Now You Can Sketch Musical Ideas on Interactive Sheet Music

Software developer Alexei Baboulevitch’s calls his Composer’s Sketchpad app a “living staff paper.”

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Mar 21 2016, 3:50pm

Courtesy the artist

As a tool, the composer’s pad of sheet music is often beyond the abilities of the layperson. Certainly it’s beyond the ability of most self-taught musicians, who maybe didn’t undertake formal notational training. Independent software developer and composer Alexei Baboulevitch is hoping to reinvent composition with modern technology in his Composer's Sketchpad app, which imagines writing sheet music as an interactive artmaking process.

Though designed for all ages, the app won the Children's Technology Review Editor's Choice Award. Users can select from dozens of instruments, and control tempo, volume, vibrato, and octave. There are no limits to the number of musical pieces that can be saved, and they can be exported as MIDI or JSON files.

“My app takes a painterly approach to composing music,” Baboulevitch tells The Creators Project. “Upon creating a new piece, you're presented with a large canvas that you can quickly pan around with your finger. Put down a second finger (or an Apple Pencil) and you start drawing musical notes, just as if you were using an art application.”

“There's no grid walling you in—your notes can begin at any point in time and bend to any pitch, allowing you to design curvy solos, complex polyrhythms, and even strange microtonal compositions with ease,” he adds. “All the playback and editing controls are right by your fingers, meaning no wrangling with messy airplane-cockpit user interfaces or hidden modes.”

Baboulevitch designed Composer’s Sketchpad to make musical composition intuitive and direct. In that sense, he compares it to finger-painting. But he insists the app, which he calls a “living staff paper,” is not a toy. Baboulevitch wanted to move away from traditional Western musical notation, which he believes boxes composers into discrete measures and limits them to 12 pitches available on the standard piano keyboard.

“You can write anything from snippets of melodies to entire symphonies using this thing,” he says. “I see it as a modern take on sheet music for the mobile era.”

Composer's Sketchpad is available in the App Store. Click here to see more of Alexei Baboulevitch’s work.

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