play me a tune
June 12, 2006 5:35 AM   Subscribe

For theatre (and other) projects, I sometimes need music that I can't find on CD. Is there a service that lets you email sheet music to a musician, who then a musician records the song and sends it back to you as an mp3? I'm looking instrumental music -- no vocals. Just a piano/keyboard is generally fine.

I'm sure I could just post an ad on craigslist, and I might try that. But I'd like to look into other solutions, too.

My company is a small not-for-profit, so funds are tight. So I can't spend a fortune on a song. I'm hoping to find a really good musician -- someone who can pound out a song quickly enough that they won't have to charge an arm and a leg for hours and hours of their time.
posted by grumblebee to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
I've done this exact thing, for several different small theater groups. Each time, I found a regular patron or someone who already helped with other aspects of the company to volunteer their time. It's almost certain that there is someone at hand who plays piano well enough to do the job for you.

Once I found someone with a digital keyboard who could record the music directly. Other times I recorded to tape (using a regular old tape deck) and then digitized the tape.
posted by ewagoner at 5:57 AM on June 12, 2006

I suggest smartscore.

Put sheet music on a scanner, the program will read it, after which you can export as audio or midi, and edit the music if you'd like to change the arrangement.

It will probably prove cheaper than a musician after the first few songs, and the convenience +editing is hard to beat
posted by yorick at 6:04 AM on June 12, 2006

Response by poster: I'm intrigued by your suggestion, yorick. I almost asked if there was an automated solution, but I figured musicians would get outraged. I assume that software like this DOESN'T do a great job without tweaking the results. How easy would it be for a non-musician to do so? I can't read music.
posted by grumblebee at 6:25 AM on June 12, 2006

I don't know of a service set up to do this, so the next best thing would be to locate someone who is good at piano/keyboards and work something out with them. For example, you could look up a piano teacher in the yellow pages and ask them. Another possibilty is a local university -- tell them you want to get in contact with a piano tutor, then see if they'll do it.
posted by teem at 7:33 AM on June 12, 2006

I can't answer your question, but I wouldn't recommend getting the final product in MP3. Go-go-Gadget uncompressed AIFF.
posted by secret about box at 7:35 AM on June 12, 2006

You can also search the internet for MIDI files of what you want. Load them into a sequencer with a decent piano synth/rompler.

May need less editing as they have been performed, but you will need to learn the bare basics of sequencing.
posted by lunkfish at 8:19 AM on June 12, 2006

For the record, I haven't personally used smartscore. My recommendation is based on positive comments I"ve heard from other musicians. I also spoke with their tech support guy when we shared a tradeshow booth, and he said that most of the scanning problems come from handwritten scores. However, I'm not sure how much editing is needed after scanning, even if the results are considered accurate.

If you already have access to a scanner, your best bet is to try a demo version from their site and see if it works for you. It's probably not for everyone, but easy enough to try out for free.
posted by yorick at 8:38 AM on June 12, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the info so far. Just to clarify, don't worry about my reference to mp3 files. I know that they aren't the best format for music.

Assuming I do go with an app like smartscore, can anyone suggest a reference where I can learn the basic music concepts needed to operate such a program? My guess is that most edits will have to do with tempo and pitch.

If there isn't a service that does this, it sure sounds like a good business idea: "I'm an independent musician. If you need a song recorded, send me the sheet music and $100 and I'll have it ready fo you as an AIFF, WAV, MIDI or AIFF by the next day."
posted by grumblebee at 8:41 AM on June 12, 2006

Response by poster: I guess the problem for me would be if it made an error due to a bad scan. Since I don't read music, I would have trouble correcting the error. (Note to self: learn how to read music!)
posted by grumblebee at 8:43 AM on June 12, 2006

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