So I got a tin whistle tutorial by noted Irish whistle player Mary Bergin, so that I can learn to play a tin whistle the way whistle players do, instead of the way recorder players do. It’s too early for me to say whether the tutorial was a good investment or not, as I’ve just begun working through it, but Jane says I’m showing improvement, so there’s that. (If you’re interested in the tin whistle, and are looking for inspiration—or, possibly, sheer terror—check out Bergin’s albums Feadóga Stáin and Feadóga Stáin 2.)
Bergin is big on nimbleness exercises—we’d call them dexterity exercises, but I rather like that old fashioned word “nimbleness”. Indeed, I’d very much like to be able to say that I have nimble fingers. She’s also big on drilling the ability to see a note and get the right fingering immediately, without casting about. She recommends having a friend call out note names at random; or, failing that, writing down a bunch of notes at random and playing them. This is useful for two reasons: first, you learn to associate the notes with the fingerings, and second, you get a lot of practice at playing odd sequences of notes.
But I started thinking…writing down notes at random? I ought to be able to write a computer program to do that for me: put in the range, and other constraints, and have it generate some purely random sheet music, just as an exercise. And then I thought, you know, I’m not the only computer guy to have an interest in music. Someone’s already done this. And you know, it’s probably available on the web. And you know, Google is my friend.
Select the notes you’re interested in, and the range of durations, and the number of measures, and tell it to go; and in moments, you’ve got a page of completely random sheet music you can use as an exercise. I was interested to see that when you push the “generate” button a page of ABC notation flashes on the screen before the actual staff notation, so it’s pretty clear how the trick is done.
It would be nice if the web page allowed you to select a key and time signature as well, but since this is just for note and interval practice it doesn’t matter much; one can simply read the staff in any desired key.