music software

With Music Software, Timing is Everything

I'd like to say that I know my way around a computer. At my last full-time job (for someone else), I was called one of the "super-users". However, I  have been experiencing several challenges with my Studio Lab computer. It's operating on Linux Ubuntu and it's not as easy as Mac or as familiar to me as Windows or even Unix or DOS. Linux has some fabulous apps available for education and more specifically, music education and music. For example:

  • music notation software (e.g. MuseScore)
  • audio recording and editing (e.g. Audacity)
  • drum machine (e.g. Hydrogen Drum Machine)
  • note reader trainers and more

Music and technology has never been so tempting. "Sudo apt-get install" is just so gosh-darn easy to do. Getting the sound set up and audio controls cooperating with all one another? Now there's my technical challenge. Thankfully, some super Linux users have posted some helpful tutorials. The Linux Community Forums have been good too, but having the visuals and working through the steps along with the video helped. It's just been challenging getting the time in to focus on it. The process has made me rethink my roll-out strategy for these music software programs. Rather than having them all available for my students to explore at once, I am going to just roll out a few programs at a time. I have learned that it's important to have Jack Control and those connections set up properly. 

After three weeks of on and off fiddling and re-installs, I can say with confidence that Hydrogen Drum Machine, Virtual Midi Piano Keyboard and Score Reading Trainer are playing nicely together in my computer lab.

Life was so much easier when dealing with physical midi and audio cables. Trying to set audio up in a virtual environment has really challenged my learning style.

Setting up the Studio Computer Lab

Students can improve their note reading, ear training and more on the computer,  Photo by R-M Arca.

Technology and music is a huge area for growth as far as music teaching goes. I recently transformed my old office laptop into a music computer lab.
I downloaded various cool (and free) apps from Ubuntu's software center, including:
  • Audacity
  • Linthesia
  • Score Reading Trainer
  • GNU Denemo
  • GNU Solfege
  • Hydrogen Drum Machine
  • Linux Multimedia Studio
  • Virtual Midi Piano Keyboard
  • Musescore
Generally, I zoomed in on apps that help students with note reading practice, ear training and rhythm work. The music notation software and audio recording software is to give them something fun to create.
One student was tickled pink that he earned three Maestro Bucks for creating a funky drum loop (and tutored his sister on how to use the program).

A Quick Note on Composing and Arranging

This week is Group Class Week, A.K.A. “Time to Catch Up on My Work” Week. My piano students will go on the annual field trip in lieu of their regular lesson. However, I’m still teaching my theory students and doing make-up piano lessons this week.  

Somehow, I wound up getting nominated for Calgary ARMTA’s Second Vice-President for 2006/07 at Monday’s meeting. It just sort of happened, leaving the incoming First Vice-President and I a little dazed. Ah well, we both knew we couldn’t stay in our current roles forever. Eventually, we’d have to move up.


The bane of my existence, bookkeeping, is nearly done. I’ve even started to put together the 2006/07 Studio Calendar (and scoping out piano pedagogical conferences and courses in far off places). A few meetings with prospective students and brides planning their weddings, along with a lunch with friends/colleagues complete my week.


Eventually, I’ll get to one item that’s been on my “To Do” List for a while – arranging Michael W. Smith’s song Above All into a piano duet for a student. Last year, I discovered that I enjoy composing and arranging. I currently use Finale Notepad (although sometimes, I’ll reach over for a trusty pencil and manuscript paper). Some of my students are showing a genuine interest in composing. I’ve found that the less instruction I give them at the beginning, the better. Some of their works are quite amazing.


I compiled this list of composing and music notation software links for my students, which I will share with you:


Happy composing!


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