Friday, 5 January 2018

Guest Post: Batch up your PDFs

Greetings fellow Editors.

My name is Owen, you may know me as "that one person out there using git to version control their scores". I've been asked to do a guest post on a feature that's new to DSE 2.6.4: command line export-to-pdf, how to use it and why you might want to.


This is fairly easy. You'll need a licenced copy of DSE, a java runtime environment installed (this is actually optional, see below), and an open command prompt (cmd.exe on Windows or Terminal on Mac/*nix). At your prompt, type the following command:

java -jar <path to DSE jar> createPDF <path to .ds file> <path to .pdf file>

The <path to ...> bits can be either absolute (starting with a / or drive letter), or relative to your current location. You may find it useful to run the command from either the folder holding your .ds files, or the folder you want the .pdf to appear in. I'm on Windows and I like to keep my .ds files separate from the corresponding .pdf files, so I run my command from the folder that contains both the .ds folder and the .pdf folder, and it looks like this:

java -jar "C:\Program Files (x86)\DrumScoreEditor\app\DrumScoreEditor-2.6.4.jar" createPDF Scores\3-4March.ds PDFs\Retreats.pdf

If you don't already have java installed (and don't want to get it), you can invoke the application directly:

<path to DSE executable> createPDF <path to .ds file> <path to .pdf file>

In this case, however, the file paths will need to be absolute.

Let's say you wanted to be a bit lazy, and just name the .pdf file the same as the .ds file (with the appropriate extension, of course!). In that case, you can simply specify a destination directory, and that's what'll happen:

java -jar "C:\Program Files (x86)\DrumScoreEditor\app\DrumScoreEditor-2.6.4.jar" createPDF Scores\3-4March.ds PDFs

Let's say you wanted to be really lazy, and do all the .ds files in a folder, exporting them to .pdf files of the same name. In that case, you can simply specify source and destination directories, and that's what'll happen.

java -jar "C:\Program Files (x86)\DrumScoreEditor\app\DrumScoreEditor-2.6.4.jar" createPDF Scores PDFs

This is actually far more efficient than doing the files one at a time, because the overhead of starting up the program only happens once.


This is a little harder to answer. On its own, this probably isn't going to make anybody's life easier. If you're editing a drum score, then it's actually less effort to go File -> Export -> Export as pdf... than it is to open up a command prompt and do all that typing. But the beauty of being able to run a command to do this is that it opens up possibilities for automation.

I mentioned earlier that I am using git to keep track of the different versions of scores (I assume that mine is not the only band that likes to constantly tweak their scores!). One of the things that git can do is run user-specified sequences of commands when certain things happen, so I have configured my system such that when I'm happy with how the .ds files are, I can have git automatically do the following (using GNU make):

  • Check which files have changed, and only do the next steps for those files that have changed (this is the bread and butter of GNU make)
  • If I have two - or sometimes even three - small tunes in a set, make a new .ds file with those scores on one page (using a program I wrote myself)
  • Convert the .ds files to .pdf files (which is what this post is all about)
  • Merge multiple .pdf files into one - e.g. put a March, a Strathspey, and a Reel into a three-page MSR.pdf (using sejda [])
  • Upload any changed files to Google Drive, so that the corps can download the new score (using gdrive [])

These are all steps that I had to perform manually before setting this up, and it was often error prone; I'd forget to actually export the changed score and I'd end up uploading the same .pdf file to Google Drive, or I'd accidentally merge the .pdf files in the wrong order, or I'd make a change to a score that shares a page with another score but then forget to make the same change in the .ds file of that score alone. Now, however, all this happens automatically, so I have a much smaller chance of making a mistake.

This is really only possible with a command-line way to export a .pdf, which Alan has kindly incorporated into DSE for me in this release. Prior to this I had been using Sikulix ( to do the exports by making the mouse cursor actually do the File -> Export -> Export as pdf... movement, but it's much faster and more reliable to do it this way.

Happy Scoring!

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Drum Score Editor 2.6.3 Release Notes

  • It now works again for unlicensed users - sorry about that!
  • Highlighter colours that included a transparency setting weren't being loaded from a score file properly, losing said transparency
  • Ahem, the properties dialogue box wasn't showing the highlighter colours in effect, only the defaults
  • If you printed a score and had a selection in effect or the cursor flashing etc, it would show in the printout - not very useful!
All fixed. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

When a duplet isn't a tuplet

I learned something this week, which resulted in a rapid update to Drum Score Editor just in time for the release 2.6 build that's been in beta for a while.

I though I understood irregular groups and how to write them, having been writing music for more years than I care to mention. Software can only do what it's been programmed to do, meaning if I misunderstand something musically then so will the software I write. OK there's artificial intelligence and machine learning out there now and maybe we'll bring some of that to Drum Score Editor one day, but stick with me here, software only embodies the knowledge of those that specified it!

I've been thinking that an irregular group, i.e. when you have a bind (or slur or tie, they all have become synonymous in pipe band drumming it seems) and it has a number under the arc, that to me means you play the number of notes there in the time of one less than the number in the arc. I.E. a triplet has a 3 under the arc and it means play these 3 notes in the time of 2.

Clear as mud so far I hope. Well apparently triplets and the like, as you can have any number in such an irregular group are something called tuplets in the music theory world, and they can be much more complicated than my simple description above ( I especially like the bit that says "Some numbers are used inconsistently: for example septuplets (septolets or septimoles) usually indicate 7 notes in the duration of 4—or in compound meter 7 for 6—but may sometimes be used to mean 7 notes in the duration of 8"

I have no idea how to deal with that!

In there though it talks about the compound meter, which for us mere mortals means a compound time signature. That's those where the beat note is divided into 3 underlying notes, e.g. in 6/8 time, it says there are 6 quavers (8th notes) in a bar, and the 8 means there's 2 beats (am not going to explain here, it's complex, well ... compound). So you have 3 quavers per beat. A simple time signature is one like 2/4 where you have 2 quarter notes (crotchets) in the bar - that's why it's simple!

OK we got through that I hope so back to the article - when there's a 2 used to group notes, and it's in a compound time signature it means something else - it's a duplet. And rules are different for duplets than tuplets! Duplets increase the duration of the notes grouped rather than decrease it. In a triplet it's 3 in the time of 2 therefore you are reducing the duration of each of the 3 notes to take the same time as 2 of those notes would usually.

How does this work and why the hell would you make it this complicated. The answer is it's all about temporarily shifting the time signature from a compound to a simple one. If your time signature naturally breaks into 3 notes and you only want to play 2 with the second on the half beat (note, not a third of the beat) how would you write that? Well we've all been writing it wrong, or at least lazily, probably because this stuff is hard to take in when you're learning to drum and understand music at the same time - that's a guess, I don't actually know why so many of us have this wrong, me included until now.

Let's take a well known 6/8 score ....
Those of us of a certain vintage will see that and go yup, I can play that get stuck in, in drummer speak it dut dzzut plup plup etc .... (honest).

But look how we played that first bar, if you know this score you'll know the 2nd and 4th notes in the bar are actually played on the half beat, go on, try counting it out! It's definitely not played 1 2 3 1 2 3. It's played 1 2 1 2, with the 2 being on the half beat. But it's definitely not written that way. How we write it is where duplets come in.

Note the 2 denoting that the 2 notes should be played in the time of 3. Yep, in a compound time signature this means play 2 in the time of 3, thus having the effect of playing the notes like they were in a 2/4.

How many of us would spot this in a score? I'd bet beer that very few of us would unless schooled outside the pipe band drumming scene.

Anyway Drum Score Editor is now "fixed" in that it recognises the duplet in compound time signatures and auto beam, beautify and the media studio all interpret them the correct way. Use them if you wish, it's pretty rare to see them in pipe band scores I think ... maybe your experience is different? Would be good to hear.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Textual Healing

This is a long overdue post about adding text to your drum scores. Yep, we've now got the ability to add images, but I get a reasonable number of questions about the text options so thought it was about time I write this up, as I've written it a few times in different emails!

There are 2 ways to add text in Drum Score Editor. Text Areas and Text Tags.

Text Areas

These we have all seen, examples are created by the New Score workflow you use when creating a new score. It creates the title text box, author, band name text boxes etc. You can add more of these type of text boxes, which can sit anywhere on the page using the Insert -> Text Area menu item. Wait, I hear you say, that menu option is greyed out, I can't select it! No, you can't, unless you enable page level editing.

I call it page level editing because it’s about creating, moving, resizing and deleting the text, music or image areas on the page. It’s disabled by default because mostly folks don’t do that very much, and have in the past done things like accidentally copied and pasted entire music areas over each other causing all sorts of confusion. Example, if you copy and paste the main music area on the page exactly on top of the original, then go in and try to delete a note it will look like it's still there. It's not, you've actually deleted it, but the music area underneath the one you're editing hasn't changed so you'll see it's note come through. When someone called in with "I'm deleting notes but they're not going away" this had me stumped. It then dawned on me that making it a conscious choice to edit the page level components of the page was probably a good thing, as folks tend not to do that very much.

OK so we have these page level components, for text, music and images. The new score workflow creates all you need for most situations but say you want to put 2 scores on one page. There's no built in workflow to do this so you're getting down and dirty in the weeds doing it manually.

There are however consequences and effects so please bear with me. If you want to use advanced features such as the mp4 movie production of you playing the score while the animated metronome shows the beat notes, then be aware it only works on the music area generated when the score was created. Drum Score Editor has nothing builtin (at the moment) that understands you've put two tunes on the page ... watch this space though, v3 will support this. 

Meantime, you can put as many text and music areas on a page as you wish. So if you’ve already perhaps written two tunes into one music area and are looking to split them out, you can do the following:
  1. Enable Page Editing using the menu Edit -> Page. A check should appear next to it showing it’s enabled.
  2. Click on the border of your music area, it will turn blue and little drag boxes will appear. Click and hold the bottom one, and drag the mouse up the page. This will compress the music area leaving you some space on the page.
  3. Using the Insert -> Text Area menu item create a new text box where you next click the mouse. You can resize it etc same way as we did for the music area above, and even move it the same way, by clicking and dragging anywhere else on the border.
  4. Click inside the text box and type the title of your next tune.
  5. Next click on the border of the music area you compressed above, then use Edit -> Copy to copy the music area to the clipboard.
  6. Next use Edit -> Paste to paste a copy of the music area onto the page.
  7. Click on the border and drag it to where you want it to be, presumably in the bottom half of the page.
  8. Then delete the lines you don’t need from each of the 2 music areas, you’ll be keeping the lines for the first tune in the top music area and the lines for the 2nd tune in the bottom area.
This is perhaps the neatest way for printed music to show the two tunes separately on the same page, however to stress, the mp4 feature will not work on the 2nd tune.

Text Tags

I mentioned right at the top that there are two ways of doing text. If you've ever used the 2nd time workflow you'll have already seen an example of text tags. It creates one on the bar of the 1st time line saying "1st Time", and creates on on the  bar line at the start of the 2nd line saying "2nd Time".

You can add a text tag to any item you create on a staff line, i.e. a bar symbol, a rest, a note. To do so select the item you want to have a text tag and hit ctrl-t, or use the right-click drop down menu to choose Note -> Text Tag. If you want to remove a text tag it's the same process, select the item with it on and hit ctrl-t, it's a toggle on/off action.

Note that if you want to do this to bar lines, you'll need to take the safety harness off by using Edit -> Bars to enable bar editing. Note with this enabled you can move bar lines, delete them etc so I'd recommend switching it back off again as soon as you don't need it anymore.

Once you've got a text tag on an item on the staff you have some further options. 
  1. To edit the content of the text tag click within the text area and use the usual text editing options, select, overwrite, arrow keys to move etc. Should be second nature.
  2. By default Drum Score Editor places the text tag at a fixed space above the item it's attached to.To move the text tag to appear underneath the item, click inside the text and use the Alt key and the Down arrow key. Similarly to move it up it's the Alt and Up arrow key.
  3. To change the format click inside the text and then use the Format -> Text menu options to alter as wanted, i.e. Bold, Italic, Underline, font size.
In the earlier example of two tunes on one page in the same music area, what you could do, it you wanted to be able to use the mp4 feature while, is put a text tag on the the opening note or bar of the second tune, just to identify where it starts.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Drum Score Editor 2.6 Release Notes


  • Media Studio - animated metronome, record your audio, produce mp4 videos - a new way to communicate with your corps
  • New hotkey alt-b for Beautify, no more searching on the menu for something so frequently used
  • If the count of notes in a selection is an even number, the . (dot) hotkey will apply dot and cut to each pair of notes, previously it only did this if exactly 2 notes were selected
  • The - (minus) key now applies a cut and a dot to pairs of notes when there's an even number in the selection too, i.e. like dot does above but for cut / dot instead of dot / cut, clear as mud eh? Go on, try it you'll see what I mean
  • When generating a new score, if you select a tune type that there's an obvious time signature choice for the time sig piece gets populated for you, you can still override it if you really must
  • Drop down (popup) menu enhancements, cut, copy paste now included on the drop down menu for a selection
  • A new drop down menu that appears when you right click on score background has been added, allowing paste of any notes copied to the clipboard plus the items you usually have to reach up to the Format -> Music top menu for
  • Dependancy on printer drivers removed (except when printing!) one less way for Microsoft to blow up Drum Score Editor
  • Enhanced time signatures - yep 7/16 is a possibility now for our Asturian drumming friends
  • Additional score type of Fanfare in layout generator, saves some typing later
  • Help links to online docs so you can find stuff easier
  • Add watermarks to scores, lots of uses here including tracing distribution i.e. whose copy of the score got posted to a public forum!
  • Add logos and images to your scores
  • manuals updated


  • Duplets in compound time now handled properly, always good to learn something new!
  • On a unison note, that’s dotted, if you exclude the grace notes, the dot doesn’t get the yellow fill - it does now
  • On mac the traditional cmd + now zooms, however the menu says it's cmd =, because actually in this case the mac designers got it wrong, we all actually use cmd = but because it has a + on the key ... oh it's weird let's just say the keyboard now works as expected.
  • Beautify didn't include space for time sigs
  • Messages are now a bit clearer as to why a file doesn't open, especially if you choose it from the most recently used list, and the file was moved elsewhere or deleted - there's only so much mind-reading we can do!
  • Fixed some badly nudged bits of artwork in the icon, more for me than you, was annoying me
  • Made some progress in making the highlight colours work better, they're OK except when you use the inbuilt PDF writer, looks all good on the screen now but man that PDF stuff hurts - if you've got a mac or other add in pdf writers they tend to respect antialiasing directive, the inbuilt apache one doesn't. If this mean nothing it means you don't have this problem!
  • Issue with a quaver being first note in bar in 2/2 followed by a crotchet - tail gets drawn horizontally - well it used to, that's fixed too.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Drum Score Editor 2.5 Release Notes

The Robots Are Here

Huge thank you to the global team of beta testers who helped test and refine this great new feature. Firstly, it's only available to those who've purchased a license for Drum Score Editor, as it falls into the category of productivity features.

OK so it's not a real robot, it's a software robot. It watches as you enter and format notes and rests into your score and automatically joins the tails of notes together, i.e. adds the beams between notes. It watches for beat groups and makes sure the notes don't join across those, and also watches for the primary subdivision and makes that a single beam. It doesn't do the single beam thing in the anacrusis as that would be wrong, as it's often only a single beat.

Similarly rests are considered differently from notes, auto beam won't join tails underneath a rest unless you manually ask it to, which reuses the familiar manual method of using the L key, or the popup menu.

As always you can switch it off, for an individual score in it's properties or overall in the preferences if you prefer to manually beam notes.


Also fixed a bug where if you said a text tag was to go below a note, Drum Score Editor would ignore this when loading the score from a file and put it at the top again. It now does as it's told! 

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Visual Metronome & Embedded Video / Audio Concept

Concept is to be able to play along to the written score, at the set tempo. We’ve had a bpm (beats per minute) property on a score for a while but it’s not been used for anything meaningful until now.

The experience for the user is intended to be pressing a play button of some sort, and you get a click track or visual count down for the number of beats in the bar, as determined by the time signature property on the score, then a click track plus a bouncing red ball that falls down on to each beat note, at the correct tempo, making an arc between each beat. Future revisions could have the ball bounce on each note in the score at the correct time too.

Definitely not trying to implement synthetic playback, there’s enough attempts at that out there using different approaches like sampling drummers and so on. In theory we probably could extend the functionality in a future revision but it’s not intended here. What is intended here is this lays the foundation for embedding a video or audio track of the author playing the score, which is synchronised to the written score.

As the score plays back it might be useful to be able to stop / start at different points, so having a set of controls like a video player will be useful, e.g. a volume slider for the click track,  or even a mute click track check box, we’ll also need a start / stop button, plus a location slider, i.e. slide all the way to the left takes you to the start, to the right is the end so you can position anywhere.

As the location slider moves, so the score should reflect the location in real time, so the user can see where they are at. As audio / video is added in later phases of the development, the slider should move the video in real time too.

Modern interfaces have the controls overlaid on the window and they fade out when not in use, and any mouse movement or keystroke makes them reappear. Might push that complexity to a second phase, and just start with a bar along the bottom of the window that has the controls on it, only downside is it uses dedicated space on the screen, rather than allowing maximum possible for the score to be seen.

We need to think about how to fit the score in whatever size window the user has decided, i.e. the window has standard controls for minimise, maximise, close and can be dragged to whatever size wanted. The piece of the score that surrounds the current beat needs to be visible at all times, so we must scroll the score as it plays, both horizontally and vertically but it would seem strange to not have the whole line visible, might not include horizontal scrolling in first pass to encourage that good habit. 

A zoom control might be more appropriate here, especially for reuse in later versions where an author may be looking to export a regular video of the score being played with the score embedded.

So MVP is a first-class window, bounces a red ball off the beat notes after an intro countdown, start / stop control at the bottom, this and features below all bound to the licensed version of Drum Score Editor. 

Future List
  • Add a control that allows back and forth through the score.
  • Add an audio click track to help play along, with mute and volume options.
  • Add ability to record audio while playing along, add recorded audio into the score playback, with volume option
  • Add ability to record video while playing along, add recorded video into the score playback, with volume option, it be either / or for audio and video track, i.e. only one media format embedded
  • Investigate placing a watermark in an export of the resultant video with name of who bought it and a copyright statement