Michal Paszkiewicz


Free music software!

As a self-admiring amateur musician, I have always felt that everyone should have the gift of having a chance to learn to play at least one instrument. We live in an age where knowledge has become cheap. The internet allows us to learn almost anything, just through watching the right youtube videos and reading tutorials. What then is holding us all back from learning music and how to play instruments?

One could say that it is especially difficult to learn an instrument, because one doesn't have an instrument. Luckily, your solution already exists! Starting instruments can be very cheap. A recorder can cost £10 or less, you can buy a cheap classical guitar or keyboard for under £40 and there are many other instruments that you can also get at a tiny price range. Some instruments are entirely free. Your voice is in a way an instrument and you can always sing to your hearts content, or join a band or a choir if you are feeling more adventurous. If you are very poor and your singing is not particularly good, you may be eligible to get a free instrument through various funding schemes and grants such as Don't stop the music, or you can make an instrument from almost nothing by following tutorials such as this.

Similarly, I encourage everyone to donate instruments to such charities, to their friends or their friends' children. If you have an instrument lying around, that you never play, what good is it to you? Why not give someone an opportunity to learn a skill that could bring them more pleasure than anything else in the world?

Growing up, I have had the chance to learn various instruments, and although I may not have always been a good student, these skills have stuck with me and I make great use of them in everyday life. How? My life may not be quite like a musical, but I do often break into song and wish I always had an orchestra follow me around and play my theme song (which would no doubt be very dark and sinister). Musical skills give me the ability to express myself emotionally, even if everyone else does not care or will not listen. I can free my emotions from my mind in a flurry of seemingly random hand movements that can (sometimes) make your spine tingle and your ears laugh. Playing in live gigs and concerts has been amazing for me and I feel that everyone should be given a chance to be part of a group that creates something spectacular out of nothing.

Most people, if not everyone have heard the problems young and budding musicians face in the real world. Not being heard, not being paid and struggling to make a living. But lots of people in this profession, although they may be upset at the state of things, continue doing it, because they love it and they will happily give up everything else for it.

One of the greatest concerns for modern musicians is getting noticed. It seems that it is no longer difficult to write a piece of music (and one could be judgmental and claim ANYTHING in this day and age can be classed as music), but the most difficult part of being a musician is making others aware of you. What good is writing a piece of music, if noone will then listen to it. I do not personally agree with this view, as most of the time I spend playing instruments, I like to improvise or create new pieces of music and I am honoured to be the only person ever to have heard what I have done. Also it can be embarrassing when you are the only person who likes your music. Anyway, as I was saying (/writing[/typing]), the main problem many musicians face is the ability to produce media. Most people are capable of recording a music video to some extent, maybe using a phone camera or a webcam, but it is difficult to produce a good enough recording to ensure people like it. To do so, you need lots of preparation, a good camera, good sound recording equipment and good software.

Luckily there is already some free software out there that allows you to record music and videos, so it IS possible to do things without any money, but it remains rather difficult if you do not have a fat wallet.

All of these thoughts have made me realise that there are already lots of free programs or apps that let you write software (webmatrix, vs community edition) or write and post blogs (wordpress), but there aren't so many good quality programs that would let you learn, create or write music for free.

This realisation has lead me to start creating open source music software and I urge any developers with musical skills to follow suit. If we could create a massive open source music software community, we could open a world of musical opportunity to people without access to music.

You talk the talk, but do you walk the walk

I have been rambling for a while now, so now I will demonstrate that I am not all just words.

For over a month now, I have been working voluntarily in my spare time to create two new pieces of music software.

1. Music score trainer

The first, is a program that allows you to learn to read music - a useful skill for people who have not been classically trained, or who have mostly learned to play music by ear. Sure, it is possible to go through your whole life as a musician without learning to read score, but learning to read score will make you far more versatile as a musician. This program comes in the form of an in-browser game that works on desktop, laptop or mobile, which means you can have a little bit of fun while learning, while it also gives you the chance to learn to read music in situations where you otherwise may not have been doing anything, such as if you were sitting on a train.

2. inknote music scoring software

Secondly, I have been working on a new, free, open source in-browser app that will let you write music score on a desktop computer or laptop. I am trying to make it as cross-browser compatible as possible and easy to integrate with other software, so that other musicians with skills in software could easily extend the product. As of writing this post, the program is still quite limited as to what you can write, but it won't take very long to catch up with the likes of Sibelius or Guitar Pro, and I am hoping that by keeping the project open source, some other developers may also contribute and help create a product that could inspire far more people to create music.