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Posts tagged with “The player”

Here’s what we’ve launched and tweaked recently. There’s something for everybody in here!

Improved editor touchscreen interface

Since launching a touchscreen editing interface last month, we’ve gotten good feedback from musicians actually using it. We’re following up with some improvements directly based on that. Can you spot the differences in this new screenshot?

Screenshot

First, we’ve made the piano keys function as a toggle. If a note is selected and already exists in your notation, you can tap it in the piano keyboard (or fretboard) to remove the note. This feels really intuitive and was suggested by a few users.

Second, we added an “Auto-advance” button. Click that to enable auto-advance mode, which will automatically advance the cursor each time you enter a note. Handy for quick entry of single-note lines.

Third, we removed chord mode. It no longer felt necessary due to the previous two changes.

Fourth, we removed the up/down arrow buttons, to make the interface less cluttered. Those arrows weren’t really useful, as you can simply tap on the keyboard or fretboard to select another note in the current beat.

All of this is covered in more detail in our updated help page. Thanks to the folks who sent us feedback to help guide these changes!

“Pending” students in private courses

This one’s for people in the Teacher plan.

Previously, on the “Manage students” page for a private course, you could add students via email address — but it required the email address to already exist in our system. If you tried to add an email that didn’t yet have a Soundslice account, you’d see an error message.

Now, if you add an email address that doesn’t have a Soundslice account, no problem. The student will be marked as “Pending,” and we’ll send them an email inviting them to your course. As soon as they create their free Soundslice account, they’ll get access to your course. Smooth!

Improvements to student management

Another thing for Teacher plan customers: we’ve made the student management page more useful.

First, we added a dedicated page for each of your students, listing all of the private courses they’re in, plus all of the slices you’ve shared with them personally. (See our separate blog post about the new individual sharing feature.)

Second, we added a way to remove students directly via your students page. This is much faster than removing the student from each individual course or slice.

See the updated help page for more info.

Slice manager redesign

We’ve updated the visual design of the slice manager — the page where we list all of the slices you’ve created.

The new design has explicit links for “Edit” and “Practice.” We’d found that some people thought it was only possible to open slices in edit mode — with all of the editor tools taking up valuable screen space — so we’ve provided clear, separate links to both views now:

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To help guide your eyes to the right place, we’ve redesigned the slice and folder icons to be more subtle, and to add more color to the page.

We’ve also tweaked the filters at the top of your slice manager:

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The “Shared privately” filter is brand new. It lets you quickly find all of your slices that you’ve shared privately — either in a private course or with individual people.

The “Secret link enabled” filter is also new, but in name only. This filter used to be called “Shareable,” but that turned out to be a confusing name, given we now support private sharing with individual people — a totally different thing. Hence the new name: secret links.

And regarding secret links, we’ve also changed our editor to use this term, in the slice privacy settings menu. The menu now looks like this:

Screenshot

“Add to course” is now “Share privately,” as the sharing options in that menu option have expanded.

More natural playhead behavior

This one is subtle, but it affects anybody and everybody using our player. We’ve changed our playhead’s behavior at the start of a bar.

Previously, our playback engine treated the barline as the start of the bar. This meant that, during playback, the playhead would touch the barline at the exact moment that the bar’s audio began:

Animation

However, this meant we had an inconsistency. For the first note in a bar, the playhead wouldn’t visually touch the notehead until a split second after the note’s audio. This was especially noticeable at slow tempos and in cases where a bar’s first note had an accidental (hence pushing the note even farther from the barline). For super-duper-beginner students, who rely heavily on the playhead position to know when a note is played, this caused confusion.

Hence, we’ve changed our playhead positioning so that this is no longer an issue. The Soundslice playhead will now always intersect with a notehead at the exact moment that note is played in the audio — even for the first note in a bar:

Animation

Various fixes

Some other fixes we’ve made recently, in no particular order:

  • Improved automatic positioning of fingering numbers to avoid clashing with ties.
  • For people selling courses: We’ve added a convenient link to your sales stats from the edit-course page.
  • In slices with triplet feel, when dragging across the notation to make a loop, the loop background was sometimes off by a few pixels. That’s now fixed.
  • In our notation editor, we redesigned the sidebar to make the buttons larger on smaller-screen devices such as tablets.
  • In our notation editor, if you hit the Enter key while editing text, you’d be taken to the start of the slice — due to a conflict with our default keyboard shortcut “Hit Enter to go to the start of the audio.” That’s now fixed.
  • In our notation editor, if you deleted the last rest in a bar and had tablature selected, your selection would move to the staff. The selection now stays in the tab. This was particularly apparent in our touchscreen interface, which changes dramatically if you have staff vs. tab selected.
  • In our notation editor, sometimes tuplet numbers and brackets weren’t rendered when creating the initial track in a new slice. That’s now fixed.
  • Our player’s transposition feature helpfully displays the slice’s original, pre-transposition key, but it naively took the key signature from the slice’s very first bar — meaning slices starting with commentary bars always displayed the key of C. That’s now fixed.
  • When you share your slice on LinkedIn, it’ll now bring in the proper title.
  • When using non-YouTube videos in our player, looping is a bit more precise now. Previously we would pause the video for a split second after each loop iteration. We’ve removed that pause. The video looping is still not as precise as MP3 looping due to the realities of Internet video (see here for comparisons), but it’s a bit better than it was before.
  • We made some subtle improvements to our visual keyboard. If consecutive white keys are highlighted, we now make sure to retain a visual border between the keys. Previously the highlighted color bled across the keys, making the distinction between keys hard to see.
  • We’ve decreased the stem length of grace notes in our rendering engine. Previously they always used a uniform length; now their default length is shorter, and they’re even shorter still for beamed notes. This results in a tighter and nicer look.

Here are various improvements we’ve made to Soundslice over the last month or so.

New “Add recording” screen

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We redesigned our editor’s “Add recording” screen. It now has a nicer design and gives more appropriate weight/context for the various options.

New sidebar toggle design

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We redesigned the little arrow button that lets you toggle the sidebar when viewing a slice. Previously, when the sidebar was closed, the arrow would jump all the way to the bottom of the page. Now it’s in a more consistent and obvious location.

Clickable instrument names

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Those instrument names at the left of your music? They’re now clickable. If you click them, we’ll open the Settings menu and highlight where you can change visibility.

Better default beaming

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We changed our default beaming for 4/4 time. Previously, beams would break on each beat; now they only break at the middle of the bar. Thanks to YouTube sensation Rick Beato for the suggestion.

Grace notes without slashes

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Our editor now lets you create grace notes that don’t have a slash through their stem (appoggiaturas). Previously we only supported grace notes with a slash. We’ve also improved our MusicXML importer to detect this for all files uploaded from now on.

Use our handy editor search to find this feature.

Descriptions in course slices

When viewing a slice in a course, we now display the slice’s description (if available) in the left sidebar. Previously the description was only displayed on the main course page. It’s much nicer to have access to that when viewing the slice!

Here’s an improvement many have asked for over the years: We’ve greatly improved the quality of our MP3 slowdown!

If you use our slowdown feature for any slice that is synced with an MP3 (as opposed to a video), you’ll now find the slowdown sounds much better — making the music easier to transcribe or learn from.

Our old slowdown algorithm resulted in artifacts, jitters and overall unpleasant/distracting sounds. The new algorithm isn’t perfect — this kind of thing can never be perfect — but it’s a lot better. Here are a few demos:

We call the new approach “enhanced slowdown,” and our player now uses it by default if your web browser and device can handle it. You can see whether enhanced slowdown is active — and toggle it on/off — by clicking the speed and using the checkbox:

Screenshot

Note that you won’t see that checkbox if you’re viewing a slice with video (as opposed to an MP3 recording), or if you’re on an old web browser. If enhanced slowdown is turned off or unavailable, then our player will use our legacy slowdown algorithm.

On some older devices, or on iOS, enhanced slowdown might result in choppy audio and/or sluggish player performance. If this is the case for you, just use that checkbox to turn it off.

Another small improvement: if you change the speed during playback, our old slowdown would quickly pause and resume playing the audio — resulting in a choppy feel. With enhanced slowdown, the audio keeps playing during speed changes, and the speed smoothly transitions. One less thing to distract you during practice.

Read more about enhanced slowdown in our updated help page. And here’s a sample slice you can test it with if you’re curious.

Perfect looping

And another thing! As part of this change, we’ve improved MP3 loops to be perfectly timed. If you create a loop for an MP3 recording, the audio will be identical each time through.

So rejoice, percussionists and anybody else who relies on looping while practicing. This means no more split-second gaps between loop iterations. It’s a subtle change but personally I’ve found it makes a big difference in my own music practice.

This improvement applies only to MP3 recordings. We can afford to do some more sophisticated processing if we’re dealing with an audio file as opposed to streaming video. We’ve beefed up our help page on looping to point out the subtle differences in loop precision across the various types of recordings (MP3, video and synthetic playback).

If you’re creating instructional material on Soundslice and you want your students to use perfect loops, we highly recommend using an MP3 recording to take advantage of this. A slice can have multiple recordings, so you can offer your students both an MP3 and a video version as needed (see here for info on multiple recordings — it’s one of my favorite Soundslice features).

Enhanced slowdown and perfect looping are now available sitewide on any slice that has an MP3 recording. You don’t need to have a paid plan in order to use enhanced slowdown, but note that you do need a paid plan in order to add MP3s to slices you create. Enjoy the new features!

We’ve made several design improvements to Soundslice, mostly with the goal of making the experience even better on small screens such as smartphones. Here’s what’s new.

Consistent view-vs-edit switching

When working with slices that you’ve created, you’ll now always see the Viewing/Editing toggle at the top of the page:

Screenshot

Previously, we only showed this toggle in our notation editor. Whenever you viewed one of your slices (i.e., not in the editor), you’d see an “Edit” button at lower right of the page. That button is now gone, and our new design is nice and consistent.

Simplified player header on small screens

Previously, whenever you viewed a slice on a small screen, the top of the page would have two horizontal sections — our sitewide navigation and the slice information:

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This took up too much valuable screen space! On a small screen, each pixel counts. So we’ve changed it to use only a single header:

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This seemingly small change makes things feel a lot less cramped and more spacious.

Improved landscape mode on small screens

When viewing a slice on a small screen in landscape mode, you can now move the video to the left of the notation. We’ve also reduced the size of the controlbar, to give your music even more space.

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Native home-screen experience

This one is really nice for people using Soundslice on their phones. You can now get essentially an “app-like” experience by adding Soundslice to your home screen.

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If you add Soundslice to your home screen, you’ll get a Soundslice icon that lets you use Soundslice without any of the usual web browser UI (such as the back button or URL bar). It makes a big difference!

If you use Soundslice a lot on your phone, we highly recommend doing this to make the best use of your screen space. Read more in our new help page.

We’re excited to announce two new instrument visualizations in our player: trombone and trumpet.

As with our existing visual piano keyboard, fretboard and violin, these visualizations show you how to play each note in a graphical fashion. While our player plays music, you’ll see the visualizations animate according to the currently playing notes.

Here’s what the trombone visualization looks like:

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And here’s the trumpet visualization:

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For trombone, since certain notes can be played in multiple positions, we’ve added a “Set trombone slide position” feature to our editor. This lets you specify exactly which position the visualization should use for a particular note. Read more about it here.

For more on the visualizations, including how to enable them as a slice creator, see our new help pages:

Aside from the new Paged layout feature (which got its own announcement), here’s a roundup of other improvements we’ve made to Soundslice recently:

New homepage

We’ve completely redesigned our homepage. It does a much better job of communicating the various things you can do with Soundslice — we hope you’ll agree.

While we were at it, we also added a page about selling on our store.

Improvements to player’s settings menu

We made two small usability improvements to the settings menu:

  1. The “X” button at upper right will now always stick to the upper right, meaning it’s always accessible to quickly close the settings. Previously, if you scrolled downward within settings, you wouldn’t have an easy way to close. This was especially annoying on mobile devices.
  2. The background of the settings menu is now partially transparent — meaning you can still see a bit of notation behind it. This can be helpful when you resize music or switch to Paged layout.

“Replay repeats after jumps” feature

You can now specify whether repeat barlines are honored after a jump such as D.S. al Coda. This one will be appreciated by anybody who frequently creates music in AABA form. :-)

For more, see the new “Replaying repeats after jumps” section in this help page.

Visual improvements to Horizontal layout

We made two subtle improvements to Horizontal layout. Can you spot the differences in these before-and-after animations?

Old:

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New:

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The differences are:

  1. The music now goes “flush” against the left edge — removing that inelegant horizontal space we had previously.
  2. We now add a subtle gradient/shadow effect to communicate that there’s more music offscreen.

Accessibility improvements to player

Thanks to some user feedback, we’ve improved the accessibility of our player for people using it with assistive technologies. Various parts of it are labeled in a clearer way and we hope it’s easier to navigate and use.

Editor: Usability improvement for text entry

When you use our editor’s text features and change the font parameters, we’ll now retain your changes for any subsequent text you add. A nice little productivity booster.

Smarter transposition of tablature

If you use our player’s transposition feature on tablature tracks, we now disallow downward transposition if it would result in unplayable music.

For example, if your tab has a note on an open low E string of a guitar in standard tuning, we no longer allow transposing downward — because that low note can’t go any further down.

Fortunately our transposition works an octave in both directions, so you can always transpose upward if needed.

Improvements to mouse scrolling

Previously our player had some weirdness when scrolling with the mouse — especially noticeable when you tried to scroll diagonally with both horizontal and vertical scrollbars active. This is much smoother and more natural now.

New player JavaScript API methods

We’ve added a few methods to our JavaScript API:

Many people have requested fine-grained control over line breaks in the music they create on Soundslice. Today we’re happy to announce this is finally possible! We’ve launched a new “Paged layout” feature and expanded our notation editor to give you control over this stuff.

Historically, we’ve always automatically wrapped music to fit whatever screen size you’re on. So if you look at a slice on a smartphone, we might opt to put two bars per system. The same music on a larger screen might use four bars per system:

Screenshot

But in some cases, you might want to force a certain layout, regardless of screen size — to make the music easier to read (and more consistently layed out across devices).

Our solution to this is a new view called Paged layout. If you open the player’s settings menu, you’ll now see a new Layout section:

Screenshot

This lets you quickly switch between three layouts:

  1. Fluid — music wraps to fit your screen (our “classic” approach)
  2. Horizontal — music never wraps, it just continues rightward forever
  3. Paged (new!) — music wraps to fit a set page width and preserves your chosen line breaks

Our default remains Fluid, though we might change this over time, based on feedback.

When music is in Paged layout, our zoom feature will not rewrap music. Instead, zooming works basically like a PDF:

Screenshot

This makes it less than ideal for use on small screens, but it’s certainly useful in other situations. Importantly, though Paged layout makes the music look like a PDF, you can still use Soundslice’s big features such as transposing, looping and playback.

Setting line breaks

So that’s Paged layout. But how do you actually control line breaks in Paged layout?

Our new help page goes into the details. The quick answer is: Our notation editor now lets you add/remove line breaks. It also lets you explicitly prevent a line break — for cases where you want the music to be a bit tighter than our normal spacing.

And for those of you using Soundslice with other notation programs, our MusicXML importer now imports line break data automatically.

Changes to the print version

Our print feature now uses Paged layout to determine how the music should be printed. So if your slice has line breaks, they’ll be honored when you print (as you’d expect).

Changes to our MusicXML exporter

Our MusicXML exporter now includes any line break information from your slice.

Specifying a default layout

Those of your embedding sheet music in our licensing plan now have the ability to specify a default layout. Use the new layout URL parameter, described here.

For everybody else, we don’t yet have a way to specify a slice’s default view; it’s always Fluid. If you have some feedback on this, we’d love to hear your specific needs.

Enjoy these new powers and let us know how it goes!

Here are the latest Soundslice improvements:

New “Quick tour” integrated editor help

We’ve added a “tour” feature in our editor — an integrated help section that gives you a quick overview of the basic editor features.

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You can access this tour via the editor’s Help menu:

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We’ll also display this automatically for anybody creating their first slice.

Single-line percussion

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You can now create single-line percussion in our editor! This was already possible via MusicXML import, but now you can do this directly within Soundslice.

Read more in the new help page.

New design when creating slices

We’ve simplified and beautified the options you see when you create a slice. Here’s the old version:

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And here’s the new version:

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We’ve also completely hidden the editor sidebar in this screen, as the sidebar wasn’t clickable anyway. Much clearer and better looking now.

Tracks are now Instruments

Previously we used the term Track to refer to each instrument/part in your slice. This term was not as clear as we’d liked, and it was too easily confused with our separate concept of Recording — so we now use the term Instrument.

The player, the editor and our help section have all been updated.

Here are a bunch of improvements we’ve made recently:

Editor note dragging

In our editor, you can now drag notes up and down to quickly change their pitches.

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Great for making quick edits, and great for beginners who haven’t yet mastered keyboard shortcuts.

Editor support for more ornaments

Our editor now supports four new ornament markings: turns, inverted turns, mordents and inverted mordents.

Screenshot

See more in our updated help page on ornaments.

Smarter transposition menu for non-C instruments

For slices whose instruments are all non-concert-pitch — such as, say, a saxophone etude — our player’s transposition feature now displays the key relative to the transposed instrument. Previously, we always displayed the key in concert pitch, which was unintuitive.

This is a nice quality-of-life improvement for saxophonists, clarinetists and other players of transposing instruments.

Better positioning of staff and tab staves

Previously, there were some situations (particularly with bass-clef music) where the tab lines were way too close to the staff lines, making the music hard to read. This was dreadful and is now fixed.

Improvements to ledger line display

We made some subtle improvements to the way ledger lines (and their respective notes) are displayed. Ledger lines are now a bit thicker, and we now automatically reduce the width of ledger lines to avoid accidentals.

Here’s a before-and-after:

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The first note is a normal note, to show our normal ledger line width. The second note is our old rendering — note how the accidental touches the line. The third note is our new approach — we reduce the length of the line so that it doesn’t clash with the accidental. Subtle, but it makes it easier to read.

Fixed ugliness in currently selected notes

In our editor, we’ve fixed the styling of the currently highlighted note, to avoid ugliness with the note stem:

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The note on the left uses our old styling. The note on the right uses our new styling. Can you see the improvement?

Fixed annoyance when switching voices while editing tab

In our editor, if you’re editing tab and you switch your currently active voice, we’ll now make sure your cursor stays on the same tab string. Previously we had an annoying “feature” where switching voices would always bump you to the top string.

Fixed Safari problem when switching between recordings

If you use the Safari web browser to view a slice with more than one non-YouTube video recording, and you try to switch recordings in the middle of playback, we’ll now properly retain your position in the music.

Previously we had a bug where switching the recording would move the playhead to the start of the slice (annoying and quite disruptive to a practice session!).

Made editor’s “View” mode more accurate

This is a deep cut, for people creating slices with video but without notation. Let me see whether I can explain it properly.

If you create a slice with video but without notation (or you’ve set “Hide notation” in the slice settings), then anybody viewing your slice will see the video full-screen. That’s always been the case. But if you opened our editor and toggled “View” mode, you wouldn’t properly see the full-screen video — this “View” mode didn’t accurately reflect what your users would actually see.

This is now fixed. Our editor’s “View” mode will 100% match what your students see, in the case of notationless slices. (For the vast majority of slices, it was already doing the right thing. So if you read the previous paragraph five times and still don’t get it, there’s nothing to worry about.)

Here’s a nice new feature for those of you using Soundslice to teach beginner musicians. You can now enable automatic display of pitch names directly above notation.

If you enable automatic pitch names, anybody viewing your slice will be able to toggle them via the “Show pitch names” checkbox in our player’s settings menu. Here’s what it looks like:

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And here’s an example you can play with directly:

To enable automatic pitch names, edit your slice, open the slice details menu, go to the Teacher tab and set your preference:

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You can specify whether the pitch names should be visible by default or whether the student can opt into them manually. By default, pitch names aren’t visible or toggleable.

Of course, if you make any changes to your music within our editor, the pitch names will instantly update. Everything’s automatic and in sync.

We’d been surprised to hear from teachers who had been adding pitch names to their music manually — a tedious and error-prone process. Sit back and let the computer do the work for you!

This feature is now available for anybody in the Teacher or Licensing plan. Enjoy!

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