In just a few steps musicians can benefit from applying QR codes to tag their printed sheet music. The QR codes enrich the score they are studying by linking it to relevant online information, such as recorded performances and background information. A smartphone capable of scanning QR codes is essential in this method.
In my spare time I very much like to study playing the piano. I particularly get passionate about specific challenging pieces from composers such as Schubert, Grieg and Chopin. Although my old piano teachers probably wouldn’t have approved, I usually start by locating online recordings of these favorite compositions. That way I get a feel of what they ideally should or could sound like straight from the beginning.
I have found QR codes to be a powerful and versatile instrument [!] to facilitate the process of familiarizing oneself with a musical piece. To start with a spoiler and to pique your interest, here’s a picture of what a piano score might look like with a QR code attached to it:
In this post I’d like to present a simple outline of what steps to take and what preparations are required to get you started. As you can see from the screenshot, I picked the romantic song Butterfly from Edvard Grieg’s 10-volume Lyric Pieces.
At some point you’ll notice that I link my QR code samples to recordings on YouTube. Once you understand the process, you can easily substitute any other service of your liking.
If you feel inclined to do so, please feel free to scan the QR code on the right to get a feel for the possibilities. Otherwise, hang in for a quick three-step tutorial:
The Three-step Process
- Get familiar with a QR code generator. My personal favorite is the web service Delivr.com. Besides being slick, simple and straightforward, there’s no need to sign-up to get started. If you do sign up, you can explore their advanced features and build sophisticated, mobile-friendly landing pages. The Delivr bookmarklet— a convenient button on your browser toolbar— turns the process of creating a QR code into a swift and painless effort.
- Install a QR reader on your smartphone if you haven’t got one already. I’m quite pleased with QuickMark. QR readers for a couple of well known smartphone brands are listed here: http://www.techrefined.com/help/
- Experiment with creating, printing and scanning QR codes until you feel familiar with the process. I print my labels by opening the PNG version in a separate browser tab, and then tweak my printer settings and the page set-up until I get it right. Pretty much any regular printer will do. I use a Dymo LabelWriter to print my labels, as this allows me to print QR code labels one by one at size 25 mm x 25 mm – just right for sheet music. Some smartphone QR readers require a larger size, depending on their camera resolution.
Let’s assume that you’ve created a QR code using Delivr.com. Here’s what the Delivr QR preview-and-share interface looks like:
Apart from creating a bare-bones QR code, Delivr.com also allows you to create full-fledged mobile landing pages. You do need to create an account with the service to access additional features, such as descriptions, hyperlinks, a comments section and social-media sharing links. Here’s a screenshot of what the Grieg Butterfly landing page looks like after someone scans my Grieg Butterfly QR code. The blue parts are hyperlinks:
Pretty cool, don’t you think?
Several types of users might benefit from using QR codes:
- Music schools, music conservatories, teachers and their students
- Professional and amateur musicians, singers, directors, composers
- Sheet music publishers and distributors of digital sheet music can offer their client base additional info. QR code tracking can be of interest to them. A QR code can also be useful from a copyright point of view.
Besides linking to a YouTube video, you could also consider any of the following music-related target pages. Maybe the following list inspires you to find your own sources. Where possible, I’ve linked to web pages and services related to Grieg’s Butterfly piece. Note that many web services now offer mobile-friendly interfaces to their sites, for example Mobile YouTube and Mobile Wikipedia.
- Spotify playlists, YouTube playlists, GrooveShark (also offers playlists), Blip.fm, last.fm
- other video sites: Google Video, Vimeo. Try video search engine Blinx (offers search-specific RSS feeds)
- downloadable MP3 or midi files. MP3 search engine: Music-Boom
- PDFs: International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP), PianoStreet
- composer, performer homepage (Einar Steen-Nøkleberg), Facebook, Twitter
- biographies, discography, lyrics, interviews, news, reviews, concert tour schedules
- CD editions (Amazon, CD Universe)
- interpretative monographs (On Stage with Grieg) for technical analyses of classical compositions
- sheet music source web page, Scribd, electronic download sites, commercial websites, SheetMusicDirect, MusicRoom, FreeHandMusic (uses the Solero Music Viewer), MusicNotes and other digital music score resellers
- Wikipedia articles about the piece or artist, TV documentaries, DVDs, movies
- discussion forums (PianoWorld.com, Pianostreet.com), Q&A (Quora, Yahoo etc)
- instructional blog posts (by piano teacher Shirley Kirsten – link updated July 11th 2011), podcasts like Piano Podcast by Mario Ajero
Further Reading about QR Code Technology
I have found these resources to be quite helpful and interesting:
- 2D-code – a multi-author blog with news, reviews, tutorials, tool comparisons and many other useful bits (RSS)
- Real-World Hyperlinks – an introductory article about QR codes by Adrian Roselli
- QR Code Demystified – a 6-part (!) discussion of anything a web developer would want to know about QR codes, by Jason Brown
- QRDressCode – very cool Scoop.it! curated by QRboy Laurent Sanchez from the refreshing French QR code blog QRDressCode (RSS) Even if you don’t speak French, the images are a treat to the eye.
I hope this explanation inspires you to experiment with QR codes. Maybe you’d rather use a different QR code generator, or a different QR code scanner on your phone—it doesn’t matter because the mechanism of linking a real-world object to the online world remains the same. Do feel free to contribute your ideas in the comments section.