Announcing the Soundslice sheet music player

Written by Adrian Holovaty on March 17, 2014

Since PJ and I launched Soundslice in November 2012, our top-most requested feature has been support for sheet music. We've spent the last six months building that for you, and we launched it today.

Have a look at the demo. Here's a quick video I recorded showing off some of the features and benefits:

Lots of stuff is new here:

  • We now render sheet music (aka standard notation), not just tabs and chord charts.
  • Instead of scrolling horizontally (example of old site), the UI is now vertically oriented. This makes it much easier to see upcoming notes, and it's a much more natural experience.
  • The player lives in "music space" instead of "time space." In our old player, the tabs were strictly laid out by time -- if a quarter note was 10 pixels, then a half note would be 20 pixels wide, etc. That approach turned out to be too simplistic, as it resulted in abnormally small or large notes in certain cases, requiring you to zoom in or out to get a better view. Now, the music is laid out according to well-established sheet-music practices, which means there's not necessarily a one-to-one mapping between a note's time length and the amount of space it takes up. As a consequence, the playhead doesn't travel at a constant speed; it ebbs and flows with the music.
  • There's a "Synthetic" option that generates audio dynamically from the notation. Obviously a real recording is better (that's the whole point of Soundslice), but in some cases, like when you're trying to learn a single part of a multi-instrument recording, the synthetic option comes in handy.
  • Click "Settings" at lower right to control what the music looks like. You can easily remove sheet music or tab if you don't read one or the other, and you can zoom/scale it in case you'd like to see more or less on the page.
  • Overall, the notation fits perfectly to the size of your screen. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, gigantic monitors -- Soundslice does the right thing regardless of screen size. Our sheet-music engine was built directly in JavaScript/HTML5, which means all the notation is laid out on the fly for your device.
  • We've finally implemented a print feature. Just click the print button. Fun fact: the print version will use whatever zoom/display settings you specified, so you can customize the printed output the same way you can customize the interactive version.

There's no way to create these standard notation versions on the site yet -- that's next on our list. For now, you can buy transcriptions in this format from Soundslice Pitch Perfect. As for the "classic" Soundslice (the YouTube version), it's still there and kicking; we're planning to make a way to automatically migrate transcriptions from the old system to the new one.

More new stuff to announce today:

  • We've signed a deal with Candyrat Records to sell their tabs, and today we're launching tab sales for Antoine Dufour and Ewan Dobson. They're both insanely good guitarists and I highly encourage you to check out their tunes...and use Soundslice to learn them. :-)
  • Also, we've signed a deal with JamPlay, one of the biggest guitar-instruction sites, who will be embedding our new music player below their lessons. We're excited about licensing this to other companies and put together a dedicated licensing page.

We've got a lot of things happening and are now going to be focusing on building our business around this tech. If you're a music teacher, publisher, artist, or any other sort of music/tech person interested in using it, please get in touch.

Comments

Posted by Ersagun Kuruca on March 18, 2014, at 4:31 a.m.:

I love the new feature but I just tried it on my phone and it seems to be buggy and slow(android chrome). And when it works, it is somewhat blurry. So I guess you are using raster graphics for this.(canvas or sth else) I think you should consider using SVG, it would be much faster and crisper than this.

Posted by Adrian Holovaty on March 18, 2014, at 3:52 p.m.:

Ersagun: Thanks -- yes, it has that blurry look on retina screens for the moment! That's on my to-do list.

Also, SVG wouldn't be faster than canvas, as there would be hundreds of DOM elements on the page. Trust me on this one. :-)

Posted by Max Schmitt on March 20, 2014, at 5:46 a.m.:

Hi Adrian, amazing work! One of the coolest parts is, that this is responsive. It also looks beautiful. I watched your talk at 37signals yesterday and was super-impressed by the amount of attention to detail and dedication you put into this project before it became as big as it is now.

If you decided to do a talk or blog post about some of the technical details, I'd be extremely interested in that. For example - you say you can't read sheet music, how did you learn all the rules behind rendering sheet music? I imagine this to be a very complicated subject.

Anyway, thanks for your inspiring talk, I hope you have lots of success with this awesome product!

Posted by Aaron on March 20, 2014, at 10:15 a.m.:

Nice work!

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