Category Archives: Digital Sheet Music

Music Pad Pro!

This afternoon, I attended my final ukulele jam of the summer (we go back to school as teachers next week and begin with students after Labor Day). We hold our jams at local music stores, and I noticed a box on the floor behind the jam leader. After the session, I went to look at the box, and it was a Music Pad Pro! I’m assuming that it was new, although the box was a little worse for the wear.

If you don’t know about this device, it was a predecessor to the iPad–a very low powered Windows tablet that only ran one piece of software…the Music Pad Pro software. We purchased two of these for our new high schools that opened in 2009, one like this one for choir, and a super-sized one for band. This model was $899 when new. I did not ask what the current price was from the music store.

When the iPad was released in 2010, a few months after the high school opened, it became clear that the Music Pad Pro wasn’t the future, and I was able to sell the device (following school district policies). As far as I know, the band’s unit is still at the school! Here it is…

And here are the specifications from the box…

There were some features head of its time, such as a big screen (12.1″ diagonal), touch screen, rechargeable battery, and USB ports. Other specs are pretty funny years later…64MB of installed memory, and 64MB of RAM. In comparison, my iPad Pro has 2GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Check out these ports on the bottom (and mounting points for a not-included stand mount):

Other information from the back cover (click to enlarge)…

I had my new iPad Pro (12.9)” with me, so I took some pictures…I need to clean the screen (apologies). I didn’t expect to be taking pictures of it today. The Music Pad Pro was just under 5 pounds. My iPad Pro, in its rubberized case is 2 pounds 8.6 ounces (also with the Apple Pencil attached to the case).

When I talk about the iPad and its disruptive force in technology–as well as the iPad’s excellent function as a music reader, I often mention the iPad Pro, and most people had never seen one. Now I have some comparison pictures to show people so they can see what I was talking about. As of August 2017, these are still selling on eBay for $175-$800…I don’t know why you would ever want one when you can now buy a used or refurbished 12.9″ iPad Pro…and the iPad Pro can run any number of apps, not just a music reader.

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A nice forum for PDF Music Readers

I have mentioned this before, but Aron Nelson (creator of unrealBook) has put together a very mice resource for PDF music readers.  He has expanded the forum with a few other tech tips for iPad users as well.

If you haven’t logged into the forum–please consider joining, and asking questions if you have them!

http://music4ipad.aronnelson.com

 

forScore 10 coming soon

A few years ago, I attempted to move my presentations away from “60 Apps in 60 Minutes” to sessions that were based on best practice with some of the apps.  To my surprise, these sessions were not of interest to many state music education associations–they wanted the “app list” presentations.  Even today, I am amazed at how many core apps are still unknown to music educators, even for apps that have been around since the iPad was introduced in 2010.

A few posts ago, I blogged about Newzik, a new app that is both a PDF and MusicXML reader.  This is a new idea, and you can see the benefits of the MusicXML format when you work with the app.  The fact is that most musicians do not have access to MusicXML files, and have access to PDF files which were hopefully obtained or created legally.

If you have PDF files, there are a handful of PDF readers that I recommend.  This includes forScore, unrealBook, and NextPage among others.  forScore and unrealBook are the most developed PDF music readers that you will find on any platform (iOS, Mac OS, Windows, Linux, or Android).  While there are other solutions on other platforms, iPad users are blessed with the best-in-class options for reading music.

I presented on forScore at NAfME last November (and no, an hour isn’t enough), and recently came across a tool in the notation area I had not seen before…stretchable shapes, such as crescendos and decrescendos.  Apparently those have been in forScore since version 7.

I have a pretty good grasp on forScore, and there are still tools in the app that I am learning about it.  When I present on the “basic” functions of forScore, it is pretty clear that many music educators have no idea of some of the fantastic featrures offered by forScore, even when they have the app installed on their devices.

This summer, forScore is going to release their 10th version of the software.  You can read a detailed report here .

I am impressed by the new audio tools…the ability to speed up or slow down at pitch will be a great tool for musicians.  Another audio feature is the ability to easily create looped playback–which would be awesome for drilling sections of music in a rehearsal or sectional.  I like forScore’s new ability to insert content from one PDF to another.  I am waiting to buy an iPad Pro until the fall, but I look forward to working with forScore with an Apple Pencil.   And forScore’s enhanced features for Darkroom (taking pictures of a score to use) and “deskew” from the crop tool will be of great assistance to music educators.  This just scratches the surface of forScore 10.

And it will be a free upgrade to owners of forScore, even those people that bought the app six years ago.

I have a suite of music education apps that I use more than other apps.  All of these apps have continued to innovate and to add features as apps have matured (as well as the OS and the APIs that give developers more power).    If you haven’t looked at some of these apps in a while–take the time to get reacquainted.  You might be surprised at what they can do!

Look for forScore 10 later this summer.

PDF Scanning should be welcomed (Sibelius Blog)

Earlier today, Philip Rothman (who runs the Subelius Blog) wrote a post about Finale’s newly announced feature of importing PDF files directly into Finale.  You can read the whole post here (recommended): http://www.sibeliusblog.com/opinion/finales-new-importing-feature-should-be-welcomed-not-scorned/

If you don’t follow the Sibelius Blog, you should, as it is the primary news conduit for notation software (the blog used to be run by Daniel Spreadbury, now with Steinberg and the upcoming Dorico).  Don’t let the name of the blog fool you–it is about digital music notation of all kinds, and should probably be renamed to reflect that quality.  I love Mr. Rothman’s work, and I hope to meet him at some point in the future.

Apparently the Facebook thread on Finale’s announcement has not been positive.  

The funny thing is that there are already ways to convert a PDF into digital music, via PDFtoMusic Pro (only with a document created by a notation software package), PhotoScore (or my favorite: NotateMe with the PhotoScore IAP), or even SmartScore (the scanning software bundled with Finale, but available in a much more robust package).  And to be 100% honest, no PDF is ever “locked,” with the right software, nothing is truly locked in any format.  Locking simply keeps honest people honest–which makes you wonder if it is worth locking in the first place.

I am amazed at the concern about copyright when it comes to scanned music.  In the blog post, composers were worried more about artistic intent than income–and I wonder if that is the case, or if it looks too self-serving to write about income first.  When I have discussed scanning with music educators, copyright also becomes an immediate concern.  What we have to realize is that copyright is broken all the time, not just by scanning.  That teacher that makes a photocopy of music so that students can bring it home but not lose the originals?  Copyright infringement.  That choir teacher that rewrites notes for a boy with a changing voice?  Copyright infringement.  The director that posts a video on YouTube (or knowingly allows a parent to do so)?  Copyright infringement.  The choir director that makes a rehearsal recording for their students?  Copyright infringement.  The school that lends a score to another school for a concert?  Copyright infringement (your purchase does not allow you to extend the agreement beyond your own school).  The list goes on and on.  

That doesn’t mean you should go out and purposely break copyright, but it is probably time to rethink copyright and fair use in terms of music and music education.

There are several realities that composers/arrangers/and publishers have to come to grips with:

  1. Composers/Arrangers/Engravers/Editors/Publishers deserve to be paid, but the old model is broken.  If you self-publish an app or a book on iTunes or the iBook Store, the creator gets 70% of the profit and Apple earns 30%.  Apple splits its 30% with others, such as a 7% of the overall cost (25% of its income) to referrals.  It is time for an iBooks or Amazon Kindle store for music, where publishers can make content available and individuals can publish without a publisher or editor.  There should be a way to buy classroom sets, and a way to print songs for teachers who want paper music.  And yes, composers and arrangers should be paid more.
  2. I would also be happy to see an Apple Music solution, where schools bought subscriptions to ALL music.  The fees would be based on number of students, and directors would report which songs were used so that composers/arrangers/publishers could be paid.
  3. The existing online stores are all publisher based, and bring huge limitiations–such as the cost of music.  Online copies are at face value–sometimes more. My local music store will give us a 10% discount at any time, meaning that if I am willing to wait a week or two, I can save over buying instantly–and instantly means the publisher isn’t paying for printing, binding, shipping, or even to a local bookstore.
  4. I realize this means that local music stores will no longer benefit from music sales.  That’s okay–then they can focus more on the other aspects of their business.
  5. The transition to paper music means that it would be easier to distribute music, easier to collect music, and huge amounts of time, budget, and space can be saved without having to store and file music.
  6. Music libraries would no longer have to worry about damage.  I have seen two such situations: one where termites ate the entire music collection, another where the entire storage room flooded.
  7. School budgets are not what they were.  Choral octavos are often $2.25 (or more) for 8 pages of music.  A P/A CD is often $26.99.  Music shouldn’t cost this much.  I have taught with a declining budget for the past fifteen years–and this isn’t changing any time soon.  I think my situation is the norm.
  8. There should be a way to trade in an existing music library for digitial versions–perhaps at a fraction of the cost of the purchase of a new copy.  Perhaps schools could be recompensated for providing a clean scan of a song that is Permanently Out of Print.  At any rate, copyright should allow for the conversion from paper to digital for all collections.
  9. No song should ever be POP.
  10. There should be an easier way to obtain permission to do things like arranging for changing voice, orchestrating something, or making a song for Mariachi (see the Sibelius Blog article).
  11. The current trend of every publisher having their own store and app is a killer in education.
  12. It is frustrating to buy expensive music and to find notation typos which cannot be corrected.  In a digitial format, publishers could edit typos in a minute.
  13. I have bought a number of items over the years that were in the public domain, and I have never once had a music store or publisher contact me and say, “Download this and print this…save your money for something newer that is under copyright.”

I am hoping that Alfred, as a part of Peaksware (which also owns MakeMusic) will be a leader in changes to copyright and distribution/sales of music.  I am also hopeful that Noteflight’s involvement with Hal Leonard will cause changes there, too.

On the other side of the equation, why might a teacher want to scan?

  1. To create authentic assessments in green note/red note software
  2. To create an accompaniment track/rehearsal track–either with piano, or with parts
  3. On a related note, to let students hear their part in context
  4. To provide a copy free of errors
  5. To modify an arrangement (changing voice/missing instrument/etc).
  6. To make a cleaner copy of a score, perhaps splitting parts that usually appear on one staff into multiple staff (think 3 part women’s scores on a SATB choral octavos that switches women from one to three parts throughout a song–confusing to say the least).
  7. To extract a single line to make it accessible to a person with disabilities (e.g. Zoom a single part 300% for a sight-I pared individual)
  8. To simply the arranging of a song to another medium (thiis was a major concern in the Siblius Blog post)
  9. To use digitial notation, such as Newzik (see my last post)

Again, all of these uses, other than #1 (and perhaps #3), are against copyright (Fair use states that you can use up to 10% of a work for educational purposes, making scanning for use with green note/red note assessments a truly legitimate use of scanning under copyright).  It would be great to see publishers, composers, and arrangers embrace all of these uses.  In truth, I want to be able to download a PDF and MusicXML file of any song I purchase, particularly if I am buying a classroom set.

Please note that I have not included “as a way to avoid paying for a song.”  I recently heard about a choir director who was very excited about buying music from Sheet Music Direct.  They were thrilled that all they had to do was to buy 5 copies of a song to be able to use it with their whole choir.  They were devastated to learn they were in breach of copyright.  And yes, they truly thought that was the case.  

When I was in college, we studied the Lutheran liturgy, and one of the things I loved was that Lutherans asked to be forgiven for the “things we have done and the things we have left undone.”  When it comes to copyright, there are sins of omission and sins of commission.  If someone wants to use music illegally, they will do so with the “5 copy” trick, with a Smartphone (e.g. Readdle’s Scanner Pro) , or with a photo copier.  They aren’t going to be scanning with the intent to use and distribute.

I think back to a series of articles and Twitter posts by Andy Inhatko, who was writing about Game of Thrones and how many people were illegally accessing the series.  His point was this: Make it easier and affordable for people to obtain something legally than it is illegally to do so, and most people will follow the path of least resistance.  The same is true for music.  Address copyright for music education, make it easy to obtain and cost-effective to buy music, and most people will do so.  Make it easier for us to use the music in the ways we need to use it.  That is a scary thought if you are an old-school executive at a music publisher.  The key is to focus on the potential (increased) income from a source of revenue based on legal use that meets the needs of music education.  Sure, there will always be those that break the rules.  But the rules simply keep honest people honest, and I would like to think that most music educators fall into a grouping of honest people.

P.S.  As I have written before, if there was a multi-publisher and independent publisher/self publisher iBook Store/Kindle Store/Apple Music for sheet music, publishers could subcontract music stores to go and check compliance with schools–and schools would have a clear case for specific funding–the cost would be based on numbers of students and would have to be be figured into the curriculum or fund-raising.  This would actually create equity among all schools in terms of available resources.  That could have an amazing impact on music education.

What would you do in your program if every song was available to you for a set fee per student per year?  Ensembles, solos, duets, etc.

It is 2016, in a world that is becoming cloud-based.  There is no (good) reason why this couldn’t and shouldn’t happen.

P.P.S. Some publishers are part-way there, such as Carl Fisher offering P/A recordings as free downloads, or Graphite Publishing and Bandworks offerings PDF sets of music to purchasers.  That is the right direction, to be sure.

Newzik: an iOS Music Reader

Newzik

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.