This past week, Symphony Pro released their latest version, Symphony Pro 4, in the App Store. Syphony Pro was the first “legitimate” composition app in the App Store back in early 2011. Since that time, Notion (also on sale at the moment) came out. Additionally, there are now also quality HTML 5 options for notiation, such as Noteflight and flat.io.
To read more about Symphony Pro, check out their website.
What I love about Symphony Pro is that it was the product of some college students who were not music majors, and as they began their “real” lives, the app was abandonded–and then rather suddenly and shockingly, it came back.
When it comes down to my workflow, Notion is still my go-to option on iPad (and now iPhone) because it is simply a more mature app that mirrors its Win/Mac counterpart. In comparison, earlier versions of Symphony Pro were not capable of serving my workflow. Symphony Pro 4 is a HUGE improvement that represents many months of development. They are squashing bugs and adding features like crazy. To be honest, Symphony Pro still can't replace Notion in my workflow–but that doesn't mean that it can't work in YOUR workflow. Quite simply, the latest version might be the only music notation app you ever need (as for myself, I keep looking for additional solutions).
Symphony Pro 4 is priced well–an introductory price–there is a $4.99 updgrade option for existing users (adds additional features), and a $8.99 price for new users. I love the idea of an upgrade price; the App marketplace of “buy once, use forever” is unrealistic because developers can't afford to live on a single purchase for the life of a product. This is why Sibelius has moved to an annual fee, and why Finale cost $149 for an upgrade. This is also why we are lacking quality apps for music education on other platforms (primarily Chromebooks), as developers deserve to be paid. Google can provide Google Apps for free as they collect data and sell information (highly filtered in education, but still true)…but Chromebook developers don't get paid that way. This is why the best features in the best Chromebook apps are subscription based (and I'm still not sure how flat.io is going to make money).
So–if you haven't tried Symphony Pro 4 for a while, the basic upgrade is free, and it might be worth sending $4.99 to the company for the added features (and to support their efforts); and if you are new to the iPad, it very well might be an app worth adding to your toolkit along with Notion, forScore, and unrealBook amongst others. It should be noted that Symphony Pro 4 is not a universal iOS app, and a separate version is available for iPhone.
Having high quality options for native apps in iOS is a great things for users. And while HTML 5 apps offer solutions for all platforms, there are still things native apps can do better and more efficiently (remember–Win/Mac devices also focus on native apps). Perhaps someday HTML 5 web apps wil be the only option–but we are still years away from that point.
As a closing note, interacting with Symphony Pro and Notion reaffirm my belief that it is risky to purchase a 1st generation iPad Pro in November (although knowing myself, I may have one by March). The reason is that force touch, or 3D Touch, will add the ability to easily add secondary menus to apps like Symphony Pro and Notion. Granted, any current iPad doesn't have it, either–but an iPad Pro will cost nearly the same as an entry level MacBook and will not be something you want to replace in year 2. The Apple Pencil may add some of those features–but you know that 3D Touch will eventually come to iPads.