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Chris Cannam, 2016-01-07 04:43 PM

On Displaying Musical Scores

Use cases

  1. Illustrating recordings by attaching a full publication-style score
    • ...where the score is not intended to be read closely, but rather used as a sort of key-frame reference for navigating the audio
    • ...or where user expects to be able to zoom the score far enough to actually read it properly
  2. Linear rather than page-based score that a user is expected to read, e.g. to play along with, or to check specific notes in a transcription or spectrogram
  3. On-the-fly score display of transcriptions and related annotation layers (score from MIDI)
  4. Score editing for correction (making usually small edits to substantial scores)
  5. Score editing for annotation (generating small scores from scratch)

Sources of score data

  • Score-encoding formats, e.g. MusicXML, MEI
  • PDFs of published scores
  • "Tidy" MIDI files and other cleaned-up annotation data (e.g. chord charts)
  • Untidy output from transcription methods and the like, in MIDI or MIDI-like formats

Possible implementations

  1. Integrate code from an existing application (most likely one that is also in C++ using Qt)
    • Suitable for all use cases, with limitation of requiring score to be available in a digital format
    • Only possibility if editing is required (but note that adding editing is likely to be very involved even with this approach, maybe prohibitively so)
    • MuseScore -- most obvious option
    • Rosegarden -- has a notation editor component but is primarily a sequencer (but does have the advantage that I wrote much of it and so know a lot of the code!)
  1. Invoke external application to render to PDF or sequence of images, then display PDF/image pages
    • Suitable for use case 1; unsuitable for use cases 2, 4, 5; uncertain for use case 3
    • Replaces problem of "integrating score display" with problem of "integrating PDF/image page display"
    • Could use MuseScore as the external application (it has a batch mode) or Lilypond, or something else like VexFlow, or more than one option depending on platform & input format
    • Has advantage of also introducing ability to display other PDF material than scores
    • Adds access to non-digital (scanned) score content

Both have their technical challenges, but there is also a conceptual question about how to align score pages or bars in the time axis (more on this below).

Which code to use for option 1?

I think the only reasonable options are MuseScore and Rosegarden. MuseScore produces much better output and has fairly well-organised code. Rosegarden has a more limited renderer and currently lacks MusicXML import. The only reason to consider anything other than MuseScore is that I'm quite familiar with the Rosegarden code myself already. At any rate, Rosegarden makes a useful baseline comparison.

Here are some examples, deliberately choosing small sizes in order to see how a zoomed-out scale looks, and considering both linear and paginated layouts.

Linear layouts with "good" source material

Both applications are displaying their own example files here, so we have two different pieces but both are pieces that are expected to work well.



Paginated layouts with "good" source material

Same pieces as above.



Imported from an approximate transcription

This is an input that is not expected to work well -- a transcription obtained from the Silvet Vamp plugin on one of the MAPS database recordings, exported to MIDI. Shown below is the result of taking that MIDI file as exported by Sonic Visualiser and importing it into each application with the default quantization/tidying settings. Despite the substantially different appearances of the two, these are both displaying the same MIDI data. See if you can identify the piece!



musescore-messy.png - MuseScore imports a very rough MIDI transcription 70.8 KB, downloaded 615 times Chris Cannam, 2016-01-07 03:27 PM

musescore-tidy-linear.png - MuseScore displays one of its demo files in linear format 89.2 KB, downloaded 569 times Chris Cannam, 2016-01-07 03:27 PM

rosegarden-messy.png - Rosegarden imports a very rough MIDI transcription 101 KB, downloaded 559 times Chris Cannam, 2016-01-07 03:27 PM

musescore-tidy-paginated.png - MuseScore displays one of its demo files in paginated format 368 KB, downloaded 788 times Chris Cannam, 2016-01-07 03:27 PM

rosegarden-tidy-linear.png - Rosegarden displays one of its demo files in linear format 171 KB, downloaded 577 times Chris Cannam, 2016-01-07 03:27 PM

rosegarden-tidy-paginated.png - Rosegarden displays one of its demo files in paginated format 497 KB, downloaded 620 times Chris Cannam, 2016-01-07 03:27 PM