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Hitting the Right Note: Frostburg State University Student's Music Software Presented at SPIE International Conference

Hitting the Right Note: Frostburg State University Student's Music Software Presented at SPIE International Conference
Timothy Cross and Dr. Xunyu Pan review features of the Musicians Aid app.

A new application developed by a recent Frostburg State University graduate could strike a chord with self-taught musicians one day.

Timothy Cross of Cumberland created a program called Musicians Aid before graduating from FSU in fall 2014 when he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Musicians Aid could be a blessing for aspiring musicians if fully developed, and the promise of the technology captured the attention of Silicon Valley companies at an international conference in February.

Cross wanted to see if he could build a program that teaches how to play sheet music by turning notes played by a musician into lines of sheet music with the help of software.

“Musicians Aid was a program I developed to assist musicians with the concept of coming up with their own ideas of music,” Cross said, “and being able to play the notes, then also have the notes shown on screen, so if they want to play them again, they could.”

The research was presented Feb. 12 at the IS&T/SPIE Electronic Imaging Conference in San Francisco with the research paper “Musical Examination to Bridge Audio Data and Sheet Music.” Cross’ work was under the guidance of Dr. Xunyu Pan, assistant professor in the FSU Department of Computer Science and Information Technologies. Pan’s FSU colleagues Dr. Liangliang Xiao, assistant professor, and Xiali Hei, instructor, assisted with the research paper.

Watch a video about Musicians Aid here.

SPIE is an international organization for optics and photonics professionals whose electronic imaging conference is attended by well-known companies like Google and Hewlett-Packard.

“I’m very honored,” Cross said. He was intrigued by the interest shown by various people and their reasons, “because there are so many different ways you could expand on the project.”

The FSU President’s Experiential Learning Enhancement Fund Program and an FSU Foundation Opportunity Grant provided funding for the research.

How Musicians Aid Works

For the software to work, Cross would play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on his guitar as a computer program records his audio. A database would translate the notes played into sheet music format. The musician could then play the performance back, and the application can compare the audio recorded with the database’s sheet music. The accuracy would be determined by the pitch and audio frequency of each note.

“We would be able to find out how to evaluate your performance,” Pan said. “You wouldn’t need a musical instructor there.”

Future Possibilities

Cross and Pan know the program has limitations in recognizing complex songs and different instruments. Pan hopes to develop the technology further.

Cross now works full-time as an applications developer at IBM Allegany Ballistics Laboratory Federal Data Center in Rocket Center, W.Va., outside Keyser. He said the research he completed at FSU was valuable as he was interviewing for his new job.

“It helped me be a way better programmer and helped me to get deep into learning concepts of Java,” Cross said.

Even with all the course work, Cross acknowledged that passion is just as important as good grades.

“I have the advantage that I think that programming is fun,” he said.

For further information on this release, contact:

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