Category Archives: General Musings

The Paradigm Shift of Apple Music

Twenty-seven years ago, I left my parent’s home with the intention of becoming a music teacher. This journey led me to Northwestern College, where I was prepared to become a music teacher. In the process, I learned a lot about music, and I listened to a lot of music. We were encouraged to attend performances (student rush) of the Minnesota Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Minnesota Opera–as well as to go to performances by outstanding college choirs, bands, and orchestras that made it to the Twin Cities. We also listened to a lot of music, and I made it my goal to buy a CD of everything we studied. This was before you could easily burn a copy of a CD onto another CD, and also before mp3 and aac formats. Buying a disc that was DDD (digital recording, digital processing, digital finishing) was a special thing at the time.

I talk about this not to show how old I am (45 as of November 3rd), but to stress that OWNING music was a big thing to me. Jewel cases (some cardboard), CD liners, and so on. I didn’t get into digital formats until 2003 or 2004. At that point, I had a Dell DJ (a competitor to the iPod which lost, like so many others) and started converting my music library on the Windows platform. In 2005, my wife-to-be and I decided to get iPods for Valentine’s Day, which was what started my love affair with Apple. I had to re-rip my entire library and my wife’s smaller library…and did the painful process of tagging albums, getting artwork (scanning if necessary) or so on.

I eventually did the same thing with my movie library, which was also extensive.

It wasn’t long before my CD (and DVD) collection became very dusty, as I was only accessing my music (and movies) on my computer or on my personal devices.

When the iPad came out in 2010, I sold my CDs and DVDs to pay for my the first iPad (pennies on the dollars compared to the investment in music), and later subscribed to Apple Music Match ($25 a year) that legalized everything in my library and made a redundant copy in the cloud.

I didn’t need Spotify or Pandora, as I had all of my music in the cloud–including ensemble recordings and reference recordings (e.g. accompaniment files for solo and ensemble literature). When Apple Music came out, there were problems. Several music aficionados experienced a loss of their Music Match library when enrolling in Apple Music. I didn’t see the need to pay $9 or $15 (family) a month for music when I could buy new music myself if I wanted it. So I didn’t do that.

Well, this summer, we decided to enroll in Apple Music, as you get three free months. And the truth is that I probably don’t use it as much as I should (most of my time in the car is spent listening to podcasts) but the $15 a month is already recovered when my wife can pull up songs or albums that she wants to listen to. And music match continues to work. I just added some ukulele accompaniment tracks to my iTunes Library…and sure enough…they were almost instantly available (under “My Music”) in Apple Music.

I might even be able to deduct the $15 a month (as well as the $25 a year for Music Match).

This is a paradigm shift for me. I have gone from hoarding plastic boxes (in specialized cases) to hoarding things on an external disc to simply paying $15 a month to have access to just about any music that I would ever want or need to listen to. It’s pretty crazy to think about.

I think back to the days that you had to buy a cassette or full CD to listen to one song that you liked. Millennials have grown up buying a single track at a time ($0.99 or $1.29). And now, you get pretty much everything for $15 a month. That’s less expensive than a single CD.

So why is it so hard to make that shift? As musicians, we need Music Match so that our performances and our ensemble’s performances can remain accessible to us. But if you aren’t a musician with your own recordings to manage–you don’t even need Music Match! I even know some super-tech-savy music educators who digitize everything and are still holding on to those jewel cases.

Ultimately, I hope and trust that artists are being paid appropriately by Apple and others. And I also desperately want to see these same options for movies. I would love to be able to move away from hosting my own collection on my own hard drive.

If you have been thinking about making this move, I do have some suggestions for you. First, have a physical copy of your own music on hand, particularly the material that isn’t going to be available in the cloud. Music Match saved my bacon once, as a hard drive failed. I had a copy of the movies on that drive…but not the music. Thankfully, the music was all in the cloud and downloaded (over time) back to the new drive. Second, think about how much you spend on music (to listen to) or could spend on music. Or that your family could spend on music. When you join Apple Music (or other services), you won’t be spending $13-$16 per CD, or $1.29 per song. You will simply have access to just about everything (some artists delay streaming releases…but that music eventually makes its way there, too). And there are tools to find new music that you might like, too. It is very exciting–and really quite affordable. There is nothing to fear.

Sadly, your old CDs (and DVDs!) have lower resale value than ever before. I think I sold most of my collection for $1 per CD or DVD seven years ago…and you would be lucky to get that pricing today (in bulk). Even collectors editions do not really fetch any value any more. So, don’t expect any kind of return on your old CDs and DVDs. But that isn’t why you bought that music in the first place. However…once you have access to everything–consider selling or donating your collection, because you aren’t going to need it any more. Simplify your life–get rid of things you don’t need anymore!


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Patreon and a new WordPress template.

I have decided to start a Patreon account for my work that I do at techinmusiced.com and ukestuff.info.  You can access my Patreon account at patreon.com/cjrphd.  I have set up some reward levels and incredibly lofty goals–but in general, I would like to hear what suggestions you might have for additional content or resources you would like on this site as well as what specific reward levels might offer.  I will probably include a tag line in ever post about Patreon–but I don’t expect to post specifically about Patreon again…unless I do meet those lofty levels of support.

I finally grew tired of my old WordPress theme, and decided to change to a different theme.  I hope you like the new look (not much has changed with the different theme).


Technology in real life

As the 2017-2018 school year is underway, I thought I would talk about how I am using technology this year.

In terms of daily use in class (choir), I am using YouTube videos to start each class (thanks to Katie Wardrobe for this suggestion), while I do attendance in iDoceo.  This is followed by using Keynote to project warm-ups and announcements, ForScore to read and play music (via a Bluetooth speaker), and Sight Reading Factory to make sight reading and rhythm reading examples between each of the songs we sing in choir (trying to make exercises that mimic Dale Duncan’s S-Cubed method).

I was using Schoology for daily questions (based on the S-Cubed reading method), but now I am planning on using Schoology for summative audio assessments (sight reading and literature), graded with Rubrics.  I will eventually also use video assessments with rubrics for ukulele.

Personally, I am using Notion (Mac and iOS), Finale, PhotoScore (Mac and iOS), Sheet Music Scanner, iReal Pro, and GarageBand to make arrangements for my choirs and to create performance tracks.  I am using LumaFusion to make play along videos for ukulele, along with AnyFont (iOS) to allow me to use ukefarm.com’s ukulele chord charts.

This work flow covers a huge percentage of my use of technology (not counting social media).

We have a new principal (who is great, and I’m not just saying that), but I had decided last year to not apply for any conferences other than TMEA, and I was not accepted to TMEA (technology, S-Cubed, or Ukulele sessions), so I am not attending any conferences this year.  Perhaps I will do so next year.  I don’t know what my future holds, as my stepson graduates in June and for the first time since my wife and I were married, we literally could go anywhere in the world–so I could stay where I am, move to a different position in my current school district (we have bidding rights), begin a college career, move to another school, move to another state or country–or even find a job out of education.  It’s really rather exciting and scary–please keep us in your thoughts as I start to look through the many doors that I could not look through the past eleven years!

I haven’t been blogging a lot–life has been busy with school, family, and my new found focus on the ukulele–the ukulele has been a great release of stress and something that has brought a lot of joy to my life.  And when I do have time for technology, I have been working on ukulele materials or literature for my choirs.

The one thing I am excited about tonight is that I think we have found the solution to hosting our podcast…it seems that archive.org might work–you have to upload audio, copy the link to a WordPress page (we had an existing MET Podcast WordPress page), and then use Google’s FeedBurner to link your WordPress RSS Feed into a Feed that Apple Podcasts can recognize–copying the FeedBurner link to Apple Podcasts.  If everything works out correctly–the feed should be correctly refreshed tomorrow–and all of this costs nothing.  I am excited about that, because then we can podcast without having to worry about hosting fees–and can just get on with the business of supporting technology in music education.  We have another Podcast coming soon…we recorded it about two weeks ago and I edited the conversation earlier today.  I’ll record an intro tonight and then add Paul’s MET Podcast music and try adding it to the feed.  If everything works correctly–we’ll be in business.

I have had a number of e-mails from people that are interested in having their products covered on the blog.  It is always nice to hear about new products…and I’ll do my best to try to get back to those people.  It does seem that there is a growing number of red note/green note programs–and this just makes me wonder how many products the educational environment can support until the market crashes.  Dorico continues to improve with each update (I’ll try it eventually), iOS 11 has been out for a while (You can listen to Robby Burns’ podcast with Paul and I about it).  GarageBand just had some updates (I’m a little sad that there isn’t a ukulele sound yet), and many apps are being updated to allow for the “notch” of the brand new iPhone X that was released on Friday (I bought an iPhone 8 Plus in September–which has most of the features of the iPhone X other than face recognition, smaller size, and the notch).

I hope your school year is going well–and that you are finding ways to integrate technology into your teaching.


This week’s Apple events…

I have not yet commented on Apple’s events this week, so I thought I would do so before the week was over.

Apple introduced a new 3rd generation Apple Watch. Simply put, we have no use for it in our family. I had been hoping for a stand-alone cellular watch that we could give my nine year old in place of a phone (no–we’re not doing that), much like the Verizon Gizmo watches. It turns out that the Apple Watch still isn’t a stand alone product and it uses the same cell phone number as your existing iPhone. My 1st generation Apple Watch is going strong, and my wife loves her 2nd generation Apple Watch. I might be open to an update in the fall of 2018–but we’ll have to see.

Apple introduced two new iPhones. We have T-Mobile, which has massively increased coverage and keeps expanding offers for customers. This past week, T-Mobile gave us standard Netflix for free–something we had been paying for. That said, T-Mobile just bought coverage throughout the US in the 600 MHz range (they already have towers with it), but none of the new iPhones…iPhone 8, iPhone 8S, or iPhone X have those bands. As a result, I wasn’t that excited about any of the phones. My current phone is an iPhone 6S with 64GB of memory, and I am always at the limit. So, I ordered the iPhone 8S this morning, as I wanted a larger screen (my farsightedness is progressing) and bought the 256GB version (why couldn’t they offer 128?). I just have to accept that I won’t have access to T-Mobile’s new service bands until I upgrade again in 2019. The X is nice, and I could care less about the “bump” in the screen…whatever. It is an iPhone. You interact with it, and you use it. So many tech columnists are complaining about the X’s bump…get over it. I couldn’t justify waiting for the X when I might be tempted to upgrade in the fall of 2018 for better coverage. We’ll see. I will like inductive charging (on all the iPhones). In fact, I need to go order a couple of Qi mats from Amazon. You realize this means an end to cables, right? That is a move from Apple that is right around the corner. Don’t believe me? Does the Apple Watch have a cable? Expect wireless charging with the next series of iPads, too. And any of these new phones are FAST…benchmarks are showing the phones are nearly as fast as CURRENT MODEL MacBooks. It won’t be too long before someone will be porting the full version of Mac OS on a phone.

Apple is introducing a Qi charging pad next year…awesome. Let me know when it gets here. Ear Pods are also slightly changed, mainly for inductive charging.

In other news, iTunes has removed the ability to back up a phone to a computer, and it has taken the app interface out of iTunes. Most of us weren’t using that interface anyway, but if you did, it is time to move to the cloud, as well as to likely buy some extra iCloud storage each month. iCloud isn’t the mess that it used to be…it has come a LONG way.

And both iOS 11 and Mac OS X High Sierra are right around the corner. As soon as my iPad Pro is paid off (6 months or so), I will be buying a MacBook that can run High Sierra. People are really excited about iOS 11 and iPads. Being conservative when it comes to beta operating systems, I’m waiting to see what they are excited about.

So in summary: Apple continues to improve and advance its products, and many of us will eventually buy them. I just am in a funk about buying an iPhone that can’t take advantage of all that T-Mobile has to offer.


Reeling a little this evening…


Today I presented on the subject of iPads in Music Education for the Wisconsin Center for Music Education. We covered a lot of territory today, and as usual, the later afternoon becomes a challenge with planned work/reflection time. I am very thankful for those that attended today's session (tomorrow is Chromebook day)…all of them elementary music educators. I have no problems presenting…but part of me wished that I could have flown out Amy Burns for the day…I heavily recommended her resources as well as Katie Wardrobe's resources!

I was thrown completely off my game when one of the workshop attendees mentioned that a bunch of my elementary music apps were no longer on the App Store.

As I have mentioned before, I plan to update all of my books when iOS 11 comes out. That is when I will painstakingly go through every link to make sure that apps are still available. I do have a list of apps on my website…and it was just shocking to realize that so many apps were just…gone. One of the iPad's strengths has been the abundance of quality apps, many at no cost or low cost. Granted, plenty of web apps have disappeared, too (do any web apps from the original iPhone still exist?).

Don't get me wrong…there are still plenty of wonderful resources for the iPad (and Chromebook), and some stellar resources, such as forScore. I still think that forScore (or unrealBook) can completely change the instruction in any music class.

Still–the unannounced disappearance of apps unsettled me. I think it might be related to the upcoming iOS 11 and companies deciding to abandon a product instead of updating it. #sad. I need to update my web list!

A few minutes after the workshop closed, I received notice that none of my TMEA sessions were accepted this year (One on iPad, one on S-Cubed, two on ukulele). That is disappointing, but I have been accepted at TMEA several times (including sessions that I had to decline last year as I presented a number of sessions at the Maryland Music Educators Association the same weekend), and I have previously been declined at TMEA, too. The only sad part is that I have scaled back my presentations as my school was no longer giving me days off to present (they have never been asked to pay for travel, housing, or registration fees), and I was not sure what our new principal would think–so I had only applied at TMEA this year. If you had hoped to see me somewhere in 2017-2018, you'll have to come visit me at my school in Minnesota.

And now…I just received an e-mail from Chromatik that they are closing their services on Monday. That adds to my "reeling." Chromatik started off as a service that would display (and sell) sheet music, as well as offer annotation and group distribution. Funding was made possible with angel investors. It was used on "American Idol," and I had high hopes for the service. They even offered a promo that if you had a certain number of students sign up, they would send you an iPad 2. I did that at my prior school, and that iPad is still in use. Later, Chromatik took a turn, offering sheet music linked with video for all kinds of tunes, with a subscription model. It became a web-based service, and I had continued to talk about it–although I didn't use it very often myself. I still wish it would have continued to exist and improve in its original form, as nobody still has the group distribution model worked out (although Newzik and forScore have some elements of those models). People at Chromatik, thank you for making a "go" of it, and I wish you all the best in your futures.

The other day I wrote a tweet and said this:

Here is the challenge as a music education technologist: there is little new to report on, yet the profession, as a whole, hasn’t adopted the old stuff.

I really feel this is true. The iPad is no longer the "hot commodity" in music education, yet it is about to undergo a major transition with iOS 11 making it easier, better, and faster. The apps are still world class, and some of them exceed or improve on the abilities available on other platforms, often at a better price point. I still believe that the iPad is the best platform for music educators (note: not the only platform), and I would love to see every music teacher (that wanted one) have an iPad (preferably the 12.9" iPad Pro) for their instruction, regardless of what their students have or or are given. Again…forScore (or unrealBook) alone justifies the device. Having apps like Notion, Sheet Music Scanner, Notate Me, Luma Fusion (and more) just sweetens the deal.

Tomorrow is Chromebook day. I'm not against Chromebooks, and I want to help teachers use whatever device they or their students have. The Chromebook has improved a lot, and is so much more useful in music classes. Most of this is thanks to paid services (education versions), such as Noteflight, flat.io, and SoundTrap (and many others carried by MusicFirst, which is also brilliant). Android is coming (in fact, it is already on many Chromebooks), although there are issues to work out in an educational model.

That said, Android isn't iOS when it comes to music education, and neither is Chromebook. The iPad still has a very important place–and not just because I like it. It just does more and it does it better. I just have to hope that we don't ignore it as a profession, as most music educators still haven't had a chance to see what it can really do!