‘Drop Repeat’ Feature

We would like to introduce you to a new feature that has been added to the latest version of GuitarSharp that was released today. We call this feature Drop Repeat, and it has been suggested by a couple of our users as being a feature that would improve the speed of using the Drag and Drop operations in GuitarSharp.

The Drag and Drop feature in GuitarSharp is a really intuitive way to create your guitar music without the need to remember key presses. Plus, it also works on Classical and Tablature Staves. However, if you have a lot of very similar Notes or Rests that need adding in sequence, then it can become quite repetitive to have to keep going back to the Toolbox to re-drag the item. When the Drop Repeat feature is selected, the last dropped item remains selected in the Toolbox so that you can then simply point and click where you would like the next similar item to be placed. No more having to keep going back to the Toolbox!

To switch on this feature, there is a new Drop Repeat menu item in the Edit menu:

Drop Repeat menu item

 

When this is selected, the next Drag and Drop operation will retain the Toolbox selected item. For example, if we select the Drag and Drop menu item and then drag a Note onto the Classical Stave:

Drag and drop a Note

We get the usual behaviour as originally supported, however, notice that the Note has remained selected in the Notes Toolbox and the drag magnifier remains visible. We can now move the mouse to the next place we would like to place a similar Note and the cursor tracks where a Note can be added:

Point and click a Note

When we click the mouse button, a similar Note to the initially dragged Note is added at this location too:

Point and click and repeat

We can then continue clicking and adding the same Note over and over again without the need to drag a Note from the Note Toolbox.

Once you have finished adding the selected type of Note, either click on a non-Stave area of the screen, or press the Escape key, or select a different item from the Toolbox.

We hope you agree that this feature is really useful and speeds up the time it would take to compose a piece of music using Drag and Drop in GuitarSharp. As always, if you too have any suggestions on features that you would like to see adding to GuitarSharp then please drop us a message using the Feedback menu item in the GuitarSharp software, or via our website.

Engraving Enhancements

We are pleased to announce a couple of new features in the latest release of GuitarSharp. Several of our users are now using GuitarSharp to produce sheet music for publication and for distribution to their guitar students. From this, we have been asked to make some enhancements to the engraving (screen / printing) styles used by GuitarSharp.

Take a look at the Before and After screenshots below to see these enhancements in action:

Brackets and Slanting Beams

Stave Brackets

When guitar music is published, a common style is to group the Classical and Tablature staves together to make it obvious they are specific to the same instrument. This is done by preceding the staves with a Bracket to show that the staves are grouped together. GuitarSharp now supports the displaying of this Bracket which helps improve the style of the engraved output.

Slanting Beams

In the above screenshots, you can now see that the styling of the drawn Beams between consecutive notes has been improved. Previously, Beams were simply drawn as horizontal lines connecting the stems of the notes. However, the common way of drawing these Beams in printed music is to slant the Beams (where possible) to reduce forcibly extending the note stalks that would have been necessary to draw horizontal Beams. The improvement of using slanted Beams rather then horizontal Beams gives your music an improved professional appearance. You can still force breaks in Beams where you feel the Beamed notes should be grouped in a particular way, and these Beams will also be slanted in the best way to join the notes together.

As always, any suggestions for enhancements to GuitarSharp are gratefully received . So please keep your suggestions coming!

Slashes and Chord Diagrams

The latest version of GuitarSharp that has just been released contains a couple of really useful features which were requested by one of our users. Let me give you an overview of these:

Slash / Rhythm Notation

The Note Styles toolbox now allows the Slash Notation to be assigned to Notes and Chords by dragging and dropping the Slash Adornment from the toolbox onto the Note/Chord, or by using the “/” keyboard key. The Slash Notation is a type of purposefully vague musical notation which indicates a player can improvise their own rhythm pattern or it indicates the repeat playing of the previously indicated chord. This can also help make the music easier to read.

SlashNotation

In the example above, you can see on the left that the A chord had to be previously written 4 times, but with this new version you can select to display the chord in the Slash Notation as shown in the right example.

Chord Diagrams

GuitarSharp previously allowed you to display the Chord Diagrams of commonly used chords in a Part in the title of the Part. This new version of GuitarSharp extends this further to also allow you to display Chord Diagrams directly above the actual chord where they are played. This makes it really easy to see the fingering of the chord without have to keep referring to the Chord Diagrams in the title.

ChordDiagramLegends

As you can see in  the above example, the first chord in each bar has been configured to display its Chord Diagram and Name above it. This means that when you are far into a piece you don’t need to keep referring to the Chord Diagrams that are way up in the title. This option can be set from the Chord Properties screen which is shown when clicking on the chord in the Chord Toolbox.

Accompanied Chord Diagrams

Similar to the Chord Diagrams above, sometimes it is useful to know the chords that an accompanying player is playing at the time, or to indicate the chord to strum whilst the tune is being played.

AccompaniedChords

The above example shows that whilst the tune is being played, the accompanying player would be playing an A chord at the beginning of the first bar, and a B chord at the beginning of the next bar. This is just for illustrative purposes! Usually the single notes being played would match one of the notes in the chord that is being played otherwise the melody would sound rather odd. But anyway, the ability to add this Chord Diagram Adornment means that you can describe the rhythm part of the music whilst you are looking at the tune. This saves you switching between parts to see each player’s music and also helps to synchronise the playing of the players. This feature can be added by just dragging and dropping the Chord Diagram Adornment from the toolbox on the notes.

Thanks for the suggestions

We are really grateful for these suggestions from our users. If you have any suggestions for changes or new features to GuitarSharp, then feel free to drop us a message from the GuitarSharp website or from the Feedback menu in the GuitarSharp application. We are really keen to hear from our users and want to develop GuitarSharp further to make it the best software package for guitarists of all abilities.

A better way of importing

The new version of GuitarSharp has an improved way of importing files from the web. Previously this was a little bit cumbersome so we have streamlined this process a lot now. This feature is called Cloud Import and can be access from the new Welcome screen shown at startup, or from the File menu.

The Cloud Import feature works a little like Google does. You type in some details of the song you are wanting, and it will search some popular guitarists web sites to see whether they offer any matching songs. You can then double-click on the returned results to be directed to the specific web site. This allows the owning web site to still benefit from your traffic (and advertising revenues too), but also makes the importing of the offered files into GuitarSharp a more automated process.

Lets look at an example then. We want to learn to play Sweet Child O’ Mine and so we want to easily import this song into GuitarSharp. Using the Cloud Import screen, we can enter a brief description of the song and click Search:

Cloud Import results screen in GuitarSharp

We are returned a list of matches that were found and the name of the website that hosts the matching songs. Once we have decided which one in the search results we would like to look at further, we can double-click on the item to pick it.

Each website has their own specific instructions on how to download the file. For the excellent Ultimate Guitar website, a message like this will be shown indicating that from the Ultimate Guitar website you should click their Download Guitar Pro Tab button to get the file onto your computer:

Ultimate Guitar Cloud Import instructions

Once you have downloaded a file a few times from a website, these steps will become second nature and you can just dismiss this prompt when it is displayed.

You will now be directed off to the relevant website for you to select your file, but GuitarSharp will now be showing this screen to complete the import process:

CloudImport3

This screen is where the main improvements to the import process live. Previously you would have to manually locate the downloaded file yourself and then import it into GuitarSharp. But this screen will now actively monitor for files being downloaded onto your computer and when it detects a matching one, it will trigger an auto import. This means your downloaded file will automatically get loaded into GuitarSharp once the website’s download has completed. This makes things so much smoother.

But what if your browser doesn’t download files to the usual locations, or you decide to download your file to a folder of your choice? Well, we’ve tried to handle that too and make it easier. In these situations you can drag and drop the downloaded file from Windows Explorer onto the shaded area shown in the screen and that will trigger the auto import of the file. Alternatively, you can still use the good old fashioned Browse button to go and find the file yourself if you prefer.

If you want to know where your browser has downloaded your files to,  most browsers will allow you to right click on the file downloaded which is shown at the bottom of your browser’s screen. There will be an option entitled something similar to Show In Folder, which when clicked on will open a Windows Explorer to this location where you can then drag and drop the file from.

Have you seen the November issue of ComputerMusic?

Have you seen the November 2018 issue of ComputerMusic.

ComputerMusic November 2018 Issue

This edition’s CD contains some really useful VST Effects for guitarists that can be loaded into GuitarSharp as we discussed in this earlier blog post.

In particular is the Shattered Glass Audio Inferno CM VST Effect. Which looks like this:

InfernoCM Shattered Glass Audio VST Effect in GuitarSharp

This VST Effect emulates a Pre Amp and can be used to provide some Overdrive to your guitar sound. But a great use of this VST Effect is the ability to apply a High Pass and Low Pass filter. When you connect a guitar to your computer, you can often hear unwanted background noise and by using the filters here you can cut these out.

Also on the magazine’s CD is the Audio Assault GrindMachine CM VST Effect. This VST Effect provides a range of amplifier emulators. You can play around with a range of different settings – and the names are great too! Below is the Kamikaze Attitude setup !!:

The Kamikaze Attitude VST Effect in GuitarSharp

So whenever you fancy taking a break from your guitar practice, its just great fun playing around with all these settings and just enjoying the fantastic sounds that your guitar can make. We hope you enjoy it.

Welcome to the Welcome screen

When using any new software, it can be frustrating to not find the particular features that you are looking for. This can be the case when you are moving from existing software that you know inside out, or it can be the daunting feeling of trying something new.

Of course there are manuals and on-line tutorials, but it if you are anything like me, you only refer to them when you have a particular question or you have used the software a few times. Most of us just want to install the software and dive straight in to see what its like. We can discover other things along the way, but staring at an empty document when the software starts is not very intuitive. Also, fumbling around trying different things or hunting around for a help option can be time consuming and frustrating. Sometimes you can just get so fed up with it that you close the application without really giving it the benefit of doubt.

With this in mind, we have now added the Welcome screen which is shown when GuitarSharp is first installed. We think this makes GuitarSharp a lot more “welcoming” when you download it for the first time. It allows you to jump straight to the functionality that you are specifically interested in and makes it easier to explore the trial version.

WelcomeScreen

Note also the new feature we have called Cloud Import. There will be a later blog post on this feature, but this feature really simplifies the downloading and importing of compatible files that are available on several websites. This option is great when you have a new song you want to learn and want to find a transcription of it to learn and practice against.

We hope you enjoy this new feature. Please keep your suggestions coming!

Using GuitarSharp as a VST Effects Studio

As you know, GuitarSharp is primarily a music composing, arrangement and practice package. However, did you know you can also use it as a fun and easy way to explore the magical world of VST Effects? In this article I will give you an introduction to VST Effects and how you can add them to GuitarSharp as an extremely cost effective way of getting  an endless range of sound effects for your guitar playing.

Briefly, VST (or Virtual Studio Technology) Effects are shareable code modules that people have written that apply calculations to audio signals! Well – what does that all mean? Basically they are files (usually .DLL files) which can be passed the audio data that comes from your guitar (or any audio source really), and then they perform mathematical calculations on this data to alter it in some way. This altered data can then be sent to an audio output device and listened to. The mathematical calculations performed have specific implications. For example, they could be made to give a distortion type of effect or an echo to your sound. They could also be used to give your sound the appearance of being played through that classic Marshall amp you have always dreamed of! All of this can be done at a fraction of the cost (and often free) that the equivalent hardware kit would cost you. Bargain!

Where do you get them from I hear you ask. Well these VST Effects are readily available on the web, such as here: VST4Free.com. Also a great range can be found each month on the cover of computermusic magazine – this has the advantage of you knowing they are safe to use. The great thing is though, is that this means you effectively have an unlimited range of VST Effects to use and play around with. You are not tied to the effects that come with GuitarSharp as you can easily add your own. This is similar to how DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) work too, in that you can build a library of your favourite VST Effects modules that you commonly use.

So, lets get started. The first thing we will need is some way of getting your guitar’s audio into your computer. How you do this kind of depends on your computer setup. A quick search on Amazon will usually offer you a range of guitar leads that will connect your guitar to the audio input connections on your soundcard (check the connections fit). Or, you can use a lead that connects your guitar to the USB port of your computer – like this one:

Screenshot0

Next you need some of these VST Effects. You can either Google for some to download, or pickup a copy computermusic magazine which has instructions in the back on how to install them from the DVD that came with it. Make sure you note where it was installed – this will usually be shown to you at the end of the installation process. Its likely to be below your C:\Program Files (x86) or C:\Program Files folder in a folder named after the company which created it. Also, if you are offered a choice, you want to choose the x86 (also called 32bit) version of the VST Effect.

To use these VST Effects in GuitarSharp, we first need to tell GuitarSharp where they are on your computer. To do this, we need to go to the Options tab in the main toolbar and click Settings:

Screenshot1

Then go to the VST tab and click Add:

Screenshot2

You now need to go and find the VST Effect’s .DLL file. This will be in the folder that you noted down above after it was installed. If multiple versions of the VST Effect were installed, you need to select the x86 (also referred to as 32bit) version of the VST Effect. If all goes well, you should now see the VST Effect as being available for use within GuitarSharp:

Screenshot3

Whilst we are in the Settings screen, we need to check one more thing – and I’ll explain why later. In the Audio Input and Audio Output tabs of this Settings screen, make sure you have a WaveIn device selected which corresponds to your connected guitar (this should be obvious from the displayed name – a USB device connected device in my setup), and a WaveOut device selected which corresponds to your computer’s speakers or headphones.

Screenshot4And5

Now we are all setup and ready to start playing with our configured VST Effect.

Make sure the Explorer window is visible at the bottom of your screen by clicking on the Explorer button on the View menu:

Screenshot6

This will allow us to access the VST Effect properties for a Part. Even though we aren’t actually going to compose any music in this tutorial, we still access the VST Effect’s properties via the Part’s entry in the Explorer. The Explorer is the place where you can define a whole range of audio properties for a Part and each Part can have individual settings. So click on the VST button for the Part:

Screenshot7

This will display the VST Selection screen which shows us the available VST Effects that GuitarSharp knows about (the ones we added via the Settings screen above) and then which you have got selected for the Part. So select your VST Effect from the left list and click the >> button to move it to the right list. Now also check the Direct Input checkbox. This will tell the screen we want to feed audio signals from your guitar into the VST Effect.

Screenshot8And9Resized

Now when you play your connected guitar, you should hear the sound from your speakers/headphones. If you now double click on the VST Effect item in the Selected VST Effects list, it will open up the VST Effect’s editor, which in my case is this:

Screenshot10

From here you can play with all the knobs, switches and sliders that your VST Effect’s editor supports. You will find the VST Effect will provide a software emulation of the sounds that the equivalent hardware would produce. You can now play around to find the specific sound you are looking for. When you close the VST, your selections will also be saved by GuitarSharp as part of saving the Music Book. So you could create a new Music Book which has a range of different Parts in it that each contain a different VST Effect or ones with different settings. You can then easily open the VST screen for each Part via the Explorer and play the effects that you had previously configured.

For example, if you have a VST Effect that does distortion and one that emulates different amplifiers, you can create a Part called Distortion and add and configure the distortion VST Effect in it. Then create a Part called Amplifiers and add and configure the other VST Effect in that. Depending on which effects one you want to play with, you can simply click on the Part’s VST button in the Explorer and pickup from where you left off.

Now, this is all great fun and allows you to have an endless range of effects and sounds to use, but this can come at a cost – and I don’t mean price wise. Depending on your computer spec, you may have noticed a lag between you strumming the guitar and you hearing the playback through the speakers. This is called latency and can make it very disconcerting when you are playing the guitar as the notes you hear are slightly behind the notes you are playing. This latency is due to the slight time delay between your computer receiving the audio data from your guitar, and it being able to send it to your speakers. This can be caused by a number of reasons:

  • Slow hardware / system. If you have a slow processor or you have a lot of other processes running on your computer, there will be less processing power available for it to process the audio data. The better your hardware, and the less number of other applications you have running (especially background tasks like anti-virus or Windows Update in particular) then the more efficient your audio processing will be and so lower the latency is likely to be.
  • Badly written / configured / performing VSTs. Some VSTs may be having to do an awful lot of number crunching to give you the audio effect you require. This can sometimes be due to inefficiencies in the VST, or just down to the particular settings you have selected in the VST‘s editor. Sometimes changing these settings can make a difference so you should experiment with different settings in the VST’s Editor screen.
  • Audio buffering. When your computer receives audio data, it collects it in a memory buffer. When this buffer has a certain amount of data in it, then it will be passed to your application (like GuitarSharp) to process. Once it has been processed it is passed to another memory buffer ready for your speakers to play it when they are ready.  This buffering during input and output of the audio signals causes a perceived delay. So why is there this buffering? Well, to reduce the workload on your CPU it is generally more efficient to process audio in regularly sized chunks. The bigger the chunk size though, the longer it takes for the buffer to get full with sufficient audio samples to process. This adds a latency delay but does mean the CPU doesn’t need to keep asking the audio hardware for audio samples all the time as it has a good sized batch of data to process each time. A lower buffer size means that the receive buffer gets full quicker and can be passed to the CPU for processing far more often. This would reduce latency here, but does put more stress on your CPU as it is having to process audio packets far more regularly so a latency impact can be seen here. So there is a balancing game between picking the optimum buffer size. You want a buffer size that is as small as possible but puts as little stress on the CPU as possible. In GuitarSharp, in the Settings screens of Audio Input and Audio Output that we saw above when we selected our audio devices, you can configure different buffer sizes via the Desired Latency setting, though we often find the default setting of 100ms is generally best.
  • Slow audio hardware. This is a key point and one we will expand on below. If your computer’s sound card / audio drivers are not efficient, then you will get latency in processing the input (guitar) and output (speakers) audio signals. So having the best sound card hardware can be the differentiating factor in latency.

Above, in the GuitarSharp Settings screen we selected WaveIn and WaveOut devices for our Audio Input and Audio Output. This is a convenient selection and is the standard way of interfacing with audio in Windows. However, one size doesn’t fit all, and sometimes a different type of audio interface is better to use for some situations. Enter ASIO.

ASIO is a different standard of audio interfacing and allows Windows to connect directly to a sound card rather than having to go through layers of software to reach it. This direct connection gives a good reduction in latency. If your computer setup already has an ASIO compatible sound card then this is the option you should be using. However if you don’t, all is not lost as the ASIO4ALL web site provides a software ASIO driver which can turn your sound card into an ASIO compatible device allowing you to benefit from the efficiencies of using ASIO in Windows.

So lets see if you need to use ASIO4ALL or whether your system already has a hardware ASIO device available. Like we did above, we need to go to the Options tab in the main toolbar and click Settings. Then look in the Audio Input screen and see if the ASIO option is enabled for you.

Screenshot11

In the above screen we can see this is available for me as I already have ASIO4ALL installed, but if you are unable to select the ASIO button as its greyed out, then your system does not have an ASIO compatible device, and you should head over to the ASIO4ALL web site and install it. Before you install it, you should close GuitarSharp.

Once you have an ASIO device available (either as hardware from your sound card or from installing ASIO4ALL as detailed above), then you can go back to the Options tab in the main toolbar and click Settings. In the Audio Input and Audio Output tabs you are now able to select ASIO as your audio devices like below:

Screenshot11And12

Make sure you have ASIO selected in both the Audio Input and Audio Output screens and then click OK.

If you had previously saved the Music Book from earlier when we were using WaveIn and WaveOut devices, then reload it from the File menu. If not, make sure the Explorer is visible at the bottom of your screen by clicking on the Explorer button on the View menu and then click on the VST button for the Part:

Screenshot7

This time when the VST Selection screen opens, you will see that the ASIO devices are  now the selected Audio Input and Audio Output device like this:

Screenshot13

Now when you select the Direct Input option in this screen you should find there is minimal latency between you playing a note on the guitar and hearing it through the speakers. When using ASIO4ALL, you will see its configuration applet appear in the Windows System Tray (bottom right hand corner of the Windows Task Bar at the bottom of the screen). From this applet you can tell ASIO4ALL which devices you want it to use.

One more great thing that can be done in GuitarSharp with VST Effects is around chaining them together. Just like you can chain effects pedals together, GuitarSharp also allows you to chain VST Effects together in any order. This allows the output of one VST Effect to become the input of another VST Effect. So for example you can have a VST Effect doing Distortion which is then fed into another VST Effect which is doing Reverb. This can be seen below where we have two VST Effects in the Selected VST Effects list. Both are checked so they are active, but you can uncheck them to listen to each in isolation. The Up and Down arrows at the bottom of the screen can also be used to change the order of the chaining of the VST Effects.

Screenshot15

Double-clicking on each VST Effect will display its Editor screen and you can have both open at the same time so that you can alter the controls on both in parallel whilst you play your guitar like this:

Screenshot16

I hope this article has shown you how much fun VST Effects are, and how they can be a cost effective and limitless way to change your guitar sound. Also you can see that GuitarSharp doesn’t just have to be used to write music or practice your playing, but can be used as an effects station for you to just play around with different sounds. Additionally, the benefits that ASIO can bring to your audio processing is important too as its lower latency can make a big improvement to how VST Effects operate on your system.

We are in the Windows Store

InWindowsStore

We are really pleased to announce that you can now also download GuitarSharp from the Windows Store. You can either search for us in the Windows Store or click this direct link: Windows Store

So, if you have the latest version of Windows 10 and have been putting off downloading GuitarSharp from the web due to security concerns, you can now download it in full confidence and give your guitar playing a real boost!

We really hope you enjoy this version, and as always, please keep your ideas and suggestions coming so that we can keep improving GuitarSharp for you.

Guitar teachers wanted – Part 1

Do you teach guitar? If so, we would love to hear from you. From beginners to expert players, we have tried to add all the necessary tools to help players get the most from their guitar playing.

Today I want to talk about what we have available for those starting their guitar journey.
Ease of use and user friendliness have always been the key principles in GuitarSharp. Learning the guitar is the key aim for people who download GuitarSharp, so why should they waste time on trying to work out how to use the software or hunt around for obscure settings.

One of the biggest hurdles beginners face is finding their way around the fretboard and where all the notes are. We have found that the Virtual Fretboard in GuitarSharp is a great tool to help with this. Even from very basic details like guitar string numberings and fret numbering, players can get familiar with the layout of the fretboard. By displaying the full range of fretboard legends, at a glance a guitar player can see the names of every note and their position. This is not just a small popup window, but a nice clear representation of the fretboard that can be displayed horizontally or vertically as preferred. By seeing how the pitch names of the notes change as you work your way along the fretboard gives a good understanding of the note positioning, and can be very useful if the student is coming from another musical instrument.

As I’m sure we’ve all experienced, when we try and practice our guitar playing at home alone, we realise that we can’t quite remember what our guitar teacher told us in the lesson. Something that seemed quite straightforward in the lesson seems suddenly to look quite complex when we try it again the next day alone. I know that this can be really frustrating and can cause our valuable guitar practice time to be wasted.

By giving students files for a software package like GuitarSharp at the end of their lesson instead of sheets of paper for their guitar practice is such an advantage. Students can see the notes on a classical or tablature stave on their screens and clicking on the notes will show in the Virtual Fretboard exactly where the notes are located on the fretboard. This all helps to re-enforce the information given by the guitar teacher during the guitar lesson.

Another feature that we have found to be a huge benefit is the ability to include links to videos and other multi-media within the GuitarSharp Music Book files that you can distribute to your students. These can be links to videos you have made yourself if you are able to create them. Or alternatively they can be links to videos on YouTube or other guitar teaching web sites. Your student can now easily switch between seeing the music being played by another guitar player, to seeing how it is written in the staves. We’ve found this great for getting the feel of how a piece of music should be played.

In a later article I will go into a bit more detail around some of the other features we have available. But in the meantime, if you have any further suggestions or ideas that you would like to see in GuitarSharp, then please drop us an email.

Add Media

We’ve recently done some improvements to the add media and web browser functionality in GuitarSharp. There are so many good tutorial videos available on the web that its really useful to have them close by when you are learning new music. The Add Media Part menu item makes it really easy to add a multi-media file (like an AVI) into your Music Book, or you can browse to a web site. For example, the excellent theguitarlesson (https://www.theguitarlesson.com/) web site has loads of great videos which can be viewed within GuitarSharp like this:

 

Image

Or of course you can always find something useful on YouTube if you prefer!

So, if you are having trouble getting that riff to sound exactly right, you can watch someone playing it for real and use that to perfect your playing.