Musonix Publishing

Don't know much about.... music practice software

I don't know much about music practice software.

I didn't write the Music History Handbook or the other books on this website. I just set-up the web site and am learning an instrument, so it took a while to start blogging about it. Why would anyone want the google notes of a home music student? Or posts beginning "Don't know much about..."? The answer is that there is no good Wikipedia page on music practice software, maybe because the amount of music software is rather overwhelming. There are dozens of apps just on Google Play. Most people could name about one two or three word-processors, but musicians seem to know half a dozen bits of music software like digital audio workstations. Musicians are such practiced, patient people that they write all this software, whether or not there's much money in it, and it's hard for anyone else to keep-up.

From my Roland DT-1 software, I know that this can

  • show the music to play, starting with something built-in, on moving staves (/)
  • add some other diagrams of keys or frets drum pads or such (/)
  • show me if I hit the right note, immediately, from either a midi connection or a microphone (/) DT1 uses MIDI
  • slow down the music and let me practice the difficult bits over-and-over in some way (/) DT1 allows speeds down to 20bpm and allows snare-and-kick-only playing with those staves highlighted, and a way of making a loop between the beginning and end of a difficult bit, which it calls A and B.

Extras. I have ticked the ones that my Roland DT-1 does.

  • allow me to add my own choice of music, from free midi download sites or wherever (/)
  • find me some exercises and explanations for the difficult bits, maybe with youtube videos or diagrams or both (X)
  • find me music examples for different levels of difficulty that I might want to use (X) DT1 has some songs to demonstrate and get started.
  • one site - Gigajam -  even has cheap music exams up to grade 5 and will have browser-based instant feedback soon. (As I write in 2021 it gives you feedback at the end of the piece.) (X)
  • explain how I can record music off my recording of a local pub band or a youtube video and turn it into midi that the software can play. This is beyond any piece of software for drums, but there's software for getting keyboard notes into midi and guitar cords into chord diagrams and midi. (X)

Roland still sell this software but don't promote it so you'll probably want a copy from Ebay, and you can get a few pence of cash back if you click to them from a certain UK and international cashback site - the link gets both of us a few pence for signing-up as well. The link is to the .co.uk version but it has a .com .in and .cn version too. The site's minimum payout is next to nothing - probably 1p by Bank Automated Transfer System (BACS) in the UK.  If your earnings reach £5 you can get vouchers worth a bit more than £5 with a single collaborator such as Google Play, so you can buy the pro version of a Google Play music app without the adverts. A lot of them have a "contains adverts" and a cheap paid version without the ads.

I've put the whole business of music exercises and explanations into the "extras" bit, because I hope that playing music I like, and practicing the difficult bits slowly if they look possible, is the same thing. It's often the difference between a free or an open source bit of software and a paid one. The paid one comes bundled with loads of exercise examples in order of difficulty, and explanations of why they're hard; it's like buying an interactive textbook that comes with the software. On the other hand, some of the paid software charges monthly. You pay them, and then you pay them again, which can't be good value.

Music teachers are often close: I tried one of the closest ones, within a few minutes bike ride, for an hour a week at first. The catch is that if you're a slow learner then maybe the lessons ought to be monthly, even if you practice for half an hour every day. That way, they might be cheaper than some of the rented software. I also happen to live with an ex-music teacher, Paul Terry the book author, who suggested practicing for half an hour a day like clockwork, and not playing the same thing over and over; play it faster, or learn the difficult bits rather than skipping them.


Finding music practice software

Distraction
UK government had a consultation about English music education in about 2020. I wrote-in to say that taxpayers need a shallower learning-curve when we look for music practice software, and that it would be good if taxpayer-funded organisations helped provide that information. I hoped that something would crop-up. It's also useful for people

  • aged < 18 who schooling or an apprenticeship, but at some place with no cash for music or next to none. And anyone else related to government funding by being
  • very old and so likely to need a means-tested care home or
  • mentally ill or at reduced capacity or an
  • ex offender or using
  • council adult education services which might be subsidised for people on benefits, or an
  • over-priced bit of adult education on a student loan, or
  • somehow likely to benefit other taxpayers from using music practice software as a way of keeping out of trouble and calming-down and learning life skills.

In England there are Music Hubs set-up to fill the gap. They have survived a few years later, and councils are allowed to fund them to provide free music lessons, but councils can't afford social care so of course they shouldn't fund music lesson, but some do because they are wicked. Typing "Music Hub" into Gov.uk I see that the Arts Council sometimes puts central government money into these things. If it wants value for money,  I think it should require these hubs and their trade association to help taxpayers find music practice software which might even be free. Maybe there should be a grant for people to write more free an open source music practice software. Maybe I should look for Arts Council consultations and see if there is a way of putting this point to them.

I tried to prove myself wrong, by looking at things I remember online (because I was borne in 1964 so I remember old things) and typing "Learning an instrument at home - a guide to music practice software" into Bing.co.uk.

Abandoned
When DMOZ closed, a few musicians kept-up the Music part of it as MusicMoz which is still online, but the format is harder for them to keep-up than wiki software, and the "this category needs an editor" links usually still point to DMOZ. It's also harder to read; there isn't a table of how one bit of music education software is different from the next.

Abandoned: that reminded me of Wikiversity, which is never quite abandoned despite a zero budget. They have a new "jamming" section, written during COVID lockdowns, to help people practice together if that's possible. They don't have an easy-to-edit wiki where people can through in 2-minute's worth of information about the latest app, and emphasise that one course is for background information about music, maybe to learn after learning to play a musical instrument. "That's what makes this a course, rather than simply 'A How to Play the Ukulele' handbook", it says, even though it's hard to learn the Ukulele and, thanks to sites like Wikiversity, easy to find background stuff about music online which is good but takes-away the animal spirits of music unless you are doing them already.



Distraction
I was wrong in a way: musicmark.org.uk is a neatly-designed information site listing "music education for all children and young people". The assumption is that readers are pupils under 18, or music teachers. Something about those groups and their employers seems to rule-out any mention of practice aids, although Chorda gets a mention as do bits of software promoted by the exam boards themselves. There's a lot of the stuff that people only write-about when other  people pay for their time, such as policies and procedures for not groping children over the internet and words like "excellence" and "good quality" or "showcase" instead of "show". Like Music Hubs, this is a distraction from their not being enough affordable music teaching around.

https://www.musicmark.org.uk/resources/types/software/ 

Distraction
Looking back to the search results on Bing, the next few are commercial-looking blog posts about the top few teach-yourself-piano apps or the top few Udemy courses. The results a a bit better with "Teach Yourself" at the beginning of the search such as "Teach yourself guitar apps". These pages often write "some of our links pay us commission"; they tend to cover the apps that make money from monthly subscriptions or a higher price and can afford an affiliate scheme. My Roland DT-1 doesn't get a mention, with its one-off £30 cost, but Drumeo and Melodics with their monthly charges are mentioned all over the place.


References: 
https://www.bing.com/search?q=%22learn+to+play%22%22wonderful+world%22%22sam+cook%22 - mainly youtube
https://midisfree.com/download/sam-cooke-wonderful-world-mid/  - midi link might not work
https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/sam-cooke/wonderful-world-chords-258832 shows chords below

G                      Em
Don't know much about history,
C                   D
Don't know much bi-ology.
G                        Em
Don't know much about a science book,
C                          D
Don't know much about the French I took.
 
[Chorus 1]
G                   C
But I do know that I love you,
G                       C
And I know that if you love me too;
       D                          G
What a wonderful world this would be.
 
[Verse 2]
G                         Em
Don't know much about ge-ography,
C                      D
Don't know much trigo-nometry.
G                      Em
Don't know much about algebra,
C                        D
Don't know what a slide rule is for.
 
[Chorus 2]
G                      C
But I do know one and one is two,
G                      C
And if this one could be with you;
       D                          G
What a wonderful world this would be.
 
[Bridge 1]
    D                G
Now I don't claim to be an 'A' student,
D                  G
But I'm tryin' to be.
       A7                          G
For maybe by being an 'A' student, baby,
A7                D7
I could win your love for me.
 
[Verse 3]
G                      Em
Don't know much about history,
C                   D
Don't know much bi-ology.
G                        Em
Don't know much about a science book,
C                          D
Don't know much about the French I took.
 
[Chorus 3]
G                   C
But I do know that I love you,
G                       C
And I know that if you love me too;
       D                          G
What a wonderful world this would be.
 
[Verse 4]
       G             Em
La ta, ta ta ta ta... (history),
C           D
Mmm... (bi-ology).
        G                        Em
Woah, la ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta, (science book),
C       D
Mmm... (French I took).
 
[Chorus 4]
G                   C
But I do know that I love you,
G                       C
And I know that if you love me too;
       D                          G  D  G
What a wonderful world this would be.