NotateMe and PhotoScore Updates

I have not posted for a while, as I have been busy with our middle school musical and raising my own boys.  To be honest, the news front in technology for music education has been pretty quiet as of late.  Earlier today, Apple announced a new iPad which replaces the iPad Air 2, for $329, which isn’t a device that you want for yourself (you want to wait for the new iPad Pro)–it is a device that is meant for schools or for kids.  With a school discount, the new iPad is $299, which places it firmly in Chromebook territory (and nearly $150 cheaper than the best Chromebooks for schools, such as the new Samsung flip models).  In the past, if you wanted the cheapest iPad, you had to buy an older generation iPad–Apple changed this today.

We’re still waiting for new iPad Pro models–which is what I am waiting for, too.

This leads me to the actual point of this post–both the app and desktop/notebook versions of PhotoScore and NotateMe have been updated.  Additionally, AudioScore and Hit’n’Mix are also available.  From Neuratron:

PhotoScore & NotateMe Ultimate 8.8 and AudioScore Ultimate 8.8 are available to download.

Featuring the latest in cutting-edge music AI, existing version 8 customers can update for free. Version 1-7 customers can upgrade for a discounted price.

AudioScore Ultimate 8.8 offers significantly improved audio-separation and transcription abilities to help you discover the notation within MP3 and CD tracks.

PhotoScore & NotateMe Ultimate 8.8 features NotateMe 4 music-handwriting technology for composing on-the-go with the Microsoft Surface Pen, in addition to user-interface, editing and recognition improvements.

NotateMe 4 and the free NotateMe Now 4 are also available for iPad Pro with Apple Pencil and Samsung Galaxy Note with S Pen.

Finally, the new Hit’n’Mix 2.5 (which powers AudioScore 8.8 audio processing) is available separately for ripping out and manipulating individual notes and audio from full-mix tracks – more details at hitnmix.com.

Furthermore, if you should wish to upgrade from a previous generation of software, Neuratron has made it simpler to do so (I believe that they sent out an e-mail to existing customers).

I have not had a chance to play with the updated versions of the software–my workflow at this time of the year does not require any scanning, and I don’t have an iPad Pro to try NotateMe’s new Apple Pencil functionality.

From my personal experience, there is no better scanning software on the planet than Neuratron’s PhotoScore, either the desktop/notebook version, or the In-App Purchase found with NotateMe on iOS or Android.  The desktop/notebook version sells for about $250, the app version is about $70.  Yes–you will have to edit a score, but it is amazing how much time these applications can save you.  There are some other wonderful scanning solutions (some that are significantly less expensive), but Neuratron’s products are the gold standard of the industry and I recommend them wholeheartedly!

MusicJot: New iOS Music Notation App

musicjot

Earlier this week, I was contacted by Mona Lisa Sound about their relatively new (January 26, 2017) music notation app, MusicJot.  They offered a promo code, which I was happy to accept, and I have had the chance to work with the app a little bit this week.

iOS is fortunate to have so many quality apps, and there are several music notation apps.  My long-time favorite is Notion, which has most of the features of a desktop program.  In addition, there is Symphony Pro (more like a desktop program), NotateMe (notation by hand), and several other apps such as TouchNotation and iWriteMusic.  On the horizon is Komp, another handwriting based notation app.  In addition to these apps, both flat.io and Noteflight will work on iOS devices.  As a result, MusicJot enters a field that is somewhat already crowded in terms of music notation applications for iOS.  As a disclaimer, I am an unpaid beta tester for Notion and Symphony Pro, and I often am in touch with many of the other programs mentioned in the post.

MusicJot is a handwriting-based music notation app that is being developed in part by a musician and arranger who has arranged over 100 string quartets.  The development team consists of two programmers.  The idea behind MusicJot is to give composers an easy path to entering music, with an eye on the accessibility of StaffPad on Windows Surface devices.  MusicJot utilizes the handwriting to notation engine of MyScript, which hails back to the “original” handwriting to notation app (which failed crowd funding) by Think Music Technology.  Interestingly, Notion, offers this same functionality (from MyScript) as an In-App Purchase for iOS devices, and the feature is included in the desktop versions as well (generally for Windows Surface owners).

My initial thoughts about MusicJot can be summed up in one statement: the app is still young.  It works–you write notes and then click outside of the measure to convert the notes to digital notation.  After the notes are entered, you can play or edit what you have written.  You can also add notes via touch, as well as change settings such as clef, time signature, key signature and so on.  In other words, it has the standard functionality you would expect for a music notation app (missing, however, is ukulele as an instrument, which has become very important to me).  Printing is coming soon, but you can export your notation (in my world, in the preferable Music XML format), but for now you have to e-mail the file to yourself (the actual MusicXML export feature saves the file in iTunes, whereas “Open In” would be a far more useful solution). The app opens with animated tutorial pages, and help is available on every page.

Recognition is fine–I have not been unhappy with any handwriting to music notation app.  As Notion uses the same handwriting backbone,  MusicJot is just as accurate.  I have no complaints in this area.  And yes, the Apple Pencil is supported, but I do not have a device that can use an Apple Pencil at this time (waiting for the 2nd generation 12.9″ iPad Pro).

The copy and paste features of the app seem to be very well thought out, and if you are editing (and have an Apple Pencil for best results), the ability to drag a sequence of notes (for pitch or length) and the ability to drop an octave after pasting is pretty novel.  This just goes to show that every app has excellent features.

I’m not sold on the visual appearance of the app–it is clean (a much less cluttered approach than NotateMe, whose real power is in the PhotoScore In App Purchase anyway), but it also appears–for me–too “basic.”  This is why I say that the app is young–it is missing features and its appearance will mature over time.  To be honest, as it now exists for use, I would rather see the integration of the new SMuFL font in place of MakeMusic’s font.

All that said, I don’t want to be too harsh, as I am in support of every app that can be used to create and teach music.

mozart

The app is clean, but is very basic.  It just looks young.  I have a feeling the look will mature in time.

For my level of music notation, I need apps that can quickly edit (from a scanned score) or create a chart, and as such entering notes by hand is a inefficient use of note entry for me. I much prefer to use handwriting recognition to add diacritical markings after I have entered notes into a score (this is a great use of Notion‘s handwriting IAP). However, if you only need to write short passages of music or don’t want to learn the intricacies of a notation program, apps like MusicJotNotateMe, and the upcoming Komp would be an easy way to get music into digital format, particularly without StaffPad on iOS (can they really be selling enough copies of the app to stay on Windows on one family of devices?).

In summary, when I work on notation projects on iOS, I am still going to go to Notion.  You, however, might be quite happy with MusicJot or any of the other notation apps mentioned in this post.

The app is $29.99 until March 16th, and then will go to $49.99.  I realize that apps are FAR underpriced on the App Store.  Finale is a $650 program (without education discount).  The fact that Notion  for iOS is $16 is crazy–although you of have to spend $30 for ALL the sounds and another $8 for handwriting.  NotateMe is a $40 app, with a $30 PhotoScore scanning In App Purchase.   All that said, I’m a little worried that the $50 regular price of MusicJot will not appeal to the basic user who doesn’t want to deal with the intricacies of Notion (which is pretty easy to use).  At the same time, developers should charge what they want to charge.

So…keep your eye on this app.  If you are intrigued by the app, get it while it is 50% off.

You can learn more about MusicJot. at Mona Lisa Sound’s website (http://monalisasound.com/musicjot.html), what appears on the MyScript website (http://myscript.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/170217-MyScript-Blog-MusicJOT-Case-Study.pdf) and also check out their introductory video (which should appear below):

 

Note: All the app links in this blog post are referral links.  If you buy an app from that link, 7% of the purchase price comes back to me for the referral, out of Apple’s 30%.  The developer still receives their full 70% for the value of the app, no matter how you buy the app.  So…if you choose to buy an app from a referral link, thank you.  My next cup of coffee (or part of a cup of coffee) might be from you!

Music OCR – “What’s My Note?”

whats-my-note

A big thank you to Chad Felton for bringing this app to my attention…

The world of Music OCR (Optical Character Recognition) has really advanced in the past three years.  I have used Music OCR to get music into a digital format for years, with the intent of creating accompaniment files.  I suffered for many years with the poor quality of the (formerly) embedded scanning program in Finale, SmartScore (made by Musitek).  I don’t want to be mean about it–but if you used SmartScore Lite with Finale, you know what I mean.  While the most recent version of SmartScore X2 is greatly improved, some time ago I moved to PhotoScore Ultimate (by Neuratron).  The most recent version of Finale (25) removed scanning as an option altogether.

Some time ago, Neuratron introduced a notation program for mobile devices, NotateMe, and eventually embedded PhotoScore functionality in the app (as an in-app purchase).  The end result was a $70 (overall) app that often scanned as well (or better) than the full version of PhotoScore Ultimate on a computer, which is a $250 purchase.  The most important difference  (to me) is that the computer version of PhotoScore can scan a PDF, while the mobile version requires a paper copy to scan.

A couple of other mobile scanning apps have been released, such as an app by Musitek called “NoteReader” (I really can’t recommend it), and a few apps that scanned music and played it back, such as Sheet Music Scanner.  I didn’t really see the functionality in scanning music to hear it–I need apps to do more than that.  There are also apps like MusicPal and iSeeNotes that don’t offer enough functionality for me to recommend them.

As I have written about in the past, Sheet Music Scanner added the ability to export MusicXML files, and that changed its functionality for me–and opened the door to scanning music for many new people as there is no longer a price barrier.  Better yet, Sheet Music Scanner can open an existing PDF.  The app can’t recognize everything yet–but it is amazing how well it does for less than $5.

Musitek has released a program called “Music-to-XML” for $99 that scans music and exports it to a MusicXML file.  I have not tried this program–I have other programs that do this, and my experiences with Musitek’s products while improved from the past, are less positive than with other products.  Unless I am sent a trial version–I will likely not be trying Music-to-MusicXML.  If you were going to spend $100, I would likely send you towards the $70 NotateMe/PhotoScore solution for mobile devices.

As I mentioned in the open of this post, Chad e-mailed me and asked if I had seen “What’s My Note?”  Basically, this is an app that scans a page of music, and as you touch notes, it plays back your notes.  I bought it (only $1 at the current time) and I tried scanning a couple of things.  I did not tax the program too heavily, but it accurately scanned and played back notes that I touched.  The following video is their promo video from their website:

I’m not overly enthused about the app’s tag line: “A new app for choral musicians who don’t read music well.”  That said, I find myself a little more open to this type of music scanning for playback versus Sheet Music Scanner’s original purpose, as you can touch YOUR note and hear YOUR note in context of the larger score.

Some immediate thoughts: The app makes more sense on an iPad (the larger the better) than on a phone, as you have more room to touch (you can “zoom in” on a phone, but then there is a lot of scrolling).  The bad part about that is that phones have better cameras than iPads.  The app is available for Android, too.  I wish the app allowed you to open existing PDFs rather than having to take pictures of everything.  I also wish that that it would allow the option of playback so you could sing along with the printed notes as an option (Sheet Music Scanner’s original function).  Finally, I wish that you could do something with the recognized music after you had scanned it, such as exporting it.

If you have a mobile device and need the greatest possible accuracy, NotateMe with the PhotoScore IAP is still the way to go for $70.  If you want to try mobile scanning with greater success than used to be possible with SmartScore Lite without breaking the bank, buy Sheet Music Scanner. What’s My Note? takes a different approach to scanning, and and there are likely some choral musicians that will benefit from being able to touch their part to hear it.  I will keep all three of these applications on my devices.

P.S. This video from “What’s My Note?” is fun (and the song is included with the app):

A busy month of presentations

January has been a busy month for presentations!  This month, I have been in Florida, Michigan, and Illinois.

I love presenting, and I try to bring usable, solid information in an energetic and entertaining way.  In particular, I like to keep people laughing.  I have attended too many sessions that are too dry and/or do not bring anything of value to participants.  Even so, I am sure that some people leave disappointed, or in some cases angry.  If that was you, I apologize!

What has been interesting about my trips this month is that I have been traveling without my wife or family, and what I have taken away from my travels this month are new and stronger relationships.

I didn’t really know any music educators in Florida, but I was able to spend a bit of time with Jason from MusicFirst and Don from Sight Reading Factory.  While it is nice to get to know the products that a company represents, it is better to get to know them better as people.  I believe in both of these companies (and SRF is carried by MusicFirst) and what they are doing–but it is better to get to know the people behind the company.

One of the things that I am finding in my “middle age” is that when I meet people beyond a “surface” encounter, I want to know their story.  That is one of the things I like about what we are trying to do on our Podcast.

In Michigan, after seven or eight years of communicating on Twitter, e-mail, and most recently our podcast, I had the pleasure to finally meet and spend time with Paul Shimmons, who blogs at ipadmusiced.wordpress.com.  What is both surprising to say and not surprising at all in reality is that meeting in person was like running into a long lost friend.  I also had a chance to visit again with Jason (MusicFirst), but also Catie (Quaver Music), and a couple of other Twitter users I have followed over the years.

In Illinois, I had the chance to spend some time with Ryan, a fellow ukulele aficionado (he presented the day before I arrived), and to have dinner with David and Nathan and their families, two teachers that I have interacted with during my previous trips to Illinois.  I stayed at Nathan’s house and had a chance to visit with his family–and am so grateful for the conversations and the time we had to spend together.  I also had a chance to see Dr. Alex Ruthmann, who works for NYU with the Music Ed Lab and Dr. Robin Giebelhausen, who is a music education professor in New Mexico.  Dr. Ruthmann presented some of the wonderful things they are doing at the NYU Music Ed Lab like Groove Pizza,  and Dr. Giebelhausen presented a great session on Ukulele and her resources, such as her website and her free iBook.

So while I feel a bit exhausted from my travels over these January weekends, I come home richer from the relationships that were started or strengthened on this trip.

One of the things Paul and I talked about is the world of technology and music education.  Music education, by nature, is filled with a lot of ego, jealously, and dog-eat-dog behaviors.  The sub-climate of technology in music education is filled with a bunch of passionate music educators who don’t get paid for their work, but instead they just want to give back to the professions.  It is really a joy to be involved with all of these people!

Thank you, very much, to everyone who attended any of my sessions this month.  I had the chance to present on ukulele, Chomebooks, and iPads.  PDFs from those presentations can be found on this website in the Past Presentations area.  And as always…if you have questions, new services, new hardware, or new apps, please send me an e-mail!

Shed the Music

theshed

While at the Illinois Music Education Conference, two band teachers introduced themselves and their work.  They have created a website called The Shed, or Shed the Music, a resource that is currently free that features videos about music theory.

While it is wonderful to have resources such as musictheory.net and teoria.com, additional resources in this space are always welcome, and as such, please check out shedthemusic.com!