Sibelius Tutorial: Drum Parts From Scratch

For inexperienced Sibelius users, one of the more complex (and misunderstood) tasks is to create drum parts from scratch.  In a couple of earlier posts I described quick and easy ways to add drum parts to your score – by using the Ideas Hub (Sibelius 5 and 6 only), and by using the Add Drum Part plugin.  However, there are times when you need to start from scratch and the video below describes a straightforward method for doing just that.

And if you’d like to print out a copy of the instructions, they’re here: Drum Parts from Scratch.  The written instructions also describe the method for inputting drum parts using your MIDI keyboard.



Tutorial: How to Convert Audio Files Using iTunes

If you ever need a specific file type for use in an audio editing program or other multimedia program, you may need to convert your audio file from MP3 to WAV or vice versa.  iTunes, which is available for both Mac and Windows users – can do the job for you.

When you import a CD into iTunes, the default import setting is:

  • Import as AAC (Mac)
  • Import as MP3 (PC)

You can easily check the format of the songs already in your iTunes library by switching on one of the View columns.  Go to View > View Options and check the box next to Kind. Click OK.  You may need to re-size the other columns in order to view the Kind column.

1. Change iTunes Settings

To change a song, from MP3 into a WAV or AIFF file, you’ll need to change the import settings in iTunes:

  • Go to iTunes > Preferences (Mac) or Edit > Preferences (PC) and click on the General tab
  • Click on the Import settings button in the lower half of the window

  • In the next window, click on the “Import Using” drop-down menu and select AIFF Encoder if you’re using a Mac or WAV Encoder if you’re using a PC.  Click OK and then click OK again to close the Preferences window

2. Convert the song

  • Find the song in your iTunes library that you want to convert
  • Right-click on the song and choose Create AIFF version (Mac) or Create WAV version (PC)
  • Be aware that some purchased songs are “protected” and won’t allow you to create a new formatted version

3. NB: Change import settings back again

It’s really important to change your import settings back again once you’ve converted the song, otherwise everything you import into iTunes from now on will be a WAV or AIFF file and your iTunes library will be enormous!

To change it back:

  • Go to iTunes > Preferences (Mac) or Edit > Preferences (PC) and click on the Import settings button
  • From the “Import Using” drop-down menu select Import as AAC (Mac) or Import as MP3 (PC)

4. Locating the contents of  your iTunes library

When you need to directly access the songs in your iTunes library, you’ll need to know where they are located on your computer.  You can’t just drag a song from the iTunes window into another program.

The location of the music files is as follows:

  • Mac OSX – /Users/username/Music/iTunes/iTunes Library
  • Windows XP – C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Media
  • Windows Vista – C:\Users\username\Music\iTunes\iTunes Media
  • Windows 7 – C:\Users\username\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Media

And if you can’t remember the above locations, you can always right-click on a song in your iTunes window and select Get Info. The location of the song is listed on the Summary tab:

Cool Online Instruments and Games for the Music Classroom

There’s a growing list of fantastic online musical “instruments” and games that are a great resource for teachers in the music classroom.  They can be effective when used with students on laptops and desktops, but they also work really well in a one-computer classroom with a large screen or better still, an interactive whiteboard.

Get Creative with Pentatonic Improvisation

1. Tone Matrix by Andre Michelle

  • Add (or remove) sounds by clicking on a box on the grid
  • Press the space bar to clear the whole grid and start again
  • Based on the pentatonic scale

2. iNudge

  • A layered version of the Tone Matrix
  • Create multiple patterns with different instrument sounds
  • Share your creations via email or embed them in your website or blog

3. AudioTool

  • The big brother of the Tone Matrix and iNudge
  • Add drum patterns, other sounds and change the tempo

Online Instruments

The next few online “instruments” are a bit of fun and would work really well with an interactive whiteboard.  Many don’t allow you to record or export your songs, so don’t go composing your masterpiece using these apps unless you’re notating it as you go!  The better ones allow you to play notes using your computer keyboard in addition to clicking on keys or buttons with your mouse.

4. Virtual Keyboard

  • A large on-screen keyboard
  • Includes alternative instrument sounds, drum beats

5. Virtual Piano

  • Another one!

6. Virtual Drum Kit by Ken Brashear

  • A photo image of a drum kit that you can “play”

7. Drum Machine

  • A loop-based rhythm generator

8. Drum Set

  • An online drum sampler

Online Music Games

9. Incredibox

  • A cappella fun
  • Create your own arrangement using vocal percussion, backing parts and lead vocals

10. Don’t Worry Be Happy game (Bobby McFerrin)

  • Another a cappella “game”
  • Also good for discussing arranging techniques
  • Activate parts in one at a time by dragging the part name across to the white area
  • Notation allows you to follow each part

11. Ball droppings

  • Physics and music combine
  • Draw lines across the screen to make the balls bounce and create different pitches
  • Good for interactve whiteboard

12. NY Phil kids

  • Excellent collection of educational music games for primary and middle school students
  • Create a minuet
  • Match composers or instruments
  • Beat Polly Rhythmic in the percussion showdown
  • Sort instruments into their families
  • Experiment with instrument sounds in the Orchestration Station
  • and more

MuseScore in 10 easy steps part 4: note entry with a MIDI keyboard

Here’s the fourth installment in the 10-part video tutorial series about free music notation program MuseScore.  This tutorial covers note entry with a MIDI keyboard and looks at the basics of playing back your score.  It took me a little longer than hoped to find time to make this one.  I’m aiming for a quicker turn-around on the next few!


Musescore in 10 Easy Steps Part 3: Note Entry Basics

In the 3rd installment of this 10-part tutorial series about Musescore, we take a look at basic note entry methods.  Musescore is a free notation program which can be downloaded here.  If you’d like catch up on the first two tutorials you can see part 1 (score setup) here and part 2 (navigation/the screen) here.


MuseScore in 10 easy steps: part 2

Here is the second tutorial in the Musescore series.  In this video, we take a walk through the Musescore screen.  In case you missed part 1, you can see it here.


The next tutorial in this series is coming soon and will cover the basics of note entry.

Musescore in 10 easy steps: part 1

Happy New Year!  Well, one of my new year’s resolutions is to post more frequently to this blog and I thought I’d start off by sharing a series of tutorial videos about the free notation program MuseScore. MuseScore is a good cost-effective alternative to professional notation programs like Sibelius and Finale and is being adopted by many in the education sector.

This series of 10 short videos will cover the basics of using MuseScore: setting up a score, moving around the screen, note entry and sharing your scores.


If you’re interested in seeing other how-to videos, there are a series of Sibelius videos here.