With the official start of autumn just days away, it seems like another progress report is in order!
I’m going to start on a personal note – skip ahead a couple paragraphs if you just want the Strum Machine news.
At the risk of stating the obvious… man, what a crazy, scary, upending year this has been for humanity. I feel very fortunate that my family and I are all doing pretty well, but between the terrible wildfires here in California, the months of isolation we’ve had and are yet to come, the awful injustices that are so commonplace for people of color and other less privileged folks coming more and more to light, the future looking more and more uncertain… it’s heartbreaking stuff, and it puts me in a strange mental and emotional state.
At the same time, I feel both a great desire and a great responsibility to continue to improve Strum Machine as much as I can—it’s been this way since the beginning, but with so many people depending on Strum Machine to play with while they shelter in place, it’s never felt more important to me. That doesn’t mean our present circumstances haven’t affected my ability to get things done – they have, in many different ways I won’t enumerate. I get pretty frustrated with myself when my progress is slow, like it has been this summer, but I’m trying to cut myself a break given the circumstances. And actually, now that I’m looking at my work log, it seems that I accomplished more than I thought! So that’s nice.
As I write this, I keep thinking of who might be reading this (Strum Machine users), and I am filled with gratitude. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer group of folks to make a product for; I pretty much expected that going in, having gone to bluegrass festivals for most of my life, but it’s still such a treat to get so much support and encouragement from you all in my correspondence with you, and to know that my project has become so useful to so many. So, thank you! It is my pleasure to serve you, truly.
Anyway, let’s get into the latest developments with the product!
Here’s what’s been going on since the mid-July update:
In Beta: Record to MP3 feature
If you want to get an audio file of a Strum Machine track for use in an audio-editing program, DAW, JamKazam, or whatever else, you can now record and download an MP3 file of any track directly within Strum Machine! This is still in beta testing since there have been reports of audio glitches from some folks (which I have been able to reproduce), but you can give it a try today if you like; here’s how.
In Progress: Completely Revamped/Updated Song Editor
This was meant to be a small update to fix a couple niggling issues that have been reported, but the more I worked on it, the more things I wanted to fix/change/upgrade. In software design, we call this “scope creep”, and it’s been hitting me big time, pushing my expected release date for this update from August to September to… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
But it’s all good, because digging in so deeply is giving me a good opportunity to address a ton of feedback and suggestions I’ve received over the years, and is laying the foundation for releasing even more cool stuff in the future. It’s super exciting for me!
The updated version is still very much a work in progress, but I can share some elements of what I’m working on:
Multi-chord select, mass editing, cut/copy/paste. Select several measures by clicking-and-dragging, just like you make a loop. You can then edit them all at once, duplicate or delete the selection, and use cut/copy/paste keyboard shortcuts. Makes certain editing operations even faster to accomplish.
Undo, Redo: The hotkeys have already been there for years, but I added toolbar buttons so that more people will know about it.
New chord-selection menu. Gives me room to offer more chord variations and options. No need to memorize keyboard shortcuts on the computer, although they will still all work of course. Chords already in use get their own quick-select buttons, no menu required.
More chords to choose from. I’ve got sixths and maj7 chords done, with at least one more type, augmented, on the way. (This will be a smaller-scale version of the guitar-strumming overhaul I’ve been working on; the extra strumming patterns and even more additional chords will have to come later.)
More intuitive add/remove buttons on mobile. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.
Subdividing the measure into more chords. This is most often requested for use in waltzes, where a single “boom chuck chuck” may encompass 2 or even 3 chords. I just started prototyping this today but it looks like I’ll be able to implement this without issue.
Instant preview of chords as you move around. Haven’t actually implemented this, but I found a place for the toggle button for it, which is often half the battle.
Rewritten chord-management library. Strum Machine has a better grasp of the intricacies of scales and key signatures now, which mostly means that it has better handling of enharmonics, especially with minor keys (preferring C♯m to D♭m, for example). Music theory sticklers, rejoice!
Secret stuff. I’m looking into a few additional features that I might try to sneak into this update, but they’re so up in the air that I will keep quiet about them for now. Stay tuned.
And beyond that, it’s been a good opportunity to clean up and refactor some old code, some of it dating back to nearly the beginning (2016)!
I will definitely be posting another update (probably within the app as well) when this version is ready for beta testing – it’ll probably stay in beta for longer than usual given the scope of the revisions.
Update: this release is now in beta testing!
Update: this update has been released to all!
If you have any suggestions that have to do with Strum Machine’s song editor, or with new things you want songs to be able to do, now is the time to mention them! It’s easier to weave features in now when things are malleable then after the update is finalized, so I would like to at least know about whatever’s on folks’ minds. Just hit reply.
Thanks for reading, and stay safe and healthy out there.