Category Archives: General Musings
Earlier this week, I was contacted by Mona Lisa Sound about their relatively new (January 26, 2017) music notation app, MusicJot. They offered a promo code, which I was happy to accept, and I have had the chance to work with the app a little bit this week.
iOS is fortunate to have so many quality apps, and there are several music notation apps. My long-time favorite is Notion, which has most of the features of a desktop program. In addition, there is Symphony Pro (more like a desktop program), NotateMe (notation by hand), and several other apps such as TouchNotation and iWriteMusic. On the horizon is Komp, another handwriting based notation app. In addition to these apps, both flat.io and Noteflight will work on iOS devices. As a result, MusicJot enters a field that is somewhat already crowded in terms of music notation applications for iOS. As a disclaimer, I am an unpaid beta tester for Notion and Symphony Pro, and I often am in touch with many of the other programs mentioned in the post.
MusicJot is a handwriting-based music notation app that is being developed in part by a musician and arranger who has arranged over 100 string quartets. The development team consists of two programmers. The idea behind MusicJot is to give composers an easy path to entering music, with an eye on the accessibility of StaffPad on Windows Surface devices. MusicJot utilizes the handwriting to notation engine of MyScript, which hails back to the “original” handwriting to notation app (which failed crowd funding) by Think Music Technology. Interestingly, Notion, offers this same functionality (from MyScript) as an In-App Purchase for iOS devices, and the feature is included in the desktop versions as well (generally for Windows Surface owners).
My initial thoughts about MusicJot can be summed up in one statement: the app is still young. It works–you write notes and then click outside of the measure to convert the notes to digital notation. After the notes are entered, you can play or edit what you have written. You can also add notes via touch, as well as change settings such as clef, time signature, key signature and so on. In other words, it has the standard functionality you would expect for a music notation app (missing, however, is ukulele as an instrument, which has become very important to me). Printing is coming soon, but you can export your notation (in my world, in the preferable Music XML format), but for now you have to e-mail the file to yourself (the actual MusicXML export feature saves the file in iTunes, whereas “Open In” would be a far more useful solution). The app opens with animated tutorial pages, and help is available on every page.
Recognition is fine–I have not been unhappy with any handwriting to music notation app. As Notion uses the same handwriting backbone, MusicJot is just as accurate. I have no complaints in this area. And yes, the Apple Pencil is supported, but I do not have a device that can use an Apple Pencil at this time (waiting for the 2nd generation 12.9″ iPad Pro).
The copy and paste features of the app seem to be very well thought out, and if you are editing (and have an Apple Pencil for best results), the ability to drag a sequence of notes (for pitch or length) and the ability to drop an octave after pasting is pretty novel. This just goes to show that every app has excellent features.
I’m not sold on the visual appearance of the app–it is clean (a much less cluttered approach than NotateMe, whose real power is in the PhotoScore In App Purchase anyway), but it also appears–for me–too “basic.” This is why I say that the app is young–it is missing features and its appearance will mature over time. To be honest, as it now exists for use, I would rather see the integration of the new SMuFL font in place of MakeMusic’s font.
All that said, I don’t want to be too harsh, as I am in support of every app that can be used to create and teach music.
For my level of music notation, I need apps that can quickly edit (from a scanned score) or create a chart, and as such entering notes by hand is a inefficient use of note entry for me. I much prefer to use handwriting recognition to add diacritical markings after I have entered notes into a score (this is a great use of Notion‘s handwriting IAP). However, if you only need to write short passages of music or don’t want to learn the intricacies of a notation program, apps like MusicJot, NotateMe, and the upcoming Komp would be an easy way to get music into digital format, particularly without StaffPad on iOS (can they really be selling enough copies of the app to stay on Windows on one family of devices?).
The app is $29.99 until March 16th, and then will go to $49.99. I realize that apps are FAR underpriced on the App Store. Finale is a $650 program (without education discount). The fact that Notion for iOS is $16 is crazy–although you of have to spend $30 for ALL the sounds and another $8 for handwriting. NotateMe is a $40 app, with a $30 PhotoScore scanning In App Purchase. All that said, I’m a little worried that the $50 regular price of MusicJot will not appeal to the basic user who doesn’t want to deal with the intricacies of Notion (which is pretty easy to use). At the same time, developers should charge what they want to charge.
So…keep your eye on this app. If you are intrigued by the app, get it while it is 50% off.
You can learn more about MusicJot. at Mona Lisa Sound’s website (http://monalisasound.com/musicjot.html), what appears on the MyScript website (http://myscript.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/170217-MyScript-Blog-MusicJOT-Case-Study.pdf) and also check out their introductory video (which should appear below):
Note: All the app links in this blog post are referral links. If you buy an app from that link, 7% of the purchase price comes back to me for the referral, out of Apple’s 30%. The developer still receives their full 70% for the value of the app, no matter how you buy the app. So…if you choose to buy an app from a referral link, thank you. My next cup of coffee (or part of a cup of coffee) might be from you!
January has been a busy month for presentations! This month, I have been in Florida, Michigan, and Illinois.
I love presenting, and I try to bring usable, solid information in an energetic and entertaining way. In particular, I like to keep people laughing. I have attended too many sessions that are too dry and/or do not bring anything of value to participants. Even so, I am sure that some people leave disappointed, or in some cases angry. If that was you, I apologize!
What has been interesting about my trips this month is that I have been traveling without my wife or family, and what I have taken away from my travels this month are new and stronger relationships.
I didn’t really know any music educators in Florida, but I was able to spend a bit of time with Jason from MusicFirst and Don from Sight Reading Factory. While it is nice to get to know the products that a company represents, it is better to get to know them better as people. I believe in both of these companies (and SRF is carried by MusicFirst) and what they are doing–but it is better to get to know the people behind the company.
One of the things that I am finding in my “middle age” is that when I meet people beyond a “surface” encounter, I want to know their story. That is one of the things I like about what we are trying to do on our Podcast.
In Michigan, after seven or eight years of communicating on Twitter, e-mail, and most recently our podcast, I had the pleasure to finally meet and spend time with Paul Shimmons, who blogs at ipadmusiced.wordpress.com. What is both surprising to say and not surprising at all in reality is that meeting in person was like running into a long lost friend. I also had a chance to visit again with Jason (MusicFirst), but also Catie (Quaver Music), and a couple of other Twitter users I have followed over the years.
In Illinois, I had the chance to spend some time with Ryan, a fellow ukulele aficionado (he presented the day before I arrived), and to have dinner with David and Nathan and their families, two teachers that I have interacted with during my previous trips to Illinois. I stayed at Nathan’s house and had a chance to visit with his family–and am so grateful for the conversations and the time we had to spend together. I also had a chance to see Dr. Alex Ruthmann, who works for NYU with the Music Ed Lab and Dr. Robin Giebelhausen, who is a music education professor in New Mexico. Dr. Ruthmann presented some of the wonderful things they are doing at the NYU Music Ed Lab like Groove Pizza, and Dr. Giebelhausen presented a great session on Ukulele and her resources, such as her website and her free iBook.
So while I feel a bit exhausted from my travels over these January weekends, I come home richer from the relationships that were started or strengthened on this trip.
One of the things Paul and I talked about is the world of technology and music education. Music education, by nature, is filled with a lot of ego, jealously, and dog-eat-dog behaviors. The sub-climate of technology in music education is filled with a bunch of passionate music educators who don’t get paid for their work, but instead they just want to give back to the professions. It is really a joy to be involved with all of these people!
Thank you, very much, to everyone who attended any of my sessions this month. I had the chance to present on ukulele, Chomebooks, and iPads. PDFs from those presentations can be found on this website in the Past Presentations area. And as always…if you have questions, new services, new hardware, or new apps, please send me an e-mail!
The last version of GarageBand for iOS brought Chinese Instruments. The latest version adds a new way of browsing instruments, the Alchemy synthesizer, new audio recorder and multi-take recording.
If you use GarageBand for iOS, the update is free, and you should be aware of it! This is particularly true if you have made “how to” videos or slides, and the interface looks differernt!
The news release from Apple appears in two images below:
The folks at MakeMusic asked if I would write a post about getting the biggest bang for your buck with technology. I submitted that post, they were kind enough to clean it up, and it was posted yesterday.
My only regret was that in the midst of daily teaching (ukulele heavy right now), I didn’t get around to taking a photo to be used in the article.
I think these are good tips, and I love that I was able to recommend some other sources as well!
As we draw near to the end of 2016, everyone is posting their “year in review” summaries.
While 2016 has been a terrible year for many, and while some bad things happened to my family and I in 2016, generally it was a pretty good year, and we end the year counting our many blessings.
The big story of 2016 in educational technology has been the dominance–or the reported dominance of the Chromebook in education. Chromebooks sessions are the topics people are attending these days, and schools are buying a bunch of them.
If you have Chromebooks, the best solutions are going to cost money in the form of annual subscriptions. The best Chromebook applications are generally the same applications that have been web-based on Windows and Mac for the past years. Look at all of the products that are carried by MusicFirst, along with Flat.io, The New SmartMusic, and SoundTrap.
The best device isn’t a device from 2016–it remains the 12.9″ iPad Pro. We are awaiting a refresh of this model, but the new large iPad is ideal for music educators, particularly when paired with an Apple Pencil and AirPlay wireless mirroring in the classroom.
The two apps that I would recommend as “apps of the year” would be newcomers to the scene: Newzik and Sheet Music Scanner. I have not made the shift to Newzik yet, but they are positioned well as a company that can read PDF files OR MusicXML files. In other words, Newzik is ready for the next generation of digital sheet music. Sheet Music Scanner is a game changer, as it is a relatively small app that is being aggressively updated, and does an incredible job scanning music (although it doesn’t scan everything). As I have mentioned previously, if I have to choose one app for app of the year, it would be Sheet Music Scanner. Sheet Music Scanner completes the ability for me to scan, edit, and export music all from my iPad without having to touch my computer.
In terms of hardware, there haven’t been many new products for music education. I am glad to see the growth (albeit slow) of devices like the CME XKey Air, wonderful bluetooth MIDI keyboards, and the Yamaha bluetooth MIDI adapters. For bluetooth foot pedals and iPad stands, I would recommend AirTurn…although there are a few products from IK Multimedia.
In terms of full-blown notation programs, it has been a big year with a new product (Dorico), major updates (Finale 25 and Notion 6), and regular updates (Sibelius, StaffPad, and MuseScore).
And in classroom music, we have seen the introduction of Music First, Jr., and well as the continued growth and support from Quaver Music.
As we close out of 2016, I think we are fortunate to have the devices, accessories, and applications that are on the market. For the most part, there is very little that I want to do with technology that I cannot do with solutions that are on the market. It hasn’t always been that way.
I hope 2016 has been a good year for you (even if there have been challenges), and I wish you the best in 2017. Thanks, as always, for stopping by (or subscribing to) and reading this blog.