Thursday, November 15, 2001

The Internet has been making plenty of noise over the years, some of it musical. A multitude of formats and players have catered to the casual listener, but not too many satisfy the musician in training. Now two music giants have teamed up to fill that void.
Developed by the Yamaha Music Corp. and Hal Leonard Corp., the free V-Player, available through the Yamaha MusicSoft Web site (, allows musicians not only to browse and download sheet music from an ever-growing music library, but also to use an accompanying multimedia file to learn the song through sight and sound.
For Hal Leonard Corp., the V-Player gave the 50-year-old sheet-music publisher a chance to dabble on the information highway and deliver songs to musicians of every skill level.
“The difference is that when you are at home with a piece of sheet music, you really can’t tell how it is supposed to sound. You have to rely on your skill that you are playing the piece correctly,” says John Cerullo, executive vice president of the company.
“The Internet and Yamaha’s technology have added a new dimension, giving something more than just a paper score for music makers to learn from, whether it be favorite pop songs, choral or classical music.”
The V-Player comes to life through a fairly simple and short download process (even with a 56K modem). Once the player is configured, musicians can choose free sheet music or browse through more than 200 titles available for purchase at $3.95 each.
The traditional “sheet music” has been transformed into a simple MIDI file, allowing the musician to have a multimedia experience. First, the player’s window displays the lines of notes much as they would look on the sheet music. Next, a set of controls (patterned after an MP3 player or digital stereo equipment) allows the musician to control the song, for example changing volume or playing a part over again.
An animated version of the musician’s instrument then appears and literally plays along with the tempo chosen. This animated instrument allows the musician to see how his or her fingers should be placed on a keyboard or other instrument. An accompaniment track also can be turned on so the musician can play in tandem with another instrument.
“The V-Player works as well for the accomplished musician as it does for the novice, and that is because we have thought about how both groups will use the device,” Mr. Cerullo says.
“For example, a piece designed for piano play will require two hands and the ability to play chord structures, which all takes some skill in being able to read more complicated sheet music. However, if you order the same piece of music for keyboards, the score will reflect a single line of notes with lyrics, and, although it will tell you what the chords are, you can play one note at a time.”
Hal Leonard was a natural choice to work with Yamaha Music Corp. in the development of the V-Player, as it already had tens of thousands of scores stored as electronic files for use in other projects, such as CD-ROMs marketed by the company. The technology developed by Yamaha then imbedded those musical data files into MIDI files that speak, through a translator, to tell the animated instrument what to do and how.
“There was the need to create the V-Player as a self-contained piece of software technology that could be married to our existing digital data file because it was important that we not need to reprogram the sheet-music files,” Mr. Cerullo says.
The site offers a wide repertoire of music, from pop songs to classical arrangements of Chopin, Beethoven or Bach, with the piano having the most selections at this time. New selections are being added continuously.
Additional plans for the site include the creation of interactive files that can be used with an instrument to plug in and play. In fact, the Yamaha EZ-30 keyboard can be plugged into the computer via the USB port, allowing V-Player MIDI files to be loaded right into the instrument. Additionally, a newer version of the keyboard will allow players to see the sheet music on an LED display mounted on the instrument.
(The free V-Player minimum requirements include a PC with either Windows 98, 98SE, Me or 2000, a Pentium2 at least 400 MHz, 64 MB of RAM, sound card and a hard disk capacity of at least 100 MB.)
Write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; or send e-mail (

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