Composition Assistant Tool (C-A-T) - learn theory while working on music



I posted this back on the old forums, but that went poof, so I’m reposting it. I’ve also cleaned it up a bit since back then, as well as I’ve added some instructions/descriptions that were missing originally.

Unfortunately, there’s still no macro built in to reset every field all in one press of a button (I’m looking into getting around to that eventually, but on the other hand…passing around Macro-enabled excel files somewhat can be seen as poor form from a security point of view…so, I’m not sure on this just yet).

The main purpose of this tool is to help folks with either very little music theory knowledge, or folks with some to moderate music theory knowledge (advanced and well versed music theorists will likely find little worth its use in here since their well trained mind will likely do all of these things without a reference tool).

The intention is to “teach while you do”, rather than learning by reading a bunch of stuff that doesn’t directly relate to what you’re currently doing in your song or project, and then trying to recall the variety of information later. We tend to remember better if a piece of information has direct and immediate relevance to something WE need to put it to use for.

Because of this, the best way to use this tool is to make a song while using the tool.

Let me know what you think, and if you need help, please feel free to write here or message me! :slight_smile:
Here’s the file:
(It’s best to download this and open it with excel, rather than flipping through Dropbox’s browser preview, which doesn’t render everything correctly.)

In case anyone wants to see what’s in the can before opening it, here’s the text from the Introduction Tab (click on the arrow next to “Introduction & Explanation” to view the text).

Introduction & Explanation

If you need any additional help or want to discuss anything, please feel free to reach out to me at (username: Jayson), or via email: (please be patient if using email as I infrequently check this).


  • All BLUE fields are USER INPUT


    • User can select KEY, SCALE/MODE

    • User can select Chords related to the Scale. Chords picked will appear in CHORDAL ARRANGEMENT MAP TOOL for selection.

    • User can select a STARTING NOTE.
      The calculator will produce the subsequent notes within the scale which are the given interval distance from the supplied note.
    • Scale Degrees are colored in the following method:
      - ORANGE: Pure tones - Root/Tonic, Perfect 5th, and Octave
      - GREEN: More Common/Easy-to-employ Dissonents - 3rd and 6th
      - PURPLE: Less Common/Harder-to-employ Dissonents - 2nd, 4th, and 7th

    • User can select a field and then select a Chord from the DropDown list.


  • All BLUE fields are USER INPUT.
  • All RED highlights are NOTES on a PIANO to produce the selected chord.
  • User can select one of the CHORDS produced from the MAIN TAB CHORD TOOL as well as the starting OCTAVE for the PIANO display.


  • The INTERVAL MAP TOOL allows a User to chart single note melodies and expose the possible degrees for the selected notes in the melody.
    The concept is to select your starting note, then examine the degrees supplied to pick the second note, and so on.

  • The map is layed out in oscilating columns whereby the WHITE columns are where the User marks a note of interest by clicking the DropDown list and slecting “1” (selecting “0” removes a note), and the GREY columns are where the degrees from that note are displayed.

  • The possible degrees are displayed in color code. The LEGEND is supplied to the left as for which color refers to which Degree.
    - Degrees are mapped up and down.

  • Three octaves are supplied with most melodies fitting within the middle octave and spreading degree possibilities to the low octave or high octave.


  • The semitone patterns tab shows a variety of common scales. The use of semitones makes it easier to recall how scales work, and how they relate to each other. Semitone exposition is similar to the “Whole-Half” method, but has an advantage of displaying the sequences of notes numerically. This makes it easier to identify a pattern (for most people). The values are small (ranged 1 through 3). The value of 1 means that the difference between two notes is one key on a piano keyboard. For example, 1 interval from C is Db (C#), 2 intervals from C would be D, and 3 intervals from C would be Eb (D#). Listing the intervals in sequence tells us how many notes to move from each previous note of the set.

  • For example, [2,2] doesn’t describe two notes, but three. This is because the first note is not listed. We pick which note we start the sequence from. In fact, the intervals don’t ever describe an actual note. They describe the range of notes between two notes (but it’s easier for most to typically think of each interval value as pointing to a note, rather than describing the notes you don’t use). So, if we again start on C, then an interval set of [2,2] would tell us that if we start on C, that we then move two notes up from C to find our next note. On a keyboard you can see this rather easily. 2 notes up from C is D. Next we do the same with the second value. 2 notes up from D is E. So [2,2] starting at C describes C, D, E.

  • For the dominant amount of common scales, the core semitone pattern is [2,2,1,2,2] with an adjunct [2,1]. It is easier to understand this by comparing the Minor and Major scales’ interval patterns (which are exposed in detail on the Major-Minor Semitone Comparison tab). Keeping in mind that our “main body” of the pattern is [2,2,1,2,2], the primary difference between Major and Minor is which side of the main body the “appendage” intervals [2,1] are placed. If the appendage is placed on the right of the main body, then we describe a Major scale: [2,2,1,2,2] [2,1]. If we place the appendage on the left of the main body, then we describe the Minor scale: [2,1] [2,2,1,2,2]. If we start from the Major scale, we can hit every one of the common 7 diatonic scales by simply shuffling the appendage one spot to the left sequentially like a marquee sign.

  • For example, [2,2,1,2,2] [2,1] is Major, while Dorian is 2,1,2,2] [2,1] [2.
    Further, Phrygian is 1,2,2] [2,1] [2,2.

  • For ease of recognition of the pattern sequences, the main body [2,2,1,2,2] has been highlighted in a light red, while the appendage has been highlighted in green.

  • An additional variation of the diatonic patterns is shown at the bottom of the Semitone Patterns tab which shows the Symmetrical Counterpart View of Semitone Patterns.
    The purpose of this is to show which scale is the mirror image of which scale. Because of this, the Major and Minor scales appear twice in this approach, while Mixolydian through Dorian take up the middle region and each only appear once.

  • One last note regarding the Major-Minor Semitone Comparison tab, “Octave Set Value” refers to what numerical placement a note is within any one given octave, disregarding scale. In this manner, starting on C, C is the first note, while D is the 3rd note. The 12th note in this whole octave (again, ignoring scales) would be B.




@Brogner this seems like something that might interest you in your quest for theory knowledge.


This is really strong foundational stuff. @Jayson did an awesome job coming up with this. Great post!


Happy to help! :sunglasses: