Learning the Striso

Hi folks,

I put in my pre-order for the Striso and now I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to learn to play it. For my background, I’ve played various breeds of flute on and off for years, so I have a very basic grasp of music theory and can read sheet music so long as it’s in treble clef. I spent a bit of time on guitar, but never got past the basics.

So, my start point is roughly zero. My target is:

  1. Very short term: Be able to play a couple of simple tunes with a single melodic line.
  2. Short term: Be able to play both melody and simple harmony.
  3. Mid - long term: To be able to play reasonably skilled solo & accompaniment.

From past experience I learn best from:

  1. Doing, pick a song and try to master it, even if it’s “twinkle twinkle little star”
  2. Drills / Etudes

So, the question is, what existing instrument will translate easiest to the Striso? The most common comparison I’ve seen with most isomorphic instruments is the piano, which I have no experience with, so have mostly speculation. The piano has a much larger range, so I would suspect there would be a fair amount of twiddly work transferring between the two as soon as I got to the short term goal.

The lap harp has about a 3.5 octave range, but as far as I know is not chromatic, so it’s more constrained, but would get me to short term pretty quickly, so I’ve looked at song and method books like:

I’d be interested in approaches other people are considering, or have used for similar classes of instrument.

-Frank

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Think the Striso uses a variant of the Wicki-Hayden note layout, so scores for Hayden duet concertina might be worth a look? On the other hand the Stiso has some features that a concertina doesn’t have, like pitch bending etc., so music for string instruments (or even ensembles) might be worth looking at.
Might require some heavy transscribing though to be playable.
@pierstitus might have some practicable tips :slight_smile:

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I recommend the book “First Lessons in Bach”; the first four pieces in it (and at least some of the later ones) are in the range of the Striso. They’re very melodic pieces with a texture largely of melody note against bass note. I play these on LinnStrument, and find that they work well both with plucky sounds (they were written for harpsichord or clavichord) and with more expressive string/horn/synth sounds. Editions of the book are pretty cheap ($10 or less); the Alfred Masterworks Edition is the one I use.

One thing it exemplifies is that you can get by with very simple accompaniment. Any music you can find with chord symbols can give you enough to go on. You can start just by playing the bass notes, then simple bass patterns (looking at some beginner’s source for bass players would be helpful). Beyond that, adding a 3rd or 10th above the bass and/or a 3rd below the melody note will get you a very long way; to my taste you don’t need a lot of notes to sell a piece when you’re playing an expressive instrument.

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NothanUmber,

That’s an interesting way of looking at it, I hadn’t considered looking by layout rather than range and key, a limitation of my own musical experience. I’ll do some digging. On my first pass (5 mins of searching) it seems that music with the Wicki-Hayden layout specifically in mind is rather rare. The suggestions I’ve seen for beginners are to aim for simple piano pieces and English folks like:

Both routes have the same flaw as my original idea of using harp, in that they don’t take the full expressiveness of the Striso into account. But I’d rather start with a subset of what it can do, then explore instead of getting lost in all the neat features but never really make music. So this is a great start.

Thanks,
Frank

I did a listen through of the first several First Lessons in Bach, they’re beautiful pieces. I hadn’t even considered Bach’s work because I expected it to be all over the keyboard. I don’t think these will be the first pieces I try to learn, but I could imagine them being in the first 10.

I agree with you, and it’s part of the direction I hope to explore by starting with holding simple chords and playing melody over them, then learning to explore around it, adding rhythmic components/walking around the chord. Thanks for suggesting beginner’s bass work, it’s an obvious place to look now that you mention it. The other place I’d thought of was looking at fingerstyle guitar.

Thanks for the advice,
Frank

I am also waiting patiently (?) for the Striso.

If you were interested in improvisation I have found the lessons of Oliver Prehn - New Jazz on YouTube to be the best ever, very focused on learning by doing. Although they are piano lessons it is easy (at least doable) to transpose the teachings to any other instrument (I’m using them with the Linnstrument), the Striso too.

He has a playlist around chord changes, arpeggiation that covers a lot of ground by playing the notes in the chords (rather than scales) and adding stuff on top of them as one progresses.

Link here: A Standard Chord Progression - YouTube

And let’s hope the Striso comes soon!

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I’ve recently been practising a couple of instruments with a hexagonal key layout, albeit a different one to the Striso; the Dualo, and the Axis-49. With new instruments I generally start by learning the basic scale patterns then start picking out familiar tunes. I think it’s important to practice material that you actually enjoy and want to play. The furthest I’ve got with the Dualo so far is Take 5; always been a fan of Brubeck. I need to make more of a study of jazz; lots to learn.

There are various isomorphic Apps available for the iPad if you have one which you could use to start familiarising yourself with the layout.

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I’m more of a folky than a jazz person myself, but I spent some time watching his videos this morning. They’re really a great introduction on how to apply the basic tools of music theory to make music… another one to add to the growing list of things I can look forward to playing with when my Striso shows up.

-Frank

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How do you like the Dualo? It’s one of the ones I looked at before I settled on the Striso. Most of the videos I found looked rather contrived and focussed on reproducing some pop song or other using sound effects rather than making music. Your video looks a lot more fun.

Sadly, for this purpose, I use Android and haven’t found much available. If I get too impatient, maybe I’ll have to hack something together myself.

…yeah, I like the Dualo. As you say, the demos are mostly of loop-based electronic tunes but I think it has much wider potential than that. It has about three or four different fingerings built in, but it’s not open-source and they’re fixed. I like one of them though. (You could rewire the fingering via a PC, but I use it mainly as a ‘commuter’ instrument and I like the portability and built-in sounds. I like the look of the Striso for the same reason.)

I was slightly disappointed to find that the Axis-49 I recently acquired is also fixed, to the “harmonic table” layout. Apparently later models could be changed, but early ones generate identical MIDI notes for different keys with no way to differentiate between them (d’oh).

I’d like a programmable hex-layout device to experiment with different fingering systems and microtonal ideas. The Striso looks cool - will be interested to see what you think of it.

@fkberthold Thanks for raising the question.

The layout is well suited for improvising, and I’d also recommend to try playing tunes by ear.

For sheet music I don’t think you have to limit searching to specific instruments, or to the range of 3.5 octave. In most pieces there’s time to shift an octave up or down when necessary.
I really liked playing the music from Peter and the Wolf, as that’s written for many different instruments it invites to play the Striso in different ways. Though it might be more motivating to start with some easier tunes :slight_smile:

In the future I’d like to create a (web)app that visualizes scales, chords, and sheet music on the Striso layout to make it easier to get started.

As for the Striso delivery schedule: Thanks for your patience, all parts arrived and assembly has started this week. There are still some firmware issues that need solving (most importantly in the firmware updater). The lockdown also has impact on concentration, with the children at home. I’m looking forward to send out the boards later this month!

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I decided to get a bit of a start on visualizing chords & intervals on the Striso with a small app put together in Godot: StrisoExplore

It’s pretty rough, but shows the chord shapes for a half dozen chords and the intervals.

I’d be interested in your ideas for how someone could go about visualizing sheet music for it.

For the above site, in the future I’d like to add the ability to actually ‘play’ it so they could get a feel for what the fingerings were like as @BJG145 had suggested. Sadly at the moment Godot’s html5 generation is a little broken when you try to do sound on most of the portable/tablet devices. Early days though and I hope to improve it.

The source code is on github. I’d love any feedback on ways that I can improve it to make it a more useful tool either for people who are learning to use the Striso, or people who are considering picking one up and want to play with something like one.

-Frank

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Wow, that’s great! That’s a nice addition to the tuning exploration tool I’ve made many years ago.

One remark: you’re handling enharmonic notes equally (e.g. E♭ and D♯) while they are in essence different. With the C as root note E♭ is a minor third/m3, while D♯ is an augmented second/A2. If you follow this scheme you can see in the layout that the values always increment by 1 with a step to the right. So the A4 is followed by an A5 instead of m6.

Also the chords look way nicer without the enharmonic notes highlighted twice, which immediately makes sense if they have different names.

It would be nice to add the missing interval names for those enharmonic notes, you can find those interval properties, names and abbreviations on this interval chart.

I’m looking forward to scales and modes being visualized too!
Piers

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Thanks for the feedback. Yeah this is where my relatively weak understanding of music theory hurts me. Thanks for sharing that chart, I’ll be happy to update the interval names based on it.

The reasoning for displaying the chords was, if I understand correctly, it allows for alternate fingerings for the (literal) edge cases where the natural shape doesn’t work. For example a D# Major doesn’t work, but an Eb Major does:

StrisoExplore___gotm_io

Admittedly this might also just be showing my limited understanding of music theory and a D# Major may be so rare that it isn’t worth dealing with. But then the other side is, what do you think should happen when someone tries to select it on this program?

One way I’d considered handling the enharmonic chords (am I using that term correctly?) is to use a dashed circle instead of a solid one to differentiate them as alternatives.

While obviously on the standard tuning the key for a D# and an Eb are identical, I imagine on some of the other tunings this isn’t so and will cause problems, is that correct?

Do you have any suggestions for how to visualize scales and modes in this context? Perhaps ways it has been visualized for piano that you like, or just something new you’ve thought of while working with the Striso?

-Frank

The chords over the edge are definitely used, though not in the majority of pieces. The nicer way to handle those is by transposing a semitone up or down, which can be done with small buttons.
On my modified accordion I’ve added more buttons (E#,F#,F♭ and C♭), but as on an electronic instrument transposing is so easy that didn’t seem necessary.

In the tool I’d say either leave those notes out, or highlight imaginary buttons so the chord shape is still visible. Maybe later on a transpose button could be nice.

Indeed, in meantone tunings for example the E♭ is slightly higher than the D#. This can be seen very well in the tuning exploration tool when you drag the slider down from 12-tet to 1/4 comma meantone.

I think the same way as the chords, just highlight all notes in the scale. You can also highlight the ones in different octaves.
Comon scales I’d start with: Major, Minor, Harmonic minor, Harmonic major, Double harmonic, Hungarian minor, Major pentatonic, Minor pentatonic and the six-note blues scale

Good work!

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I’ve gotten the interval names & the chords corrected in the web app. The scales are in progress, but not quite ready yet. I’d be grateful for feedback to make sure I have the intervals right this time.

-Frank

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Looks good! Only for the 6th degree the modifiers are shifted, dd6 should be d6, d6 should be m6, m6 M6 and M6 A6. Then you can see the modifiers are nicely grouped together.

I’ve gotten the intervals fixed in the newest version. I’ve also included Scales and Major Modes. As usual they’re based on my limited music theory and I’d appreciate feedback.

From this point adding new scales is trivial, give me a name and I can do it in a couple days, give me a list of intervals from the root note and I can have it in hours.

-Frank

Nice, intervals are correct now!
Some notes:
I wouldn’t highlight chords and scales at the same time, it becomes a bit crowded. And then you can just use the red circles also for scales.
Also instead of dropdowns having the radio buttons always visible would make it easier to switch.

Interesting try on the modes, however I think it’s better to leave them out to not make it to daunting.
Now it is a bit mixed up, as modes are just versions of the same scale. For example major and minor are both modes of the diatonic scale (ionian and aeolian). Maybe modes can be added later in an advanced mode or so, but I think it’s better to keep the default mode simple :slight_smile:

For the blues note I’d choose the d5 instead of the A4, since it’s a little bit closer to the rest of the scale. As the six-note version is the most common one the name can be shortened to just ‘blues’ I think.

And it’s nice to add the 7th chord.

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Alright, we’re up and running. I have the Chords & Scales separated out and the lists have been turned into radio style buttons.

I made a couple of minor color changes which I think improves it visually.

Thoughts are welcome as usual,
Frank

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