Easier control of loop area - Feature request

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Postby ltgseb » 11-03-18 2:58 pm

It would be great to have easier ways to manipulate an existing loop area. It's cumbersome currently having to redefine loop areas from scratch every time.


1) Tap+Hold on the edges of a loop area to extend/shrink the loop area (should snap to time blocks and markers)
2) Tap+Hold on the loop area itself to shift the area left or right (should snap to time block and markers)
3) Double-tap while in loop mode to exit loop mode and start playing

This would make it much easier to manipulate loop areas, and would also make it much easier to move from one section of a song to another, while keeping the loop area the same length (in time).
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Postby monkel » 11-04-18 8:57 am

Add multiple non-overlapping loops and I'm fully behind this! :D
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Postby Nicholas » 11-08-18 5:31 am

Multiple loops (even non-overlapping) still seem like they'd be pretty confusing to use. Are the shortcuts to walk a loop around between bookmarks not sufficient? (Why not?)

Otherwise, in the very next dev preview for Synthesia 11, I'm hoping to completely revamp all the loop editing interactions in the timeline. They've been pretty rough for a long time. Your #1 suggestion is the basis I have in mind for the new interactions. #2 might be a little tricky (should it try to preserve the original loop's wall-clock length as best as possible while it continues to snap on both sides?)

And your #3 suggestion actually feels more like a bug! I would have expected that double-tapping in the falling note area (outside of the left margin) should have resumed the song already like it does when you're just regularly paused. Hmm. I'll get that fixed!
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Postby monkel » 11-08-18 5:36 am

I guess I haven't seen that shortcut - as I am used to Synthesisa on the iPad I have only mapped very few shortcuts to selected notes.
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Postby ltgseb » 11-08-18 2:56 pm

@nicholas I agree - having multiple loop areas seems like a bit of an overkill. And I'm glad you're planning to improve the loop function interface.

To clarify on my suggestion #2: Yes, the idea is to keep the loop's wall-clock length the exact same. So if I have defined a loop area covering 4 measures, because that's the length that best suits my learning preference and the song itself, then I'd like an easy way to shift that loop area as I make progress along the measures. A long tap/click + drag on the loop area should do the trick.

Regarding suggestion #1, a long tap/click only over the edges of the loop area (some number of pixels) would activate "stretch mode" and allow you to lengthen or shorten the loop area via drag and drop.

And regarding #3, I'm on an Android tablet. I finally installed 10.5 and will try it again. But glad that you agree that double-tapping on the falling note area should resume playing. I am wondering if we even need a "loop mode" at all that we have to enter and exit out of?

I must admit, one thing I love about Synthesia is seeing how its creator listens to his users with an open mind, and is still committed to improving Synthesia and make it the best piano learning tool that it can be - so thank you Nicholas!
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Postby jimhenry » 11-08-18 7:19 pm

For #2, wouldn't preserving the number of beats be better than preserving wall-clock time?
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Postby ltgseb » 11-08-18 8:09 pm

It's quite possible I'm not understanding what wall-clock time is :) I just mean the loop area length (however many of those thin vertical rectangles that make up the loop area) would stay fixed as you drag the entire loop area forward (or back) along the timeline.
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Postby Nicholas » 11-08-18 8:20 pm

Sorry, "wall clock" is a bit of programmer-speak that was over-specific for this case. I should have just said "seconds".

Having the loop snap and stay exactly the same length (in both pixels wide and seconds long) would be impossible, because any tempo change during the song would force an adjustment to one of those two. I actually like jimhenry's suggestion of maintaining the same number of beats. That seems more musically sound and useful when you're dragging one of these things around. Time signature changes might make it not give you exactly what you want in all cases, but those are rare enough. If you made a loop around two measures and dragged it a bit, it would still be two measures long (independent of any tempo changes in the intervening period).
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Postby ltgseb » 11-08-18 9:25 pm

Nicholas wrote:If you made a loop around two measures and dragged it a bit, it would still be two measures long (independent of any tempo changes in the intervening period).

Yep in that case, that's the ticket!
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Postby monkel » 11-09-18 2:28 am

I guess multiple loops in their current form is not necessarily what I would need, but if a song has different sections that I want to practice independently, then I'd love to be able to mark out these sections with markers and have them loop when I want without having to manually jump to the previous or next maker.
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Postby ltgseb » 11-09-18 7:07 pm

I hear you on that. I use markers specifically for that purpose (to mark "learning points" in the song).

If the loop interactions are smart/intuitive (perhaps a "snap to marker" preference), all you would need to do is drag the loop area to match each section. At most it should be two drag operations, and at a minimum it would be just one drag operation if the sections are of the same "length".

And while we're at it... I have a request for an ergonomic enhancement, which I hope shouldn't be too difficult to implement: Adding a preference to move the toolbar (with play button, timeline, loop area, etc..) on the very bottom of the screen, instead of the top. I know we're talking about inches of travel here for my poor arm (see attached image for what my setup looks like), but sometimes it's the little things that make the difference.
SynthesiaSetup.png (1.73 MiB) Viewed 2444 times
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Postby Nicholas » 11-09-18 9:52 pm

Many years ago the toolbar was originally at the bottom of the screen. In 2012, for the iPad release, I migrated it to the top of the screen and not just because there was a new header bar up there with nothing on it. The goal was to get the keyboard as low on the screen as possible so that your eyes would have the least distance to track between (real) keyboard and screen. When you pause and a blue block slides out from the right, you can drag it to partially (or completely) hide the on-screen keyboard. Finally, when you adjust the zoom so the on-screen falling note blocks are the same physical size as the keys on your (real) keyboard (and you've chosen a screen with the smallest "chin" you can find -- the opposite of yours :lol: ), your brain no longer has to do a translation step between on-screen keys and real-life keys before trying to estimate where your hand belongs. Instead, the task comes down to reaching toward a thing that is falling... which is one of the primary functions our brains are made for. :D

After having tried it, that's the only way I can use the app now because it's such a dramatically improved experience.

With a toolbar in the way, that becomes harder.
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Postby ltgseb » 11-09-18 10:15 pm

Interesting! I definitely see what you mean, though one would need a pretty large screen to have that effect and get most notes visible on most non-novice songs. I guess for me those extra pixels won't get in the way (maybe my eyes have to move a millimeter more?) - but I find myself interacting with that toolbar so often... navigating the timeline, fiddling with the loop area and exiting in and out of it, speeding up and down the tempo... Believe me I do it do often my arm literally gets tired. If you see my setup, we're talking about 20 inches of travel up, and back down. It gets quite tiring after about 10 minutes of practicing. By putting all those controls on the bottom of the screen, it would save half the effort and time to do all those back and forth roundtrips between the actual piano keys, and the controls. Of course it depends on the setup you have, and the distance your hand has to travel every time.

But I realize this is most likely a personal preference kind of thing, which is why I suggested it as a preference and not a permanent change. Maybe take a poll from your users to see if they'd prefer it one way or the other?
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Postby Nicholas » 11-10-18 12:53 am

There may be an alternative. As more tablets and phone screens transition to even sharper aspect ratios (extraaa long, still the same width; the iPhone XS is at nearly 20:9 already), vertical space (when rotated in landscape mode) is at a premium. Stretching the keyboard out so far leaves very little room for sheet music or the falling notes. I've imagined something like the tool palette in a drawing app (like Paint or Photoshop) where you've got a row of icons running down along one side of the screen.

Assuming most of those icons end up near the bottom of the vertical bar, that would solve the problem you're describing. It wouldn't impede the falling notes from reaching real-life piano keys. And it sort of improves the screen's aspect ratio so you can see a little more of the falling notes or possibly another line of sheet music.
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Postby ltgseb » 11-12-18 10:45 pm

Good point about vertical real estate. Actually, speaking of alternatives, there may be an even more effective way to make interacting with the controls easier. Another ergonomic issue that I have is I don't hit the right button with my finger every time, even with my 17" tablet (in fact, perhaps this may be contributing to the "tired arm" issue that I mentioned earlier.) I noticed that you have a bunch of keyboard shortcuts for desktop/laptop usage, which is great, but I use a tablet because it's so much more practical and convenient not to have to use a physical keyboard. So I wonder... What if there were more gesture/touch "shortcuts" for tablet usage (or any touch device for that matter)?

For example, I love being able to double-tap anywhere on the falling notes area to play/pause on my tablet. It doesn't require my hand to move all the way to the top of the screen, and it doesn't require my finger to be accurate, which is a pretty huge reduction of effort for me, and I can focus more on my practice rather than hitting a small target on my screen. So along these lines I'd love to have gesture/touch shortcuts for other operations that I find myself calling upon often - like speeding up and slowing down the tempo (maybe a two-finger swipe down or up). Another idea would be a two-finger swipe left or right to skip back or forward 5 seconds (duration could be configurable in preferences).

And for loop manipulation:

- Tap with three fingers to enter/exit loop mode
- Three-finger swipe right or left to move the entire loop area right or left by x seconds

The only thing I'm not sure about is if all Android tablets support things like three-finger taps and swipes.
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Postby Nicholas » 11-24-18 3:28 am

ltgseb wrote:... and it doesn't require my finger to be accurate...

Is that a Windows machine? It's a little hard to tell, but if it is...

Try holding your Shift key while launching the app to open the configuration window. There, you can set the "Graphics.ScaleOverride" setting to "2" (without the quotes) to make the whole UI larger. That should help with button tapping accuracy. (If 2 is too large, try 1.5 instead.)

ltgseb wrote:... I'd love to have gesture/touch shortcuts for other operations that I find myself calling upon often...

Gestures can be tricky. Just like voice controls can be frustrating because there is a lot of wiggle room ("Alexa, play th-- no, Alexa. Ale-- hey!"), gesture controls can feel bad if the implementation isn't nailed just right.

That said, I had actually been considering gesture support for something very simple (so how could it go wrong?! :lol: ) for speed control. Instead of tapping on the + or - over and over (which isn't great on a touch screen), would it be nice to also be able to tap right on the speed label ("100% 120 BPM") itself and drag your finger to the left or right to adjust the speed? Fast motions would adjust it quickly while slow dragging would work a bit like a fine-tuner. This would be modeled very much like dragging through a list on an iPhone. Apple has a really nice interaction there where your acceleration can determine whether a single screen's-worth of finger movement flies through twenty pages or whether it barely scrolls a couple list items.

Once you start involving multiple fingers, it starts to get tricky very quickly. Rejecting accidental finger touches while paying attention to "good" touches is like a whole sub-discipline in HCI. If the billion dollar companies can't get this right, it's hard to try justifying the attempt with our tiny dev team.
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Postby ltgseb » 02-28-19 9:23 pm

Sorry for the late reply. I'm on a large HP Slate 17" tablet, running Android. It's a large tablet but still, even a 1cm square button requires good accuracy to hit, and that's mainly because of the ergonomics of the situation. I have the tablet situated just like a piece of sheet music - so my hand has to travel a fair distance from the piano keys to the top of the tablet. Doesn't seem like much, but repetitively, it adds up, and it takes me out of "flow". This is why I feel that using simple gestures anywhere on the main area via two-finger swipes up/down/left/right (nothing complicated) - which don't require you to accurately tap on buttons - and/or placing buttons at the bottom of the screen, which would cut half the physical effort, all would make a significant positive difference in my experience of using Synthesia as I learn to play a passage and use the controls often to manipulate the speed, loops, etc.

That said it's great to see that the product keeps evolving - keep it up!
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