One of the really promising things about MuseScore as a music notation system is its open source nature. They openly ask people to modify the code and make improvements, some of which may eventually be incorporated back into the main program. In June, 2011 at Barcelona's Music Hack Day some of these ingenious coders demonstrated a new score following system that takes audio from a microphone source and automatically follows the score notation on the screen.
The special software connects to MuseScore, analyzes the sounds as the performer plays them, matches that music up to the score and then advances the cursor in MuseScore as the performer plays it. This technology was later incorporated into a presentation fo the Open Goldberg Variations project, a Kickstarter project where people donated money to have Bach's score transcribed into MuseScore and then published (along with the audio) in the public domain for anyone to use for free.
The video below shows you a demonstration of the music following technology as shown at the June, 2011 conference.
Fair warning, the video below gets REALLY loud when the crowd starts clapping half way through so be ready on the volume slider...
Wait a minute, this doesn't sound so new does it? You are probably thinking that several different programs already do this right? On the iPad Tonara does essentially the same thing and on PC's there are programs like SmartMusic. But the thing that sets this apart from those other programs is that MuseScore is free and open source. You don't have to buy Finale to make a SmartMusic file. You don't have to buy an app and then hope that they have the music you want to use. With this new hack of MuseScore you can make the music you want to make, save it in a free, non-proprietary format, and then use the on screen listening playback to demonstrate things to your class in real time.
The other thing that this brings to mind is that if these programmers can do this already then one has to guess that an open source substitute for SmartMusic's interactive practice system may be not so far away. I have said for years, ever since I saw the first versions of MuseScore, that this free, open source music notation program was going to have incredible potential going forward. This demonstration of the technology proves that, and makes you look forward to what may lie in the future.
Chad Criswell is a career music educator working in the Iowa public schools. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications both online and in print. He currently serves as the national music technology writer for NAfME's Teaching Music Magazine and has presented sessions at numerous music education conferences including the 2012 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic.
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