MyScript Online Handwritten Notation Converter

Can you remember back to early 2013, when a company announced a revolutionary app that would covert handwritten notation into digital notation? The app was actually a concept–and was a promotional video that went viral in the world of music education technology. Ultimately, it turned out that the commercial was using existing technologies to show a “proof of concept,” with the hopes of generating a crowd-funded app.

The app never reached its required level of funding, and the company changed courses, selling copies of the app in advance as they worked on handwriting analysis, audio sounds, and so on. Sadly, the company announced this past March that their developer had quit and that they were going to attempt to keep working on the product–but would be returning reservations and so on. For all intents and purposes, it was a “the end” letter (see note below).

Meanwhile, another company–Neuratron–introduced a music handwriting recongition app (NotateMe — Now $39.99, and it also scans music for an additional $29.99 in-app purchase–a free one-staff trial version of the app is also available) in January of 2014.

At the time that ThinkMusicTechnology was attemping to fund their app, they had two partners–MyScript, the makers of several handwriting based apps, including MyScript Calculator (it's cool…try it) and Adonit (makers of a good line of precision styluses). I thought that the ThinkMusicTechnology app had a strong chance to make it, particularly because of their relationship with MyScript.

Today, MuseScore (of all organizations) retweeted an announcement about the MyScript music notation HTML 5 web app. It works on all devices, and although audio doesn't play back on the iPad–it works. Go try it out. I wish you could resize the handwriting area–and MusicXML export is a bit odd, as it pulls up a separate page with the actual MusicXML coding (not a downloadable or “open in” file). My guess is that this is the engine that was supposed to be behind the ThinkMusicTechnology app, and since that app is not around, MyScript still wanted to do something with all that work.

So…try it out. Make a bookmark to the page. And to those of you in 1:1 schools, this might be another option for notation (obviously, it will be easier to draw on a touch based machine, which could mean Windows 8.1 devices, Android, or even the rare Chromebook touchscreen computers.

Is this going to replace NotateMe for my workflow? Not a chance, particularly with NotateMe Now available for free (for use with students)–plus NotateMe also has PhotoScore (which is a game changer). However, the HTML 5 approach is a positive development–and perhaps it is something MyScript can license to other programs (Noteflight, perhaps?). And it might be a good time for some of the exisiting notation products (Finale, Sibelius, Notion, even the coming Steinberg program) to consider an acquistion of a platform that works for the “next generation” of notation entry.

These are exciting times—there is always something new out there to try!

 

Note: I have said this before, about Symphony Pro…which was resurrected and is available again. That said, take my analysis with a grain of salt.

 

 

Some new apps–to me–and perhaps for you!

I am always looking for new/improved/better music education apps. Over the last week, a few have come to my attention.

First, Amy Willis recently taught a week long course on iPads in music education, and she has been posting about that course at mustech.net. Here are the sequence of posts:

  1. iPads in the Elementary General Music Classroom
  2. iPads in the Elementary Music Classroom – Teacher Tools
  3. iPads in the Elementary Music Room – Creating Music, Reading Notes and Rhythms, and Virtual Acoustic Ensembles
  4. iPads in the Elementary Music Room – Creation Apps
  5. iPads in the Elementary Music Room – Notation, Ear Training, Recorder and Keyboard Apps
  6. iPads in the Elementary Music Room – Apps Used by Elementary Music Teachers
  7. iPads in the Elementary Music Room – 16 Great Resources
  8. iPads in the Elementary Music Room – Some of My Favorite Virtual Music Apps
  9. iPads in the Elementary Music Classroom – Guided Access

One of the apps that Amy mentions in the articles is a free app called MetaXylo Plus. This is an Orff app that allows you to remove bars on Orff instruments. I have been looking for such an app for a long time…and it turns out it has been available since September 2013 (there is also a French version). A gigantic thank you to Amy Willis for mentioning this app!

Another app that I was introduced to at my day of sessions for the St. Cloud State University Summer Music Education Institute is a rhythm app (also free) called Woodchuck Rhythm.

Be sure to check Amy's posts for other apps that could be of use to you!

 

An update to forScore

This evening, forScore pushed out a small but significant update to their app. Instead of the “old” Dropbox option, forScore now allows for linking with a number of services, under a “Services” tab, where the “Dropbox” option used to be in the menu.

Additional services include Google Drive (only one account at a time, as far as I can tell; multiple accounts would be useful), Box, One Drive, WebDAV, and FTP. I would not be surprised to see iCloud Drive added to fall when iOS 8 is introduced.

Just last week, a participant at one of my workshops asked why I always talked about Dropbox in terms of the iPad and various apps; essentially Dropbox was really the first consumer cloud drive that became popular, and as such, is naturally included with most apps that use cloud storage. Google Drive and Box have also managed to be successful in the cloud storage arena, so it is likely that many apps that offer Dropbox-only access will change to be more inclusive.

Don’t get me wrong…I love Dropbox and it remains my #1 choice, but I don’t have a paid subscription (if you pay, you get more space for storage). In an era where web storage continues to decrease in price (even iCloud Drive will offer 20GB for $0.99 a month), Dropbox’s prices have remained shockingly high. If you buy a Chromebook, most of them include 100 GB of storage for (at least) two years , free. Granted, I need a couple of terabytes to store all my media…but 100 GB certainly covers a lot of items. I also have a Google Drive account as part of our school GAFE program.

So…if you have forScore and have been longing to use Google Drive or Box directly from the app (not using “Open In,” go download the update. After updating, if you were a Dropbox user, you will have to add Dropbox back again in the Services area.

Ear Teacher released for Mac (and soon Windows)

I received notice that a new program, called Ear Teacher (www.earteacher.com) is available for purchase on the Mac platform. I declined a chance to review the program because my educational situation will not be able to take advantage of the program because of cost of the program (we have a $0 budget) and platform (we are a 1:1 iPad school with a limited number of Windows desktops and laptop carts in the school).

Ear Teacher may, however, fit into your model, and if so, check it out! There is a free trial available.

 

Some more thoughts about Notion 5

wpid-Photo-20140719145345.jpg

As I stated in my last post, Notion 5 is available, and I have been working with the app a little bit this evening.

Overall, if you knew Notion 4, Notion 5 doesn’t really look or act very differently than Notion 4. It seems stable, and its running fine on my late 2008 MacBook (6GB memory, however).   The biggest difference in appearance is Notion 5’s new “mixer” look, which mirrors other PreSonous apps, and according to my friend Paul Shimmons at iPads and Technology in Music Education, you can even link Notion 5 to other PreSonus software.

Notion's new mixer look...note the additional settings on the board, such as EQ (etc.)

Notion’s new mixer look…note the additional settings on the board, such as EQ (etc.)

Truthfully, I’m probably never going to get that far; my main focus for Notion will be to enter music to be used as an accompaniment/accompanist; and mainly as a jumping point for the iPad app.  I would love to do some work with the “N-Tempo” live performance mode, but I would rather work with that on the iPad.

There are still some non-ideal things (for me) with Notion; I am not thrilled with either Notion 5 or Notion for iPad’s handling of lyrics; I don’t like how the lyrics jump on the page (see image below), and entering lyrics (Mac or iPad) seems to be more complicated than it should be.  I wish there was a way to navigate between word to word (especially backwards), and when you press enter on an existing lyric (this is in Notion 5), that lyric shouldn’t disappear.  I also wish there were a better way to clone lyrics (Notion 5 and Notion for the iPad).  As it stands, you have to click each word on an existing line, copy them, and then paste them.  It can be difficult to select each syllable without losing all the other words you have already selected.

It must be terribly hard to create a good way to “do” lyrics with music notation; at times even Finale makes lyrics tough (ever tried to import a scanned piece with hyphenated words?  Can you say, “Hard to edit mess?”).  I get it…I’m a choir teacher and lyrics are essential for me, and are far less important for the other 2/3 of the musical world (Band/Orchestra).  Still, you have to have hope!

I am also still trying to figure out how to have this program roll a piano chord at the end of a song…the program does so many other sounds and playing techniques “right” that it’s hard to believe it can’t do that.  It does play rolls (bottom up or top down) wonderfully.

Note how the text "jumps" on the page depending on where the notes are.  I can understand text jumping to avoid a collision, but there is nothing in the way to make that text jump.

Note how the text “jumps” on the page depending on where the notes are. I can understand text jumping to avoid a collision, but there is nothing in the way to make that text jump.

One of the reasons you buy Notion is for the quality sounds.  I exported the audio for the piano accompaniment to Ralph Vaughan William’s “The Vagabond” (from Songs of Travel) to SoundCloud, and if all went well, that audio should appear below:

This quality of audio is the main selling point, to me, for Notion 5; everything else is a bonus.    Remember, I do work in other programs (e.g. Finale) and apps (e.g. NotateMe) just to export to Notion for the audio at the end.  Do you hear the detail in that audio, from staccato notes to dynamics.  Sure, it is subjective as Finale has Garritan and Sibelius has Sibelius Sounds.  But to me, Notion sounds great…in Notion 5 and in Notion for the iPad.  Oh yes…both the program and app upload directly to SoundCloud as an option.

Can you own Finale AND Notion?  Yes.  Sibelius and Notion?  Yes.  MuseScore and Notion?  Yes.  Do you have to have both?  No.  For many musicians, one of each of these programs may “cut it.”  Notion 5 does some of what all the other programs do; it does some things better, and it also lacks some features of the other programs.   Example: the basic scanning that comes with Finale (SmartScore) and Sibelius (PhotoScore).  And don’t forget about the iPad app, which is unique to all these programs.  Whatever you do on Notion 5 can be brought to the iPad.  Notion 5 is a tool that fits well into my toolbox, and I do use it from time to time (I use Notion for the iPad FAR more, but then again, I use my iPad far more).  As I said in my last post, I am looking forward to seeing elements of Notion 5 appear in Notion for iPad.

Notion’s list of features includes the following items:

  • Easily compose, play back, and edit music

  • Best playback of any notation product, with orchestral samples recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra and more

  • Perform scores using Notion as a live instrument and save your performance

  • Create a score on a Mac or Windows computer and continue to edit on iPad and vice versa

  • Compose to picture with the video window

  • Interactive Entry Tools: Keyboard, Fretboard, Drum Pad, Chord Library

  • Process audio with PreSonus Native Effects™ Limiter, Compressor, and Pro EQ plug-ins

  • See notation and MIDI data on the same staff

  • Import/export files to/from Finale and Sibelius via MusicXML

  • Import video in a variety of formats

  • Native 64-bit supportReWire support (host and slave)

P.S.  My main wishes for the iPad app is better handling of lyrics, the ability to move the toolbar from the bottom of the screen, and for larger, finger friendly buttons for note values on the iPad.  The buttons are a good size on a computer screen, as you click with a mouse or use keyboard commands (which, incidentally, are very intuitive on Notion 5)…and not so good with “just” a finger.  I would like the menu to be able to be moved on the side of the screen…typically, you play the on screen piano with one hand, and could then select note values with the left hand…this is hard to do on the app where the buttons are resting on top of the keyboard.

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