Music notations for Office – innovation from University of Manitoba


Guest post from Kenny Hong, a student at the University of Manitoba who is working with fellow student Eric Fehr on Muusika, an app for Office to allow musical notations. His idea was selected by the Microsoft Office team as one of the top five worldwide in the Imagine Cup Apps for Office challenge! Kenny takes a few minutes to tell us about his idea and the Imagine Cup experience so far…

imageWhat category did you enter in the Imagine Cup?

I entered the Imagine Cup under the Apps for Office category to create an application that is used by the Microsoft Office Suites (ie. Word, Excel, OneNote).

What is your project/idea?

The idea is to have an application available to Word/OneNote where you are able to create musical ideas. We want you to be able to notate music straight onto Word which is already a powerful piece of software. There are a lot of complicated music notation software out there that take a lot of resources. Our project, "Muusika", is an attempt to create a way to simplify jotting down quick music ideas without having to spend a lot of time figuring things out.

Who is on your team?

Kenny Hong – 2nd year General Science student at the University of Manitoba

Eric Fehr – 2nd year Computer Science student at the University of Manitoba

Why did you enter the Imagine Cup?

There wasn’t a particular reason why I entered. My professor had talked about it a bit during one of his lectures, and I thought it would be a fun idea to enter, so I worked on a proposal and submitted it.

Did you think you would get this far when you entered?

I actually did not think I would make it through round one. It was quite the shock… I immediately tried to look for teammates so that the idea could actually come alive.

What do you think you did really well with your project?

I believe that the idea/concept was properly submitted. There are not a lot applications for office that involve working with music and I just wanted to be a part of creating an application that lets users jot down a quick musical idea.

If you were starting over again from scratch what would you do differently?

I would have assembled a team immediately and started working on the project earlier. That would have made this a bit easier, especially for an app like this.

What’s next for you after Imagine Cup?

I am fairly new to the world of Computer Science, and I now believe that this is a career I would like to pursue. After the Imagine Cup, I would love to continue the project, and perfect it so anyone can use it. I believe I can improve on it as I learn more about the world of programming. For now, after the competition, I will be helping some fellow students bring Tedx to the University of Manitoba!

What advice would you share with a student who is thinking of entering Imagine Cup?

Do it. It is a great opportunity and it can be quite a challenge too ( if you like challenges), but like I said above, get a good head start on it, it will make your life less stressful (exams pile up! Smile with tongue out).

What happens next?

Kenny & Eric are now working to bring Muusika to life. May 26th they will submit their completed app to the judges who will select two of the five final entries to attend the Imagine Cup World Finals in Seattle, Washington in July. Those two teams will compete for first place and $5000.  Join us in wishing them good luck in the next round, we hope to see them bearing the Canadian flag to the Imagine Cup world finals in Seattle this July!

Here is their winning proposal

Concept

Music is becoming a critical part in the lives of many people and learning the basics of music can be a pain without the right tools. A simple music notation software can be very expensive and complicated to use but writing by hand can result in wasting a lot of paper. This project, Muusika, is an app aimed towards providing users a simple way to jot and take down musical ideas without having to waste any paper. Muusika can also provide the younger and/or beginner music students a way to learn the basic and fundamentals of the staves, notation, theory, and composition. It also works the other way around, where music teachers are able to use this tool to teach students the fundamentals of music.

There are currently templates on Microsoft Word for empty staves but it can be more effective by adding a feature where users are able to input notes onto the staves without having to look it up on the ASCII tables constantly. Users can also benefit from the organizational aspect of Microsoft OneNote by having notebooks where they are able to quickly jot down a melody so they don’t forget. Muusika will take advantage of any power features Word and OneNote may have, including the Pens and Pencil tools.

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This was created on OneNote using the line tool and the pen and pencil tool. The lines where complicated to straighten and kept on sticking together. Using a Wacom Bamboo tablet I was able to draw out the notes, Muusika will enable the use of an easier way input notes in Word and OneNote.

Office Support

Muusika will support the following applications:

Word – For ease of use and professional looking arrangements and compositions without having to break the bank for a complicated professional music notation software.

OneNote – If you have an idea, if you like to keep musical journals, if you like to work on a song where mistakes should be make, OneNote will provide the resources needed to organize the songs your composing, lyrics you are creating, music you are arranging, etc…

Planned Content & Technologies

To ensure the simplicity of the Muusika, it must have enough functions to be usable in the world of music but limited enough not to overwhelm and confuse the users. Muusika will give users the choice of drawing the notes using a tablet/drawing table or a simple point and click input system involving a toolbar and mouse. The toolbar should have the basics needed for music, all the clefs, notes lengths, rests, and ties with a customizable option to add concepts like crescendos, and volume control for the more advanced musicians.

Muusika may also include a MIDI feature where it will playback the notes inputted via the notes tool.

User Experience Story

Let’s say one user is an aspiring teenage musician writing songs, the OneNote version of the application will enable the user to jot down the ideas for both lyrics and melodies. They can organize their ideas by each notebook being a genre, each section being a song, and each page being an idea/version of that song. That is only one way to organize your music.

Another way to use the application would be on Word. A music teacher can easily teach a student the basics and fundamentals of music by either drawing on the given staves or inputting the notes with the tools given and if the MIDI playback is available, they will also be able to play back what was inputted. This lets students copy what was inputted and practice what they have learned.

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