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Sharing a way to show musical examples for conferences

Hello all!

For a recent presentation, I experimented with a different way to show musical examples that I wanted to share. I often work with popular music, and I prefer to show the full instrumentation, so the transcriptions tend to take up a lot of real estate on PowerPoint slides. In addition, because my examples are frequently texturally saturated and fast (tempo-wise), I wanted to have a visual marker similar to the "bouncing ball" on sing-a-long videos that show where you are in real time. I had seen colleagues achieve this through PowerPoint animations, though I felt that would involve a lot of moving parts and trial and error with regard to timing, susceptible to variation between computers. For this reason, I wanted to embed a single video file on the slide that contained the score, audio, and progress bar of some sort. I came up with the following solution:

Materials needed: Windows 10, Finale, Audacity, PowerPoint, two computer monitors

1. Transcribe the musical example on Finale or copy it from an existing score. The tempo you use for the file must be the same as the recording's tempo. I suggest having an app or good metronome (e.g., Dr. Beat) on which you can tap a beat along with the "real" recording, then play the recording back again with the metronome at that tempo to make sure they line up. (Before reading on, I should mention that I have a ready-made template for convenience. Feel free to e-mail me. The remainder of this step takes you through what I did.) The file must be optimized for Scroll View, so press Ctrl+E to switch to that. Unfortunately, this means that the instrument names are cut off (unless they fixed that for releases after Finale 2012), so you have to edit the instrument staff labels on the Score Manager (Ctrl+K). What I did was delete the labels, then manually place text boxes over the staves with the instrument names on them. You also have to create a click track with a very audible instrument sound. I used two woodblock sounds (one high and one low). Assign this staff ffff. (Trust me.) The click track should play for two measures (or more or less, depending on tempo and meter) before the beginning of the example to orient the listener. It does not (and probably should not) have to play throughout the whole example. Finally, mute all instruments besides the click track on the Score Manager.

2. On Audacity, trim the recording so that it starts at the beginning of the excerpt and fades out after the end of the excerpt. To do this, use the Selection Tool to place the marker right at the beginning of the excerpt. (You can use the Zoom Tool to blow up the waveform to be as precise as possible.) Making sure the Selection Tool is still being used, press Shift+Home to select everything from the beginning of the excerpt to the beginning of the waveform and press Delete. Now, find a spot a few beats at the end of the excerpt with the Selection Tool, then press Shift+End to select everything from there to the end of the waveform and press Delete. You should now have a bite-sized audio excerpt to work with rather than the whole song. Put the marker 1 sec to 1.5 sec from the end of the snippet and press Shift+End to select the tail end. Click "Effect" on the toolbar up top and select "Studio Fade Out" so that the snippet doesn't end abruptly.

Now that you have both the Finale file and the real recording prepared, you can work some magic!

3. Change your display settings to "Extend." Do this by pressing Windows Key+P and selecting "Extend." This makes it so that you can have more desktop space to work with, plus it will help the finished product look more polished.

4. On your main display, open Finale. On your secondary display, open Audacity. Maximize the Finale window. On Finale, open the musical example you want to use. Make sure that the instrument sounds are loaded, that you're on Scroll View, that you zoom in so that the notes and annotations are big enough for your audience to see, and that you set playback so that it starts at the beginning and at the correct tempo. On Audacity, open the excerpt you want to use. Make sure the marker is at the very beginning of the excerpt, and that the audio file is ready to play as soon as you press the Spacebar.

5. To get the click track and the recording at roughly the same volume, open up the volume mixer (right-click on the speaker on the bottom-right of your screen in your main display, next to the clock, and click on "Volume Mixer") and mess with the levels. I had to make Finale play back at 100 and Audacity play back at 20. (This was even with the click track at ffff.)

6. When you are absolutely ready to record, press Windows Key+G. It should open a prompt that says "Do you want to open the Game bar?" with a checkbox under it that says "Yes, this is a game" next to it. Check the box. The Game bar should open up somewhere on your main display, likely the top right. (Note that for some reason, Windows does not count the Game bar as its own window, so you have to press Windows Key+G again if you accidentally click away from it.) The next few things have to be done quickly. Press the red button to record. Click the play button on Finale to get the click track going. Switch over to Audacity and hit the play button (or Spacebar) right on cue so that the audio from the excerpt syncs up with the transcription. Let the excerpt play all the way through. Keep the cursor on the secondary display as long as you can before hitting the stop button on the Game bar to complete the recording. If you were successful, there will be a notification telling you that your recording was saved. You can find it in your "Videos" folder in a subfolder called "Captures." The resulting video should have only recorded what was going on in your main display (including the progress bar on Finale), not the secondary display. While it does capture the cursor at the beginning and end of the recording, it does not capture the taskbar at the bottom of your screen or the Game bar, which leaves the final product looking relatively clean.

7. To put the recordings in a PowerPoint slideshow, you can take one of two approaches. The first is to embed the video, which greatly increases the filesize but keeps everything in one file. The second is to link to a video file, which keeps the filesize low but requires that you have the recordings handy, which can be a problem if you are not presenting from your own computer. In both cases, go to the "Insert" tab and click "Video," then click "Video on My PC." Find the recording you want to use. To embed it, simply click "Insert"; to link to it, click the down arrow next to "Insert" and choose "Link to File." If you choose to link the video file and plan on presenting from a USB drive, I suggest copying your PowerPoint presentation and the recordings onto the drive first, then linking the videos directly from the USB drive rather than your computer. Resize the video and move it around the slide as necessary.

8. If you chose to embed the file and end up with a huge PowerPoint filesize, you can skim it slightly by clicking "File" on PowerPoint. Under "Info," it should give you the option to "Compress Media," but note that this will decrease the resolution/clarity on the videos. If large filesize is not an issue, you can go to File>Options, click on "Save" to look at your Save options, and uncheck "Save AutoRecover information..." Depending on how big the file is, AutoRecover can be annoying, since it will cause the program to temporarily lock up while it saves the file. Do this at your risk, however; if your computer legitimately crashes and you have not manually saved, you will lose progress. Because of this, I suggest waiting to turn off AutoRecover until you are completely done with your slideshow and/or have a backup copy.

I hope this helps! I realize not everybody has the luxury of having two monitors, so please reply if you have any alternative methods. Also, results may vary depending on your computer's processor, so please reply if you experience issues. Finally, feel free to e-mail me for the Finale template I mentioned above.

Jose M. Garza, Jr., Ph.D. in Music Theory

GarzaPercussion@gmail.com

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