Note: This post will be posted on both techinmusiced and ukestuff.
One of the best aspects of this “non-job” has been the people I have had the opportunity to meet. I can’t think of a single person in the area of music education technology that I have not immediately liked. Simply put, the music education technologists that I know are also some of the finest, most intelligent, collegial people I have met. I learn from them, as I am sure they learn from me–and I enjoy hearing about their lives and getting to know more about them.
This winter, I had the chance to present sessions at the Maryland Music Education Association, mostly thanks to Robby Burns, who has served as the MMEA’s technology chair. Robby is an incredible teacher and technology user, and has a blog, podcast, and even a book on digital organization (Buy it! Paper. Kindle. See his awesome promo video at the bottom of this post). If we have “specialties,” I would say that Robby is a specialist in secondary band and technology automation. He looks for ways for technology to simplify his life and to make automatic processes that solve problems, keep things organized (for himself, his program, and his students), and to ultimately create more free time for himself and his family. When you see Robby’s presentations, hear his podcasts, or read his book or blog, you need to know that like all the music technology experts I have met, he lives what he is teaching. The knowledge comes from real life experience, and is personally tested.
One of the highlights of my trip to Maryland was spending 30 minutes with Robby (until we were kicked out of the exhibit hall as it closed) simply talking about apps that either of us did not know. One of those apps was Any Font.
Robby discussed how he loved Any Font, as he was able to use any font on his iOS devices for anything–documents, presentations, whatever. While I should have been writing down every app he suggested (I only typed out a few–and thus, I am not the expert on digital organization), that conversation is locked in my brain.
I blogged about the new version of Chordette the other day, an app that provides a way to use a font to make ukulele chords–something of great use if you teach ukulele. However, if you use the fonts embedded with Chordette–they are not going to show up correctly on an iPad (ever get the Keynote message that a font is not available? Even if the font is no longer used in the presentation? Any Font is one solution, and there is another that I will add at the end of this post). I have also been working with the developer of Chordette to make a font set that uses the colors of the Aquila KIDS strings–and would love to use those fonts in my presentations. Fonts are always better for a smaller document size than an image–which is why a PDF of music created by a software program (e.g. Finale, Sibelius, Notion, Dorico, MuseScore) is always smaller than scanned music (embedding a picture in the PDF).
I haven’t had need of fonts other than the standard fonts embedded in iOS, but Any Font allows me to put the Chordette CGCA ukulele fonts into iOS. You send a True Type Font (TTF–most are in this format) to Any Font (you can even “Open In” from iCloud Drive or Dropbox, but easiest is Air Drop from a newer Mac to an iOS device), and then select the fonts you want to install on your device. Any Font sends those fonts as a profile to your device, enabling those fonts for the iOS device to use. If you delete the profile, the fonts go away. You can always add a font and take it away later. Any Font also offers 1,000 additional fonts for $2 as an In-App Purchase–a pretty good deal. Of course, you can find a great number of fonts on the web for free, including musicological fonts that might be helpful in documents and presentations.
So…if you have ever wanted to use other fonts on your iOS device, or have had issues with Keynote telling you a font wasn’t available, Any Font is a great way to solve both of those issues.
It does make you wonder why Apple hasn’t made it possible to simply add fonts to iOS as you can on a Mac–perhaps this will be resolved in the future. Until then, I recommend Any Font to you, and want to offer thanks to Robby Burns for bringing this app to my attention.
Final note: Are you getting the “font not available” warning in Keynote, even after making sure all fonts were in the system? If you don’t want to install the not-used but still considered “missing” font, do this: Export the Keynote as PowerPoint, import that exported file into Keynote. Save the file. Problem solved.
I have been using the PageFlip Dragonfly as a page turning device for the last week in class. The Dragonfly is a compact four-pedal hands-free device which I learned about from Matt Libera. I contacted PageFlip, introduced myself, and asked for the ability to buy refurbished model at a discount. PageFlip kindly offered a new model at a discount, knowing that I would be writing a review. I mention this in disclosure, as I know I am predisposed to have a positive opinion of products that are discounted or free (and if you are honest, you would, too).
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have owned several Bluetooth page turning devices, including the PageFlip Cicada, the AirTurn BT-105, the AirTurn PED, and now the PageFlip Dragonfly. I have shown these at conferences, blogged about them, and only used them in occasion. My workflow for the past seven years has been to work from my iPad from a piano, and then in front of a choir. Generally, I turn pages with a single touch (disabling turning by swipe, which I feel is too involved for normal use). On a rare occasion, I have used a pedal in performance, particularly when playing tuba. However…tuba music (at least in an ensemble) has two to three pages and page turns are pretty infrequent. All that changed last year as I incorporated ukulele into my teaching, and as I played with the choirs (while they sang). Suddenly I needed both hands, whereas if I was conducting, I was generally free to turn a page with one hand, particularly with an iPad. My device for the past couple of years has been the AirTurn PED. I like the PED, as it is small, and I also like that it works with Apple’s more advanced Bluetooth capabilities with App Direct support. Where I ran into problems was having two or more pages turn on me with a foot press–which even happened in our concert last spring. After the concert, I updated the firmware and still had issues. I even tried increasing the time between page turns via a pedal on forScore, but I was still flipping more than one page on a regular basis.
As I posted about previously, I don’t think this is a PED issue, I think it is user error with a heavy right foot that may not be letting up on the “page turn bump” in time. The PED doesn’t use a physical “hinge” to turn pages.
And then Matt’s blog post on the PageFlip models came out in April and I couldn’t ignore the Dragonfly. I was unhappy with my page turning ability with the PED, and the potential of a foot pedal that could advance (or go backwards) a song in addition to a page was enticing. Eventually I contacted PageFlip and the rest is history.
I have now used the PageFlip for a full week of classes, and overall I am pleased with it. Unlike the PED, which uses Apple’s special Bluetooth functionality (note: you can make the PED work without it), the Dragonfly acts as a normal Bluetooth keyboard. Yes, I occasionally ended up with a double page turn–but this happened less often than with the PED. And there were a couple of occasions where I hit the top pedal instead of the lower pedal, progressing a song. What I have found is that it is best for me to use my left foot instead of my right foot to use the device.
I was also surprised to find out that Keynote for iOS, which I use for classes (warm-ups, sight reading, and announcements) functions with the Dragonfly, where the PED in the App Direct mode often does not work in Keynote. For the record, that isn’t the purpose of App Direct…but I want to mention it before anyone goes out and tries to make it happen. I used the Keynote functionality of the Dragonfly quite a bit this week. I didn’t previously know that Keynote could be controlled in this way, which is proof that there is always something else to learn. On a related note, if you have the PED in mode 2, it too can control Keynote.
I like the mechanical switches (power, mode) of the Dragonfly, and I like the LED lighting on the pedals. I miss the compact lightweight features of the PED, but the features of the Dragonfly are worth the sacrifice in size and weight.
In truth, the PED and the Dragonfly are not in the same category of device…the Dragonfly should be compared to AirTurn’s Quad or the IK Multimedia Blueboard. That said, the PED and the Dragonfly are all that I have…and the Dragonfly does pack the most features into the smallest overall footprint of any four button Bluetooth page turning device on the market. Again, I like the addition of the Pedal LEDs (also on PageFlip’s two pedal model, the Firefly), as well as the physical buttons.
As a note…you do have to edit forScore’s settings to use the PageFlip, but if needed, you can also customize mode buttons on the PageFlip via a computer (and their program and a USB cable) to add further functions (e.g. Matt Libera suggests using it to enable annotation). My thought? If you have an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil (I don’t yet), annotation happens automatically with a lot of programs. So I have not custom mapped the pedal yet.
I’m pleased with the Dragonfly, and I will keep using it…so, yes, I would recommend it to others. Aron Nelson, developer of unrealBook, says very good things about the Blueboard. And I still think that AirTurn makes excellent devices, too. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to choose between a number of good devices…and even to be able to own some of each? If you buy a device, remember that it will outlast your current iPad. The expense of a page turning device should amortize over time. I have no doubt that my original PageFlip Cicada would still work if I still owned it, as would the BT-105. My PED has been in use since 2015.
Previous Posts on Page Turning Devices
It has been a while, but Paul and I managed to find some common time to record another podcast! We cover a lot of ground (see the show notes), but the main part of the podcast is an interview with David Zemsky, the developer who has created the Sheet Music Scanner app. I personally find it interesting to hear about the background of various apps, as well as to learn more about the development process from the development side of the process.
We will be back sooner than later with another podcast…but for now, enjoy!
While I now host most of my ukulele posts at my ukulele site (ukestuff.info), there are times where music education technology and ukulele interact with each other. Today’s focus is an example of that interaction. This post will be double posted (on techinmusiced and ukestuff) for that reason.
As I have written about in the past, I have incorporated ukulele into my choir program–both as a way to accompany choirs and also to have choirs learn how to accompany themselves. There is a legitimate use of the ukulele as a melody (or chord melody instrument), but that has not been my focus, and to be honest, instructional time is limited.
This year, I used a number of videos (YouTube) from Dr. Jill Reese, Dr. A, and Kevin Way to have my students learn how to play chords along with “real” music, including very current pop music. Generally, I would teach a chord, and then we would play songs that incorporated that chord as well as other songs that they already knew (it was a fun experiment in scope and sequence). As I introduced chords, I needed a way to show the ukulele chord that was being taught…but it was difficult to find a consistent fingering graphic to use on the web (I also liked putting a picture of a real hand making the chord shape on a fretboard as well).
There was a program, by John Baxter, called Chordette, which allows you to enter ukulele chords as a font. There was an old version that was no longer available, but when I reached out to John at his website (ukefarm.com), he was incredibly kind and shared a beta version with me, and was also open to feedback and special requests for chords.
As a result of using Chordette, I could have a consistent chord chart across all of my resources, and I was even able to use the font to make my own instructional ukulele play alongs like Dr. Reese, Dr. A, and Kevin Way using the Chordette Font.
The new version of Chordette is now available, and while no longer free, is a great resource if you teach ukulele or if you make ukulele resources. Furthermore, Chordette comes in a number of formats, including Soprano Ukulele (which is really ADF#B tuning–and not common in education settings), Standard GCEA ukulele tuning, Baritone Ukulele (DGBE), Mandolin, Tenor Banjo, and Guitar. So really, if you do any work on any of these instruments…Chordette is a good investment. If you buy more than one instrument, there are ways to get a multi-program discount. And if you order in May (2017) using the discount “ukefarm” (no quotation marks) you will get another 30% off. Let’s be honest here. If you teach or use ukulele, even the full price is worth every penny.
For the record, I am not receiving any referral bonus for mentioning this app, and while I did receive a beta for free, I have purchased Chordette for myself, too.
I’m not going to lie…I love this Mac/Windows application, and highly recommend it. Additionally, if you have suggestions, or even a special request…contact Mr. Baxter at UkeFarm and see what he can do. Again, you can find Chordette at www.ukefarm.com.
I had a delivery waiting for me after school today…a PageFlip Dragonfly. It is a four-button Bluetooth page turner that is in a very compact package. Years ago, I had purchased a PageFlip Cicada, a previous model from PageFlip, and have also been given an AirTurn BT-105 (since given away at a music conference to another music teacher) and the AirTurn PED. I won’t get into specifics, but the companies aren’t a fan of each other, and at the time I was given a BT-105, the AirTurn pedal was a far superior device.
To be honest, my need for a page turner has been limited in past years, but as I now play ukulele most of the time in class, I need to be hands free. I don’t know why, but for me, the PED often results in a double page turn, which has been devastating in rehearsal and performance. I updated the PED firmware and changed settings in forScore, but the problem remains. More about that later.
A few weeks ago, Matt Libera posted about the PageFlip models. My interest was peaked by the four-pedal design of the Dragonfly (other four pedal solutions are much larger) and Matt’s conclusion that the PageFlip models have matched or exceeded the quality of AirTurn. I don’t want to get into that discussion, but I did want to see for myself if I could make use do a four pedal system, what the “new” PageFlip models are like, and if my double page turn issue would resolve with a different foot pedal.
My first impressions of the Dragonfly are positive…it is big, but not much larger than my previous Cicada. PageFlip has moved on from its prior “creaky” physical pedal, and there is something nice about physical on/off buttons, led lights on the pedals, and easy to select function buttons. I don’t know how this will work in my life…but I will start using it tomorrow. Now that I never carry a MacBook with me everywhere, I can handle the extra weight of the Dragonfly. The PED, however, has been so easy to carry everywhere for the past years.
This may sound crazy, but I don’t blame the PED directly for the page turn issue. The PED has a different type of page turning mechanism, sort of a bump, that I have issues pressing while standing up. I think I may be hitting a second page turn while trying to press the pedal while standing and playing ukulele. I think the older BT-105 might be a better solution for my case use–but the Dragonfly also approximates that larger-pedal use, plus adds the additional two buttons. As a further note, I have the PageFlip set to turn pages forward/backwards with the big pedals, and to move from score to score in the set list with the higher second pedals.
I also have to state that I’m not going to take sides on what the better company is…PageFlip has clearly improved their product, and I use a variety of AirTurn products on a regular basis. For example, the Go Stand and Manos tablet mount travel with me to every gig.
I will clearly write more about this pedal in the future after getting a chance to use it. Until then, I refer you to Matt Libera’s recent post (which contains links to other things he has written about pedals). Also: PageFlip products can be found at PageFlip.com.