Transcribing music for the web
April 29, 2010 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Help me get better at putting sheet music on the internet.

I have a blog where I analyze music (link in profile), and I often transcribe sections to better illustrate what I'm talking about. The process of getting my Sibelius scores uploaded as PNG files is kind of time-consuming, and I'm hoping you guys can point out some obvious inefficiencies or improvements I can make.

This is my current workflow (assume that steps 1 and 6 are set in stone, and that I'm on a Mac):

1. Transcribe the music in Sibelius First
2. Save it as a PDF via the Print dialog
3. Convert the PDF to a PNG via an Automator script
4. Open the PNG in Pixelmator and trim the extra whitespace
5. Resize the image to a width of 1000 pixels
6. Upload the final image to a WordPress blog

Here are the most troublesome spots:
Step 2: Sometimes I end up running longer than a page with a transcription, and since Sibelius seems focused on arranging music for print I get all kinds of annoying spacing issues. For example, sometimes three systems don't quite fit on one page, so Sibelius will space the first two farther apart and then move the third to a new page. Since my goal is to put the score online, though, I'd rather it just give an infinite canvas (so to speak) and not worry about spacing everything based on page layout.

Step 3: The Automator script I wrote works, but is kind of half-assed. I made it so that I can do multiple PDFs at once, but they all end up with random names like 001NI.png. Is there a better way to do this?

Step 4-5: 1000px is an arbitrary width I picked to try to keep image size consistent. Unfortunately, it's not; the amount of whitespace that gets trimmed (and thus the initial width of the image) varies based on what the music looks like. For example, if I only have a bar or two, it doesn't get scaled down as much as if there's enough to take up the full width of a page. Ideally I would like staves to be the same size across different transcriptions.

Thanks for any advice.
posted by danb to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think Noteflight lets you embed scores.
posted by phrontist at 7:26 PM on April 29, 2010

Is it completely out of the question to scan the music you want, rather than transcribing it?

I sometimes scan music - 200 dpi, grayscale - into Photoshop, convert it to RGB, select the whitish background, delete it so that it's completely white, darken the foreground so that it's maximum readable, then convert to 8-color palette (black, white, six grays) - the vast majority of this can be a Photoshop action. You can then make random notes on top of this graphic using Photoshop's text tool, and save the whole thing as a nice, small GIF or PNG.
posted by amtho at 9:52 PM on April 29, 2010

Yes, I would suggest Noteflight. It does let you embed scores, and users can also play the score directly from their browser. It is not as full-featured as Sibelius, but will make your workflow much simpler.
posted by SNACKeR at 7:17 AM on April 30, 2010

Response by poster: phrontist and SNACKeR: Noteflight seems like a cool bit of software, but I don't think it's right for me for a number of reasons. I'll need way more than 25 scores; I'm already efficient with Sibelius through years of experience; I prefer the simplicity and control of hosting my own files; I often want to work on music locally without an internet connection; I also post MP3 samples, so playing MIDI from the score would be redundant; and so on. That said, it does look pretty neat, and I may use it for other projects -- thanks!

amtho: In some cases that'd work, but I don't know if I'm up to doing something like this by hand (PNG link to a score from my site). Also, if I'm honest, this is rooted in a mild obsession with consistency as much as a desire for efficiency; I'd hate to start handwriting my scores now when I have so many already done digitally...
posted by danb at 8:30 PM on April 30, 2010

Response by poster: I think I have my answer, thanks to a tip from an illustrious coworker MeFite.

It turns out Sibelius has a special selector that's triggered with option-G. It lets you drag an arbitrary marquee selection on your score, copy it (with the standard command-C), and then paste it into an image. This eliminates virtually my entire workflow!

Unfortunately, there's one catch:
Sibelius First limits the resolution at which you can export graphics into another application. The resolution is fine for printing on a home printer, for applications like hymn sheets, test papers, and so on, but if you need publication-quality results, you will need the full Sibelius product...
They might think the resolution is "fine," but in my opinion it's pretty awful. If that's all I've got, I think I'd rather just keep doing things the way I've been doing them. That's what I get for buying the lite version, I guess! (In my defense, it was five hundred dollars cheaper.)
posted by danb at 8:50 PM on April 30, 2010

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