Music and Vision homepage


Photo copyright (c) 1999 Keith BramichSite seeing
Computer music toys



This week we explore toys, novelties, music programs and downloadable music gadgets. I have to begin with a warning that some of the items featured here will not work on some computers. I've tried to indicate where things will only work with certain hardware or software, but it's impossible to test everything with all possible configurations. Apologies in advance if your setup doesn't allow you to use these programs.


Tune toys

Tim Thompson has produced a series of tune toys - programs which produce and alter music, including a program which chops up pieces of music and reorders the pieces. Visit Pieces-O-MIDI, for example, and give the program the web address of a MIDI music file. Then click on the button labelled 'tear it to pieces' ! You should see a graphical representation of the music and a link to a new file to listen to.

If you're keen on aspects of programming, you can look at the source code of these toys, and you'll also be interested to look at PLUM - Tim's list of Programming Languages Used for Music, and KeyKit - Tim's programming language and graphical user interface for MIDI.

Lars Vahlen's MIDIMutator is also an interesting Java tune toy, similar to one of Tim's above. This is an application rather than an applet, so you must download and run it on any machine with a Java run-time environment. Instructions are given on the site for downloading versions of JRE or JDK.


Tonica and Capella

A program on the WHC website (mostly in German, but with an English section) composes four-part chorales in the style of Bach or Reger. The program is called TONICA and you should be able to find it from the WHC main page (half way down the the left-hand frame). Unfortunately, the TONICA information appears to only be in German. However, you can download the demo version straight from this link. (1.7Mb). WHC also produce Capella - Germany's leading music notation software, and a demonstration download (1.2Mb, Windows only) is available from Software Partners (WHC's UK distributors).


Music Composer's Workbench

Pierre Jouvelot has written a harmony Java applet which he describes as 'pretty basic', but which can be used to detect standard chord 'errors' in four-part pieces. You can see the applet on Pierre's page at


Mozart shareware

David Webber's 'Mozart the Music Processor' - a music editor for MS Windows - is available in an evaluation version from This is version 4 for MS Windows 95, 98 or NT and the download size is about 1.7Mb.


Sharp eyes

The SharpEye Music Reader is a music OCR (Optical Character Recognition) program which will scan printed (but not handwritten) music and convert it to a MIDI file. To download an evaluation version (MS Windows 95, 98 or NT only, 1.1Mb), visit MidiScan does the same job, and is available from


Braeburn software

Music software written by musicians for musicians is the slogan of Bernard Hill's company Braeburn Software based in Selkirk, Scotland. You can read more about Braeburn's Music Publisher system and download an evaluation version (Windows only - 3.1 at 790kB or 95,98,NT at 950kB) at


Ear training

EarMaster 2.0 is an advanced and high quality ear training program with versions in ten different languages (including Slovene). The program will teach you interval identification, interval comparison, chord identification, chord-inversion identification, scale identification, melody dictation, rhythm imitation, rhythm reading, and rhythm correction. Operating at five different standard levels of difficulty, you can also define your own levels. A 30 day free trial is available for download (Windows 3.1, 95, 98, NT only - 556kB). EarMaster Pro 4.0 now available.


Free mixers and free harps

The SSEYO Free Store is worth visiting to see their range of applets. Some work with MAC or Windows. Most can be run online or downloaded, but you'll need both SSEYO KOAN and Macromedia Flash plugins installed. SSEYO are the producers of the KOAN generative music system. If you haven't experienced this, it's worth visiting the KOAN area of their site.


Set theory

Jay Tomlin's Set Theory Calculator lets you investigate musical set theory, related to serialism. If you can't wait to define a pitch class set and then invert it ... this is the site for you! (Needs Java, but should work on Mac, unix and Windows machines).


Sounds from objects

Kees van den Doel's Java applets allow you to create your own virtual object and then hit, pluck or scrape it to hear the resulting sounds. There's also a change ringing applet and an avalanche simulator on the Java applet sound demos page.


Sound sculptures

Finally today, Sound sculptures is a site providing 'relaxing sounds to relieve stress'. A set of Java applets which loop (or play randomly) a series of sound samples. Choose from fountains, beaches, waterfalls, birdsong, rain ...

Incidentally, I found this page via the Gamelan Java programming site. Try selecting 'free downloads' and then searching for 'music'. There's some interesting stuff, although some of it seems to be two or more years old.


Copyright © Keith Bramich, October 5th 1999


 << Music & Vision homepage                      More site seeings >>