What Software & Programs Do You Use?

(Hayden Hill) #1

A new student was asking me what programs can be used to play midi files...

I couldn’t answer the question so I was hoping the community could help me out with this one.

I don’t have much experience with midi files but I know many of you do so please share links to the software you use, and also what the features/benefits are.

The software doesn’t just have to be related to midi file playback, please share anything you think others may find useful.

I’ll start off with the programs I use both to create the lessons, and also to get better at jazz myself.


Beginners questions
(Hayden Hill) #2

Midiculous: http://midiculous.com/
I use Midiculous to generate the light up keyboard for all PianoGroove lessons.

Sibelius 7: http://www.avid.com/sibelius
I use Sibelius to generate all of the notation in the lesson and also to create the final versions of the jazz standard transcriptions.

To be honest, I find Sibelius very fiddly and often very tedious to use. However, I have spent a lot of time using it and havn’t really tried other options like Musescore for example. Would be interesting to hear other peoples thoughts.

Transcribe : https://www.seventhstring.com/
I use this piece of software every day to slow down audio and transcribe from my favourite players.

It has some great features… the ‘Chord Guess’ feature is particularly useful when trying to transcribe chord voicings from a recording… it’s not amazingly accurate but it puts you in the right direction with possible voicings.

(Mark Turner) #3

Midiculous is is very good for playing midi files. You can slow down, speed up, change the key, and set loop points. It shows you the keyboard, the notes and chords. If you use a VST, you can have it play the VST instead of cheesy built in midi sounds. It’s like having Hayden play your piano! And it’s free.


(Hayden Hill) #4

Great stuff… i was aware of the variable speed and key change, but I didn’t know Midiculous had those other features.

The chord name generator is generally pretty accurate but occasionally it will make voicings overly complicated with slash notation: it catches the A7 well here:

I would actually call that an A9#11 not A9b5 but that’s a different matter :smile:

It’s also cool that you can see the pedalling (notice the pedal glows red when it is being pressed down)

I wanted to incorporate the pedalling into the lesson but it reduced the amount of space available for the notation so i decided it wasn’t worth it.

You can **set the black notes** to either 'all sharps' or 'all flats' or 'normal'. I decided that 'all flats' would be best as there are many more jazz standards written in the flat keys (because horn players prefer these keys)...

and so understand that sometimes it will give you the wrong spelling enharmonically, eg ‘Gb’ instead of ‘F#’.

All in all though, great piece of software!

(Mark Turner) #5

Your screen print of the main window doesn’t look quite like mine. Perhaps you are not running the latest version (3.1)? The chord name generator appears to be a tad more accurate and robust. Not sure why it used a question mark instead of a pound sign though. Also, perhaps some of the other features I mentioned that you were not aware of have been added in this latest release.

(Hayden Hill) #6

Wow that version looks much better… and yes I am on 2.08 so I’m running a very old version!

I’ve only ever used it to create the light up keyboard, but it’s way more feature-rich than i thought.

I’ll get it updated now… Thanks Mark! :slight_smile:

(Mark Turner) #7

I came across a wonderful free video player for Windows (sorry Mac users :disappointed:) It’s called SMPlayer. It gives you all the great features that you have become accustomed to in PianoGroove, like changing the speed and being able to loop sections. It even has an add-on that allows you to search and play videos straight from YouTube. It has a really nice interface and is easy to use, and you can set up keyboard and mouse shortcuts for your most used features. And very importantly, it also does a very good job of keeping the video and audio in sync when you slow things down.

So for all of your YouTube and other non-PianoGroove videos, this is an excellent player.

(Hayden Hill) #8

That looks awesome Mark… there is an abundance of useful material on YouTube and it can definitely compliment and go beyond my teachings. I’m really happy to see you sharing stuff like this… it’s exactly what i envisaged the forum to facilitate.

Also, regarding multiple teachers:

In my journey to learn jazz, I studied in person with 4 different teachers and learnt stylistic things from all of them. I always encourage my students to study with multiple teachers (in person or online) so this would be a great tool for everyone. Sure I found that i resonated with the teaching styles of some of my teachers better, but they all had a positive impact on my playing, and my ability to pass on the teachings. It’s wonderful.

You will also find that hanging around at jam nights is a great way to learn (just from listening) and also from chatting with other musicians. I was living in Washington State for 3 months earlier this year and i learnt a wealth of knowledge just from hanging out with other jazz musicians. Anyone reading this… get yourself down to local jam nights, but make sure you work on your swing feel if you want to take a solo.

Now i spend most my ‘learning time’ transcribing using Transcribe. It’s challenging but immensely rewarding.

Cheers :slight_smile:

(Mark Turner) #9

I should add - to all fellow PianoGroove members, be sure to finish working on your PianoGroove lessons before spending any time working on YouTube or other videos! :slight_smile:

Hayden, while you were in the states you should have come down here to Arizona. We could have hiked the grand canyon! Also, your mention of past piano teachers reminds me of my first piano teacher back in the 90s. He was a very wise old man and a wonderful player and teacher. He use to say “You never learn how to play the piano, you just practice it the rest of your life.” Now isn’t that the truth! But I also like something you said on your blog, “Instead of focusing on the end, enjoy the journey you are taking.” Great advice!

(Hayden Hill) #10

Thanks Mark. YouTube is a great source of inspiration… particularly for listening. I think it’s great that you like 7notemode… he is one seriously talented musician with a superb sense of time and phrasing.

I’ll certainly take you up on that in the future. I’m working on moving PianoGroove to the USA permanently. From the time I spent there it makes perfect sense… the jazz scene is so much bigger than anywhere else I’ve been.

The E2 visa application is a complicated process but I’m hoping to have the application completed by early/mid 2018.

On the note of hiking…

I hiked around Yosemite earlier this year (a few photos attached) - I went off-season in late February so I had the trails all to myself and the snow-capped peaks were beautiful! I was there for 2 days and hiked both sides of the valley.

Day 1 - Yosemite Point Trail

Day 2 - Glacier Point Trail:

[quote="Mark Turner, post:9, topic:149"] "Instead of focusing on the end, enjoy the journey you are taking." [/quote]

Exactly. Musicians devote their whole life to learning jazz. It’s a vast subject and there is always more to learn. Embrace it.

In my opinion, the basics is the hardest part. Once you get down your 251s (major, minor and rootless) and then understand extended and altered harmony - that’s a lot of the ‘tedious’ work done.

You should then feel a lot of freedom with harmony and how to interpret a lead sheet.

After that it’s just a case of listening, transcribing and studying/collaborating/performing with other talented jazz musicians. This is when the journey really begins! :relaxed:


(Mark Turner) #11

Wow, those are some great photos! Must have been quite an adventure being up there that time of year!

(Hayden Hill) #12

Yes it was a great experience. I have a lot of photos from the 2 days… I’ll send them to you.

Anyway let’s get this thread back onto software :smile:

(Hayden Hill) #13

If someone is looking for a free alternative to Transcribe.

You can use “The Amazing Slow Downer” : https://www.ronimusic.com/amsldowin.htm

I haven’t used it personally, but I know other professional musicians that do use it.

I will do an in-depth demo of Transcribe features for this thread.

(Del Dearco) #14

Hayden, it’s nice to hear you’re planning to move to the states? It would be nice if it were possible to get together and meet. Your musicianship is very polished and I’m a singer!

(Del Dearco) #15

I use a program called “chordie,” it works on both mac and pc. It displays chords/notes in realtime and costs $15-20 US.
Also, I stumbled on something similar to irealpro, It’s not as sophisticated or good, but you add a title to a song in the search bar and it will display guitar and piano chords. You can find it here: chordify.net

(Hayden Hill) #16

Yes that’s the plan Del. I’m still in the early stages of the application and hoping to be making the move in early/mid 2018. I will keep you posted with my progress.

Yes I think that’s a great idea. One of our Italian students suggested ‘meet-up’ or ‘summerschool’ kind of events which I’m definitely interested in exploring, both in the UK/EU and the USA.

It would help to have more tutors on-board which I’m currently working on.

These kind of events would be perfect to introduce students to ensemble playing or ‘jamming’ if that’s something they wanted to explore.

[quote=“Del Dearco, post:15, topic:149, full:true”]
I use a program called “chordie,” it works on both mac and pc. It displays chords/notes in realtime and costs $15-20 US.
Also, I stumbled on something similar to irealpro, It’s not as sophisticated or good, but you add a title to a song in the search bar and it will display guitar and piano chords. You can find it here: chordify.net

Thanks Del. I’ll check those out today :slight_smile:

(Del Dearco) #17

Can anyone recommend a pc/mac program that plays back pdf files? Has anyone used calypso, forscore or something similar?

(Hayden Hill) #18

HI Del, I wasn’t aware it was possible to play back PDF files. It wouldn’t surprise me though… Amazing technologies these days!

I’ve also not heard of those softwares but I’ll check them out now.

(Del Dearco) #19

Hi Hayden,
Calypso claims to be a sheet music reader/pdf player (amazing, huh?)
The price is only $12 US. But for some reason, there are no reviews and it’s been out a few years.
Forscore is another app that’s very similar and is only $10. US. Users say it imports pdf files and organizes all your music. Both of these apps are found on the apple store and might only be for the ipad? I’m looking for a similar program for the pc, but will settle for one or both of these if I can’t find something …
Yes, the technology is amazing but can be equally distracting as well🤓
Let me know what you find out if you beat me to them.


(Mark Turner) #20

Hi Del, those are both amazing apps with a lot of great features including the ability to import PDF files, but they do not actually play the PDF files. They allow you to import or record audio and associate it with the PDF files. When they say “play”, they mean “display” the sheet music and follow along in tempo, showing you your place, and automatically turning pages, etc. You can find videos on YouTube that give an overview and go into more depth on the various features.