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.

More music technology news…Notion 5 now available!

Although there are now a number of choices for notation products for the iPad, one app is truly advanced over all the others (in terms of “traditional music notation program), and that is Notion for the iPad. You can even connect an external MIDI keyboard to your iPad and enter notes that way through Notion for the iPad.

One of the reasons to buy Notion for the iPad is that there is a desktop version, too (Windows or Mac). The iPad version of the app very closely resembles the desktop app, which solves many of the problems of a learning curve. When Notion released Notion 4, it did so at a massively reduced price from Notion 3…selling for only $99.00. Since that time, Notion was purchased by PreSonus, but remains in development.

In the desktop form, the two unique selling points for Notion (above the other apps that exist) were that it comes with some of the best audio samples for a notation program (and indeed, this is true…these same samples are used with the iPad app), and that you can use its N-Tempo feature for live performance.

Yesterday, PreSonus announced that Notion 5 was available for immediate download. The price of the program has gone up to $149, and existing owners of Notion 3 and Notion 4 can upgrade to Notion 5 for $49.

Truthfully, I do little work in Notion (full version) as I do most of my editing in Finale, but there are features in the desktop version that are not yet on the iPad, and the way the iPad app was created, the iPad app can act on certain things you can do only on the desktop version (import the file, and it plays correctly on the iPad). Notion (full version) was able to interpret MIDI from my Casio Privia keyboard (HD MIDI), whereas Finale 2012 could not. So, it has been useful to have the program on my computer from time to time.

While I am sorry to see what seems as a jump in price for Notion (and the upgrade), I am reminded that a full copy of Finale 2014 is $600, and the upgrade cost for Finale is $139.95. Avid's pricing for Sibelius 7 is similar ($599.95, and $49 to $150, depending on which version you owned previously). As a result, that is still a bargain (unless you compare it to the MuseScore, free, which just isn't going to sound like Notion).

I am most excited about Notion 5 because I believe that the Notion team was focused on that product while the iPad app had reached a reliable state, so I am looking forward to new features on the iPad app soon!

So…if you own a previous version of Notion, or have been thinking about it, Notion 5 is out. Go to www.notionmusic.com for more information.

Note: if you install the program, you will have to reinstall all of the sounds for Notion 5…the downloads take a while!

 

 

SmartScore NoteReader is available…How does it compare?

As I talked about scanning in my Technology in Music Education workshop yesterday, I noticed that SmartScore's NoteReader had been released on the App Store on the 15th. The app itself is free, but if you want to export any of the data, you have to pay $9.99 for the premium upgrade.

SmartScore NoteReader is an app that allows you to scan and then play music (for free), and then (as an In-App Purchase) to export data a number of ways (including e-mail and Dropbox) so that you could import that data into SmartScore Pro X2 or any number of music notation programs, such as Finale, Sibelius, MuseScore, and Notion.

SmartScore NoteReader allows you to take a picture(s) of a score, import a picture of a score, or import a PDF to recognize. In comparison, NotateMe's PhotoScore In-App Purchase allows you to take a picture (or a series of pictures) of a score, but importing a picture (on iOS) requires working through other apps, such as Mail. At the moment, NotateMe does not allow you to import a PDF. As a result, in terms of working with existing documents, NoteReader is easier to use than NotateMe/PhotoScore.

I have only done a few scans with SmartScore's NoteReader so far, and initial trials indicate that NotateMe/PhotoScore is more accurate than NoteReader. On a one part score, SmartScore's NoteReader scans with equivalent accuracy to NotateMe/PhotoScore–when all staves scan. NoteReader dropped staves that NotateMe/PhotoScore did not. PhotoScore also does a better job of handling lyrics–more lyrics are accuate than on NoteReader, although there are errors with lyrics on both apps.

On a single line band score, I would estimate that NoteReader is scanning at 75% accuracy while NotateMe/PhotoScore is scanning at 95% (or greater) accuracy. In a multi-page choral score, NotateMe/PhotoScore stays at 95%, while NoteReader's accuracy diminishes greatly (50% or less).

I am using the same set-up for scanning for both apps, with an iPad “document camera” stand and an iPad 4. It is possible that a closer photo could yield a more accurate “reading” from NoteReader; but I have noticed that NotateMe/PhotoScore tends to be a little more accurate when you don't zoom in very close to the page! Additionally, I would assume that the better the camera (in other words, with a newer device or an iPhone), the better the resulting accuracy of the scan. So, if you scanned with an iPhone 5S, you might have higher accuracy with both programs.

The current setup for scanning

Again, these are preliminary tests, and both apps are in their first weeks (or days) in the App Store. Undoubtedly, there will be app updates in the weeks, months, and years to come. It is exciting that you can scan music on your iPad (or iPhone, or Android) device without the need to purchase a scanner.

In terms of accuracy, NotateMe ($39.99) plus the PhotoScore In-App Purchase ($29.99) is currently the winner, by a large margin (particulary when dealing with multiple parts). In addition to scanning, NotateMe also is a handwriting-based music notation app which allows you to edit those scans after they have been recognized by the software. NotateMe's ability to “Open In” feature is useful when exporting the data to another app (such as Notion). Both apps allow for the use of Dropbox.

In terms of built-in useability (selecting existing images, using PDFs) and price, SmartScore's NoteReader (free, $9.99 In-App Purchase to export data) is ahead of its competitor. At 1/7 the price of the NotateMe/PhotoScore package ($69.98), NoteReader might be worth purchasing. And remember…both SmartScore and PhotoScore are very expensive desktop programs, each costing nearly three times the price if you were to buy both of these apps!

And if you want to just TRY these apps, NotateMe does have a “lite” version called NotateMe Now (allowing for one score at a time) which DOES include PhotoScore, and SmartScore's NoteReader is a free app (until you want to export data). So…if you have an iPad, iPhone, or Android device (note: the camera on the iPad 2 and the original iPad Mini are not high resolution enough to work with some apps, such as NotateMe), at the very least download the free versions and see what these apps can do!

Note: In the image above, I show what happens when you export the MusicXML file generated by these apps into another app (in this case, I printed these to my printer from Notion for iPad). Compared to the original score, both apps could not determine an existing multi-measure rest (there were 3 in the original file). NoteReader dropped the first and last staves of the original; NotateMe/PhotoScore's greatest issue was the addition of a second note to a number of notes in the score. Both scores picked up key signatures, clefs, and time signatures changes (meter changes) in the original score, and both can play back what they have processed from paper to digital notation. Just remember…whenever you scan in music, there will be clean-up. The important question at that point is: 'How much clean-up do I have to do here?”

 

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