SoundTrap is on iOS!


Last week, SoundTrap released an iOS app.  There is no secret that a number of web-based services, while in the universal HTML-5 format, do not work well on iPad.  Some services require a keyboard, others just don’t work right.  Another example is flat.io, which works best on computers and Chromebooks.  Flat.io has mentioned that they, too, are developing an iPad app.

SoundTrap is a web-based digital audio workstation, offering an interface similar to GarageBand.  Basic functions and loops are free, but subscriptions are required for full functionality.  Educational pricing does exist.

If you have an iPad, you might wonder why you would want SoundTrap instead of GarageBand, and unless you are into SoundTrap’s collaborative features (you might be!), there really isn’t much benefit for using SoundTrap.  However, if you teach in a BYOD environment or a mixed technology environment (e.g. Chromebooks and iPads available), SoundTrap files can be created on iOS or Chromebook and then opened in the other format.

Like the basic function of SoundTrap, the app is free, and is worth checking out.  I have not had time to attach any MIDI devices to SoundTrap, and will have to do that at a later time.

I love this move.  It opens SoundTrap to use in 1:1 iPad schools, and it acknowledges the place of the iPad in the world of music technology while still offering solutions on all those other platforms.  I wish SoundTrap all the success in the world.

Music Scanners (Sheet Music Scanner)

Part 1:

Sheet Music Scanner

I was recently contacted by the developer of Sheet Music Scanner, who graciously offered a download code to the app.  The app currently sells for $3.99, and is currently on version 2.1.  The app works well–scanning one page of a time.  It allows you to save a scan, as well as to export audio to MIDI (with the intent to open the file in GarageBand).

My immediate feedback to the developer was that I was surprised there was no MusicXML format, and they were surprised to hear that request.  In fact, I was the first to request it.  That really surprised me–and it made me think about my usage of scanning, which is likely different than the average iOS device owner.

You see, once I have music scanned, I want to do more with that music than simply listen to it or export it to GarageBand.  I typically want to import it into a music notation program and to do other things with it (clean it up, edit it, export it as a higher quality audio file, etc).  I think most music educators would follow my case use.  But what about the millions of iOS musicians who don’t care about music notation?

As I have said, Sheet Music Scanner works  very well–one page at a time, and it is priced right.  My only “gripe” is MIDI, as a single line of music imported into Notion with a split point of middle C for that melodic line (although that setting may be in Notion and not in the MIDI file–but there are no options as you open a MIDI file into Notion).  I will discuss a further MIDI trial a bit later in this post.

In partial summary, Sheet Music Scanner is a solid app, particularly if you want to scan more than one part at a time.  If all you need is one part, NotateMe Now is still the leader by allowing editing and a price tag of “Free.”

Part 2:

iSee Notes Pro

The realization that many people might not need music notation software but still a need to scan led me to look a little further in the App Store, and sure enough, I found another app that was similar to Sheet Music Scanner.  This app is called iSee Notes Pro and is also $3.99.  This app, however, has not been updated since December 2014, and only can be used in landscape mode.

I decided to do a little test comparing Sheet Music Reader, iSee Notes Pro, and NotateMe (full version with IAP).  That video appears at the end of the post.  I found a public domain version of “America, the Beautiful” on Wikipedia, printed it, and used that as the test material.  I figured that “America, the Beautiful,” would add a greater challenge as a four-part arrangement than a single melodic line–but not too much challenge being both homophonic and unison rhythm (homorhythmic is not a word that spell check appreciates).

Sheet Music Scanner was surprisingly the most accurate. It can only scan one page at a time, is the slowest in recognition, and lacks the ability to export a scan via MusicXML file.  MIDI import may work well into GarageBand (I have not tried it), but Notion imported each line of the piano score as a separate MIDI track (a piano track at that).  See the image below.  Again, I am a huge supporter of MusicXML–while it is not perfect–which is still the best way to share accurate music data between notation-based programs.

America the Beautiful from MIDI

You should save your money if considering iSee Notes Pro.  The landscape requirement ended up scanning part of our oak kitchen table, and the application actually tried playing the wood grain.  While the app does allow multiple pages, it seems to ignore key signatures.   Additionally, the app hasn’t been updated since 2014.  It is dangerous to send any money towards an app that hasn’t been updated in more than a year (in other words, iOS 8 had just been released when this app was last touched–and we are currently on iOS 9.3).

NotateMe has been one of my favorite apps for a long time.  Surprisingly, it had scanned errors when Sheet Music Reader did not.  I don’t know how to explain that.  Altogether, this is a $70 app, but with that $70, you can scan multiple pages and voices (The free “trial” version, NotateMe Now only allows for one voice at a time), wth higher quality sounds, the ability to edit the scan in the notation editor, words are scanned (although not always correctly), and you can share documents via MusicXML.

I don’t know how any of these would do in reproducing “swung” music. That would be a situation where you would want NotateMe, and then to export to Notion, which can add swing to a song.

If you are a music educator–NotateMe is still the app to purchase (with the added In-App Purchases).  That said, having Sheet Music Scanner around for an additional $4 seems like a no-brainer.

And if you are a musician wishing to scan and then hear your music, and you need to hear more than one part at a time, then check out Sheet Music Reader.

MI Guitar

What do you think about this?

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mi-guitar-by-magic-instruments–3#/

One of the Apple bloggers that I follow (Steve Sande) posted about this product.

I’m personally a little hesitant about it.  While I like the idea of a full size guitar, I am not crazy about wires and the need for 8 AA batteries.  It also seems that the instrument is contingent upon the app, at the cost of $0.99 per song or a monthly fee to unlimited songs.

And when all is said and done, you don’t actually learn how to play the guitar.

I’m partial to the JamStik because it gameifies the learning of a guitar and you leave with a transferable skill.  And if you want to play without being able to play, they are now offering the AirJamz as a Kickstarter.  But then again, I am a music educator who taught class guitar and is currently teaching ukulele…so I am always going to have a focus on the real-world application of such a product.

That said, you may be interested in the MI Guitar, as a fun product or even for students with special needs or for music therapy.  Either way…check it out as a product of interest.

The health of the music publishing industry?

Earlier this week, the news broke that Alfred Music, which I consider the #2 music publisher in terms of size (this might be incorrect, but it is how it feels–particularly in comparison with Hal Leonard), was acquired by Peaksware, the company that owns MakeMusic.

Philip Rothman wrote about the acquisition at the Sibelius Blog, and this quote from his article has been percolating in my brain the last few days:

Peaksware assumed the role of creditor by purchasing Alfred’s outstanding debt from its lenders and then exchanging it for Alfred’s assets.

I have already stated that I don’t understand the financial aspects of the music publishing industry.  I don’t know how much it costs to print music.  I don’t know how much it costs to store unsold music.  I don’t know how much it costs to ship music.  I don’t know how much is paid in royalties for arrangements of pop music (back to the original artist).  I don’t know how much is paid to the arranger.  I don’t know how much is paid to the music store that sells a title.  I don’t know what it costs to record a demo track.  I don’t know what it costs to produce a parts and accompaniment CD for a choral octavo.

Most of my professional life has been spent on the choral side of music education, although I attempt to stay up to date with band, orchestra, and general music (not to mention other forms of music education such as guitar and electronic music).  Right now the average choral octavo costs $1.95 (or more), and an accompaniment CD is typically $26.95.

From the teacher’s standpoint (and budget) this is too much–from any publisher.  You can buy an audio recording of a song for $1.49 (or less).  Why should a paper copy cost more than a “real” recording?  What ends up happening is that schools don’t have the budget to buy music at those prices.  

But things cost what they cost, and nobody would ever guess that the publishing side of music might not be as lucrative as it seems–and that is what the Alfred acquisition is telling me.  While financials were not disclosed about the acquisition, Alfred had debt that was purchased, and the debt was exchanged for assets.

We are entering a period of time where some of the costs of the publishing industry should be decreasing, by offering music directly via PDF, moving the costs of printing to the purchaser (or onto a digital device).  This should allow publishers to lower the cost of music while increasing their cut, and potentially increasing the cur to arrangers as well.   Paper copies could be offered for a premium to those that desired them.  This will impact some positions in companies (printing, shipping, storage) as well as the role of the music store. 

I would also love to see an “Apple Music” approach to published music, giving you full access to everything for a set price per year–with special pricing for education.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a set formula for music when it came to funding from your school–as well as the ability to get rid of music libraries and all of the hassles of processing, distributing, collecting, erasing, replacing, and storing music?

I fully understand that music publishers have been fearful of copyright infringement in the move away from paper.  However, it is time.  Photocopiers have been abundant for more than 30 years, and if you haven’t seen the scanning ability of phones these days, check out Readdle’s Scanner Pro on iPhone.  I have been using Scanner Pro for personal documents in the past weeks, and I cannot believe how well it works.  This could be used for music, too.  Just saying.

 Peaksware is situated in the ideal place to lead the music publishing industry in a new direction, as the business is already focused on technology and its use with music (and music education).   And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alfred begin to add some other music publshers to its portfolio, as it modifies its business practices under Peaksware.

Hal Leonard also has the potential with its connections with Noteflight and Noteflight Learn.

I’m hoping the “big boys” of the music publishing industry can use these changes as a way to lower prices and to make their companies profitable.

Alfred Music joins Peaksware

  
You can file this in the category of things that I never considered: Alfred Music is now a part of the Peaksware family.  Nearly two years ago, MakeMusic went private and was acquired by Peaksware.  Since that acquisition, a lot of good things have occurred at MakeMusic: regular updates to SmartMusic, a much more stable system this academic year, an expanding catalog, the acquisition of Weezic, the export of MusicXML to the W3C committee, an upcoming new version of Finale, and a truly “new” version of SmartMusic based on the Weezic acquisition with an entirely new pricing scheme.

I don’t know how Alfred’s new “sibling” relationship with MakeMusic will play out, but I am hoping that the future-minded aspects of MakeMusic will have an effect on the publishing side of Alfred.

It should be noted that Hal Leonard owns Noteflight, and now their Hal Leonard’s largest competitor, Alfred, is a sister company to MakeMusic.

I’m excited for the changes in this industry in the coming year(s)!

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