Category Archives: General Musings

General Musings

Maine now hates iPads

That title gets your attention, doesn’t it?  Over the past two days, a single news item has been circulating the tech blogs.  The best example comes from Fortune:

As a person whose iPad is his primary device, the fact that single voices (read the article closely) are dominating the conversation:

Even students were harsh, with one saying that iPads are designed to “play games on” and ostensibly not to be used for work.

And another:

One teacher said that students often use the iPads as “toys,” adding that they have “no educational function in the classroom.” 

Let me be very clear: iPads aren’t perfect.  Classroom management in a 1:1 has been a nightmare, because Apple has been slow to provide appropriate tools.  We deal with gaming every day.  We deal with misuse and mistreatment of devices.  We deal with off-task behavior.

If you think that Chromebooks or MacBooks are going to stop gaming, you are fooling yourself.  If you think kids won’t mess around on a Chromebook or MacBook, you are living in a fantasy world.

“These devices are only for serious work.”  Yes, that’s because there are NO HTML 5 or Flash-based games on the web  [There are.  More than you can count].

With iOS 9.3 (released this Spring), Apple finally introduced management features that are going to change the game  (yet again) with iPads in the classroom.  These tools are just 3 years too late.

And to the teacher that says iPads have no educational value, my answer is, “Seriously?!?”  In the world of BYOD and 1:1Chromebooks where such programs are less favorable to music education, we are always told, “Surely there has to be some educational value to using these devices in music.”  My response would be that the quoted teacher isn’t a very good teacher if they can find NO educational use for an iPad in their classroom.

The article also critiques using the iPad for Word Processing (Too bad Pages and Word are available for the device).

Let me translate that for you: “The iPad doesn’t have a keyboard.”  I heard that argument from some of the English teachers in my school about a month ago.  I have a Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad, and there is nothing stopping a school from requiring students to provide an external Bluetooth keyboard.

We purchased two hundred keyboards when we went 1:1 .  Most of these haven’t been used at all.  When our English teachers wanted to use them, it turns out the keyboards do not have individual Bluetooth identifiers, so all of them show up as the same keyboard in the pairing process (even though all of them have unique BT addresses).  As a result, an entire class can’t pair at the same time, basically requiring so much time to pair that it becomes pointless to use them–and you want students to unpair after using the keyboard so they don’t accidentally hijack someone else’s iPad that forgets to unpair in another classroom.

So I get it–iPads aren’t perfect.  But the solutions keep getting better.  MacBooks are wonderful, but the clamshell device doesn’t fit well into most music classrooms.  

Incidentally, this news item came out a few days after Google announced that Chrome OS will soon be able to run most (if not all) Android apps.  Having taught in an unrestricted app environment–I can tell you exactly what is going to happen when the “best” Android apps are on every student Chromebook.  Google promises central control of apps for schools–but implementing that procedure is more difficult than simply saying that you will provide it.

And to readers in Maine–you don’t all hate iPads, but you should know that the tech press has basically said that you want to ship every iPad out of your state.  If you like iPads and can see that they have some benefit in education–you might need to speak up, as your voice is clearly not being heard.

MI Guitar

What do you think about this?–3#/

One of the Apple bloggers that I follow (Steve Sande) posted about this product.

I’m personally a little hesitant about it.  While I like the idea of a full size guitar, I am not crazy about wires and the need for 8 AA batteries.  It also seems that the instrument is contingent upon the app, at the cost of $0.99 per song or a monthly fee to unlimited songs.

And when all is said and done, you don’t actually learn how to play the guitar.

I’m partial to the JamStik because it gameifies the learning of a guitar and you leave with a transferable skill.  And if you want to play without being able to play, they are now offering the AirJamz as a Kickstarter.  But then again, I am a music educator who taught class guitar and is currently teaching ukulele…so I am always going to have a focus on the real-world application of such a product.

That said, you may be interested in the MI Guitar, as a fun product or even for students with special needs or for music therapy.  Either way…check it out as a product of interest.

The health of the music publishing industry?

Earlier this week, the news broke that Alfred Music, which I consider the #2 music publisher in terms of size (this might be incorrect, but it is how it feels–particularly in comparison with Hal Leonard), was acquired by Peaksware, the company that owns MakeMusic.

Philip Rothman wrote about the acquisition at the Sibelius Blog, and this quote from his article has been percolating in my brain the last few days:

Peaksware assumed the role of creditor by purchasing Alfred’s outstanding debt from its lenders and then exchanging it for Alfred’s assets.

I have already stated that I don’t understand the financial aspects of the music publishing industry.  I don’t know how much it costs to print music.  I don’t know how much it costs to store unsold music.  I don’t know how much it costs to ship music.  I don’t know how much is paid in royalties for arrangements of pop music (back to the original artist).  I don’t know how much is paid to the arranger.  I don’t know how much is paid to the music store that sells a title.  I don’t know what it costs to record a demo track.  I don’t know what it costs to produce a parts and accompaniment CD for a choral octavo.

Most of my professional life has been spent on the choral side of music education, although I attempt to stay up to date with band, orchestra, and general music (not to mention other forms of music education such as guitar and electronic music).  Right now the average choral octavo costs $1.95 (or more), and an accompaniment CD is typically $26.95.

From the teacher’s standpoint (and budget) this is too much–from any publisher.  You can buy an audio recording of a song for $1.49 (or less).  Why should a paper copy cost more than a “real” recording?  What ends up happening is that schools don’t have the budget to buy music at those prices.  

But things cost what they cost, and nobody would ever guess that the publishing side of music might not be as lucrative as it seems–and that is what the Alfred acquisition is telling me.  While financials were not disclosed about the acquisition, Alfred had debt that was purchased, and the debt was exchanged for assets.

We are entering a period of time where some of the costs of the publishing industry should be decreasing, by offering music directly via PDF, moving the costs of printing to the purchaser (or onto a digital device).  This should allow publishers to lower the cost of music while increasing their cut, and potentially increasing the cur to arrangers as well.   Paper copies could be offered for a premium to those that desired them.  This will impact some positions in companies (printing, shipping, storage) as well as the role of the music store. 

I would also love to see an “Apple Music” approach to published music, giving you full access to everything for a set price per year–with special pricing for education.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a set formula for music when it came to funding from your school–as well as the ability to get rid of music libraries and all of the hassles of processing, distributing, collecting, erasing, replacing, and storing music?

I fully understand that music publishers have been fearful of copyright infringement in the move away from paper.  However, it is time.  Photocopiers have been abundant for more than 30 years, and if you haven’t seen the scanning ability of phones these days, check out Readdle’s Scanner Pro on iPhone.  I have been using Scanner Pro for personal documents in the past weeks, and I cannot believe how well it works.  This could be used for music, too.  Just saying.

 Peaksware is situated in the ideal place to lead the music publishing industry in a new direction, as the business is already focused on technology and its use with music (and music education).   And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alfred begin to add some other music publshers to its portfolio, as it modifies its business practices under Peaksware.

Hal Leonard also has the potential with its connections with Noteflight and Noteflight Learn.

I’m hoping the “big boys” of the music publishing industry can use these changes as a way to lower prices and to make their companies profitable.

Alfred Music joins Peaksware

You can file this in the category of things that I never considered: Alfred Music is now a part of the Peaksware family.  Nearly two years ago, MakeMusic went private and was acquired by Peaksware.  Since that acquisition, a lot of good things have occurred at MakeMusic: regular updates to SmartMusic, a much more stable system this academic year, an expanding catalog, the acquisition of Weezic, the export of MusicXML to the W3C committee, an upcoming new version of Finale, and a truly “new” version of SmartMusic based on the Weezic acquisition with an entirely new pricing scheme.

I don’t know how Alfred’s new “sibling” relationship with MakeMusic will play out, but I am hoping that the future-minded aspects of MakeMusic will have an effect on the publishing side of Alfred.

It should be noted that Hal Leonard owns Noteflight, and now their Hal Leonard’s largest competitor, Alfred, is a sister company to MakeMusic.

I’m excited for the changes in this industry in the coming year(s)!

Spring Break

It is Wednesday of our Spring Break, and I have been loving the time away from school. My wife recently decided to become a Noonday Ambassador (she loves the product and loves the mission of the company), and as a result, she wanted to do some housework this week before her kick-off parties this Friday and Saturday. One of the tasks was to finish the “music room,” a small front room in our house where we keep our digital piano and now our other string instruments (ukuleles and guitars).

My wife grew up in her grandparent's home (her mom and her brothers moved in with them) where my wife learned piano on a 1928 baby grand. That piano was most recently in Georgia, and two summers ago, we traveled to Georgia to pick it up, gutting it as we did so. The intent was to convert the piano (no longer playable and no logical financial decision to repair it) to a bookshelf.

So, earlier this week, I did the work necessary to convert the piano to a bookshelf. The piano “shelf” became a shelf of its own (thanks to some inexpensive bookshelf brackets from Wal-Mart). And the music room is done.

The converted baby grand

Ukulele Wall

On Good Friday, I had an opportunity (with no school) to attend a ukulele jam session which is held at a (relatively) local music store. As to be expected with a mid-day ukulele jam session, most of the participants retired,and the format was a 30 minute introduction to the ukulele followed by two hours of every person taking turns choosing a piece. The group utilized the Daily Ukulele songbook. Everyone was encouraged to sing (even though a few people complained about their voices) and most songs were attempted a couple of times until they worked better. My choice? Danny Boy.

While my musical training (and singing ability) is far advanced beyond most of the people at that jam–I was reassured tha what they were doing was wonderful and good. Think about it…a group of people meeting just to make music–that is what music is supposed to be about. Excellent bands, choirs, and orchestras are wonderful–but at some point you are too busy to be in such a group, or perhaps are not “good enough” to be in an elite performing group. But you know what…musical experiences, like ukulele jams, still exist, both accessible to everyone and musically fulfilling at the same time.

Ukulele Jam

Yes, I'll go again. But I won't be able to do so until we're out of school for the summer.

Meanwhile, I found the next two ukuleles on my UAS (Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome) wish list: The Kala Sweet Pea 10th Anniversary Tenor, and the Lanika UkeSB Koa Tenor which can plug directly into an iPad. I also have my eye on the Outdoor Ukulele Tenor (an all-weather ukulele).

I also came across a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse “guitar” at Wal-Mart (actually my four year old spotted it in the clearance aisle), and it isn't a guitar…it is a ukulele made by First Act. It is a cheap plastic ukulele,but is has a few interesting features. First, the logo lines up with Mickey's head, making the sound hole look like one of Mickey's ear, and in closer inspection, the graphic is also placed INSIDE the sound hole, lined up perfectly with the graphic. Additionally' the tuners are in shape of the mouse logo. The ukulele doesn't have a nut, and the strings are complete garbage. I have some new strings on the way, and then I'll see what it really sounds like. Right now, it can't stay in tune (the nylon strings are too stretchy) and is quiet. However, for a kid's ukulele, that may not be a bad idea.

Mickey Guitar

No Nut



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,388 other followers