Developer's Log - March 4, 2021

Howdy folks! Hope the new year has been treating you OK. Here’s a short round-up of what’s been going on behind the scenes of Strum Machine, and what’s planned for the near future.

Progress report
In the two months since my last Developer’s Log, the biggest update I’ve made is to add m7b5, m6, and 9 chords, which were made available on the main site at the end of February. These will be the last chords I add for awhile, with the exception of no-third chords (aka 5 chords, aka modal-friendly chords) which are my next top priority… more on that in a couple paragraphs.

Otherwise, the past two months have mostly been focused on polishing, fixing bugs, researching, and long-range planning. Much of this won’t be noticeable to most users (unless you happen to notice some quirky behavior that isn’t quirky anymore!) but it all adds up. And the long-range planning has been fun – I can’t tell you how frickin’ excited I am about what’s in store!

Survey says…
Speaking of planning: In order to help with planning a specific new feature, last week I put out a 5-10–minute survey to gather information and feedback. I was blown away by the response; I had 70 people complete the survey by the time I shut it down, only a day after I put it up on the site. The following week went a bit sideways so I’m just now going through the responses thoroughly, but I’ve already learned so much just by skimming. So, again, THANK YOU to all who responded! I’m so grateful. I think I’ll be doing more surveys in the future, since this one will definitely help make the product better than I could have made it without your input.

Up next: modal chords
The next big task I’m going to tackle is to make Strum Machine sound better for modal tunes, where you want the 1 chord to be played without the third. I believe this mostly applies to A, Bb, and B (and maybe C) I think; G already uses a no-third chord and sounds good for modal tunes, and the third is less of an issue with D, E, and F. So if there’s a way to say “play all A/Bb/B tunes using a no-third G chord with the capo on,” I think that will address the issue for the most part. Eventually there’ll be a way to specify this on a per-song basis (which is part of what my survey was gathering feedback about).

Other improvements on the horizon
Besides modal chords, my short list of things to work on (time permitting) includes:

  • Tap-a-tempo (set BPM by tapping the rhythm)
  • Auto-Modulate tool (increment the key with every repetition)
  • Improved count-in settings (automatic length, delayed start, volume control…)
  • Option to view waltzes with bar lines between every measures (as opposed to pairs of measures)
  • Some other possibilities that I am going to keep as a surprise. :wink:

Of course, in the course of programming one feature it sometimes makes sense to tackle an additional feature that I hadn’t been planning on, and sometimes I have to hit pause on features halfway through development due to some unforeseen snag… so this is only a list of best intentions, not a prediction of what’s coming next. :blush:

Interview on Bluegrass Today
Finally, I thought I’d share this interview of yours truly that Dave Berry published over at Bluegrass Today. It talks about Strum Machine but more about my personal story and some of my experiences with music. Be warned: it’s pretty long! I always say “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”, but if you do want to learn more about him, here’s the article:


Thanks again to all of you for your support, and keep on pickin’!

Best,
Luke

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Thanks for all the hard work, Luke! Nice read, too…great to know a bit more about you. Very impressive that you had this concept and have been able to bring it to life.

Adding that I am bummed that I missed your user survey!

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I enjoyed the interview and clips, Luke.

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Loving all the improvements you’re making, Luke. Strum machine has added immeasurably to my playing and enjoyment this last year. Thank you for all your work and commitment.

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I read the article and watched the clips. Impressive, Luke. I had no idea you are so talented. I hope I get to meet you at a festival one of these days. My best buddy is Strum Machine. My dog just gave me a dirty look, so second best buddy…

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I’m curious to learn the G chord is thirdless. I hadn’t noticed that and I’m wondering why you treated that key differently. Thirdless G’s come easily on guitar, but still that doesn’t mean you generally want no third on that chord. Anyway, glad you’re working on it. The key I need it is usually A, but I’d like to have it available on any chord.

Thanks everyone!

@SteveKing, I’ll be doing more surveys in the future, don’t worry. :wink:

@BrianWood, thirdless G is the default because the majority of bluegrass is played with it (including in the keys of A, Bb, and B) and because it’s more versatile in that it suits both modal and non-modal major songs just fine. The plan now is to have the keys of A, Bb, and B default to being played with the no-third G with the capo on. That’ll make for a default that works well across the board. I’ll have a way to override that and make it use fully major chords (including a fully major G) though, eventually on a song-by-song basis.

Got most of the audio samples for that assembled now. Next step is to rewrite the code so that a given chord can be played with the correct sample based on context and preference. Shooting for this month for a beta release, but we’ll see. First, taxes! :roll_eyes: (March 15 deadline for LLCs.)

Well, I haven’t played guitar in a long time, but G Major is certainly played frequently on mandolin. Anyway, I’m in favor of having every chord available as a major, minor, or no 3rd chord ultimately. Just so I understand, are you saying when it first comes out, when I want to have a no 3rd A chord I will have to write the chords in the key of G first? Confusing to a non-capo user.

No, you won’t have to do anything differently, and you won’t need to know anything about capoing or whatnot. Everything in the keys of A, Bb, and B will play with modal-compatible chords without you having to do anything. If you want to change that, there’ll be one setting to adjust (in the Instruments panel for now), and eventually you’ll be able to set it on a per-song basis, but it won’t involve editing chord charts, just a simple setting.

And good point: this doesn’t address the mandolin. I think that will have to wait until I add the concept of a modal “key” to Strum Machine. That’ll affect bass runs as well (once that’s a thing).