Selected for Google Summer of Code 2016 with MuseScore!
I am delighted to say that I have been selected to work with MuseScore for this year’s Google Summer of Code! My project is titled “Semi-Realtime MIDI”, and the aim is to create a new mode of note entry for MuseScore – or actually a few different modes – that would basically allow users to enter notes by performing the piece on a MIDI keyboard and having MuseScore translate the performance into the correct musical notation.
You can keep up with my progress at the following locations:
- Weekly blog at MuseScore.org or via my own website
- Occasional video updates via my YouTube channel
- The actual code and pull requests from my fork on GitHub
The ability to automatically transcribe a live performance is known as “realtime MIDI”, and it is extremely difficult to do accurately due to the imperfections inherent to any human performance – such as slight changes in tempo that may be imperceptible to listeners but that could wreak havoc with the computer algorithm. My idea, which I am calling “semi-realtime MIDI”, places certain limitations on the user that restrict their ability to play freely, but which are vital to ensure accurate notation.
I envision two modes to semi-realtime MIDI, both of which I intend to implement. The modes are “automatic” and “manual”, which refers to whether the position of note input (i.e. the “cursor”) advances automatically at a fixed speed, or manually on the press of a key. In automatic mode an audible metronome would be used to enforce a strict tempo, which would be much slower than the playback tempo to aid accurate MIDI interpretation. In manual mode the metronome clicks are replaced by the user tapping a key with their free hand, or (ideally, if they have one) by tapping the MIDI sustain pedal to allow both hands to be used to play notes. These key/pedal taps can be as frequent or infrequent as desired, and the user could even vary the frequency mid-piece to slow down for difficult sections and speed up for easier sections. Automatic mode is arguably the most similar to traditional realtime MIDI, so it will probably be simply labelled as “Realtime MIDI” in the menu rather than “Automatic Semi-Realtime MIDI”. Manual mode would just be called “Semi-realtime MIDI”. But suggestions for alternative names are welcome – perhaps “metronome mode” and “foot-tapping mode” would be more descriptive titles! 😉
Of course, MuseScore already allows you to enter notes with a MIDI keyboard via the existing “step-time” method, which current users are probably quite familiar with. To enter notes in step-time mode, you must first select the note duration from the toolbar before pressing the key to select the pitch. This method is extremely reliable – you are guaranteed to get what you want (or at least what you asked for!). However, this method can be painstakingly slow at times, especially if the passage of notes you are entering has a complicated rhythm with lots of different note lengths. Musicians are not used to having to “choose” a note length before it is played – normally they just sustain the note for the required duration – so a realtime or semi-realtime approach should actually be more natural from a musician’s point of view. Adjusting the note length based on the length of time for which the key is held removes the need for the user to constantly swap between the MIDI keyboard and the computer mouse/keyboard, so the new method of note entry should be much faster too!
I am extremely grateful to MuseScore and Google for providing this opportunity, and I am very much looking forward to working with Nicolas (lasconic) and the rest of the community over the coming weeks and months!