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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:

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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:

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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:

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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!

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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:

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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.”

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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!

As you browse through public Soundslice posts, you’ll now see a Related tab on each page. This gives you suggestions on other slices you might be interested in.

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It’s like YouTube related videos, but much less technologically sophisticated and with a lot fewer conspiracy theories. Hope you enjoy!

We’ve added a way to browse people’s public Soundslice channel posts by instrument — making it easier to find stuff to learn and people to follow.

Each instrument we support now has its own page, which showcases slices for that instrument.

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It’s really fun and inspiring to browse around and see other musicians’ work!

If this looks familiar, then you’re likely already acquainted with our genre pages, which work the same way.

And speaking of genre pages, we’ve improved those too. They now list the most commonly used instruments in that genre, as measured by Soundslice channel post activity:

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Click one of those, and you’ll get to another new type of page — the genre-instrument page. This shows you slices that have been tagged with the specific combination of genre and instrument. This is great for drilling down to find new musical material. Like jazz mandolin or fusion drums.

How do you get to instrument pages? One way is by clicking “Community” in the left sidebar of your Soundslice homepage, then selecting “Instruments.” (Here’s a direct link.)

Another way is by clicking the instrument tags that now appear across our site. Channel posts now include instrument tags below their name and description, like so:

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You can click those tags to get to the specific genre or instrument pages directly.

Instrument data

How does our site know which slices use which instruments? It’s all based on another new thing we’ve launched: Our system now has a high-level “Instrument” classification for each instrument in your slices’ notation.

In our notation editor, when you add or edit an instrument, you’ll now see a drop-down Instrument menu at the top of the screen. Here’s where you can tell our system which instrument that music is intended for.

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Our system already had two somewhat related pieces of data — the instrument name and the preferred synthetic sound — but these were loosey-goosey. Often the name ends up being something like “Track 1” and the synthetic sound ends up being the default piano even if the music isn’t intended for piano.

Those two other fields are still there, but the new dropdown gives you a clean, structured way to tell the system what instrument the music is for. We’ll likely be rolling out other features that take advantage of properly classified instrument data.

Here’s an improvement that should make it easier to organize the music you’re practicing in Soundslice. You can now bookmark any slice sitewide.

Previously, our bookmark feature was only available on slices that were posted to somebody’s public channel. Now, you can bookmark anything — slices in a course you’ve purchased, slices a teacher has assigned you, slices you’ve created yourself but haven’t posted publicly, etc.

To make this possible, we moved the bookmark icon to the top of the slice page. Previously it was in the “sidebar” area, by the slice description, but only certain slices have sidebars. Here’s what it looks like (the orange icon at top):

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As always, your bookmarks are available on a dedicated bookmarks page for easy access. The latest few are also available on your overview page (the main page you see when you log in).

Today we’ve launched a reasonably large redesign of our site’s navigation.

Why a redesign? Because our site has grown complex over the years, and it had become a bit unwieldy. Soundslice has a lot of different audiences these days — teachers with students, our community, our store, our embedding customers and people using our notation editor for self-study among other purposes.

In our old design, some of these audiences were served better than others. And it was difficult for new users to understand all the stuff Soundslice can do for them.

So here’s what we’ve changed —

New sidebar for logged-in users

If you’re logged into Soundslice, you’ll now find that most pages have left-hand sidebar navigation:

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This gives you quick access to the various things you might want to do — and it helps communicate the things you can do on Soundslice if you didn’t know about them yet. It also changes the feel of the site in a nice way, making it more unified and “appy.”

If you’re on a device with a smaller screen, you can access this sidebar menu by clicking the “hamburger” icon at upper left.

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New Overview page

When you log into Soundslice, we’ll now take you to a new Overview page. It looks like this:

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This new page gives you quick access to a bunch of things:

  • Your most recently edited slices
  • Your most recently bookmarked slices
  • Your most recently joined private courses (if you’re using Soundslice with a teacher)
  • Your most recently purchased courses from our store
  • The latest posts from people you follow in our community

We’ll only show you the sections that you’ve actually used on our site. For example, if you’ve never bought anything from our store, you won’t see a purchases section in the Overview page.

Previously, when you logged into Soundslice, we took you to your feed — the latest posts by people you follow in our community — whether you followed anybody or not. Now, the Overview page features the latest four posts from people you follow, and you can click Your feed in the sidebar to access the whole feed.

New slice manager design

The slice manager, which lists all the slices you’ve created, has gotten a nice visual refresh.

Aside from some aesthetic changes — such as tighter spacing, new icons and different typography — it also works a lot better on mobile and touch devices.

Quicker workflow for importing

Both the Overview page and the slice manager now have a new Import button:

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This saves some time for common workflows, such as importing a MusicXML file or transcribing a YouTube video.

Unified global search button

If you’re logged in, you’ll now see a prominent search box on nearly every page of the site. This will let you search either your own slices or community posts — you decide when you search, by selecting the appropriate option:

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Previously, if you wanted to search your own slices, you had to go to your slice manager first. Now, you can search your own slices from many other parts of the site.

New navigation and design for the store

The Soundslice store has a new look. We’ve given it a bespoke header, to communicate that this is really a standalone thing.

We’ve made various improvements here, such as including a consistent link to “Your cart” in the upper right, tweaking the navigation and providing quick access to your purchases.

New navigation on slice pages

When you’re viewing a slice, you’ll now get a contextual Back button at upper left, depending on where you accessed that slice from. For example, if you accessed the slice via your bookmarks, it’ll say “Your bookmarks.” If you accessed it from via your feed, it’ll say “Your feed.”

The header is also a bit smaller — providing more vertical space for the slice’s music itself.

We have some further plans here, too. Now that the slice page’s header has been cleaned up, this gives us a place to put other slice-specific controls in a consistent way. Stay tuned.

Notification icon always visible

When you’re logged in, you’ll now always have access to your notifications via the bell icon in the upper right of every page.

Previously, this notifications page was buried in the “Your feed” page and many people didn’t realize it even existed.

Note that we don’t actually change this icon’s display based on whether you have any notifications. We might do that someday, but for now you’ll need to click the icon to see the notifications.

No changes for embeds

If you’re using our Licensing plan to embed Soundslice on your own site, it will continue to look and work exactly the same way. Nothing has changed in our embedded player.

Feedback?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on these changes, plus any other suggestions you might have.

Every Soundslice channel now has an About section. This is a place for you to add a longer bio, along with links to social media profiles and other websites.

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Previously you could only specify a “short bio,” displayed directly on your channel. We still have that, but the About section gives you more space to stretch out and tell people about yourself.

We also noticed people had been stuffing social media usernames and links directly into their short bio — which looked a bit messy. Now there are specific spots in your About page for social media links, and they look a lot better than being stuffed into your short bio.

You can edit your About information in your account settings.

Here’s a roundup of some small improvements we’ve made recently.

General improvements to our site:

  • Videos can now go down to 25 percent speed, instead of 50. Hooray!
  • As you browse the timeline of slices from people you follow, if you press play on one of the slices, we’ll now stop playback for any other slices that are playing on the page.
  • Our violin fingerboard visualization can now be active for tracks whose notation is hidden.
  • Tenuto markings are positioned better in our notation. They’re now rendered within staff lines if appropriate.

Improvements to our notation editor:

  • When you drag to select notes, we used to display a box with a dashed border. We’ve removed this, as it was unnecessary and kind of ugly.
  • When you drag to select notes, you’ll no longer occasionally run into a weird bug where multiple things are selected despite you not selecting them.
  • When you’re adding notes on a staff line that has a currently active accidental, we’ll now assume you want to continue that accidental. Previously a newly added note would always use a natural if the key signature didn’t affect the note.
  • Slices can end in double barlines. We’ll now detect that when importing MusicXML, and we’ve improved our notation editor to allow this. (Previously we disallowed it for no good reason.)

Announcing genre pages

We’ve added a handy way to browse all the slices people are posting to their Soundslice channels: You can now browse by genre.

When viewing a particular slice that’s been posted to a channel, you’ll see the genre(s) the poster has tagged it with. Click any one to explore other slices in that genre.

Genre pages (example) have three sections: Trending, Greatest hits and Latest. The Trending tab has the slices that have had the most recent activity, the Greatest hits tab has the all-time best, and Latest is self-explanatory.

You can browse the full list of genre pages here, or use our search engine.

When you post to your channel, you’ll now be asked to choose at least one genre. Let us know if you’d like us to add a genre; we expect to expand the list over time.

We’re announcing a bunch of new features and improvements today:

Embed channel posts

An exciting new option for those of you posting to channels: You can now embed your channel posts in other websites — for free.

Each channel post now has an “Embed” tab on its page (example). Click that to get the embed code for the post. Then just copy and paste that code into your own website. If you’ve ever embedded a YouTube video, you’ll feel right at home.

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The embed looks like this (go on, press Play!):

This is our “miniplayer,” which is optimized for giving a quick taste of the music as opposed to being a full practice environment. It has a “View full version” link, along with a link back to your Soundslice channel.

Some ideas for why you’d want to embed a channel post in your website:

  • For bloggers: Easily share licks/ideas in your music-focused blog, so that people can hear the real audio and see synced notation
  • For course creators: Promote a course you’re selling in our store
  • For Soundslice licensing customers: Give your potential customers an idea of the high-quality music learning experience paying members get access to
  • For music teachers: Give your potential students an idea of the high-quality music learning experience you’re using with your private students

Strum directions

You can now add strum directions to your slices. These are arrows that specify whether to strum upward or downward:

To add this to your slices, use the new “Strum upward” and “Strum downward” buttons in our notation editor‘s “More notations” section. This works for music with and without tablature.

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Disable synth playback

Each slice you create on our site has synthetic playback active by default, regardless of whether you’ve synced it with separate audio/video. You can now disable the synthetic playback option, such that only the “real audio” recordings are available for that slice.

Some reasons for why you might want to do this:

  • The specific piece of music doesn’t have pitched notes (e.g., it’s only chord diagrams)
  • You want to minimize choice/confusion for your students/customers
  • You simply don’t like the synth playback and don’t see value in it

To disable synth playback for one of your slices, edit the slice, click “Settings” and choose the (new!) “Advanced” menu. This is available for all paying Soundslice customers.

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Update your channel posts without unpublishing

Previously, if you published a slice to your channel and wanted to make a change to its channel post settings, the only way to do that was to unpublish it, make the changes, then republish. That was rather annoying…!

Now, you can edit the channel post’s information without unpublishing. Much better.

Ability to put a course on sale

For those of you selling courses in our store, you can now mark a course as “for sale.” Previously, you could have simply changed the price, but that didn’t communicate that the course was on sale. With our new feature, the old price will remain on the page, crossed out, for context.

More info is here.

Loading indicator

For those of you on slower connections, we’ve added a loading indicator in our player. Previously, the notation area of our player simply stayed blank until it loaded. Now you’ll be assured that things are loading.

A larger default video width

We’ve increased the default width of videos in our player. Previously, they were a bit too small. The video will now be 40% of the player’s width:

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Although it’s always been possible to resize videos easily, by dragging the vertical line between the video and notation, this is a nicer default.

Introducing threaded comments

Today we’ve added the ability to reply to specific comments on slices.

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Each top-level comment on a channel post (example) now has its own “Reply” button. Click that, and your comment will get attached to that specific thread. This helps keep discussions nicely organized and easy to follow.

It also helps make sure replies don’t get lost. Previously, if you responded to somebody’s comment on a slice that wasn’t theirs, they would have no way of knowing you responded to them unless they kept checking the page. Now, there’s a new “Get an email when somebody replies to one of your comments” feature. Replies will get sent to your email and appear on your notifications page.

Finally, note that we limit threads to a single level deep (as opposed to deeply nested comments in the style of, say, reddit). This is to keep things relatively simple.

See you in the comments section! :-)

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