MuseScore in 10 Easy Steps: Part 7, 8 and 9

OK, I have a confession to make: I’ve been very slack in keeping my poor blog updated. I have plans for a redesign and a new blogging regime (I think they’ll be part of my New Year resolutions), so stay tuned for that in 2011.  In the meantime, here is a catch-up post about the latest 3 MuseScore videos:

The 7th MuseScore video was uploaded back in mid-August and covered repeats and 1st/2nd time endings (also known as Volta brackets in MuseScore).

[Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVmXhlpOpa4%5D

Part 8 – all about creating codas – appeared at the same time as part 7:

[Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04XTa6IrzGg&feature=related%5D

I’ve had a list of possible video topics for parts 9 and 10, but the most frequently asked question via Youtube is “how do I create drum parts?”, so that became the focus of the ninth video in the series.

[Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFj7v5S4Akw%5D

I’ll be planning the next video – part 10 – in the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for it in the new year.

Audacity Tip: Previewing a Cut

Audacity is a fantastic free audio editing tool which allows you to carrying out editing tasks quickly and easily.

If you ever need to chop out a verse or other section of a song, you can do it easily in Audacity by highlighting the relevant section (drag the mouse across the blue wave) and pressing delete.  The section disappears and you can check your handy-work by playing back the song.

But what if you’d like to listen to a preview of the cut before you press delete?  Try these steps:

  1. Select the part of the song you’d like to cut out.  You can click-drag your mouse over the relevant section to select it.
  2. Fine-tune your selection if necessary by hovering your mouse at either end of the selected area.  You mouse pointer will turn into a hand and you can click and drag to adjust the size of the grey area. 

    Fine-tune your selection

  3. To listen to a preview of the cut you’re about to make, press the letter C.  Audacity will play 1 second of the song before the cut, and 1 second after the cut – as if the selected area is not there.
  4. If you like what you hear, press Delete.  The selected area will disappear and the two remaining sections will join up automatically.

Give Your (Muse)Scores A Social Life

In keeping with current web2.0 trends for sharing and collaboration, the hard-working people behind free, open-source notation program MuseScore have been working on a new website which allows you to upload and share your MuseScore creations with the world.

The popularity of MuseScore is steadily increasing and downloads of the program reached a record level of more than 40,000 for the month of June in 2010.  The new site – www.musescore.com – is currently in an beta stage, but there are big things ahead.

Signing up for the site allows you to create a personal profile and then upload your own scores or browse the scores of other MuseScore users from around the world.  You can filter the uploaded scores by genre, instruments used or language.

Clicking on a score title takes you to takes you to the score page where you can view, playback or download the music.  You can also see detailed information including the instrumental parts, the duration of the piece, the number of pages in the printed score, key and number of bars.

Users can upload scores in two ways: from inside MuseScore itself (File > Save Online) or by going straight to musescore.com and clicking the Upload button.  Composers and arrangers are also able to assign a Creative Commons license to their work if desired, allowing viewers to use or “remix” their work.

One of the best features of www.musescore.com is that scores can be downloaded in a variety of formats, including MuseScore files, pdf, MusicXML (to allow import into other notation programs like Sibelius or Finale) and even MIDI.

The site has some great implications for educators: students can upload their scores and share them with classmates for feedback or collaboration.  You can also opt to keep your scores private which makes the site a good choice for online backup or storage of your work.

Although the site is in beta stage, the MuseScore people have been kind enough to allow readers of this blog a sneak peak at what’s in store.  Visit http://musescore.com/user/register and use the invitation code MIDNIGHTMUSIC

But be quick – this invitation code will expire in a couple of days.

If you would like to download MuseScore, visit www.musescore.org

Making Effective Tutorial Videos: Behind the scenes of a Screencast

I’ve been creating “how-to” style video tutorials (“screencasts”) about music software programs for a number of months now.  Whilst I would not consider myself an expert, I do receive some lovely compliments about the clarity and style of the videos I make.  I also receive regular questions about how I go about making them and which software program/s I use.

I thought it might be useful to put this information in a blog post in case there are educators out there who would like to have a go at screencasting, but don’t know where to start.  The information here will relate to the general approach I use, and sequential steps taken to create screencasts, rather than specifics about how to use a screencasting program.

Before starting: choose your screencasting style

The first thing is to choose which style of screencast you’d like to make.  When I talk about style here, I’m referring to choosing between the following:

  • planned, organised, succinct screencasts which require a decent investment of time (a couple of hours or more)
  • off-the-cuff, casual screencasts which contain some “ums and ahs” and fewer effects

My own style choice is the first one: scripted and edited as tightly as possible so that’s what I’ll be discussing in this post.  The off-the-cuff style needs less explanation: think about what you’re going to explain, practise it a couple of times and record what you’re doing on the screen, talking it about it as you go.

1. Plan and practise

The first thing I do is decide the main aim of my video tutorial, and think about how best to explain that concept.  At this stage I might run through the steps on the software program that is the subject of the tutorial, taking note of the necessary sequence of events.

2. Script the tutorial

I write out my script in full, word for word, including any shortcuts I’m going to mention.  I like to stick to videos that are 5 minutes or less in length, so I make sure that the script is no longer than 1-2 pages long.

3. Record voice-over

I choose to record my voice-over in the free program Audacity, because I find there’s more flexibility in editing the audio track there than in the screencasting program itself.  I use a USB mic (a Blue Snowball) with a MacBookPro and my “recording studio” is my children’s bedroom which is located at the back of the house.  When I read the script, I make sure that I speak more slowly (with pauses) when describing menus and sub-menus (as in “go to File > Export > Export audio”) since I’ll need to match my mouse movements with the audio later on.  I also try to leave a nice amount of space between paragraphs or sections.  The extra space makes synching the audio and visuals easier within the screencasting program.

4. Edit the voice-over

Still in Audacity, I edit the voice-over removing slip-ups, ums, ahs, cars driving past and so on, but I leave in the spaces in between sections.  I also boost the sound by running the Normalize effect (go to Effect > Normalize).

5. Export the audio

The next step is to export the voice-over track from Audacity using a format that will be accepted by the screencasting program.  I’m using Screenflow on a Mac, so I export the audio as an AIFF file.  PC users would likely choose WAV.  At this point I also set up a folder on my hard drive that will contain all the necessary bits and pieces for this video tutorial, and make sure that my exported audio file goes straight into that folder.

6. Record the visuals

This is the part where I record the visual part of the tutorial – the screen recording.  I do this in the screencasting program Screenflow which is for Mac users only.  Camtasia is an excellent option for PC users (they also do a Mac version) and Jing is a good free option for both platforms.  It’s a good idea to keep mouse movements to a minimum when you record: don’t use the mouse to make repeated circles around an object or a button on the screen because it’s very distracting for the viewer!  It’s also a good idea to try to move the mouse smoothly and deliberately from one object or menu item to another so that the viewer’s eyes can track the movement.   Later in the process, you can draw attention to the mouse and other items on the screen by using some of the inbuilt video effects in your screencasting program.

7. Gather all media in the screencasting program

Gather together all the media (such as images and music) you might use in your screencast and add it to the folder you set up earlier.  Then, import your audio (voice-over) track and the other media into the screencasting program.

8. Editing #1: Synch the audio and visuals together

This is perhaps the most time-consuming step.  I play the screencast and the audio track at the same time, cutting out (or extending) sections so that they fit well together.  I aim to remove any slow parts in the action, as well as any unnecessary gaps..  It’s best not to fuss around with effects at this stage. Just make sure the timing is right.

9. Editing #2: adding effects

Once the screencast is synched to the audio, I add in some effects: transitions, fade ins/outs and zooming.  I think the key here is to act with restraint.  Too much zooming may make your viewer feel ill and just because your screencasting program is capable of a swipe-ripple-cross fade transition doesn’t mean i’s appropriate for your software tutorial.  At this time, I also add intro and outro music and all text including opening titles, credits and on-screen instructions like shortcuts.  If you’re planning on making a few video tutorials it’s a good idea to set up a template which contains the music, title text and credits which you can use again next time.

10. Export

When you’re happy with your tutorial, you’ll need to export it in a format you can share with others.  In Screenflow, I export the video as a .MOV file.   If you’re planning to upload your video to Youtube, you can refer to their list of accepted file types.  You’ll also need to make sure that your video is 10 minutes or less.

And that’s it!  If you do choose to share your videos with the wider world via Youtube or another video-sharing site, one of the pleasant side-effects is that you can expect to receive gratitude and feedback from all over the world.

Musescore in 10 Easy Steps: part 6

Here is the 6th video tutorial in a 10-part series titled MuseScore in 10 Easy Steps.  Part 6 focuses on how to add new instruments to your score, as well as adding articulation and empty bars.  Part 7 on the way soon….

[Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQn-qlkMHLQ%5D

MuseScore in 10 Easy Steps: Part 5

Well, I admit that it’s been a while between MuseScore videos but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get 2 or 3 done this week (no promises though!).  Anyway, here is tutorial 5 which covers copying and pasting music, adding lyrics and adding dynamics.  Now on to tutorial 6….

[Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e55-YnhSk-s%5D

Quick Karaoke: Remove Vocals from CD Recordings

You can easily create your very own Karaoke CDs using the latest version (1.3.12 Beta) of the free audio editing program Audacity, which is available for both Mac and Windows users.  To download Audacity 1.3.12, go here.

Before we get started, you should be aware that removing vocals from a recording it not a perfect art.  There will always be some residual vocals left on the backing track, but once your singer is performing along with the backing, they’re generally not too noticeable.

Import Your Song

The first step is to import your song into Audacity so it’s ready for editing and there are a couple of different ways you can do it.

Method 1 (if you use iTunes to manage your music):

  • Open Audacity
  • Open the iTunes window and re-size it (or position it) so you can see the Audacity window behind
  • Locate the song in iTunes
  • Drag the song from iTunes on to the Audacity window
  • After a moment (be patient!), the song will appear as a wave file in Audacity

Method 2 (if you don’t use iTunes)

  • Open Audacity
  • Go to File > Import > Audio
  • Locate the song on your hard drive
  • Click Open and after a moment, the song will appear in Audacity as a wave file

Removing the vocals

  • Once the song is in Audacity, you can play it back using the playback controls in the top left-hand corner
  • To remove the vocals, go to Effect > Vocal Remover (for centre-panned vocals).  Leave the settings as they are and click OK

    Vocal Remover

  • Play back the song to test the results.  If you get a poor result, try running the effect again with different settings
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