Behind the Curtain of You Can Play

Published: September 28, 2018

A Noteworthy Craft

The behind-the-curtain look at creating exclusive arrangements for “You Can Play(And why skilled human notation trumps the computer every time.)

While embracing technology has been one of the keys to becoming the industry’s largest supplier of sheet music, there’s one area where human skill has an undeniable edge – the notation of music versions.

Simply put, no machine can match the precision and skill of our in-house team of notation experts. And, as Musicnotes’ expert arranger, Michael Sinshack explains, that fact is perfectly illustrated in the story of how we brought our 20th-anniversary song “You Can Play” to life in 12 different arrangements for Musicnotes customers of all types to enjoy.

“For this piece, we commissioned a local composer, Nancy Groeneveld. She worked with our team as they explained their inspiration and then they recorded her developing the piece on the piano.” Mike said. “In the end, we had a rough recording of the song that we could splice together.”

What the machine misses

For many sheet music suppliers, recordings like this are simply uploaded into a computer system and the notations are auto-generated. “That’s a real problem from a quality standpoint,” said Michael, “because the computer doesn’t automatically pull out the melody 100%. And the computer can’t make judgments on how realistic a chord or note might be for a beginner to hit.”  

Lower quality, lower satisfaction for performers

The end result is a lot of sub-standard sheet music across the industry. “The poor quality music is especially discouraging for younger musicians,” adds Michael. “They don’t feel the satisfaction of playing a realistic arrangement – and that makes the music seem out of reach. I really wonder how many budding musicians we’ve lost because of this.”

What a difference a human touch can make

Because Musicnotes is dedicated to being the finest producer of sheet music, we take the human approach and invest in the skills of folks like Michael – who has been with the company a full 19 years. “I started here when I was working on my Ph.D. in composition and I never looked back,” he says. “It’s been a great way to share my passion for music.” And Michael put that passion to work on “You Can Play”.

Working one on one, creating something special

“It was really great to be able to sit down with Nancy for several hours and go over the recordings and my first notations with her,” said Mike. “Being able to do that really lets us double check each note and get her creative input to make sure I was hearing everything she was intending. In the end, that kind of interaction really creates the best notations.”

A lesson only experience can teach

After the full piano version had been created, Mike put his years of teaching music to use for creating beginner and intermediate piano versions. “The challenge is to make a song that sounds great – but with the right amount of skill stretching built in to encourage development without intimidating a beginning student,” says Mike. “It’s a balancing act.”

12 versions of perfection – all hand delivered

And piano versions were only the beginning. Mike then went back to the original score he had developed with Nancy to create the different instrument versions needed for the program. “For instruments, we pull the melody out, create treble and bass clef versions that cover the major keys for instruments: E flat for alto sax and B flat for trumpet and clarinet, for example,” He said. “And then we can create a piano accompaniment for performances.” There were also guitar tabs and lead sheet versions to be created before the entire project could be sent off.

But that’s all in a day’s work for Michael and part of what he finds so enjoyable about the job. “It’s just so rewarding to see performers respond to the notes – that moment that it strikes the right resonance and they feel the music. It’s so good to be a part of that.”

You can be a part of the music too. Download your FREE version of You Can Play today! 

Piano Solo
Easy Piano
Beginner Notes (Piano)
Guitar Tab
Flute, Oboe, Recorder or Violin Part and Piano Accompaniment
B Flat Instrument for Clarinet, Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, or Trumpet
E Flat Instrument for Alto Saxophone or Baritone Saxophone
Bass Clef Instrument for Baritone Horn, Bassoon, Cello, Double Bass, or Trombone
C Instrument for Flute, Oboe, Recorder or Violin
F Instrument for F Instrument or French Horn

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