Have an uncommon yule with tools and music from the Commons.

That’s the pitch (so to speak) of the Ultimate Christmas Songbook, an iPad app built with 50 Christmas songs and a fully free and open source notation engine. Making use of public domain songs, the number of songs available continues to grow as the community contributes tunes. (Those contributors got the app for free.)

As notation proliferates on tablets, the app also suggests that “commercial” doesn’t have to mean “closed.” The scores themselves are available in open, cross-platform formats (MIDI, MusicXML, MuseScore, and PDF). But by generating revenues, the app can support further development – something that’s often been missing in open source music software projects.

And if you’re looking for a way to help family and friends play music, and they have iPads, the score reading features are quite reasonable. You get lovely display of scores, audio playback, tempo change, transpose, and the all-important font resize with reflow so you don’t have to squint.

The app is on iOS now, but other platforms are planned; an Android version is already in testing. And we hear lots more is coming from MuseScore, too, hot on the heals of a release that earned half a million downloads:
A Christmas update from MuseScore

More resources:
Open source code for mscore at SourceForge
Contributed scores to download
Ultimate Christmas Songbook, US$1.99 at iTunes
http://musescore.com/, software and community, including the desktop software for Mac, Windows, and Linux

For reference, here’s a look at how the desktop software works:

  • michael

    Are chords included on these charts or only the melody line? If only the melody line, the app doesn't seem to have much value, at least to me.

    • Hey Michael, some of the songs have chordnames but not all of them. In any case, you can download the songs from musescore.com, open in MuseScore and add the chordnames to it.

    • rosevines

      I wondered this, too. I went ahead and bought the app as my way of supporting MuseScore. In fact, most of the carols have the complete four-part piano music. Jingle Bells is one of the very few where you only get the melody line. Thomas – I recommend you use another screenshot as your example, otherwise people will think all they're getting is a melody line, which is not particularly useful.

      On the app itself: I like it a lot. I especially like the ability to transpose with a single tap. I would like to see better page-turning control. At the moment, you have to swipe to turn a page. I'd prefer to be able to either swipe or simply touch the bottom right corner to turn the page forward, tap the bottom left to turn a page backward. At the moment, if you tap the screen, it simply hides or displays the controls and menu. How about requiring a tap in the top centre of the screen to display these controls, and use taps at the bottom for page turning?

      Thanks for the app.

      • hey rosevines, thanks a lot for the feedback! We'll incorporate it in the next update.

  • mediawest

    musescore is one of the best open source programs ever. my only complaint is i need to ability to add chords and tabs in a staff…. but they will get there, and an android app will make go out and get a android tab….