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This is a past article published in Hiragana Times. Each Japanese paragraph is followed by its English translation or vise versa, and furigana are placed above each kanji to make Japanese study even easier. [Magazine Sample] [Subscription Page]

An iPhone App That Plays a Photographed Melody

[From September Issue 2011]

In July, an iPhone application called “Gakufu Camera (musical score camera)” went on sale at the App Store for 350 yen. This application automatically recognizes notes scanned via an iPhone camera. However, since the camera range is limited, an app can only capture a segment of a score, rather than a whole page of sheet music.

The app can recognize both hand-written and printed notes, and any false recognition or adjustments can be amended by hand. All the scanned data can be saved in order to be played back later. Practical applications for the use of this app are limitless, and include aiding activities such as songwriting, rehearsing, and singing in a chorus.

The app comes with two playback models. Note length can be extended with a slow tap and a segment can be repeated by sliding your fingers over the desired phrase. Pitch can also be adjusted in order to match that of a particular musical instrument and there are six types of playback tones to choose from.

This application, which is the first of its kind, is developed by Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co., Ltd. The technology already existed 15 years ago and was operated by utilizing an image scanner and “Score Maker” computer software. However, modifying it for use with a mobile phone presented difficulties: memory was limited and it was difficult to capture a clear image of the page with a mobile phone camera.

KATSUTA Masanori, the development manager for the application software, reflects back on the difficulties developing the software: “‘Score Maker’ can play an entire sheet of music using an image scanner, so we were unable to break away from the concept of playing the entire song.”

Gakufu Camera is a product that marries the familiar camera functions of current mobile phones with a new way of enjoying music. The software was commercialized by getting away from the idea of capturing the entire music score and by narrowing its operation down to playing one phrase.

Although Kawai Musical Instruments have diversified into a variety of areas, such as providing music lessons and manufacturing musical instruments (both electronic and traditional), they initially started out as a manufacturer of pianos. Katsuta says this new app was created with the idea of “making music enjoyable” which is the philosophy that the company was founded on. Music is often referred to as “the universal language” and Gakufu Camera may well be a useful tool to translate it into reality.

Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co., Ltd.

Text: TAKAHASHI Yoshinori


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