forScore 3.1 — Good things come to those who wait

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been making a point to use forScore exclusively in my teaching so far this year.

This past week, forScore introduced an update which enhanced some features for iOS 5, but inadvertently turned off annotation, at least on iOS 4 devices.

When I use an app, and things are broken, I e-mail developers. At the least, I can help notify them about a bug, at best, I can troubleshoot something that is wrong with my own device/file so that the app can work properly. I found out that annotation wasn’t working as I went to mark a score with my 1st Hour Women’s Choir, and couldn’t write on the screen. I promptly e-mailed forScore/MGS Development. They were quick to reply that they were working on the issue and that a fixed update was coming. That update arrived this morning with forScore 3.1.

As a side note, programming “bugs” bother me, as they would any user–but I certainly understand them and I don’t get mad about them. For example, at the point of the release of iOS 4, UnrealBook was broken for about a week. I don’t mind–particularly if I have another app to fall back on, and if the developer is quick to fix the issue. A blanket apology from the developer is unnecessary, but nice, too. In both these cases (this annotation bug with forScore and the iOS 4 problems with UnrealBook), the developers fixed the problem quickly and offered an apology. What more can you ask for?

I stand further convinced that a music reader without annotation is the same problem as a musician without a pencil. Can you still perform or teach without the ability to annotate? Yes. But can you improve your performance with the ability to annotate and avoid challenges or add clarity? YES. In the case of forScore, with its “musical stamps,” you can also professionally edit misprinted scores. I find misprints several times a year, with errors occurring more frequently in longer and more expensive works–and often the oldest editions that we use! I’ve made at least one developer of a music reader upset in criticizing music reading apps that lack annotation, but it’s an essential feature.

In addition, forScore added a couple of other bonuses with 3.1. First, there is now a pitch feature, which can be found under the ellipse button (…). The sounds associated with the pitch pipe are excellent. Second, the metronome has been significantly altered and is worth a visit. I’ve always been a bit skeptical of forScore’s metronome, and I’ve found it to be a bit unsteady as it starts and as you change pages. No longer. It is now easy to change tempos (a round controller, very iPodesque) and the tempo stays steady at the start of the metronome and as you change pages.

Do I have any suggestions on the new features? Only minor ones…and I’m thrilled to see both as they are. First, I’d offer an option to link a pitch to the beginning of a song. Let the director touch the pitch link button, the pitch is played, and off you go. With the metronome, a listing of general tempo names would also be helpful. I don’t know how that could be implemented (forScore does just fine without any suggestions from me), but many pieces list Italian tempo terms instead of a bpm marking. It would be nice to have that information displayed, too, just like on my old Seiko credit-card sized metronome from my high school days. Again, both of these are minor suggestions, and not demands by any means.

I love, love, fully featured music readers. Some developers are committed to doing one or two things, and doing them well. I respect that approach, but as a music teacher, I want and need to be able to do as much as possible from within a single app rather than having to rely on multiple apps–or having to pull out my MacBook and do something on a “real” computer. Yes, features can be overdone, and there are different ways to implement features. The two music readers I continue to recommend to new iPad owners (including a number of my students) are forScore and UnrealBook. I’ve been quite busy with the start of the school year and our fall musical, but I have a couple of other app reviews underway, including a music reader or two. Stay tuned…I hope to get to them soon.


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