Exercise generators

These are simple proof of concept applications:

  1. Chorale Exercises

  2. Lieder Exercises

Overview and motivation

The ‘Cut Outs’ project provides high-quality music theory exercises for all. The title refers to the nature of the exercise: an original piece of music has parts ‘cut out’ for the student to complete in a suitable style. This teaching method has been in use for centuries as a way of enabling students to learn about composition and musical style through practical engagement.

‘Cut Outs’ provides free access to thousands of such score exercises. Crucially, the user (student or teacher) can be able to tailor the exercises to their requirements. For instance, one commonly used exercise of this kind takes a Bach ‘chorale’ (hymn), leaves the hymn tune in place, and cuts out the other, accompanying parts at the ends of musical phrases. ‘Cuts Outs’ enables users to download any of the Bach chorales adapted according to their requirements: with any number of accompanying parts missing, and with any span removed, from a single chord to completely empty accompanying parts. We also have plans to offer a sequential ‘course’ whereby users can follow a course with exercises of progressively increasing difficulty.

‘Solution’ files also allow users to compare their work with the original chorale. The image below is from one such solution file, and gives a sense of all this. This shows an extract from a Bach chorale, with the notes that have been removed from the exercise highlighted in red (four beats up to each cadence, in the alto and tenor parts only).

CutOuts Chorale Example

Cut Outs initially offers two strands based on two of the repertoire most commonly-used for this task, the other being Romantic song. The song repertoire is available for the use proposed by this project thanks to another ‘Four Score and More’ project, ‘Scores of Scores’, which has crowd-sourced computer encodings of hundreds of scores in collaboration with external companies (OpenScore/IMSLP) and a university partner (Leigh VanHandel et al., Michigan State University).

‘Cut Outs’ is urgently needed partly because school and university teachers still routinely create these resources from scratch. Students, in turn, only have access to the relatively meagre collections amassed by their teacher (if indeed they have a teacher). At least as important as saving time, this project seeks to provide the foundation for a great democratisation of access through more sophisticated forms of teaching and learning.

Finally, apart from simply providing the exercises, we also offer some basic ‘hints’: prose suggestions for the student to consider along with the option to auto-complete (parts of) the exercise by following this advice literally. The student’s task is then to consider where that rule of thumb has not worked and to improve the result manually.