Sunday, 10 May 2020

More musings on Musescore

In my efforts to convert all my scores/tabs to MuseScore, I've got a few tricks that I better write down for you and for me so I don't forget. MuseScore makes my tabs look so pretty:


But they don't look like that out of the box, so here's a few things I do so that my tabs look this great!

Stave Properties

Right click in any bar and select Stave Properties. I set up the instrument to be Acoustic Guitar (Tablature) and then tweak the defaults. If you need to go to Drop D or other tuning do that in Edit String Data, otherwise press Advanced Style Properties.


In Advanced Style Properties change the font to "MuseScore Tabs Sans" font size 10pt. Nobody ever complained for having a big clear font. However the spacing gets big so change the line distance to 1.75sp. Next click on "Note Values".


I set Font to "MuseScore Tab Modern" which gives you a plain "TAB" at the start. I then set the Stem style to Beside stave (which defaults to below) which is clearer than the tab numbers having stems. I set Minums "As short stem" as I find the double slash looks a bit cluttered. That's it for the Stave.


It's all XML!

A MuseScore file is of type .mscz which basically means "MuseScore Zipped", and inside the zip is a .mscx file which basically means "MuseScore XML", which is simply a text file that the program reads and edits...but being text, you can also read and edit it. Or hack it with tools and stuff. But generally XML implies good standards and techniques, one of them is the XML properties.

From File select Score Properties, I go for workTitle, arranger, composer, creationDate and copyright is my website. I also add a field called lastUpdate because I like to know when I created a tab, but also the last time I made some changes on it. File timestamps are not always meaningful.


What this gets you other than the files being index-able by "systems" is that you can have a page template that refers to these properties. So the header and footer of my tabs all have the following, repeated on each page.


Templates

XML naturally lends itself to templates. There are sooo many style options in MuseScore it is ridonculous. I had used MuseScore for a few years before I understood 10% of them, and I still only understand maybe 15% now.  Go into Format->Style and edit away, once you are done you go Format->Save Style, and in the future you can apply your template to any other score with Format->Load Style.  But this is only the styles - the previous discussions on Staves isn't part of a template, as with a few other things, I haven't quite got my head around how that works. Advanced Styles appear to have a template but there does not appear to be a built in editor, you may have to hack the XML.  But don't, the easiest way to create a new score with the same normal/advances styles is to save-as, rename, delete all, and begin from there!

But back to template styles, here are some important ones, in the Format->Style dialog:
  1. Page, Min. and Max. system distance.  This the distance between the first row of bars and the next row, that is, "system". I try to keep my tabs single page so I will tighten it if I'm chasing just one more system without spilling onto a second page. Tweak both these numbers and watch the results!
  2. Bar, Spacing. Again this is a great number to tweak to get your score onto one page, or if it's just two big to space it out nicely for two pages. Minimum bar width is also a good number to play with.
  3. Lyrics. Traditionally they go underneath, I have stuck with that. Lyrics are important because they help get the melody feel of the arrangement. Use Min. bottom margin and top margin to help with your spacing. Use Text Style -> Lyrics Odd Lines/Even Lines Y spacing to get the tightness you want - also applies to Chords.
And here's how I get my header and footer:


That's it for now. I will have to pop up some more tips about using MuseScore, I had a bit of a learning curve from PowerTab, and to be honest, I'm still not that fluent. MuseScore for me is reverse Polish notation - I think of the note pitch first then the note duration rather that the other way around so I find myself pressing escape and "n", "q" or "w" a lot...

Sunday, 26 April 2020

To record...

I just did a quick check against my setlist and what I have recorded on Youtube. I noticed there is a number of songs that I can already play, I just haven't recorded, either new or I just never got around to it:

Band On The Run
Hotel California
House of the Rising Sun
If You Leave Me Now
It's All Over Now Baby Blue
Logical Song
Rain
Why Can't this Love
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
White Room
You're So Vain

And there are some songs I have done work on but need more work to get to recording level:

Bad Moon Rising
Blackbird
Eagle Rock
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Fly Like An Eagle
Knocking on Heaven's Door
Pumped Up Kicks
Sweet Child of Mine
Tears in Heaven
Toccata (Sky Version)

What a slacker I am!   I've currently got 81 videos (65 actual songs) I should aim for 100! (This is a note/record to self to get crackin' :-))

Saturday, 25 April 2020

What's happening April 2020

The Virus has hurt the local music industry - anyone who was playing gigs can't, music lessons, stopped - it's not good. Aside from the loss in income, musicians need to play to audiences, it's what they do! I noticed a Perth local musician, Courtney Murphy, set up a live stream. The first once had techical issues but the wife and I tuned in for the second attempt. Somehow they had grabbed the reveley room at Perth Arena, their setup was nice, just Courntey and his drummer mate Chris. Courntey is the proverbial "paino man", will play piano and sing pretty much whatever you ask him to play.

I'm doing okay during The Vrius, so I threw him a $20 into his paypal and requested "INXS Never Tear Us Apart" which I figured he's be able to play.  Which he did, very nicely. (By the way Chris - you gotta sign harmonies man! ;-)) Skip to time stamp 1:19:00 for my mention:


Meanwhile, I heard another one of my youtube mates play "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and that was enough to make me finally have a crack.  I've spent a few hours with it so far, and have written it out in musescore, it needs a few last things added.  It's based on a few other arrangements, what I hear in my head, and around my usual style.
While My Guitar Gentle Weeps demo:

Sunday, 29 March 2020

What's happening Mar 2020

The Virus. Ah, The Virus. It was supposed to be a big month for my day job that would have me in the remote Northwest of Western Australia commissioning.  I was there for 4 days, and commissioning went well, but during our support coverage we were called back home, and I'm now working from home for the foreseeable future.

It does give me more opportunities for practicing my latest arrangements though!  I've finished arrangements for "You're So Vain" "If You Leave Me Now" and "Band On The Run".  They all still need practice though. I normally don't have 3 arrangements on the go at any one time, it's too much to try to push into my brain all at once...

I've noticed a lot of fingerstyle youtubers putting out "isolation" videos of their latest arrangements. I guess if you can't gig in public, it's a sensible thing to do!

Oh, I re-learnt how to solve a Rubik's 3x3x3 cube. Knew how to do it as a kid, had forgotten. It's like memorising a complicated fingerstyle piece, I'm sure it's good for our brains to mix it up a bit. One of my kids is keen to learn and we are halfway through the training. One is kinda ho-hum about it, trying but not very hard. The other one laughs at the very idea of learning how to solve a cube...

Stay safe everyone!
JAW

Thursday, 27 February 2020

What's happening Feb 2020

I've got a few arrangements cooking at the moment, "If You Leave Me Now" by Chicago, based on a video from Naudo, "Band on the Run" by Wings, based on a video from Jake Reichbart, and "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon, which I heard on the radio and it got stuck in my head. The ones where I see one of my mate's videos and then have a crack are often "more or less" what they did. These days I don't attempt to completely transcribe, but since they have done most of the heavy lifting I leverage off it!  I'm also continuing to re-arrange and re-learn "Never Tear Us Apart". It's getting a bit smoother now.

I find if I play through my learning pieces at least once every second day - not trying to nail it, just trying to push it into my brain - it works well. If it's just fingerpicking in chords, easy. I remember chord progressions pretty quick. If it is chords put you then pick around out-of-chord notes, not too bad. But when it is non a normal chord it is hard to push into my brain. For instance imagine F, thumbing the bottom F, but change the top F to a G. Or a C# maj 7th but with a G# bass. Or the worst one I have at the moment, it's a G7 but put an A on the third string.  I really struggle to get the brain to suddenly switch to those crazy shord, the 'ole CPU glitches for a bit before it throws the fingers out.

Maybe if you were a master of the fretboard, and every jazz chord out there made sense, you'd be fine. It's the bane of teaching yourself - you only focus on the fun stuff, leaving big glaring holes in your musicianship!  Oh well. One of these years I'll get around to it.

Oh, I've been playing my Esteve for 10 years now.  Time flies!  It's actually 18 years old now, being a 2002 model. Yep, it sat around for 8 years before I purchased it. It is still a great guitar and remains my main weapon of choice.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Did I inspire Sammy G?

I find Sammy G quite an engaging internet personality and quite often watch his videos when they pop up in my feed. I was watching this one and he mentioned he'd seen a cover of "Here Comes The Sun" when he was in grade 11 or 12, and then played a bit of it. It sounded _a lot_ like my cover, the timing is about right (I posted it in 2006), and that video has over a million views as it was featured back in the day.

The arrangement is basically a copy of an arrangement by John Keans, I changed very little. But he never played it on youtube as far as I know (I wish he had!) So... maybe I was there just at the right time for Sammy G and I didn't know it. There sure were a lot of other players who were there at the right time for me...the universal cookie jar continues to supply cookies! :-)

Check it out below, I've set the relevant start times for you.


JAW

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Tabs into Musescore backlog

For years I have been tabbing out my arrangements and transcriptions. It's part of my music arrangement process. I don't need to do it so much anymore, especially on songs that aren't complex. So I have around 70 tabs from the last 15 years of effort. In the early days I used PowerTab version 1. It was fast and I knew it well. But it had known bugs, was no longer in development, and as Windows moved through versions it was increasingly less supported (I have a Windows XP virtual machine I use if I ever need to make PowerTab changes).

So I switched to Musescore a few years back. It is fully featured, I'm talking fully. So fully that I barely remember how to achieve all the different things I want. I'm constantly googling it, and saying "oh, that's right". Which says to me that it is a tool that you need to use regularly, and it is not completely intuitive. I still struggle with the hotkeys, I find myself pressing escape a lot and "starting again". Its concept is great (it is more "strict" than powertab) and the flexibility is outstanding and the scores are beautiful.  So I'm sticking with it.

But now I want to convert 50 of my old tabs from PowerTab to Musescore. Musescore does not support old PowerTab, but GuitarPro5 supports both. So I managed to PTB->GP5->MSCZ. Unfortunately I need to spend at least 10 minutes on each to standardise templates, fix errors, that sort of thing.

"JAW, why haven't you been using Guitar Pro all these years?" I have tried each version, but I always liked PowerTab more. Maybe I was being a bit anti-change and too used to PowerTab. I've scored out a few multi-instrument parts in the last few years and I have more planned, Guitar Pro is very guitar oriented, so it suits me even less these days.

So there you have it. I've got probably ten hours of effort to get all my tabs into Musescore up to a standard I will be happy with. It's only my OCD that will eventually drive me to do it - I don't need those tabs anymore, and I don't get paid for producing them, so I don't need to!

But it is really nice having them all up to date :-)
JAW