If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been…

Hello!

It has been quite a while since I have written a blog post. There are a number of reasons for that, and I will have a few posts coming in the near future. But I did want to give some insight into where I’ve been lately.

Ultimately, I haven’t blogged very much. This hasn’t stopped companies from sending PR materials to the address on this blog (there are only a few active music technology blogs these days…and this one has not been very active); and I occasionally get a request for guest posts (people looking to be paid to write content). As I have to explain to both companies and aspiring writers, this is a personal blog that reflects my use of technology in music education. The blog generates no income (if you see advertisements, they are generated by WordPress to provide the free hosting). In fact, I pay (for the domain name) to offer the blog.

I also get an e-mail from time to time from a company asking me to revise the content in an old post to reflect price changes, names of companies or software, and so on. I consider posts to be an archive of past information—a glimpse into the way things were at a point of time. Also, if people are getting current information about your product (pricing or features) from a post I wrote five years ago, instead of from your website…that company has an issue. As a result, I don’t go back and change old posts, unless the post is current and I have incorrectly stated information about a product.

So, all that said, where have I been? Well, I’m here, and I am actively using technology. But life is different1

  • In 2013, I moved from high school choir to middle school choir. Middle school choir, in our district, is a tough assignment (students have to take music in grades 6 & 7, and if they don’t want to be in band or orchestra, they are placed in choir)
  • In 2016, I adopted the ukulele to teach during part of the year that my middle school students didn’t have a concert. As a result, I started making resources for ukulele.
  • In 2019, I was moved to an elementary position, and while I continued to use the ukulele, I also needed to make all kinds of content for my students (recorder and piano). Much of this content cannot be shared as it is based on published materials that I create for my own classroom.
  • The pandemic hit in 2020, and my priorities changed somewhat as a result. We were all trying to survive teaching in a distance format…although I will say that my skills and experience— including the ukulele work—made that transition easier for me, and I heard A LOT of positive feedback from parents who would watch my lessons with their students!
  • The Chromebook won. I still use my iPad as my primary device, and each version of the iPad and each version of Pad OS offers more and more functionality and power. Students in my school have iPads in grades K-2, and Chromebooks in grades 3-5. And all students in grades 3-12 use Chromebooks in our school. As a result of this victory, cloud-based apps that run on Chromebooks have improved (e.g. NoteFlight, MusicFirst apps, Flat.io, etc.) while developments for other platforms have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary as they were around the introduction to the iPad.
  • Many technology sessions are no longer of interest to those that schedule music education conventions/conferences.
  • While I have stated my creation of content for ukulele, I have understated its impact; my play along channel has nearly 100,000 subscribers and generates no income. I struggle with the amount of time it takes to create content with the lack of any financial incentive to do so.
  • And most importantly, I currently have my health under control. During the pandemic, I went on a plan called OptaVIA, which is a controlled calorie deficit program, and lost 140 pounds between April of 2021 and February of 2022. I’m still doing great eight months later, and have a completely different relationship with food. But as a result, I will often choose to go for a walk or bike ride (inside or outside) instead of creating content or writing blog posts; and I don’t really watch anything (e.g. Andor; Rings of Power, SportsCenter) without being on a treadmill, bike, or elliptical.

So with all that in mind, there hasn’t been a lot that I have felt the need to write about, which is why I appreciate the continuing efforts of both Robby and Amy Burns (not related) in this field; the rest of us just haven’t had a lot to say, and many formerly active bloggers just aren’t writing any more.

You’ll still see blog posts here from time to time; and one of the things that I need to remember is that the tools I continue to use on a daily method are not being used by most of my colleagues, and collegiate students are still not being taught how to use technology in their teaching. I don’t know how to change this, particularly if technology sessions are not of great interest at most music education conventions/conferences. If you know of a conference looking for technology content, have them contact me; I can be brought in to provide multiple sessions at various skill levels at a very economic cost.

Thanks for reading this post and checking in with the blog; watch for some new articles soon!

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Dorico 2.0 is out for the iPad!

Dorico has announced version 2.0 of their iPad app, which brings some feature parity to the latest desktop release of Dorico. You can read their full release here: https://blog.dorico.com/2022/02/dorico-for-ipad-2-0-now-available-from-the-app-store/

I haven’t used Dorico for iPad very much, nor have I worked with the latest version of the PC/Mac version. Life has been busy with work (it has been a stressful year, more than most, but not a bad year) and the ukulele work (videos require hours and hours of work), and I need time to really absorb what Dorico can do; some of the concepts are still foreign to me (e.g. flows) as I am used to doing one continuous work at a time rather than piecing things together.

I did create the same score in Notion and Dorico earlier this summer (both on the iPad) and that is something I need to do again.

What I will say is that it is absolutely worth having Dorico on your iPad, and using it. While Notion does what I need it to do (and more) with my ukulele work; Dorico can do that as well…I just need time to learn it.

I would also refer you to articles written by Scoring Notes, as well as a post that will likely be coming soon from Robby Burns. Scoring Notes has become the preeminent source of news of notion-based programs and applications, and Robby just has a pulse on all of these things, too.

So…go check out those sources today, and go get the latest versions of Dorico on iOS and PC/Mac!

Big PlayScore 2 Update Out Today!

I just received notice from PlayScore that they have released a big update to their music scanning app, PlayScore 2. It is said to be much faster, offering a count-in (for people that play scores through the app), with MusicXML export of lyrics and chord symbols (I’m not sure how it will handle ukulele diagrams) along with some new sounds (recorder and harpsichord) and of course, improved accuracy.

While I still love the simplicity and cost of Sheet Music Scanner, I have paid for the annual subscription to PlayScore 2 for the last few years, as there are times it is worth having and saves me time, and thus pays for itself.

If you haven’t tried music recognition on your phone, you really should, and it is very good to have several different solutions on your device as you never know what app will handle a particular score with the highest accuracy.

PlayScore 2 is available for both iPhone and Android.

Updated Pricing Structures for SmartMusic AND thoughts about old blog posts

A couple of days ago, I received an e-mail from MakeMusic, letting me know that they have changed the pricing structure of subscriptions to SmartMusic. They were concerned that an old post on this blog had old pricing information.

You can find the updated pricing information (as of November 19, 2021) at: https://www.smartmusic.com/pricing/

I just wanted to add a couple of items regarding the blog, as well as my instructional shift.

First, blog posts on this channel become “historical artifacts.” Technology is ever changing (even if the pace of technology advancement in music education has been snail-paced for the past three years), as are subscription methods and so on. If you are interested in the latest versions and pricing for any hardware or software, please visit those sites directly for the latest information.

One of the powers of the “blog” is that we record where things are at the present—both in terms of facts and opinions—which later gives perspective. I still remember my commitment to the netbook Windows PC format. I thought it was going to be a hit, and it was a colossal flop. Windows itself was the culprit, making the speed of those devices crawl.

Where I wasn’t wrong was the format, as the Chromebook today is everything the netbook was not. I just bought my first new Chromebook in over 4 years. I still love my iPad and Mac (I’m typing this on my iPad), but the Chromebook has come a long way, mainly because there are better web-based services. There are still many things that iPads and computers do better…but touchscreens, flip Chromebooks, and active styluses change the game a bit, along with those better services.

The other thing I wanted to discuss is that my personal shift from secondary to elementary education has resulted in my focus on some other issues. While I keep an eye towards the broader changes in the profession (e.g. NoteFlight adding many features available in SmartMusic), my use of some systems, such as SmartMusic, have lessened. While SmartMusic might be very useful to teach recorder with 3rd and 4th grade students, I am not going to get funding from my district at this time to purchase it for them. So I have put my focus in other directions, such as making play along videos for recorder and so on. That’s not to say that SmartMusic (or NoteFlight, or MusicFirst) aren’t worth buying or pursing—they just don’t fit into my work flow at this time, and therefore I don’t write much about them.

And really, I don’t think much has changed with these programs. Now that the main approach is web-based with most of these services, they all offer an ever-increasing library of content, with ever-increasing levels of accuracy of assessment, and ever-increasing clarity of communication of the results to students. If you are considering purchasing a red-note/green-note (my term for the playing assessment/training services), I would strongly encourage you to contact SmartMusic/MakeMusic, NoteFlight, and MusicFirst, ask for a demo, and compare the available libraries, methods of uploading exercises (if something isn’t in the library), accuracy of assessment, quality of feedback, and of course, cost per student. Rate each category, and choose what you think is best for you and your students.

Fender Acquires PreSonus

News came out earlier this week that, pending Federal approval (and let’s be honest…why would they care?), Fender is going to acquire PreSonus.

I have no idea, at this time, how this is going to go. I was concerned when Soundtrap and MuseScore were purchased by other companies, but to date, both of those products continue to go strong on their own. There are other cases, such as MakeMusic, where I’m still not 100% convinced that a buy-out was in the best long-term interest of the company (though MakeMusic continues to improve and add features over time).

Fender, is, of course, a well-recognized company of music instruments, accessories, and software. A former colleague raved about Fender’s approach with their Guitar/Ukulele app. As long as Fender continues to carry PreSonus’s hardware and software (even if rebranded, updated, or redesigned), that’s a good thing for everyone.

I don’t have a lot of contacts at PreSonus, but the comments I have seen from PreSonus employees are positive about the acquisition. I have no reason to doubt those statements.

All I know is that Notion on iPad remains a massively important part of my workflow as a teacher; that said, if I had to leave Notion, Dorico for iPad would become my main tool. So, I hope that Studio One, Notion, and the wonderful hardware made by PreSonus will continue…and I am choosing to be optimistic about this merger. We’ll see how things play out in the coming months and years!