Flip the pitch

Computer Music - - Make Music Now / Arrange Tracks Like A Pro -

Short of ideas for new sec­tions? What if we told you you could make a com­plete new sec­tion with an en­tirely dif­fer­ent mood by in­vert­ing your ex­ist­ing melody? Pitch­flip­ping, or pitch re­ver­sal, is a tech­nique by which you find a cen­tral axis or mir­ror point – of­ten the mid­point be­tween the root note of the key you’re work­ing in and the note a per­fect fifth above it – and use it like a ful­crum to lit­er­ally flip the notes around, so that they re­tain their grid po­si­tions and du­ra­tions, but change their pitch. What you end up with is a com­pletely new melody with a dif­fer­ent vibe, yet still de­rived from the same song. If you start out with a melody in a ma­jor key, it be­comes mi­nor, while mi­nor key melodies be­come ma­jor, and so on. So, if you have a verse melody in a mi­nor key, you could flip it to a ma­jor key for the cho­rus – a com­mon song­writ­ing tech­nique. Whether this is done with a vo­cal or an in­stru­men­tal part, it can have a big ef­fect and be a great way of gen­er­at­ing al­ter­na­tive bridge or pre­cho­rus parts. You could play the vo­cal melody in as a synth line, then in­vert it to pro­duce a key­board hook for a tag or a solo sec­tion, for ex­am­ple.

Logic Pro X, shown above, has a nifty ‘re­verse pitch’ fea­ture that asks for an axis pitch, then works ev­ery­thing else out for you. In the ex­am­ple shown above, we’ve got a sim­ple melody in the key of A mi­nor. To gen­er­ate our flipped ver­sion, we’ve sim­ply du­pli­cated the re­gion, se­lected the notes in the pi­ano roll ed­i­tor and cho­sen the MIDI Trans­form » Re­verse Pitch op­tion from the edit win­dow’s Func­tions menu. This brings up a se­lec­tion di­a­logue that asks us to in­put the note pitch around which we want to flip our notes. To get this re­sult, we typed in the note D3 and hit Op­er­ate. Hey presto: a whole new melody!

If that doesn’t work out, for even wack­ier re­sults, why not try your DAW’s pitch ran­domis­ing func­tion, if it has one? For more in­for­ma­tion about a sim­i­lar tech­nique to this one, known as neg­a­tive har­mony, check out our res­i­dent mu­sic the­ory ex­pert Dave Clews’ Easy

Guide on the topic in 257.

Pitch re­ver­sal is a sta­ple of song­writ­ing, and these days your DAW can do the leg work for you

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