Google Docs with Embedded Music

Google Docs with Embedded Music

Frequently I want to make a music worksheet that contains formatted text and music examples. You can do this with Sibelius, but I find it cumbersome. There is a way to do this with OpenOffice and LilyPond, but it is difficult to set up and, I found, subject to stop working on subsequent updates to OpenOffice. So, most of the time, I resort to exporting graphics from Sibelius into Microsoft Word documents. This means that my document data is scattered between multiple Sibelius files (assuming I save them) and one Microsoft Word document. Updating the document with new or edited music examples is not always easy.

Today I discovered a tool that allows you to edit and embed music directly within Google Docs (also known as Google Drive). This keeps the text and music within the same document, and they can be edited easily for future changes.

The embedded music side of the document is based upon VexFlow, a music engraving tool written in javascript and HTML5. That means you don’t need any software besides your web browser to create the music notation.

Google Docs is an online suite of office tools that again works just in your browser. You do not need to download any software to use Google Docs, but usually you must be connected to the Internet to use Google Docs. To use Google Docs, you must have registered a Gmail account. You do not need to use Gmail for your email, but the Gmail user name and password are also used for Google Docs.

Once you have set up Google Docs, you can click this link VexTab Google Docs add-on to enable embedding music within your Google Docs. Follow the instructions, and you are ready to go!

The language for typing in your music (called VexTab) is not necessarily intuitive. You should follow the tutorial at this link  VexTab Tutorial to become familiar with it.

I found  a cheat sheet for VexTab notation here.  And here is an updated list of all the latest features of the VexTab language.

Although you can download your new Google Document as a PDF or Microsoft Word document, the embedded musical examples are not high resolution. However, I find them suitable for my students.

Here’s the document I created today for my upcoming group class:

VexTab Google Docs Example

The very first embedded musical example was created with this VexTab text:

options width=150
tabstave notation=true tablature=false clef=treble
notes :w G/4 $G$

Note that I adjusted the default width so that the example could fit within the table.  “notation=true tablature=false” means to use music notation but not guitar tablature. The “:w” means whole notes. The letters are note names, and the /# indicates the octave of each note.

The very last musical example was created with this VexTab text:

options scale=1.25 width=500
tabstave notation=true tablature=false clef=alto
notes :w C/4 F/3 G/4 B/4 A/5 A/3 D/3 E/4 B/2 F/5 C/4

Here I also scaled up the size of the example to give the student room to write answers.

A couple of other notes: I discovered that you can not copy and paste the image examples without breaking their connection to the VexTab source. However, you can drag them to move them around (e.g., into tables, as I did). And you can copy and paste the actual VexTab source between source windows.

Have fun with your musically illustrated documents!

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