The Piano Widget: Teach simple tunes with the iPad

As we wrote about in a previous post, we recently developed a custom widget for teaching kids reading notes and playing the piano. This widget was used throughout the interactive musical iBook The Skallywaggle Tails. As part of the agreement, we retained the right to add this Piano widget to our standard widget library, and made it available with the latest release.

With the Piano widget, you can transcribe simple pieces of music by entering the notes and measures of a song, adding lyrics, and choosing pieces of background music for playing along. When you then open the widget, you get the sheet music presented, together with a piano keyboard where you play the song. As an aid, the note to be played is highlighted both on the sheet and on the piano.

As an example, we transcribed a little song, recorded some accompanying music to go along with it, and put all of it in a Piano widget, which you can see in action below:

If you used a Mac or PC to open the above widget, you probably noticed the ending chords are a bit tricky to play. Using chords of course only makes sense if you use the widget on a multi-touch device such as an iPad.

Most of the Piano widget configuration is straightforward, except perhaps entering the actual notes to play. To make it quick and easy to transcribe music, we introduced a simple, compact notation for entering notes. You basically just enter every note (c, d, e, f, g, a, b, C, D, …) followed by the length (1 for whole note, 2 for half, 4 for quarter); additionally, there are some more notations such as rests, ties, chords, grouping notes, … which are all explained in detail inside the widget editor. For example, the 8 measures from the widget above have the following transcription:

e4 e4 f4 (g8 e8)
r8 e8 r4 r4 (c8 c8)
e4 e4 f4 (g8 +e8)
_e4 r2 r8 c8
e4 (e8 e8) f4 (g8 e8)
r8 e8 r4 r8 c8 r8 c8
e4 e4 d4 (ce8 ce8)
_ce1

Using this simple notation, you can create Piano widgets for simple pieces of music, and teach basics of music notation and piano playing to kids.

Remko Tronçon

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