Skip to content

03.19.2020 – Scrolling Scores for Student Recording

I don’t often mix my educator-self with my composer-self on this blog, but I’ve had an idea I want to post for easy access for any educators who might be struggling with how to teach their music classes in the midst of all the school closings. My students are home for spring break right now, but they will be staying home indefinitely after this week. The good news is that they were all sent home with their school devices (iPads or Chromebooks) and their instruments. (Anyone else’s STEM-sense tingling?)

Many have been passing around the idea of students recording themselves performing at home and then combining all the recordings to make a virtual ensemble performance. I’ve seen some really great guides going around, but I feel like many of them are very complicated for the students to set up and I wanted to come up with a solution to make it as easy as possible for the kids.

Have you ever seen those videos on YouTube with the scrolling score that moves as you listen to the recording of the piece? That stood out to me as the perfect medium for this scenario, as it includes the score with a moving cursor, a metronome click, and, if desired, software playback of the instrument line. Then all that is required is for the student to run an audio recorder, either from a smart phone/other device or possibly on the same device as the video.

Here is a sample of what I might post to my Google Classroom:

We all know that even in the best circumstances when we are in the same room as the students some of them just can’t get their technology set up correctly so I will also add a detailed tutorial explaining how to get everything set up, the importance of using headphones, and more.

The student then just needs to start their recorder, start the video, then play along as the video runs. After that they can upload their audio recording for the teacher to combine using an audio editor with multiple tracks (Audacity is the best free option).

Here are the steps to get this set up:

Step 1: Choose your music notation software and transcribe the parts to your piece.

This step is by far the most tedious, although it seems that PDF-to-score scanners are getting better all the time. My editors of choice are Sibelius and MuseScore (free). As you can see in the video, I set up a prep-measure with count-off beats numbered below the measure. If you want to use the included metronome-click, make sure you turn it on in the playback panel. Rather than creating multiple files, it would probably be most efficient to set up a score and enter all the parts there and then use the included options for creating individual parts from the score.

If you dread the though of entering so many notes into an editor, try to find a colleague who likes to arrange or compose and offer them a pizza or a 6-pack of Corona in exchange for transcribing. It’s a lot of work, but folks who are used to it can do it surprisingly quickly.

Step 2: Record a video of the individual parts.

There are a couple of different ways to do this. One is to use the built-in video export (Sibelius and Finale) and the other is to use a screen recorder (compatible with any score editor). Before you do this, now is the time to fine-tune your playback. Decide if you want the metronome on or off and adjust the instrument playback as needed (most score editors have a ‘mixer’ window that allows you to turn up/down the volume on individual instrument playback or mute it entirely).

Option 1 – The current versions of Finale and Sibelius have an option to export directly to video. I used the highest resolution the offered and the file was still surprisingly small. While this resulted in excellent quality, in my Sibelius export there was a noticeable lag between the audio and video. When the beat cursor would move to a note, the note would sound a half-second before the cursor moved. It could be just my specific circumstances that caused this, but I would examine your video carefully to make sure it’s easy enough to play along with.

Option 2 – Using any music notation software along with a screen recorder. It’s an extra step, but it’s far more versatile than the first option. TechRadar has a good write-up on current screen recording software ( The one I settled on is called APowerRec ( Just click on “Start Recording” and it will prompt you to install a launcher and start recording. Note: I couldn’t get the web version to start in Firefox, but it worked in Chrome. I did use the downloadable app which has a 3-minute limit and the watermark you see in the video.

Step 2B: Record yourself playing the part as well

If you want your students to have good tone/phrasing/musicality to follow, you can record yourself performing the piece and add it to the score video. It’s a bit of extra work on top of all of this, but could have a big impact on the results.

Step 3: Upload the video to your platform (i.e. Google Classroom) and assign it to your students.

Step 4: Compile the recordings.

Once you’ve received the recordings from your students, open up a DAW such as Logic, Cubase, or Audacity (free). You can import the audio files into separate tracks after which you can adjust the volume of each and get the timing set up. Hopefully they recording along with the metronome in their headphones, because if not here’s where you could have a bit of a mess. You will have to trim the audio files of any unwanted noise at the start/finish and line them all up on the timeline so that the start of the audio matches. IMPORTANT – take a look at the waveform on each audio track to easily align the beginning of their first note.

Step 5: Profit!

Once you’ve combined and edited everything, you can export a sound file to share with students, parents, your administrators, local news stations, etc. Blast it out on Twitter with a bunch of hashtags. Most importantly, document this as a STEM activity in your evaluation and enjoy the smile on your principal’s face!

I hope this was helpful. There are many specific details about using the score editor and audio software that I did not get into. If you get stuck, there are mountains of info online for just about any issue you run into. Stay safe!


Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *