Saturday, 21 November 2015

What's next for Drum Score Editor

I keep a list of requests from people and ideas of my own in a list and once recovered from a development / test / release / support cycle sit down and try to sort them into some sort of priority order.

Those who've been with this project from the beginning will know it's a means to an end for me, not commercial, although it would be nice to be able to spend more time on it, which if I could figure out how to support the family from just this it would be awesome!

Having my own score editor for me is just to be able to work on progressing the experiment of software being able to "listen" to drumming and write most of the score down for you. There's been lots of press around a tablet advert recently where it showed someone scribbling notes and it interpreting them for you. That's all about finding a more natural way to enter the score into the system, and handwriting is still easier for most than flying a keyboard and mouse. I say most as my handwriting is now awful after 30 years as a keyboard warrior!

I'd say for drummers the most natural way to enter a score would be to simply play it. Why has nobody ever done this before? The answer is it's complex but is achievable, and the only reason is the amount of effort (the hundreds of days of coding)  to do it would never be recovered financially, so the effort can't be made to make it happen.

We're not that funny a lot in pipe bands, it's our hobby and we spend enough on uniform, travel, subs etc to play in a band, so paying a couple of hundred pounds for a software tool that will help save some time in writing out scores isn't really a priority for most! And it would be that price if I had to pay others to write the software, couple of good developers for a year would cost 100K, if each copy were to sell at 200 pounds, that's 500 copies needing to be sold before breaking even - if anyone would pay that for it! There's not 500 people needing that level of sophistication.

So this will continue as my ultimate goal, to get a piece of scoring software good enough to be usable everywhere, and use it as the mule to carry the scores created by the "listening" software. Does it exist? Yes, but only in very formative terms, experimental even. It can cope with a simple 2/4 time sig and very simple note structures, go irregular group and it hasn't got the nouse to reverse that into a series of accurate notes yet. But it will, when I get time to work on it further.

So what's in the way? What needs to be done before I can get to it? The challenge of the software becoming more popular is folks want just one more tweak, can you just add this etc. No problem, I will as I want this to be useful too. Here's what's on the list:

  1. Allow just the main note to be unison, excluding specifically any grace notes
  2. Tie to nowhere, i.e. first or last note of a line and tie to the end of bar but not to another note
  3. crescendo / diminuendo across lines
  4. bracketing feature for u, f, ff, p, pp, 1st, 2nd type notation
  5. progress beautify to fix anacrusis spacing, auto align bar lines, right align end of line bars
  6. customisations for staff line thickness, note / staff gap, 
  7. add smart-spacing to the triplet / irregular group add logic
  8. add staff line grouping to create musical systems (side, tenor, bass)
  9. highlight incomplete or over-filled bars of music while editing
  10. option to beautify just the selection
  11. add multiple page support
  12. add graphics / logos to scores
  13. add full text editor areas with multi lines and stylised text 
  14. fix the view-zoom / actual menu logic - corrupts view today
  15. unison line bracket not closed off in all cases
  16. do nicer things on install like file associations, local vs system install
  17. add local fonts for text areas
  18. ghost out suggested tenor scores from analysis of side score

That's probably achievable by this time next year!

I'm also starting to write a new app for the iPad / iPhone for editing drumscores. I'm not convinced myself, I think the usefulness is limited, compared to a laptop with keyboard and mouse and listening to scores with the inbuilt microphone is potentially limited too, am hoping there's more of a convergence between laptops and tablets ultimately but definitely requires a complete new app to work in the Apple system properly.

Then it needs writing again for the Microsoft world. So if there's any billionaire out there who wants to make a large payment so I can go work on this full time for reasons of simple philanthropy please call ... soon!


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Version 2.23 Release Notes

Drum Score Editor version 2.23 is here! 


The major changes are as follows:
  • Improved appearance of notes and grace notes
  • Tooltips added to note toolbox icons
  • Irregular group ties can now be shown underneath the notes
  • Select music in block mode
  • Proportionately squeeze or expand a series of notes
  • Have Drum Score Editor take a shot at beautifying your score layout
  • Ability to vertically align notes across multiple lines

Improved Appearance of Notes and Grace Notes

Right and left hand notes now sit the same distance away from the staff line, previously there was a small gap below right hand notes and the top of the left hand note touched the line. Similarly for grace notes, some touched the line, some didn't.

Some touch up of how the flams, roughs, drags stems and beams to paint a more consistent picture.

Also nudged up where the strikes through a stem sit, to indicate a roll. For cut semiquavers, or demisemiquavers (that's cut 16th or 32nd notes for some), with 2 strikes through the stem (the pipe band norm) is was touching the top beam.

TBH most won't have noticed any of that, I just hope the scores somehow appear better next time you load them into Drum Score.

Tooltip Added to Note Toolbox Icons

Tooltips are the messages that appear above an icon if you let the mouse hover above it for a while. These have been added where missing, and extended to include the short cut key at the end of the message, in square brackets. This means when you see the following message "Toggle Buzz / Roll [r]" for example this means if you click that button, or press the r key on your keyboard, any selected notes will have the strikes put through the stem to show it as a roll or buzz stroke.

Irregular Groups can now be shown Underneath Notes

We've all seen those scores where the author has decided to write the triplet tie underneath the notes rather than add more etchings above the note heads, where let's face it, it can get really busy with accents, grace notes, roll ties, crescendo, unison markings. Strathspeys in particular where the author has not adopted the convention of just ignoring the triplet sign because it's a strathspey and everybody should now.

I'm a big fan of keeping scores looking as clean and simple as possible, I know a number of people have asked for this feature so please give it a whirl.

Select Music in Block Mode

Prior to this release the only way a selection of multiple notes could be made was in a series, or flow of notes. I.E. you select between two notes and every note in-between becomes selected, even across multiple lines.

Now (if you're a licensed user) you can switch to block select mode (check the item on the Edit menu) and your selections are now made in a block mode, I.E. if you start at the first note in the 2nd bar on one line and select up to the last note in the 2nd bar on the next line down, only the notes in the 2nd bar on both lines become selected.

Why is this useful? Well perhaps you have a 2/4 and you want to copy and paste bars 3 and 4, the middles, and bars 7 and 8, the ending to another part, you can do that with one select, copy and paste.

Also check out aligning notes vertically on different lines below, useful there too.

Proportionately Squeeze or Expand a series of Notes

Say what? This is really quite useful, for licensed users though. If you select 3 or more notes on a single line, you'll see little grab boxes in the top and bottom corners of the selection. If you click and drag within one of those boxes, it compresses or expands the selection, maintaining the same relative distance between each note, but obviously if you're dragging out the way, it's increasing the distance, if you're dragging in the way it's reducing the distance - proportionately.

So how's that useful in the real world. You've entered 3 notes, smart spacing places them the correct distance apart automatically, you then decide they're to be a triplet to you select them and hit the number 3 on your keyboard. Now they're not the right distance apart any more, they should be closer. So wait, they've remained selected after you hit the number 3 and you spot the drag handles, you click on one of the right hand ones and drag toward the first selected note, the space between the notes reduces until you're happy that's how you want them to look. Job done.

OK, would be even smarter if Drum Score re-spaced the 3 notes automatically once you've told it they're a triplet - next version maybe, but in any case you can easily set the spacing, and not just on triplets, this could be a whole bar of music you just want everything to be a bit closer or further apart and you don't want to have to adjust each note by hand. So many times I've found this useful writing scores while testing.


The beautify feature is accessed from the Format -> Music menu for licensed users. This feature takes all the notes in the music area and positions them logically where they "should" be between bar lines. So what does "should" mean?

It starts by placing the first note in the bar a short distance within and then considers the duration of that note and places the next note the right distance from it. It caters for irregular groups. Remember if you don't like what it's done you can aways use undo as per any other function in Drum Score Editor.

A few things to consider. 
  • Grace notes - these throw the spacing terribly so Drum Score tries to place the stem of the note that has a flam or rough etc as close to where it should be as possible. Obviously the grace note could push it further along than it should be. Drum Score is then in debt in terms of space in the bar, so takes as much as possible from the next note. If that's not enough it robs the next one and so on. Consider reducing the point size of your music area if your most complex run of roughs, flame and drags in a bar just mess up. 
  • A dotted note is supposed to be half as long again musically as it's value suggests. Similarly a cut note is half the duration. So when laying out notes as clinically as that I found the score looked so pointed even the most pointed of pipers would go whoah silver! So I made it 1.33 times longer and 0.66 of the duration for dots and cuts respectively. Similarly for double dots.
  • If you see notes all bunched up at the end of a bar, you've got too many in the bar. No I haven't you say! Make sure you've not forgotten that fiddly triplet group - that's the favourite think I've found in people's scores when testing, none of mine of course, ahem, cough cough.
  • Similarly if you see lots of space at the end of a bar, maybe there's not enough notes in there or they're the wrong duration?
  • Strathspeys. We all write them wrong. Every one of us, me included and will continue to do so - go on tell me you don't! It's supposed to be that each beat note subdivides into 3, and we optionally chuck a triplet sign above (or below) the group to show this. Optionally because some believe saying the tune type is strathspey is enough for folks to know when there's 3 (or subdivisions thereof) we should just know, you know. Anyway this is a long explanation to say beautify doesn't have a meaningful relationship with some of these subjective opinions yet - it will do it's job on a strathspey but you'll see quickly that dot and cut should actually be a note-rest-note setup to respect the metre. I can see this being a debate .....
Of course this means the technology is now there to maybe automatically smart space triplets when specified, and maybe warn that a bar is too long or short.

Ability to Vertically Align Notes across Multiple Lines

How many times have you looked at the first note in a bar across multiple lines and thought how do I make them all line up? OK if you're really adept at selection and keyboard work it's pretty easy, but for us mere mortals wouldn't it be good if there was a way, and what about aligning them on the note stems, not the start of the grace notes?

The good news for licensed user is this is now all possible. If you want to say align the first notes of bar 2 across the whole score, you switch block selection on (see above, Edit -> Block Select), then drag the mouse to create a block selection where the first note of bar 2 is the first note in the selection on each line, then use Format -> Music -> Left Align Selection and hey presto the first selected notes on each line align to whichever one was furthest to the left.

This approach counts grace notes, so if one line it's simple note and on the next line it's a note with a flam, then the start of the flam is the start of the note, so it may not give you what you want. In which case the Left Align Selection Stems is what you want. This aligns all the notes to the left most note stem as opposed to grace note. This is probably what most people will want.

So what does a Licensed User get that Free Users don't?

The complete list of features for licensed users is now:
  • Rudiment Libraries - save your favourite phrases, organise them and use them over and over
  • Clone staff line - make a complete copy of the staff line the cursor is on, includes all notes etc
  • 1st & 2nd time workflow - turn the current staff line into a 1st time and generate a new 2nd time line, adjusting bar markers and adding text as needed.
  • Export as PDF/JPEG/PNG/SVG - create easily emailed files or graphics for embedding in other software e.g. Word, web sites etc
  • Workspace Preferences - remembers the placement and size of Drum Score on your screen between sessions, also if you've moved toolbars around
  • New Score Preferences - allows user to preset values for all new scores generated
  • Select a block of notes over multiple lines, rather than just a series of notes
  • A tool to proportionally expand or compress a series of notes
  • The beautify tool to position all the notes and rests in a music areas where it thinks they should be
  • A way to align notes vertically, either by stem or start of note
  • Sense of satisfaction that you've contributed financially to supporting Drum Score Editor

Bug Fixes

Too many to be useful to list here. Some of the more recent ones are:
  • PDFs were still being exported at the wrong size or being cropped in certain circumstances
  • Other minor fixes

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Version 2.22 Release Notes

Drum Score Editor version 2.22 is here! 


This is a minor release that adds one new feature and fixes bugs identified in the 2.2 release.
  • Music and Text components on a page are now locked from editing by default. To enable editing use Edit -> Page in the same way you'd unlock bars or notes for editing.
  • Fixed bug creating PDFs when screen zoom less than 100%
  • Tenor Reverse Left & Rights were ... well, reversed!
  • Ensured dot and double dot shows for both note heads when using tenor both sticks on drum symbol
  • Installer issues on certain 64-bit Windows systems

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Version 2.2 - Release Notes

Drum Score Editor version 2.2 is here! 


The major changes are as follows:
  • Ability to add tenor symbols as recommended by EUSPBA
  • Double dot of notes and rests
  • Size of score on screen matches physical paper size shown (at 100% scale)
  • Ties for rolls are drawn underneath accents
  • .ds always added to filename
  • New score preferences saved
  • Software license status reported at startup
  • Numerous bug fixes and optimisations

Tenor Symbols

All the symbols as specified by the EUSPBA can now be placed on a score. This includes regimental and traditional piano movements which are created by selecting the notes / rests over which they are to be executed and using the toolbox buttons on the right.

It is well understood that there are many variations of tenor symbols, with no complete standard in use anywhere, the EUSPBA symbols are the only documented standard found to date but even they are not a complete list.

Given the infinite number of possibilities of markings and symbols, some of which are only understood by sometimes a single corps, a more complete strategy for musical notation for tenors is needed.

Double Dot

Notes and rests can now be marked as double dot in length. This is achieved by selecting the note and using shift and the dot key together, i.e. shift-. There is no button in the toolbox for this. 

Physical Size

Drum Score Editor now implements a "what you see is what you get" approach more fully. If a paper size of A4 is specified, the size on the screen is the correct physical size of the paper. This is dependent on the graphics card on your system accurately reporting it's dimensions and dots per inch - I expect there will be some setups where this won't hold, in which case using the zoom function on the toolbar manually will be required.

Roll Ties

As of this release, Drum Score Editor will draw ties between notes which are not marked as being for an irregular group underneath where accent markers are drawn. Such ties (sometimes called binds or slurs) are usually to indicate a roll movement.

To override this behaviour and revert to the prior approach of all ties being drawn above the accent markers, set the score properties options to uncheck the setting.

Licensed users can set a preference for all new scores generated to override the new behaviour too,

Filename Always Suffixed With .ds

When the File -> Save As ... menu item is used, if you provide a filename that doesn't end with .ds, Drum Score Editor will automatically add it. If it adds a .ds suffix and detects that a file with that name already exists and would therefore be overwritten if it continued to save, it reprompts you provide the filename, suggesting the newly suffixed filename. This is so you then get a chance to actually explicitly say you want to overwrite that file.

Set Preferences For All New Scores Generated

This is a new feature available to licensed users only. It allows you to set the options that Drum Score Editor will use when generating new scores, e.g. type of note head to use, where to draw roll ties, the author name, band name, highlight colours to use etc.

The complete list of features for licensed users is now:
  • Rudiment Libraries - save your favourite phrases, organise them and use them over and over
  • Clone staff line - make a complete copy of the staff line the cursor is on, includes all notes etc
  • 1st & 2nd time workflow - turn the current staff line into a 1st time and generate a new 2nd time line, adjusting bar markers and adding text as needed.
  • Export as PDF/JPEG/PNG/SVG - create easily emailed files or graphics for embedding in other software e.g. Word, web sites etc
  • Workspace Preferences - remembers the placement and size of Drum Score on your screen between sessions, also if you've moved toolbars around
  • New Score Preferences - allows user to preset values for all new scores generated
  • Sense of satisfaction that you've contributed financially to supporting Drum Score Editor

Bug Fixes

Too many to be useful to list here. Some of the more recent ones are:
  • New score button launches generate score workflow instead of creating blank page
  • Export as PDF now create PDF with same physical sizes as specified paper size
  • Overlaps in coloured highlights in PDF files fixed
  • Export as JPG tooltip corrected
  • Format text menu items now reflect selected item state when opened
  • Rests were being painted in white instead of black in selection and rudiment library images
  • Paste of rudiment library items involving irregular groups not scaling tie properly
  • New text areas not respecting specified default font & size property
  • 12/8 scores being generated with too many bars per part
  • Undo was allowing elements of scores loaded from file to be undone
  • Other minor fixes

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Placement of accents versus ties

Recently received a great suggestion to reverse current placement of tie start and end points versus accents, i.e. so accents sit above the start of ties. been thinking this through and am sharing my thoughts here on how that could be implemented. Looking for feedback / comments before I start spending a bunch of time coding it up.

Here’s how Drum Score places accents and ties today:

Revisiting the initial thinking which placed them this way round, the snippet below is the problem I was trying to address, resulting in what originally seemed to be a good compromise in terms of clarity and cleanliness of the score.
If we put the ties closer to the head how will this work? Note the last left hand flam at the end of the 2nd triplet. The tie would cut through the flam grace note.

I can see how this next popular phrase would be tidier though:

Maybe the right design is to have the option to mark a “low" start for tie on a note, with the default remaining a “high” start point. Will have to tweak where the tie starts relative to the note head too, today a tie starts and finishes above the middle of a note head, it may be cleaner to have the tie start toward the end of the opening note and toward the start of the closing note.

Another option might be for Drum Score to automatically work things out, saving the author having to think about it thus increasing productivity. Maybe we place the tie end higher if it needs to, i.e. if there’s a flam grace note. That would be a big (maybe welcome?) change in appearance for existing scores though, as we’d be effectively changing the default to a low start.

One approach could be to introduce a global option for the score to place tie ends below accents. Then have the option to manually raise them to a high end point if need be, or once again, automatically do it, in the case of the flam. Think I prefer something more automated.

So my proposed approach to try is:
  1. Alter where the tie so that it starts toward the end of the opening note  (or rest) and ends toward the beginning of the closing note. This will affect how every score, including ones written in the past appear, however could prove tidier overall
  2. Introduce an option, stored with each score, that specifies to start and end ties lower, and therefore closer to the note head (but never crossing the staff line). All ties in that score would be impacted, and licensed users can store this as a default setting for all new scores generated
  3. Introduce logic, activated if low start and end of ties has been chosen, that puts the end points high again, if a grace note such as a flam is on the closing note, avoiding the situation where the tie line would cut through the grace note.

At a later date, as nobody has actually asked for it yet but I've see it in a number of scores over the years, is to have an option where irregular group ties are placed underneath the note group, ie. triplets etc appearing below the group of notes with a horizontal line bracketing the grouped notes. e.g. —3 — appearing below the notes.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Version 2.11 - Release Notes

Drum Score Editor version 2.11 is here! 


The major changes are as follows:
  • Text tags for any musical element
  • Space bar to jump to next bar
  • Increase or decrease a note's duration
  • Backstick note head notation
  • Additional licensed productivity features

Text Tags

Text can be attached to each note, rest or bar line (i.e. any element) on a staff. Select the element that is to have the text attached to it and use ctrl-t to add or delete the text entry. The advantage of text tags over the current ability to add text areas anywhere on the page is that they stay aligned with the element they're attached to. This means when an additional staff line is added or removed, the text tag moves with the note, rest or bar line it's attached to. Similarly if you move that element along the staff line, cut, copy or paste it, the text moves with it.

A text tag can be aligned around the element it's attached to. By clicking inside the text tag and using the Format -> Text menu, all the text formatting options can be applied. By selecting Align Left, the text tag starts with the first character above the element. Selecting Align Right causes the text tag to finish above the element. Align Centre does as expected, with the text tag centred over the element. 

The text is styled using the same menu options, once again click inside the text tag and use the Format -> Text menu options to apply bold, italic or underline styling, change the font between serif or sans-serif, and alter the point size between the pre-selected sizes.

The last option is to be able to position the text either above or below the element it's attached to. Click inside the text tag and use the Alt and UP or DOWN arrow together to move it above or below. Currently the distance above or below the staff line is fixed, but the capability is in the software to add actions to customize the distance in future versions.


One of the navigation features requested by power users was to have a key sequence that skipped the cursor in a music area to the next bar. While editing a music area, the space bar can now be used to move to the next bar line.

The cursor is placed at the start of the first note in the next bar, if the next bar is empty it's placed at the very start of the bar. This means that when the next bar line is the last one on the line, and the next line has space for an anacrusis which isn't used, the cursor stays on the bar line at the end of that line. If there is an anacrusis, the cursor is placed at the start of it's first note.

Increase / Decrease Note Duration

A note's duration can be halved or doubled using this new feature. Select the note and use shift-n to half it's duration, shift-m to increase it.

The value in this feature is that once a note has been entered on the staff line, maybe had grace notes added, back beaming set as required, text tags added and eventually it's realised the note should have been a demisemiquaver instead of a semiquaver this can now be changed without having to delete the note, insert the correct one and start the process of adding the grace notes etc again.

For the technically minded, halving the duration of a note adds an extra tail to the stem, doubling the duration of a note is the same as removing a tail from the stem.

Backstick Note Notation

A note can now be indicated as being a backstick by selecting it and using shift-b to toggle the note head style between regular notation and the backstick symbol. Drum Score Editor can now be used for drummers salute or fanfare scribing.

The choice was made to indicate backsticking by altering the note head rather than adding another symbol above the note to specify the backstick, as there's already too many ways to clutter the space above a note, resulting in a less legible score.

Licensed Productivity Features

As introduced in release 2.00, Drum Score Editor takes a large portion of any spare time I have, and despite the passion I have for creating and refining it, I can't ignore the mounting costs for developer licenses, signing certificates, toolsets and the like. You can help by registering at and obtaining a license key in return for 15 of our British pounds.

Applying the license key unlocks a number of productivity features as a thank you for your financial assistance! The full list of timesaving and enabling features now unlocked is:
  • Rudiment Libraries
  • Export as PDF
  • Export as JPEG (new for 2.11)
  • Export as PNG (new for 2.11)
  • Export as SVG (new for 2.11)
  • Clone staff line (new for 2.11)
  • 1st and 2nd Time Workflow (new for 2.11)
  • Workspace Preferences

Rudiment Libraries

These appear on the left hand side of the workspace and allow frequently used rudiments and phrases to be dragged from scores and dropped into different lists.

Each list is a new Rudiment Libraries, and can be used according to the score author's preference. For example to store phrases from similar time signature together or perhaps different tune styles. This feature maps perfectly to the rudimental style of drumming and allows very fast score composition to an author's personal style.

To add a new Rudiment Library, use the View -> New Rudiment Library option. From the View menu you can also open an existing rudiment library, perhaps sent from a friend or saved on disk elsewhere, or close a library from the list open in the rudiment tool space.

Export as PDF

This has been a common request, especially for Microsoft Windows users as they don't have a native PDF creation capability, unlike the Apple Mac where it's built in. Even on the Mac though this feature saves a number of keystrokes to access the print dialogs and save as PDF.

Export as JPG

This feature allows the whole score to be saved as a jpeg compressed picture, with a solid white background. This is a useful option for creating images for websites or adding to other documents

Export as PNG

Similar to the JPG export, this feature allows the whole score to be saved as a png compressed picture, but with a transparent background. This is a useful option for creating images for websites, adding to other documents or even maybe sending to printers to have a score rendered on a t-shirt or other media!

Export as SVG

This feature allows the whole score to be saved as a scalable vector graphics file, with a solid white background. This is a useful option for producing high quality images that don't lose quality as they're scaled. This is much more useful for advanced web site images, and allows printers or others to retain the quality of the score if for example scaled to fit a larger surface.

Clone Staff Line

Accessed via the Format -> Staff menu, this feature clones the line that the cursor is on. It's a shortcut for inserting a line, copying all the notes and bar lines from the source line, moving to the target and pasting them. With this there's no checking to see if Edit -> Bars is on or not in order to be able to copy the whole content.

1st & 2nd Time Workflow

This is the first workflow which analyses the content of the score to make decisions about what actions to take. It's purpose is to simplify the process of taking an ending line to a part and creating a 2nd time, where the author might want a different setting. This workflow takes care of the "admin" around doing that.

If the cursor is placed on a staff line, which as a double repeat close bar marker at the end of it, and the workflow is triggered from the Format -> Music menu, it will create a 2nd time for that line, by inserting a new staff line underneath it, copying all the contents of the line down, removing any unison markings and switching the bar marker at the end of the line to one that doesn't contain repeat markers.

It also adds a text tag to the first element of the repeated line saying "2nd Time" and similarly adds a text tag to mark "1st Time" on the first element of the first time line.

If the the cursor is placed on a 2nd time line as created above and the workflow is triggered, it will remove the second line and the "1st Time" text tag from the line above, effectively toggling off the 2nd time line. Any changes made to the 2nd time line are lost, with the exception that like all actions in Drum Score Editor undo will put it back.

Workspace Preferences

When Drum Score Editor exits, it remembers the size and location of the main window, and if you docked the Rudiment Libraries and Note Toolbox on opposite sides of the screen - some people prefer that!

Bug Fixes

Too many to be useful to list here. Some of the more recent ones are:
  • Export as PDF now correctly renders the unison shading and other colour transparency, and aligns the scores correctly for landscape and portrait.
  • Bar lines not sizing correctly causing them to be dropped when copying / pasting multiple selections.
  • If a triplet or any other tied group starts or end with a rest as the first or last element, the score will note load after being saved, appearing as if it's lost the edits or sometime preventing the score file loading at all.
  • Text cut, copy, paste not being enabled on the menus sometimes when a text areas has the keyboard focus.
  • Text format menu not being disabled when a text area loses keyboard focus.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Version 2 - Release Notes

Drum Score Editor version 2.00 is here! 


The major changes are as follows:
  • New tabbed format, keeping all windows and scores together
  • Filename extension standardised as .ds
  • New licensed productivity features
  • Numerous bug fixes and optimisations

Tabbed Format

Instead of Drum Score Editor opening a new window for each open score, all the windows are gathered together in separate tabs. This allows a much tidier workspace for score authors.

All the previous functionality is retained, including new score wizard, proportionally spaced note entry, the familiar select and action approach and a new revised text area insert capability which allows for more accurate placement.

Filename Standardised as .ds

All drum score files are now expected to end in .ds, i.e. name.ds on both Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS X. The File->Open dialogue will only allow selection of files ending in .ds so any existing score files must be renamed.

This is a one-off action, and is in preparation for .ds being registered on both Apple and Microsoft platforms as belonging to Drum Score Editor. This will allow for score files to be double-clicked from the file manager and automatically open in Drum Score Editor.

Licensed Productivity Features

Drum Score Editor takes a large proportion of any spare time I have, and despite the passion I have for creating and refining it, I can't ignore the mounting costs for developer licenses, signing certificates, toolsets and the like. You can help by wiring £15 to my paypal account,, in return for which I'll send you a license key which unlocks the productivity features below. A website is being developed which will automate the process of acquiring a license key.

Rudiment Libraries

These appear on the left hand side of the workspace and allow you to drag and drop your most used and favourite phrases and rudiments ready for reuse. You can open multiple Rudiment Libraries, for example to store phrases from similar time signature together or perhaps different styles - it's up to you. This feature has allowed me to write scores in a fraction of the time it took before.

Export as PDF

This has been a common request, especially for Microsoft Windows users as they don't have a native PDF creation capability, unlike the Apple Mac where it's built in.

Workspace Preferences

The first few features in this category are released in the licensed section, such that Drum Score Editor remembers if you decided to dock toolbars in different edges of the workspace, and also the location and size of the main workspace window.

Bug Fixes

Too many to be useful to list here. Some of the more recent ones are:
  • Saving colour highlighting so it's not lost next time you open the score
  • Applying the generally used convention for number of strikes through the stem of a note to indicate a roll - there's also the ability to override by using the shift-r keys to cycle through number of stems applied to any selected notes.
  • Drag and drop accurately working at different zoom levels
  • Drag and drop would lose ends of ties / binds
  • Performance increase when note toolbox on the right is activated, was a messy the way it lit the buttons up randomly
  • Selecting with the mouse could occasionally use the wrong starting place when the machine is running slow for other reasons

Friday, 16 January 2015

Strikes though stems, aka roll notation to us snare drummers

This great article explains the historical and musical theory behind strikes through stems on musical notes

To start let me just say this piece of research has changed my understanding of pipe band snare drumming notation and will lead to changes in Drum Score Editors treatment of rolls.

I was taught that the strike through the stem indicates a roll movement and the number of strikes depends on the note value, i.e. for a crotchet (a quarter note to everybody except us) it’s three strikes through the stem and for notes of lesser duration it’s two strikes, so that’s what Drum Score Editor does. Well looks like I was taught right (in most cases) but for the wrong reasons! I understood that the number of strikes doesn’t define the number of buzzes, that’s down to interpretation and to a certain extent that’s true, however there is a musical theory that it’s grounded in which indirectly does indicate the number of buzzes in a roll.

According to the above article, the number of strikes indicate the subdivisions of that note. So if we took a crotchet in 4/4 time with only two strikes through it - that denotes 4 semi-quavers, in pipe band drumming terms does that mean we interpret that as 4 buzzes of the stick? If we assume the next note in the series to be a tap, this would equate to a 9 stroke roll. Stretching a 9 stroke roll over 2 paces in a march is pretty loose! So what if we put 3 strikes through the stem of the same crotchet? That subdivides to 8 demi-semiquavers, 8 buzzes? Surely not. Well you could but at a march tempo in 4/4 time 8 buzzes and a tap to make a 2 pace roll is pretty crammed. So if 8 buzzes is too many and 4 is too few, then 6 must be the right answer.

And it is, but how does that work with the rules as we now know them? The 2 pace roll, is indeed a 13 stroke roll, 6 buzzes and the tap on the beat, which leaves the question how do you determine the number of strikes to put through the stem of the note? The answer is in the irregular group we call the triplet, which features highly in pipe band drumming. When you break down the 2 pace roll into two triplets and a tap, where each note in the triplet is a buzz you get 6 buzzes and a tap - exactly how we defined a 2 pace roll above. All of a sudden the crotchet with 2 strikes through the stem makes sense, if you think of a triplet being 3 in the time of 2 - the definition of a triplet - with two triplets that's 4 regular notes. With 4 regular notes the answer must be 2 strikes through the stem of the crotchet in march time. 

The illustration below shows that breakdown of the 2 pace roll into 2 irregular groups of 3 notes in the time of 2 (triplets), showing why if this is shortened to a crotchet roll, there must be 2 strikes through the stem. Incidentally the reason I’m showing only a single strike through the stem of each pulse is the breakdown of a buzz is a pressed double, which, given that’s 2 notes, we need to show one subdivision of each semi-quaver buzz.
Today Drum Score Editor uses a simple logic that says crotchet and greater is 3 strikes, which we now know is wrong. In the sample below, there should be 2 strikes through the stem of the first crotchet.

So does this logic hold true across other time signatures and tempos? Well there’s a 3rd factor too. I’ve seen some leading drummers look to create a different feel by sometimes stretching rolls or cramming an extra buzz in for effect. Consider the opening 3 pace rolls where convention has these as starting and finishing on the same hand, 4 triplets of buzzing and a tap. Some leading drummers want a fuller sound and cram an extra buzz in so the corps ends each roll on the opposite hand that they started it on.

Here’s how time signatures impact this too. Let’s take 2/2 time, a reel. A 2 pace roll in reel time is typically played exactly the same as in a march, 2 triplet buzzes and a tap. In a 4/4 march the beat note is a crotchet (which is what the lower 4 means in the time signature), in a 2/2 (or cut common time as it’s often called) the beat note is a minim. So when that gets subdivided it’s still getting broken down to 2 irregular groups of 3 buzzes in the time of 2 notes, i.e. 4 notes, and we know that this means 2 strikes through the stem, on a minim, in 2/2 time to achieve a 2 pace roll. This means we can’t use a simple rule that says it’s 2 strikes through a crotchet and 3 on a minim - even in a 4/4 march a 3 pace roll would be written as a minim and break down into 4 triplets, each worth 2 regular notes, meaning subdividing into 8 notes, so that would be 3 strikes through the stem of the minim. So in the reel a minim with 2 strikes is 2 pace roll, and in a march it’s a 3 pace roll. 

The example below shows Drum Score Editor correctly treating the 2 pace roll in a reel.

The example below shows it incorrectly treating a 7 stroke roll in reel time, due to the current incorrect logic in deciding number of strikes through the stem.

Now I know there will either be outraged purists or strong opinions here, especially about that the extra buzz filling the sound in 3 pace rolls for example. This brings me naturally to a mantra I hold true throughout writing Drum Score Editor and scores for people, and that is that musical notation is a language, and a language develops over time and is used differently by different groups - remember when calling something wicked meant it wasn’t a good thing? There are many conventions and Drum Score Editor needs to balance making musical assumptions to make it more efficient for an author or scribe to articulate themselves and flexibility to allow different conventions to apply.

So in my next update to Drum Score Editor, I will correct the logic to consider the time signature when deciding how many strikes a note stem has for a roll, but also eventually implement some kind of override, to allow for when the author wants to do something funky, or I’ve got my logic wrong and a workaround is needed. 

However I do see opportunity in the modern interpretation of just putting a single strike through a stem to declare a roll making for a much cleaner and easier to read score where the number of buzzes is down to interpretation of context by the leading drummer …. OK so I’m maybe in a minority there but the language must evolve and that option exists today in Drum Score Editor!