Using Custom Fonts to Print Simple Sheet Music with Common Software

In a previous post I discussed how I created simplified sheet music with a spreadsheet. I’ve been able to get an even prettier version using a Word Processor and a custom font that I developed using a free on-line Font system.   The font is StaffKlavar1, a TrueType font that works on Windows and Mac computers. I developed it with FontStruct (http://fontstruct.fontshop.com/ ); you can download the font free from the that site.  Click the links below to see some examples of music created with the font.  Besides the custom font, the only software used to produce these examples was a spreadsheet (MS Excel or Mac Numbers) and a Word Processor (MS Word or Mac Pages). Example 1: StaffKalvar1 Example: TriCycle Circle-of-Fifths Exercise (15 keys) Example 2: StaffKlavar1 Example: Minuet2 (excerpt) from Bach’s Anna Magdalena Notebook. For a fuller discussion of the use and development of StaffKlavar1, see the StaffKlavar1 Documentation: User Guide and Reference. For a discussion of the Klavar-style notation itself, see my previous post: http://drtechdaddy.com/2010/08/14/print-easier-to-play-sheet-music-with-common-software/ —- After struggling with spreadsheet borders in the example from the previous post, it occurred to me that it might be able to create Klavar-style notation with an ordinary word processor. Printing the staff lines vertically would give the necessary control over pitch alignment, if only I had a custom font–especially one with a half-space! Fortunately, I found several inexpensive–even free–font editors on the web. The one I’m using now is FontStruct, and it’s free. It creates True-type fonts with glyphs built from a collection of square tiles subdivided into various geometric black and white patterns such as rectangles, triangles, and arc segments. It allows you to create glyphs that extend outside the character box, so you can get overlapping stems, etc. Details are described more fully in the StaffKlavar1 documentation referenced above. [Added 9/9/10: Here’s an illustration from the document showing how easy it is to build your own character glyphs!] Using my custom fonts in a just standard text editor, I’ve been able to create various patterns of staff lines (bold, gray or dashed, etc.), solid and hollow noteheads with stems in different directions,  achieve half-width note alignment to a “line” or “space”, include fingering numbers (or note names) within the noteheads, and add markings (staccato, rest) and bar lines. So far, I’ve used this for short pieces and exercises–basically the pieces from my “Level 3” piano lessons.  This is relatively simple music, but realistically I think beginner/student music may be the best market for “roll-your-own” alternative music notations–it’s when we are first learning that we need the most help with the notation. I’ve also tried entering a piece as a “piano-roll” spreadsheet and converting that to word-processor format by saving the sheet in “comma-separated value” format. It’s doable, but a bit tedious.  I’m thinking a redesign of the font may make that approach more feasible.  Stay tuned! Dr. Tech Daddy

About DrTechDaddy

"Dr. Tech Daddy" is Joe Austin, a retired computer science professor. My interests include: software development (web and mobile), STEM and music education; learning to play the piano; mathematical foundations of computing; popular theoretical physics; model railroading (G, N, Thomas); Lego robots; history and theology of the Judaeo-Christian Church.
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