Site update: audio for tune settings

Site update: audio for tune settings

Here’s the gist of the latest update: if you want to listen to a tune, you no longer have to download a midi file (and hope that you’ve got software that plays it). You can now play the audio directly in your browser.

Under the "sheet music" tab for every tune setting there’s now a button that says "play audio". That does what it says on the tin.

If you’re looking for the "download" button that was previously there, the functionality has changed a little. You can now find a "download ABC" button under the "ABC" tab of every setting.

Okay. That’s the short version. Check it out and see how you find it.

The long version…

The situation with midi files has been frustrating for quite a while. It’s a long time since browsers played them by default. It’s getting harder and harder to find software to play them, especially on phones. Having to download a file just to listen to a snippet of a tune was less than ideal.

Thanks to the excellent ABCJS software by Paul Rosen—which was already being used to generate the sheet music for each tune setting—the sheetmusic can be translated directly into audio.

I know that it sounds similar to midi (which means it doesn’t sound great), but it’s technically not a midi file that you’re hearing. It’s more like a synthesiser: it plays samples in quick succession. There are separate audio files for each note of the scale that are put together in the right order and with the right duration.

After listening to the results using samples from many, many instruments, I settled on the accordion sound as the best …or the least worst. Let’s face it, any computer-generated audio file is never going to be great, but I think this is good enough for just getting the idea of a how a tune goes. And the "play audio" button is discrete enough that you can ignore it if you never want to hear the generated audio.

If you experience any difficulties playing back the audio, please let me know (and let me know what browser you’re using). I know that the volume isn’t very loud—I can’t seem to figure out a way to fix that, but I’ll keep plugging away.

Anyway, I hope that you’ll like the change.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Brilliant. Thanks Jeremy. This site keeps getting better and better. That should keep me busy for a while.

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Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Nicely done!

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

This is great! One possible glitch-playing a tune setting in the collected settings of a variant in another key will not play…eg. the key of F for The man of the House.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

postie, you mean this setting?
https://thesession.org/tunes/222#setting12906

That glitch is unrelated to the key: I’ll see if I can figure out what’s going on there…

Ah, I found the problem: the setting included this bit of ABC notation: [D2D2] …which is technically redundant (the same note playing at the same time). That was throwing off the playback.

I’ve updated the setting, changing [D2D2] to plain ol’ D2. Now the audio plays back fine.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Firstly thankyou, if it’s you that administers this site, as it’s a wonderful thing that has opened ITM to me!

However, personally, this change is bad for me (I might well be an oddity as a beginner).

Being able to download the midi file easily was amazing as, on a phone, you can then instantly open it in a midi player (like “Midi Score”) and it then not only plays the midi file; but then you get all the functionally of whatever app you use eg the free “Midi Score” indicates exactly what note is being played (so you can easily follow if not great at reading music), let’s you change key, speed, select sections to loop when trying a hard bit + let’s you keep set lists and libraries for when playing at sessions.

For me the “play in browser” bit is nice to quickly play a version of a tune, but could you please re-enable the ability to also download a midi file again?

Thankyou 🙂

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Hi Jeremy, thanks so much for the update. I like this much better than the iPhereo MIDI app I was using. I the choice of the melodeon (at least I think it’s a melodeon) for the instrument: it feels really fitting for Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh tunes alike. Much better than the piano for this type of music, in my opinion.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

@belaytatron, You still can download…..
"If you’re looking for the "download" button that was previously there, the functionality has changed a little. You can now find a "download ABC" button under the "ABC" tab of every setting."
@Jeremy, I quite like the synthesized accordion sound. It gives a much better image.

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Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Wow Jeremy! This is extremely good!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THANKS A LOTTTTT

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@Gobby but this downloads a .abc file, not a .midi file so you can’t open it anymore in the variety of midi player apps.

As I say, I might very much be an oddity/unusual on here/have to adapt, but this is an unfortunate change for me as breaks my way of learning/storing/playing tunes 🙁

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

I agree with belayatron, while this is a great facility, I usually like to slow down a tune to learn it by ear. I do use midi files as a last resort, only if i can’t find or can’t decipher the tune in a recording. I know one can generate a midi from the ABC, but it’s another step to do in the process.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

@belayatron, you can use https://www.mandolintab.net/abcconverter.php , it’ll be four extra steps (copy ABCs, open mandolintab.net, paste ABCs, submit, download midi vs. just download midi on TheSession.org ), but, it’ll also give you some extra flexibility, as you can copy and paste the tune parts multiple times if you want the midi to play through say three times, and, you can adjust the tempo fairly easily there too, with, for example, "Q: 1/4 = 150", before the ABC notes.

@Jeremy, I like the feature, thank you! This might be a bit messier, but perhaps another add-on to this is the user could choose say between 2-4 instruments which sound half decent for computer generation, with accordion being the default setting.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Thank you for the clarification, Jeremy. I hope this doesn´t increase the workload overhead by being an inadvertant proof reading function! 🙂
As an added bonus, Chrome Capture functions with this feature, and allows you to download the playback as an mp3!

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

That’s great! I just used it to catch and correct about five mistakes in the tunes I submitted this week.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

For a blind person like me, this is absolutely brilliant. Many thanks, Jeremy; I’m sure I’ll be using this often.

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Yes! This has been driving me crazy on my iPad for ever. The accordion sound is very nice for what it is. The triplets sound much better and the rolls and grace notes are ignored all together. Fantastic!

And another vote of approval for https://www.mandolintab.net/abcconverter.php as well.
Want to tweak a few notes? Find a transition between tunes? Transpose? Download a midi file? Save/print a beautiful .pdf file? It has you covered.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Hi Jeremy, I only learn by ear, so this is a marvelous innovation which will be of great use to me. Many thanks,
Paul

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Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

That’s great Jeremy, many thanks.

Seems like a good time to remind myself of the "Support the Session" buttons for making contributions towards the running costs of this site. Click the mustard coloured label, top left.

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thanks Jeremy, that’s a great time saver, especially for those of us who learn by ear rather than dots or ABC- also the accordion sound is an improvement on the piano!

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The MIDI download was a great timesaver for importing tunes into, for example, Sibelius. I’ll miss that.

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Brilliant. Accordion definitely trumps pipes!

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I can see that, while the midi download wasn’t used by a lot of people, the people who were using really, really, really want it to stay.

So I’ve reinstated the midi download. It’s under the ABC tab. We’re back to having a "download" button which reveals two options: "download ABC" and "download midi".

At some future point, as midi usage declines even further, I might remove this option but for now, I guess there’s no harm in keeping it. And the fact that it’s tucked away under the "ABC" tab means it’s not too front-and-centre in the interface.

TomB-R, thanks for the reminder about supporting The Session. The details are here:
https://thesession.org/donate

Glad to hear that everyone is enjoying the new playback functionality. It’s interesting how it’s useful as a kind of proof-reading tool: like others have mentioned, I’ve caught mistakes in my settings by listening to the audio that I missed when looking at the sheetmusic.

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It really makes taste testing the different settings a much more pleasant experience.

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No sound on my iPhone useing safari 🙁

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"Let’s face it, any computer-generated audio file is never going to be great, but I think this is good enough for just getting the idea of a how a tune goes."

Not too bad! I’ve heard worse playing from living musicians. (OK, I have to admit that I’ve also heard better music from living musicians…).

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

I may have missed it is there a speed control for the play audio?

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Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Will, it should work on Safari on the iPhone: the code runs a test to see if the browser/device is capable of audio playback and only shows the button if the test passes. Can you confirm that your phone isn’t set to silent and you’re still not hearing anything? (You might have to turn the volume up—it’s a bit quiet.)

Mory, there is no speed control on the in-page playback. If you want more fine-grained control, you can download the ABC file or midi file and use your software to manipulate the output (as described in some of the posts above).

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Just after Will posted I tried with Safari on an iPad with IOS 12.4.9. No sound. I just tried again. No sound. Left it ‘playing’. Clicked a youtube clip in the comments to check I was getting sound. No problem. Paused the youtube clip and the setting started playing, until I paused it.

Did it again just to check.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Nice feature though, much better than the MIDI, thanks.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

I use an iPhone with Safari, and getting the audio to play was mostly fine, although a bit touch and go. For so reason I was having issues playing this reel, https://thesession.org/tunes/15496 but I came back later and it played fine. Initially it would say the play toggle button was not pressed, but when I hit the play button it would say the pause toggle button was pressed.
I tried a tune this morning though, no issues.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Have been round the house borrowing iOS devices:

iPhone SE (1st gen.) with IOS 14 - works fine. The ‘old’ download button showed just long enough to see it before being replaced. I wonder if that confuses Whimbrel’s screen reader.
mini IPad IOS 12.4.9 - as above, idiosyncratic but can get sound.
iPad IOS 9 - get the ‘old’ download button. I guess that’s a fallback.
iPhone 4 IOS 7 - get the ‘old’ download button.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Ok got it! Brilliant thanks .
Maybe a challenge us to put more swing into our notation!!

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> I know that the volume isn’t very loud—I can’t seem to figure out a way to fix that, but I’ll keep plugging away.

I think the problem is with the upstream soundfont - I’m not 100% sure I’m comparing like with like but I found a couple of samples and opened them in Audacity and they are very low volume.

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Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

David50, you’re seeing the download button if the ABC tab is active.

Once the sheetmusic tab is active, you don’t see the download button—it’s still there though, if you click on the ABC tab.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Jeremy. Thanks. On the iPhone SE it opens with the ABC tab active and then immediately switches to the Sheet Music tab without me doing anything. On the iPhone 4 it opens on the ABC tab and stays there. The Sheet Music tab just has the Print button.

It works fine on Chromium on Raspberry Pi OS (Debian), where most of the time it switches from the ABC tab too fast to see.

So I guess you have it working through its options after that initial load and on most modern devices we never see it. Might a screen reader start to output before the page has settled down?

It’s really nice not to have those MIDI rolls. 🙂

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@David50, that’s very plausible. I use the VoiceOver screen-reader, and it can be known to Jump around on some sites, although it’s relatively good on here (that said, I have made lots of accidental bookmarks in areas of this site which I wanted to visit but didn’t intend to bookmark, because I use the space bar and another key to navigate and hitting the space bar alone will bookmark the comment). Forgot to say I have an iPhereo 8 with the latest version of iOS.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Whimbrel, I’ve removed the code that was adding the "pressed" and "not pressed" announcements: hopefully that makes things clearer.

David50, yes that’s exactly what’s happening: there’s a quick test to see if the interface can switch to the sheetmusic automatically. It’s not quite instantaneous, hence the momentary glimpse of the ABC sometimes.

Calum, good call on the soundfont files being low volume. I’ve adjusted the files to make them louder so the volume should be more reasonable now.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Thanks for re-instating the midi download, much appreciated

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Brilliant new feature Jeremy.

I just added a setting of Paddy Fahey’s jig (https://thesession.org/tunes/532#setting39812) which I wouldn’t have attempted but for the addition of the audio. Many thanks.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Great new feature. Thank you Jeremy.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Brilliant! The old feature didn’t work on Macs, you had to download the midi and then play through a midi player. thanks Jeremy! Donation on the way.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

This is a very nice addition to the site. Thanks Jeremy 🙂

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A real pity the audio is not going to play the rolls.

The audios are very important to me because I am very aware that there are people that play 100% by ear like me. Therefore they completely depend on the audio. That is why I always try to transcribe tunes thinking in the resulting audio.

Those who take special care for the audio ouput when transcribing a tune will have to take into account that:

Rolls on the beat => the dotted crotchet without the sound of the roll in the audio will be acceptable. It would always be better with the roll but we can accept the sound of the continuous single note.

Rolls on the off-beat => if we want the audio to sound well, we have to be careful with these ones. Because a continuous note for the duration of a dotted crotchet instead of a roll it is not advisable to do in real playing. The sound is not good at all for Irish Traditional Music. I am personally going to avoid transcribing this type of roll, there are plenty of things to use instead.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Jeremy, this is a really sweet addition to an already marvelous site. Thanks.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Fernando, trust me, you don’t want to hear synthesised rolls. Leave that to humans, I say. 😉

As nice as the new audio playback is, it’s really just for getting the gist of a tune (much like the sheetmusic, or the ABC notation). I would never consider it a primary source.

Learning by ear is great, but that’s where real recordings come in. It’s not ideal for anyone to be learning by ear from an audio file which is generated from sheet music which is generated from ABC notation. And I certainly don’t think anyone should be trying to play rolls from listening to that audio.

So I consider it a feature, not a bug, that the audio playback doesn’t attempt to do rolls or grace notes. 🙂

Fernando, when you said "I am very aware that there are people that play 100% by ear like me. Therefore they completely depend on the audio." Surely those people—like yourself—would be learning from recordings? Albums, YouTube videos, etc. Right?

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Yes Jeremy, I suppose you are right, I will get use to this new audio output. I can always export the ABC to mandolintab if I want to listen the rolls and grace notes.

The new audio button is extremely good to me because I was exporting so many audio files everyday just to have a listen.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Works great on Mac and iPhone (make sure your phone isn’t switch to silent!). This is a big improvement. Thanks for making it work.

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Just a note of appreciation for Jeremy adding back the midi download option based on a minority of our comments.

Amazing service, care and speed (he also sent me a message letting me know he’d put it in place.

It made me realise what an amazing resource this is and how much I’d miss it if it went.
I’ve put through a (small) donation and would encourage others to do the same if they can.

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Cool - I’ll check out the abcjs editor. My main editor is Guitar Pro - which doesn’t take in ABC files! Sooooo I load into TaBazar then output as a GP file! Which is a bot odd as it outputs it as minims!! AND sometimes the ABC won’t load so I have to edit the file. Knowing little about ABC files makes this a fun exercise :( biut abcjs should help. So thanks for that (and ALL the tunes)

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Great feature, thanks Jeremy!

Just a quick note on notated rolls. I do indeed care for the audio output when transcribing a tune and got to the conclusion that what fits me best is to notate a long roll simply as three quavers (a short roll as two quavers). (Examples: bar 2 of the A part of Maghera Mountain https://thesession.org/tunes/2289#setting39728, or anywhere in The Itchy Cow https://thesession.org/tunes/19154#setting37665).

This is in line with what a roll actually is - a way of articulating three (or two) notes of the same pitch - and with the general tendency of leaving ornamentaion to improvisation at performance time. I understand that some rolls in some tunes are part of the tune and that it makes sense to notate them. However, transcriptions and written music has a marginal role in ITM and I am sure any ITM player would know where to play a roll.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Excellent addition to the site, Jeremy, thank you.

@Fernando: I agree with Sergio above (although I wouldn’t necessarily "fill in the blanks" with quavers). Unless you are attempting to transcribe every detail of a particular performance of a particular player (for teaching, personal study or general ethnomusicological purposes), I think it is advisable to indicate little or nothing in the way of ornamentation. Especially complex ornamentation such as rolls: not everybody plays them, and not everybody plays them in the same place, or always in the same place. On many instruments they cannot be played satisfactorily or at all. A squiggle over a note is OK because it doesn’t specify an exact decoration or embellishment and anyone reading the score can safely ignore it or play whatever decoration they choose.

As far as audio playback goes, I am grateful that Jeremy’s playback skips roll indications. As he says, machine-produced rolls are likely to sound ghastly.

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Brilliant!!

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Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

That’s marvelous. Thank you

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Thanks, Jeremy, for changing the bookmarking feature. It wasn’t really a big thing in the grand scheme of things, but nice to not keep accidentally bookmarking anymore.
Interestingly, even though it was working fine yesterday, Safari wasn’t playing the clips for me today. Once I clicked on the option to play audio, there was no sound, but I was given the option to pause the audio, which makes me think that my phone thought it was playing the audio when it really wasn’t.
I think it might just be a Safari quirk: it would be interesting to see if other Safari users are still experiencing the same though.

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Thanks for that, Jeremy! It’s really useful for quick reference, and the accordion sound is fine.

I’m just curious, when developing, did you try basic acoustic piano? I always use that on MuseScore to play back for quick reference. I just like is because it makes the notes a bit more ‘separated’ and without any sustain. Just a thought.

Great feature, all in!

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Nice one. No more opening files in Pro Logic!

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Jim, I did try acoustic grand piano and I would say that was the second best sound.

But for this kind of playback (which is technically different to midi), the accordion sound works better. I think it’s because the sound profile of the accordion doesn’t have too much difference between the attack, sustain, and decay which makes it sound okay when it’s sampled. With the piano, there can be a bit of clipping.

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Brilliant! Thank you, Jeremy.

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I read upthread about making sure my phone isn’t turned to silent… works great now!

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Thanks Jeremy, that’s phantastic! The accordion sound is a good choice I think, and the speed is nice.

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The new playback feature works great on my computers (thank you!) but not on my iPhone 6s or my iPhone XR. I tried it in both Chrome and Safari, checked my microphone settings, made sure I was getting sound on other sites. Not sure what else to try?

Thanks

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Great stuff, Jeremy—-thanks a million! I stumbled on the new feature a few days ago, before you posted about it, and just love it. Sounds a lot more natural than the older midi rendition. Also a way more efficient way to comb through the various versions.
And having it without the cuts and rolls is good, as those are really up to individual players to include. That and phrasing are really only had from hearing lots of the real thing, of course.
Great site, and I’ll second other’s call to send in a donation if you’re able!

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Thank you!! This makes it so easy to listen to the tunes and -if I can-play along with it! Works fine on my iPhone and iPad!

Thanks!

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Excellent! I’ve donated again! By the way, I use Firefox with AdBlock Plus. The ad blocker was blocking the download dropdown menu. As soon as I disabled AdBlock for the site, it works.

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A great feature - mostly. Is there a way to slow down the player speed? I have been listening to a ‘melancholy polonaise’, waltz time, which is playing at roughly 180bpm! https://thesession.org/tunes/20113#setting39795

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This is a tremendous boon to those of us who learn tunes by ear. Thank you, Jeremy!

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straysider, if you download the ABC file then you can use software to slow down, speed up, and transpose the tune.

The audio player on the site plays at a fairly standard tempo—that particular waltz has been submitted with lots of doubled-up notes, hence the fast playback speed. Most waltzes don’t play back that fast.

Re: Site update: audio for tune settings

Straysider, you can listen to the tune’s midi at a different tempo with the abcjs Configurator online.
Copy the abcs. On the Home Page ~ https://configurator.abcjs.net/
select all the text in the text box & replace it with the abc setting you just copied.
Then on the Audio page ~ https://configurator.abcjs.net/audio
type in the Quarter Notes Per Minute you want to slow it down to. Probably something between 60 - 90.
I cannot configure it to playback using the soundfonts. That would be much better for the sound quality,
but you can slow it down with the basic bits I used.

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I *think* I’ve managed to solve the issue that some iPhone users were experiencing.

Anyone who has having problems, could you check again and see it it’s working now?

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From a quick check it seems OK on the mini IPad with IOS 12.4.9 now. Was erratic before.

I’m using it much more than the old MIDI version. A big improvement. Thanks

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It works perfectly on both an iPhone 12 with IOS 14.2.1, and a 2015 Macbook running MacOs Catalina. Great feature, because I didn’t like cluttering up my hard drive with downloaded midis.

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Thanks for testing that, Emily and David—much appreciated!

Sounds like the iOS issues are sorted. If anyone’s still having problems, please let me know.

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THANK YOU! for returning the Midi download button to the tunes. Though I convert them to MP3 files for practice, I prefer the "piano" sound to practice along with. I use an app(lication) to change speed and key.