Using Soundcloud Out of Necessity
One of the huge problems with the iPad for music education is the inability to save music on the iPad music library unless you sync with iTunes. I have written Tim Cook about this multiple times over the years, and will continue to do so every six months or so until things change.
Here's the problem: in our 1:1 iPad situation, iPads are basically never synced with a computer. We sync them with an original profile, and then everything else is done away from the computer, unless the device needs to be reimaged. Everything else a student needs remains in the cloud.
If you can only save audio in the music library by syncing, you cannot save music to the device.
I have been trying to find a way to get audio into a music library so that apps like forScore and unrealBook can access audio files I've created as accompaniment or rehearsal tracks for my choir students. I also wanted to see if I could find a program that would allow students to open an audio file and record a second track over the audio file (authentic assessment), and then export that file to Google Drive (our iPad initiative is also linked to Google Docs). Neither one of these things is possible right now, although Apple could make both of them happen with GarageBand, nearly instantly. If you could import music into GarageBand and then save to your music library (like Photos), that problem would be solved; and if you could import music into GarageBand, you could simply insert another track over that recording.
I am further limited in my search for apps as they need to be free–we have no budget for apps. So although I would love to provide forScore or unrealBook for my 225 students, we have settled on using PiaScore. We're making it work, but I despise the YouTube component in PiaScore, as some of my students use their time in choir watching videos (with no sound) rather than singing.
A number of fellow music education “techies” have suggested Soundcloud as a possibility for my use, and I am reluctantly going that way for rehearsal audio files. I can't find a solution for importing a track from Google Docs, recording a track over that track, and then exporting the entire recording to Google Docs again.
When I taught high school for the past 17 years, I had a caroling ensemble each year, and I eventually developed my own collection of carols, edited by me, that we sang. We stuck to traditional songs (although I did make fun arrangements of a few songs like “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “I'm Getting Nothing for Christmas”) because that is what people want from caroling groups. By the end, each part had its own lead sheet (Sopranos with a soprano only part), as this allowed each song to fit on one page for each singer. I still have all those resources. Caroling groups, particularly extra-curricular groups, are still encouraged in our area. That Minnesota/St. Olaf/Luther/Concordia tradition is extremely strong here.
But now I teach middle school choir, and my students just aren't as vocally and musically developed as my high school students were–and this isn't a shocker. But I decided to start a caroling group for our middle school, and I have fifteen brave souls that I am now teaching two-part carols to. Many of the carols are coming from Joe Ambrosio's “Carols for Choirs,” which are two-part carols (but written in Soprano-Tenor; Alto-Bass configuration), and my colleague Reid Larsen at one of our other middle schools brought my attention to those carols last year. Each of these carols also has a piano accompaniment to support the singers. I hope Joe adds a few more carols in a second set (I need to find him and e-mail the suggestion). I am adding other carols to Joe's songs, creating a set of accompanied SA carols for my singers to learn. We rehearse once a week on Tuesdays after school.
My process is to scan the music in PhotoScore Ultimate, export as a MusicXML, open into Finale, clean up the score, export it as a MusicXML, and to import it into Notion for the iPad. Notion becomes my piano player for rehearsals and works quite nicely (I'm looking forward to future N-Tempo features in Notion). If I want to make a rehearsal track, all I need to do is to adjust some sliders in Notion, and export the audio. If this seems like an involved process, I did about seven carols in less than two hours the other day. PhotoScore does a great job with less complex vocal scores (and it struggles with very complex vocal scores, like any other scanning software).
You can export from Notion to Dropbox, but you can also export to Soundcloud. Exporting is SO easy on the iPad; it is one of the main reasons I love Notion for the iPad.
I installed Soundcloud tonight, and did a test before deciding to move forward. You can open PiaScore, then open SoundCloud, find a recording, and then switch back to PiaScore and use your music with the recording. This isn't as good of a solution as “binding” an accompaniment in forScore or unrealBook to a song–but it works. And it is free. So this is what I will be doing for now. I am also going to e-mail forScore and unrealBook and find out if it would be possible to link to a SoundCloud file (yes, Internet access would be needed). I can't afford copies for all 225 students in my program, but I could find a way to pay for 15 students in my caroling ensemble.
As a closing thought, I am amazed at how quickly Notion uploads to Soundcloud, and I love the acceptance message:
“Yay, that Worked!”
If you want, you can go listen to my first rehearsal scores in Soundcloud…I can't promise these will be available indefinitely, as we have a winter musical ahead and a spring jazz/pops group that will also need rehearsal tracks. But it is a start. Our account goes by “OMS Choirs,” and can be accessed here: http://soundcloud.com/oms-choirs/