Print-Out Your Music


When you improvise a piece of music to the point where it's pretty much played the same way each time you play it, it's time to call it a composition, rather than an improvisation.

At this point, you would probably record it, but you might also want to put your music down in written form, so other people can play it.

There are tools for doing this, and this article tells gives you an idea of how to go about converting your music to written form.

If you are fairly familiar with music notation, there is an application called “MuseScore”, that will let you manually specify the notes, expression, dynamics, tempo, and any words (lyrics) that go with the music. It puts out a PDF file of the music, which can easily be printed out (as many copies as is needed). It runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

To use MuseScore, you need to be familiar with music notation. We will give you a brief introduction to MuseScore later in the article.

But what if you know little about music notation? Can you still convert your music to written form, that can then be performed by another musician? Actually, you can!

Writing Music, For Those Not Familiar With Written Music

There are two ways you can do this, and there are computer tools to help you do it:

Writing Music Using A SpreadSheet

If the person to be performing your music also plays the KeyMusician Keyboard, where each note can be specified by the character associated with that keyboard-key, you can use a spread-sheet to tell another KeyMusician Keyboard player how to play it (assuming the player has the same keyboard layout that you use).

This may seem on the surface to be an exorbitant claim, but it really works, and we have an exercise below for you to try, where if you try playing the written music contained in the spread-sheet, you will hear a part of a piece of music from the 1960's, and probably recognize it.

These pieces assume you are using the qwerty-Z keyboard map. If not, some notes will not be right.

To start with, here's the beginning of a piece from the KeyMusician Songbook, done as a spread-sheet:

Oh Danny Boy (Londonderry Air)

Transpose = D-Major (+2 = 2 sharps)

Count

Chords

Melody

Words

1

D



2

Q

Oh

3

R

Dan-

4

T

ny

1

G

Y

boy,

2

3

4

T

the

1

Y

pipes,

2

O

the

3

I

pipes,

4

Y

are

1

Gsus

T

call-

2

R

3

W

ing.

4

1

2

E

From

3

R

glen

4

T

to

1

G

Y

glen,

2

3

4

O

and

1

I

down

2

Y

the

3

R

moun-

4

Y

tain

1

Gsus

T

side.

2

3

4

1

2

E

The

3

R

sum-

4

T

mer's

(sorry it ends abruptly – you can get the music for the entire piece as a PDF file, by clicking the following link: Danny Boy, in Music Notation)

The “Count” column corresponds to the shortest note in the piece (like a least-common-denominator with fractions), and in this case, corresponds to an eighth-note. In a measure, there would be eight counts, but you can also keep it simple, starting-over after the number 4.

Notice that the chord starts one count before the tune.

The information in the table above is everything you need to play (and sing) the tune. Give it a try. Make sure to use the “Transpose” button to specify the right key-signature, or it won't sound right.

Where rows in a column are merged-together, the note (or chord) is held-out for the number of counts indicated at the left.

The actual song has another verse. You could put in the words for the second verse by adding another “Words” column to the right of the existing “Words” column.

You can hear what the above piece (in its entirety) sounds like, by clicking on the following link:

Oh Danny Boy – Audio File

Here is another snippet of a piece of music – this one done entirely in the melody-section of the keyboard, written using a spread-sheet:


In the yellow row above, “L.H.” stands for “Left Hand”, and “R.H.” stands for “Right Hand”. So on count 1, the left hand plays a Q, an E, and a T, and the right-hand plays a right-square-bracket, all at the same time.

Give it a try. Again, make sure to use the “Transpose” button to set the key-signature to G-major.

Most of the ordinary keyboards I have can play all of the simultaneous notes, but a few of the older keyboards I have can't. I think most modern keyboards can do it. You could also do it by plugging in an extra keyboard (one for each hand).

If this works for you, and you can play music this way, try playing the piece in the link below. It's a song from the 1960's – see if you can recognize its name.

Name This Tune

Printing-out Music Using A Sequence-Editor

Another way to print-out the music you play, is to carefully play your music into a sequence editor having music notation capability, using the sequence editor's metronome to make sure the music conforms to the measure-bars. Then you use the sequence editor to print out the music.

If you want to do this, make sure the sequence-editor (sequencer) you buy or use has music notation capability.

On Linux, there is a free sequence-editor called “Rosegarden”, which I am using to demonstrate this capability.

In the screen-shot below, I am running Rosegarden, and I gave selected the “Melody” segment (it's highlighted):


When I right-click on this segment, and select “Open In Notation Editor” from the pop-up menu, a window like the following screen-shot appears:


In the above, it's music notation, but it's not very pretty, with sixteenth-notes tied to quarter-notes, and notes not necessarily starting on a measure-bar. This is because the music I recorded into the track was not played accurately (using the sequencer's metronome).

If you want to print out your music this way, you will need to record it using the metronome, and play very precisely, and accurately. Otherwise, it will look something like the above, which does give you approximate music notation for what you played, but isn't very pretty.

Usually a sequence-editor will have a “Quantize” function, which can be used to clean it up, but it can also mess it up as well. So it's better to record playing accurately with the metronome.

If I right-click click on the “Chords” segment, and choose “Open In Notation Editor” from the pop-up menu, I get something like the following screen-shot:


Again, it's not very pretty because I didn't play accurately against the sequencer's metronome when I recorded it.

Notice that the chords are shown as their actual notes, rather than the name of the chord.

If I select the “Melody” segment (by single left-clicking on it), I can print the music in that segment out, by using the “Print” entry in the “File” menu. I could also generate a PDF file of the music by selecting “Print Preview” instead.

So if I print the music is the “Melody” segment I get the following (again, it's not so pretty because it wasn't accurately played using a metronome):


I didn't bother to fill in the title and copyright fields for this example. Also, I have reduced the size of the otherwise full printed pages to fit better in a single screen-shot.

Writing Music, For Those Familiar With Music Notation

If you're familiar with music notation, the best way to enter (and print-out) your music is using a music scoring application, such as MuseScore.

You can obtain MuseScore for free, on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Its web-site can be reached by clicking on the following link:

MuseScore Web-Site

MuseScore is in the Ubuntu Linux repository, and (on Ubuntu Linux) can be easily installed from there (rather than from the web-site).

Here is a screen-shot of MuseScore running on Linux (with my strange custom-colors), showing the Danny Boy song used above:


Clicking the “Print” tool-bar button generates the following PDF file:

Oh Danny Boy - PDF

Almost all of the written music on the KeyMusician.com web-site was done using MuseScore. I highly recommend it. The web-site has help and tutorial information to enable you to learn how to use it.

So now, armed with this information, you can take your music, and allow other people to play it by providing them the music in written form. I hope this proves to be useful for you.



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