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….



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….


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 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.

9 ways to find extraordinary free images

Image courtesy of brettocop on Flickr

As someone who makes elearning materials, runs a blog, creates a monthly newsletter and presents regularly at conferences, I have a constant need for free-to-use images.  A striking image can illustrate a point in a way that is far more memorable than the written word.  I describe the images I use as “free-to-use” because they are almost all cost-free, but most importantly they are used with permission of the creator or copyright owner.

There are an enormous number of free-to-use images available for download on the internet and they generally fall into two broad categories:

  • Images that are in the public domain (the copyright has expired)

Regardless of which image you choose to use, you must check the conditions for use and/or licensing agreement.  In almost all cases you must at least attribute the creator of the image.

So how does one find these striking images?  Here are the search tools I most frequently use:

1. Compfight

The Flickr photo-sharing website is my favourite source of images and it even has a useful Creative Commons category.  However, there are a couple of other search tools that do a more effective job of finding what you need.  The Compfight site allows you to type in a keyword at the top, and limit your search to one of the Creative Commons licenses by choosing a category from the drop-down menu to the right.

2. Behold

Behold is another Flickr search engine which has an added search function.  You can type in a tag – such as “dog” – to bring up all the pictures tagged with dog, but you can also refine your search further by adding a “looks like” category.  Narrowing my search for dogs by adding the looks like “face” category results in close-up pictures of dogs’ faces.  You can also apply one of the Creative Commons license options to your search results.

3. Google Images – advanced search

Google Images is a good way to search the internet for all sorts of images used on websites around the world.  However, in order to refine your search to Creative Commons images, you’l need to use the Advanced Image search function.  Under “Usage rights” near the bottom, choose an option from the drop-down menu – such as “labelled for reuse” before you click on the Google Search button.

4. Pics4Learning

The site contains copyright friendly images especially for teachers and students.

5. PD Photo

PD Photo is a free public domain photo database.  The site also includes a few photos which are not in the public domain, so make sure you check the license that accompanies each photo before you use it.

6.Free Foto

Free Foto is made up of just over 128,000 free images.

7. Photos 8

Photos 8 is a collection of public domain photos & wallpaper.

8. Big Foto

Big Foto mostly contains travel and geography photos by amateur photographers.

9. Everystockphoto

Everystockphoto is a search engine for free photos which come from a wide variety of sources.  The site searches Flickr, Morguefile, Wiki Commons, photoXpress, stock.xchng and others.  It has a useful advanced search function where you can select the source of the photo, the type of license and even shape of image.

Creative Commons for Educators

If you’re an educator and you’d like to know more about Creative Commons, take a look at this excellent Slideshare presentation titled Creative Commons: What Every Educator Needs To Know by Rodd Lucier.

11 of the Best Free Sheet Music Sites

Sheet musicIf you’re a music teacher on a tight budget it can be difficult to find the money to purchase sheet music for the myriad of music ensembles, instrumental and vocal students you may have at your school.  It’s good to know that these days there are literally hundreds of websites that offer free sheet music and a large percent of the titles are also copyright-free so you can arrange, transpose or transform the original to your heart’s content.  I’ve listed a few sites below, but if you’d like to find more, just search Google for “free sheet music”.

1. International Music Score Library Project A collection of public domain scores and scores from modern/current composers who are willing to share their work.

2. Mutopia A collection of public domain classical sheet music.  Their collection of modern editions is also growing.

3. The Gutenberg Sheet Music Project A sister project of the electronic book-sharing site Project Gutenberg

4. Choral Music Public Domain Started in 1998, this site is devoted to choral music

5. Band Music PDF Library They describe their collection as “music from the Golden Age of the American town band”.

6. Sheet Music Fox has public domain music as well as links to other sites containing copyrighted music.

7. Free Scores like some of the other sites, this one contains a variety of public domain scores and scores from current composers.  Check the licence page for details of how each piece can be used.

8. EZ Folk Folk songbooks from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s printed in their entirety.

9. Sibelius Music A place for Sibelius users to share their compositions and arrangements.  Not all are free, but you can include the word “free” in your search terms to narrow the choices.  There are more than 92,600 scores on this site.

10. Mus Open A collection of sheet music and mp3s.  Mus Open are even starting a collaborative text book project.

11. Public Domain Sherpa Although the sites above offer free sheet music it’s wise to be aware that not all titles are completely copyright-free.  Public Domain Sherpa offers a run-down of many sheet music sites (including ones not listed here) and lets you know whether the music may be subject to copyright restrictions.

Image courtesy t8contempo on Flickr