The essential requisite for analysing recordings is a system that allows you to listen to them closely and flexibly, and for this purpose we recommend Sonic Visualiser. Developed by Chris Cannam of the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary, University of London (with some input from CHARM), this free program is a highly customisable playback and visualisation environment that includes such features as variable-speed playback, looping, and the ability to annotate the recording, for instance to identify specific points of reference; you can also use the annotation facility to tap to the beats and so generate tempo data which can be displayed on screen or exported to a spreadsheet program. A particularly attractive feature is the ability to synchronise a number of recordings so that you can jump from one to the corresponding point in another. There is a range of built-in visualisations such as spectrograms, again highly customisable, but an essential strength of Sonic Visualiser is its ability to support third-party plugins: these offer a constantly expanding range of analytical facilities ranging from automated onset detection to pitch estimation and the capture of intensity data. Craig Sapp, of the CHARM project Style, performance, and meaning in Chopin's Mazurkas, developed a set of Mazurka plugins specifically designed for analysis of piano music (not necessarily mazurkas!).

On this site you will find directions on how to access and install Sonic Visualiser, which is available in versions for Windows, OS/X, and Linux. You will also find a PowerPoint providing an overview of some of its more advanced features (by Craig Sapp), and a set of tutorials on how to use it for musicological purposes (by Nicholas Cook and Daniel Leech-Wilkinson); this comes complete with copyright-free sound files which you can download and work on. If you wish to work with recordings of Chopin's mazurkas, a large number of Sonic Visualiser annotation files may be accessed via the CHARM Mazurkas project Audio Markup Page; the most useful format is probably 'Average tap locations for beats from multiple tapping sessions', which when imported into Sonic Visualiser will create bar and beat labels for that particular recording, saving you the trouble of doing your own tapping.