Category Archives: General Musings

Handel’s Messiah…and Notion

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An image of the original manuscript of The Messiah

When I was directing high school choir, I eventually added an annual goal to sing one movement from Handel’s Messiah with my advanced choir at our Holiday Concert.  I was fortunate in my last few years as a high school director that our district had added a string program, so the school’s orchestra provided accompaniment for that song in our concert (it was a great way to involve everyone).

I know that many groups perform the Messiah this time of year, and would benefit from a digital accompaniment track.

This morning, a PreSonus presentation from ASME 2017 showed up in my feed, and I watched it.  It featured Chris Swaffer, a developer from PreSonus, which makes Notion) and Dr. Ian Cook.  Chris introduced Notion, integration with Studio One, and the live performance capabilities of Notion ; Dr. Cook discussed Persons’ conducting component (great for college programs).  I have interacted with Chris for a long time (I get the opportunity to try Beta updates for Notion), and it was great to actually see him (he’s in the UK, so he doesn’t make many music education conferences here in the USA).

As I was watching the presentation, Chris mentioned that Notion includes a number of resources, including the FULL MESSIAH.  Remember…Notion comes stock with sounds from the London Symphony Orchestra.  You can buy the full expansion pack of sounds (currently $299–which is a bargain compared to other sound packs from other vendors). Otherwise, Notion (on Mac/Win) is $150.  If you are a director needing a rehearsal or performance tool for the Messiah, Notion would instantly pay for itself.

I didn’t know about these included files, and you can find them in your account at my.presonus.com.  Then follow the links to “Get All Content” and then add the “Notion Score Library” in the “Extra Downloads” area.  This will send you a zipped file of Notion files (all in the Public Domain) that can be edited as necessary.

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In my.presonus.com, look at “Get All Content” with Notion 6.

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The Messiah is included in the “Notion Score Library”

About the Messiah…it doesn’t have text in the voice parts, so if you want those, you may have to add them…and it ships with all of Part 1 and Part 2 as separate files.  That said, as it is a Notion document, you can certainly cut and paste a range of the song and paste it into a new document and add text to those voice parts.

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Here’s the full screen view, in “pages across view” of Part 1 of the Messiah, which is included as a extra download when you buy Notion.

Notion’s sounds are great, and are probably worth the initial cost ($150).  Don’t forget that you can add the iOS version as well, with all add-ons, for around $50 total (bargain!), and anything you do on Notion for Mac/Win will show on the iOS version.

However, if you want to use Notion’s excellent stock sounds and run a humanized performance, you can do so with Notion’s live performance features.  I haven’t done that, but I know that Paul Shimmons did so recently, making his own “pit orchestra.”  Read about that here on his website, ipadmusiced.wordpress.com (link).

And if you are a user of another program, as I am (e.g. Finale), Notion can read MusicXML and export MusicXML, so you could easily to and from Notion.  In other words, you don’t have to leave your current program to add Notion as a tool.  If you have an iOS device, and you are a music educator, Notion should already be one of your tools.


Note: This is NOT a sponsored post by Notion, I just love the program, and yes, I am a beta tester of the product.

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Some 2018 MacBook Pro with TouchBar Reflections

I have been working with this new MacBook Pro for a while, and I had some thoughts that I wanted to share as a ukulele video uploads from my iPad.

  1. I had become very used to an iPad centric use of technology.  I am having to force myself to reintegrate the MacBook Pro into my workflow.  That said, there is no doubt about it…the MacBook is a very expensive secondary device for me, but one that I needed to buy at this point.  There are some thing that only a MacBook can do, and there are times when my family members need an actual computer.
  2. It took about two days to become accustomed to the butterfly keyboard…which is different than the relatively new MacBook Pro that our school district distributed a couple of years ago.  I can now work on either keyboard without thinking about it, but there was an adjustment.  You might wonder why I didn’t just use the school MacBook, but I have a strong belief in doing my own work on my own devices.
  3. USB-C is terrific.  I can’t wait for it to be on my next iPhone and next iPad.
  4. I know I made the right choice with the MacBook Pro over the new MacBook Air.
  5. Many of the big Apple bloggers strongly dislike the TouchBar.  Many of them are programmers, and I think the Function Keys are used in their work.  I find the touch bar to be useful, and I don’t mind two presses to adjust brightness or volume. If I am anything like other users, I hope the TouchBar is here to stay.
  6. The Mac migration process was incredibly easy.  Everything works.  I expected issues.
  7. I’m just satisfied with this purchase.  My last MacBook cost $1500 ten years ago, and over the years I probably put another $1000 into it with memory and hard drives (at least 3…two traditional HDDs and the SSD).  This computer doesn’t have upgradeable memory, and even the SSD might be out of reach for upgrades…and was just under $1850 (I don’t count Apple Care in either purchase).    At the same time, I only expect my iCloud storage to increase for the price point over the life of this computer, and it won’t be long before all of my files are in the cloud, and only the OS and program will be on the Mac.  You can see it coming.

Ultimately, I could have saved a lot of money and gone with a Windows machine, but I am pretty firmly entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, and I could have gone with a cheaper MacBook (I could have also opted for a more expensive MacBook with the i7 processor or even the 15″ models).  I know that I hit the sweet spot on this purchase.  I can’t promise that the 2018 MacBook Pro is the computer for you, but it certainly was the right one for me!


Thoughts on the new iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

For the record, I’m not buying a new iPad Pro, nor am I buying a new Apple Pencil.  My current iPad Pro is still (as of today) the most recent version, and it is fine for the work that I do.  As I mentioned in my last post, I just bought a new (refurbished) MacBook Pro, and I won’t even think of updating my iPad Pro until this device is paid for.

The new iPad Pro is incredibly fast–it runs at speeds faster than my new MacBook Pro!  It also loses the home button, the lightning port, and gains Face ID.  I have no problems with any of these improvements–and they only align for an amazing upgrade in a year an a half (or sooner) when I buy my next iPad Pro.  It’s hard to know when Apple is going to update hardware, so I can’t really guarantee that Apple will come out with the next iPad Pro in November 2019.  It will be a “wait and see” situation.  All I know is that I will eventually move to a new iPad model at a natural time in my own upgrade cycle that matches Apple’s upgrade cycle.

The item that surprised me the most was the new Apple Pencil and its incompatibility with the old iPads–including the current 9.7″ iPad.  Our school bought a bunch of the new iPads last summer as our new building houses about 300 additional students (this year).  The old Apple Pencil and the Logitech Crayon work with that iPad (I just ordered two Logitech Crayons for my boys own 9.7″ iPads as a Christmas gift), but the new Apple Pencil will only work with the iPad Pro.

I would have expected some kind of backwards compatibility with the new Pencil, considering the 9.7″ iPad.  But things will go back to normal where the Pencil will only work with the new iPad Pro (that’s how it used to be).  I’d actually like to see an owner be able to use a Pencil with all their devices, particularly their iPad and iPhone, as I have attempted to write on my iPhone many times.

The issue, I believe, comes in charging.  The iPad has a built-in inductive charger that charges the new Apple Pencil (no more lost end caps!), and the iPad has added USB-C in place of the lightning port.  This means the old way of charging wouldn’t work any more. So I think it’s the right move for Apple–USB-C, inductive charging, etc.  I just hope Apple keeps the old Pencil around for schools for a little while, and that they update all of the devices to use and charge the Apple Pencil, too.

If you’re in the market for a new iPad, I can’t recommend the new Apple iPad Pro and the new Apple Pencil enough.   While I think I will always default to the 12.9″ iPad from this time out, the new 11″ iPad should be the equal to a sheet of paper.  This would be a great time to buy an incredibly powerful machine, and it will be fun to see what developers do to take advantage of the new speed of these devices.


Screen Time on iOS 12

We just had a bit of a scare in our house.  Our ten year old told us that our six year old had just bought hundreds of dollars of in-app purchases…

And he was right.

We had always required a password for downloads, but for some reason, when we installed iOS 12, that password setting went to “none.”  As a result, we have $450 of pending charges for in app purchases on our bank account.

The good news?   I was able to contact Apple, through their chat, and they started the process to reverse the charges, usually within 7-10 days.

If you are are used to the “Restrictions” area of previous versions of iOS, it isn’t there any more.  You have to use the new Screen Time app.  The crazy part?  Screen Time used the same password I had created long ago in “Restrictions,” but the choices I had made on my children’s iPads were not the same as I had once made.

So, if you are a parent, and you have children with iPads and their own accounts under “Family Sharing,” it might be worth going into the Screen Time app and making sure that App Downloads and In App Purchases are turned OFF.  Sure, it will be more work to add an app in the future…but that’s far better than a very big surprise in your bank account!

 


Finale 26 Sneak Peeks Coming Soon

I would be remiss if I did not mention MakeMusic’s announcement from earlier today that they will soon be offering sneak peeks about Finale 26. There is no word (yet) on release date, but it has been quite a while (2016) since Finale 25 was released, and all updates since that time have been free to owners of the software.

Without a doubt, the margin in the music notation industry continues to shrink, as existing programs keep improving, and newer players (e.g. Dorico) keep expanding. We also cannot forget the impact of freeware, specifically MuseScore. Add to that the online editors (Noteflight, and Flat.io) and you have a very crowded space, indeed (and that doesn’t even factor in any of the iOS apps or StaffPad!).

Can the market continue to support three major notation programs, plus “next level programs” (such as Notion) when MuseScore exists? This isn’t a new thought on this blog, but it is more true than ever. And I am still amazed that SmartMusic (Finale’s sister product) has its own web-based notation editor!

MakeMusic is fully aware of the current state of music notation, and they know what is at stake with Finale 26. I expect to see awesome new features, bug fixes, and an overall improved user experience.

Watch the Finale Blog closely for future updates about Finale 26.