I'm looking for software that can graphically assist in translating a sound frequency to notes.

Closest example of what I had in mind is FL Studio's Wave Candy plugin:

A nice big screenshot of Wave Candy plugin spectrum analyzer mode

Hovering cursor above a certain position displays the closest note to that frequency.

Ideally, it would be something like Synthesia, but I guess there really isn't a piece of software out there that can perfectly separate desired notes from noises and lyrics. enter image description here

What software like that is there that helps figure out which notes are being played at a certain moment from a sound file?

I realize this might not be the best SE site for this kind of questions, but I figured here would be a better chance to get an answer from a professional, rather than just asking on general sites, like SuperUser


6 Answers 6


Capo for Mac OS X

There is also a more limited version for iOS.

  • This seems to be targeted at guitar fans, as well as expensive hardware owners ;) I'm looking for a tool that would help decompose all sorts of instruments into notes, rather than just guitar chords. Commented Apr 27, 2013 at 3:07
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    I use Capo for all kinds of music, not just guitar music. I don't think its capabilities are particular to guitar. The developer just chooses to market it as a guitar tool because there are so many guitarists out there who want to transcribe guitar solos. And you don't need an expensive computer to use it, although you do need a Macintosh.
    – user1044
    Commented Apr 27, 2013 at 10:18
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    The guitar playing specifics are accidental. The developer is an avid guitar player, and wrote to/uses for/markets the tool to guitar players. Don't let that fool you - it's capabilities are not specific to guitars Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 14:31

Music Spectrograph

There's an iOS (iPhone/iPad) app, and an OSX/macOS app, Music Spectrograph, designed for just this purpose (Disclaimer. It's my app in the iTunes App Store.) The Y axis is scaled to a midi keyboard. Works both with live audio and with sound files. "Assist" is the right word, as a spectrograph can display a lot and lots of overtones, leaving a human with musical training to visually pick out any relevant musical pitches from among all the overtones.

If it's really just for 1 pitch frequency, with no accompaniment, harmony or background sound, another iOS app of mine (Sing-inTuna) attempts to place the note pitch directly on a musical staff. (Repeat disclaimer.).

Separating notes pitches (especially within common chords) from overtones, noise, vocals and percussion, reliably, currently appears to be a very difficult software digital signal processing problem. Research papers on the topic can be found at www.music-ir.org/mirex/

  • This looks useful. Hope it keeps the screen orientation when rotated so that the keyboard is on bottom of the screen. A screenshot with greater resolution than on the store page included in your answer would also be great. Commented Apr 27, 2013 at 22:16


The Celemony Melodyne family of products can achieve this, among other functions. The products are expensive but they are the state of the art.

From the website:

What Melodyne is

Melodyne is a program for your Mac or PC that offers truly extraordinary possibilities for the editing of audio. For Melodyne recognizes the notes that are sung or played in your recording and shows them to you. It’s almost like the recording turns into sheet music again.


Sonic Visualizer

http://sonicvisualiser.org/ is free and can do regular spectrograms with a piano scale along the left side, automatic note transcriptions (and play them back), chromagrams, etc.



It can show you the pitches that are played in real-time (without regard to the octaves and no matter which instruments play it). There's no time axis but you can pause it and read out the tones or chords. It is not restricted to files loaded from disk. In fact it can listen on a system input (either the microphone or routed system output) so that you can use any music player or play yourself. It can filter out the harmonics and show only base notes.

I've successfully used it to find out chords and melody from several song with quite difficult chords and modulations.

Besides transcribing it help finding the key and locating modulations. The pitches can be accumulated and averaged over a time interval so that you can guess the key by the tones present in the song fragment.


There are a lot of software designers trying to do this. I know it's a hot commodity. However, programming a computer to think like a musician; isolate fundamental frequencies, determine key and pitch, and notate, is quite an ordeal that isn't done well in any self-transcribing software I've seen. Your best bet is to hire a transcriber. :)

  • It will more than likely be cheaper than buying the best software out there on unfathomable hardware.
  • It will be notated in the right key choice
  • Depending on the complexity of the tune, and the experience of the transcriber, can be handed back over within hours, or worst a day or two.
  • Automatically parsed out to correct notation, not requiring more software (Like Finale, which is $600) to be purchased for correct transcription, notation, and engraving

Upon further review, if you're just looking for assistance and not entire automation, most transcription software out there (Capo, Transcribe!, etc.) allows you to view a graphic of suggested frequencies. A strong background in music overtones and good judgement will let you easily strip the notes from the noise and background and get to what you need.

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