Newzik: an iOS Music Reader
- Link to app: https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/app/newzik-smartest-sheet-music/id966963109?mt=8&at=10l9SE
- Link to the Newzik website: http://newzik.com
If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I am in full support of the use of tablets (particularly the iPad) as a music reader–a function that can be used in any discipline of music education, particularly with the introduction of the 12.9″ iPad Pro last November.
My go-to apps haven’t changed since the iPad was introduced in 2010…forScore and unrealBook are the best PDF music readers available on the market. PiaScore has been the best free option (although with too many distractions for middle school students); NextPage has been a great solution for a forScore/unrealBook “lite” version; and Showbie has worked relatively well for me as a music folder for my students (and has made the act of distributing and collecting music 100% easier).
Newzik was an app released this past January, and I cannot remember if they contacted me about their app, or if Paul Shimmons (band director, fellow blogger, and friend) had told me about it. Their latest version of the app came out a few days ago and it is amazing.
Do I still love forScore, unrealBook, NextPage, and Showbie? Of course. Newzik takes a different path towards music reading, and opens up sheet music to MusicXML files and PDF files.
There have been a few programs that use MusicXML files, such as SeeScore, and apps like MusicProdigy (red note/green note) rely on MusicXML files. But to incorporate both PDF and MusicXML is a new idea.
I believe that the primary need for a tablet music reader, beyond showing music, is annotation. Newzik has it…and you can annotate on a PDF or a MusicXML. Writing on a MusicXML is a pretty radical idea, and the only time this becomes a problem is if you want to transpose the MusicXML to another key (it makes you make a copy of the song or delete the annotation). In addition to annotation, you can link multiple files (PDF, MusicXML, audio, etc.) to a single file, organize your files in playlists, and use a wireless page turner. You can also share music with band members (additional cost per month), and 30 scores are included free–more than 30 requires a full purchase ($20).
The transposition feature worked amazingly well from a ukulele song I created in Notion for iOS, uploaded to Dropbox (Notion still doesn’t allow “Open In” like many iOS apps), and then into Newzik. I changed the song from the key of C ro the key of F–and everything switched correctly…lead part and chords. That is the power of MusicXML. I was also able to load a recording of that song that I had created from GarageBand into Newzik. That way, I can play the MusicXML file, or I can play the m4a audio file.
Just imagine if iReal Pro would marry its functionality with Newzik…full generated accompaniments behind the literal sheet music or MusicXML file? Wow.
Newzik is still pretty young, so some key features (for music) are missing, such as dealing with repeat signs, DS/DC/Coda markings, and “hot spots” or “links.” But in the world of digital music, who needs these markings any more?
Furthermore, it is getting easier and easier to get music into MusicXML format (here’s hoping that it will simply be available as such from publishers someday) with apps such as NotateMe (with the PhotoScore IAP), PhotoScore, and SmartScore (Finale is advertising the ability to import directly from a PDF in the next version). There are even some web sites offering free PDF to MusicXML conversion–and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see MuseScore develop its own scanning component (they have everything else, why not that).
Once your score is in MusicXML and accurate, and if you have a program like Newzik that can transpose on the fly, show a single part, play back, zoom in (for smaller screens), and annotate, why would you even want the paper version or PDF version?
The app also shows chords (on a MusicXML file) on a guitar neck or on a keyboard. As a ukulele player, that isn’t super helpful (perhaps ukulele can be added), but it makes Newzik as functional for a rock musician as it does for a member of the New York Choral Society (Loren–shout out!).
Sure, there are things to fix and improvements to come–but this is an app that has been out since January, and it is really worth installing on your iOS device. No, it isn’t going to replace forScore or unrealBook on my device…but it is going to remain on my device, particularly as I create more and more MusicXML files in the future.