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track tablature (fingering) from musicXML format

lucbonnn

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How to play sax without knowing music theory and ONLY using fingering images ?​

www.playthatsheet.com/en
Hi, I'm Luc and I'm a very beginner at playing saxophone. So music theory is a pitty like for many people !
But, I'm also a computer scientist and IT expert for decades, so I've just tried to build a tool (non profit one !) to help me enjoy my sax and play tracks.
It is not removing the fact that I'll soon or later need to pay for a real teacher (I've already paid for an online course from one of these youtube sax player teacher) but at least I can learn dexterity, scales, and even play real track on tempo !


How I've done it? By using fingering images that are easy to play as ABC!

Instead of decrypting this unknown language of notes, rythms and weird traditional music theory, I simply fill the hole of my instrument with my fingers as the picture display it. Then, blow into your instrument and play any sheet in 5min !

What about the tempo and rythms ?
I've built a rectangle that stay blue for the duration of each note and move to the next note automatically.
And I've added a ****ty midi player synthetizer to get the melody in mind (for me as a beginner it is a mandatory point but not necessarily for more advanced player).

So far I was using it for myself only but some friends told me it was a very cool tool and encourage me to create a quick website and share it to the world. That's what I've done this week.
No, it is not an ads or a commercial for my website, it is free and I pay the hosting myself and there is no fee at all :)

So I post it here (as suggested by one of the forum admin) with the aim some of you will try it and enjoy it for there daily usage !

The feature I use the most is :
  • I upload a musicXML file (or pick up one of existing one on the site)
  • I click on "page setup" and click on "beginner" green button and the algorithm calculate the tempo for me to let me be able to play for example Madness one step beyond or take five in a very low tempo !
Impossible so far to play it in 150bpm for me :)
But with time, effort, the right reed and maybe some additional pro teacher advice I'll get to it :)

Feel free to comment here and/or contact me. Have a very nice day

www.playthatsheet.com/en


If you are on smartphone, it is better to use the already mounted youtube video like this one :
bella ciao fingering - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeYuWjGzxao&t=0s

Personnally I use my computer or my ipad pro.
 

Wade Cornell

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If a beginning student only wishes to learn to play a few written tunes this is certainly a shortcut and can have them playing those tunes probably quicker than learning to read music. When reading music our brains must make a translation of the written note to those finger positions. Your system eliminates that translation, but it's still a visual to mechanical system that doesn't encourage or take into account hearing what you're trying to play. If however the student wishes to progress to reading sheet music they will still need to develop that skill...nothing saved. If there is a desire to improvise this won't help in the same way that reading music well doesn't necessarily make for a good creative improviser. Advanced readers can hear notes or full lines that are written before they play it, which still doesn't mean they can improvise.

Reading music is a totally logical linear system whereas the fingering on a saxophone isn't.

I'm reminded of toy children's keyboards that used colors instead of notes so that a child could "read" by just recognizing the color and play the right note for a simple tune. Likewise, it didn't teach them to read music or play anything by ear. At best it gave them a bit of satisfaction and maybe encouraged them to go further in music.

All systems that use visual messaging to get us to physically act to make a sound are useful for reproducing music. Your system does this very directly, but has the same problem as learning to read...you can't hear what you are playing until after the note comes out. My recommendation to all players of any instrument is to use a system like Suzuki, which encourages playing initially by ear and making that vital connection between what you wish to hear and making that happen with your instrument. The ultimate goal is to play as you would sing...it's a part of you. This doesn't preclude learning to read music or learn theory, it enhances those aspects as you are no longer just reacting to a visual stimulus in a mechanical way, you can hear what you are playing and are truly part of the process rather than an biological automaton.
 

lucbonnn

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France
Thanks a lot @Wade Cornell for this detailed point of view. Even if I'm still learning sax, I agree with you and the "play by ear as you would sing". I mean, my system won't help to be able to connect a thought in the brain and the instinctive fingering, embouchure and so on on the sax. But I think music theory won't help neither :)
Regarding improvision, it is a total separated topic, even if i think math+PlayThatSheet could build some pattern to help new improviser to follow a computer tablature of basic jazz impro pattern (but I need to learn the theory of these things first and experiment human impro by myself first. Remember, i'm playing sax for only 2 months and I never played any kind of instrument before).

One point that is a key point for me as a learner is to very quickly associate pleasure with all necessary complex tasks : dexterity to learn, automations, embouchure and muscles to trainn... It is way easier to learn something if you see and ear quick result.
I can't play takefive full speed nor play some high notes (I don't know how to use these palm keys efficiently. I willl need to ask some physical teacher for that I guess) but I can see and hear that I'm improving. And by totally bypass this music theory (that I think is absolutely not necessary except if you want to play as a pro, orchestra and so on), I'm facilitating the process of my own learning and maximizing the chance that I'll not give up.

Anyway, the ultimate goal for me, my personal usage, is to enjoy touching and blowing into that golden tube. And eventually, share this audio pleasure with listeners. So far, my wife and neighboors are gentle and patient but I wouldn't say they enjoy my learning process :)
 

Dr G

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Sax tablature requires a LOT of information - visual field and pattern processing - for each note.

I don’t understand why you call that “music theory”. It is just the fingerings for an instrument.
 

turf3

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OK, so let's see:

Instead of learning how to read music at a basic level, a skill that millions of 6-8 year old children learn every year, a skill for which there are 300 years of pedagogical experience, a skill that requires you to memorize the note names that are associated with 5 lines and 4 spaces in 2 staves plus some ledger lines, so maybe a total of 22 positions, and for which there is something like 350 years of printed music instantly readable by anyone who spends the few weeks necessary to learn how to read music...

...you suggest players should try to keep up with your "sax tab" which involves trying to keep track of the different fingers (and some of these operate up to 4 different keys); a scheme which has no precedent, a scheme which doesn't provide any more information than having the trained seal "push here - now push here - now push here"; a scheme for which every single piece of music would have to be completely rewritten and for which there is exactly ZERO pre-existing material to work with. You want to learn "Autumn Leaves", "Dixie", "The Star-Spangled Banner", or "Happy Birthday", you've got to get the special sax-tab edition rather than just reading the conventional notation from hundreds of sources.

I'm constantly amazed at the lengths to which people will go to try to avoid spending a little time learning standard things in the standard way. You go ahead and start training people in your sax-tab, getting publishers to print stuff in sax-tab, etc., etc., and I'll start teaching people how to read standard notation according to established methods, and after 20 years we'll see who's ahead.
 

Wade Cornell

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Thanks a lot @Wade Cornell for this detailed point of view. Even if I'm still learning sax, I agree with you and the "play by ear as you would sing". I mean, my system won't help to be able to connect a thought in the brain and the instinctive fingering, embouchure and so on on the sax. But I think music theory won't help neither :)
Regarding improvision, it is a total separated topic, even if i think math+PlayThatSheet could build some pattern to help new improviser to follow a computer tablature of basic jazz impro pattern (but I need to learn the theory of these things first and experiment human impro by myself first. Remember, i'm playing sax for only 2 months and I never played any kind of instrument before).

One point that is a key point for me as a learner is to very quickly associate pleasure with all necessary complex tasks : dexterity to learn, automations, embouchure and muscles to trainn... It is way easier to learn something if you see and ear quick result.
I can't play takefive full speed nor play some high notes (I don't know how to use these palm keys efficiently. I willl need to ask some physical teacher for that I guess) but I can see and hear that I'm improving. And by totally bypass this music theory (that I think is absolutely not necessary except if you want to play as a pro, orchestra and so on), I'm facilitating the process of my own learning and maximizing the chance that I'll not give up.

Anyway, the ultimate goal for me, my personal usage, is to enjoy touching and blowing into that golden tube. And eventually, share this audio pleasure with listeners. So far, my wife and neighboors are gentle and patient but I wouldn't say they enjoy my learning process :)
I completely understand your point of view and the need for a beginner to have positive feedback and feel that they are progressing. Hopefully you didn't feel that I was belittling your efforts, it's only the "what do you do next", or "is there a better way to start" aspects that are questioned.

The "better way to start", or possibly concurrent with your method is my main suggestion, and that's learning to play by ear (Suzuki method, or something like it) .

The term "Theory" is thrown about with really two different meanings. Music theory is learning about all the different elements of music: e.g. harmony, melody, counterpoint, rhythm, etc. The "theory" that's more often referred to is jazz theory, which isn't theoretical at all. It's an analysis of what well known jazz musicians were doing in the 1950s/60s (musical reverse engineering?) so that players can copy and play patterns based on the chord structure in a "cut and paste" manner. It's (IMHO) it's not really improvisation as often the player has no idea what the sounds are that will be coming out of their instrument, only that they will fit the cord structure.

Improvisation is spontaneous composition. Jazz "theory" is an academic attempt to teach people to play according to the chords structure, but lacks creativity and does little to engage the player's potential to compose melodically. It's more like "paint by the numbers" as compared to creating an artwork from your imagination.

It's unfortunate that Jazz theory has been given so much prominence over learning to play by ear. However it's a reality that not everybody can create melodic ideas . So jazz theory has it's place in giving untalented people a means of aping improvisation and instead emphasizing becoming "fast fingered"... with mostly with nothing to say musically.

It may sound like I'm panning jazz theory, but it's most useful for untalented players and gives them goals to achieve in developing very fast technique. The academic structure that teaches Jazz theory unfortunately fails to recognize, much less encourage talented players who have the potential to compose or be creative. It's a "one size fits all" type of teaching based on a style from 60 + years ago that has little relevance to the music world of today.

IMHO you are wise to avoid it unless it suits what you want.
 

mizmar

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The "theory" that's more often referred to is jazz theory
In all fairness, music analysis "theory" has, as part of Turf3's backgrounder, been around for hundreds of years in general.

But, yeah. Learning to understand enough notation and ideas is a key mode of communication in music. Shame to not take advantage.
 

Wade Cornell

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In all fairness, music analysis "theory" has, as part of Turf3's backgrounder, been around for hundreds of years in general.

But, yeah. Learning to understand enough notation and ideas is a key mode of communication in music. Shame to not take advantage.
No argument about learning all sorts, and certainly music theory. The point was that the term "theory" is used several different ways including a means of playing jazz "improvisations". The OP was not clear about what type of theory he was shunning.
 
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jbtsax

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I applaud all of the ingenuity and effort that went into creating this system and I am happy that it works for you. My former career was teaching students to read music and play band instruments for 32 years. Except for a very small number of students who had a learning disability that made the "interpretation" of symbols difficult, most of the students who wanted to learn picked up those skills without any difficulty by working through the sequential material covered in the first two beginning band methods. In the band classes we studied one page a week. An adult could easily master a page or more a day with a few hours of practice.
 

Dr G

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No argument about learning all sorts, and certainly music theory. The point was that the term "theory" is used several different ways including a means of playing jazz "improvisations". The OP was not clear about who type of theory he was shunning.

The OP is shunning the association of fingerings and notes.
 

Wade Cornell

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The OP is shunning the association of fingerings and notes.
I get that ,and he's also mentioning theory, so letting him know that when sax players talk "theory" there are two different types of theory...generaly music theory and jazz theory, and what each is about.
 

6441

 
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@lucbonnn did you mention somewhere that this is your website? Yes, I see that you say you built a tool. The site wasn't coming up for me until I opened a few filters.
 

lucbonnn

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@lucbonnn did you mention somewhere that this is your website? Yes, I see that you say you built a tool. The site wasn't coming up for me until I opened a few filters.
Yes I mentioned that it is my website (and even before that I asked the forum admin if I was allowed to share the data).
What do you mean when you say "the site wasn't comin up for me until I opened a few filters" ?)
 

6441

 
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Somesites don't come up unless I remove tracking code scripts. Facebook, for example, is unreachable, that way none of their cookies and login junk can sneak through. I can't say what exact script stopped the site, but I can see it only if I let the "shields" down. Not a problem.
 

JamesOxford

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Tough love time: I think @Wade Cornell and @turf3 have comprehensively addressed this.

The problem with programmers (I'm one) is that we like to make tools to solve problems. When you first start learning sax, the immediate problem seems to be not knowing the fingerings.
However, this is a very brief problem. There are twelve notes to learn + their associated fingerings. These can be learned within two weeks of practice. After that, the real work begins.

Instead of decrypting this unknown language of notes, rythms and weird traditional music theory,
Actually they don't have to decrypt anything, just learn it. It's either weird 'or' traditional.

These kinds of tools may be comforting for an absolute beginner, but the beginners time is probably better spent associating the fingerings with dots or sounds.

@GarfieldCatUK also made a tool to address fingerings. My feedback to him was that the program doesn't have longevity once the user knows the fingerings; however if he made it an app to learn scales etc. it could have more value. He has been developing it to associate fingerings + dots + sounds and I think is on the way to being a useful tool.

You are asking players to scan a whole diagram every time they want to play a single note.
This will slow them down considerably compared to spending a couple of weeks associating a fingering with a note.
Traditional notation also makes it very easy to see the flow of music at a glance and read ahead.

I appreciate your design skills and trying to innovate, but I think trying to shortcut learning the basics helps no one.
 
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lucbonnn

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Thanks @JamesOxford for your detailed feedback.
I do not agree but as I'm a total beginner, I'll see later if I was wrong or not.
At least this tool is helping me and couple of noob friends everyday :)
More than fingering, it helps me learn in a smoother way notes, rythms, and dexterity, playing scales and other stuffs quickly.
+ as I wear glasses, for me looking at small music scores is very not confortable compared to "scanning" bigger images.
But where I agree with you is that fingering and music theory doesn't help learning style,impro,embouchure,sound and so on. But it was not the purpose of course :)
 

mizmar

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To be a bit more constructive.
I didn't play with the web app, but from the video:
  • the tones in the triplets seem to have the same duration as those in the duplets (Bella ciao, summertime)
  • in general, rhythm is very robitic (pink panther) or worse (take 5!) Do you respect the time Sig?
  • can you change key? I don't have great ears, but it seemed to me that the examples I looked at where all in the same place.
  • the colour coding? Is that meant to reflect not duration? If so, it's not consistent!
  • somehow rests should be rests not notes, I guess...

IMHO to use MusicXML - which describes how music is written, you have to have sufficient "theory" to get what the symbols mean to quite fine detail.

Do you have a looping feature?
I don't know about others, but when I'm learning from the page or ear, I tend to loop on phrased of a convenient length or two or a section. If you alway have to start at the top and stop at the first hiccup, you'll end up being really good at the beginning and flakey at the end, if you get there.

Do you have speed control?
It's quite regular advice - and works for me - to start slow and gradually increment the speed you play / metronome till your at speed.
 
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lucbonnn

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Hi @mizmar ,
  • the color coding is meant to be mapped to "difficulty". It could be based on note speeds (or where the next slower note is from current note. Like an heatmap or so) and also based on the given note fingering complexity (for example, palm keys are more complex than some left hand only note). In short, when there is red zone, it should be more complex to play. Green zone, easier.
  • tempo/pacing. Yep you can modify it by clicking on "page configuration" (not on youtube, on the website). There you have plently of options. The one I use the more is the button "green" and "yellow" that set the tempo automatically based on dexterity required to play most of the track.
  • looping : nope. So far no looping feature but it is a good idea. When I want to loop, I use my computer and press the space bar. Then click with my cursor where I want to start again (without the "3,2,1" count down). But it can be made in a better way for sure.
  • rest should be rest, right. But I hope it is not an evil mistake. For me (beginner), it helps me as rest signs are small and slower to read with my poor eyes.
  • tones : a midi player is a midi playzr, which means, sounds like sh**. It was intented just to ear it once if you do not know the track at all. Not to mimic a real sax sound. I'm trying to find better synthetizer but so far I've not found any relevant.
  • rythm. In theory it should be respecting the musicXml one. I compared it to museScore software and it sounds similar. But it could come from the musicXml that I found on the web. I mean, not a pro music score, a "free" one. If you have a music xml file that you are sure it is perfectly paced, try it on the website and you will be able to see if there is a bug or not. (I dunno)

One more thing. i'm not trying to defend the tool I've built nor to sell anything. I'm just trying to have other sax player feedback on it. If it is a useless tool, I'll not spend too many time improving it and I'll keep it in localhost (only on my computer) for myself. PlayThatSheet was published to share it in kind of "open source" way, nothing more so far :)
 

mizmar

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One more thing. i'm not trying to defend the tool I've built nor
I'm not attacking it!
Fact is, people learn in different ways and want to achieve different things and have different challenges... Even more so with those of us coming to music playing a little late in life. Some want to learn all angles (me, I even spend time reading ethnomusicology!), some want to improvise, others want to play a tunes. We're grownups and we each have to find our own rout. It's all good!

PS
Even mucking about with music in software is, IMHO, legit. Some time ago i ripped the speaker out if a dead tablet, hooked it up to a raspberry pi and programmed it to play the blues. Then blew up to speaker. It's all fun.
 

Tenor Viol

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I don't understand your issues with reading? Reading music on a music stand, is similar to reading a computer screen on a desk. I'm an IT person and once I needed glasses for reading, I needed ones that could manage standard reading of a book etc, and to read a screen at more than arm's length, and music on a stand, whilst still be able to see the conductor in orchestra/choir.

To solve that before I had cataract surgery, I needed varifocals with an enhanced intermediate reading zone. I no longer need varifocals as my distance vision is now OK. I have what are known as 'occupational' lenses now which cover near and intermediate reading distances. They also have enhanced depth of field so that objects farther away remain in focus.

I don't wish to seem critical, but as someone with 40 years' experience in IT, I feel qualified to comment... You are obviously talented and have chosen to apply your IT expertise to 'solving' a 'problem'. Yes, there is a bit of an overhead in learning the basics of notation, but most adults pick that up quite quickly. There are some that struggle, for example those with dyslexia, but there are ways of tackling that (e.g. use of coloured overlays). However, this mostly feels more like a solution that is looking for a problem thta I'm not sure is there and I'm struggling to see its utility. Whilst it might assist an absolute beginner, all it's doing is adding a delay until they have to address the reading of notation anyway.
 
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