As always, Soundslice has gotten lots of tasty new features and fixes lately. Here’s what’s new:
2017 NAMM Show
We’ll have a booth at this week’s NAMM Show in California. (Hall E, booth 1670.) If you’re coming to the convention, please drop by and see us — we love to meet our customers in person.
Auto-hiding of empty staves
Our player now automatically hides empty staves. If your Soundslice score has multiple tracks, and one of the tracks has no music in a given stave (row) of music, we’ll automatically hide that stave.
This makes for a much more efficient use of vertical space. You no longer have to scroll through meaningless empty staves for instruments that don’t contain any information.
If you embed Soundslice in your own site, you can disable this behavior with the new
collapse_empty=0 URL parameter, documented here.
With music that contains many notes in a single bar — say, lots of 16th and 32nd notes — you may have noticed that the Soundslice player would automatically reduce the size of the notation, to make sure all the notes fit in the screen. Otherwise, the notes would overflow the width of your browser window.
This behavior was unintuitive, though. Several customers had emailed us, assuming it was a bug because they weren’t able to make the notation bigger.
Now, we have a better solution. If notation doesn’t fit in the current browser window, first we’ll try to “smoosh” the horizontal spacing in that bar, to put the notes closer to each other. If that works, then great — no need to auto-change the zoom level. But if the “smooshed” notes are too hard to read, then we’ll resort to the old way, zooming out.
We’ve made many changes to many pages on our site to make things work and look better on mobile devices.
Of note, the score manager is much easier to use on smartphones, with more than a dozen usability improvements for touch devices and small screens.
Our player keeps getting better:
- Subtitles (if available) are now displayed on our player’s narrow view (i.e., when the video is above notation). Previously they were only displayed if the video was on the left of notation.
- If you spend a long time in the Soundslice player without reloading, you might have run into a problem where the video stops working due to the URL expiring. This is now fixed — you can stay in the player as long as you’d like.
- For touchscreen devices, we fixed a usability issue when using a two-finger swipe to zoom in/out. Sometimes this would inadvertently create a loop, depending on your exact finger movement.
- We fixed a mobile usability issue in the Settings menu, where clicking on an audio source caused a shift in the UI.
- The waveform display is now crisper on high-definition screens such as Apple Retina.
- Our “Print” feature now uses a bigger font size. The printed music is much easier to read.
- You can now disable the visual piano keyboard for any score that you own. Open track controls for the given instrument and uncheck the “Virtual keyboard” checkbox, then click Save.
- We fixed a bug in our calculation of directions (Da Capo, Da Segno, etc.) that happened in some obscure cases.
We polish our rendering engine on a nearly daily basis, so printing a whole list of recent changes would break the Internet. But here are the highlights:
- Fingering now uses a more readable font. We also added several bits of magic to the automatic positioning algorithms to make the numbers more readable within staff lines.
- Right-hand fingering (i.e., for guitar music) is now consistent with left-hand fingering.
- Tempo markings now put the text before the metronome marking.
- Ties now have better spacing for chords that contain the interval of a second.
- Same goes for ties that continue on a new stave into a chord that contains the interval of a second.
- We greatly improved the positioning of rests in multi-voice music.
- Alternate endings now have a more unified look, using the same numeric typeface as time signatures.
- Directions such as Da Capo now use a larger typeface.
- Palm mute and “let ring” are now larger and have a nicer dashed line.
- For slides into notes, the slide symbol no longer crashes into notes in chords that contain the interval of a second.
- This was a “long time” coming: we now support breve notes (double-whole notes).
Score manager / course manager
- You can now move folders! Nest them under another folder, move them to the top-level, etc.
- Many pages in the score manager now feature “breadcrumbs” at the top of the page, for easier navigation.
- After you make changes in the score manager, we used to redirect you to the main score manager index. Now, we redirect you to the folder/page you were previously on. Much nicer.
- The score manager now has a “Clear notation” feature for each score. This will erase all notation in the score, in case you want to make it notationless.
- The score manager now has a “Download audio” link for each audio recording. This lets you quickly download the MP3.
- For courses, you can now add “Intro text for students” — optional text that’s displayed above the list of lessons.
- For courses, we removed the ability to set a date for a lesson. Nobody was using that feature, and you can simply use the lesson notes or score title to insert a date.
- We fixed a MusicXML importer bug with accidentals in non-standard tablature tunings.
- We fixed a MusicXML importer bug with cross-staff beams containing chords.
- We fixed our MusicXML importer to detect segnos and codas that we weren’t already detecting (MusicXML has several ways of coding them.)
- We fixed our MusicXML importer to handle bad chord names as generated by Notion.
- We improved our MusicXML importer to detect bad ties in tablature — where the first note in the tie has a different string than the second note in the tie.
- Our MusicXML importer now detects a few other common ways that people specify metronome markings.
- For percussion music, we improved our importer to use proper sounds in the cases where we weren’t already using proper sounds.
- You can use our new
enable_print=0 URL parameter to disable printing for a score. Yes, you can already disable printing for a score in the score manager, but this gives you more flexibility. For example, one of our partners is using this to limit the number of times a score is printed by a given customer.
Soundslice is amazing for syncing notation with real audio/video recordings. But in some cases, a student might want to focus 100% on a video, without the distraction of synced notation. Or a teacher might want to enable our excellent slowdown/looping/navigation features for a video that doesn’t have music notation available.
Today, we’ve launched a collection of features that make all of that possible.
If you’re working in a Soundslice score that has video, you now have the ability to make the video full-screen, hiding the notation. This lets you focus directly on the video.
Just click the icon at the upper right of a video:
When the video goes full-screen, you’ll see a waveform below, which lets you make loops simply by dragging across it. (See our separate announcement about that.) And you’ll still be able to control the video’s speed, with the slider at lower left.
To return to the notation view, click the icon in the corner again.
This is a fantastic interface for learning music from video, in situations where synced notation isn’t available or you want to focus fully on the video. Enjoy!
Embedding notationless videos
Around 60 sites embed the Soundslice player to enhance their music-instruction videos. We’ve heard from several of these customers that they love using our player to sync videos with music notation, but they also want to use our slowdown and looping capability for videos that don’t have associated notation.
In some cases, sites have a deep backlog of videos that they haven’t transcribed into notation yet. In other cases, the videos just don’t lend themselves well to synced notation — e.g., they primarily consist of talking instead of music-making.
So today we’ve launched some tweaks to our player to make it useful for video content even when you don’t have associated music notation. Our goal was to build the best video player for music study — with or without notation.
Here’s what’s new:
- Our player now happily supports scores that have no notation. If a score has no notation but has video, Soundslice will use the notationless view we described above. Sweet!
- We’ve added a
notationless=1 URL parameter to our player API. If you embed Soundslice, you can use this to force the notationless view for any score that has notation.
- Previously, the score manager wouldn’t give you an embed code for scores with no notation. Now, it’ll happily give you the embed code for any score, regardless of whether the score has notation.
Put together, these new features mean you can use Soundslice as a general-purpose video player that’s specifically been built for music education. Use our synced notation if you can — we believe that’s the ideal online music learning environment — but if you can’t for whatever reason, you can still benefit from Soundslice.
Here’s something a bunch of you have been requesting for ages. We’ve launched a Mixer view on Soundslice.
This lets you tweak settings of all a score’s tracks/parts in one place. For each track, you can:
- Show/hide standard notation.
- Show/hide tablature (full tab vs. stemmed tab vs. nothing).
- Show/hide chords (chord diagrams vs. just names vs. nothing).
- Show/hide lyrics.
- Fine-tune a track’s volume (for our synth audio player).
- Solo a track’s audio (for the synth player).
- Mute a track’s audio (for the synth player).
All of this — except soloing and muting — was already possible by clicking track names to the left of notation, but that was a cumbersome process for people who want to make lots of changes at once. The Mixer makes it much faster and easier!
Here are some specific use-cases for the Mixer:
- Quickly hide the notation for every part except the one you’re practicing.
- Quickly mute or solo an audio track you’re practicing (if you’re using our synth player, as opposed to an actual audio/video recording).
The Mixer is available now on every Soundslice score. You’ll find it in the “Visualizations” menu — the menu that also contains the Keyboard, Fretboard and Waveform buttons.
If you don’t have a multitrack Soundslice score handy, play around with the Mixer in these examples:
If you embed Soundslice in your own site and want to disable the Mixer, use the new
enable_mixer=0 URL parameter, documented here.
We’ve cleaned up our site’s top-level navigation, plus the structure of our store. These are the kinds of changes that are not particularly sexy but make for a simpler and more intuitive experience. Here’s what’s new:
For logged-in users, previously our site’s navigation had three options: “Library,” “Teach” and “Store.” “Library” was for content you’ve bought or were assigned, “Teach” was for content you’ve created, and “Store” was our store.
We found that many people tried clicking “Library“ to access content they’d created — only to find they needed to click “Teach” instead.
Today, that’s fixed. If you’re logged in, you’ll see two links: “Your library” and “Store.” “Your library” contains everything you’ve created, bought or been assigned. Much simpler.
Previously, we had two online storefronts — a byproduct of how Soundslice has organically grown:
- Pitch Perfect — transcriptions verified by original artists
- Soundslice Lessons — video lessons
These had separate payment systems and separate visual designs — overall, a potentially confusing experience.
Now, everything has been combined into a single store. Pitch Perfect as a separate brand no longer exists.
To help you explore our offerings, we’ve added a filter at the top of the store page. You can filter by genre, instrument and type of material (video lessons vs. transcriptions).
If you’ve bought instructional material from us, you’ll now find a simpler, better-looking page that lists all your purchases — whether from the old Pitch Perfect system or from our newer video-lessons system. It’s all just the store now.
Here’s the latest rundown of Soundslice improvements:
Every score now has a “Waveform” view, which shows you a waveform of the audio/video. To activate it, open the “Visualizations” menu when you’re looking at a score, and select Waveform. (It’s the same menu that has the fretboard and keyboard views — formerly known as the “Instruments” menu.)
The waveform is useful for visual navigation of your audio. You can click anywhere in the waveform to seek to that moment in the audio, and you can drag across the waveform to create a loopable area. Zoom in/out with the icons at right. If you’ve used our syncpoint editor, this will look familiar. :-)
Note that waveform data isn’t always available. We might not have waveform data for a recording if its type is “Video URL.” And we don’t display waveforms if you use our synthetic audio player. Otherwise, all new Soundslice scores should have it automatically. Feel free to play with it in our example score.
If you license Soundslice to embed it in your own site, you can disable the waveform view with the new
enable_waveform=0 URL parameter.
Better video uploading
For those of you who upload video files directly to Soundslice: we now accept many more video formats, and we transcode to the appropriate web-friendly format automatically. Previously, we only supported MP4 uploads. Much better now!
- Our video player no longer assumes videos use a 16/9 aspect ratio. So, if you have a square video, or a vertical video, our player will use space more effectively, without letterboxing.
- You can now create scores with multiple recordings in which each recording is actually the same video. For example, say you have a video where you perform a piece of music three times, at three different speeds. Now, you can create a separate Soundslice recording for each snippet in that video — just pointing at a different timecode in it.
- If you change the volume of a track in our synth player, you now have the option of saving that volume. Just click the Save button that appears.
- A bit of intelligence: If your score has a “Da Capo” in it, and the score starts with commentary bars, the “Da Capo” will jump back to the first non-commentary bar, rather than jumping to the commentary bars.
- For pickup bars with triplet feel active, the rhythmic “ticks” (e.g., for our metronome sound) are now in the proper places. Previously we naively counted from the start of the bar, despite pickup bars having an abnormal rhythmic width.
- We increased the amount of space between notation and video, in the case when the video is displayed above notation. Previously it was slightly too cramped.
- We fixed the “Bar X of Y” display in the control bar to use 0 instead of -1 for empty scores.
- We improved our chord-only view to always display a chord name in the first beat of a bar, even if it doesn’t explicitly have a chord set. Previously, bars would be empty if their chord hadn’t changed from the previous bar.
- I thought I’d never live to see this day... Apple’s newest version of iOS (version 10) no longer forces full-screen video in iPhones! That means Soundslice videos work properly on the iPhone, in iOS 10 at least.
- When we’re not working on Soundslice, our free-time hobby is to make performance improvements to Soundslice. Lots of nice improvements lately: smaller memory use and faster rendering.
- We improved fingering rendering to prefer a “fingering next to noteheads” approach instead of “fingering stacked above/below notes” approach, in case of chords with three or more notes.
- We fixed a rendering bug where vibrato marks clashed with bends in tied notes if the tie-ending note has no bend and is in a separate bar. Got that?
- We fixed a rendering bug with dotted notes at the start of a stave that continue a tie from the previous stave.
- We now support arpeggio markings in staff notation. Previously we only rendered them in tablature. If your score had arpeggio data, it’ll now display the markings (no need to re-upload your notation).
- We fixed a rendering bug with bass-clef tracks that have lyrics.
- For tuplets over beamed notes, we now break secondary beams at the tuplet edges. Looks much better and it’s easier to read.
- We fixed a rendering bug with tempo markings that start in the middle of a bar.
- We changed the rendering of “dead” notes to use distinct notehead glyphs for whole notes vs. half notes vs. quarter notes.
- It finally had to happen. We added support for 128th and 256th notes and rests.
Score manager / course manager
- You can now rename folders. Just click the icon next to the folder name, when you’re viewing the folder’s contents.
- Search results now display each score’s folder, for context.
- Our notation-upload page now supports drag-and-drop. Just drag your notation file onto the page.
- “Move to folder” now works properly in Internet Explorer.
- When you’re looking at search results and move a score to a different folder, we no longer remove the score from the search results. That was rather unsettling behavior.
- You can now reorder lessons in courses! Just go to the course page (assuming you own the course) and click the arrows.
- There’s now a single “Your courses” page that lists all the courses you’ve created or are a student in.
- The default user avatar is no longer a guitar. There is no longer a vast Soundslice conspiracy to get everybody playing guitar. We like all kinds of music!
- We now support TuxGuitar notation files (.tg) natively.
- If you try uploading a raw Finale, Sibelius or MuseScore file, we’ll now detect that and will give you a friendly error message.
- For instruments with tablature, our MusicXML importer now supports notes in the staff that don’t have a corresponding tab note. Previously this resulted in some weird behavior.
- Our MusicXML importer now removes garbage such as square brackets from track names. For example, a track called “[Bass clarinet]” will now come in as “Bass clarinet” (without the brackets).
- Turns out lots of people like to enter text as “lyrics” in Finale and Sibelius despite the text not actually being lyrics. Maybe it’s a UI problem in those notation programs, or people just like the look of the lyrics display. Anyway, we’re now much smarter about this. Previously, we would treat this text as lyrics, but now we do some heuristics and treat text as “normal text” instead of lyrics, if it doesn’t actually appear to be lyrics.
- We improved the MusicXML importer to automatically transpose tracks with tablature for MusicXML files that don’t include transposition information — such as Sibelius. For example, guitar tracks from Sibelius now are correctly transposed despite Sibelius deciding not to tell us about the transposition.
- Our MusicXML importer no longer assumes voice names are integers — hence we now support multi-voice notation as generated by some more obscure notation programs.
- For MusicXML generated by Notion, we fixed a bug with accidentals in tablature tracks.