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Want to translate sheet music into playback? Or sing your composition into your computer? Dave Ward reviews software.
When I was a little choirboy I used to dream that the notes on the pages would somehow play themselves for me and I wouldn’t have to figure out how the music was supposed to sound. It has taken a long time but my dream, and I am sure many other people’s, has come true. The free app Playscore2 does just that. You can snap a score with your camera and with the latest optical music recognition software it will play the lines of music back to you. It can work with any printed music at all - just open the app, take a photo using the app’s camera icon and it will automatically load and then play it back at whatever tempo you decide to set it at! The music play back is indicated with a red line that scrolls bar by bar. You can easily change the tempo, which may help with learning a piece slowly before speeding things up. There are transposing features and loop options. If you decide
to go further and upgrade to the full, paid version, you can even export the file as a MusicXML file and open it in other notation programs such as Dorico or Sibelius. Download the free app at playscore.co As a singer and guitarist, I always admired those with the keyboard skills to play music into a computer programme. I always dreamed of being able to ‘sing-in’ the notes. In answer to my dream, Vochlea Music have produced the Dubler Studio Kit. This is a real-time vocal recognition MIDI controller. The kit comes with software that is compatible with any DAW Mac or PC and a USB microphone. As well as voice, it works with clicking, tapping, clapping and even whistling. £295, or £250 if you order in advance at vochlea.co.uk
FROM A SOUND ENGINEER: HOW TO GET A GOOD SONG RECORDING The sound of the room that you are singing in will make a huge difference to the finished product. A large empty room with lots of ‘boomy’ reflecting surfaces is probably not a good choice. A room with soft furnishings is better, or you can deaden the sound by hanging blankets on the walls. Make sure you are comfortable choose a time and place where you won’t be disturbed and there won’t be unwanted outside noises that the microphone can pick up. Turn off mobile phones. Make sure any headphones don’t get pulled off every time you move. The level of the track and any clicktrack or metronome needs to be at a comfortable level in the headphones along with the level of the vocals you want to record. Time taken doing this is a really good investment - also maybe putting a bit of reverb on the headphone vocals can help. Save the settings so that you can come back to them later. For soloists, position yourself about six inches or the hand span from thumb tip to little fingertip from the microphone. As you can see from the picture (top left) a pop shield is also very desirable because it absorbs any explosive breathy sounds that can distort the microphone. The microphone is like a very sensitive ear. Sing straight into the mic. And try not to waggle your head around – imagine you are singing straight to the listener. A general rule of thumb for getting a quality recording is to, ‘get the sound right at source’. Don’t be tempted by the ‘fix it in the mix’ approach.
Dave Ward is Managing Director of TiME Technology in Music Education, Chair of the Music Education Council Technology Special interest group and Executive Director of JAMES. He founded the Gateway School which pioneered Music Technology Education when the technology was in its infancy. techmusiced.org.uk
Spring 2020 HIGHNOTES