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Posts tagged with “Notation/tab rendering”

Today we’re introducing a new layout mode for sheet music in Soundslice: Auto layout.

When it comes to laying out music in Soundslice, we previously had three options:

  • Fluid automatically calculates the number of measures of music per line to fit your current screen.
  • Paged treats the music as if it’s on a static sheet of paper, giving you control over line breaks.
  • Horizontal scrolls your music “infinitely” to the right, without any line breaks at all.

Historically we’ve used Fluid layout by default — effectively optimizing for small screens. But we realized that, on larger screens, Paged layout is nicer because it honors intentional line breaks and generally results in music that’s easier to read.

So if Fluid is better for small screens and Paged is better for large screens...why not try to find a compromise? That’s what our new Auto layout does.

In Auto layout, we’ll use Paged if the notation area is large and Fluid if the notation area is small.

In our testing, we’ve found that this feels really nice. Music in Soundslice is readable and “ergonomic” in both large and small screens, depending on context.

Our player now uses Auto layout by default. You can always switch to one of the other layouts explicitly if you prefer those. We’ve redesigned the Layout section of our settings menu to include all four options:


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 behavior for the time being — i.e., there is no “Auto” layout available, and the default is still Fluid.

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 — May 16.

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

Control over fingering position


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


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.


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.


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:


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.


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!

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?


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:


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:


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:


“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:


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:


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


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


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


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


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


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!

We’ve added the ability to color notes in the slices you create. This is nice for visually highlighting certain passages or helping beginners learn to read music.


Setting colors is easy. Just use our editor to select a bunch of notes, then open the color panel in the “Engraving” section:


For those of you using other notation software, we’re upgraded our MusicXML importer to import notehead colors as well.

For lots more information, see our new help page about colors. Enjoy!

Note that this feature is limited to people in a paid plan.

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?





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:


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:


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:


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’s what we’ve improved on Soundslice this week:

Shortcut tabs in the slice manager

In your slice manager, you’ll now see some handy filters at the top of the page:


This lets you quickly access the slices that you’ve marked as shareable, posted to your channel or marked as embeddable.

Yes, you can use it in tandem with the search — so you can search your slices for a keyword and then apply the filters.

Improved editor design

We’ve tweaked our editor’s design to add a visual “frame” around the music. Here’s the old design:


And here’s the new design:


The goal here was to create a clearer visual distinction between your music and the rest of the editor.

We’ve also made some other small visual improvements to the editor. The editor search box now looks more like a standard search box, to help communicate its function. And we tweaked the sidebar’s design to be a bit more consistent with the other parts of the editor.

Support for “common” and “cut time” time signatures

We now support “common time” and “cut time” glyphs for time signatures. You can create them in our editor, and we’ll automatically import them from MusicXML files. Read more in our help page.


Previously we automatically converted these to 4/4 or 2/2 upon import — equivalent but lacking that visual panache.

Improved synth sounds for piano and guitar

We got new synth sounds for the following:

  • Guitar: Acoustic nylon
  • Guitar: Electric clean
  • Guitar: Electric distorted
  • Guitar: Electric jazz
  • Guitar: Electric muted
  • Guitar: Electric overdriven
  • Guitar harmonics
  • Piano: Bright
  • Piano: Electric
  • Piano: Electric grand
  • Piano: Honky tonk
  • Piano: Standard

Of course, Soundslice is all about syncing sheet music with real recordings as opposed to relying on cheesy synth sounds, but synth playback is useful sometimes.

Improved video icons for touch devices

You know those icons that appear when you hover over a video on Soundslice? The ones that let you choose video quality, change position or flip the video side?

Previously these icons were only shown when you hovered your mouse cursor over the video — which meant people using smartphones and tablets couldn’t access them (because they don’t have a mouse!).

This is now fixed. On touchscreen devices, you’ll now see those icons at all times, except when the video is playing.

Fixed slice manager titles not to be truncated

When we launched our navigation redesign last month, user TastyGuitarLessons pointed out in the comments section that long slice titles were getting cut off in the slice manager. This is now fixed.

Is there a lesson here? Good things come to those who post comments to our blog? ;-)

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