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The Soundslice Blog

Big news today: we’ve launched a new suite of practice tools, all focused on helping you make the most of the music you have in Soundslice.

We’ve been working for nearly 10 years now on perfecting our player — the core Soundslice experience, combining sheet music with audio/video for multi-dimensional learning. In our opinion, it’s the single best tool for learning and practicing any piece of music.

But beyond specific pieces of music, what about the bigger picture? How do you manage what you’re practicing, how do you stay motivated, and what tools can we provide to help your practice in a broader sense? We’re interested in zooming out — providing more connective tissue for your music-learning life.

Our new practice tools are the first step in addressing this. Here’s an overview of what’s new.

Practice lists

There are many parts to Soundslice, and you as a student can access content in many ways — from a teacher, from our store, from our friendly community or by transcribing or creating sheet music yourself.

Alas, up until now, these areas have been relatively segregated. When you log into your Soundslice account, there are separate sections for courses you’ve purchased, slices shared privately by your teacher, posts from the community and slices you’ve created yourself.

Now there’s a way to organize it all in one place.

Practice lists are a way to bundle slices together, in a specific order, for your own benefit. For example, a practice list could contain a handful of slices you created yourself, plus an Antoine Boyer etude you bought, plus an arrangement from Jake Estner’s channel.

It’s totally open-ended, and you can have multiple lists. You could have a “Warmup routine” practice list, plus a “Working on” list, plus a “Tunes for March 15 gig” list.

You’ll now see a “Practice lists” button at the top of every slice page (assuming you’re logged in). This is how you can add a slice to one of your practice lists, and it looks like this:

Screenshot

Every Soundslice account gets a free practice list called “Bookmarks” by default. Our previous bookmarks system has been migrated to this and retired. If you used that system, your bookmarks have been automatically imported into your “Bookmarks” practice list.

The ability to create custom practice lists is now available for any Soundslice user in a paid plan. (The Plus plan is the cheapest, at 5 bucks a month — a good deal.) For more on practice lists, see our new help section.

Practicing slices

Organizing slices into lists is all well and good, but we’re launching more than just that today. When you view a slice in context of a practice list, you’ll get all of the Soundslice features you know and love — but you’ll also get some additional functionality.

The first thing you might notice is the left part of the page — it’s a special sidebar only visible for slices in practice lists:

Screenshot

On smaller screens such as phones, you won’t see this sidebar by default. Open the sidebar by tapping this icon at the top of the page:

Screenshot

The practice sidebar has three sections, each of which is a brand new Soundslice feature launched today.

Practice log

The practice log is a lightweight way to track your practice history. It’s super simple and (in our experience) provides an extra bit of motivation. Don’t break the streak!

Screenshot

These circles represent the last seven calendar days, including today. (Today is always on the right.) For each day you practiced this piece of music, the circle is green. This quickly shows you your practice streak.

When you’ve practiced the slice for the day, just click that button to mark it as practiced:

Screenshot

Man, that’s satisfying.

The practice log on an individual slice only shows seven days, for simplicity. But you can access your full practice history (at least since you started using Soundslice’s practice tools) to dive deeper.

For more info, see the new help page on practice tracking.

Private notes

The second new thing you’ll see on slice practice pages is called private notes. This is a way for you to write down reflections on what you’re learning, breakthroughs on technique, your current best BPM, etc.

These notes are completely private to you. Nobody else can see them, even if the slice is technically owned by somebody else (for example, if you’ve added a community post to your practice list).

It’s a simple and intuitive system, and you can read more about it here.

Saved loops

This one is my favorite! Remember how we launched focus mode back in November? It’s the feature that lets you select an arbitrary section of music and hide everything else, helping you focus.

You can now save a focus mode section, so that you can return to it quickly any time. Essentially this is a way to bookmark a “slice of a slice.”

For any slice in a practice list, simply drag across any part of your notation to create a loop. Then click the “...” button at the upper right of the selection and choose “Save loop.”

Screenshot

We’ll automatically enter focus mode for your selected section of music, and you’ll be prompted to give the saved loop a name. By default we’ll use the bar range you’ve selected.

When you’ve done that, the newly created saved loop will appear in the sidebar:

Screenshot

Once you’ve created saved loops, it’s very fast and easy to access them. Just click any of the names in the saved loops section of the practice sidebar, and your notation will instantly enter focus mode with the specific loop selected:

Screenshot

Playback will automatically loop, and all other notation will magically be hidden — removing distraction and letting you focus on the subset of music.

See our new help page on saved loops for more, and enjoy!

The new practice homepage

And lastly: if you’re logged into your Soundslice account, you’ll now notice a new Practice link in the navigation:

Screenshot

This page is basically the command center for all of our new practice features. It lets you create (and access) practice lists, and it shows you your practice history.

Next steps

We’re excited about these new features and excited to hear your thoughts about them. Your feedback will help guide us: where should we take this next? Drop a comment below or contact us. Hope you enjoy the new features!

Happy new year! Here’s what we’ve launched and tweaked recently.

Control over fingering position

Screenshot

By default, our system automatically decides where to display fingering — above a note, below, left or right. You can now override our automatic positioning on a per-note basis. Read more.

Control over tuplet position

Screenshot

By default, our system automatically decides whether a tuplet marking should be above or below the notes. Now, you can override this. Read more.

Better editor support for smartphones

If you’re using our notation editor on a smartphone, you might notice we’ve tightened the interface in various places, to provide more vertical screen space for your music.

New workflow when starting with a recording

When you create a slice by starting with a recording (as opposed to starting with notation), we’ll now immediately take you to a full-screen version of the video. Previously we assumed you would want to upload notation, so the video remained small.

Our intent with this change is to make it easier to throw a quick YouTube link into Soundslice, for quick practicing (e.g., slowdown and looping) without syncing notation.

Partial support for colored fingering and colored text

We improved our MusicXML importer so that we’ll use any custom colors you’ve used for fingerings or text. We haven’t yet improved our editor to allow for setting these colors directly, but at least there’s a half-solution now!

Keyboard shortcuts to change player speed

You can now use the (somewhat standard) keyboard shortcuts > and < to change playback speed in our player. Read more.

Waveform now allows for moving the selection

In our waveform view — both the standalone version and in the syncpoint editor — you can now click and drag a selection to move it left or right. Previously dragging on the selection would clear it and create a new one.

Assorted editor improvements

We’re always making tweaks and fixes based on your feedback (thanks to all people who make suggestions!). Here are some highlights of what’s changed in the editor recently:

  • You can now click the slice title to rename it.
  • If you upload a notation file, we’ll now automatically set the slice title. (But not if you’ve manually set the title before uploading.)
  • In the touchscreen interface, there’s a new “Select bar” feature.
  • Selection edges are now draggable. This works nicely with the previous “Select bar” feature on touchscreen devices.
  • It’s quicker to switch between edit and view mode. Previously there was a dropdown menu containing “Editing” and “Practicing.” Now it’s a simple “Edit” vs. “View” button, requiring fewer clicks.
  • We’ve added editor commands for 64th, 128th and 256th notes. (These functions are available in editor search.) It was already possible to use these small note values via our “Decrease duration” function, but these additional methods should make it easier to find.

Assorted rendering improvements

We’ve made many improvements to how music looks in Soundslice. As always, there’s nothing you need to do to take advantage of these; the improvements apply automatically to everything on our site. Highlights:

  • Accidentals are now right-aligned (previously they were left-aligned), and there’s now a consistent distance between an accidental and it notehead. This is very subtle stuff but hopefully makes the music feel nicer to read.
  • Ghost note parentheses no longer collide with dots, accidentals or fingerings.
  • Slide (gliss) lines in notation now always have a minimum width. Previously they could be comically small in some cases.
  • Arpeggio markings (the squiggly lines) are positioned better. Previously they were a bit too far to the left.
  • Bar numbers are now hidden at the start of a new passage. You can override this by specifying a manual bar number.

Percussionists, rejoice! Soundslice now natively supports sticking.

Screenshot

Sticking instructions tell a percussionist which hand to use when performing a given note. Soundslice supports the following:

  • L — left
  • R — right
  • B — both

Per convention, stickings use an all-caps serif font and are positioned in a horizontal row below the notation. For grace notes, we’ll automatically reduce the sticking size.

Previously, people would use various hacks in order to use sticking on Soundslice — such as entering it as lyrics (yuck!). This was a problem because our system automatically does certain things for slices with lyrics, such as enabling lyrics-only mode, repositioning dynamics/hairpins above the staff and displaying a “Toggle lyrics” button in the Instrument appearance settings. Stickings are not lyrics, and they deserve their own special treatment.

Here’s why our sticking feature is great:

1. Entry is very quick. In our editor, just open the sticking tool and type L or R. No need to hold Shift; we’ll capitalize it automatically. Hit spacebar to go to the next note.

Screenshot

2. We import them automatically. To those of you creating slices by importing them from other notation programs: we’ve improved our MusicXML importer to detect stickings. We look for text such as “L” or “R” in percussion staves and automatically treat this as sticking instead of boring “plain text.”

3. Stickings can be dynamically shown or hidden. If a slice has stickings, the “Instrument appearance” settings will include a button that lets you quickly toggle them:

Screenshot

This works the same as fingering, tablature, lyrics, etc. It’s the power of our “living sheet music.”

4. Stickings are treated as semantic data. Our system doesn’t just see the text L and R — it actually understands those underlying concepts of left and right. This opens the door for future features where we can use this data in intelligent ways. Stay tuned...

For more on sticking, see our new help page.

Here’s a big new Soundslice feature that will help you concentrate while you’re learning or practicing. It’s called focus mode, and it’s a way to hide all music except what you’re working on.

Screenshot

It’s simple to use. First, create a loop over the area you want to focus on — either by dragging across the notes (on devices with a mouse) or clicking the loop icon. Then click the “...” icon at the top right of the selection and choose “Focus on this.”

Soundslice will immediately hide all the notation except the bars you’ve selected. What’s more, the associated audio/video will be cropped precisely to the selected bars, no matter whether you’re using audio, video or synthetic playback.

This means you can practice this section of music without being distracted by other parts, and you don’t have to worry about the playhead going outside of the area you care about. Less futzing, more practicing.

There’s some heavy-duty stuff happening here behind the scenes, thanks to our many-year investment in making a state-of-the-art web sheet-music rendering engine. Focus mode treats your focused music as if it’s a standalone piece. This means:

  • It’ll start with the appropriate clef, key signature and time signature.
  • It’ll be laid out nicely across your screen. (This is especially useful on small screens!)
  • Any notations that extend into or out of your focused area will be automatically, and gracefully, dealt with — such as slurs, ties, hairpins and ottava (8va) markings.
  • All the parts of our player that automatically react to your notation — from the visual fretboard (which looks at your tab’s maximum fret number to decide its size) to the instrument appearance menu (which looks at the types of notations used in your music in order to provide options on showing/hiding things) — will take focus mode into account.

For more details on focus mode, see our new help page.

Focus mode is now available on any piece of music on Soundslice. It’s absolutely free to use, even if you’re not logged in. It’s also available for all embeds for people in our Licensing plan. Enjoy, and may your practice be ever more efficient!

We’ve redesigned the way loops look, with the goal of helping you focus on the music and providing a more elegant look.

Previously, when you created a loop, we used a light purple background behind the music, like this:

Screenshot of old loop design

Now, it looks like this:

Screenshot of new loop design

Instead of adding a color to highlight your loop, we now deemphasize the music that’s outside your loop. There’s a subtle fade on both edges, too; we tried to strike a balance between communicating the precise loop boundaries and retaining a feeling of connection to the rest of the music.

Overall we think this new design gives loops a more elegant aesthetic and helps you focus. We’d love to get your feedback on this change — please let us know what you think!

Notes for Soundslice embeds

For those of you who embed Soundslice in your own website via our Licensing plan, note that Soundslice embeds still use the old loop design for the time being.

That’s because, for big player changes like this, we have a policy of giving our embed customers a month’s notice, rather than taking you by surprise. This gives you a chance to update any help files, screenshots or other documentation if you choose.

We’ll be making this change to all of our embeds in one month — November 8. In the meantime, if you’d like to use the new loop design in your embeds, use the URL parameter newloop=1. (See here for information on URL parameters.)

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