Simon Willison’s Weblog


19 items tagged “music”


State-of-the-art music scanning by Soundslice. It's been a while since I checked in on Soundslice, Adrian Holovaty's beautiful web application focused on music education.

The latest feature is spectacular. The Soundslice music editor - already one of the most impressive web applications I've ever experienced - can now import notation directly from scans or photos of sheet music.

The attention to detail is immaculate. The custom machine learning model can handle a wide variety of notation details, and the system asks the user to verify or correct details that it couldn't perfectly determine using a neatly designed flow.

Free accounts can scan two single page documents a month, and paid plans get a much higher allowance. I tried it out just now on a low resolution image I found on Wikipedia and it did a fantastic job, even allowing me to listen to a simulated piano rendition of the music once it had finished processing.

It's worth spending some time with the release notes for the feature to appreciate how much work they've out into improving it since the initial release.

If you're new to Soundslice, here's an example of their core player interface which syncs the display of music notation to an accompanying video.

Adrian wrote up some detailed notes on the machine learning behind the feature when they first launched it in beta back in November 2022.

OMR [Optical Music Recognition] is an inherently hard problem, significantly more difficult than text OCR. For one, music symbols have complex spatial relationships, and mistakes have a tendency to cascade. A single misdetected key signature might result in multiple incorrect note pitches. And there’s a wide diversity of symbols, each with its own behavior and semantics — meaning the problems and subproblems aren’t just hard, there are many of them.

# 20th June 2024, 4:37 am

Printing music with CSS Grid (via) Stephen Bond demonstrates some ingenious tricks for creating surprisingly usable sheet music notation using clever application of CSS grids.

It uses rules like .stave > [data-duration="0.75"] { grid-column-end: span 18; } to turn data- attributes for musical properties into positions on the rendered stave. # 2nd May 2024, 2:28 pm

Wikipedia: Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society (via) I created my first Wikipedia page! The Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society is a really neat live music venue in Half Moon Bay which has been showcasing world-class jazz talent for over 50 years. I attended a concert there for the first time on Sunday and was surprised to see it didn’t have a page yet.

Creating a Wikipedia page is an interesting process. New pages on English Wikipedia created by infrequent editors stay in “draft” mode until they’ve been approved by a member of “WikiProject Articles for creation”—the standards are really high, especially around sources of citations. I spent quite a while tracking down good citation references for the key facts I used in my first draft for the page. # 5th March 2024, 4:21 pm


The Commodordion (via) The Commodordion is “an 8-bit accordion primarily made of C64s, floppy disks, and gaffer tape” by Linus Åkesson. It’s absolutely beautiful. # 21st October 2022, 11:36 pm


Weeknotes: first week of Stanford classes

One of the benefits of the JSK fellowship is that I can take classes and lectures at Stanford, on a somewhat ad-hoc basis (I don’t take exams or earn credits).

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Music: The Geeking. More on Simon Tatham’s Gonville music font. He concluded that “Bézier curves are not a good tool for font design”, and instead switched to using curves based on involutes of circles with his own custom curve design tool. # 12th May 2010, 12:43 pm

Music Notation with HTML5 Canvas. A pretty decent effort at rendering musical notation using JavaScript and the canvas element. # 12th May 2010, 8:53 am

Gonville: a font of musical symbols, compatible with GNU Lilypond. By Simon Tatham. I thoroughly recommend taking a look at the source code—it’s written in Python, contains detailed comments and defines every musical symbol using co-ordinates and trigonometry. # 12th May 2010, 8:51 am

Revisiting the click track. Paul Lamere uses the new Echo Nest API to access analysis data for music tracks and plot the beats per minute, making it easy to spot bands or drummers using a click track or drum machine to stay in tempo. # 15th February 2010, 9:35 am


Help! My iPod thinks I’m emo—Part 1. Detailed write-up of one of my favourite panels from this year’s SxSW, on music recommendation engines. # 30th March 2009, 10:11 am


How Companies Pay Artists to Include Brands in Lyrics. “We just feel that if it’s a product that’s admired by the artist and fits his/her image, we now have the capability of leveling out the playing field and making things financially beneficial for all parties involved.” Charming. # 20th September 2008, 12:16 pm


Musical hackery. Indescribably clever musical video game creation, where images from classic games spell out their own theme tunes. The smartest thing I’ve seen on YouTube, well, ever. # 22nd November 2007, 5:03 pm

Radiohead Album Available for Free, But Fileshared Anyway. “Why are some people getting In Rainbows from P2P rather than the band’s site? Probably because they find P2P easier to use.” # 18th October 2007, 5:39 pm

Convenience Wins, Hubris Loses and Content vs. Context. Fantastic presentation from Ian Rogers, the head of Yahoo! Music, who has spent 8 years watching DRM cripple the online music industry. # 8th October 2007, 9:10 pm

For any song you already own on CD, Apple is asking you to pay three times for it in order to use it as a ringtone on your iPhone: once for the CD you’ve already purchased, again to buy a needless duplicate of the track from the iTunes Store, and a third time to generate the ringtone.

John Gruber # 14th September 2007, 8:15 am

The music companies are in a dying business, and they know it. Sure, they act all cool because they hang around with rock stars. But beneath all the glamour these guys are actually operating two very low-tech businesses. One is a form of loan-sharking: they put up money to make records, then force recording artists to pay the money back with exorbitant interest. The other business is distribution.

Fake Steve Jobs # 5th July 2007, 12:03 pm

“Obsessed with putting ink on paper” (via) Fascinating essay from the authors of Lilypond describing the challenges involved in writing software to typeset music. # 30th March 2007, 3:04 pm

iConcertCal (via) “iConcertCal is a free iTunes plug-in that monitors your music library and generates a personalized calendar of upcoming concerts in your city.” # 1st February 2007, 5:12 pm