Category Archives: iPad Apps

iPad Apps

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?”

 

The Most Addicting Sheep Game

I have been presenting workshops on iPads in Music Education and Technology in Music Education this week at the Wisconsin Center for Music Education (We are actually meeting at Waunakee High School).

One of the participants in our iPad workshop has a son who has created some iPad apps, and I downloaded one of them tonight: The Most Addicting Sheep Game (link). It is only $0.99.

The premise is that you control a sheep that jumps to the beat, either with a single finger tap, two finger tap, or swipe. The farther you go in the app, the harder it gets. The only negative about the app is that it has not been optimized for the longer iPhone 5 models or the new iPod Touch. It does fit on the iPad screen, however.

The connection to music education is light, as there is no direct connection to written rhythm. But you still jump to the beat. I'm having fun playing the game, and it is always fun to use an app written by someone that you know (or their son).

If you are looking for or are just “up to” a fun little game, check out The Most Addicting Sheep Game.

 

My First “Real” Test of NotateMe’s Full PhotoScore In-App Purchase

Although I have had the full version of NotateMe's PhotoScore In-App Purchase, I haven't had much time to work with the app. We had a long family vacation, I am continuing to work in the basement, and I was getting ready for my sessions with the Wisconsin Center for Music Education this week.

I'm currently in a hotel, ready to work with teachers tomorrow–and an evening (or few) away from home gives me an opportunity to finally work with some of the apps I have wanted more time to work with.

I just finished scanning a two-part choral score that I purchased for my students at the end of last year. I won't say what the score is, but I would guarantee that most middle school teachers either have performed this piece or will perform it in the near future, as it is a very popular song from a very recent animated movie.

I chose to scan the score on my iPhone versus my iPad for two very important reasons. First, this is a hotel, and like all hotel rooms, lighting is not great in the room–so I could use the flash for the pictures. Second, I figure the iPhone has a better camera than the iPad (this is always true…the best camera ALWAYS goes into the top-of-the-line iPhone. In my case, we're talking both a 4th Generation iPad and an iPhone 5, neither is the newest, but the iPhone's camera is still better than the iPad's).

Ultimately, I am very impressed with the results. Like the PC/Mac version of the software, The Notate Me PhotoScore In-App Purchase does a good job reading most notes, diacritical markings, and yes, even lyrics. When I export from NotateMe into Notion on the iPad, the accuacy is amazing–I would say in the 95% range or higher.

Like other music readers, the app does occasionally miss stave groupings (e.g. reading voice parts and piano as continual vs. combined staves), but this may be because of the bad lighting in the room. I will try this again in the future.

However, like other scanning products, PhotoScore does get confused in a choral score where there are occasionally two staves, three staves, and four staves (when empty staves are hidden). I don't know if there is a way to encourage any scanning software to fill staves systems from the bottom up, versus the top down.

Let me put this another way: if you have an iPad (or iPhone), and you want to enter music into any software program (NotateMe, Notion, Finale, Sibelius, MuseScore), this app and its plugin should be considered a must-have. Without doubt, it is a pricey combination…$39.99 for the app and $29.99 for the plug-in. At the same time, you don't need to buy a scanner, and remember that PhotoScore Ultimate (Mac/PC) is a $249 option. Granted, the desktop/notebook version does have a editor embedded (And you can use NotateMe to edit), but as a Finale user, I have always found it easier to simply pull the MusicXML from PhotoScore into Finale. This holds true with the NotateMe version of PhotoScore….you may want to export the file to DropBox and open it in whatever app you wish, be it Finale, Sibelius, Notion, Notion for iPad, MuseScore, or any other app.

Musitek, the makers of SmartScore (paired with Finale, but not owned by MakeMusic) also has a scanning app for Android and soon iOS. My “hacked” HP Tablet running Android doesn't have a good enough camera for me to test that app and compare it with NotateMe's PhotoScore (also available on Android). I my experience, PhotoScore has always been more accurate for the music I scan (choral octavos) than SmartScore…and PhotoScore imports text (sometimes incorrectly, many cases of “the” are recognized as “tne,” for example). However, the SmartScore app will be a $10.00 In-App Purchase, so it will be worth purchasing at any case (SmartScore Pro X2 is a $299 program). The SmartScore app will also handle PDFs, whereas NotateMe's PhotoScore cannot handle PDFs at this time (something I hope for, as all of my music has been converted to PDF files). When the SmartScore app is released for iOS, I will certainly purchase it, and may even write a head-to-head article.

All I can say is that I wouldn't hesitate for a second to spend $39.99 on this app and another $29.99 for the PhotoScore IAP if I had a recent iPad and wanted to scan music…choral, band, or orchestral.

Referral Link: NotateMe (full version)

You can also download the free one-staff NotateMe Now, which comes with a free PhotoScore Now feature that scans one part at a time.

 

SAMR, RAT…how do you actually integrate technology into the music classroom?

I am preparing for my “Technology in Music Education” workshop on Monday and Tuesday, and I am also going through old Feedly “saved” items.

One of the questions I am often asked is, “This is great, but how do you integrate this technology into music education?”  The answer isn’t hard, and it isn’t a sarcastic answer: you do it.

If you have one iPad (your own), you mirror the iPad and you teach from your iPad.  You use apps to SUBSTITUTE or REPLACE things you previously did without technology (e.g. sheet music, audio player, etc.) as well as to AUGMENT what you use to do.  Basically, you are simply ENHANCING your curriculum.  You don’t start trying to TRANSFORM, MODIFY, or REDEFINE what you are doing right off the bat, because you want to make sure that you are using the technology.  As you SUBSTITUTE and REPLACE, you will learn new techniques and you will take new risks.

These are all edu-speak terms that follow the SAMR and RAT models of technology integration.

Additionally, as you integrate technology, expect things to not work from time to time.  Your Windows Notebook, MacBook, or Chromebook may crash.  The wi-fi might go down.  There might be an app update that accidentally breaks the functionality of your app.  Google might, overnight, completely rewrite or replace a service.  This stuff happens all the time.

So as you teach with technology, you always have to have a backup plan in mind, even if you never use it.  And you know what, this isn’t any different than life before technology in your classroom.  You didn’t know if you would have a day where you lost your voice, something major interrupted the school day, or a grade level or class took a trip without reminding the entire staff.

Over the last twenty-four hours, I have seen two videos that exemplify using technology in music education.  The first is a video from my friend Paul Shimmons (who blogs at iPads and Technology in Music Education) which shows a first grade class using the iPad App Flashnote Derby to strengthen their note reading ability.  This is a model of a one-iPad implementation that is an example of Augmentation.  Note how one student is at the iPad, and the rest of the class in 100% engaged in the process.  Flashnote Derby is still a great app, and this could be done with a number of any other apps including StaffWars, which came out this year on the iPad.

The second video was tweeted yesterday by Steven Struhar, the Product Manager of SmartMusic with MakeMusic.  This is a twenty minute video by Dave Faires, the band director of the Willowcreek Middle School Band program in Lehi, Utah.  In this video, Mr. Faires discusses the various apps that they use in their band program.  This includes SmartMusic, TonalEnergy Tuner, Tenuto, Read Rhythm, Sight Reading Machine, iReal Pro, Vic Firth, and forScore (and a few other apps).  At the end of the video, Mr. Faires makes a joke about people lasting through the whole video–but if you are interested in integrating technology in your music program, this video is invaluable as it shows how one director is doing things–again, mainly with levels of SUBSTITUTION, REPLACEMENT, and AUGMENTATION on the SAMR and RAT models.  If you are interested, I wrote a similar post about how students used (free) apps in my middle school choir program this past year.

So again, technology integration isn’t a scary thing, and you just need to move forward and start with SUBSTITUTION and REPLACEMENT.  Set a goal, and go meet it. Expect bumps along the way.  Failure isn’t fatal in this arena, even if it can be annoying…but as we have been told, FAIL=”First Attempt In Learning.”

Notezilla (music app for iOS–also on the web)

Notezilla is, at its core, an app that pairs music scores with high quality recordings. The app was originally released in April (2014), and there have been two additional updates (released in the App Store) since it was originally published. The app itself is free, and comes with five free songs–and at the current time, you can purchase all additional and future songs (locked content) for $4.99.

The app itself is easy to operate; you can play a song at various speeds (the score must reload each time you choose a different speed), you can start or stop a song anywhere in a larger score, and you can zoom in or out to make music larger or smaller.

I asked about copyright aspects of the music, as there are no credits on the app. All of the music itself is in the public domain, and the recordings are also either in the public domain or used with permission.

In some ways, Notezilla is a “poor man's The Orchestra,” one of the apps recently featured by Apple (along with Notion for iPad) in their “Your Verse” advertising campaign. The Orchestra features videos, interviews, background text, and multiple ways of experiencing a score (for $9.99), but with parts from eight longer compositions. In comparison, Notezilla only shows and plays a score, but has the potential to add additional compositions, and even asks for users to make suggestions for future literature.

The app, as it stands, may not be very useful for secondary schools (other than music history classes), as the source material is in the public domain (basically published before 1929), and most secondary band and choral scores are newer than that; additionally, as the music is synced with a recording, there is no way to play “just” your part, or to do a “music minus one.” If you are looking for this kind of functionality, you will need to scan the music you are working on and then utilize notation apps or SmartMusic for that kind of work. There may be changes to Notezilla in the future that will add this kind of functionality.

I see Notezilla as being a great tool for music appreciation or music history classes (once the library grows). If the music on Notezilla could cover the works of many of the existing required listening lists of many collegiate music appreciation and music history classes, students would have instant access to scores and audio recordings without having to purchase those items (I spent hundreds of dollars on scores and recordings in my collegiate experience) or spending hundreds of hours in libraries. If you could get access to those scores and recordings for $4.99 in your own room, well, that's a bargain beyond belief. The only current “shortcoming” of the iPad app is that there is no way to advance to a particular place in a score without scrolling, something that would be difficult to deal with in a long composition with a lot of repeated material (in other words, how do you know where you are without measure numbers or rehearsal markings?).

If yo don't have an iPad, you can access Notezilla by going to their website (Notezilla.io), where you can interact with their scores much like on an iPad. This is a good business model; if you don't have an iPad (the most popular tablet in education), you can experience the app on other devices, including the Chromebook (I have tried it) and Android tablets (I have tried this as well). One word of caution: your iPad IAP will not grant you access to locked scores on the web, and vice-versa. This means that if you want both iPad and web access, you will have to spend $9.98, which is still less than a CD.

The developer has stated that they expect to release a big update in August with more content and some additional features. The model for the app/web application may change from a $4.99 all inclusive model to a different pricing model in the future, so if the app is interesting to you, it might be worth an investment sooner than later.

The only complication with Notezilla for 1:1 schools is the In-App Purchase, as businesses and education still cannot purchase IAPs in bulk. I wish that every app with an IAP also sold a full version (this includes GarageBand) so that schools could purchase apps with full functionality.

Notezilla is free on the App Store, and the functionality of the app can also be seen on their website, notezilla.io.

Addendum: TUAW blogged about Notezilla today and mentioned that the developer plans to add one score each week to the app. In a short amount of time, that will add up to a lot of content.

 

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