PlayInKey.com Updated

About a week ago, during the holidays, I finally got around to updating PlayInKey.com and adding some new features. I updated the frontpage and added some new scales and other data and implemented a system for ranking the search results based on their relevance. Here’s a short description of what I did.

A New Frontpage

I attempted to simplify the frontpage and add some color to it. The old frontpage contained a lengthy textual description of the site and was quite boring, so I threw away the text and gave the search-form a more prominent space in the middle of the page. The bigger search form highlights the purpose of the site and is particularly handy when browsing the site with a mobile device. I also created a big logo and changed the layout to add some color. For the logo I used a nice looking font called pg-gene that I found for free from DaFont.com. Easthetically the frontpage now seems way better than the previous version, although there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

New Scales and Data

  • scale steps, incrementally and accumulatively
  • harmonization
  • new scales: diminished, wholetone and the dominant bebop scale

I added a lot of new information on the site. For every scale there is now information about the ‘steps’ of the scale: for every note of the scale, measured in halfsteps, it tells how far the note is from the previous note in the scale, and also accumulatively how far that note is from the root note. This helps to get a grasp of the scale and for guitarists, this information is particularly convenient when playing single string exercises.

For most of the scales, there is also information about how the notes of the scale can be harmonized as four note (ie. seventh) chords by using the common method of stacking thirds on top of the note.

I also added a few more scales in the database, namely the diminished scales, wholetone scales and
the dominant bebop scales (‘The Bebop Scale’) for each key. I’m trying to be a bit selective with respect to
what scales to include in the database, since PlayInKey.com is meant only to be a tool for those interested
in learning modern pop, rock and jazz-oriented music. It isn’t meant to be a full database of all existing
scales in the world, since I fear that too much irrelevant information might dilute the purpose of the site.

A Ranking System for Scales

This is, in my opinion, by far the coolest new feature on the site. I implemented a ranking system that attempts to sort the search results by their relevance with respect to a given query, so that the most relevant results will more likely be on top of the list and more esoteric scale choices are pushed down towards the bottom of the search results. I think this works fairly well particularly for modern popular (western) music, where the choice of scales and chord-progressions tend to be quite conservative and lean towards diatonic due to the way we are accustomed to hearing music. If that sounds boring and you’re looking for something more exotic or controversial, you can use the ranking system to your advantage in that case as well: just look for the more unusual choices by starting from the bottom of the search results.

I will explain the details of how the ranking system works in later blog post, so stay tuned for that!

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