Full Screen Sheet Music Count Off

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Post by RFDrummer05 » 01-23-20 9:44 pm

This is my first post and I'm a huge fan of the app! I use the app with my students and have recently been using the Full Screen Sheet music mode which was a fantastic addition. The primary issue is usually getting started, especially on the modes where the app won't wait for the player. There is no count off when full screen sheet music is selected so it is hard to know when to start for the students. The number of bars given for the count in changes depending on the tempo (which is great) so even I don't always know how many bars we will get up front. Thank you!

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Post by jimhenry » 01-24-20 10:51 am

The number of bars given for the count in changes depending on the tempo (which is great)
I haven't been able to play for quite a long time, so I am not up to date on the recent changes to Synthesia. If any of these comments don't make sense, I may be remembering things that aren't correct based on the current version.

Is it great that the number of bars given for the count in changes depending on the tempo? When I was playing in a band, the count in was always 2 bars, | 1 - 3 - | 1 2 3 4 |, regardless of tempo. And regardless of pickup notes too, they just replaced counts in the second count-in bar.

I hardly ever used Synthesia's count-in to practice a full song. I prepared almost all my own MIDI files and I would put the count in right into the MIDI file.

My vote would be for a fixed number of count in bars. Maybe a selection of the number. And maybe a selection of count in style.
Jim Henry
Author of the Miditzer, a free virtual theatre pipe organ

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Post by Nicholas » 01-24-20 11:52 am

No count-in for the full-screen sheet was an oversight. (It's not a very interesting story, but Synthesia 10.6 went out the door early to address a crash introduced by a new version of iOS. For better or worse, the full-screen sheet is only 70% or so finished. Some visual count-in and better sheet-only navigation are both planned.)

At this point, I agree with Jim. I consider the behavior of the metronome during song lead-in to be a borderline bug. The easiest answer in Aug-2010 (when the metronome was added) was "look at the first time signature in the song; tick the metronome for the 3 seconds preceding the first note at the current tempo". This is kind of broken for a variety of reasons. Like Jim hinted at, some MIDI files are (incorrectly) arranged with a different time signature for the pickup measure (think 1/4 for a single measure followed by 4/4), which makes it a lot trickier to use the scheme I described above. You'd get 3 seconds of "first beat" ticks, which isn't correct.

So "the easiest answer" needs to be replaced with "the robust answer". That means weird/fake pickup measure detection that looks for short-duration time signatures right at the beginning of the song. And it means making the count-in use a fixed number of beats, regardless of tempo. (Maybe if the tempo is very fast, it should add an extra full measure of count-in beats, which I suspect is what you meant by it being "great".)

In the meantime, this is nearly independent from the full-screen sheet problem. Notably: Synthesia is still rather playable without any output devices. This isn't the best experience, but it's completely usable: you can just set an iPad on an acoustic piano's music stand and play along, using the piano's notes as the only sound. In that case, you may not be using the built-in metronome at all and the count-in can't save the fact that there is zero indication when the (sheet only) song is going to start! I haven't decided on the exact visual yet, but there's going to be something that moves during the lead-up to the song. Think of it like a visual metronome. (I am happy to take suggestions!) :)

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Post by RFDrummer05 » 01-28-20 2:02 pm

I appreciate the thoughtful response! Yes, Jim is probably correct on having a consistent count off of two bars but I know pickup measures could make that a little complicated. Right now the metronome sometimes starts the countoff in the middle of bar (something I noticed in 3/4). I do enjoy the shorter count-ins for very slow tempos but it isn't that big of a deal. If the student gets really hung up on the count-off, I'll split the screen with scrolling notes and notation. The app has been a great teaching tool and I applaud your work! Books and learning songs by ear aren't for everyone.

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