New plug-in: Format Tempo and Metronome Mark Text

by Philip Rothman on August 21, 2014 · 4 comments

in Tips

This post is written by Ed Hirschman, a composer, arranger and co-founder of Art of Sound Music. Art of Sound Music is a sheet music publisher and retailer based in Princeton, New Jersey, representing the music of over 75 composers and arrangers worldwide. Read on to learn about Ed’s new plug-in, Format Tempo and Metronome Mark Text.

Art of Sound Music publishes music from over 75 arrangers/composers and about half of them are Finale users. Since we are a Sibelius “shop”, we take MusicXML files exported from Finale and import them into Sibelius where we apply our company house style, engraving standards and make general improvements to the engraving. While working with these MusicXML files, I noticed that the font size of the tempo and metronome markings were coming in incredibly small, to the point of being nearly invisible. These tiny items were quite easy to overlook and with numerous tempo changes in a score, became a burden to correct.

To see if other had experienced or fixed the problem, I searched the Sibelius Tech Support Forum and found the thread entitled “Advanced XML import from PWGL (comparison with Finale)

Here I learned that the issue is related to Sibelius MusicXML import, not Finale MusicXML export. In fact, if you export MusicXML from Sibelius and immediately import it, the problem appears. Former Product Manager Daniel Spreadbury commented on that thread on May 11, 2012 that “I can’t make any specific commitment … but we do certainly hope to improve MusicXML import and export further in future versions.” However, as of writing this post and Sibelius version 7.5.1, this bug still exists.

Here’s the before and after screen shots of how the import bug is addressed:

As imported
After running plug-in
Imported Tempo text appeared as size .8 (nearly invisible)
Tempo text reset to the legible size of 8.5
Font set to Times New RomanFont set to user choice, in this case Opus Text

I created the Format Tempo and Metronome Mark Text plug-in to do much more than address the import bug. It also allows you to specify the music font for the Beats Per Minute (metronome mark) characters in Tempo text and Metronome mark text (e.g. q = 120), with options to format associated equal signs, dashes and parentheses. Features include the ability to:

  • Specify the font for the note and numbers that collectively specify the beats per minute (metronome mark) text, including tempo ranges and “circa” tempos
  • Maintain, add or remove spaces next to the equal sign and/or dashes in metronome mark text
  • Maintain, add or remove spaces after the left parenthesis and before the right parenthesis in metronome mark text
  • Maintain, add or remove parenthesis around metronome mark text.  When the “Add Parenthesis” option is selected, parenthesis are only added when there is text before the metronome mark. For example, it will change “Moderato q = 100″ to “Moderato (q = 100)”, but doesn’t change q=100 to “(q=100)”.
  • Removes leading spaces before the text and lagging spaces after the text
  • Option to replace multiple spaces with single space

Here is a screenshot of the plug-in’s dialog box and various options:

format

Here is an example of what it can do in terms of formatting tempo and metronome mark text:

Before running plug-in
After running plug-in
Extra spaces after “Moderato”Extra spaces after “Moderato” removed
No parenthesis around metronome mark textParenthesis added at user request
No spaces around equals signSpaces added around equals sign at user request
Inconsistent spacing around dashConsistent spacing around dash
Metronome mark font is Plantin MT StandardMetronome mark set to Opus Text

The plugin supports the music fonts includes with Sibelius for metronome mark text: Opus, Reprise, Inkpen2, and Helsinki. If you require others fonts, the technically inclined can add those choices by modifying the variable “_lstNamedFonts” in the data section of the plug-in IDE.

There is one caution I need to give to those using this plug in. Any custom editing you have done to pieces of tempo text or metronome mark text will be lost (although you can always “undo” if you don’t like the results). If there is demand for the plug-in to handle such cases, I may be able to accommodate that in the future.

Format Tempo and Metronome Mark Text may be downloaded directly through Sibelius 7 or 7.5 at File > Plug-ins > Install Plug-ins > Text. Users may also install it manually in Sibelius 6, 7 or 7.5 by visiting the plug-in download page and following the usual manual installation procedure, or by using the Install New Plug-in plug-in.

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If you noticed someone looking curiously at your luggage, and this person started to approach you, there are all kinds of nefarious suspicions that you might rightfully have. Musician Shaun Buswell was this person, but he had a more benign purpose in mind: to determine if there was a musical instrument hidden away in someone’s bag or case. He wanted to introduce himself to enough people who were “kind, non-judgmental souls” that would be willing to participate in his challenge: to create in ten days, from scratch, an orchestra of complete strangers that would play a one-off concert at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

That task, which he called the Fringe Orchestra Challenge, was inspired by an earlier endeavor of Shaun’s, the Underground Orchestra Challenge, in which he met strangers on the London Underground in 2012 and recruited them to be part of his band, which still plays on today.

The BBC News chronicled his progress, which successfully culminated in the performance last week, on August 11 at The Jam House:

“To write the music, to arrange the music, was more of a challenge than I had ever considered,” Shaun told BBC journalist Dan Curtis. “I won’t know what kind of music to write, or which piece to arrange for, until I meet those musicians. So I have to meet them, work out whether they’re interested, and then score the music.”

Shaun used Sibelius 7 to score the music for the orchestra, and I contacted him to learn more about his process.

“I can’t actually read music,” Shaun told me, “so I use Sibelius in a fairly revolutionary way as I’m the first generation to really be able to use software to score for me, in the same way a person could now write a book by using speech software. I move the notes up and down, make them look “pretty” and Google anything I’m uncertain about. I understand a bit about bow marks and breathing, but can’t play a single thing except guitar. So I don’t know about chords or what works or what doesn’t. I just feel it and hope for the best!

“For example, I had a euphonium player contact me at midnight on the last day of the challenge telling me she played in bass clef concert pitch. So I Googled what that meant! Then I decided it was the same as something like a trombone or cello and rewrote the euphonium parts in this clef by copy and pasting melodies I thought would work. Sibelius tells me if it’s too low or high and I use that as guidance also,” Shaun said.

Shaun Buswell © Puttyfoot Photography

Shaun Buswell © Puttyfoot Photography

Shaun also discovered the time-honored method of copying masterworks to enhance his studies. “I had to transcribe the whole trumpet part for Holst’s Mars from E to B-flat by hand for the Underground Challenge and that taught me a lot about the way these dots are meant to look (I didn’t know you could have double dots on things, for example!). I still don’t know what each of them are by looking but I’m starting to see patterns within the music, so I guess I am learning,” he said.

In addition to Sibelius, Shaun uses Cubase in his writing and recording process, but he knows that “the musicians need scores, so I’m finding Sibelius gives me the best option to communicate with the musicians who actually know what they’re doing! I’m surprised that hardly any of it seems to be wrong now.”

Shaun posted a video diary chronicling his adventure, which you can find on his web site or directly on YouTube.

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notatemeMore than 20 years ago I had completed writing out the score and parts to an orchestra score by hand. Afterwards, I recall thinking that there had to be a “word processor for music” to make the process easier. My journey eventually led to my local music store in Buffalo, where I handed the store’s employee two crisp $100 bills. In return, I received two dimes and a box containing the academic version of Finale 2.0 (I was a student at the time).

Using Finale at that time might best be described as two parts elation and one part frustration. To enter music into the computer and not only see it, but hear it played back truly seemed miraculous. Yet wrangling the score into an acceptable state required patience, persistence, and frequent consultations of the multi-volume reference guide, not to mention frequent calls to the friendly customer representatives at Coda Music Technology (I can still recall my product serial number from memory).

Still, I was hooked, and never looked back. In time, Finale improved, Sibelius came on the scene, and, for now at least, the two programs dominate the desktop notation market. Other products have, or have had a loyal following: Notion was the first to tout the quality of its playback samples as a selling point; users of Score or LilyPond believe, with some justification, that those products produce superior notated output; MuseScore has the advantages of being free and open-source; Noteflight is the dominant web-based product and is wholly owned by Hal Leonard Corporation. There have been others, like Igor Engraver (one of the first with a linked parts feature), Encore (still supported), Graphire Music Press, Mosaic, and a few more.

Some people care only about the visual aspect of music notation software, but many others use the software primarily for its instant aural feedback and playback features. For most users, seeing and hearing one’s music are intertwined. In order to keep atop the market, Finale and Sibelius have needed to produce results with that in mind.

The reason for this long preamble, with apologies, is twofold: 1. There are parallels between the early days of desktop notation software and these current early days of tablet notation apps, and; 2. Beyond sight and sound, there’s a third sense involved when working with music, which we’ve been missing for a while: touch. Read the full article →

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MakeMusic joins Peaksware; HQ to move to Colorado

by Philip Rothman on August 6, 2014 · 4 comments

in News

MakeMusicLogo640MakeMusic, Inc. announced today that they will join the umbrella company Peaksware, Inc., effective immediately. Peaksware is owned by LaunchEquity Partners, the same investment company who took MakeMusic private in April 2013.

MakeMusic makes the interactive music software SmartMusic, the Finale desktop music publishing software, the Garritan suite of software instruments and the open standard MusicXML music interchange format.

From the official press release:

MakeMusic joins TrainingPeaks, another brand already under the leadership of the Peaksware team. Each brand will remain focused solely on their respective markets of music technology and endurance training, continuing their long histories as industry leading brands.

Through a unique approach to deliberate practice, each brand within Peaksware develops software solutions and provides services to help guide people along their own journey of improvement and skill development. Whether completing a triathlon, learning a musical instrument or composing a symphony, the same strategy applies: set a specific goal, get expert instruction, perform focused practice and receive immediate feedback. This shared approach is the common thread connecting the brands.

Peaksware’s CEO Gear Fisher and his executive team will assume the leadership of MakeMusic immediately. Current MakeMusic CEO, Karen VanDerBosch and the rest of her executive team will assist with the transition. By joining Peaksware, MakeMusic will share best practices and gain operational efficiencies with the other brands within a larger umbrella corporation. The increased scale of the combined organization will enable additional investment and innovation.

Gear Fisher

Gear Fisher, CEO of Peaksware

I spoke by phone with Gear shortly before the announcement was made public, and wanted to learn how it was that LaunchEquity first became interested in MakeMusic. “My personal background is in the product development side,” Gear said. In his career so far, he said, “I’ve been involved in four different companies. In 1999 I developed a product that became TrainingPeaks, which is where I’ve spent all my time for the last 14 years. So I’m a pretty stable guy,” he said, adding that he’s married with a family. “TrainingPeaks is a software company for coaches and athletes to communicate with each other and to help endurance athletes train for an event.

“After 6 years of doing the coding myself, I knew that we were going to have to do something different,” Gear said. “That’s when I became involved with Andy Stephens, who was a customer and was interested in becoming an equity partner. We grew the company over the last 7 years, particularly over the last 3 or 4 years as high-growth period.”

Andy Stephens is now chairman of both MakeMusic and Peaksware. In addition to those ventures, Stephens is a managing director of Milwaukee-based Artisan Partners and a portfolio manager on its Growth team, according to his official bio. Read the full article →

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