Sheet Music
February 26, 2004 7:13 PM   Subscribe

I play guitar. I learned by ear and by copying my rock and pop faves. My gf plays cello, and receives instruction via written sheet music. We'd like to have things to play together, and cello/guitar is a natural fit. But our methods differ so greatly. Let's say I can hum a tune, or perhaps even plunk it out on a keyboard. Is there software that can output sheet music for me, given this rudimentary input? Say, the bass line from Ramble On. I can play it on the kazoo. Now how do I generate sheet music for it? Did I mention I haven't read sheet music since the fourth grade?
posted by scarabic to Media & Arts (18 answers total)
There's some software out there that allows you to hook a midi keyboard up to your computer and turns what you play into sheet music. Long, long ago I fooled around with a piece of windows software called NoteWorthy that did this. For the more popular stuff like led zeppelin, there's probably sheet music already out there, a lot better than you could ever make yourself; Check your favourite online bookstore.

In the long run it's probably beneficial for playing together and for her own enjoyment of music if your gf practices playing stuff by ear, or just playing with harmonies on what's out there in chord and tab files.
posted by fvw at 7:45 PM on February 26, 2004

Sebilius works with your midi board to write the music if you can plunk it out. It's expensive I think so you might look for *alternate* resources.
posted by damnitkage at 7:56 PM on February 26, 2004

For the more popular stuff like led zeppelin, there's probably sheet music already out there, a lot better than you could ever make yourself

Sadly I will have to disagree with fvw, most of the rock music books are very poor transcriptions, leaving out long sections, changing keys and even just plain getting the chord changes wrong.
posted by billsaysthis at 8:34 PM on February 26, 2004

Finale Allegro is much cheaper (and simpler) than Sibelius. You can hook up a MIDI keyboard, play it in at whatever tempo, and boom, you've got sheet music.
posted by soyjoy at 8:57 PM on February 26, 2004

yeah, i second the Finale suggestion, i think that's going to be easiest for this purpose.
posted by edlundart at 9:09 PM on February 26, 2004

1- download Guitar-Pro

2- search for midi versions of songs (you can find pretty much everything).

3- import to guitar pro

4- format, merge tracks, etc

5- print standard or tab or both versions

6- profit!
posted by signal at 10:29 PM on February 26, 2004

Learn sheet music. It's not hard, and will probably take as long as it does to get to grips with any software you use. This might help, and I'm sure your girlfriend can give you a few pointers.
posted by Orange Goblin at 2:45 AM on February 27, 2004

It depends on how hard the stuff is. In popular music, the cello is pretty much a bass-only instrument (although it has greater range in classical pieces) and basslines are generally quite simple. If you can't play together saying 'C... A... G.... D....' and working it out as you go along, you may have trouble in your jamming sessions, as this ability (or, alternatively, the ability to play by ear) is pretty much required.

We always had problems in my music class with the sheet-only people, as they appeared totally unable to have a basic grasp of their instrument beyond what the sheet music showed. As far as I'm concerned, if one can't improvise or attempt to follow a tune on an instrument, one is not a musician.
posted by wackybrit at 4:50 AM on February 27, 2004

This might not necessarily be what you are looking for, but if you know the names of the notes you want on the sheet music, and you know the very basics of musical notation, you can use abc to get some great looking postscript formatted sheet music. I used it throughout my music 101 class in college and it not only helped me learn notation but my homework always looked fantastic.
posted by mfbridges at 7:10 AM on February 27, 2004

how was she taught? a couple of my friends who play cello were taught scales and improvisation / composition as well as playing by music...

rather than having to put all your arrangements on paper (which makes jamming properly nigh on impossible, as wackybrit said), try picking a key (simply, often the first chord you play in a sequence (it's more complex than that, but it's a good way to start)), like C Major and get her to improvise using that scale as you go.

it'll make playing together a lot more enjoyable, especially when you get into the same groove
posted by cheaily at 7:12 AM on February 27, 2004

erm, playing by _sheet_ music.
posted by cheaily at 7:13 AM on February 27, 2004

The tricky thing about notating music on paper is not getting the notes right (that's relatively trivial), but notating the timing correctly (quarter-note, swing eighth-note, dotted half-note rest, etc). If you write the notes, but don't get the time values correct, your'll just confuse your girlfriend and never be in sync.

I would second cheaily's idea of practicing basic improvisation together. If you're playing pop/rock tunes, the natural way to start would be to have the cello play bass lines. I would start by learning the chord changes and just playing the root note along with the changes. Then learn some basic rhythm figures to work off the root & 5th or the root, 3rd & 5th of the chord. Then learn a few connecting walks between chords. By this time, the two of you should be learning how to get into a groove together, and she might have the confidence to start inventing some melodic lines.

Good luck!
posted by tdismukes at 7:34 AM on February 27, 2004

Response by poster: if one can't improvise or attempt to follow a tune on an instrument, one is not a musician

Okay, not that this comment was helpful at all, but we're *not* musicians. We both suck monstrously, and music is a luxury we enjoy but never have enough time for. Yeesh.

Thanks, all, for the tool suggestions. I'll have to look into buying sheet music too, to see how transferrable it would be for her.
posted by scarabic at 12:37 PM on February 27, 2004

Still, I think your girlfriend would get more mileage out of learning to play by ear a bit. Then, if she still needs or prefers, she could write out her own charts.

tdismukes makes some good suggestions. Even if she just arppegiated the notes of the chords you were playing, you could get some nice things going.
posted by timeistight at 1:23 PM on February 27, 2004

As far as I'm concerned, if one can't improvise or attempt to follow a tune on an instrument, one is not a musician.

You know, that kind of snobbery works the other way too. A musician is just someone who can make music. There's no entrance exam.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:34 PM on February 27, 2004

"... but we're *not* musicians." If you're making music, you're musicians. You may not be exceptionally good musicians just yet, but everyone has to start somewhere.

If your girlfriend is totally intimidated by the whole "playing by ear" idea, the best place to start (I repeat) is by learning to follow the chord changes. Play through the song on your guitar, calling out the chords as you come to them. Have her play the root note of each chord. Once she's learned the sequence, stop calling them out and let her change notes as she hears you change chords. Congratulations, she's now "playing by ear" in its most basic form. Next, replace the single notes with arpeggios of the chord. Next, have her learn a basic rhythm figure or two. Once she can play those consistently, have her play a rhythm figure, arpeggio or single note over each chord according to what sounds best to her at that moment in the song. Congratulations, now she's improvising.

Email me if you need suggestions for starting bass line rhythm figures/building blocks.
posted by tdismukes at 2:07 PM on February 27, 2004

A cello is tuned in intervals of fourths, so the placement of the roots of a I-IV-V progression are fairly easy to remember. I agree with the comment above: get her head out of the paper and into the instrument. Start out with her playing straight eighths, then get her to play lead-in notes on the 'and' of 4. After that, have her play the 3rd or 5th on beats 2 and 3. By then, she should get the idea and be able to take it from there.

Perhaps an instruction book on bass guitar would be helpful.
posted by mischief at 4:21 PM on February 27, 2004

Response by poster: I definitely appreciate how much we both have to gain by learning more about music. I'd like to get better about understanding the neck, scales, keys, chords, and she would do well to play by ear a bit more. She's in her first year of learning, so I think it will take her a while to get comfortable. At some point, I think her ear will develop enough to take her places. For now, she's learning how to hit the notes properly and keep her footing, rhythmically.

I may have erred in not specifying just how narrow my question actually was. I didn't ask about software tools because she's not willing to learn to play by ear, or because I'd never thought of it. I asked about software tools because they're a potential option, and I don't know of any. Actually, in my head I had imagined presenting her with some Built to Spill songs transcribed to sheet music as a *surprise*. This is something I'm very far from being able to accomplish without help. Before I invest lots of time in the project, I want to explore the options, including software.

Thanks again for the suggestions. I'm making my way through them now.
posted by scarabic at 4:54 PM on February 27, 2004

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