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[All] Create your own practice materials using music notation software (2) Easy Chopin for beginners

One of the many possibilities of music notation software is the ability to freely create irregular musical scores that are not normally found in published scores.


This time, we will take a look at an example of how to arrange pre-created piano score files into piano teaching materials for beginners, especially for piano instructors.


Here I’d like to pick up F. Chopin's "Prelude Op.28-7 in A Major" as the original piece for the arrangement. *


This is a small piece that is played at a slow tempo of around 96 BPM, 16 bars long and about 1 minute long. Since it was used in a pharmaceutical commercial in Japan, even people who are not familiar with classical piano might know it. 


*Many of classical PD pieces, including Chopin's works, can be obtained for free as MIDI files by searching the internet. Although you need to check the accuracy of the content, if you import them into your notation software, you won't have to enter everything by yourself from scratch, which will greatly save you the labor of creating files.


Additionally, if you purchase notation software, it may come with a number of sample music files as an extra. The "Prelude Op.28-7 in A Major" used this time has been slightly modified, but is originally a sample file included with Finale.



This time, I’m going to arrange this piece by using Finale, as follows.


  1. Omit the internal voice and leave only the melody and bass line.

  2. Change the key to one that is easier to play.

  3. Enlarge the staff to make it easier to read.

  4. Change noteheads to scale names.




1. Omit the internal voice and leave only the melody and bass line.


Finale has a functionality to extract only specific voices from chords. If you use this to extract only the melody and bass line, you can omit the internal voice as a result.




2. Change the key to one that is easier to play.


For beginners with little experience in music reading, I’m going to reduce the number of sharps and transpose the pitch to a range where the phrase fits within the staff and uses fewer ledger lines. This time, I changed the original song's key in A to the key in G, and also changed some of the bass notes that were too low to an octave higher.




3. Enlarge the staff to make it easier to read.


For children and elder learners who need reading glasses, I’m going to zoom in on the entire system. This time I enlarged the entire system to 165% but after setting it, because all the systems became larger, systems that could not fit on the first page were sent to the second page or later.



3. Enlarge the staff to make it easier to read.


For children and elder learners who need reading glasses, I’m going to zoom in on the entire system. This time I enlarged the entire system to 165% but after setting it, because all the systems became larger, systems that could not fit on the first page were sent to the second page or later. 


This layout modification basically needs to be done manually, and is probably the most know-how-demanding and time-consuming task in this arrangement. This time, I took the following processing.


  • Narrow the page margins from 200 EVPU at the top and 240 EVPU at the bottom to 120 EVPU* on both to ensure as much space as possible for the larger system.

  • Reduce the space between the treble and bass staves to the bare minimum to save space per system.

  • Place slurs, finger numbers, pedal symbols, etc. close to the staff, and narrow the system margins to the bare minimum. (The finger numbers have been changed in advance to match the new keys.)


(*EVPU is Finale's unique measurement unit that does not use a decimal point; 1EVPU ≒ 0.09mm, 120EVPU ≒ 10.8mm.)


After processing, it will look like this, for example.




4. Apply solfege noteheads.


Finale has a functionality to apply solfege noteheads. If you select "Apply Finale AlphaNote Solfege" from the Staff Style, you will get something like this.




ーーーーー


You could say it’s finished now, but you could also go further if you like, such as making the notes into color noteheads. The default settings for color noteheads in Finale are as shown here, and the colors can be changed by user settings.



The range is slightly higher than the original, but if you change the key to Key in C, which does not require reading key signatures, and apply the default color notehead, you will get a score like this.




Many of the above tasks can be done semi-automatically by using software functionalities, so if you use Finale, for example, you can complete everything in about 20 minutes once you get used to it.


As mentioned above, PD pieces are often available for free in the form of MIDI data, etc., so it may be a good idea to collect them, process them, and stock them for your original teaching materials.

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