lesson! And I appreciate your ethics regarding not posting other software names here. I don’t know what the rule is but it is better to play it safe. Thanks again.

If my reply was perceived as judgmental, it wasn’t really meant to be. I can only share my personal view and I already said that everyone can do as they please. As a musician and an educator I just wanted to point out that this approach actively prevents you from getting better while you’re playing, and in fact may make you worse. Personally, I feel like I’m not nearly as good as I would like to be and any time I play is practice. Torsten gave you some really good pointers for improving your skillz. This is not in any way meant to talk you down, I for one don’t think I’ll ever be “done practicing”. But that’s kind of the kick for me as well.

Let’s all continue making music, and good luck and lots of fun with whatever you do!


Thanks, sanderxpander, but I did not interpret your reply as anything other than the way you feel, which is fine. I will try all options and choose one that I feel best with, as I’m sure others should and will.