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The Soundslice Blog

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For those of you creating slices: We’ve improved “beat text” and “expression text” so that you can toggle the font, font size and italics.

Previously, beat text always used the same font, and you couldn’t change its formatting. Expression text was only slightly better — you could toggle italics on or off.

Now, you can style both forms of text using the same options:

Screenshot

This is available now in our notation editor. All existing text appears exactly as it appeared before (but you can of course tweak it now).

With this change, “beat text” and “expression text” have essentially been unified — begging the question, what’s the difference between them? We’ve added a Text section to our editor help page to explain the subtle differences.

Finally, this is just the first step toward more enhanced text in slices; much of this project was about changing things internally to make richer formatting possible. What’s next? We’d love to hear from you about what kinds of text improvements you’d like to see.

Using Soundslice for music that has fingerings? Now you can quickly hide the fingerings if you don’t want to see them — and toggle them back on at any point.

In our player’s settings menu, you’ll now find a fingerings icon under “Track appearance.” It’s a hand icon that looks like this:

Screenshot

This icon will only be visible for tracks that have fingerings within. See here for an example you can play with.

Why might you want to hide fingerings? A couple reasons:

  • You might want to make the music more compact and clearer to read.
  • You might disagree with them, having come up with your own (different) fingerings.

Note this fingerings toggle applies to both types of fingerings in our system — traditional fingerings (e.g., piano or violin) and right-hand fingerings for plucked instruments such as guitar.

If you’re creating slices with fingerings, you now have the ability to hide the fingerings by default. In our notation editor, edit your track and deselect the fingerings icon. Anybody viewing your slice will not see fingerings by default, but they’ll still be able to enable them on in the player’s settings menu.

A final detail: Fingerings will always be shown in our visual piano keyboard, regardless of whether you’ve toggled off their display in notation. Likewise, fingerings will always be shown in notation if you have the notation editor open.

Yesterday we hosted a Soundslice “talent show” via Instagram Live. (We need something to do with all this indoor time!) You can watch the archived video here:

We were grateful to be joined by some of our musical friends:

  • Mark Lettieri — Fort Worth, TX, USA
  • Chris Payton — Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Antoine Boyer — Chartres, France
  • Kaspar Jalily — Paris, France
  • Horace Bray — Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Landon Jordan — Atlanta, GA, USA
  • Michael Valeanu — Brooklyn, NY, USA

The show took the form of a variety hour. We asked the artists to tell us a bit about what life is like for them in quarantine. Then each gave us a performance (or a mini-lesson) and offered thoughts about what we, as lovers of music, can do in these times for the artists we care about.

Quarantine albums

In effort to add some light-heartedness to this strange time, we asked each artist to pick their “quarantine album” — that is, the single record they’d pick if they could only listen to one record during lockdown. Their responses:

  • Mark Lettieri: “The Ultimate Experience” by Jimi Hendrix
  • Chris Payton: “Live at the Cirkus, Stockholm” by D’Angelo
  • Antoine Boyer: “Beyond the Missouri Sky” by Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden
  • Kaspar Jalily: “Voodoo” by D’Angelo
  • Horace Bray: “Monterey” by Milk Carton Kids
  • Landon Jordan: “From the Mint Factory” by Mint Condition
  • Michael Valeanu: “The Easy Way” by Jimmy Giuffre, Jim Hall and Ray Brown

Moving forward and supporting artists

To end each interview, we asked for the best ways to support them, or artists generally, in this time of canceled gigs, tours and other work. On the monetary side, advice was to purchase (rather than stream) music you like, consider buying merchandise, and reach out to artists for Skype lessons (even to people who don’t advertise that they give lessons — it may be a new, enjoyable venture for them.)

On the social/emotional side of things, there was a call to promote kindness and to be generally encouraging. Musicians (like all people) are social beings, and without the regular real-world interaction that we’re used to from concerts or jam sessions, it will be easy to feel down. So don’t hesitate to reach out to an artist you love and to let them know it. If you see some inspiring musical content on social media, it doesn’t take much to say something positive! Challenge yourself to not scroll past something that you enjoyed without saying so.

“Be excellent to each other.”
— Mark Lettieri
— Bill and Ted

This past year, our friend Shawn Tubbs has been sharing ideas with his YouTube audience on how to break out of improvisational ruts when it comes to playing the blues. We’ve collected his ideas here and fully “Soundsliced” them.

A thread you’ll notice as you check out these passages and listen to Shawn’s explanations: He’s focused on economy of motion. He’s following his ear and laying out shapes that fit well on the fingerboard rather than chasing theoretical concepts. His ideas get a big bang-for-your-buck when it comes to producing creative sounds and playing with technical fluidity. This approach alone might be what you need to find some new ideas yourself!

Lick one

This first line gets you from the I chord to the IV chord with some spice. (Cayenne pepper, specifically.) Shawn describes the line as connecting three chord shapes: A variation of E9, C# major and A# major. In the full lesson video, Shawn explains how the two major triads are actually extensions of 13b9 chords — something he picked up while listening to Robben Ford.

Lick two

Here’s an idea for the end of the blues form as you go from the V chord to the IV chord. The passage starts by outlining tritones at the “fifth bird.” (Shawn’s way of saying fret 12.)

Lick three

Our friend Matt Sears beat us to the punch in transcribing lick three — we’ve embedded his slice here. The shapes Shawn describes connecting are an A9(b5) to an A+. (That’s augmented, not a report card.)

Lick four

In this minor blues groove, Shawn makes a slight change to a minor 7 arpeggio to create a shape that’s easy to move around. You end up getting some great intervallic tension with low effort. He then “rounds out” the end of the passage with a chromatic run.

Lick five

This is another idea to get you from the I chord to the IV chord, though Shawn says it sounds just as fine over the I. The concept is similar to what you hear in lick one — the 13b9 phrase. He mentions that he “thought he tanked” this idea originally, but on hearing it back thought it out worked out. A lesson to us all!

Demolition guided tour

If you like what you’re hearing from Shawn in terms of musical ideas (and acceptable levels of humor), we highly recommend checking out his instructional course, Demolition guided tour.

It has more than 100 minutes of instruction, with everything detailed in beautiful tab and notation. Shawn has a way of making his musical thinking approachable, and that shines through in this course.

Today we’ve made some big improvements to the way sheet music is displayed on Soundslice. The details are rather geeky, but the upshot is that music across our site should be easier to read and use space more efficiently.

Traditionally our system has used separate “margins” for various bits of notation. Things like chord names, tempo markings, directions and text have been positioned at the same vertical level — not necessarily close to the staff. Sometimes this approach worked well, other times it caused too much awkward whitespace.

Today’s improvements fix that. We’ve completely rewritten our positioning algorithms to be much more sophisticated.

The best way to demonstrate the improvements is by example. Here are several before-and-after screenshots:

Screenshot of notation

Screenshot of notation

Because Soundslice is web-based and draws its notation automatically based on your device, you don’t need to do anything to take advantage of these changes. If you’ve created slices, chances are they’ll look a bit better now. Just reload the page, and the new changes will take effect.

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