MuseScore Hack Promises Cool Future For Music Ed

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.  

About The Author
Chad Criswell

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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  • When a software developer invites others to contribute to the effort, it is not hacking. I know that you have all the right motives here, just as I know that the individuals who developed this application have the right attitude as well. It's just that the word hacking can often carry it's own negative connotations with it, no matter what the real intentions were in the first place. <br /><br />This would more properly be called a parallel application, especially if it is eventually expanded to other programs like Tuxguitar. (hint hint?) It might also be called an add on, an extension, a plug in, or any other term that would imply the intention that these people really have, to add to the function of a program as they were invited to rather than play a joke, expose some malfeasance, or extract data from those using the original program. This may be mostly semantics, but it is important to honor people's intentions and in cases like these, words can matter.

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  • Thank you for your comments. I used the word Hack because that is the word the original authors have used. If you go to the Music Hack Day web site (http://bcn.musichackday.org/2011/index.php) you'll be able to see this. <br /><br />In any case, the word "hack" in modern use falls into the same category as words like geek and nerd. They no longer have a completely negative connotation. There are white hat hackers and black hat hackers. True, not everyone in society understands the distinction, but the point of this site and my blog is to educate so using the word hack in this context can be looked at as a learning experience for my viewers.<br /><br />Again, thank you for your comments. I will try to take a look at the TuxGuitar site you "hinted" at in your comment. :)

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    Great article Chad! Indeed, this score following feature was first created during the a music hackday (http://musichackday.org), so you did right to name it a hack. Unfortunately, the idea behind the hacker ethic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker_ethic) has gone lost a little but through these music hackdays, we try to bring it back.<br /><br />Anyways, back to the topic. Starting at music hackday New York and then later in Barcelona and Cannes, we improved this hack with the help of audio technology company SampleSumo. Last week we demonstrated the score following live in Munich at Classical:Next (http://blog.musescore.com/post/24184826164/sheet-music-for-audiences-showcase-at-classical-next) and in a couple of weeks, we'll bring it to even more people with the Wisconsin Public Radio: http://currentpublicmedia.blogspot.de/2012/05/wpr-site-will-enable-listeners-to-see.html

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