Tag Archives: distance learning

Hotter latkes

Regular readers of this space will recall eight straight nights of posts last December devoted to my attempt at writing a Hanukkah song, “Heyse Latke Kalte Latke.” At that point, I didn’t yet have an electronic-transmission-friendly version of the lead sheet reflecting the slight tweaking that violinist Peter Jensen and I had given the tune since I first scrawled my handwritten version of the melody some months earlier.

Well, I finally broke down and bought me some music notation software — the formerly free Finale NotePad, now $9.95 in its 2009 edition. With the reconstituted Viper and His Famous Orchestra doing some shows later this summer, and with the limited time we’re going to have to actually all be in one place at one time to practice, I needed some way to make distance rehearsal more doable. I made “Heyse Latke Kalte Latke” my test case for the software, and I’m pretty happy how easy it was to figure out and getting something down quickly with even this cheapest version of the Finale line.

I’ve saved the result here for download, and you can then follow along with this recording of the Paint Branch Ramblers practicing it last November (it goes into Bill Monroe’s “Jerusalem Ridge” toward the end, but you can ignore that).


There are a few flies in the ointment. With NotePad, you apparently can’t add the grace notes I would have liked to get some of the more klezmer-y effects on paper. More problematically, you can’t do double bar lines to indicate the different sections (this song has clearly distinct A and B strains), and you can’t format the result so that it gives you 4 measures per line (which would make it easier to read and play along with).

I’ll also be testing out an open source program called MuseScore to see how that compares. I don’t need much in the way of bells & whistles, but it would be good to have a few key features that would enable me to put together better working lead sheets for practice purposes.