4 Ways to Add Notation in Your Presentation Slides

This is a guest post by Katherine Miller.

It was not until I was teaching completely online that I realized how important digital content design was to my students’ success.  When I was not with them to help complete work I noticed students asking a lot of questions about the way I was presenting and making my content available to them.  Or, maybe it was their lack of work completion that made me stop and consider what I could be doing differently. Either way, it was clear through the feedback I received from parents and students alike that my content needed to be clear and easily understood.  This meant I had to pay attention to not only what I was presenting but how it was being presented.  

Content design is not hard but it does force you to think about all of the details. How can you create repetition for the ease of the user? What will my students see on their device? How many clicks does it take to complete what I am asking them to do?  What can I add to create visual appeal to my audience?

As music teachers, many times this means that we need to be able to include musical notation in our presentation slides. For example, you need notation to design content that includes: 

  • rhythmic or melodic playalongs
  • the elements of music
  • teaching notes of the staff
  • manipulatives for students to compose
  • creating activities for them to interact with digitally
  • assessing student’s understanding of content to show what they know

There are 4 different ways you can add notation to your presentation slides and improve your content design.  Each option has pros and cons. In fact, you may use a different strategy depending on what type of content you are designing or what program you are using to create your design.

4 Ways to Add Notation to your Presentation Slides

1. Insert notation images

One easy way to add notation to your presentation is by using ready made clipart.  You can find many educators who have created individual clipart images that you can copy and paste to your own presentations.  

This method is great for creating simple notation like showing short musical examples for student assessment or creating digital drag and drop activities.  Another pro of using this type of notation is that the images can be used in whatever program you are working in from Powerpoint to Slides or even a Google Form.  Because the images are premade, there is not a lot of room for personalizing the notation or showing complex musical ideas. You are limited to the color and size of the original downloaded image.

Some of my favorite free collections are:

Music Notation Image Library from Midnight Music

The Everything File from Visual Musical Minds

There are also many other options you can find by doing a quick Google search or visiting the Teachers Pay Teachers website. 

2. Use a notation software

Notation software programs like Sibelius and Finale can also be used to create notation to add to the content you create. There are many more options for creating complex musical examples when using a software program. This is really useful if you are trying to notate multiple parts or add dynamic, tempo or other element markings.  An added pro for using notation software is the playback option. You can listen to the notation  you create.  Be aware that more complex also means there is a bit of a learning curve in getting to know the software and usually has a cost associated with it. 

Here are a few examples of notation software available to educators:

Notation Software to consider

Once your score is created on whichever software you prefer, you can take a screenshot and insert the image into your presentation program.  To add this image into your larger design, you may need to use remove.bg. This website will allow you to remove the background of any image for easier layering and visual appeal.

3. Download a music font

If you use Powerpoint or Keynote to create your presentations, you can download and install a music font onto your computer. This might be a great option if you do not have another music software to use. Sorry Google users! There is not a Google music font available to you at this time.

To use a music font, the first step is finding one to download. Here are two examples I have used:

Free Music Fonts (including recorder fingerings)

Free music font

Weeses-Musical-Pieces (PC only)

Weeses Musical Pieces

Once you have a music font installed on your computer (Mac users would find it in the “Fontbook”, Window users would look under “Fonts” in the control panel), you use it like any other font.  Just add it to your presentation by inserting a text box and then type the characters you want into it.  You can increase or decrease the size of the notation by adjusting the text size in the programs menu. You will have to get familiar with which key creates which symbol so make sure you schedule some time to practice before you create using this method for adding notation. 

Need some more help with installing a new font? Here is a guide to help out both Mac and PC users.

4. Use the Flat.io add-on

Don’t worry, Google users! Although using a music font is not an option for you, you can use Flat for Docs. This add-on uses Flat’s web-based music notation editor to quickly create music notation for your Google Slides.  It is a lite version of their web-based software which means it does have some limitations.  You find it by visiting the Chrome Extension store

Once you have added the extension to Chrome, it will always be found under the add-ons menu.  To use it, you would choose Add-ons>Flat For Docs>Insert Musical Snippet from the menu in your presentation.  

Flat.io add on

A pop-up window will allow you to create your snippet.  It will be inserted into your presentation as an image.

flat.io google chrome add on

Many times, content design can help you decide which of these 4 methods would work best for you and your students.  Start by considering what program you want to be able to create your presentations in.  Then, consider which of the notation options fits your purpose so examples can be easily understood and add to the visual appeal to what you are creating. 

Lastly, remember to view your creations from the student point of view. For instance, I usually create on my MacBook but students view lessons on an iPad.  Try it out! Are examples too large or too small? Are they clear and easy to read? After all, the content we are designing is to help improve their music education.

What are some of your favorite ways to use electronic music notation in your classroom?

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About the writer

Katherine Miller

Katherine (Katie) Miller holds a Bachelor of Music in Education degree from Otterbein University (Westerville, OH) and a Masters of Educational Leadership from Antioch McGregor Midwest (Yellow Springs, OH). She has 15 years of professional musical experience as a music educator and performer.

She is currently employed by the School District of Waukesha in Waukesha, WI, where she teaches K-5 General Music and serves as a district model tech classroom. She was recognized in 2018 as a WPT Education Innovator by Wisconsin Public Television Education team. Twitter: K8TMiller

Looking for More Resources for Music Teachers?

Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.

I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.

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I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.

If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community.

Learn more and take a sneak peek inside