Android app- transpose to a new key- great differentiator to drive adoption

• Nov 22, 2013 - 17:52

The ability to transpose a song into a different key on in the tablet app would be a killer.

IMHO, as simply a sheet music viewer/player, MuseScore on a tablet is kinda useful, but is frankly in a crowded field.

But if you could bring the tablet with MuseScore to a jam with your library of songs on it in mcsz format, and be able to transpose them right there, on-the-fly as songs are called, into whatever key they are called in ... well that would be a huge value and huge differentiator from the many other "sheet music library" apps.

In particular, I believe MuseScore has a big challenge trying to gain adoption in competition with ForScore (apple) and MobileSheets (Android) as a sheet music reader/library. Both of those apps have wide penetration and use already. They get very high ratings in the stores, and are richly developed, and frankly work very well. MuseScore can PLAY the tune as it's written. But ForeScore and MobileSheets can link and play MP3's. That's different than playing the score as written --- sometimes the mp3 will be better, sometimes the score will be better. But it doesn't give MuseScore a clear winner advantage.

Transposing is a frequent need, and neither of them can transpose, and because they are image-based (PDF, png, etc) -- it would be a huge re-write for them to add the ability to transpose.

On the other hand, MuseScore has an ideal architecture for transposing, using a notation-based file. To me, it appears to be a terrific value proposition, and a very logical+ effective way to differentiate MuseScore and gain adoption.


I agree, transposition is on the list for next version and it's perfectly doable.

My main concern about bringing transposition to the mobile app is to find the right user interface and answer to the right use case.

1/ What type of transposition are we talking about?
A/transposing instrument. In this case, the user will want to transpose the score but the playback will remain the same.
B/ second use case is accompanying a singer. Let's transpose a major third down for him/her to be more confortable. In this case, I guess playback should follow.

2/ The user interface, and it's kind of link with the previous point. We have experimented several options without finding the good one. Do users want to transpose from C major to Ab major, considering the first key signature in the score? Or do they want to transpose by qualified interval (major third, perfect fourth)? Or maybe they want to transpose diatonically? What about chordnames and key signature? should they be transposed? Do we transpose the full score, or do we need a way to transpose each staff separately?

In reply to by Nicolas

Transposing instrument is one important thing, e.g. Flute to Bb-Clarinet.

But also changing the key for the full score, for rehearsal situations like "let's try this in G major', on a score written in C major. Here of course including the chord symbols.

Your 'transpose a major third' for an accompanying singer would be the cream on top!

In reply to by Nicolas

Support for both transposing instruments (transpose display, playback stays same) and "actual" transposition (display and sound both transpose) would be more or less equally important, I think.

For transposing instruments, simply choosing Bb, Eb, or F would suffice. For "actual" transposition, choosing a new key might make sense, but not all music even has a key. So transposition interval should be an option as well - and given that, I could live without transposition by key.

With either instrument transposition or transposition by interval, key signature transposition should be optional - so pieces without a key (which otherwise look like C major) won't suddenly gain a key signature. Chord symbols should always transpose.

I can't imagine multiple people reading off the same tablet at once, so I wouldn't worry too much about how to handle multiple staves. But the "correct" behavior would be, instrument transposition can be applied staff by staff, "actual" transposition would affect the whole score.

In reply to by Nicolas

In my own mind, the simplest case to both think thru and implement is perhaps transposing the entire score, (including all parts, key sig's, and chords- everything) by an interval, or to a specific starting key.
* It would be important to be able to specify up or down.
* If one retrieves a new score from a website (wikifonia etc), it would also be useful to change the clef -- like treble to bass. Not many musicians who play bass clef instruments can read treble clef well/fast.
* I would also make the default to be "single sharps+flats" for ease of reading.

The context within which I offer these suggestions is this:
- the simplest score is a "lead sheet" (that is, single melody line, with chord symbols) --- similar to the ever-present "fake books" or Real Books. The musicians who use lead sheets represent perhaps the biggest, widest potential audience for this kind of app. And assuming this app does what they need, they're likely to be a good source of support for the whole MuseScore project.
- the most common problem in a rehearsal, jam, or performance situation is that different musicians either have their score or know the song in different keys, or as has been stated, a singer joins whose range can't get to the high or low notes in the key in which the instrumentalists know it. This problem is one of getting the lead sheet in front of you into the right key, rather than getting the app to "play" the score in the right key. (If you're looking for "accompaniment," apps like iRealPro are excellent at providing and playing a "robot rhythm section." IMHO at least, it would be hard for MuseScore to compete with that- it's well developed and widely adopted already.)
- people will use a music/score app on a tablet as a "satellite" -- using a laptop/desktop "at home" running MuseScore or some other source for MusicXML score files. The "heavy lifting" of score preparation will be done on the laptop/desktop because of the speed and versatility of a full keyboard, bigger screen, etc.
- people will bring a tablet to a jam/performance setting pre-loaded with scores for a bunch of music that they know/have worked on. Then they may perhaps access some new songs from the web (wikifonia etc) while at the jam.
- You generally want to play music while you're at this setting, rather than have to put much time into working with the score... but you still have this problem of "what key are we doing this in tonite?"

I haven't done coding in years but I am happy to help with this effort in some way if I can. I hope this is helpful.

As much as transposition would be useful, it is likely to present layout issues (collisions).

To demonstrate, here is a song ('Layla') from the Sheet Music Direct app (uses Scorch, I believe) - the default is F minor, but the correct original is D minor.

Attachment Size
F minor.PNG 86.65 KB
D minor.PNG 86.89 KB

In reply to by chen lung

Right, you'd have to expect to relayout, and some manual positioning won't be correct any more. Plus there will be places where you won't fit the same number of measures per line. It's possible to account for this to some extent, but I'd also say failure to do so needn't be a deal breaker.

Do you still have an unanswered question? Please log in first to post your question.