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!

Within a day, Avid releases Sibelius for iPad

With a full article from Scoring Notes this morning, it is clear that Avid has been working on a version of Sibelius for iPad…and chose to release it a day after Dorico had the attention of the music technology industry. You can find the post here: https://www.scoringnotes.com/reviews/sibelius-arrives-on-ipad/

I’m downloading the app now, but as a person who doesn’t use Sibelius, I’m not sure what functionality will be in the app for me. According to Scoring Notes, your functionality is dependent on your current ownership or subscription to Sibelius on the Mac or Windows. That will make the app the equivalent of Sibelius First, but I’m not sure what that offers.

From the introductory video on Scoring Notes, it is clear that Sibelius takes much more advantage of iPad gestures and functionality than Dorico, and it will be fun to interact with the app and to see what it can do. That said, Sibelius doesn’t offer any on-screen keyboards (like Dorico or Notion) and seems to have made a mistake on a touch based platform without including that way to input pitch. At this time, I do not know if Sibelius responds to an external MIDI keyboard. **Note: version 1 does not.

I keep coming back to the question: “Why now?” Certainly, with M1 iPads, the devices are now desktop class, and there are ways to share an app on several platforms with minor tweaks for those platforms. Still, the iPad has been around for more than a decade and has pretty much “lost” in the education space. That all said, the iPad is still my primary tool for creation of all kinds (including this post). I’m absolutely these programs are now available on the iPad, but it does feel like someone arriving late to the party—and then I also have to ask, “Where are MuseScore and Finale for the iPad?”

Finally, there’s a direct line from Avid to Dorico, as much of the core Dorico team was the former UK office of Sibelius. Doesn’t it seem strange that Dorico would release a surprise iPad app and then the former employer of many of that team would release an iPad app twenty four hours later? Maybe it’s a coincidence, but if so, it is still head-spinning. **Note: I have been told from secondary sources that this was a coincidence.

I’m off to work with Sibelius for a while and to see what it can do. A follow up post will reflect on my experiences on Dorico for iPad, Sibelius for iPad, with Notion for iPad (my long-time primary app) as a benchmark.

Dorico releases new iPad Version

On all the music technology blogs today, you should see articles about the release of Dorico, on iPad.

I have been working with the beta version over the last week, and have a number of thoughts that are not fully-baked yet (pretty much all positive), so this is NOT a full review, as you will likely see from some of the other blogs today.

What I will say is that Steinberg has brought Dorico, to the iPad, in a fully functional way…that treats the iPad more like a MacBook than it does an iPad. There has been a small amount of optimization for the iPad interface (e.g. on screen instruments), and it really doesn’t take advantage of the Apple Pencil at all. That said, for the first time, there’s a fully functional desktop class music notation app for the iPad that is also affordable.

I will also add that there is a learning curve to Dorico, and when you subscribe to it (which you will…the app is free, but some functions require an subscription, which is completely acceptable to me for what you’re getting), if you haven’t been a Dorico user, you will want to take a deep breath and watch a lot of Dorico videos. I assume we’ll be seeing some iPad specific Dorico videos in the very near future.

If you don’t know Dorico, I think it is the best and most modern music notation program. It was developed from the ground up by much of the former Sibelius team (when Avid outsourced their jobs), who moved to Steinberg and asked the question, “What would a modern, powerful music notation program look like today?” While the original program lacked a number of features that I needed for my ukulele work, it has continued to add features (including ALL of those ukulele features). I had not made a switch to using Dorico, but I knew that time was coming. And surprise…here it is today for iPad!

If you are a user of other music notation apps or programs, yes, you can use different apps to do different things. But for the most part, I have found myself using one primary app or program because that particular app or program does what I need it to do most efficiently. While this post is about Dorico, Notion has been my “daily driver” on iPad and MacBook, while Finale (on Mac, of course) has been my backup when more power is needed. I haven’t used Dorico, nor MuseScore or Sibelius on my Mac, and I haven’t used the other apps on the iPad very much, though I have access to most of them (for example, StaffPad doesn’t really work for my ukulele work). It’s going to be interesting to see how and if my use of app changes with this new version of Dorico.

Just as with the Mac, there are plenty of options these days for notation on the iPad…enough that you really could not write an article that compared all of them. Compared to Dorico, there are apps that are easier to use for music notation. But none of them have this level of power. This is a very significant day for musicians who own an iPad.

As the app is new and going global today, do expect some unexpected app crashes, but know that Dorico is working to address those issues.

I’ll write more about the app later. Until then, check out what will be written by my colleagues (I expect articles from Scoring Notes, Robby Burns, and Paul Shimmons within a day). I will also paste Dorico’s press release below. Please note the device compatibility at the end of the press release.

Update: Here are some of the posts that I knew would be coming. You can also catch Daniel Spreadbury, from Dorico/Steinberg on Robby’s Podcast, Music Ed Tech Talk.


HAMBURG, Germany — Steinberg today announces the immediate availability of the latest product in its family of music notation, composition and publishing software, Dorico for iPad, which can be downloaded now from the App Store, for free.

Dorico has made waves since its introduction for macOS and Windows in October 2016. Acknowledged as the innovator in the field of desktop music notation software, with dozens of unique features added in each new iteration, Dorico is already the tool of choice for many thousands of composers and arrangers all over the world, used in the creation of music for the concert hall, the movie theater, and the living room. It is used widely in education, from secondary schools to several of the most prestigious music conservatories and universities. It is also used by several of the world’s top music publishers, with everything from piano miniatures to operas and concertos taking advantage of Dorico’s unparalleled automatic engraving quality, which puts expert knowledge of the centuries-old craft of music engraving into the hands of every musician.

Now, Dorico has been reimagined for the iPad, with thoughtful adaptations that retain the same streamlined, beautiful interface of the desktop version while making the application comfortable for use on a touch-first device. An on-screen multi-touch piano keyboard makes inputting and editing music feel effortless — and when connected to a USB or Bluetooth MIDI keyboard, users can input music both in step time and in real time. Every marking needed to add to the music is right at one’s fingertips, with clear, well-organized panels for quickly adding clefs, key signatures, time signatures, dynamics, tempos, and more directly into the music. Together with a Magic Keyboard or other Bluetooth-enabled keyboard, all of the powerful key commands that make Dorico on macOS and Windows the fastest, most keyboard-friendly music notation software are available too.

Although Dorico for iPad produces the same exemplary, publication-quality printed sheet music as the desktop version, it is much more than simply an application for producing beautiful pages of music notation. Dorico is the only professional music notation software to include a sequencer-style MIDI editor with piano roll, velocity, and continuous controller editors — and Dorico for iPad takes another leap forward with the introduction of a completely new Key Editor, built from the ground up for the iPad, with fluid, high- performance editing. In addition to transforming the experience of working in Play mode, the new Key Editor can also be shown in the lower panel in Write mode, making it possible to work seamlessly both on conventional music notation and detailed MIDI editing tools in perfect sync.

Also included is the same high-fidelity audio engine that powers Cubasis, Steinberg’s multi- award-winning digital audio workstation app, and a built-in library of instrumental sounds and essential effects is provided to ensure that the music sounds as good as it looks. Expand the sonic capabilities further still by adding any compatible Audio Unit instrument or effect, and instantly export audio to share or post online.

Dorico for iPad is fully compatible with the desktop versions that run on macOS and Windows. Projects created on macOS or Windows can be opened in the iPad version, and vice versa.

“It has always been our ambition to bring Dorico to the iPad, and we can’t wait for a whole new range of musicians to — literally — get their hands on these tools,” commented Daniel Spreadbury, product marketing manager for Dorico. “Reimagining Dorico for the iPad has been a huge, and hugely rewarding, project. We have refined almost every inch of the application to make it feel comfortable on a touch-first device. It looks and feels like the same beautiful, powerful application already loved by musicians all over the world, but it is full of optimizations that make it feel right at home on the iPad.”

Most excitingly of all, Dorico for iPad can be downloaded from the App Store for free, and allows users to create projects for up to two players that take advantage of almost all of its powerful features without time or other limitations. To write for larger ensembles of up to four players, users will have to sign in with their free Steinberg ID. For more power and flexibility, an optional subscription can be obtained via in-app purchase that not only expands the player limit to 12, but also adds Engrave mode, providing the ability to tweak the graphical appearance of every marking in the score.

Availability and pricing

Dorico for iPad is available to download now for free from the App Store. The free version allows users to create new projects for up to two players, and open projects created in any other version of Dorico — for iPad, macOS or Windows — with any number of players. Users will have to sign in with a free Steinberg ID to create new projects for up to four players.

Additional functionality can be unlocked by purchasing an in-app subscription for $3.99 or €3.99 per month or $39.99 or €39.99 per year (or equivalent in your local currency). Subscribers can enjoy additional features, including detailed graphical editing of every marking and musical symbol in Engrave mode, and the ability to write for ensembles of up to 12 players.

Dorico for iPad requires iPadOS 13.0 or later, and an iPad Pro, iPad Air (3rd generation or later), or iPad (7th generation or later) is recommended. 570 MB free storage space is required.

Highlights

  • Best automatic engraving of any software
  • Easy note input using on-screen keyboard, MIDI keyboard, or external keyboard
  • Intelligently adjusts notation as you write
  • Any number of movements or pieces in a single project
  • Automatic layout of instrumental parts
  • Expressive playback using included sounds and effects
  • Supports Audio Unit virtual instruments and effects processors
  • Revamped Key Editor, with piano roll, velocity and continuous controller editors
  • Sophisticated chord symbols, unpitched percussion and drum set notation
  • Unbarred music, tuplets across barlines, etc. all handled correctly — no workarounds
  • Fully compatible with Dorico for macOS and Windows
  • Transfer to and from other apps via MusicXML, MIDI, PDF, etc.
  • Built-in reader mode for performing directly from the project, using a single tap of the screen or Bluetooth foot pedal to turn pages

Updates to Sheet Music Scanner!

I recently heard from the developer of Sheet Music Scanner, and the app has recently been updated to allow for the scanning of triplets and sixty-fourth notes and rests.

Sheet Music Scanner has long been a “Best Buy” for iPhone or iPad, offering pretty decent scanning of songs without the ability to recognize triplets. My workflow would always start with Sheet Music Scanner, and if that didn’t work well, I would move to PlayScore 2, or Notate Me (with the PhotoScore add-on). But many times, Sheet Music Scanner held its own.

I haven’t tested the new capabilities very much; but I did send a score with a lot of triplets (Robert Ray’s “He Never Failed Me Yet”) and sure enough, some triplets had been recognized. But let’s be honest…throwing a score like that at an app that has never had triplet scanning before is a little like asking someone who just started jogging to run a marathon.

At any rate, this app is a wonderful example of iOS and where we are at. There are very few “exciting” new apps that enter the market. Changes are not revolutionary, they are evolutionary at this point. And the best tools just keep getting better and better.

And do keep in mind that when you buy this app, you are supporting an individual programmer who has made a wonderful productivity app for musicians and music educators…at an incredibly affordable price. If you haven’t purchased Sheet Music Scanner…get it today. It is absolutely worth having. Not only can you play back sheet music out of the app, you can export the resulting MusicXML file to any notation app on any device for further editing. As I said earlier, this is my first stop in scanning music, and it is often the last.