Latest Notion Update and Related Thoughts
Notion released an update to their iPad app today (1.2.49) that features transpositions, a new eraser function, and the ability to enter notes with your finger or a stylus versus the on-screen keyboard, fretboard, or drum pad.
A colleague of mine who is currently working in India (Hi, Nyssa!) wrote this morning to inquire if there was a possible replacement for Symphony Pro–what incredible timing on her part! Symphony Pro was a valiant notation effort by a team of three college graduates, and they had a program with a great layout, and it was always buggy–but it worked. As I reported back in February, the program is no longer in development, and is no longer available.
For quite some time, Notion for iPad has been the most comprehensive notation app for the iPad. There are a few other apps, but nothing else comes close in terms of a “real” notation app on the iPad. The inherent issue in my reviews of Notion is that I review apps from my perspective: a techie music educator with limited piano playing abilities…but enough piano ability that I prefer to enter notes in a notation app using a piano keyboard (either onscreen or an external core-MIDI keyboard). I forget that a large number of musicians–particularly children–have little or no skill playing the piano.
This is a natural thing to do (to forget that some people lack the very skills I would consider as “basic.”). One of my favorite quotes comes from the New York Times tech columnist, David Pogue, who says, “We geeks tend to forget that the majority of the world is made of non-geeks.”
That is a brilliants statement to keep in mind…it really is. Musicians (and music educators) need to remember that the majority of musicians may not know how to use a keyboard…particularly in this era when a piano is no longer needed in a house just to have music (which was true of the world before the recording industry began).
Until this morning, Notion for iPad required a basic knowledge of the piano, a fretboard (even less likely), or a drum pad to enter notes. That is no longer true. It might seem reasonable to ask, “Doesn't input by touch make complete sense on the iPad?” Well, yes, it does. But if you are going to write a serious app for music notation, and you had to prioritize development wouldn't you first choose to provide the most efficient way to enter notes, via a keyboard? That is what Notion did.
A representative from Notion discussed this on their Facebook page, where they make most of their announcements. The previous release of Notion allowed for displaying more than two measures per system, as well as the ability to zoom in and out of the music. For touch entry to work, Notion had to have zoom working. Well, zoom is now working and so is touch entry.
So, if you were a Symphony Pro user, Notion can now replace anything you could do in Symphony Pro (and of course, can do more with far better sampled sounds).
Back to my colleague Nyssa–she has been using Symphony Pro with elementary students because it allowed you to enter notes via touch. Now Notion will work for those students, and if you are a non-piano person, it can now work for you, too. This “simple” addition to the app (I'm sure there was nothing simple in the actual coding) allows the app to be accessible to a whole new level of users.
Notion is currently available for $14.99 at the App Store, (and yes, schools can buy it at a significant discount via the Educational Volume Purchase Plan) and comes with a wide selection of sounds–with an additional library of sounds available for in-app purchase at an affordable $29.99. In terms of a program that offers most of the tools needed by musicians in terms of composition, this is a great bargain. In fact, you can purchase an iPad and Notion for less than the cost of Finale or Sibelius (non-educational version, of course). The only caveat with Notion is to be aware that the app does take up a healthy amount of storage on your iPad at 1.6 GB, much of that sounds (and that is BEFORE the purchase of the additional sounds). If you school is running on 16GB iPads, space may be a consideration.