Category Archives: iPad Apps

iPad Apps

forScore 7.0

forScore just released version 7.0 today. It has all kinds of new features (some that have only existed on other apps until this point). I am most excited about forScore and audio, which includes the ability to record audio as well as to import audio into the local forScore library (importing audio into the music library of the iPad is not allowed by Apple).

As usual, the update is free.

I apologize for not posting very much; there has not been much news on the music technology front, and we are currently finishing our basement, which has taken nearly all my time!

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Keynote for iOS gets better for education

Apple released an update for Keynote and several other iWork iOS apps today. When Keynote for iOS was first demonstrated, it had a feature that allowed for annotation, which would be a wonderful tool for education. This is demonstrated in this old video:

The feature didn't make it to the released version of Keynote, for three full years. I even wrote to Tim Cook about the feature and even expressed the importance of the feature to some staff people at Apple.

I'm not saying that I caused this (these discussions were over 2 years ago), but the annotation feature made it to Keynote today. You activate the feature by tapping and holding (which used to bring up a laser pointer) while in presentation mode. If you stay in annotation model your notes stay visible, and if you want to clear the slide, tap and hold the undo button.

Paired with an accurate stylus, such as the Adonit Jot, this feature will forever change the usefulness of Keynote for iOS, which was already my favorite tool to use for presentations. What is even more amazing is that Keynote is now free with the purchase of a new iPad (or iOS device).

The next things on my “Apple to fix list?”

  1. Make audio open on the device. Allow me to import and export from my iPad's audio library (and between apps)
  2. Allow me to embed audio clips into a Keynote presentation (page by page vs. background music which can already be embedded) on iOS.
  3. Allow for in-app purchases with school iTunes accounts (institutional purchase).
  4. Allow screencasting with an iPad without having to mirror via Reflector or Air Server. My one app that allowed this no longer works on iOS 7.1.

Do you see how short that list is getting?


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Presentation from NCACDA: iPads and Choral Music

This past Saturday, I presented a session at the NCACDA Convention entitled, “iPads and Choral Music,” which I consider my introductory presentation to the use of the iPad in Choral Music.  In this presentation, I discuss some of the current models for 1:1 integration, a small bit of theory of technology integration, and ten ways to start (substitute/replace) using an iPad in choral music.  Also included in the presentation was a list of my top ten power apps, as well as my favorite accessories.  You can find a link to the presentation here: iPads in Choral Music.

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Using iPads and NotateMe for dictation

Many years ago, when I was completing my doctorate, one of the professors at my (first) oral examination asked me, “What are you doing with your choirs for sight-reading?”  I have always taught sight-reading in some form or another (currently, I use the iPad, as we do one exercise each day from “Sing at First Sight” via SmartMusic as a class), so it was very easy to answer that question.  Then the professor said, “Great.  Now how are you teaching dictation?”

I wasn’t.  I think very few of us do.

I liked the challenge of dictation at the college level, although it wasn’t a skill I (or seemingly any other student, other than the kid with perfect pitch) was good at.  But dictating melodies or harmonic progressions is not something I generally consider to be a “good time.”

With that question from the professor, I decided to start including dictation with my choirs, and I have continued to do so over the years at the high school level.  Sometimes as much as two times per week, students would take out staff paper (thank goodness for online PDF staff paper sources, such as this site) and I would write out the clef, key, and time signature as well as the first note of an exercise for my choirs to dictate.  Then I would play the exercise they were supposed to dictate.  Sometimes I would plan this well in advance with Finale, creating JPGs (and even playing the example they were dictating via Finale), and other times, I would just write the exercise on a lined staff board.

We certainly didn’t do dictation all the time, but I don’t think there has been a class since that first oral examination where my choirs haven’t been exposed to dictation (rhythmic or melodic).

Well, I’m teaching middle school now.  Can these kids learn dictation?

Yes.  And the iPad can help.

Using the app NotateMe (the full version), I created a “start” page, using the red pen tool to make notes about what the students would do:

NotateMe Now Dictation 1 Start

Students took out their iPads and went to NotateMe Now (free version).  Then I played the full example over and over again as kids worked through writing down what they heard.  I also asked some leading questions:

  • There are 88 keys on the piano, or 88 different pitches.  How many different pitches do you hear?
  • Not only are there different pitches, but there are a total number of notes I am playing for this exercise.  How many different notes am I playing over these two measures?
  • You can see that we are using a quarter note, and there are no rests.  What other kinds of rhythmic notes are present in this exercise?

Afterwards, I put the answer up on the screen.

NotateMe Now Dictation 1 Answer

Now, this is a REALLY easy dictation exercise, but most of us dress with our underwear before putting on our pants (unless you are Superman, and if that is the case, why are you wasting time with this blog?).  I strongly believe in giving students credit for TRYING to get the dictation right, rather than for being right or wrong.  If they are wrong, I encourage them to look at the answer and to ask themselves, “Why did I do this wrong?,” rather than to simply just say, “Oh well,” and move on.

Some common mistakes:

  • Students didn’t start on the right first pitch, even though it was given to them.
  • Students fail to draw the ledger line equidistant to the other lines of the staff.
  • Students draw noteheads that are too large, causing NotateMe Now to interpret individual notes as chords.
  • Students put all 8 beats in one measure.
  • Even though I reiterated that we were using stepwise or same pitch motion (like our sight reading), many students jumped more than a step on the penultimate note.

All in all, however, this went incredibly well.  A handful of students did not attempt the exercise and did not get credit (these are the same students who do nothing else in choir, which is only a forced elective for them), but otherwise kids bought in to the experience.  Middle school kids who normally freaked out every time we did something new actually just went along with the new thing without panicking.  Either they are getting used to me and the way I do things, or they are becoming numb to change due to our never-ending Minnesotan winter (seriously–three to six more inches of snow last night.  Two years ago, my son was born on March 15th when it was 80 degrees outside).

We’ll be doing dictation once every five days in our choirs, meaning once every two weeks.

NotateMe Now makes this process much easier…there is no paper to lose or tear, every kid has their iPad, and the app gives them some feedback if they do something wrong (such as too many beats in a measure).  As a teacher, you do need the full version of NotateMe (referral link) to be able to use the red pen.

One final thought: apps/programs (I particularly think of ScoreCloud) will make notation (even key/tempo/time signature) out of recorded audio…so in some ways technology will make the skill of dictation less critical than it was (and if so few of us teach dictation in our classes, is the skill that critical in the first place?).  Still, I think dictation is a great thing to do with students, provided that you make it a non-hostile (i.e. detrimental to their grade) and fun activity (change of pace).


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NotateMe Lessons 3 & 4 and Additional Thoughts

I have wrapped up our NotateMe Now lessons with two more lessons.  This lesson series was used in our classes (6-8th grade) as a way to take these very basic concepts in music theory, and to have students use them using the app NotateMe Now, while also learning how to draw music notation.  NotateMe Now is the free, single staff version of NotateMe, an app that converts handwritten music notation to digital notation (with other features coming in the future).

Lesson 1 introduced the app, as well as quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes.  I blogged about it here.

Lesson 2 covered quarter rests, half rests, and whole rests.  I blogged about it here.

Lesson 3 covered ties, slurs, and dotted half notes (and dotted whole notes).  The video and PDF appear at the end of this post.

Lesson 4 covered eighth notes, eighth rests, and dotted quarter notes.  The video and PDF appear at the end of this post.

The quiz was to complete a task just like the “homework” assignments.  This appears below as an image.

Here are a few things I have learned:

  1. If kids are in choir because they have to be (they don’t play an instrument and have to take music), they aren’t going to apply themselves at a higher level if you go away from singing for a lesson series.
  2. Most kids made very little attempt at completing the exercises, but our school has a formative grading category that only accounts for 20% of their grade, so many students simply choose not to do any formative work.
  3. The kids who tried doing the work generally did very well, and a few pushed against the boundaries I had created for them.
  4. The lesson sequence assumes students know the names of the notes.  We had discussed these and had a quiz on these at the beginning of the year, and I review the note names every time we do a sight reading exercise.
  5. None of these concepts should be new for students; every concept, with the exception of actually DRAWING music, is something these students should have had in elementary school.
  6. I would have liked to have more time to go over student work in class; but with an every-other-day 43 minute choir class, we couldn’t lose that time.
  7. I will continue with this series next year (I plan on a GarageBand series at the end of the year after our last concert), building on the concepts with the students who have already learned these items–and going over these lessons with the new students.

At any rate, it is fun to try new things (and I’m not going to stop trying new things) with my students and to leverage some of this technology that is in their hands.

NotateMe Now Lesson #3 Assignment and Checklist (PDF)

NotateMe Now Lesson #4 Assignment and Checklist (PDF)


notatemenow quiz

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