Category Archives: General Musings

General Musings

Luma Fusion iOS App

Every now and then, an app comes along that changes your workflow.

For years, the easiest way to create movies was to use iMovie for Mac.  Sorry, Windows users (I was one), but Windows Movie Maker didn’t cut it.  Chromebook friends, WeVideo is NOT in the same league.

A lot of my energy has been put into making ukulele play along videos over the last month.  I owe a lot to the ukulele–it has reignited my passion for and interest in music.  It has allowed me to tweak my choir program at school to make the program slightly more interesting to more students.  And it has given me the opportunity to flex my musical brain, from creating arrangements to analyzing audio tracks for chord progressions, to modulating keys of audio files, to creating play along videos.

In the midst of some very dark years of teaching, the ukulele has truly been a ray of sunshine in my world.  (And yes, I’ll point you to this fun play along video that I put together:

The process of making these videos has been in a state of flux for me.  As of late, I create lyric and chord slides in Keynote, time them to the audio, export that as a movie, bring the movie into iMovie where I then re-sync audio and add a transparent PNG for a “bouncing ball.”  I had to do almost all of this work on my Mac, as iOS apps wouldn’t allow it…and iMovie on iOS is crippled versus its desktop version.

[Incidentally, Apple has made movie making even simpler and less complex with Clips…whereas I would want to see iMovie add more functionality.]

Last night, 9 to 5 Mac had a feature on Luma Fusion, which brings nearly the full spectrum of video editing to iOS.  The video capability that I wanted to use is to be able to add a transparent PNG file to a video, and then position that PNG file anywhere on the screen.  It wasn’t straightforward in the app’s listed capabilities, but spending a little time on their forum showed that the app could do that.  It was a $20 app…but I had a gift card, so I bought it.

While I did play around with the app a little last night, I went to work this morning.  I understand that I’m a little faster with technology than the average bear–so when I use a new software package, the amount of time that I have to spend to learn it–or the amount of time that I find myself frustrated–yields itself three or four times for the average user.  

What I found out was that I could make an entire ukulele play along video on my iPad.  In some ways, with better results than my previous videos.  Check it out:

Some general observations:

1) If you know how to edit a movie in iMovie, editing in Luma Fusion is very similar.

2) I was amazed to be able to make multiple font text overlays, and then to be able to make a template of that overlay…saving me a lot of time making slides

3) Cut and paste (lyrics) is still a mess on the iPad (not Luma Fusion‘s fault).  Maybe iOS 11 will fix this.

4) There are some things missing in Luma Fusion that will make my life easier in the future.  I couldn’t copy and paste a series of existing PNG images…meaning that every one had to be cloned and dragged.  This will change in the future.  I also missed iMovie’s default behavior of placing a transition on every PIP (picture in picture) image…and had to apply those manually.  This will also be addressed in the future by Luma Fusion.  There are currently no alignment guides.  They are coming in the future.  There is no iCloud Drive integration…and this, too, will come in the future.  I can work without any of these.  It will be nice to have all of them.

5) I had a couple of questions and feature requests for the developer.  They responded very quickly.

6) The iPad makes working with transparent PNG files a bit of a challenge…it can be done.

Overall, I am shocked right now…I have one less reason to use my MacBook…and once again, a small development team creates a program that large companies cannot.  I love that aspect of the App Store.

Do you do any video editing?  Or do you have any interest in making a ukulele play along video?  If so, check out Luma Fusion for $20.  It is an incredible app.  I did not receive a trial version of this software, and hours after starting to work with the app, I am pleased with the purchase.

P.S.  The company’s name is Luma Touch…the app is called Luma Fusion.

You Better Have an Answer…

I’m fired up right now.  Every now and then, the educational gurus on Twitter post statements that are detached from reality, throw blame (and guilt) at teachers, and offer an over-simplistic solution to a complicated issue.

This morning, a well-meaning educator reposted a statement from a conference they are attending.  They wrote:

If a student asks, “When am I ever going to use this?” we better have a legitimate answer.

On the surface, this is a wonderful statement.  Shouldn’t every activity we do in school have a legitimate purpose for and direct impact on our lives?

There is a problem that exists here, which is that we use this reasoning to punish teachers and to falsely enable students.  Punish teachers?  Oh, yes.  These statements are of hidden as “statements of encouragement,” but in reality are meant to move those “stubborn” teachers off their mark.

Back to the idea of having a legitimate reason/use for learning anything, we have all seen the statement about, “Why I teach music” (nod to Katie Wardrobe at who created this graphic):

Why I teach music

What do we do if a student says that they don’t care about being human, recognizing beauty, being closer to an infinite, having something to cling to, having more love, having more compassion, having more gentleness, or having more good?  Or that they can learn these things elsewhere? (reality check: they can–in lots of places).

I have to admit: this strikes close to home.  I have three school age students, and my oldest is failing classes with the reasoning, “When am I ever going to use this?”  We have empowered students to think that if something they are doing does not have a direct impact on their future lives, they shouldn’t have to learn it.  Adding to this, every adolescent knows everything (so did I, and so did you), and it doesn’t matter if you talk about the value of learning how to think, how to approach problems, or how to handle situations in life where you have to do something you don’t want to do.  Logic from my oldest: “That is AWFUL.  Why would I do something I don’t want to do as an adult?

I hated changing diapers.  I still had to do it.  There are lots of things that fall into this category for me…even going to school some days!  If I stop doing them…we’ll be on the streets as a family with no roof over our heads, no food, and no possessions.

This style of thinking also creates a false form of logic that says that only my happiness is important.  In terms of philosophy and religion, this is called hedonism.  At some point, this form of reasoning becomes hurtful to others, as we put ourselves and our own pursuit of pleasure above all else.

I don’t know about you, but I find my greatest meaning in life when I am doing things to help others.  Truthfully, that is one of the reasons why I write this blog and the other vocational (profession related but not a part of my paid job) tasks that I pursue on my free time.

As students are empowered to only do tasks that matter to their interests, it is any wonder that business owners talk about how hard it is to find workers with strong work ethics these days?

A good percentage of parents believe this way of thinking, too.  They don’t think their students should have to learn anything that they don’t want to, or that they shouldn’t have to learn anything that doesn’t have a direct impact on their future lives.

I don’t know about you, but I learned all kinds of things that have had no direct impact on my life today…but I don’t mind that I learned them.  I was forced into honors classes in high school (I tried to register for “standard” classes, but school counselors wouldn’t let me) and I learned plenty of things that I have never used in my adult life.

This thinking also strikes close to home in my profession where 50% of my students are forced into my class having to take a music class.  It doesn’t matter if I try to give them broad experiences in music beyond singing (ukulele, GarageBand) or even make the case that I want them to be able to sing in public (church, karaoke) or private (lullabies) at any point in the future with confidence and accuracy to pitch and rhythm.

With all sincerity, I can’t look at a student and say that their life will be a failure if they can’t sing a note, sight read (talk about an important skill in music that has limited impact outside of music making), or play chords on a ukulele.  I can’t say that they will use any of those topics as an adult.  I can tell you the benefits of all of them–but I can’t promise that you will use them as an adult.

I think a more reasoned approach is to make sure that we talk to our students about learning and how ALL learning molds us and shapes us, even if specific tasks are never used in adulthood.  Teachers used to talk about this all the time.  Parents (generally) held their kids accountable to behave decently and to make an effort to learn things.  And students (generally) respected the role of the teacher and tried to learn.  Sure…there were exceptions.  And the majority of teachers aren’t “super teachers” (there is another myth that every teacher has to be a super teacher).  Most teachers loved the subjects they are teaching, and wanted to invest in the next generations of humanity, so that those students could be human, recognize beauty, be closer to an infinite, have something to cling to, have more love, have more compassion, have more gentleness, and have more good.

Regardless of your political stance–the world desperately needs these things–which was true even before the most recent presidential election in the United States.

Please…be careful with those words of sage advice on Twitter.

Technology in Action: Pano Tuner

Several years ago, my respect for technology in music education experienced a quantum leap.

After a presentation, a person who attended the session e-mailed and asked, “If I had a student with no arms…she could use forScore and a bluetooth pedal to gain independence in choir, couldn’t she?”

The answer, of course, is YES.  

I never thought about this, as I have two arms, and every student in my program–every student I have ever had–has had two arms.

We don’t think about the life changing impact of technology for people with disabilities, until we have to, or someone else brings it to our attention.  An iPad that is just used for watching Netflix could be changing someone else’s life.

At any rate, a deaf person competed on America’s Got Talent a couple of weeks ago. Her name is Mandy Harvey, and various YouTube links show that she has been performing as a singer for the past years, even though she is deaf.  How does she sing on pitch?  She uses a tuner app (Which appears to be Pano Tuner) while she is learning her music, and then memorizes the feeling of that pitch to be able to recreate the music away from the tuner.  I was initially interested in the video because she plays the ukulele (another Kala player).

Incidentally, this is the first time I have seen people ignore the ukulele (e.g. Last year, Grace VanderWaal was the kid with a ukulele).

While Mandy acknowledges in other interviews that she always had a strong sense of pitch–I can’t imagine doing what she is doing.  I shared the video with my students before the end of the year.  I can’t help but think about the challenges she is facing in this industry, and how hard it must be for your entire future career to disappear as an option…yet she continues on.

Most of us would listen to Mandy having no idea she was deaf.  It would have been better for AGT if they would have had her sing and THEN let everyone know she was deaf.

And how wonderful is it that she can continue her singing career, in part, due to an inexpensive tuning app?

We truly live in amazing times.  The AGT video follows:

Migrating to a new iOS device

I have subscribed to Apple’s $9.99 highest-level storage plan for a couple of years, not being convinced of Dropbox’s lasting power (although I love Dropbox), data security (I have had to change my Dropbox password due to a data breach), and of course, improvements with iCloud.  This means that I can store my most valuable data in Apple’s cloud system without worrying about failing drives or even stolen equipment.  My most important documents, my music library (scanned and audio), and photos are all safely in the cloud for $120 a year, and Apple keeps increasing the amount of storage included in that pricing (now 2TB of data).  Apple doesn’t seem to hold audio files or pictures against that total storage…although I do pay $25 a year of Apple Match (it takes all of your music and puts it in the cloud, also allowing you to re-download) and have not yet subscribed to Apple Music, although I think that subscription is coming, too.

With that online storage, I am able to backup my personal devices without any fear of running out of room.  Sadly, the minimal 5GB that Apple allows for every iTunes account does not help much, and you end up buying storage for devices.  I wish there was a way my family could tap into my 2TB of data, as I pay $0.99 for my wife’s devices and really should upgrade to $0.99 for our children’s iPads.  We do use family sharing…but I wish there was family sharing for device backups.

Well, my new iPad Pro arrived yesterday afternoon–the afternoon of my last contract day (students were done on Friday), so receiving the iPad felt like a bonus for surviving the year.  I will blog more about the year later–but I need to distance myself from it for a while before I do so.

What you read about the iPad Pro (12.9″) is true.  It is huge, it is fast, and it has the potential to change your workflow.  This morning, as I did my daily routine of having breakfast, doing devotions, and reading the news, my workflow was modified by having my journaling app (Day One) and my Bible reader of choice (Olive Tree) up at the same time.  I could do this on my iPad Air, but doing so makes the split screen of limited use as space is minimal.  I am learning how to utilize the new screen space, and am really looking forward to reading music on it.  I get my first opportunity to do so this afternoon as a small group of ukulele players are playing for a Veteran’s retirement home–unintentionally on Flag Day (incidentally, happy Flag Day!).

I am figuring out how to integrate the Apple Pencil into my work flow.  I have used a stylus before, but this device changes many interactions with the iPad Pro (and yes, with the latest iPad Pro, there is no perceived lag or latency).  I just wish there was an “eraser” on the end of the Pencil for apps like forScore.

Back to the topic at hand…as my devices are set (in Settings) to back up when “sleeping” and plugged in, I am basically ready to upgrade or migrate at any time.

All I have to do is open a new device, go through the starting menus, tell the new device to restore from a backup, and then Apple restores the data.  Apple doesn’t store the Apps with your backup–those download directly from Apple.  All that downloads from your backup file is app data–which is relatively small (most of the time–there are exceptions, such as video files).  Then, over time, Apple restores all of the apps you had on your device, and for the most part, you are ready to use your new device.  Occasionally you will need to enter a password (such as with WordPress, which I use to blog), but that is a minor inconvenience.

I think a larger task would be the challenge of migrating from iOS to Android or Android to iOS…and even then, the carriers and companies have tools to help you migrate.

If you have been putting off the purchase of a new device because of the challenge of setting it up, and you want to use the existing setup on your current device–simply use iCloud Backup and the migration is pretty painless…it just takes a while to download everything.

One other tip: don’t erase your old device until you know that you have restored everything to your new device (or until you know that you will keep your new device)–just in case. 

I Bought A New Printer…

I have two Hewlett-Packard Apple AirPrint enabled printers at our house.  One I bought for the family, the other I bought to bring to school (out of my own income).  I brought the school printer home last year as students kept printing to it (not understanding or even caring that I was buying the ink and paper out of my own pocket), and we have been using our other printer as we do.

There were two problems: first, I have two young boys (5 and 9) who like to print things, and ink is expensive.  As in ridiculously expensive.  We are at the point where we need to buy another color cartridge for our printer (HP 60), at $25 each, or for $34 for a set of black and color cartidges.  It really adds up.

I was trying to exchange our used cartridges for credit at Office Depot, but it turns out that you can only exchange ten cartridges a month (we had a stockpile of nearly 50) and you have to spend at least $10 a month to get the $2 credit per cartridge.  We had exchanged 30 cartridges before figuring that out (I had to e-mail customer service), so we are no longer participating in that process.  We were hoping to earn a good amount of money towards a new printer–but Office Depot’s policy/strategy makes it impossible to do that.  Having to spend $10 to get $20 back that expires is not a good compromise.

We were intrigued by the promise of the newer Epson EcoTank printers that use refillable ink (very inexpensive on Amazon from other sources) for a printer that doesn’t cost that much more than a new HP printer.  So, as we needed another set of cartidges, it was time to buy a new printer.  I headed to Sam’s Club last week and bought the entry level Epson ET-2650 for just under $290 with tax.

Early reviews criticized print quality and connection to Apple devices–but in our experience so far, the printing looks fine, and it connects perfectly to our network and our devices–no worse than our HP printers.

We can now print in color without thinking of the price to do so.  We can let the boys print things when they want to.  My wife can print things without worrying about running out of ink.  I can print things for school without having to worry about sending them via e-mail to print on school printers (for large orders, I would still send items to our district printing office).  

And I will try to sell the printers, as is (needing ink), on Craigslist this summer for $25 each.   Reastically, it might be a year of printing in our house and the EcoTank will pay for itself (particularly if you factor in the printing we are doing now that we were avoiding before).

I metion the printer on the blog, as you might need a printing solution for your home or office, or you, too, might be tired of the cost of ink cartridges for your printer.  The EcoTank does require filling–but I don’t mind this–and you don’t need to take your empty cartridges to a specialty cartridge store to be refilled, either.  The refill process is pretty painless…certainly easier than the old “fill your own cartridges” I used in previous printers (before manufacturers started putting smart chips on the cartridges that track how many copies they have printed).