Play-My-Note: A mobile app for singers who don't play the piano
Date: February 15, 2014
Announcing a new mobile app for singers:
Play-My-Note (iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire) lets singers play their notes on their mobile devices from an interface that actually looks like their scores. Anyone can simply match the clef and key signatures with the symbols from the beginning a line they want to learn, and then play notes the way they look on the stave.
Ideal for finding starting notes, or learning the difficult sections in a singer's own part, this app is designed to help *everyone* access notes on the page.
This app puts a choir singer with no instrumental training on a level with those who can pick out their parts on an instrument. It has a choice of three clefs and 13 key signatures, and the ability to add accidentals temporarily and cancel them again. The only significant explanation that is still necessary is the persistence of accidentals until the barline, reducing the complexities of notation to an entirely manageable level.
This app will also display note names and the solfa syllables of the key, and can fit more notes on the screen or fewer.
Swipe right or left for higher or lower notes.
You can find download links for the different kinds of device here, at www.play-my-note.com
It is priced at the lowest rung that each platform will allow, and I am happy to send a promo code for the iPhone version to any ChoralNet registered user who contacts me. (Android doesn't run a promo code system unfortunately)
Feedback from ChoralNet users would be particularly welcome, or suggestions for more features that your choir members would use. There is a shape-note version in the pipeline, and one that will show tones and semitones, contact me if you would like a pre-release copy of either these.
Please see below if you're interested in the science!
Thank you for your attention.
I wrote this app to apply some of what I learned last year, in a Psychology masters course.
I have been a choral director for more than 20 years, at all levels of competence, and tried every trick in the book to get those who don't read music to feel like equal citizens with those whose do. I made choir tapes by singing the parts myself, and then later used MIDI files extensively, but still found that those who could go home and play their parts through on the piano seemed to get a more solid grasp of the notes than those who couldn't, even if they had spent hours listening to their parts and following the score. Placing a weaker sight-reader next to a stronger sight-reader also seemed to produce contradictory results. Sometimes the weaker reader learned the notes and became independent, but just as often, they simply got better at copying the person next to them, and didn't actually seem to become more confident of their own part at all.
Psychology research has quite a lot to say about the neuroscientific differences between active and passive learning, and some concepts from the field of 'embodied cognition' also seem as if they might be applicable. Research suggests that an action, or intention to act, (such as reaching out to press a piano key) increases the 'salience' (conscious prominence) of the direct result of that action (the note sounds). It might be that it is the act of reaching for the piano key on purpose, rather than passively waiting for someone (or a MIDI track) to play the note for us, that helps fix the note in minds and memories.
This app is an environment in which anyone can 'reach for the note' and have it sound. In theory, apart from empowering singers to explore their own music at their own pace and in their own way, it should also make it far more likely that they will process and retain what they have rehearsed.